It was a fortune cookie that got me thinking. The paper inside it said, “Your dearest wish is coming true.” We were eating Chinese food, my parents, siblings, my wife and kids and I. My brother said, “Well obviously, your dearest wish is to go to Hawaii.” I was, after all, going to Hawaii that weekend. “But,” I said, “I don’t think that’s my dearest wish.”
So what was my dearest wish? And was it coming true? I had a feeling the answer might be “yes.” That’s just the way I look at life. Call me a cockeyed optimist. Many people have called me worse things. Most people, in fact.
Getting ready for a long trip keys me up, as it does a lot of people. And Baltimore to Lihue is a particularly long trip–twelve hours in two planes. I don’t like flying anyway. I don’t like any situation where access to the bathrooms is in any way restricted, having, as I do, a bladder the size of a gnat’s left cheek. So I didn’t go to sleep too easily any night that week. One night–it may have been the same night I received the fortune cookie–I fell back on one of my patented sleep aids: I put in my earbuds and pulled up a random episode of Lux Radio Theater. Continue reading
I’m reading a very strange little book called Awareness by Anthony De Mello. It’s apparently a transcript of all the talking he did at a retreat many years ago, and was published after his death. And, boy, did he do a lot of talking at that retreat! I both love and hate the style. It’s filled with bold statements that make you want to read more to figure out what the hell he’s really saying: “You are never in love with anyone. You’re only in love with your prejudiced and hopeful idea of that person.”
Wait, huh? That kind of thing grabs you.
Unfortunately, like a lot of spiritual / religious texts, it’s repetitive. I know repetition is a technique often used to emphasize a point and make sure the reader / listener doesn’t forget something, but it’s my least favorite rhetorical device. It annoys the hell out of me:
“Call 1-800-GET-LOST. That’s 1-800-GET-LOST. Call 1-800-GET-LOST. 1-800-GET-LOST. Today!”
So, remember back in the Sixties and Seventies, when just about every sitcom, sooner or later, did their season premiere in Hawaii? My particular favorite is the I Dream of Jeannie visit, which spanned at least three episodes and featured the world’s most pointless musical interlude in which singer Don Ho and a random kid (his son?) wandered the beach, climbed trees, and, at one point, Don kicked the kid in the ass for no apparent reason. Don Ho was a guest in all the sitcom Hawaii episodes, as far as I know. He was there when the Brady family got cursed by Kona. He was there when the Jeffersons… um… I don’t recall what they did. George was probably an ass, Weezie was probably wise and assertive, and Florence probably chased good-looking men. Continue reading
“They’s people just like us,” my Grandmother would say to me about people of other races. A simple observation, in 2015, but she was born in 1901. By the standards of the time, she was already “an older lady” when the schools in our home town were desegregated, and when the black folks and the white folks started attending the same churches. Although I understand they already mixed for special events, like the 1949 funeral of my other Grandmother, who died young of cancer. Grandmother Clara was beloved by her community. Not her white community. Her whole community. Continue reading
I’m on my first-ever two week vacation, on Kauai, so no words of wisdom this week. Instead, how about some pictures? There are some beautiful sights here… I’m from Appalachia, and this place looks like home.
I’ll be back next week with (probably) another sorry excuse for a blog.
I imagine pretty much everyone here knows that I published my first novel, Taken Liberty – A Tale from the Arbiter Chronicles, in 2006. It’s based on my audio series, The Arbiter Chronicles, which has earned the Mark Time Silver Award and the Parsec Award. The novel was recommended by Library Journal and is on shelves in hundreds of libraries around the country. It’s not a New York Times bestseller, but, in hard copy, eBook and audio, it’s been purchased or downloaded to the tune of something like 20,000 copies. Pretty good for a first novel from a tiny little local press.
Fewer of you may know that I wrote the original outline for the story that became Taken Liberty twenty years ago. I submitted it to an editor who liked it and wanted to purchase it. Then that editor was transferred, and the new editor hated the story. In 1998 I drafted it into a novel. Then I set the novel aside and created a radio show set in its universe. When I revisited the novel, I was, I suppose, something of an approximation of a “mature” and “experienced” writer, and my novel was well-received, even if it didn’t make me rich.
My overall point here is that Taken Liberty is a story that I conceived a long time ago. I can prove ownership in it. I have documentation. I have witnesses. Lots of them.
So I was a bit surprised, last Winter, to come across a (pseudo) published work whose storyline bears what I consider to be a striking resemblance to the plot of Taken Liberty. I was at a loss to know what to do about that. I consulted with some trusted friends, most of whom have advised me that my preferred direct approach (contacting the authors of the newer work and politely saying, “I’ve noticed some similarities…”) would merely put those authors on the defensive, accomplishing nothing. So I decided to take two steps:
1 – I consulted a copyright attorney, and filed what documents are necessary to protect my rights to my work. I was very concerned that letting the unauthorized adaptation stand unchallenged would give the other creator some claim to my intellectual property should I ever decide to, say, sell film rights in Taken Liberty. I am assured that the steps my attorney has taken will prevent that. They have harmed this other creator not at all.
2 – I am sharing with a friendly audience that this has happened, and stating my reasons for believe that, intentionally or otherwise, someone else has adapted my novel.
I’ve no desire to grant this other work any publicity. I won’t, therefore, mention its name, or the name of its credited authors. But I’m listing (in what I hope is a factual and objective manner) the similarities I found between the two stories, my twenty-year-old one, and the new one.
In both stories:
– The moral problem is that it may be politically expedient for a government that condemns slavery to return an escaped slave to her owners.
– An escaped female slave petitions asylum aboard a military vessel.
– A male doctor and the senior surgeon is the first to reveal the slave’s pheromones as a problem.
– A woman doctor is the first member of that vessel’s crew to befriend the slave.
– The vessel’s Captain and his female doctor clash over the slave’s disposition.
– The slave radiates pheromones that make her attractive to males.
– The slave attempts to seduce the vessel’s captain in order to win her freedom. The Captain refuses her, but wants to help.
– The Captain’s superior orders him to turn the slave back over to her people, and informs him that a slaver vessel is already on its way to pick up the slave.
– The person who comes to collect the slave is not just any representative of her people, but with very slave trader who originally sold her and abused her.
– The slave is accused of murdering someone in the course of trying to escape.
– Telepathy is used on the slave to find out the truth of her story.
– The slave’s case is taken up by a young officer.
– The young officer helps the slave in an escape attempt, placing him in defiance of his Captain’s orders.
– The slave attempts suicide, and her death (faked, in my story) resolves the immediate diplomatic incident.
The creator of this other work has had the opportunity to comment on these similarities. He said he’s never heard of me or my work, and that these similarities are coincidences.
Reader, what do you believe?
If, like me, you’re angry and you feel that someone has taken unfair advantage of a guy he considers to be a little-known creator who is no credible threat, here’s how you can help: Help me get better-known. If you enjoy my work — be it my blogs, my plays, my podcasts, my quirky, idiotic jokes in staff meetings — share that joy with someone you know. Hell, with everyone you know. Let more and more people know that The Arbiter Chronicles exist, that there are two excellent novels available in trade paperback, eBook and audio formats. That there are eighteen podcast episodes of the series. That there are four eNovellas available. All of that is linked here:
My Books and eBooks at:
Barnes & Noble (The guy who spells it “Stephen” is not me! Nor did I write the book on Science and Engineering.)
Kobo (Again, the search includes some books not mine.)
Help spread the word about my work. Mention it on your blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, at the water cooler. Review it, if you’re really feeling kind. Help me prove that living well is the best revenge. And it’s the only revenge I want. I don’t want to see the other guy fail. I don’t even want to make him stop distributing his adapted work. I would have preferred he give me the story credit I feel I deserve, but he doesn’t agree I deserve it; and I don’t want to mortgage my house (again) to take him to court. So I’ll settle for having more and more people know that my work is here, that I created it first, and that it’s deeper, richer and more imaginative than anything he’ll ever produce on his own.
Fair enough? More than fair, I think.
I’d read about half of these adventures before. I still vividly recall the announcement on the Marvel Comic’s monthly “Bullpen Bulletins” page: Marvel was creating two new super-heroines to star in their own series. Now I love super-heroines, and did, perversely, when I was in elementary school and wasn’t supposed to. You know those boys who didn’t buy female action figures? Yeah, I wasn’t one of them.
The new characters weren’t exactly original. Ms. Marvel (who premiered in her own title cover-dated January, 1977) was a hot-pants-wearing version of Captain Marvel, with an oh-so-Seventies scarf. And Spider-Woman? She wasn’t pictured in the announcement (Ms. Marvel’s cover was), but she sounded like another knockoff. Still, I’ve never said a word against Supergirl, Batgirl, Mary Marvel or Hawkwoman, so… I of course picked up both premiere issues. Spider-Woman appeared a month after Ms. Marvel in Marvel Spotlight #32. That’s where this collection picks up. Continue reading
And when I say resignation, I mean it both in the sense of “The acceptance of something inevitable” as well as in the sense of “I quit.” But more on that second piece later, and don’t get too excited in either direction.
I’ve been writing and producing plays for the convention stage since 1987. I started out performing with a group called “The Not Ready for Paramount Players.” It was absorbed into “Cheap Treks.” Later, we called ourselves “The Usual Suspects.” The total output of this group, writing, directing, performing, producing, costuming, video-editing, scene-building–you name it, we did it!–is about 60 plays. One of these days I’ll share a list with you. I’ve written or co-written a good third of those.
I’ve read a couple of reviews of Age of Ultron which criticize the character of the villain, the murderous AI named Ultron. One called him “generic.” Another suggested that he wasn’t as clever a treatise on the dangers of artificial intelligence as some other film which was released recently.
Ultron, as is pretty clear from my last entry’s discussion of his “son,” the Vision, is, after all, only half a treatise on artificial intelligence. And the Vision, is not a treatise on its dangers, but on its wonderful potential. Dangers? Let’s be honest, everything that’s wrong with Ultron as an intellect is also wrong with a lot of humans. And that gets me to my refutation of that other accusation: that Ultron is generic. Ultron is, indeed, a deeply personal menace to the Avengers. For not only are his failings also theirs, he is, in fact, born of the hubris of one of their own. Tony Start believes he can enforce the perfect peace by building an AI, and he seizes on the technology behind Loki’s alien scepter to do that.
So my favorite Marvel film has been taking a pounding this week, from the usual nay-sayers who wanted it to be Batman, or who wanted it to be just the first one again (suggestion – watch the first one again!) I’ve heard Ultron called a generic villain, and read that Evan Peters was a better Quicksilver in Days of Future Past.