Message from discussion What ever happened to Niven's Known Space?
From: e...@halcyon.com (Elf Sternberg)
Subject: Re: What ever happened to Niven's Known Space?
organization: Pendor, UnLtd.
da...@morc.mfg.sgi.com (Dana Crom) writes:
>Andrew C. Plotkin wrote:
>>There was a case a few years ago where someone was writing erotica
>>(S/M erotica, if I recall correctly) in a SF setting, and included
>>a Kzin at one point. This was stuff being posted to Usenet, not sold.
>>Niven threatened legal action, and the guy backed down.
Yah, that was me. *Laugh* Long time ago, in my memory. Not so
long ago in Larry's, unfortunately. He wouldn't sign my copy of
Man/Kz*n Wars IV last year.
>>Niven admits the incident, in as many words, in the introduction to
>>one of the Man/Kzin War books.
>Elf Sternberg. He ended up rewriting the stories. And Elf himself
>has posted that he feels the stories were the better for it.
Yes. Away from any "rules" I may have felt impelled to follow
because these were someone else's ideas I was tinkering with, I felt the
stories became *my* own work, rather than simple derivatives of someone
else's. After removing anything about Kn*wn Sp*ce from the Journal
Entries, they became much more personal and effective. And Larry said
he'd drop the matter.
He didn't. It showed up again, in the aformented MKW4. I
understand the point he was addressing in MKW4, but rather than just
say, "No, it's my work," he dragged the incident in. I decided to ahve
one last laugh, and wrote one final story, which is absolutely a parody
of Niven's universe-- "The Only Fair Game," which is also on my home
page and which is protected under US law (see: The Estate of Roy Orbison
vs. Two Live Crew. The ruling essentially dictates that parody must be
judged as to whether or not the work being parodied was taken primarly
for it's social or financial value. Since I'm not asking for any
money... ). TOFG digs into Larry's well-rumored aversion to any
sexuality that's even a little bit "weird." Any species with THAT much
macho can't find passive, unintelligent females very exciting as sex
partners.... So what do they do? *gryn*
>>In any event, I think actions have spoken louder than words. If you
>>want to write Known Space stories, talk to Niven first.
>Though I'm not an expert on copyright law, others who *are* have rehashed
>this _ad nauseam_. It boils down to "unless you exercise control, you
>lose it," as I understand it.
The trouble lies in a single sentence at the end of "Ringworld
Engineers." Larry wrote, "If you want more Known Space stories, you'll
have to write them yourself." To a lot of people, that reads like an
invitation to filk like mad, and I think it took Larry a long time,
longer than he would like to admit, to realize quite what he'd said
there, or what he'd unleashed. In the beginning, that's all I really
wanted-- more Known Space stories, ones that befitted my tastes. I made
the "mistake" of showing my creation to a half million people.
>Getting upset with Niven, or any other professional writer, for wanting
>to retain legal control over their own creations seems rather odd. They
>don't make the law - but they depend on their work for their living.
>And if anyone needs a horrible example of the effects of LACK of control,
>remember that horrible _Lensman_ anime.
True, but the Lensman anime came 'round a long time after Doc
was dead. The question there is more vague to me... should Doc Smith's
children be allowed to rob their father's intellectual tomb or not?
Intellectual property rights are hard to figure for inheritance.
But you're right on one account-- Niven, attempting to live off
the sweat of his own brow, does have the right to control how his work
is used. He can't stop J. Random Roleplayer from cooking up a version
of his beasts for his local Rolemaster sessions, and somehow I don't
think he'd want to. What he can't do, and what I've seen some writers
try to do, is use this "control" issue to prevent criticism of his work.
Okay, so Larry doesn't like gays or leatherfolk; the only people
in his story who ever get laid are take-charge human males whose
partners are usually athletic yet somehow virginal nubile human
females. A lack of creativity in one department does not make Larry
talentless. He's still one of my top five favorite fiction writers
because he taught me what the stars *could* look like, if only you put
your mind to it.
Elf Sternberg Geeks are neither skilled nor curiousities,
e...@halcyon.com they are merely... unseemly.
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