Category Archives: WTF

Professional BS Artists

For years I’ve had a bit of a running joke that I tell even if people aren’t in on it. It’s often rumored that talking about your goals will actually give you an inflated sense of accomplishment. So, as a writer who hasn’t really had a huge amount of success (yet), I tend to rely on self-deprecation to avoid actually stating my goals out loud. Don’t get me wrong, I remind myself every day that I’m a writer and that’s what I want to be, but when I talk to other people I try to make sure I don’t get a big ego about it. We’ve all met that guy who says he’s writing a screenplay or novel and thinks that means the world should kiss his ass. I never want to be that guy, so I make sure to label myself appropriately.

I’m a professional bullshit artist.

Because that’s what you have to be if you’re going to be working in fiction. You have to be able to craft the most unbelievable bullshit into something people become invested in. You have to sell people on notions that you just pulled from the aether (or straight from your ass), and make them want to pay you money for it. It’s a skill that’s easy to learn but hard to master – a field where everyone feels they should be able to do it but only so many can actually pull it off. And that perceived ease of entry is part of the problem for guys like me.

See, writers, by and large, have to sell themselves as much as possible to get people to look their way. But, since there are so many of us out there, it’s hard to make that happen in short order. Most famous authors and screenwriters didn’t really have a major break until their 30s when many of those started trying earnestly somewhere around high school. There are always a few modest writing gigs here or there, you’ll make some headway as an intern if you have the right connections, but for the most part you’re just hoping you manage to out-shine someone else’s bullshit. Unfortunately, recent events with some politicians derailed my efforts for a bit and I was a little upset.

But, sometimes, you just have to tip your hat to a true bullshit master… Continue reading Professional BS Artists

Copyright Confusion: Trademark Edition!

(To ensure there’s no confusion here: I am not a lawyer, I am a writer who has an interest in this subject because I would like to not be sued or ripped off. Noble motivations, I assure you.)

Copyright, it’s a funny thing. Most people have a basic understanding of it, but that understanding tends to be fairly black and white. Some people assume that it should be mostly common sense, but that’s not always true. Things that everyone tends to “know” about the system are usually pretty subjective and can be swayed by a good legal team. And other things that people “know” may be flat out wrong in some cases.

When I wrote the post that eventually got this discussion rolling, one of those things people “knew” is that a copyright holder is obligated to sue to defend their copyright. This is an opinion that a lot of people had based on a misunderstanding and outdated information. Once upon a time, it would have been totally true (and still is in some circumstances and locales). But one of the few things about modern US copyright law that I really like is that we currently don’t require a copyright holder to do anything to maintain their copyright. You can register, but that registration is mostly meant for your future legal cases if you want to draw damages. The minute you publish original content in the US, you own it, no questions asked. A failure to register doesn’t lose you the copyright, it just makes your lawsuits a little trickier.

Instead, lawsuits are generally used to either stop an action, punish a violation, or to ensure that the right people are being paid for a work. These are entirely voluntary. That’s not to say that filing the lawsuit makes you a dick, not at all, you should have the right to defend your work. Rather, when someone says that the lawsuit was an obligation, they’re working under a false assumption. Corporations aren’t “obligated” to protect their copyright from fear of losing it since it’s nearly impossible to lose a copyright. Their lawsuits on copyright are entirely about ensuring that no one else profits from their work or prevents them from profiting on it themselves.

On the other hand, trademark law tends to be… Continue reading Copyright Confusion: Trademark Edition!

Each Day A New Step

Every day someone has to get up and push themselves to get to work. Some days, that’s a little harder than others. And, I’m willing to venture a guess quite a few people aren’t feeling too great right now. I can understand why those people are a little stressed out. The environment is in shambles, it feels like a lot of progress we’ve made has been backsliding,  and the economy tends to be unkind to people in the wrong tax brackets. These are all struggles we share, and everyone has others struggles almost entirely unique to them. If we’re lucky, some of those struggles get easier over time. If we’re unlucky, a few new ones will come along to make the next day harder than the last. But if we’re really unlucky, something goes off the deep end and we find ourselves appointing a crazy hair madman as our leader.


Understandably, some people have a hard time getting up after that. There’s plenty of time to try to figure out what caused it, or what it means, and we’ve got some time to figure out how this is all going to play out. But for today, we have to remember that each new day is another day we have to make count. Even if you’re driving through wastelands, running for your life, you still have to get up in the morning and make your way forward. After all, the alternative is to give up and giving up opens up a fresh new form of hell.


So, if you’re still alive when the world’s gone mad, you have to find a way to live in it… Continue reading Each Day A New Step

Cosmic Disasters

Every year, as this time comes around, I sit back and think a lot about what exactly scares people. So many things that we deal with in our everyday lives can be so unassuming to most but absolutely terrifying to a few. But as I once pointed out, I’m not particularly afraid of things that require a lot of abstract thinking. Stick me in a situation where my entire biology is telling me to get out and I will be fairly afraid, but if I have to imagine something hurting me, I generally also imagine being able to fight back. Masked men with a machete? I wonder why no one’s grabbed the farm tools they just ran by. Animatronics in a pizza shop? I’m familiar with how fragile animatronics actually are. And, as much as people are caught up in some sort of clown hysteria right now, there’s really only ever been one clown outside of fiction that anyone had any real reason to be worried about.


Well, maybe two if you count the threat of obesity.


This doesn’t just hold for the small personal horrors either. As I pointed out once about the apocalypse, a lot of the allure for these scenarios is the feeling that we could somehow plan or prepare to handle them. Every apocalyptic story involves the survivor who finds their way out of it and deals with the horrors in front of them despite the odds. Aliens have invaded? You’ll join the resistance. Zombie hordes marching across the landscape attacking everyone they come across? There are entire websites devoted to planning your survival strategy. And nuclear winter? I know it sounds absolutely terrifying but we’ve actually survived something like that once before. So, despite how horrible they may seem to a lot of people, they’re never something I really sit back and worry about. As I once told my friend, the things that actually have kept me up at night are the things you could never prepare for.

Because where can you hide from something that makes the planet uninhabitable…? Continue reading Cosmic Disasters

Copyright Confusion: Macross Edition!

(To ensure there’s no confusion here: I am not a lawyer, I am a writer who has an interest in these subjects because I would like to not be sued or ripped off. Noble motivations, I assure you.)

Copyright, it’s a funny thing. Having recently stepped into a hot debate, I found myself watching people argue with certainty over the nature of copyright law. Amusingly, most of these people were so absolutely sure they knew how copyright law works that you’d think they were all lawyers. For or against, both sides of the debate thought they knew for a fact what the law said on the subject. In fact, both were pretty adamant that the other side were thieves. And they “knew for a fact” because, according to these well-meaning souls, copyright is a simple to understand system that follows common sense. So, once I stopped laughing, I started writing on the subject.

As I’ve been pointing out ever since, there isn’t always as clear a picture as people like to believe there is. In some very black and white areas, it works – you can’t just duplicate someones work or distribute pirated copies (usually). But once you get to the matters of intellectual property, you’d be amazed how hard it is to parse out the solution. The system as it stands today has many glaring flaws that make it difficult to trust that it’s always going to work. Certain provisions within the copyright and trademark laws are intentionally murky, some things are entirely subjective, and most of the time you can’t tell what the truth is until a judge decides. This results in a system where no one is really able to get anything clarified until a lawsuit comes into the conversation. Unfortunately, the little guy can rarely afford that, so the big boys usually win.

In the end, most of us depending on the law to protect our works are depending on people acting in good faith. Generally, we like to hope that people are honest players. We like to imagine that legal action is like a big red button behind a glass case you break only in case of emergencies. In a grey situation, we like to imagine that people stop to hesitate and consider whether they should actually do it. No one would blindly and willfully hit that button just for the sake of hitting it, right?


A plethora of people abuse the system to lock it in their favor even if it shouldn’t be. A great example would be the situation mentioned last time when Saban, owners of Power Rangers, sued a game parodying Super Sentai and other Tokusatsu series. This game existed well within fair use, being a parody based on an entire genre that used no copyrighted or trademarked materials. But, apparently, when you see a team of colorful characters climbing into a bizarre machine – Saban wants you to think of them.


It’s a ridiculous situation, but one that happens all the time. Some companies go out of their way to sue for things they have no right to sue over. They’ll plant themselves on a copyright, trademark, or patent and then use that to strong-arm other companies. But, to be fair to Saban, they do have some legal claim to the IP and that makes them a lesser of evils. Instead, to find a really glaring example of copyright abuse in a similar situation, I’d like to tell you about a franchise from Japan and why a lot of you probably haven’t heard of it before… Continue reading Copyright Confusion: Macross Edition!

Fair Use: Parody, Porn, and Games (Oh My)

(To ensure there’s no confusion here: I am not a lawyer, I am a writer who has an interest in this subject because I would like to not be sued or ripped off. Noble motivations, I assure you.)

Last month I mentioned something about an upcoming Star Trek production and it stirred a lot of debate about the legality of fan films. At the time, I wasn’t even trying to claim anything about legality because, frankly, that can’t be determined until after the lawsuit’s long over. And, while people are incredibly passionate about that debate, I’m not actually so angry that I could go on talking about the production for much longer. It’s not that I don’t care, I do, but the emotion that would best describe my reaction would be “disappointment”.

Still, there is something about the topic that I am fairly passionate about. Long time readers could be confused how I could come out so adamantly against the likes of Shia LaBeouf for plagiarism and copyright infringement but defend fan-works like Axanar so often. The two points of view may be seen as contradictory in the eyes of some, but they’re all part of a general philosophy I have regarding copyright. Basically, thieves should be treated as such, but fan works need not necessarily be considered thieves.

Labeouf, however, may require charts

I believe in a system that protects creators, doesn’t naturally favor the wealthy, and provides some limited protection for fan productions as creators in their own right. The way I’ve seen it for a long time, that’s not quite what we have. Instead, our system tends to bend to the whims of whoever can afford the best legal team. And, because of that, I’m often disappointed in general at the way the system’s carried out. To put it another way: guys like Shia LaBeouf get away with it because the system we have now lets them while even the most innocent of fan productions could be shut down at a moment’s notice. Would I consider Axanar as “the most innocent”? No, but that’s why I’m more disappointed than angry.

So it’s not that I want to tear down the copyright system, far from it, creators like me need more protection from the likes of LaBeouf. However, when I look at fan productions I don’t see the enemy so much as I see people who are either trying to get started as creators or trying to show their love for the work of another creator. Plagiarism and copyright infringement are matters of theft, but I don’t feel most fan productions should fall in that category and right now the law basically says they do.

What I’d want is clear and common sense legislation to guide fan works in a way that won’t hurt the original creators. Many believe that legislation already exists and mention repeatedly that’s the whole point of “Fair Use”. But, as much as people would want to believe Fair Use provides that common sense protection for fan works, it really isn’t as clear as people would think it is. The fact of the matter is, even seasoned professionals often overlook the fact that Fair Use, like most of copyright law, is incredibly subjective and, frankly, has lost some of its power in the last few years.

Unless, of course, you can afford to defend it… Continue reading Fair Use: Parody, Porn, and Games (Oh My)

The Legality Of Fan Works

(Edited on 8/26/16 to make a couple points clearer. Lesson to the kids at home: if you’re on medication, don’t forget to have someone check your work.)

So, an interesting thing happened last week. During a hazy day where I didn’t really feel like doing my planned blog I instead decided to shoot from the hip. Throwing together a blog on a topic I’d recently discussed with friends, I published it and figured that would be the end. Turns out, according to people on Twitter, mentioning Axanar is like yelling fire in a theater. Suddenly there was a swarm of people unlike anything this blog has ever seen before. As I was publishing last Wednesday’s post I looked up to see that a post I figured wouldn’t go anywhere suddenly had more traffic than the rest of my blog combined.

Whups, kicked a hornets’ nest

Now, half a lifetime on the internet has taught me three very important lessons about expressing personal opinions. First, never debate people in a format with a character limit, there in lies the path to madness. Second, never jump into the middle of a heated debate in a comments section, they will eat you. And, third, if you do see someone make a valid point, acknowledge and respond to it in a controlled setting. Thankfully, I own the setting.

Continue reading The Legality Of Fan Works

The Descent of Ascendant

Few things that I say on this blog happen to get proven so clearly that I can actually point at it and say “called it”. For all the analysis and predictions that you can make in the creative industries, it’s still a wild animal that’ll defy your expectations without an inside source. But in recent news I saw something that was just so in line with one of my posts that I just had to point it out. Because, frankly, the backhand in this decision was so loud that no one could interpret it any other way.


Lionsgate, the studio behind the Divergent films, recently announced that the final film in the series wouldn’t be getting a theatrical release and would instead head to TV. Worse, they didn’t even tell the cast and word has it that most of them probably aren’t even an option for returning. Supposedly, this is to try to backdoor a pilot for a series like with what the Mortal Instruments series did, but the writing here is clearly on the walls. To me it stands as probably the greatest evidence of something I’d said not too long ago on this blog. With the previous film doing “okay” and several others in the genre doing about the same, it’s becoming painfully clear what’s starting to happen with this move.

YA adaptations just took a shot to the kidneys, and the studios are getting ready to bail.

Continue reading The Descent of Ascendant

The Culture Of Plagiarism

Ah, plagiarism, crutch for the underachievers and the hopeful slackers. Years ago, when the internet was still new and things were harder to search, there was a bit of a boon for plagiarists. You could look up almost anything if you had the time and dedication (well… time) to search the “information super highway” as we called it before we collectively realized that sounded stupid. From there you only needed to copy and paste it into  a text document and get blitzed for the rest of the weekend. It was a golden era right up until Google and other web crawlers made searching so simple that anyone could just quote lines right out of your work and find where they originally came from. Hell, there’s even software that’ll do it for you.

But unless you’ve been living under a rock you can probably guess why this topic came to mind for me this week. Melania Trump, wife to the future emperor of the wastelands of North America, gave a speech at the Republican national convention which was quickly noted to have lifted a significant block of text out of a speech given by Michelle Obama a few years ago. The internet was swift to not only spot the plagiarism but provide documented evidence and eventually go so far as to pick apart the rest of her speech until discovering there was a chance her speech writer might have even Rick Rolled her.

rick roll
Credit to the folks at imgur

Now, of course, Melania probably didn’t write- plagiarize this speech herself. She had a speech writer like most of these people do and someone within the organization has already taken credit for this humiliating mistake. Hell, a few days later, her chief rival Ivanka said the same line about “let you down”, so it’s entirely possible they had the same writer. But if it had been Melania we couldn’t really say it would have been much of a surprise. Plagiarism, despite the ease of detection, is still well alive today.

Especially from people who don’t think they’ll ever get called out on it.

Continue reading The Culture Of Plagiarism

Star Trek’s Guidelines, CBS Paramount’s Loss

As I mentioned before, I rarely understand hostility towards fan productions. So long as they aren’t making a profit and aren’t doing something that negatively impacts your own work, the idea of a fan going out of their way to honor your work seems like a wonderful thing. Some properties are even kept alive by the passion of such fans, kept afloat between major productions by the fact people just genuinely love them. Allowing these people to trade creations and nerd-out together only means you have that fan-base still happy when you’re ready to show them a new installment.

The two biggest names of Sci-Fi today, Star Trek and Star Wars, easily demonstrate this. In Star Wars case, the expanded universe and the continued support by convention goers allowed the franchise to go on hiatus for 16 years before the Phantom Menace came back and was an instant blockbuster. In fact, despite their protests, Star Wars fan loyalty has meant that not a single Star Wars film has been a commercial flop – even as they’re decried for ruining childhoods. And Star Trek? They owe way more to the fans than Star Wars could ever hope to.


Many people don’t realize this today, seeing as most on the internet weren’t around for when the original series first came out, but Star Trek didn’t actually do that great in the 60s. Starting off with relatively soft ratings to begin with, it spent the first two seasons slowly heading towards cancellation. In fact, by the end of Season 2, William Shatner was already planning to jump ship to other projects. The only reason you know of the show today is because as that second season came to a close and was about to be cancelled, the fans began an overwhelming and surprising letter writing campaign to get a third season.

The fans saved the entire franchise, getting not only that third season but eventually the movies and future series installments. And for their efforts, in recent years, they’ve been getting a little… slapped in the face.

Continue reading Star Trek’s Guidelines, CBS Paramount’s Loss