Wraith: MIA

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.

It isn’t.

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:

Hi!

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
stuff.

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.

Many thanks,

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: ???


9 Comments

  1. mwsmedia, March 29, 2009:

    Hi Marc,

    I’m sorry you were angered by my request that you not break the terms of our agreement. You mentioned not wanting to involve drama and/or lawyers — I never involved lawyers, and by contacting you directly and in private, I avoided drama.

    By bringing this issue into the public rather than responding to me directly, you’ve invited the very drama you claim not to want. Since my reputation and integrity are very important to me, I feel compelled to respond.

    In your post you admit that you went against the terms of our agreement by publishing the story as it was originally written for Sovereign Serials. I recognize that you broke the agreement inadvertently. I assume you forgot about the agreement when you posted the story.

    Since you “agree with my point of view entirely,” why make an issue of it?

    You mention that you “fail to see how the presence of “Wraith” adversely affects (my) intellectual property.” Thanks for providing this opportunity to explain.

    When I released “Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era” in September of 2005, it represented a considerable revision of the Sovereign Era setting that originally appeared in the Sovereign Serials webzine.

    Later, the stories presented in my all-day “web-a-thon” celebrating the Swarm Press book release in July of 2008 all represented the current Sovereign Era, as does the next story in my short story series, “The World Revolves Around You” and the content of a new serial fiction webzine I’ll be launching soon.

    “Wraith,” being a product of the older version of the Sovereign Era setting, contains story elements and details of the setting that might confuse or mislead fans of the current iteration. That’s one example of how the publication of the original “Wraith” adversely affects my intellectual property.

    The danger of potential “forking” of the Sovereign Era setting, characters and other elements is exactly why I created the original contract you agreed to when “Wraith” appeared in the Sovereign Serials webzine.

    I’m pleased that you did the right thing by taking down “Wraith.” It’s a fun story, and I’m sure your readers would enjoy a revision that stands on its own, independent of the Sovereign Era setting.

    It’s regrettable that you were pissed off when I asked you to comply with an agreement you signed your name to. To show that I have no hard feelings, I’d be pleased to send you an autographed copy of the Swarm Press edition of “Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era.” Just let me know where to send it.

    Best,

    Matthew Wayne Selznick

  2. coops200ad, March 29, 2009:

    I’d be pretty flattered myself if someone asked to borrow my ideas or characters; so long as they gave me the credit for creating them. I would, of course, request that they link to me and then I would support their efforts wholeheartedly.

    Matthew, you are well within your rights here but you are coming across as slightly arrogant. DI honours you by incorporating your ideas into his story and you rap his knuckles for it? He has a wide fan base and could have been a valuable advertising tool for you. Are you that successful that you can afford to alienate people this way?

    If it’s not blatant theft, plagiarism or derogatory in nature, what harm would there be in having another avenue to pull new readers in. While you are being very polite and reasonable about this matter you have harmed your own reputation anyway in my very humble opinion.

  3. DarkIcon, March 29, 2009:

    That’s a bit of a misrepresentation, coop. MWS (the guy who posted before you) created the setting first, and I wrote the story using the setting and mentioning some characters in stories that he’d already written. I wrote ‘Wraith’ specifically for his magazine, so really it was more of a contractual thing rather than me just up and deciding to play in his playground one day.

    Matt, the ‘drama’ I was trying to avoid was you asking me to take the story down and then me not doing it and you getting upset. All we’ve got going on here is me being confused about why one story was such a big deal. I made a blog post about it because that’s what this blog is for. It exists specifically FOR situations like these… when things happen that need to be explained.

    I was unaware that you’d made significant changes to the world. You’re certainly under no obligation to tell me. But your saying “Hey, I’ve changed everything since then, your story will confuse new fans” carries much more weight than “Hey, you signed this.” You get what you want either way. The first way helps me want the same thing… or at least lets me understand where you’re coming from. The second way just gets you what you want and just leaves me wondering wtf is up with you.

    Don’t misunderstand, there’s no hard feelings and I was at no point angry. What I was was confused, and that confusion led to annoyance at having to remove content from the site for… from my POV… no reason beyond you wanting it gone.

  4. coops200ad, March 29, 2009:

    OK, I didn’t know the full story. Knee-jerk reaction to your post I suppose. I have no intention of jumping in here for a Matthew-bashing free-for-all.

    However my comments still stand in light of your insight. In the interest of a civilized debate, maybe this occurrence can serve as a timely reminder to nurture and publicize other writer’s work, not restrict it. This is a cut-throat business and we need all the allies we can get to spread our names around.

    I am extremely conscious of the Karma of these situations. You only have to annoy a reader once and they will never come back.

  5. mwsmedia, March 29, 2009:

    Marc:

    I appreciate your clarifying that you aren’t angry. When you wrote “I was kinda pissed” and referred to me as a potential asshole (at least that’s how I read “Dark Icon: Not an asshole Matthew W. Selznick: ???”) I hope you can understand how I would draw the conclusion that you were, well, kinda pissed. Angry, in other words. :-)

    I also understand that you wanted more of an explanation. Similarly, if you had contacted me before posting the story (or replied directly to me with your concerns / confusion when I emailed you) we probably could have worked something out.

    Please understand that the primary issue here was one of breach of contract, unintentional or not. If I don’t enforce it with you, it loses power with everyone else who signed the same agreement. It’s nothing personal.

    Coop, I appreciate your comments as well. I can understand how I might appear arrogant when one doesn’t know the whole story, and I commend your defense of Marc — it’s what I would expect from anyone from my own audience.

    Believe me, I value the community and have great respect for my audience, and my potential audience. Ask around the interwebs and you’ll find that I am steadfast in my support of other writers, including promoting their works, mentoring and cross-promoting.

    As I explained to Marc above, this wasn’t about attacking him or turning my back on an opportunity to attract new readers — it was strictly about the contract and the necessity to enforce it.

    Best,

    Matthew Wayne Selznick

  6. coops200ad, March 29, 2009:

    Glad you can see it that way Matthew. I guess I’d offer my opinion to any of the Blogs I subscribe to if I feel motivated enough. Be aware that I’m trying to take the wider view here. Its an educational experience for myself too. After all, we are in the business of communicating effectively.

    The subtleties of speech are so often missed in these situation. I have been completely misunderstood time and again because I’m Australian, or too flippant, or too formal.

    I respect Marc’s work enough that I’ll check out your site and see what’s in your head.

    Regards
    Coops

  7. mwsmedia, March 30, 2009:

    “I respect Marc’s work enough that I’ll check out your site and see what’s in your head.”

    Cheers, Coops; thanks for that.

  8. nate, March 30, 2009:

    I’ll bookmark it too, for when I get time to read something new.

    I’m not a writer, but I kind of see both sides here. I’m of the opinion that since there was an agreement signed, it should be stuck to. I seriously doubt that Marc intentionally violated it, and he did the right thing by removing the story once you asked him to.

    On Marc’s stories, I seem to remember at one point someone receiving permission to write a story set in the Magekiller world. I think it was to be from the perspective of a psionicist who was guiding magekillers to targets. What ever happened with that?

  9. DarkIcon, March 30, 2009:

    I don’t know what happened to that one, nate. I remember giving someone permission, and I also remember reading the first part of the story and liking it very much. I’m not sure who was writing it, although a search of the Asylum Walls might turn up a mention. Since it’s been so long, I’m assuming the project was abandoned.

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