A few weeks ago I removed the scifi story “Wraith” from the Library.
Regular visitors probably haven’t noticed, since they’ve probably read the story already. New visitors probably figured the non-functioning link was a mistake.
I removed it on purpose at the request of another writer.
To refresh everyone’s memory: “The Wraith” is a short story written entirely by me, but which takes place in a setting created by someone else. Matthew Wayne Selznick created a world of superpowered “Sovereigns” as well as an online magazine featuring fiction… mostly written by him… that explored that setting. To my knowledge, the “Wraith” story was never completely published… the magazine shut down before the last bit of story was posted. My memory could be serving me wrong on that point, though. Anyway, years later I found the original text of the story and posted it in the Library along with everything else.
Recently I got an email from Matthew asking that I remove the story because it contained references to his intellectual property (characters and organizations that he created as part of the world of the Sovereigns).
In the interests of full disclosure, here’s the email:
I was the editor and publisher of “Sovereign Serials,” the webzine
where most of “Wraith” originally appeared. These days, the
“Sovereign Era” is still alive and kicking in my book “Brave Men Run
— A Novel of the Sovereign Era,” several short stories and a podcast.
I noticed you have “Wraith” up on your website in its original form.
Remember that the terms of our original agreement was that you could
re-publish work appearing in “Sovereign Serials” so long as all
references specific to the Sovereign Era setting — such as characters
common to the setting, the term “Sovereign,” and all other elements
that could tie the story to the Sovereign Era setting — were removed.
It looks like your story still contains all the “Sovereign” elements.
I noticed mentions of Dr. Donner, the phrase “Sovereign,” and other
The reason I have those terms on fiction that appeared in “Sovereign
Serials” is a compromise. I couldn’t pay anyone at the time, so I
wanted to make sure authors could sell their work elsewhere. On the
other hand, the Sovereign Era setting and all elements of that setting
(characters, situations, institutions and so on) are my intellectual
property and a brand I am actively building. I can’t have that brand
diluted with “unofficial” works out there in the wild. That’s why I
had contributing writers to Sovereign Serials agree that if they *did*
republish their work outside of Sovereign Serials, they would remove
*all* elements that link that work to the Sovereign Era universe.
Please either remove the “Wraith” story from circulation, or re-post
it with all characters, institutions, conventions, locations and other
elements related to the Sovereign Era removed.
I really appreciate your cooperation.
So I took the story down. Matthew seems reasonable, and apparently I DID agree not to publish the story in its original form. I do have the option of editing the story to make it entirely my work as opposed to a work set in someone else’s setting… and I may do that at some point. That point isn’t now, and it won’t be any time soon. I’ve got other, NEWER projects to spend my time on, and I’m sure my fans would rather I proceed with those rather than re-edit an old tale just to fulfill an obligation from years back. One day when I get bored and have some free time, I’ll edit the story and put it back up. Don’t hold your breath, though.
What do I think about all this?
I was kind of pissed, actually.
Not that Matthew doesn’t have a point… I agree with his point of view entirely. There was an agreement and he has rights. If the situation had been reversed, I would like to be able to make a request like his and have it fulfilled without involving drama and/or lawyers. Dark Icon hates drama and lawyers as much (or more) than anybody, trust me.
But, see, the thing is… I wouldn’t have MADE the request.
And that’s why I’m a little pissed. If I give somebody permission to go off and write a story that mentions Jason Brooks or Zade or Magekiller and is set in one of those respective worlds… and then later on I decide to actually publish a Crusade or December or Magekiller novel, I wouldn’t then go to that person and tell them to detach their story from my intellectual property. Yeah, legally there might be reasons and/or benefits for me making such a request… but to me, that’s kind of an asshole thing to do. Hey, sometimes you gotta be an asshole and there’s no other choice… but I’m not seeing how this is one of those times. I fail to see how the presence of “Wraith” adversely affects his intellectual property or his ability to make money from it. Given a “rogue” Magekiller story that I gave someone permission to write, I would probably insist that the situation be clearly explained: Certain items are not the property of the story’s author, and the story was written with the permission. What I wouldn’t do is ask them to change the story. But that’s just me. The only reason I took the story down is because there is/was an agreement that I inadvertently broke, so NOT taking it down would have been an asshole thing to do.
So, to recap…
Dark Icon: Not an asshole
Matthew W. Selznick: ???