Monday, October 23, 2017

Stranger than fiction?

Some situations are so implausible that it takes a Charles Dickens to dare put them into a novel.(*) Certainly, I try not to pull rabbits (or rodents of any sort) out of my authorial hat.
Free Kindle edition
Free Kindle edition

(*) That's not only my opinion: "Dickens particularly resented the fact that his early novels were criticised for relying too heavily on coincidence. This criticism was certainly merited: In his first novel, Oliver Twist, the young Oliver is saved from the streets by pure chance and taken in as a charity case by a wealthy family who just happen to be his actual relatives who have spent ten fruitless years searching the country for their lost boy!"

Still, there is no denying that oddities and coincidences do occur. Today, I'm happy to relate two unlikely instances of the Right Thing happening. And involving the publishing industry, no less ...

First, a district court in New York issued a ruling sure to warm the cockles of any writer's heart. (And, incidentally, that brings us to a semantic oddity. Cockles can be bivalve molluscs. Also, hard candies. I wonder: in which sense does a heart have cockles? And why in that locale do they relate to deep feelings?) The key point (for the full story, see "Court Rules Copyright is Not a 'Use It or Lose It' Right"):
In the case of Penguin Random House v. Colting, the Court ruled that the failure of a copyright owner to enter a segment of the market for an expressive work, here, the children’s market, did not entitle an unlicensed interloper to enter that market under the doctrine of fair use.

(The significance of the ruling doesn't require any direct SFnal tie-in, but there is one. To wit: among the infringed titles was 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke.)

Writer at work (#)
Our second publishing-related oddity? That's a two-parter. In Part A, California actually passed a law requiring -- with huge fines at stake -- certificates of authenticity and onerous record keeping for any autographed item worth $5 or more. As in: for presumably every autographed book. As in: the death knell for book signings in California. (Is there, you ask, also an SFnal tie-in here? Absolutely! Impetus for the problematical law was Star Wars actor Mark Hammill's complaint about fake autographs.)

(#) This particular writer is NASA scientist, science popularizer, and SF author Les Johnson.

And Part B? The California legislature -- facing a First Amendment lawsuit filed by a courageous bookseller, represented pro bono by the Pacific Legal Foundation -- passed a second law that does the right thing. They exempted books from the first law. Yay!

For more about this brouhaha, see "California rescinds autograph mandate for book sellers: Repeal of the harsh regulation follows PLF’s constitutional challenge."

And now, speaking of coincidence, I'm going to try adding words to my novel in progress. Ideally, not odd words ...

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