atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#2225: Sometimes I forget this is a public forum.

...I was pretty hard on John Scalzi, here.

Well, I'm standing by what I said, but I have to admit I feel a little sheepish about it, mainly because I have the basic mindset of "Nobody reads this thing anyway, except for Sailor V and a few others." So when you write what you think without editing, and then the target of your tirade shows up and says, "Hey!" it's kind of startling. (Also, I'm wondering if Scalzi's fans are going to come over here and yell at me. That would be both refreshing and nerve-wracking.)

I'm going to talk a bit about why I wrote what I wrote.

He directed these comments at me:
Mr. Haring, one reason to reboot the Fuzzy series is a reason I've noted already: The original works in the series are out of print and the original novel, despite being an acknowledged classic of the field, is one that's not particularly well-known to younger readers of SF. In the introduction to my version, one of the things I make clear is that my version is not a replacement for the original, merely an alternate take on the story, and that I encourage people to seek out Piper's work. If my version prompts a new generation to look at Piper's novels, or even helps get some of them back into print, then I think everybody wins.

None of this means you'll like the version I've made, of course, and it's fine if you don't. I don't expect everyone to like everything I write, and there are folks like yourself who hold the idea of a reboot of Fuzzy as something close to sacrilege. So it goes. I wrote my version not because I felt I could improve Piper's version, and as noted, I didn't write it because there was some sort of corporate desire for it. I wrote it because I enjoyed Piper's story and I wondered how the same story would come out if I wrote it. Now I know. It's not a necessary reboot, but it was fun nonetheless.
A good comment with good points; ones I don't feel the need to rebut because they're all perfectly sensible. That doesn't mean I like the idea of a reboot of Little Fuzzy, though, and I'm skeptical about it.

I understand the concepts of parody and homage and a bunch of other high-falutin' literary terms no one but literary types bother to remember past college: I've had a plethora of English Literature classes and I've also made a study of the art of writing. But while I recognize the validity of parody, I have no patience for poorly-executed parody. While I know that homage is a time-honored tradition among writers, I won't stand for bad homage.

Scalzi does none of this with his book; his book is, essentially, a retelling of the story--which is another time-honored tradition in the literary world. He says his retelling is faithful to the original, and meant to be complementary to it. ("Complementary", not "complimentary". Though he may intend the latter as well.) In my prior entry I should have said that I believe that such was his intention; I don't think he wrote his "reboot" intending to take a dump on it. I was remiss for not clarifying that.

But I can see too much margin for error in a "reboot", particularly when the original author has been dead for years; there's no one to consult, from whom to get details on characters and situations which were held back either for literary or practical reasons.

The example that comes to mind immediately is the character "Gus" Brannhard. In Little Fuzzy all of Brannhard's "on stage" time shows him being mystifyingly sober despite his enormous capacity for high-test liquor. He's a big guy with a big beard, kind of slobby when he's at home but the picture of neatness when in court; and he can drink 16 ounces of whiskey, straight, without appearing the slightest bit drunk.

I don't know what Scalzi writes, and I am not implying he does this: a story showing Gus Brannhard getting falling-down drunk and puking on himself would be egregiously counter to Piper's original character. Piper may or may not have actually intended for Gus Brannhard to be that kind of character, but if he did, he never showed the slightest sign of it and there is now quite literally no way for us to know what kind of development he did intend for that character. (Unless, I don't know, Piper left some notes behind: "Note to self; in the next book, must include that scene of Brannhard puking on himself, if I can get it by the editor....")

The first time we see Brannhard in Little Fuzzy he's talking to Jack Holloway via videophone, and Piper mentions that Brannhard is wearing a stained tee shirt. He doesn't say it's a puke stain; the type of stain is not specified. The writer who says Gus pukes on himself is making it up.

I make no bones about it: I'm a purist.

Again, I'm not saying Scalzi does this; I haven't read the book. But I've seen this kind of thing so damn often, it's what I expect: people who had nothing to do with the original work get their hands on it and screw it up.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I--at age 15--was finding fault with Fuzzy Bones, which was one of two books written in that world by someone other than Piper. There was plenty of stuff wrong with FB; for example, in order to carry the flavor of Piper's work, William Tuning repeated things from the first two books. (Sentences, quotes; it wasn't plagiarism. But it was obvious.) And the other one, Golden Dream: A Fuzzy Odyssey was only tolerable because it dealt with the Fuzzy side of the stories, something Piper himself had never delved into. Piper had never really gone into Fuzzy society or anything; that book was made up out of whole cloth, to mix a metaphor.

* * *

That's why, by the way, I do not read fanfics. Ever. They piss me off, because when (by some miracle) they're not utter shit, it only makes it worse for me.

There was the case of the Azumanga Daioh! fanfic which was about Chiyo-chan finding Osaka in her apartment, about four years after the series ended. Osaka, I thought, was too competent, not spacey enough. That was a really good fanfic and still it pissed me off.

And that's a narrow subset of fanfics, by the way: the ones where the writer intended to write a story about the characters which was true to the original work. I won't even bother with "slash" fanfics because those are universally WRONG.

(Yeah, Duo and Heero from Gundam W would unquestionably be homosexual lovers. There's so much support for that in the series. *rolleyes*) (You want to write that story about Qatre and Trowa, that I would believe; there's a ton of subtext in the relationship of those two characters. But not Duo and Heero. No.)

* * *

On the plus side, looking up a few things for this post led me to Piper's work at Gutenberg.org, which means I can read some of his works which I never got to read before.

I probably ought to write out my thoughts on copyright law and why the infinite extension of copyrights (known also as the "protecting DisneyCo's cash cow" policy) is a bad thing. A lot of Piper's work has gone into the public domain; Little Fuzzy is itself there though the follow-on books are still under copyright thanks to their initial publication dates occurring after the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" revision of copyright law went into effect.

As you can tell, I don't approve. What is it, now, the author's life plus seventy-four years, subject to renewals? Something like that. In other words, Atomic Fungus will be under copyright until 74 years after my death, assuming that someone doesn't somehow get his hands on it and renews the copyrights ad infinitum. (Who would do that? For this?)

But that's a post for another time. Still, a "reboot" puts the material under copyright; and it means you have to go buy a license to read the story. (Buy a book, buy an eBook, whatev.) Scalvi's reboot of LF will extend the copyright date even further.

He wants people to read Piper's work; well, people can download some of it from Gutenberg.org for free--including LF--and read it on their computer or their eBook reader (or iPhone, or Blackberry, or...). This is how copyright was originally meant to work; works were to fall into public domain, letting them be reprinted by anyone who wanted to, without having to pay for the rights.

Do you think Little Fuzzy would be entirely out of print if Piper's estate didn't hold copyright on Fuzzy Sapiens and the rest of them? Somehow I doubt it.

...anyway I'm not going any further into that can of worms now.
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