Cameron KO’s Roger Dean in Avatar Suit

A U.S. District Court in New York has dismissed Roger Dean’s lawsuit against James Cameron: Dean had claimed aspects of the Avatar planet Pandora were stolen from his artwork.

dean-asia-cover__130629021944Dean’s art has appeared on top-selling record albums by many bands, among them Yes and Asia, been displayed in museums and published in books. And when Dean’s suit was announced last year, Harlan Ellison, who won a settlement from Cameron over Terminator in in the 1980s, said he was eager to testify in Dean’s behalf. (He wasn’t called upon.)

Judge Jesse M. Furman wrote in his decision that some of the similarities between Dean’s work and elements of Avatar are due to both drawing on images in nature, which is in the public domain, while other elements in Dean’s works that are protectible are overwhelmed by the differences between them and the scenes in the movie.

For example, the “Hallelujah Mountains” [in Avatar] are depicted, in photorealistic detail, as massive floating islands of different shapes and sizes densely blanketed with plants, trees, and other vegetation. By contrast, Plaintiff’s works are more stylized and fantastical, featuring smaller, egg-shaped islands —more akin to large boulders than mountains —with little or no vegetation other than a prominent, solitary tree almost as large as the island itself.

Dean’s loss is just the latest in an uninterrupted series of rulings against plaintiffs who claimed they were owed money or ought to receive damages for the use of their work in Avatar.

Kelly Van sued Cameron in 2010 saying Avatar was based on his 2003 book Sheila the Warrior: the Damned. His case was thrown out of court by a judge who said the “plot similarities are abstract ideas that are not protected by copyright.”

In 2013, courts dismissed claims by Eric Ryder, who alleged the movie ripped off his story K.R.Z. 2068, described as an “environmentally-themed 3-D epic about a corporation’s colonization and plundering of a distant moon’s lush and wondrous natural setting,” and by Gerald Morawski, who had sued for breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation because he had pitched a project to Cameron’s people titled Guardians of Eden and that he signed a nondisclosure agreement which expressly provided that he would retain his original ideas.

Cameron has also won cases brought by Emil Malak, claiming the film infringed his 1998 screenplay Terra Incognita, and Bryant Moore, arguing his screenplays and drawings had been used to create Avatar.

Reportedly the statute of limitations for filing copyright infringement claims expired in December 2012. However, there may be different limits for other causes of action that might leave the door open for more suits.

Avatar has been a litigation magnet since earning nearly $2.8 billion in box-office receipts. It’s reputed to be the top earning movie of all time, although an interesting footnote in the Dean decision, quoting the scholarly book Principles of Macroeconomics, questions the #1 ranking:

“Movie popularity is usually gauged by box office receipts. By that measure, Avatar is the number 1 movie of all time with domestic receipts of $761 million . . . . But this ranking ignores an obvious but important fact: Prices, including those of movie tickets, have been rising over time. Inflation gives an advantage to newer films. When we correct box office receipts for the effects of inflation . . . [t]he number 1 movie is now Gone With the Wind ($1,604 million) . . . . Avatar falls to number 14.”

Sizemore Takes Editor’s Seat at Apex

Owner/publisher Jason Sizemore is succeeding Sigrid Ellis as editor of Apex Magazine. He made the announcement today on its blog:

Within a few months, I will be making an occupational transition that will allow me to focus more on Apex Books and Apex Magazine. This is a huge opportunity, one I’ve been working toward for quite awhile. As part of this transition, I will be stepping in as Apex Magazine‘s editor-in-chief. Sigrid Ellis, by any measure, has done a fantastic job during her tenure as editor-in-chief. She’s a joy to work with, and I have no doubt she will have many great opportunities ahead of her.

Apex will publish the issues as planned and purchased through December 2014. Beginning now, I will be selecting our 2015 magazine content. I will be looking for the same kind of diverse, groundbreaking content that Apex Magazine has become known for publishing.

Sizemore said plans for publishing the short stories Sigrid Ellis picked for 2015 will be announced soon, which may mean they will appear somewhere other than regular issues of Apex Magazine.

He also announced that a new poetry editor, Bianca Spriggs, will be taking over for Elise Matthesen.

That Was The Week That Was In SF

Did you remember these sci-fi anniversaries? (Of course not. That’s why we’re here to remind you!)

September 18, 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still premiered in New York.

September 17, 1928 Actor Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes) was born.

September 15, 1965 Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space premiered on television.

And even though That Was The Week That Was went off the air in 1963 its snappy theme song still echoes on YouTube. (The best snippet of the song runs from about 1:30-2:00.)

Today’s Birthday Girl 9/17

Cassandra Peterson in 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Cassandra Peterson in 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Cassandra Peterson born September 17, 1951. A.k.a. Elvira, Misstress of the Dark.

In 1981 she got the break that set her on the road to fame, when she began hosting LA’s channel 9 Movie Macabre wearing a memorable black gothic gown.

Mixing horror and comedy worked so well for her that over a four-decade career she has evolved from camp vamp to capitalist.

In 2012 Peterson became an investor in Comikaze Entertainment Inc., which runs Comikaze Expo, one of the biggest pop culture conventions. Another investor is Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee.

Letter To A Higher Critic

All I care about is whether I enjoy a writer’s work. Don’t be shocked when I say this: How much money a writer makes has nothing to do with how much I like his or her stories.

But one writer thinks I should care. This year’s Hugo Awards were fraught with drama because Larry Correia filled his customers with resentment by arguing that his inability to win the award proved they’d been treated unjustly. Because bestseller. And no Hugo.

I’m all in favor of sf writers being financially successful. It makes me happy to see people who work hard rewarded. Larry Correia is no exception.

How would anyone know what a writer makes anyway? We have very few tools — mainly bestseller lists.

While we never see actual sales figures, we assume the books that appear on the New York Times bestseller list are doing much better than those that don’t.

However, even that relative information may be unreliable. Last year I ran a post about Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s Wall Street Journal article on ResultSource, a firm that orchestrates bestseller status for clients.

Then yesterday, Vox Day’s latest in a relentless series of negative posts about John Scalzi suggested that even ordinary publishers manipulate bestsellers as a marketing strategy:

That’s great and all, but recall what I pointed out before Lock In reached the NYT bestseller list: “[Scalzi] is getting annoyed that people keep pointing out that Larry Correia sells more than he does, even though his publisher keeps buying him a one-week spot on the NYT bestseller list each time he writes a book.”  And also “Just keep an eye on the NYT list. If LOCK IN is only on it for one week, it’s a paid marketing stunt. If it stays on it for several weeks, it’s probably legitimate.”

I’m a science fiction fan, yet I’m constantly being surprised to discover how that shapes my thinking. Although I know bestseller lists are artificial constructs, I also know they are constructs dominated by mainstream fiction and literary biases. Consequently, when a science fiction writer appears on the New York Times bestseller list I don’t ask how, I just shout “Hooray!” But now a Higher Critic has explained why I should be dissatisfied and suspicious about how they got there.

And now I am.

Vox Day unfavorably compared John Scalzi to Larry Correia based on alleged manipulation of the bestseller list. But isn’t Correia’s status as a bestselling author the same reason people believe Correia is the gold standard?

Twice Correia has blogged about his bestselling books. He wrote, “You may now officially refer to me as New York Times Bestselling Author Larry Friggin’ Correia” in October 2010 after learning that Monster Hunter Vendetta ranked number 27 on the New York Times Bestseller list:

This is awesome. This is actually a really big deal in the publishing business.

The guy sounded happy. I was happy for him.

A year later he was ecstatic when Monster Hunter Alpha appeared on the list at #23.  

I am the champion. My friends! Dum duh duh duh! And I’ll keep on fighting ’till the end! Dum duh duh duh! I am the CHAMPION! I AM THE CHAMPION!! NO TIME FOR LOSERS BECAUSE I AM THE CHAMPION!!!!!! and #23 on the New York Times Bestseller list coming out August 14th OF THE WORLD!!!!

Even here, all Larry Correia ever did was point out two times when his books made the New York Times best seller list. Which they did.

But both times the books disappeared from the list the following week. One and done.

So what do we learn from this? Can it be that Larry Correia is not the Garth Brooks of science fiction after all?

Download Free Di Filippo Novel

Chasing the Queen of Sassi coverChasing The Queen of Sassi by Paul Di Filippo was written after an inspiring visit to the Subterranean City of Matera, Italy – a World Heritage Site known for its ancient cave houses.

After his wife’s death, Rupert decides to change his life…. He wants to see Matera again, and ends up loving it so much that he decides to move there. But the city is mysterious: who is the beautiful Daeria Bruno that appears and disappears without a trace? And how will the cucibocca’s curse affect his life? In a dizzying series of time travels, Rupert will reveal legendary secrets, being at the center of a timeless story.

Now available as a free download for the Nook or the Kindle.

Today’s Birthday Boy 9/14

Lone_ranger_silver_1965Who was that masked man? He was Clayton Moore, born a century ago today — on September 14, 1914.

Moore grew up in Chicago, becoming an accomplished gymnast and part of the trapeze act The Flying Behrs who performed during the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair. He went into modeling, moving to New York where he worked for the John Robert Powers agency.

In 1938 he made the jump to Hollywood and within a few years was a leading man in Republic Studios serials. His performance in The Ghost of Zorro prompted George W. Trendle to offer him the role of TV’s Lone Ranger, which aired on ABC from 1949 to 1957

The show’s success resulted in a salary dispute and the producers replaced Moore for the 1952-1953 season, but brought him back in 1954 and for the rest of the run. When CBS began showing reruns of the first three seasons on Saturday afternoon, Moore’s masked man was on two networks at the same time.

After the series ended production, Moore made his living doing personal appearances in the Lone Ranger regalia. However, the owner of the Ranger character, Jack Wrather, obtained a court order in 1979 to stop him, believing the association of the character with Moore would damage the market for a new Lone Ranger movie.

Moore quit wearing the mask and started to appear in similar-looking wraparound sunglasses. He also counter-sued Wrather and eventually won, allowing him to resume appearing in the Lone Ranger costume. Meanwhile, Wrather’s movie bombed.

Clayton Moore’s last acting role was in the pilot for what would have been The Greatest American Heroine in 1986. The pilot was never aired and was recut and added to the syndicated package of the original Greatest American Hero.

The CBS News Almanac has posted a fine short video with classic footage – including a snip from the famous Aqua Velva commercial Moore made with Jay Silverheels (Tonto) in the 1970s.

Clarkesworld Kickstarter To Fund Publication of Chinese SF in Translation

Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has signed an agreement with Weixiang (Storycom International Culture Communication Co., Ltd.) to add a translated Chinese science fiction story to each issue of his magazine. He’s launched a Kickstarter appeal to pay the authors and defray some related expenses.

Each month, Storycom’s team of experts will send us a list of stories they think would work well for us—much like we use our slush pile to choose our current fiction offerings. I’ll select one from that pile and then work with the author and translator to get the story ready for publication. Every story will appear in all editions of Clarkesworld—our free online edition, podcast (audio fiction), ebook and digital subscriptions, print issues, and annual anthologies—and provide these authors with significant English language exposure. (They’ll be paid too.)

He wants to raise $7,500 by October 8. As this is written $3,074 has already been pledged.

The array of premiums started with three Tuckerizations – the donor’s name in the author’s next story for Clarkesword – and a pair provided by Kij Johnson and Aliette de Bodard have already been claimed. The opportunity remains for someone to give $275 and have his or her name appear in a Catherynne M. Valente story — but for how long?

Clarke says the recommendation team he’s working with at Storycom includes:

  • Liu Cixin: the most-famous science fiction writer in China and author of the Three Body Trilogy;
  • Yao Haijun: Editor-in-Chief of Science Fiction World;
  • Zhang Zhilu: Scriptwriter at the China Film Group Corporation and one of the pioneering scriptwriters of science fiction movies in China;
  • Wu Yan: a Doctoral Supervisor for the Science Fiction Literature major at Beijing Normal University and President of World Chinese Science Fiction Association;
  • Ken Liu: Award-winning American science fiction writer and translator.

Funds from the Kickstarter will underwrite this feature for the first year, long enough to make the project self-sustaining through subscriptions and other sources of revenue.

Brand Bookstore’s Last Days

The end is near at Brand Bookstore in Glendale – the shop closes this month. Meanwhile, their closing sale offers 70% off and no tax on all used books. They’re also selling bookshelves for $10 each.

Noriaki Nakano, who manages the Brand Boulevard staple with his father, Jerome Joseph, announced several months ago that they both plan on retiring. But the closing date was pushed back because there are still thousands of books on the tall shelves, most adorned with yellow cards bearing the names of a vast expanse of topics. “We have 1,200 to 1,500 categories,” said Nakano….. Joseph, now 86, opened the bookstore in 1985 after he was inspired by the now-defunct Crown Bookstore down the street, Nakano said. Joseph teamed up with partner Larry Mullen and opened Brand Bookshop at the storefront previously occupied by Brand Jewelry.

John McCormick’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times mourns the passing of Brand Bookstore but says don’t count out the city’s other indie booksellers.

So I’m sorry to report that Brand Bookshop in Glendale, opposite the Alex Theatre on Brand Boulevard, is closing its doors this fall after 29 years in business. Its proprietor, Jerome Joseph, and his adopted son, Noriaki Nakano, created one of the true gems of the Los Angeles bookstore scene. Huge (100,000 books), clean, well-ordered, open 12 hours a day, staffed by bibliophiles, classical music playing on the sound system, Brand Bookshop was the Los Angeles used bookstore at its best. It had an usually deep collection. At one time it had the largest selection of books on bullfighting I’d ever seen. But that said, Joseph is in his 80s, has had health problems and can no longer commute from his home in Mt. Washington, and so, by the end of September, the store will be no more. And Los Angeles will lose another great independent bookstore.

Will Brand Bookshop be missed? Sorely. Is the independent bookstore in Los Angeles finally going the way of all flesh? Not so fast.

The XKCD-Suomi Connection

grand_tourXKCD creator Randall Munroe, on tour to promote his book What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, is in Berkeley tonight and speaks at the Aero in Santa Monica on Sunday, September 14.

In between, he’ll make a virtual appearance on the Google+ Hangout On Air, moderated by Hank Green, that can be viewed live on YouTube beginning Friday, September 12 at 3:30 p.m. PT.

Munroe’s book blends the “serious science” of Bob Shaw with the inquisitive curiosity of Dave Feldman (Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise?). You can read the first chapter on io9. It begins with this question:

Q. What would happen if
the Earth and all terrestrial
objects suddenly stopped
spinning, but the atmosphere
retained its velocity?
— Andrew Brown

A. NEARLY EVERYONE WOULD DIE. Then things would get interesting.

When Crystal Huff read the chapter one item pleased her very much. “Munroe states that waiting it out in Helsinki might be a good course of action, and even includes a comic partially in Finnish.” Crystal promises Worldcon voters, “Clearly, the Helsinki in 2017 team is prepared for all sorts of possible disasters!  ;) ” 

Helsinki-Global-Windstorm-WHAT-IF-640x527Munroe’s collection of essays features both material from the blog and unpublished work. You can hear more about the author and his book in an NPR interview here.