On Turkeys, Great and Small

Alright everybody, just a heads up. There’s been a lot happening in the world; you know it, I know it, me posting about it here would just clog the Internet up with another voice shouting about senselessness into the void. Many have expressed my heart’s feelings on the matter better than I could, but if you really wanted to hear me screaming, go through the backlog of my Twitter. It’s filled with late night laments.

I know I write entertainment. It’s what most people turn to literature for. That said, the way the world’s been spiraling, well…it hasn’t been terribly conducive to that process. One of the burdens of being creative? Your heart gets pulled in a lot of different directions.

So, right, the heads-up. Basically, I wanted you all to know I’m taking the rest of the month off. Partly because I’m going to be spending the upcoming (American) holiday in Virginia, partly to finish up Christmas gifts for those close to me (you probably know who you are, and you’re going to be getting some stories), and partly because I’m trying to figure out next steps.

Next month marks the anniversary of the release of THE HOLLOW MARCH and that’s always a nostalgic and interesting time for me. A number of projects have also fallen through in recent days, and that winter depression is already clawing at my bones.

In other words? Drawing lines. Taking care of myself.

As I hope you all are doing. I’ll see you in December with plenty of new stuff. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to write. I see you, I hear you, and I have mad amounts of those heart-related feelings for you all.

Angry Turkeys for everyone!

This Video is Everything this Week

“No Laughs Tonight

Whether you’re a Jon Stewart fan or not, I implore you to watch his segment above on the Charleston shootings this week. I could not think of any better sum, analysis, break down, what have you. Honest and raw, it truly says the things everyone in this country needs to here.

Watch it because this week, this…this is everything.

And afterwards, when you inevitably need a pick me up, watch the interview with Malala that followed, because that woman is an inspiration, and will restore your hope and faith in mankind.

“Jon Stewart forgoes laughs for a heart-to-heart. Care of: TV Guide.”

One Studio’s Blockbuster; One Author’s Horror Story

I have a horror story for you.

For our protagonist, we have a scrappy physicist turned novelist, who developed what can only be described as one of the most massive blockbusters of recent years. I know, so far out there, right—how could someone possibly relate? Well for starters, let me drop another name on you:

GRAVITY

The Gravity Poster.

Do you remember Gravity? Flailing cameras? Spinning stars? Shrapnel? Sandra Bullock dancing through Earth’s atmosphere? Yes, that Gravity. Well, did you happen to know that Tess Gerritsen is also the person that birthed that particular entity, originally in novel form? I thought not. Yet it plays quite heavily into the why of this horror tale.

Now suppose you take this character and kindly tell them that they don’t need to be paid for their job…and certainly not for the work that came of it. No doubt that’s quirked a few eyebrows. Well, that’s precisely what has happened to Tess Gerritsen. You see, Gerritsen is presently involved in a very nasty little lawsuit over the theft of her property—the aforementioned Gravity—by a little company named Warner.

From “The Gravity of Hollywood: When It’s Okay for a Studio to Steal Your Story” by Matt Wallace:

It seems author Tess Gerritsen sold the rights to her novel GRAVITY to New Line in 1999. In exchange she would receive credit, a production bonus, and net profit points if the movie were made (not only is that never a given, it’s rare).

In 2008 New Line was “acquired” by Warner, who then went on to make the movie GRAVITY from Cuarón’s supposedly original screenplay concerning a medical doctor/astronaut left adrift in space after satellite debris kills the rest of her crew.

The novel GRAVITY is about a female medical doctor/astronaut trapped on the International Space Station after the crew is killed in a series of accidents. Later, as they developed the film, Ms. Gerritsen wrote scenes in which satellite debris broke apart the station and her protagonist was left adrift in her EVA suit.

Sound familiar?

The facts had at this point intrigued me on the level of juicy gossip.

Again, I admit this shamefully. I’ve lived and worked in Los Angeles for almost five years. It jades.

That’s when my lady (who, incidentally, is a brilliant attorney) dropped the ATOM BOMB OF HORROR RADIATING AT THE HEART OF THIS STORY.

Nikki went on to explain to me that author Tess Gerritsen was NOT suing Warner Bros. over copyright infringement or intellectual property theft.

Ms. Gerritsen admits openly and freely that Warner had every right to make the movie GRAVITY, utilizing her story as they saw fit.

She sued them because they brazenly screwed her out of the credit, payment, and profit she was guaranteed from the movie clearly (at least to me) drawn from her work.

The court doesn’t seem to dispute any of that.

This is the horror bomb part.

What both the court and Warner Bros. argue is Warner is under no obligation to honor the contract New Line made with her.

See, the problem was, Warner hadn’t bought the rights to the book. Rather, they bought out the company that had—New Line. Fairly standard fare in the business world, actually; same thing goes for patents. It’s one of the reasons companies do so like to gobble others up, in fact—so they can get access to their hoards. Unfortunately, Warner has argued that while buying up said company has entitled them to its prizes, it has not bound them by the same contracts that enabled those prizes in the first place.

A Publicity shot of Tess Gerritsen.

Thus, they have refused to credit Ms. Gerritsen (who has not in any way debated Warner’s right to publish the movie—merely their refusal to pay her for it), or even pay her. Anything. Which really just seems like the latest par for the course round of writers getting shafted for their hard work. What’s more, as writers and readers continue to rumble and rage about the present state of the publishing industry, about the state of writing, and what creators do or don’t deserve for the trouble, this incident leads to a particularly troubling entry into the debate: that of the legal.

Unfortunately, with studio versus author, we find ourselves at a legal crossroads. Whatever happens here (and the court has currently ruled to dismiss Tess’s case, in Warner’s favor), we’re going to find ourselves with immediate precedent for future cases—and thusly, for the industry at large. Don’t see the big deal? Say the court rules in favor of Warner. To Warner, it’s a solid chunk of change in the immediate, and for Tess Gerritsen, merely no gains on something she’s already not being paid for. That’s the immediate case, though.

In the future, other courts and judges can point to that ruling when they inform authors that studios need not pay on an optioned story—merely because that studio purchases another that had ACTUALLY negotiated the contract under which it was optioned. Essentially, there would be a massive loophole in the rights of authors when it comes to their own creative property—and studios would be able to operate with a lot looser restrictions on how they run their businesses. At least, when it comes to capitalizing off other people’s work.

Right now it’s comics that studios seem to be making huge profits off of, but they have always made a good chunk of their change from the literary scene as a whole. I doubt many moviegoers even realize how many films have that lovely little, “Based on…” disclaimer contained somewhere therein. Adapting books is a huge business, and I think fellow writer Emmie Mears said it best: “The least they can do is ensure those who thought up the stories are compensated accordingly.”

And if you haven’t read the article by Matt Wallace yet, which goes much more in-depth into the issue, and hits things far more eloquently than I, do so. Especially if you’re an author. In the same vein, you can get the story straight from the author’s own mouth, here: “Gravity Lawsuit Affects Every Writer.”

Space Haiku and Harpooned Comets

Space Haiku and Harpooned Comets

Philae_touchdown_node_full_image_2For those of you that haven’t heard: mankind landed a robot (Philae) on a comet today. A harpoon was meant to be involved.

Scientists are celebrating with hugs and champagne.

Xkcd is celebrating with comic strips.

I, being my own silly but no less appreciative self, thusly celebrate the only way I know how. And thus, there was space haiku.

Star dust settles on

the soundless expanse of hope

a harpooned comet.

Better watch out, space whales. Science is coming for you, next.

Love Eternal: Flash Fiction

I sat on the hill and watched the interplay. Young lovers thought the priests couldn’t see them, whispered sweet nothings that followed them into the ground. Hands clasped them together and all the rest fell away. Love was a gesture, no different from the motions I made to keep back the crowd as the others picked through their bones and pieced their story back together.

(Care of New York Daily News)

(Inspired by news of the 14th century skeletons uncovered in England this week by University archaeologists, their hands still clasped across 700+ years. It will be fascinating to see what people can find of the pair, the stories they’ll come up with, even if some will find it a bit morbid.)

 

A Momentary Interlude to Discuss Violence in America

“Hands up, don’t shoot,”—a modern mantra.

Before the events of Aug. 9, it was a phrase that we all knew, a classic plea of self-defense. It shows surrender, peaceful surrender. Yet in Ferguson, that phrase has become a rallying cry, precisely because of how it did not work.

When you look at pictures on the news, it’s everywhere. On t-shirts. On posters. It is a jab at the police force there where, according to witness reports, Michael Brown, who raised his hands in surrender, was shot regardless by a white officer.

The end result hasn’t just been a slogan, though. Protests, riots, and an indefensible police response have been at the heart of news circuits over the course of the last week. Some outlets have come to refer to this St. Louis suburb as “Fergustan,” a not-so-veiled reference to the fact that we expect this sort of behavior more overseas—we just don’t expect to see it on the streets of what our leaders regularly proclaim, “The Greatest Nation on Earth.”

I write this message not because it’s not being covered. Lord knows, there’s round the clock coverage of this mess, both at home and abroad. Amnesty International is sending a team to its first ever American investigation for goodness sake, and it’s no longer unusual to see war correspondents on the scene. People are tense. People are watching. I’m writing this message as an appeal, and as an airing of details.

Last night, after the Missouri State Police finally relieved the Ferguson Police Department of their duties—following endless criticism of their overhanded efforts to dissolve protests—and hopeful speeches throughout the day, things took their darkest turn yet. Hours before a governor-imposed curfew, things turns violent when police attempted to disperse the crowds and “restore calm.”

The stated reasons: reports of gunfire, a protest a little too near to a police command center for their liking. The end result? Molotov cocktails, lines of riot police, tear gas, and as of this morning, a call for the National Guard.

Yes, that’s right, the National Guard. The people that are deployed against disasters have now found themselves in a situation they haven’t had to deal with since the 1960s—a need to quell raw, simmering rage, and restore order for those whose sole job should be to do so. Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order this morning deploying the U.S. state militia to the area, effectively dubbing Ferguson a disaster zone.

“Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk,” Nixon said in a statement on his website.

In contradiction, you have residents saying things like, “The smoke bombs were completely unprovoked,” said Anthony Ellis, 45. “It (the protest) was led by kids on bikes. Next you know they’re saying, ‘Go home, Go home!’” (Reuters)

State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson explained, in turn, that while most protesters were peaceful, the trouble came from “a few people bent on violence and destruction.” Elevating the level of the police response was, in his opinion, simply par for the course. Following that example, the state has now raised theirs, even as the Federal government steps in to autopsy Brown’s body (a third time it’s had to go through this, mind you), and supporting protests spring up in other cities.

In Ferguson, they’ve even closed schools today.

It’s out of control

So let’s break this down:

A week of protests.

Brutal police tactics, from start to finish, including the shooting of a man they later released criminal details on, but which they knew nothing of at the time. Journalists have been arrested for nothing more than reporting on the details, and there has been a determined effort to keep the information gatherers out.

Local, state and federal agencies scrambling for a response.

Autopsy after autopsy after autopsy.

Those people taking the streets say there often is no other outlet for their objections, that they have no alternative but to protest until they are listened to. It’s a sad state to find oneself in, not just as an individual, but as a community. Young and old alike, they’ve put up with a lot, for a very long time—the thing breaking here in Ferguson is not a single man’s poor decision, but the latest in a long-running sense of one versus the other, of an outlook on a community that does no one any favors.

It wasn’t even until a few days ago that the police finally caved to Civil rights activists’ demands for the name of the officer who shot and killed Mr. Brown—ostensibly out of concern for his safety, and probably logically so, but nonetheless, a poor move which only served to fan the flames in the community.

Conclusion?

Police, Politicians, and fellow Citizens, we need to rethink how this whole society thing is working. Because if this is how things turn out, it’s not. We don’t want the United States of America to be the land of freedom under which terms and conditions may apply. None of us signed a terms and licensing agreement.

What’s more, this should be a wake up call. With the militarization of police forces across the USA, the buying of surplus military arms, and, if a concerted effort is not made to rein in what exactly is “the law,” what exactly is “right and wrong,” the capacity for what is happening in Ferguson could happen anywhere, and that’s a truly dark thought.

Communication, people. It makes the world go round. Let’s engage before we disintegrate.

Is Poetry Dead?

The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry, oil on...

The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry, oil on canvas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me clarify: it’s not me asking. It’s the Washington Post.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2013/01/22/is-poetry-dead/

Lord Byron

Is good Lord Byron rolling in his grave even as we speak? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alexandra Petri, one of the paper’s pundits, investigated the assertion in an article last week (which I just discovered now).  And I quote: “Poets are like the Postal Service — a group of people sedulously doing something that we no longer need, under the misapprehension that they are offering us a vital service.” What’s more, the article goes on to quote playwright Gwydion Suilebhan in delivering the dramatic title of this post: “Poetry is dead. What pretends to be poetry now is either New Age blather or vague nonsense or gibberish. It’s zombie poetry.”

By her own estimation, in fact, there is “no longer, really, any formal innovation possible.”  That world-shaking revelations such as “Howl” or “The Waste Land” are no longer possible in a world where high production movies, video games, and other media are able to do everything the poet can do, but better.

Petri, naturally, was using this as a parallel point to journalism, which if any of you have been following the course of in recent years, is in very dire straits itself. If poetry is dead, then what of journalism?

Personally, I think it is exactly like journalism–in the regards that there will be a struggle for a time, a chaotic crumbling of identity whereby everyone is scrambling to rediscover just what it can be. But is it dead? Will it die? Certainly not. The identity will change. The nature of it will change, and find new ground. But I dare say–nay, I dare hope–this old dose of the literary, stalking us from the very dawning of civilization, is so engrained in us that it could never truly, utterly die.

So poets, journalists, I ask you, what do you think? What are your insights to this, and where do you think things are heading?