I am slowly awakening to the fact that the internet is actually a manifestation of The Force. It can be used for the forces of good © or for the forces of evil ©. But what Star Wars never revealed is that there is a third force at play and it can live on either of the previously mentioned sides. That would be the forces of funny and I think they are best employed alongside the good.
Such an alignment has been running strong for nearly a month now in the form of Peter David’s collaborative project and response to the whole Russet Noon debacle, Potato Moon. If you’re getting hungry for potato chips and french fries, you aren’t alone. Russet Noon‘s title, which Peter describes in his blog as evoking “images of a sun-baked potato” is nearly as compelling as its author/publisher’s claim that there is no copyright violation in stealing someone else’s character and story for profit, or not for profit, and then for profit again.
Here’s the skinny: a short while back an author/publisher decided that she was going to write her own sequel to Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn from the point-of-view of Jacob (whom she wanted to turn into a “superhero”). She then decided she would publish the book and sell it for profit.
Now, fan fiction has been going on for some time and has gained wider readerships than it ever had before thanks to the internet and fan forums. That hasn’t been a big problem and is, more often than not, a fun and harmless way for fans of a story or series to connect with each other and the source material. Fine, cool. But seldom do they try to turn it around for profit. Even less seldom do they then justify it by claiming that, in essence, copyright doesn’t exist because we are all subject to the “collective mind.” Oh, unless you draw a picture. Pictures have copyrights.
A minor brouhaha erupted that resulted in said writer/publisher sending a letter to Stephanie and her publisher stating that she never meant to cause trouble and that she would only publish 50 titles and give them away for free unless she got a response telling her not to do so.
And here is where Peter David comes in with a brilliant idea, which is, quite clearly, the first one to enter this whole mess.
Peter decided that he would use the situation and all the tumult it was creating not to necessarily flame the creator/publisher of Russet Noon, but as a means to fuel some good old-fashioned satire aimed squarely at the offending piece. And instead of going it alone, he’s enlisting help and setting down rules to ensure that the resulting work is both impromptu and, let’s be honest, a little less than stellar. But that’s the point, and the rules are built to ensure it stays this way.
Peter invites his readers to notify him that they’d like to participate in the spoof. From there they’re placed in a queue and, when their turn arrives, they have 24 hours to produce their chapter. He has a few rules set in place about continuity and character handling (i.e. – no fair killing them off all willy-nilly). You can read the set up and rules by clicking here.
The result is one wickedly fun read. You know, the kind that knowingly employs phrases like “he paused Shatnerically” [from this entry].
The project reminds me of a similar effort made by a gaggle of science fiction and fantasy authors aimed at Publish America, a vanity press that claimed high editorial standards and, on one of their pages, seemed to openly mock genre authors and the quality of their submissions. So the authors banded together to create Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea, a novel that is at once the worst and the funniest novel ever published. They submitted it to P.A., it was accepted, and then they went public with the hoax. It was a brilliantly executed idea. Anyway, you can read all about that project here.
Potato Moon is up to Part 29 now and there’s no telling how long it will continue to run. Peter has stated that he and his daughter will pen the final chapter when he is ready to end it, but that hasn’t happened yet. So, if you want to read through the project—and you should—and you then feel like contributing, perhaps you could drop Peter David a line (he tells you how in his build up post, which you can find in the link I’ll give you shortly).
And don’t worry if you don’t have any particular knowledge of the Twilight Saga, you don’t need it for this project. Just bring a sharp wit and your typing fingers. And ketchup. Don’t forget the ketchup.
You can read Potato Moon, as well as it’s origins, build-up, and how to participate here: Potato Moon | PeterDavid.net
Peter David is the author of Tigerheart as well as some of the most popular of the original Star Trek: The Next Generation novels, including Imzadi and A Rock and a Hard Place. He is also the author of the novelizations for Spiderman, Spiderman 2, Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk. His original works include the Arthurian novel Knight Life and the quirky werewolf story Howling Mad. He single-handedly revived the classic comic book series The Incredible Hulk and has written just about every famous comic book superhero. He collaborated with J. Michael Straczynski on the Babylon 5 comic book series, and with Bill Mumy, he created the Nickelodeon television series Space Cases. In his spare time, he writes movie screenplays, children’s books, and TV scripts (including Babylon 5).
You can keep up with Peter on his website and blog at http://www.peterdavid.net/
You can view his author bookshelf at RandomHouse.com here: Peter David @ RandomHouse.com