(1) DOCTOROW ON FABLES TABLE-FLIP. Cory Doctorow’s Pluralistic post “Bill Willingham puts his graphic novel series ‘Fables’ into the public domain (15 Sept 2023)” assesses many IP rights issues triggered by Willingham’s announcement.
…It’s been 21 years since Bill Willingham launched Fables, his 110-issue, wide-ranging, delightful and brilliantly crafted author-owned comic series that imagines that the folkloric figures of the world’s fairytales are real people, who live in a secret society whose internal struggles and intersections with the mundane world are the source of endless drama.
Fables is a DC Comics title; DC is division of the massive entertainment conglomerate Warners, which is, in turn, part of the Warner/Discovery empire, a rapacious corporate behemoth whose screenwriters have been on strike for 137 days (and counting). DC is part of a comics duopoly; its rival, Marvel, is a division of the Disney/Fox juggernaut, whose writers are also on strike.
The DC that Willingham bargained with at the turn of the century isn’t the DC that he bargains with now. Back then, DC was still subject to a modicum of discipline from competition; its corporate owner’s shareholders had not yet acquired today’s appetite for meteoric returns on investment of the sort that can only be achieved through wage-theft and price-gouging….
…Rather than fight Warner, Willingham has embarked on what JWZ calls an act of “absolute table-flip badassery” – he has announced that Fables will hereafter be in the public domain, available for anyone to adapt commercially, in works that compete with whatever DC might be offering.
Now, this is huge, and it’s also shrewd. It’s the kind of thing that will bring lots of attention on Warner’s fraudulent dealings with its creative workforce, at a moment where the company is losing a public relations battle to the workers picketing in front of its gates. It constitutes a poison pill that is eminently satisfying to contemplate. It’s delicious.
But it’s also muddy. Willingham has since clarified that his public domain dedication means that the public can’t reproduce the existing comics. That’s not surprising; while Willingham doesn’t say so, it’s vanishingly unlikely that he owns the copyrights to the artwork created by other artists (Willingham is also a talented illustrator, but collaborated with a who’s-who of comics greats for Fables). He may or may not have control over trademarks, from the Fables wordmark to any trademark interests in the character designs. He certainly doesn’t have control over the trademarked logos for Warner and DC that adorn the books….
It is also interesting to read that Bill Willingham, praised today by Cory Doctorow for striking a blow against corporate IP abuse, attended BasedCon last weekend.
(2) FANTASY REQUIRES A GOOD MAP. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Interesting piece at Mapping As Process about a 1917 map of Fairyland by artist Bernard Sleigh, with references to many stories in folklore and fable. There’s a link to a high-resolution image that can be zoomed in on: “An Anciente Mappe of Fairyland”.
…In December 1917, the British artist and wood engraver Bernard Sleigh (1872–1954) published a six-foot long, panoramic map of Fairyland in three sheets. Its style was that of the Arts and Crafts movement, an aesthetic championed by William Morris (1834–1896) in the second half of the nineteenth century, in reaction to the apparent destruction of individual skills and traditional designs by mass industrialization. Arts and Crafts generated intricately detailed designs and a retrogressive appeal to folk aesthetics. Sleigh, trained by one of Morris’s followers, cultivated a stylized mediaevalism in both the design and the subject matter of his drawings, prints, murals, and stained glass (Cooper 1997)….
(3) VOCAL COMPLAINT. Behind a paywall at Fortune: “Actor Stephen Fry says his voice was stolen from the Harry Potter audiobooks and replicated by AI—and warns this is just the beginning”. Wealth of Geeks has this report about what is in the article: “Actor Stephen Fry Claims AI Replicated His Voice from ‘Harry Potter’ Audiobooks”.
…Actor Stephen Fry claims that producers used AI to replicate his voice from the Harry Potter audiobooks without his permission. AI has become a central point of contention of both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.
As reported by Fortune, Fry told an audience at a London festival, “I’m a proud member of [SAG-AFTRA], as you know we’ve been on strike for three months now. And one of the burning issues is AI.”
At the festival, Fry played a clip of AI mimicking his voice as the narrator of a historical documentary. “I said not one word of that—it was a machine. Yes, it shocked me,” he said. “They used my reading of the seven volumes of the Harry Potter books, and from that dataset an AI of my voice was created and it made that new narration. What you heard was not the result of a mash-up, this is from a flexible artificial voice, where the words are modulated to fit the meaning of each sentence.”…
(4) DON’T BE A SUCKER. Victoria Strauss gives Writer Beware readers the “Anatomy of a Fake Film Company Scam: The Greendot Films / Better Bound House”.
…Here’s how it works. A film company–with a website and everything–calls or emails out of the blue with a tempting offer: your book has the potential to be made into a movie/TV series! And they want to represent you to studios/pitch you to producers/take you to a major conference where scores of film people will be present! Just one requirement: you need a screenplay/a pitch deck/a storyboard/some other product. Don’t have those things? No problem–they know a reputable and expert company that can create them for you…for a fee.
It’s a classic bait-and-switch setup. The “film company” is a front for the service provider, which in turn is owned by a parent company overseas. And that initial service that was pitched to you as absolutely essential? It’s just the start. By paying, you’ve marked yourself as fair game for escalating sales pressure and fraudulent offers involving large upfront payments. And the sales reps who staff the scams–who earn a commission on every dollar you spend–will take every opening you give them, and won’t stop unless you stop them.
This post takes a look at a real-life example, thanks to an author who has given me permission to share their experience.
The fake film company: The Greendot Films. Its website includes a slideshow of movies Greendot is hoping you’ll assume they were responsible for creating, along with a fake history claiming that they’re a successor to two defunct production companies. The Greendot name itself has been “borrowed” from yet another defunct film company, Green Dot Films….
(5) BARRIERS TO FANDOM. Pocket reposts a 2021 Teen Vogue article which asks, “Who Actually Gets to ‘Escape’ Into Fandom?” and discusses antiracism resources.
… Escapism isn’t actually possible for everyone because of the nature of both fandom and the world around us. The best-worst example of the limits of fandom escapism? Racism.
Racism is global, and it infiltrates everything that we do; it’s close to inescapable offline, and it’s just as common online. Fandom is no exception.
In 2019, Dr. Rukmini Pande did an interview with Henry Jenkins about her book Squee From The Margins: Fandom and Race. “I found that while it is certainly possible for fans of color to ‘pass’ within online fan spaces, their modes of escapism are mostly contingent – I can enjoy a source or fan text until it gets racist,” Pande said in the interview. “Other fans articulated the importance of finding networks of fellow non-white fans so that they could curate their experiences to be safer. In all cases, fandom certainly isn’t a space where these fans can escape from race/racism even if it is not something that is engaged with publicly or vocally.”
It makes sense that people would resort to fandom escapism following natural disasters, or to have something to do other than overthink their local government’s COVID-19 response. But what about the times we’ve seen people talk about fandom being their “safe space” from them dealing with or seeing viral video recordings of Black people being killed, as we saw in the summer of 2020? What about people in the U.S. delving into fandom so they don’t have to think about American politics?
No matter the fandom, fans of color can’t reliably escape into fandom, because people don’t stop being racist just because they like the same things that people of color do. There’s always a racist person in fandom. There are always racist fanworks. There are always racist creators. There’s always racism in the source material that people will defend in your mentions for days….
(6) NM-AZ STATE BOOK AWARD SHORTLIST. The finalists for the 2023 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards include these science fiction books:
- 3VE by Jason DeGrey
- Mountain Knight by Avery Christy
- Planet Quest by Kate Harrington
- The Yewberry Way by Jack Gist
(7) NO, THERE IS ANOTHER. “C.I.A. Discloses Identity of Second Spy Involved in ‘Argo’ Operation” reports the New York Times.
In the midst of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, the C.I.A. began what came to be noted as one of the spy agency’s most successful publicly known operations: the rescue of six American diplomats who had escaped the overrun U.S. Embassy — using a fake movie as the cover story.
“Argo,” the real-life 2012 movie about the C.I.A.’s fake movie, portrayed a single C.I.A. officer, Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, sneaking into Tehran to rescue the American diplomats in a daring operation.
But in reality, the agency sent two officers into Tehran. For the first time on Thursday, the C.I.A. is releasing the identity of that second officer, Ed Johnson, in the season finale of its new podcast, “The Langley Files.”
Mr. Johnson, a linguist, accompanied Mr. Mendez, a master of disguise and forgery, on the flight to Tehran to cajole the diplomats into adopting the cover story, that they were Canadians who were part of a crew scouting locations for a science fiction movie called “Argo.” The two then helped the diplomats with forged documents and escorted them through Iranian airport security to fly them home.
Although Mr. Johnson’s name was classified, the C.I.A. had acknowledged a second officer had been involved. Mr. Mendez, who died in 2019, wrote about being accompanied by a second officer in his first book, but used a pseudonym, Julio. A painting that depicts a scene from the operation and hangs in the C.I.A.’s Langley, Va., headquarters, shows a second officer sitting across from Mr. Mendez in Tehran as they forge stamps in Canadian passports. But the second officer’s identity is obscured, his back turned to the viewer.
The agency began publicly talking about its role in rescuing the diplomats 26 years ago. On the agency’s 50th anniversary, in 1997, the C.I.A. declassified the operation, and allowed Mr. Mendez to tell his story, hoping to balance accounts of some of the agency’s ill-fated operations around the world with one that was a clear success.
But until recently, Mr. Johnson preferred that his identity remain secret….
(8) CINEMATIC HISTORY MADE HERE. “George Lucas’ former Marin Industrial Light and Magic studio closing, some employees vow to save it” reports ABC7 San Francisco.
In the North Bay, it’s the end of an era of movie-making magic.
The original soundstage and production facility in San Rafael for Industrial Light and Magic, founded by George Lucas, is going away. Lucas moved his campus to the Presidio in San Francisco almost 20 years ago.
The facility’s new owners are retiring, but one employee would like to save the studio’s history and legacy.
It may be a surprise to know hundreds of other films were created inside the nondescript building on Kerner Blvd. in San Rafael.
Now home to 32TEN Studios, this is the former campus of Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic.
“Right after the success of ‘Star Wars,’ George Lucas wanted to remove himself from the Hollywood system, so he moved the ILM shop from Van Nuys up here,” said House.
House is a longtime model shop supervisor, and says many props and models from movies are still there. That includes the Millennium Falcon, an anchor from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” even a model of Chewbacca’s head.
Lucas relocated his campus to the Presidio in 2005 and he took the original door with him, which is now on display….
(9) BACK IN PORT. Having finished a series detailing her experiences aboard Disney’s Star Wars-themed Starcruiser, Cass Morris analyzes why it works in “The Stars Have Come Alive” at Scribendi.
As promised, this post is my attempt to analyze, for myself and for other interested parties, how the Starcruiser creates such an exceptional experience, and why it works so very well as it does.
I feel quite confident in the base assertion that it does, and has, because I’ve seen it in action on people who aren’t as deeply invested in the IP as I am. I’ve watched videos of influencers who are only surface-level conversant with Star Wars be moved to tears by Yoda’s holocron. I’ve seen parents who thought they were only their for their kids get wrapped up in the experience. I’ve seen people who arrived in civilian clothes buy garments on the ship or in Batuu so they could feel more a part of things.
And I’ve seen people who were already Star Wars fans go absolutely feral. In a good way! But the response that this experience has from people who fully give themselves over to it is astonishing.
So. It works. The Starcruiser is a phenomenal example of what immersive experiences can be. Now: Let’s unpack how and why…
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 15, 1898 — Hans Augusto Rey. German-born American illustrator and author best remembered for the beloved Curious George children’s book series that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966. (An Eighties series of five-minute short cartoons starring him was produced by Alan Shalleck, along with Rey. Ken Sobol, scriptwriter of Fantastic Voyage, was the scriptwriter here.) His interest in astronomy led to him drawing star maps which are still use in such publications as Donald H. Menzel’s A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. A simpler version for children called Find the Constellations, is still in print as well. (Died 1977.)
- Born September 15, 1932 — Karen Anderson. She co-wrote two series with her husband, Poul Anderson, King of Ys and The Last Viking, and created the ever so delightful The Unicorn Trade collection with him. Fancyclopedia has her extensive fannish history thisaway, and Mike has her obituary here. (Died 2018.)
- Born September 15, 1952 — Lisa Tuttle, 71. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute”, which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include Catwitch, The Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection. Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross.
- Born September 15, 1954 — Howard Weinstein, 69. At age 19, he was the youngest person to ever write a Trek script, selling “The Pirates of Orion” for use in the animated series. Though it would be his only script, he would go on to write quite a few Trek novels — thirteen are listed currently at the usual suspects — and comics. He gets a thanks credit in Star Trek: The Voyage Home. He wrote a script, “The Sky Above, the Mudd Below”, for the fanfic video affair Star Trek: New Voyages, but it never got made. And it won’t given that there’s a comic book series already made with its plot. Paramount wasn’t at all pleased. To quote Zevon, “Send lawyers, gun and money / the shit has hit the fan.”
- Born September 15, 1955 — Amanda Hemingway, 68. British author of fantasy novels who’s best known for the Fern Capel series written under the Jan Siegel name — it’s most excellent. I’d also recommend The Sangreal Trilogy penned under her own name. Alas her superb website has gone offline. She is available from the usual suspects — curiously her Hemingway novels are much more costly than her Seigel novels are. Oh and she invented this wonderful as noted on her Twitter site: “Schroedinger’s Cake: you don’t know it it’s been eaten until you open the tin.”
- Born September 15, 1960 — Kurt Busiek, 63. Writer whose work includes The Marvels limited series, Thuderbolts, Superman, his own outstanding Astro City series, and a very long run on The Avengers. He also worked at Dark Horse where he did Conan #1–28 and Young Indiana Jones Chronicles #1–8.
- Born September 15, 1960 — Mike Mignola, 63. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing What If story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories are quite excellent too. I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, and detest the reboot now that I’ve seen it, while the animated films are excellent.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Reality Check shows the results of a mixed message in Gotham.
- Bliss explains the source of this superhero’s bliss.
(12) FEAST YOUR EYES. The Bristol Board has a wild gallery of “Basil Wolverton artwork for ‘Weird-Ass Tales of The Future’”, splash panels from Basil Wolverton’s science-fiction tales.
(13) LOOKS WEIRD. Gizmodo delivers a “Weird Tales 100 Years of Weird Illustrated Anthology First Look”. There’s a slideshow of art at the link.
Weird Tales—which delivers exactly the kind of freaky, spooky stories you’d expect—marks its 100th anniversary this year, and is celebrating with the release of illustrated anthology Weird Tales: 100 Years of Weird. It’ll include entries from authors like Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as contemporary writers….
(14) ALL ABOARD. GameRant calls these the “Best Sci-Fi Board Games Of All Time”.
…This shared love of science fiction has led to a plethora of sci-fi-themed board games that use the themes and aesthetic of sci-fi to create immersive, unique experiences on the tabletop. The following examples provide a broad and varied selection of games, both old and new, that use science fiction as their theme to great effect.
Ranked in first place:
1. Twilight Imperium
This sci-fi space opera from Fantasy Flight Games was originally produced back in 1997. Now in its fourth edition, Twilight Imperium is grand strategy on an epic scale, tasking players with controlling the burgeoning empires of various alien races.
Each race in Twilight Imperium encourages a different playstyle, making for a broad and replayable experience. The game is mainly focused on building and positioning fleets, as well as engaging in diplomacy with fellow players. Twilight Imperium is a huge game, and not necessarily accessible, not only because it takes roughly six hours to play depending on the player count, but because it requires a heavy amount of strategizing. However, Twilight Imperium is a dramatic and immersive experience that fans of sci-fi space operas are sure to love.
(15) BUDGET BREAKER? Science explains why “Mars Sample Return risks consuming NASA science”. “Forthcoming cost estimate for budget-busting mission could lead to strict caps from Congress.”
…The cost of the mission may become altogether too mighty, however. The most recent official figure now puts it at some $6 billion, up from some $4 billion, and a leaked report suggests that, in one scenario, it could exceed $8 billion. Cost overruns for MSR and a few other large missions have already forced NASA to squeeze or delay other science missions, and calls to rethink—or even kill—Mars Sample Return have grown. When an independent review of the project delivers a fresh cost estimate later this month, advocates are praying it stays well below $10 billion, which has emerged as a sort of red line for the mission. “It’s fair to say that the future of Mars Sample Return lives and dies with the recommendations of that panel,” says Casey Dreier, chief of space policy at the Planetary Society….
(16) WE’LL GO AT NIGHT. PBS Space-Time wonders “What NEW SCIENCE Would We Discover with a Moon Telescope?”
In order to see the faint light from objects in deepest space, astronomers go to the darkest places on the planet. In order to listen to their quite radio signals, they head as far from any radio-noisy humans as possible. But there’s nowhere on the earth, or even orbiting the Earth, that’s far enough to hear to the faint radio hum from the time before stars. In fact, we may need to build a giant radio telescope in the quietest place in the solar system—the far side of the Moon.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid, over at YouTube’s Media Death Cult, has a new 10-minute video filmed appropriately, in sand dunes, on “How DUNE Became The Biggest Science Fiction Book In The Universe”.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Kathy Sullivan, Bruce D. Arthurs, Francis Hamit, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]