Thursday, January 14, 2010

he packed his bags and left, whistling a happy song

Thomas Kuntz built a device called The Alchemyst's Clocktower; go watch the video, it looks phenomenal. Must credit Tensai Hilra for the find, too. Just amazing.

Back to Second Life, Linden Labs, James Cameron and Avatar. To wit, according to Filmdrunk, James Cameron may have stolen Avatar in the first place.

Which just makes the entire thing complicated as hell. Track it out:

* Poul Anderson writes Call Me Joe in 1957.

* The Science Fiction Hall of Fame selects the novella for its compilation volume, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two: The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time in 1965.

* Both the novella Call Me Joe and Cameron's film Avatar share three striking similarities:
1. Both main characters are paraplegics.
2. Both feature stories set on other planets where artificial lifeforms are grown to interact with the native populations better.
3. Both feature blue cat-people (though as Filmdrunk points out, Anderson's natives were half-cat, half-centaur).
What the hell?

Here's the problem, though. If (and I don't know the laws on written works; I should, but I don't) publication copyright still extends only to fifty years, then 2007 would end that fifty-year span. (Of course, that leaves out the question that James Cameron has been working on Avatar for the past three years, but I digress.)

How'ver, if the law extends to seventy years? Then the rights of publication remain with Poul Anderson until 2027, and James Cameron has stolen someone else's work to make an amazing amount of money.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time.

So check out the surreality, if this is true:

* Poul Anderson writes a book about blue cat-people and a paraplegic.

* James Cameron lifts said book and uses it as the backbone for Avatar.

* Linden Labs calls the pixel people in Second Life "avatars", after the book by Neal Stephenson, "Snow Crash", published in 1992. (Great book, by the way, if you've never read it.)

* Linden Labs then uses Avatar-influenced skins (from a work that may well rest on the shoulders of infringing material) to use in Second Life advertising.

Readers of this blog, I have no doubt, will also likely link the fact that Linden Labs recently trumpeted on their blog about how awful copyright infringement is, and how it should be stopped once and for all.

Step up against content theft? Hardly, if the Labs are the ones infringing, and their model for such infringement is a man who's stolen copyrighted works twice. (See above link for the James Cameron/Terminator/Harlan Ellison link.)

And there's apparently more behind this story that I'll dig up tomorrow (in between picking up everything in the store in Penzance and the normal chores of life). Stay tuned.


inkyboy said...

The "avatar" is older than Neal Stephenson. Accordion to teh Googles: In Hinduism, Avatar or Avatāra (Devanagari अवतार, Sanskrit for "descent" [viz., from heaven to earth]) refers to a deliberate descent of a deity from heaven to earth, and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation", but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation".

Emilly Orr said...

Well, of course. How'ver, I should clarify: I was talking about the first appearance of the word to refer specifically to virtual people. In that context, unique among cyberpunk authors, Neal Stephenson used the word first, near as I can tell.

Tateru Nino said...

Only after it was in use among Internet geeks. Stephenson used it first in literature as far as I know, but it was already a term bandied about in the pre-Web days of the Internet.

Emilly Orr said...

Yes, in literature. In point of fact, much of the slang in cyberpunk novels draws on extant or invented-from-source terms in use.

(Though I'm still dreading the day a passage of a novel is written in LOLcat.)

Peter Stindberg said...

I actually did not like "Snow Crash". It was an entertaining enough book - agreed. But I found many things annoying.

My top-3 peeves;

1) Stepehensen never really made his mind up if he wanted to write a comical story or a suspense thriller. The comic elements made the suspense less convincing, and the suspense parts were not comical enough.

2) There was absolutely no narrative need for the lolita sex undertone and scenes. Maybe it aroused Stephenson - it did not arouse me.

3) All the time the big badass carried around its nuke, threatening to blow a mushroom cloud should he be killed. In the end he got killed - an nobody mentioned the nuke. Inconsistent!

There are many more aspects of the book which I found rather annoying.

What IS remarkable though is that - while many claim it was the blueprint for SL - it is in fact the blueprint of what SL should be. It is a backbone (read: hypergrid), to which everybody can link their own building (read: opensim).

Mhmmm.... I feel a blogpost coming up.

Emilly Orr said...


You should.

I know that Snow Crash is lauded as the seed of SL, but I see much more application of process to final form in other cyberpunk works, from the original Mirrorshades compilation on down. I think Pat Cadigan, William Gibson, and K.T. Jeter were foundational as well, even if not as closely mentioned.

Someone needs to tackle OpenSim vs. Second Life in a serious way. I'm not in OpenSim often enough to pick these things out.