April 13th, 2008


Best SFX and Fantasy Authors Ever?

I went and added my vote to this poll. The goal was to nominate the five "best SFX and fantasy authors of all time." This was SO HARD to decide. And I'm still waffling. But I thought I'd go ahead and repost what I wrote here, in case anyone's interested or looking for a new SFX/fantasy author to check out.

I am sure all day I will be remembering other authors and going, "Darn it! I totally forgot him/her! Fantastic author! I'm so silly!" Heh.


1. Terry Pratchett: He saved my sanity during law school, and also writes some of the most "real" fantasy characters I've ever met. A+ for creating characters that are both heroes and flawed in realistic ways. I can read his books a million times and never get tired of them, *and* find jokes I missed the first few times around. Hooray for any author who can make me laugh and stop and think at the same time. P.S. Love to Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, Vetinari, and Death!

2. Ray Bradbury: For The Martian Chronicles, which is like one golden moment of amazement stretched over an entire series of stories; I Sing the Body Electric, (short story) which is a gem; The Illustrated Man, a collection with not a single weak story; Farenheit 451, which makes very good points; Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is spooooky and awesome; Dandelion Wine, which gives us the perfect summer of youth; and for everything else he ever wrote.

3. C.S. Lewis: I'm surprised he hasn't gotten more than one mention thus far in the poll. Long before I was old enough to get that The Chronicles of Narnia was an allegory for anything, I read it over and over again, not even realizing I was getting hooked on fantasy - what a magical world he created, and how vibrantly he wrote his scenes and characters! I don't know that I can pick a favorite, but The Magician's Nephew may be close.

4. Orson Scott Card: Even if he had never written another book, Ender's Game is amazing and perfectly developed. I never get tired of it. But then, of course, he went on and wrote other good books, including Ender's Shadow.

5. Alan Moore: for V for Vendetta. Watchmen is also quite good, but I have to admit I go against the majority and like V better. It's so cohesive and well-written, with such a strong main character and purpose. (Also the drawings are fantastic, even though that's not Alan Moore as much as Dave Gibbons).

Honorable Mentions: Because I can't help myself. 

Neil Gaiman, for Neverwhere, Stardust, Mirrormask, American Gods, Dream, and all the rest - I think Neil lives on a different plane than the rest of us, where everything is more spooky (Note: Neil and Alan Moore and Orson Scott Card were kind of in a three-way tie, here...and now I'm kind of wishing I'd put Neil as 4 or 5. Damn my crush on V);
George R.R. Martin for A Song of Ice and Fire - he is the master of complexity;
Anne McCaffrey for all of the Pern books - kudos for making an unbelievable world so believable, and so long-running a series of stories;
Stan Lee, and anyone who ever worked on the X-Men, for creating such a lovable bunch of misfits with a great message;
Madeline L'Engle, for A Wrinkle in Time and that whole wonderful series;
Roald Dahl, for The Witches, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, George's Marvelous Medicine, and everything else - he's a master of children's fantasy;
Mark Twain, (yes, I know, an outlier) for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which got me hooked on Arthurian tales at the tender age of 10;
Mary Stewart, for making the legend of King Arthur so real;
Marion Zimmer Bradley, for The Mists of Avalon and The Forest House, which are both brilliant;
J.K. Rowling, for making the world of children's fantasy be both fun and scary at the same time;
J.R.R. Tolkien for sheer world development, as well as idealism and nobleness of purpose in stories;
Kurt Vonnegut, for many things, but particularly for Harrison Bergeron;
Isaac Asimov, for I, Robot and more;
Stephen R. Lawhead, for a fantastic portrayal of Celtic Merlin;
Elizabeth Moon, for The Deed of Paksenarrion, particularly Book 1, which made reading about military strategies and life so much fun; and
Douglas Adams, for sheer ridiculous hilarity.

...And I'm done. Although I'm sure I've forgotten some. Darn it.
Dylan Feng Shui

Copyright and Orphan Works: Why the sudden panic?

Via cleolinda's last post (which links to discussions by ursulav, kynn, and maradydd), I've learned that suddenly, out of nowhere, people are getting all het up about the Orphan Works issue. Which is surprising, considering the last big governmental consideration of the issue was in 2006, until you realize that some guy named Mark Simon over at Animation World Magazine (AWM) has posted an inaccurate and alarmist article about the issue. He's gotten almost everything wrong, including the definition of an orphan work. Well done, mister.


Some notes on the AWM article:

- The Copyright Office defines orphan works as "copyrighted works whose owners may be impossible to identify and locate," (Copyright Office 2006 Report on Orphan Works), NOT as "any creative work of art where the artist or copyright owner has released their copyright, whether on purpose, by passage of time, or by lack of proper registration." (Mark Simon)

- It *is* against international law (the Berne Convention, for one, which the U.S. acceded to in 1988-89) to require formalities such as registration. However, I have seen NO indication anywhere that the U.S. Copyright Office or legislators are proposing to withdraw from the Berne Convention requirements (and other international requirements, such as TRIPS, etc.) and require registration (as Mark Simon insists). As a matter of fact, the Copyright Office, in its massive report on this issue in 2006, specifically noted that it would not (and could not) do this (see, pp. 60-61).

- There is no way in the entire universe that the following will occur:

"Photos on the internet could be orphaned. With tens of millions of photos shared online with services like Flickr, Shutterfly and Snapfish, there is a huge opportunity for unauthorized use of your photos... legally.

You could see photos you take of your family and kids, or of a family vacation, used in a magazine or newspaper without your permission or payment to you." (Mark Simon)

You know why? Because in any case where the author of a work can be identified, the work is NOT orphaned. So, you know, if you have a Flickr account, and someone wants to use a photo of yours that's on Flickr, legally, in order to avoid potential infringement and possible litigation, they have to ask you. And you can say NO! What a novel concept that has been around for many, many years. *rolls eyes at Mark Simon*

I should observe here that, yes, you could see your photos used in an unauthorized manner - but that is the case even today. The remedy is, as always, to negotiate with and/or sue the folks who do it to enforce your rights.

maradydd has a few more good notes on the article.

(Small correction on her examples: actually, you could donate the described old photos to your local library. But whether they could copy them or not would trigger the orphan works issue.)


After perusing this article I made a valiant attempt to find the legislation to which Mr. Mark Simon refers. Sadly, I was unable to locate it. I did, however, find an official statement from The Register of Copyrights (dated March 13, 2008), which explained that the 2006 proposed legislation on Orphan Works is still being considered and discussed. The statement notes several new aspects of the issue that have been raised since 2006, but doesn't say anything like what this guy is screaming about in his article. I have no idea where he got his information from, since he didn't provide a link or anything, and I'm pretty sure "his own head" would actually be the place from whence all of this came. The Illustrator's Partnership, which he links to, references a "new bill" that will be proposed in May, but from the Copyright Office statement, it seems likely that this is the same bill that was proposed in 2006, with perhaps some modifications along the lines of those noted in the statement.

So in other words, to bastardize Terry Pratchett, (who was quoting someone else anyway, I believe), "Here comes the new bill, same as the old bill."


I commented on the article, asking for a link to the supposed "bill."


In a serendipitous occurrence, it just so happens that when I took the Advanced Entertainment Law seminar my third year of law school, my semester project was a paper on none other than orphan works, and the 2006 proposed legislation. So if you are at all interested in an accurate, researched-and-footnoted, largely unbiased (I hope), in-depth examination of the legal issue as it stood in 2006:

Here's my paper

(ETA: I also found my Excel chart on the duration of copyrights for various types of works, in case anyone's interested)

Yes, it's over 40 pages long. It was a semester-long project. But really, if you are actually interested, it's worth reading. Also, my professor was heavily interested in this stuff (and used to work for the Copyright Office), and he gave me an A on this thing. So I'm fairly sure if it was wildly inaccurate or anything, I would have been told.

As far as I know, the only current updates to the proposal would be what was briefly outlined in the recent Copyright Office statement I linked above.


I can do another post clarifying things if anyone has specific questions, but for now, I must run!

ETA: I have posted again, specifically on the details of the Copyright Office's 2006 proposed legislation/solution. Hopefully it will help clarify things, especially the whole issue of potential "mandatory registries."

ETA the Second: And a third post, this one focusing on a "reasonable search," particularly for visual arts.