There are a couple of interesting things going on in the world of virtual print today. A thread in the Babylon 5 newsgroup that J. Michael Straczynski frequents has brought out the spotlight on a game publisher called Mongoose Publishing that may be playing fire with the Babylon 5 fans, and Lee Goldberg continues his crusade against Print On Demand publishers.
First up, Mongoose makes its business publishing Role Playing Games (RPG's) and related books, but is now straying outside their area of expertise. It's a bit strange to find out that they acquired the rights to publish original books set in the Babylon 5 universe from Warner Brothers. Fantasy role playing games and Science Fiction series based books? Seems like an odd mix if you ask me.
The books are written by a variety of authors, including Mongoose staffer and writer Matthew Sprange, as well as former Babylon 5 star and eminent hottie, Claudia Christian. It seems that Mongoose ans Sprange have been making claims about the authenticity of their books that have rubbed the Babylon 5 series creator the wrong way. JMS chimed in, stating emphatically that he has had nothing to do with the books at all, and considers them to be as far outside of canon as a thing possibly can be. Straczynski goes on to say that Warner Brothers -- rights owner of the Babylon 5 fanchise -- hasn't been shown anything Mongoose has done so far, and raises the possibility of a contractual violation due to the lack of consultation or approval by Warner Brothers and Straczynski himself.
The situation becomes even less clear with Matthew Sprange allegedly claiming in a podcast that he had received outlines from Straczynski to base his work on, or at worst, guidelines to follow to keep his work within Straczynski's realm of authority. Then early this morning, JMS posted this on the Usenet after listening to the podcast:
You said on your podcast that you had been given outlines from me concerning the future of "Crusade." I have never given you any such outlines, nor do any exist. If you have them, post them, or provide the dates of them. If you cannot produce them, you owe both me and the B5 fan community an apology.
Because Mongoose has licensed the rights to write books based on property owned by Warner Brothers, it's doubtful that this will ever degrade into a legal issue, but one thing is for sure: antagonizing the boss is not a good marketing strategy with fans as fiercely loyal as Straczynski's.
On another front, I marvel at just how small I am in the writing business compared to other people. It doesn't take a genius, and I harbor no illusions about this, but the kind of attention you can attract when you're a big name compared to everyone else in the world is nothing short of a real kick in the balls.
Case in point: Lee Goldberg's weblog. He took Writers Digest to school back in January about how he believes they've digressed into whores for the Print On Demand industry, and have lost all focus on being an indispensable resource for writers. It wasn't anything ground breaking, but the comments to the post are where the real the gold was. About ten comments down, I see a name I recognize very well. I know her name because it's stamped all over the e-mail I get from Writers Digest, it's also the name on the certificate I got (shut up) from Writers Digest last year for placing well in their annual competition. It was Kristin Godsey, WD Editor.
Wow. I could yell and scream for a thousand posts on my weblog for the next five years straight, and not get that kind of attention from anyone, much less the WD Editor. It's like I said, really puts you in your place when you see something like that.
Well the Lee Goldberg vs. Writers Digest saga continues today, with Lee saying that "WD can't claim any journalastic integrity, or that they objectively represent the best interests of writers, while at the same time they are in business with (and lend their name to) a vanity press, which preys on the desperation and naivete of aspiring authors."
The instigator this time is an advertisement for one of Writers Digest's nine billion contest compilations, this one for the "6th Annual Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection." Lee points out that the publisher of this collection is a POD, and I've also come to find that the publisher for the annual competition that I take part in, Outskirts Press, is also a POD.
I have no problem tossing my pennies at either of these companies for the competition collections, after all, my name was in the last one. I also don't see how one can draw the link between having a POD company print these collections and saying WD is shilling for them. Maybe I'm just not entirely up on the situation, that is certainly possible.
I'll soon be able to make my own judgments as to whether Writers Digest has degraded into nothing but a pathetic book of adverts for POD's, or if it still maintains some semblance of a magazine that still cares about and caters to writers. I was offered, as a lot of people are I imagine, a 1-year subscription for $17, and I happily took them up on it to see if it's still any good.
If Lee is right, I'll happily support his position when I first have the opportunity. We'll see.