Monday, February 27, 2012

Vincent Price Presents



MASTER OF HORROR VINCENT PRICE’S NEW COMIC BOOK SERIES HAUNTS THIS MAY

One of classic Hollywood's most famous scary men, Vincent Price made a name for himself in classic mysteries and thrillers throughout the 1940's, 50's and 60's.

A brand new Vincent Price horror limited series comic book to debut from Bluewater Comics in May; Vincent Price’s “House of Horrors”, will be a four issue mini series. This series is spinning off from the Rondo Award nominated, “Vincent Price Presents”.

“This new series will focus on one shot stories that will have you at the edge of your seat,” said President of Bluewater Comics, Darren G. Davis. “The stories are all new and have a certain horror element about them that hasn’t been seen before.”

The very first issue starts off with the debut of new writer Jay Katz of the energetic and wildly popular web site InvestComics (www.investcomics.com). With art by a Bluewater mainstay Stefano Cardoselli, and colors by Industry star colorist Jeff Balke. It features a painted cover by LP Dopp.

“I am very proud to have this new Vincent Price series for everyone to enjoy”, said Daren Davis. “It’s going to be a spine tingling experience, so get ready for some great horror stories!”

The comic will be available through comic book stores only and other fine established comic book ordering web sites. Check with your retailer and ask about Vincent Price: House of Horrors #1.

About Vincent Price:

Vincent Price was born on May 27, 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri. His father owned the National Candy Company. His acting career began onstage in London in the play Chicago. He also performed with Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre. Actor Vincent Price starred as the villain in the 1953 film House of Wax. It was one of the first films shot in 3D and revitalized the horror genre.

About Bluewater Productions

Bluewater Productions Inc. is one of the top independent production studios of comic books, young adult books and graphic novels. Its extensive catalog of titles includes the bestsellers 10th Muse and ³The Legend of Isis Bluewater publishes comic books in partnership with entertainment icon William Shatner (TekWar Chronicles), legendary filmmaker Ray Harryhausen (Wrath of the Titans, Sinbad: Rogue of Mars, Jason and the Argonauts, et al) and celebrated actor Vincent Price (Vincent Price Presents), Additionally, Bluewater publishes a highly successful line of biographical comics under the titles Female Force and Political Power.

Bluewater aims to unite cutting-edge art and engaging stories produced by its stable of the publishing industry¹s top artists and writers.

For more information, visit www.bluewaterprod.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: Part 4: Earth Strikes Back

As last we saw, Manuel O'Kelly Davis (computer repairman and reluctant rebel), and Professor Bernando de la Paz (amateur revolutionary and rational anarchist), were sneaking onboard a rocket to get them back to Luna after their attempt to bring their case to the people of Earth. Both men are disappointed; Manuel because the Federated Nations refused to recognize their independence; Prof because they were in the city of Agra twice during their trip and he never got a chance to see the Taj Mahal.

But Prof does not see their trip as a failure. He never expected recognition from Earth; in fact his greatest fear was that the FN might offer a compromise that would satisfy most Loonies but which would neither grant full independence, nor (most importantly) solve the problem of Luna shipping its resources to Earth.

(Here's another, more subtle, parallel with the American Revolution. Although the American Patriots talked a lot about "No Taxation Without Representation", their leaders didn't really want seats in Parliament, where they would always be out-voted by the majority).

Prof apologizes for not explaining to Mannie sooner; the true purpose of the trip, he reveals, was to be divisive; to create a diversity of opinions on Earth. They didn't have to convince a majority that Luna deserved independence, but if they could sow enough doubt, convince enough people that Luna had just grievances, convince enough people that war with the Lunar colony was more costly than it was worth, convince enough nations that they could profit more from dealing with an Independent Luna than by backing the FN; then they might stay the FN's hand, limit their actions, and create an environment where the nations of Earth might be persuaded to back down.

Another parallel: General Gates, who commanded the British forces during much of the American Revolutionary War, was a member of the Whig party, which actually opposed the War. Gates was by no means sympathetic to American Independence, but he disliked warring on those he considered fellow British Citizens. Early on, he had numerous opportunities to crush the rebellion which he let pass because he felt that too-bloody action would eradicate any hope of a more peaceful resolution.

Mannie and Prof are welcomed back on Luna as conquering heroes and Prof makes a stirring speech; "...one short on logic, loaded with ringing phrases. "Love" was in it, and 'home' and "Luna" and "comrades and neighbors" and even "shoulder to shoulder" an all sounded good." During the American Revolution, John Adams guestimated that a third of the colonies wanted independence, a third was indifferent and a third were actively against it. Prof realizes that a sizable group on Luna will be opposed to independence too, particularly the farmers who will take a big economic hit when grain shipments to Earth are halted. Another purpose for the trip to Earth was to help solidify support on Luna.

Once they can extract themselves from the reception, Prof and Mannie, along with Stu, meet with Wyoh to discuss things with "Adam Selene." Stu still doesn't know about "Adam's" true identity, and so they are still going through the charade of the Chairman who teleconferences but doesn't appear in person.

While Mannie and Prof were gone, some changes have been made. The Ad-Hoc Congress Prof set up to keep the yammerheads busy has actually called for and held elections. This distresses Mannie, but Prof assures him that all will be well.

"In each age it is necessary to adapt to the popular mythology. At one time kings were anointed by Deity, so the problem was to see to it that Deity anointed the right candidate. In this age the myth is 'the will of the people' ... but the problem changes only superficially.

Prof and "Adam" have already anticipated the election and set things up so that the candidates they favored would have an advantage over other candidates in terms of a head start on petitions and the tacit endorsement of "Adam Selene" himself, (officially non-partisan, of course, but...). The polling was held at banks and the votes were tabulated by computer.

Suddenly a light came on in my skull and I decided to question Wyoh privately. No, not Wyoh -- Mike. Get past his "Adam Selene" dignity and hammer truth out of his neuristors. Recalled a cheque ten million dollars too large and wondered how many had voted for me? Seven thousand? Seven hundred? Or just family and friends?

...

If was one thing all people took for granted, was conviction that if you feed honest figures into a computer, honest figures come out. Never doubted it myself till I met a computer with a sense of humor.

In last week's reading, Prof commented that Mike might be their worst enemy because of the way all communications goes through him and can be controlled through him. Mike's control of elections is pretty darn scary too.

Although public support on Luna for the Revolution is currently high, it could fade quickly; especially once economic hardships begin to be felt. The conflict between Luna and Earth must be turned to open war as quickly as possible. But Prof is adamant that they must provoke Earth into striking the first blow; "the classic 'Pearl Harbor' maneuver of game theory, a great advantage in Weltpolitick." The danger of this is that the first blow may be the last; as Mannie observed earlier, all it would take to wipe out the Lunar colony would be one ship and six H-bombs.

They launch a new propaganda offensive: "In essence it called for us to behave as nastily as possible while strengthening impression that we would be awfully easy to spank." In the meantime, they prepare as best they can for the inevitable attack; staging pressure-suit drills, forming defense militia groups, reconfiguring the large industrial lasers used in ice mining as anti-spaceship weapons.

Then, an unexpected crisis emerges. While Prof is busy with war plans, the newly-elected Congress convenes a Constitutional Convention to formally establish a government. Anarchist that he is, Prof would prefer no government at all; but being a Rational Anarchist, he does what he can to cast doubt on the whole proceeding.

"Comrade Members, like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have freedom -- if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant."

He goes on to pick at some provisions of the draft proposals and offer alternatives.

"[Congressional districts determined by population] is the traditional way; therefore it should be suspect, considered guilty until proven innocent. Perhaps you think this is the only way. May I suggest others? ... Suppose instead of election a man were qualified for office by petition signed by four thousand citizens. He would then represent those four thousand affirmatively, with no disgruntled minority, for what would have been a minority in a territorial constituency would be free to start other petitions or join in then. All would then be represented by men of their choice."
"But in writing your constitution let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do.... Comrades, if you were to spend five years in a study of history while thinking of more and more things that your government should promise never to do and then let your constitution be nothing but those negatives, would not fear the outcome."

Which, if you think about it, is pretty much the whole purpose of the Bill of Rights of our own Constitution.

Of course, true to Heinlein's libertarian credo, Prof finishes his advice with a strong exhortation against Involuntary Taxation.

"Comrades, I beg you -- do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."

Afterwards, Manuel calls him out on this. "...about taxation aren't you talking one thing and doing another? Who do you think is going to pay for all this spending we're doing?"

Prof is forced to admit: "You know how we are doing it. We're stealing it. I'm neither proud of it nor ashamed; it's the means we have. "

Mannie is upset about this hypocrisy on Prof's part. Prof neither admits to nor denies the charge; but he reminds Mannie of Mike's projection of food riots in six years and cannibalism in eight.

Meanwhile, Earth has not been idle. Terra has sent a fleet of ships to Luna to pacify and retake the colony. It's using a long orbit so as to approach the Moon on it's far side where the radar used to track incoming ships is blind; a trip which takes two months instead of the couple days of a normal Earth-to-Luna trip, but one which catches the Loonies off-guard.

In the two months the Loonies have been waiting for the hammer to fall, preparedness has become lax. In the early days of the embargo, everyone kept their P-suit handy, carrying their helmets under their arms; but this proved awkward and inconvenient. When the taverns started putting up signs saying NO P-SUITS INSIDE, people started leaving their pressure suits at home or in work lockers.

Then comes the attack.

The Terran ships bomb key transportation links between the domed Lunar cities; then send troops on the ground to enter the airlocks and take the cities.

Was a mob, not a battle. Or maybe a battle is always that way, confusion and noise and nobody really knowing what's going on. In widest part of Causeway, opposite Bon Marché where Grand Ramp slopes northward down from level three, were several hundred Loonies, men and women, and children who should have been at home. Less than half were in p-suits and only a few seemed to have weapons -- and pouring down the ramp were soldiers, all armed.

Six H-bombs would have done it; but Terra wanted to re-take the domes, not destroy them; they wanted to subdue the populace, not exterminate it. That meant they had to put boots on the ground; and the best-trained, best-armed soldiers Earth had to offer found themselves walking into a hornet's nest.

Most Loonies never laid eyes on a live invader but wherever troopers broke in, Loonies rushed in like white corpuscles -- and fought. Nobody told them. Our feeble organization broke down under surprised. But we Loonies fought berserk and invaders died. No trooper got farther down than level six in any warren.

In the middle of the chaos, Mannie calls "Adam Selene" trying to co-ordinate what he can in the fighting and gets a message that Adam was in one of the domes which lost pressure in the initial attack and is presumed dead. Mannie quickly switches to a private line and asks Mike what's going on. "Adam Selene had to go someday," Mike explains. "He's served his purpose." Having Adam "die" heroically in the invasion will save them from having to continue the charade that he exists. Then follows a poignant exchange between Manuel and Mike:

"Personally, I always preferred your 'Mike' personality anyhow."

"I know you do, Ma my first and best friend, and so do I. It's my real one; 'Adam' was a phony... Man, when this is over, are you going to have time to take up with me that research into humor again?"

"I'll take time, Mike; that's a promise."

"Thanks, Man. These days you and Wyoh never have time to visit ... and Professor wants to talk about things that aren't much fun. I'll be glad when this war is over."

The fighting is all but over in the warrens. The invaders have been decisively beaten. Now it's time to execute Operation Hard Rock.

"Do it, Mike, throw rocks at 'em! Damn it, big rocks! Hit 'em hard!"

NEXT: Operation Hard Rock; Mannie vs. the Yammerhead; and the Price of Liberty. TANSTAAFL!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

DITKO

For the last couple years I've struggled to get people to respond to interview questions, interview requests, and the like. I used to do a lot of interviews and it was much more rewarding in many ways than the present. I am not stopping doing them, I am just saying, people don't much like reading promo, and that is all creative sorts seem to want to do.

One of the interview ideas I had was a massive tribute to Steve Ditko, as he is around my mother's age (85 or so) and has a huge legacy of work, he is loved by many. But rather than receive responses, only Mike Grell, God bless him, wrote in response. My fear was, and still is, that we have talented creators who are perhaps not active in the field, but still read online, still live life, still work on their own, and we might lose them. And Steve Ditko has such a great amount of talent, I thought he, or his fans or family, might enjoy hearing what the creative world thought of him.

Mike Grell's response was that the greatest legacy of Steve Ditko was Spider-Man, and that without his work on such, the non-iconic sort of hero might have taken much longer to appear. Ditko's characters embodied the intelligent but normal hero, not a God but a working man in costume.

So, absent of words about Ditko's work, or person, here are some images of him, his self portrait and his many creations.

(All images copyright their respective owners)













CLICK THIS







Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: Part 3 Visit to Earth

As last we saw, Professor Bernando de la Paz, elderly subversive and amateur revolutionary; Wyoh Knott, the Lovely Lady of the Left; and Manuel O'Kelly, computer repairman and mostly innocent bystander; have succeeded in overthrowing the Warden of the Lunar Penal Colony, with the help of Mannie's best friend, the Authority's super-computer, Mike, who just happens to be sentient and have a sense of humor.

Now the tough part begins...

My dinkum word, preparing a revolution isn't as much huhu as having won it. Here we were, in control too soon, nothing ready and a thousand things to do. Authority in Luna was gone -- but Lunar Authority Earthside and Federated Nations behind it were very much alive. Had they landed one troopship, orbited one cruiser, anytime next week or two, could have taken Luna back cheap. We were a mob.

To buy themselves more time, the Revolutionaries enact a strict communications embargo, with Mike sending false messages to Earth to preserve the illusion of normality. The Terrans currently on Luna -- for the most part scientists working short-term at one of the observatories and research installations -- are prohibited from calling home.

The Warden survived the coup; although cutting off the oxygen to his living quarters left him in a vegetative state. The rapists whose assault on a Looney woman triggered the uprising are stripped naked, bound, and handed over to women of the Complex. "Makes me sick to think what happened next but don't suppose they lived through as long an ordeal as Marie Lyons [their victim] endured."

The question of what to do about the Warden's network of informants is a tricky one. Wyoh doesn't quite have the stomach to have them all executed, but Prof disagrees. "A man who finks on his friends once will do it again and we have a long period ahead in which a fink can be dangerous. They must go. And publicly, to cause others to be thoughtful." In an earlier argument on Capital Punishment, Prof claimed that all moral responsibility devolved on the individual and that if a criminal needed to be executed, he would do so himself. When challenged on this point now, he admits that he will bear the moral responsibility for the decision, but the actual sentence will be carried out by others. He simply has Adam Selene publicly announce the names of these informants and their addresses. And lets nature take its course.

Isn't this a little bit disingenuous? Hell, yes. But remember, Prof calls himself a "rational" anarchist, meaning he sticks by his principles... except when it's expedient for him not to. Prof justifies using the mob as an arm of public execution by saying it will send a sharper message to those who might be tempted to betray Luna in the future. And it probably will.

But now another problem comes up, one which unfortunately reminds the reader that the book was written nearly a half century ago. So far, "Adam Selene", the Chairman of the Revolution, has spoken to people over the phone, but never in person. Now that the need for secrecy is over, people are going to want to meet their leader. Mike claims that he can create a convincing video image of his alter ego. Although Mannie is at first skeptical, Mike proves that he can do it. Mannie's objections seem a little silly today, when computer generated images are a part of practically everything we see in movies and TV, but in the 1960s the idea was outrageous enough that Heinlein felt a need to hang a lampshade on it to get his readers to accept it.

So Adam Selene addresses all of Luna in a televised speech in which he urges calm, forbearance and co-operation. He urges people who were working for the Authority providing essential services to stay on the job and promises they will be paid. Ice will continue to be bought and grain shipments to Earth will continue for the time being. He begs the citizens of Terra caught up in the uprising to be patient. And he tells the citizens of Luna that he is going to be busy working to turn over leadership to a government of Luna's own choosing. "Expect me to be as hard to see as Simon Jester!"

In order to facilitate this last point, Prof has set up the "Ad-Hoc Congress for Organization of Free Luna" to which he has invited all the self-professed political experts and armchair Hamiltons who have come out of the woodwork now that the bloodshed is over. Mannie attends a few of their sessions and is dismayed.

With me breaking heart trying to round up heavy drills and men who could treat them as guns these idlers had spent an entire afternoon discussing immigration. Some wanted to stop it entirely. Some wanted to tax it, high enough to finance government (when ninety-nine out of a hundred Loonies had to be dragged to The Rock!); some wanted to make it selective by "ethnic rations," (Wondered how they would count me?) Some wanted to limit it to females until we were 50-50. That had produced a Scandinavian shout: "Ja, cobber! Tell 'em send us hoors! Tousands and tousands of hoors! I marry 'em, I betcha!"

Was most sensible remark all afternoon.

Prof reassures him. "My dear Manuel, I was simply putting all my nuts in one basket. I know those nuts. I've listened to them for years." He has engineered the group to ensure that they will quarrel amongst each other without actually accomplishing anything. The purpose of the congress is to keep these idiots busy; but it does have one important role to perform. They need the Congress to ratify something.

"One man will write it -- a dead man -- and late at night when they are very tired, they'll pass it by acclamation.... The dead man is Thomas Jefferson -- first of the rational anarchists, my boy, and one who once almost managed to slip over his non-system through the most beautiful rhetoric ever written. But they caught him at it, which I hope to avoid."

Prof gives them the Declaration of Independence.

He presents it almost word-for-word with only the changes necessary to update it for their situation and rams it through the Congress using expert parliamentary ju-jitsu learned from a lifetime of dealing with committees. He even manages to have it signed on July 4, 2176, a coincidence that strains the Willing Suspension of Disbelief almost past SOP tolerances, but the moment is presented so beautifully that I can forgive Heinlein.

Having officially declared Independence, another piece of business must be dealt with. The Loonies need to send someone to Earth to officially present their Declaration to the Federated Nation and make their case before the People of Earth. Prof foresaw this would be necessary from the beginning, and he, Mannie and Wyoh have all been training, wearing weights under their clothing, to prepare. Prof is the logical spokesman for the group, but he is an old man and might not survive the trip. Mannie has been to Earth before, when he was studying to be a computerman, and is the logical choice to accompany Prof. Mannie isn't crazy about this idea, but when Prof reminds him that if he doesn't go, Wyoh is the only other possible candidate, Mannie agrees.

Since the Loonies have no spaceships of their own, and no spaceships have arrived since the Revolution, they plan to send Prof and Mannie in a specially-designed compartment in one of the grain shipments sent by Luna's "catapult". The accommodations are beyond spartan -- the bare minimum necessary to keep them alive. Mannie does not expect either he or Prof to survive.

The night before the trip to Earth, Mimi Mum calls a Family Meeting. Mannie has been so worried about the trip, he is completely surprised by the reason. Wyoh is opting in to the family and Mimi has assembled the whole clan to vote on the matter. Here we get a glimpse of the Line Marriage at work with a combination of tradition, ritual and informal democracy. Whatever you might think of the Line Marriage in practice, this scene is a warm and moving one. (One writer describes the Davis family as like "the Waltons, squared").

Wyoh is welcomed into the family. According to tradition, the new bride spends her first night with the Senior Husband; but Grandpaw Davis is getting on in years. With the knowledge and consent of both Mimi and Greg (the next husband in seniority), Wyoh comes to Mannie's room once Grandpaw falls asleep to spend the night with him; by implication, the first night they spend together.

The trip to earth in the grain canister is every bit as nightmarish as Mannie anticipates. The only good thing to be said about it is that he spends most of the voyage in drugged unconsciousness so that his pressure suit's oxygen supply will last him the two-days they'll spend in transit. He wakes up shortly before the canister enters Earth's atmosphere and has a devil of a time unfastening his safety harness because someone removed his prosthetic arm before packing him into his suit. He can't tell through Prof's suit whether Prof is alive or dead. He endures the hammer jolts of acceleration and deceleration as the canister goes through atmospheric entry, splashing down in the Indian Ocean; then the completely unfamiliar experience of waves as it bobs on the surface of the ocean.

He wakes up in a hospital. Stu is there, and cheerfully tells him everything went according to plan. Prof is alive and well and as chipper as ever. Mannie is boggled to learn that Prof wanted to come to earth by this risky means rather than by a conventional spaceship. Not only was the stunt great publicity, it also got them on Terra before the Federated Nations could figure out what to do about them. If they had waited for a spaceship, the FN would have arrested them before they set foot on Earth.

Stu takes Prof and Mannie to Agra, the headquarters of the Federated Nations, to present their credentials as Official Ambassadors of Free Luna. Prof hopes to address the FN's General Assembly publicly, but they best they'll permit is a private meeting with an "Investigating Committee." Prof, speaking from a hospital bed, as he is too frail to sit up in Earth's greater gravity, eloquently requests that Luna be recognized as a sovereign state. The Committee insists that Luna continue to accept new prisoners, which Prof is willing to do -- with the understanding that as soon as they set foot on lunar soil the prisoners become free citizens of Luna. The debate becomes heated and Prof, in his excitement, half-rises from his bed and then collapses. (Real or fake? With Prof it's probably mostly political theater). A second meeting goes no better, although Mannie is able to smuggle recordings of the proceedings out by means of the same mini-recorder he used in Stilyagi Hall, hidden in his prosthetic arm.

But Prof hasn't pinned his hopes entirely on persuading bureaucrats and politicians in the FN. He and Mannie go on a full media blitz to take the Loonies case to the public. Much of the media is hostile: several New York newspapers regard the Loonies as unruly children deserving a spanking and the newspapers in India, where rice imports from Luna is a major source of food, are even more hostile. Prof's main talking points are that Luna doesn't want war; that friendship and co-operation between Luna and Terra will be beneficial to both worlds; but that if Earth is determined to insist on war, the Citizens of Luna will fight for their freedom.

"Do you gentlemen remember the Pathfinder? How she came plunging in, out of control?"

They remembered. Nobody forgets greatest disaster of early days of space flight when unlucky Pathfinder hit a Belgian village.

"We have not ships," I went on, "but would be possible to throw those bargeloads of grain ... instead of delivering them into parking orbit."

That's the stick. But Prof emphasizes the carrot. He wants to promote the idea of building an Earth-based catapult to make shipments to Luna as economical as shipments from Luna to earth. This may be difficult, he concedes, but not impossible. "When something must be done, engineers can find a way that is economically feasible."

Someone at the press conference asks Mannie if it's fair that the people on the Moon enjoy the benefits of living on colonies established using government tax money, when they don't pay taxes at all. Okay, listen carefully, because here we're getting to key Tea Party territory.

Mannie turns the question around. "What is it you want us to pay taxes for? ...I don't know much about your government... What do you get for your money?" The group throw out some of the standards: Free hospitals, libraries, roads, public schools, Social Security; in each case he shoots it down saying either that they don't have it, or they already pay for it through other means. Actually, Mannie's waiting for someone to bring up a key talking point: Police protection and armed forces. "Can you tell me how F.N. peace forces protect Luna? I did not know that any of your nations wanted to attack us... Now about those so-called 'policemen.' They were not sent to protect us.... They went mad and started raping and murdering! And now they are dead! So don't send us any more troops!"

But let's back up to the rest of the list. Mannie insists that either they didn't have it, or they already paid for it. But Mannie's fortunate enough to live in a world where the author makes the rules. Is Luna's tube system 100% subsidized by user fares with no government money whatsoever? Mannie says he doesn't need health insurance because he's healthy and he doesn't bet on his health, which is pretty big talk from a man who lost a limb in an industrial accident. Tea Party advocates would love to use a variation of Mannie's argument against government spending, but in truth it only works in Heinlein's Libertarian Utopia because he says it does.

But back to the PR blitz. Prof and Mannie travel all over the world, pushing the Loonie cause and also Prof's idea for an Earth-based catapult. Mannie has a conversation with a Chinese delegate who was present at their original meeting, who is intrigued by the idea, but cautious. Stu has great hopes that Dr. Chang will be an ally for Luna; Mannie is more dubious. Mannie visits the sites of Lexington and Concord to lay a wreath at Concord bridge; he gets a chance to see a ball game in Yankee Stadium; (he decides it's much better on video). Sometimes their press is good; sometimes not so good. After once incident Prof tells him:

"A managed democracy is a wonderful thing, Manuel, for the managers ... and its greatest strength is a 'free press' where 'free' is defined as 'responsible' and the managers define what is 'irresponsible.' Do you know what Luna needs most?"

"More ice."

"A news system that does not bottleneck through one channel. Our friend Mike is our greatest danger."

"Huh? Don't you trust Mike?"

"Manuel, on some subjects I don't trust even myself. Limiting the freedom of news 'just a little bit' is in the same category with the classic example 'a little bit pregnant.' We are not yet free nor will we be as long as anyone -- even our ally Mike -- controls our news."

While on Earth, Prof buys a brass cannon. A "signal gun" from the old days of sailing, much like one that Heinlein himself owned and would fire on his property on ceremonial occasions. Mannie thinks it's rather pointless and silly, but Prof wants it.

"Manuel, once there was a man who held a political make-work job... shining brass cannon around a courthouse."

"Why would courthouse have cannon?"

"Never mind. He did this for years. It fed him and let him save a bit, but he was not getting ahead in the world. So one day he quit his job, drew out his savings, bought a brass cannon -- and went into business for himself."

"Sounds like an idiot."

"No doubt. And so are we, when we tossed out the Warden."

In Kentucky, Mannie and Prof are making a public appearance. "Remember... to most people we will be as weirdly interesting as strange animals in a zoo. Do you remember that turtle on exhibition in Old Dome? That's us." In the Q & A, the topic of marriage on Luna comes up, and Mannie starts talking about his own family and shows a picture of them. The next day he is arrested for bigamy.

The charges are almost immediately dropped, but Mannie is angered and humiliated by the whole experience. It takes him a while to cool off and see the PR benefits of the incident; it made a lot of people on Earth more sympathetic towards the Loonies; and it also helped public opinion back on Luna, where Mannie's arrest was seen as an affront to Loonie pride.

Finally, Mannie and Prof are called again before the F.N. Committee. The claim of independence are rejected and the F.N. has resolved to re-assert it's authority and extend it's control not just over the prison itself but over all Luna. Grain quotas were to be quadrupled, and private farms will be absorbed into more efficient Authority-run operations. To Mannie's surprise, Prof doesn't argue, he doesn't talk about blood from a stone or throwing rocks. He just asks to be allowed to go home.

The Committee denies his request.

Afterwards the Chairman of the Committee meets with Mannie in secret and offers him the position of "Protector Pro-Tem" -- essentially the new Warden -- if he will sell the Committee's five-year plan to Luna. Mannie would much prefer to smash the guy's teeth in, but he is guarded in his replies, recording everything said.

Now it's time for Plan Scoot. Prof and Stu have been planning for this moment. They sneak Prof and Mannie out of the hospital by disguising them and having them simply walk out. Both of them have been training for this for months; although it will be a tremendous strain of Prof, he manages to walk from the hospital to a waiting car. They've lined up an old rocket whose owner is willing to go to Luna on a "humanitarian mission" to rescue the Terrans stranded there. Stu comes with them. The work he's done on Luna's behalf has left him broke and deeply in debt. Going back with Mannie and Prof will spare the Authority the trouble of transporting him.

NEXT: Earth Strikes Back !

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gary Friedrich, Ghost Rider and Marvel: Different Voices Respond UPDATED

Alex Ness: I asked several creative talents in the comic book medium: With regards to the recent events in the Ghost Rider/Gary Friedrich versus Marvel court cases, is Gary Friedrich being treated fairly, and if not why not? (Find links to the events HERE




STEPHEN R. BISSETTE

You know, these cases are coming into public view because Marvel has, over the decades, refused any and all rational discussion or negotiations regarding the properties. They refused living creators, like Gary Friedrich; they refused now-deceased creators, leaving it to their respective heirs to battle. So, now, decades later, it comes to a head—and the absolutely pro-corporate early 21st Century American legal landscape enforces absurd scenarios involving lack of contracts, lost contracts, dubious "back of check contracts," etc. as "evidence" of corporate ownership and the law of the land.

The problem is impossible to summarize succinctly. Why didn't these creators have agents, lawyers? Well, the fact is (and I entered the industry in 1976-77, when this was true), there was only ONE agent tolerated by the comics publishers in the 1970s (ironically, Mike Friedrich, by name); creators who dared mention either an agent or a lawyer were simply denied work or had doors closed on them. Why didn't these creators resolve these differences sooner? First of all, the Marvel of 1961 was no longer the Marvel of 1969, after Martin Goodman sold Marvel—which was no longer the Marvel of James Galton, or of Jim Shooter, or that was bought by New World, or that was fought over by Perlman/Icahn; etc. Secondly, the Copyright Act of 1976 changed the landscape—requiring contracts for the first time, for an industry that (let's face it) found retailers fighting CASH REGISTERS, bar codes, and basic accounting practices in the 1980s, and the publishers fought tooth-and-nail to make the altered "work-for-hire" definition fit their ramshackle, improvised manner of doing business with freelancers. Marvel rarely represented anything vaguely resembling "progressive" policies (even their much-feted royalty plan of the mid-1980s was a response to DC Comics instituting royalties for creators first, and don't even get me going on return of artwork policies). In fact, many creators did try to deal with these legal matters—and every case history is different, none evidencing anything except the inevitable Bataan Death March to where we see these creators now, losing legal battles long coming.

The bottom line is only two things may, in time, alter the course of history:
(1) The creative community—and by that, I include the motion picture industry, including screenwriters, actors, directors, technicians, etc.—joins forces to somehow redress the gross imbalance of power, or:

(2) Utter capitulation, resulting in a new generation realizing (a) there's absolutely no reason to bring anything of any creative or legal value to firms like Marvel/Disney, and (b) there's absolutely no reason to believe in a nanosecond in the corporate product espousing "heroes" fighting against enormous odds for "justice" or "right," since the behavior of the corporate proprietors themselves so transparently demonstrate how meaningless those fictions are.

(1) could begin, for instance, with, say, the star of the GHOST RIDER movies publicly donating $17,000 to the creator of a comicbook character he claims to "love." If the star wouldn't take such action, perhaps a co-star, or the screenwriter, or the director, or a collective of grips, or, hell, ANYONE with HALF the backbone fictional characters like Ghost Rider pretend to embody could take such public action.

The Actor's Guild and Writer's Guild strike when conditions become intolerable for their members. Well, Guilds, this doesn't involve your members—but it does involve a definable creative community, whose history now yields more employment for the industries you work in than almost any other pool of creative work, save the public domain realms of Austen, Doyle, Stoker, etc.

(2) takes a leap of imagination, too, that I frankly don't see even a spark of at present. The baying and bickering on online articles and essays about creator rights reveal a cesspool of animosity, resentment, drones asserting drone capitulation to corporate will, etc. directed at any creative individual who dares to—well, not so much "stand up for their rights," as "dare to interfere with the ceaseless flow of entertainment." The masses want their corporate parables without the messy intrusion of real-life battles against insurmountable odds for "justice" or what's "right."

There is a third or fourth possibility—say, international boycotts of such corporate product until source creators and/or their heirs are given crumbs; or, perhaps, a creator torching themselves at a national premiere of the next movie based on their creations, setting off an "Arab spring" and prompting questions at last about all this. But both of those seem even less likely than (1) or (2), and I'm not ever an advocate of self-immolation.

Ultimately, given our national identity as a consumer nation addicted to human slavery for everything from our Walmart shoes to our Apple computers, what we're seeing, I fear, is the national embracing of creative imaginations being codified as another form of slave labor, too. It's tough to interpret the bile and vitriol coming from the so-called "fan" community as anything other than that.

Me, I'm not even curious any longer about seeing these Marvel movies, and I'll never spend another penny on Marvel product or Marvel-derivative product of any kind. Marvel/Disney has made it completely clear where they stand on sharing even morsels of the billions they rake in, so I'll withhold my micromorsels from their coffers. It's a meaningless decision, I'm sure, in the grand scheme of things, but it's a start.

Visit Steve’s website



MIKE GRELL

Fair and legal are two separate things. Like many of us creators, Gary had to know that, unless you have a contract that says differently, the company you create a new character for owns that character and can do what they want with it and not have to pay you a cent. Guys like Siegel & Shuster, Jack Kirby and even Stan Lee found that out.

That's the legal.

The fair, in my opinion, would be to acknowledge his contribution and do something nice for the guy who made it all possible, rather than spend twenty times the amount on lawyers to hound him to hell.

That ain't gonna happen in this lifetime, because, despite what the government would have you believe, corporations are not people. They don't have any obligation to be benevolent. They do have an obligation to their stockholders to make money and part of that includes defending their copyright and trademark in court. They can't afford to simply look the other way, because they have to be concerned about precedent (look at Disney's case against THE AIR PIRATES). They don't have to give a single thing that is not covered in an enforceable contract.

And that, too, is fair.

Visit Mike at his website




CHUCK DIXON

At Marvel all you need to do is endorse your check and you've legally turned over all rights to them. Anyone who works in comics under a work for hire agreement knows that any rewards they receive are at the whim of the company who owns the property. The company can grant or deny you further funds at their discretion. Marvel certainly could have cut a check for Gary based off of the Ghost Rider movies. It's undeniable that he created the property (along with Mike Ploog). Marvel has given money to other creators when their material was used in other media. There's certainly enough money to go around after two movies and tons of merchandising. There's what's strictly legal and what's right. Marvel is way wrong in this case. But, sadly, Gary's in a large club of creators who are victims of very bad deals.

Visit Chuck at his website



Alex Ness here again. Thank you to Stephen, Mike and Chuck. They know the industry, they’ve worked in it and are still working, for a combined total of over 90 years.

For my part I know there are contracts signed. But in the advent of new technology and new avenues of revenue, the publishers and owners of the characters should well consider the cost of fighting challenges versus that of paying a fee, perhaps not huge, but something to say we appreciate how you enhanced this corporation.

I am boycotting Marvel and all ancillary companies. My money is not a big deal, but I can’t, in good conscience support the exploitation of creative talents. The reward reaped by Marvel versus that of Gary Friedrich is obscene.

UPDATED TO ADD ERIK LARSEN AND STEVEN GRANT COMMENTS:



On the face of it--it looks really shitty.

But I have no idea.

I wasn't there when the character was created and I don't know what Gary's contribution was. There are others claiming Gary was not involved with the character's creation. If that was the case--would it be right for him to sue Marvel and cost them a ton of money defending themselves?

On the other hand--who would claim to have co-created a character they didn't create?

I don't know the case--I don't know the creators but on the surface--it does look bad--it's Marvel beating up the little guy.

Regardless of who is in the right--it just seems very wrong for them to ask for money from him.





And this from Steven Grant

From a legal standpoint, yes, Gary is probably being treated fairly. It's not unusual in civil suits for a plaintiff who loses to be ordered to pay some or all of the defendant's legal fees. Trademark/copyright law pre-1977 is so murky it's hard to tell where the ownership stands on properties & whether Gary does have any rights to the Ghost Rider character. Certainly it's murky enough there was no reason for Gary to assume he didn't. Clearly the judge didn't see it that way.

However, Gary's right that it's chump change to a company that recently sold for, what was it?, $4 billion? That suggests the main point of the fine is punitive, not only to punish Gary for attempting to stake a claim in his own creation but as a message to the rest of the creative community not to challenge Marvel's ownership of properties or suffer what would likely be for them serious consequences, given how much they were paid in the first place. Unless there's some point of law allowing for an appeal, Marvel won the case; there's no point to them pressing this except to show a pretty ugly face to the creative community. In essence, they're demanding Gary pay back everything they ever paid him for his Ghost Rider work. The right move for Marvel now would be to waive the fine and let bygones be bygones. For his creation of the character alone, Gary deserves better from them.

UPDATED AGAIN


Steve Bissette posted this on Facebook ALERT, ALL COMICS CREATORS [Reposting, for a necessary (requested) edit; reposting all comments, too, after this main post. Apologies.]: With permission, I'm quoting key points my dear friend and own legal advisor/contract consultant (since 1992) Jean-Marc Lofficier raised on his posts to a Yahoo forum discussing Ty Templeton's cartoon concerning the Gary Friedrich v Marvel judgment. Jean-Marc succinctly notes WHY this judgment has changed EVERYTHING for anyone who has worked for Marvel, or what this judgment changes (probably irrevocably) about the landscape for all concerned:

"...with all due respect to Ty, he's talking (drawing?) out of his ass.

So to clarify again, here is what I thought is important to remember here:

1) This is the first time Marvel is using convention sales of copyrighted Marvel characters as a "weapon". They are of course perfectly entitled to do so, legally speaking. But it does mean that, from now on, all of you here who draw sketches of Marvel characters for money at conventions or sell sketchbooks containing pictures of Marvel characters are on notice that you might be sued (usually for triple the amount you made) should Marvel decide to go after you.

My legal advice to you guys is simple: STOP and destroy all sketchbooks for sale with copyrighted materials in it. I'm serious. You've just been put on notice by this case.

[Note: In a followup comment to a question on the matter of selling sketches/sketchbooks at conventions featuring Marvel characters, Jean-Marc added:]

If Disney and/or Marvel have a policy to deal with that sort of business, I would encourage anyone planning to sell sketches, etc. to contact them and obtain a waiver or a permission of some kind under that program.

--- [name withdrawn] is incorrect about one thing: Disney, if not Marvel, does have a full office staffed with para legals of young lawyers whose only job is to look for copyright/tm infringements and send C&D (cease & desist) letters. I have seen them. They don't do it for the money or to be a pain the the ass, they do it based on the legal theory that if you don't actively protect your (c)/tm, you run the risk of it being used against you as an affirmative defense in an infringement case.

Based on the GHOST RIDER case, it is, in my opinion, only a matter of time until Disney, now aware of the issue, sends one of their young attorneys with a stash of blank C&D letters at conventions and start handing them out to everyone selling Marvel sketches without authorization.

Receiving that letter will oblige you to hire a lawyer and even if Disney lets you off the hook (which they probably will), you might be out of a couple of grands by the time the process is over -- or you run the risk of being stuck with a $15K bill if you fight them.

Again, I emphasize: this is sound business practice for Disney; NOT doing it entails risks far greater than doing it. They have gone after children's nurseries before which had Mickey painted on their walls for the same exact legal reason. And that was far more time consuming and bad PR-wise that going after some comic book guys at artist's alleys.

It is only a matter of time.

So if they have a waiver/permission program as Ivan says, join it; if not, stop.

[Back to Jean-Marc's original, full post:]

2) Although there never was any serious dispute that Marvel owned whatever share of GR Gary Friedrich was claiming (personally, I'm not a mind reader but I think Friedrich was hoping for some kind of settlement), there remains two legal issues that Ty obviously didn't grasp:

2.1) When Moebius drew his SILVER SURFER with Stan Lee, he got royalties and he was still getting them when Starwatcher split in 2000. You will note that modern-day WFH agreements spell out that the money you're getting will be the sole compensation you will ever receive and you're not entitled to anything else. It is spelled out because if it is not, courts are at liberty to interpret the contract and decide whether or not you should be gettong something extra.

The back-of-the-check contract signed by Gary did transfer ownership of GR to Marvel, and the amount of that check was the consideration for publishing rights, but nowhere did it actually state (as it does today) that it was the ONLY consideration to which Gary might be entitled in the event of a film or a TV series. The Court could have easily decided that on the absence of that clause, Gary was owed something.

2.2.) There is a famous case about singer Peggy Lee who won her suit against Disney for their reuse of her songs in LADY & THE TRAMP on video, because that medium didn't exist when she signed her original agreement with the Mouse, and contracts at that time didn't specify the now standard "and other media to be invented in the future". The Court chose to interpret that lack of specificity in favor of Peggy Lee. When Marvel sold the rights to GR to the studio which produced it, they likely sold the video, DVD and game rights. These media did not exist when Friedrich signed his back of the check contract which did not list any and all future media. Therefore, based on the Peggy Lee case, the Court could have found that Marvel didn't own those rights, and therefore couldn't resell them, or, as in the Peggy Lee case, simply that they owe the plaintiff some kind of percentage, that's all.

So it remains my contention that Marvel owes "something" to Friedrich (and Ploog as well) based not on the publishing, but purely on the disposition of the multimedia rights to GR. That the Judge decided otherwise is a tough break for creators, and unjust.

3) Which brings me to my next point, which is that documentary standards are being unfairly applied throughout the judicial system, and somehow mistakes always seem to favor the corporations, not the small guy. The enforceability of a contract depends on accurate documentation which must be produced in Court. If you have a mortgage, but the bank cannot produce your properly signed promissory note, then the court has the possibility of nullifying your mortgage. It's happened in a few rare cases, but more often than not, people have been thrown out of their homes despite banks being unable to produce a properly signed note.

In this case, has any of you seen the back of the check signed by Friedrich?
Was that check properly endorsed? Was there anything crossed out? Why should mistakes in documentation automatically benefit the corporations, and the little guy should be held to standards of evidence that the companies themselves don't respect? Why did the Judge assume that the paperwork was in order & automatically benefited Marvel? What I'm saying is, if people can lose their homes despite proper paperwork, well, then, Marvel could lose GR despite its paperwork. It's up to the Court.

So whether or not you feel any sympathy for Gary and his cause, this is another loss for the Little Guy which, in the greater scheme of things, impacts all of us."

SPREAD THE WORD. SPREAD THIS LINK.

And QUIT doing, creating, selling ANY sketches or sketchbooks or prints featuring Marvel/Disney characters, IMMEDIATELY. And let fans know WHY you are no longer doing them, and/or CANNOT do them ever again.

MARVEL COMICS, GHOST RIDER, and GARY FRIEDRICH

First Read This
Then Read This
Then This


Art doesn't happen in a vacuum. Characters and concepts have creators. Marvel Comics destroyed Gary Friedrich in court and to prove their dominance over him have counter filed requesting/demanding that he pay 17,000 and never say he was the creator of GHOST RIDER in a public forum ever again.

If you support the arts, and love comics, remember that there are people creating them. Do not ignore the fact often times, creative talents sign contracts, and when they sign contracts the corporations have conveniently ignored them. Yes, it goes both ways, but, 17000 dollars and never saying he was one of the creative forces of Ghost Rider?



Gary Friedrich is the creator of Ghost Rider.
He created Ghost Rider. He previously created Hell Rider and went to Marvel shortly thereafter with a similar concept. And now, Marvel would like you to believe Marvel created Ghost Rider.

Ghost Rider didn't appear out of nowhere, it had a creator, and it wasn't a corporation.

Hell Rider

Ghost Rider
Gary Friedrich

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: Part 2: How to Start a Revolution

In last week's reading we were introduced to Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis, the IT guy who maintains the Lunar Authority's massive central computer; Wyoming Knott, the incendiary blonde firebrand who wants to overthrow the Authority; and Professor Bernando de la Paz, professional dissident and sage. Oh, and we met Mike, the sentient computer who runs the Lunar penal colony and the associated communities, who longs for companionship and likes telling jokes. Mike has just calculated the odds of a revolution on the moon actually succeeding and has concluded that they are only one chance in seven. But those are good enough odds for a Loonie, and the Revolution is Declared!

The bull session in Room L of the Raffles Hotel continues. A question to Mike about the Warden's Security forces reveals that the Warden's Chief of Security actually has a fairly large network of informants, many of whom are members of Wyoh's revolutionary group. "That means the Warden has our whole organization," she wails. "No," Prof corrects her; "It means we have his organization!"

Prof counsels doing nothing about the informants at present, except to place them in special "cells" in the new organization where they can inform on each other and be spoon-fed misinformation. "...it would be the greatest waste to eliminate them -- not only would each spy be replaced by someone new but also killing these traitors would tell the Warden that we have penetrated his secrets."

They have Mike look up their own Security files. Prof is delighted to be classified as a "harmless old fool" who is subversive, but too argumentative to be a serious threat. Mannie is annoyed to be classified as "non-political" and "not too bright", (which he admits is not inaccurate, or else he never would have gotten involved with a Revolution.)

Eventually they get to the big issue. Overthrowing the Warden will mean that eventually they will have to fight Terra itself. Luna has no weapons, no defenses, even no spaceships; a David and Goliath situation if ever there was one. Mike's suggestion: "We can throw rocks."

For once, Mike isn't joking. Luna sends the grain it grows in steel canisters which are shot to Earth by a large "catapult", a gigantic magnetic cannon. All they have to do is replace the grain with a big honkin' rock and aim it at a military target. (Larry Niven is fond of the plot device of using a huge asteroid dropped from space as a weapon; he used it in his novel Footfall and some other places as well).

It is decided that Prof will remain in hiding at the Raffles, while Mannie takes Wyoh (once again in disguise) home to meet his family. Mannie belongs to a Line Family, one of the peculiar variations of matrimony that has been devised on Luna to cope with the tremendous imbalance between the male and female population. Some families form triads, with two husbands and one wife, as in the marriage Wyoh was in before she became a revolutionary. In a Line Marriage, there are multiple husbands and wives, and the family continues to add more on as time goes by.

The Davis family, the one Mannie belongs to, was founded by Black Jack Davis, one of the original convicts transported to Luna a century ago. The current Senior Husband of the family, Grandpaw, is getting on in years and has little active role in the family. The next husband in line is Greg, who is the pastor of a small church group which worships on Tuesdays. (It happens to be Tuesday evening, and Mannie warns Wyoh that it will be a good idea for her to join the family going to church to make a good impression). The real head of the family, though, is Mimi Mum, the Senior Wife. Mimi is a strong-willed woman, smart, practical and protective of her family. Mannie has no qualms about recruiting her for the Cause. Other family members include Sidris, one of the middle wives who runs a beauty salon which becomes an important information center for the Revolution; and Ludmilla, the youngest wife at sixteen, who is also Mimi's granddaughter and was raised in the family.

One of the commenters on last week's installment brought up a point which hadn't occurred to me. In the line marriage, all property would remain in the hands of the Family, that is, the husbands and wives; children would not inherit anything. Oh, perhaps they would be granted a lump sum of start-up money when they reach adulthood; but I can see this as a recipe for a large class of rootless single young men -- which is pretty much how Heinlein describes the stilyagi, or unmarried young men of Luna.

But back to the Revolution. To create a favorable climate for revolt, the protagonists need to make the Warden as unpopular as possible. Fortunately, the Warden is helping them in this. After the debacle at the Rally where Mannie and Wyoh met, the Warden called for additional forces to help put down the "subversive elements". His Chief of Security, Alvarez, instituted a passport system so that no one could use the transport system connecting the domed cities without ID. A lot of Loonies resented this, especially the ones who were not, nor ever had been, convicts.

They keep up the pressure on the Warden and his forces. The "Peace Dragoons," sent by the Federated Nations at the Warden's request, were never told that their deployment to Luna was a one-way ticket. They were also sent without what Mannie euphemistically calls a "comfort detachment". So Loonie women, some part of the Organization, some acting on their own, start teasing them. All they have to do is walk by. At one-sixth G, a woman can undulate quite nicely. Frustrated soldiers leads to clashes between soldiers and civilians, which leads to even greater resentment of the Authority.

Mannie, Prof and Mike adapt and refine the cell system for organizing their conspiracy. The three-person cell is intended to limit each member's connection to the rest of the group to prevent a single arrest or defection from compromising the whole organization, while allowing enough connection so that communications can be relayed. Having a super-computer on your side helps here. Mike, or "Adam Selene" as he's called in the organization, handles all the communications. Since he can't be corrupted, the system is foolproof. They decide to create a persona for "Adam" to establish the illusion that he's a flesh and blood person.

"You're our Scarlet Pimpernel, our John Galt, our Swamp Fox, our man of mystery. You go everywhere, know everything, slip in and out of town without passport. You're always there, yet nobody catches sight of you."

His lights rippled, he gave a subdued chuckle. "That's fun, Man. Funny once, funny twice, maybe funny always."

Mike also indulges in less subtle forms of humor, such as messing up Security Chief Alvarez's attempts to trace the Subversives. Mike sees to it that every contact number provided by one of Alvarez's informants winds up leading to someone in the Warden's own office. He also causes the air conditioning and plumbing in the Warden's living quarters to go on the fritz in comical ways.

One major factor in the plan is the slingshot which they plan to use to "throw rocks" at Earth. Unfortunately, it is also a large and obvious target. They need to build a back-up slingshot in case the main one is destroyed. To that end, they created a dummy corporation whose purpose is to build it. This one is to be constructed underground; the only visible target will be it's mouth, which will be just one more hole on the lunar surface. They take great pains to hide the exact location of the slingshot.

The Organization recruits children to run messages and do surveillance. Mannie calls these kids "The Baker Street Irregulars". The Peace Dragoons quickly learn that trying to use force against kids is much more grief than it is worth. Mannie spots one pre-adolescent he recognizes from the Rally: a red-headed girl named Hazel who also gets adopted both into the Davis family and into the Revolution. This is the same Hazel who appeared as Grandma Hazel in Heinlein's earlier novel The Rolling Stones, and later still in The Cat Who Walked Through Walls.

Mike expands his explorations into creativity to writing poetry. His early efforts are doggerel lampoons of the Warden, written under the pseudonym of "Simon Jester", which get distributed on anonymous scraps of paper and scribbled on bar-room walls, etc. He also writes a serious piece of verse which he submits to a literary magazine under his Adam Selene name. This really freaks out the Warden.

One day, Mannie comes across a gang of stilyagi who have roughed up a tourist from Earth and are looking for a judge. The tourist had been flirting with the gal who hung out with that gang, and he impulsively engaged in some inadvisable physical contact. On Earth, it might have gotten him at worst a slap in the face or a sexual harassment suit. But on Luna, where women are a scarce resource and highly regarded, this is hanging offense. Well, they don't hang people on Luna, the one-sixth gravity makes it impractical; instead they chuck them out an airlock into airless space.

But these are good boys. They want to do things right; so they're looking for a Judge to arbitrate the matter. Mannie agrees to act as judge for them, partially because he thinks that recklessly eliminating strangers will be bad for the tourist industry, but also for another reason.

There are no laws on Luna, and so the proceedings are rather informal. Mannie has the boys pony up a fee for his judgement and requires the Accused to match it. When the gal whose honor was sullied hesitates, Mannie reminds her "TANSTAAFL." Remember that acronym. Jurors are recruited from nearby who are paid for their time from Mannie's fee. Mannie listens to all sides, questions the witnesses and sums up for the jury. By this time tempers have cooled, and a resolution is reached which all sides are reasonably happy with.

Afterwards, Mannie has a few drinks with the tourist, a wealthy dilettante named Stuart Rene LaJoie, and explains some aspects of Loonie society, including the peculiar word he used: TANSTAAFL; meaning "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch", which in many respects is the unofficial motto of Luna. Stu is an affable, friendly guy who is genuinely interested in Luna. He also has money and connections. This is important, because Prof has recognized that in order to succeed, they need agents actually on Terra helping them. Mannie brings Stu home to have him meet the family and cultivate him further. Before long, Stu is part of the Party as well.

Things are starting to move too quickly now. The Warden is becoming more panicky. There is a risk that he might clamp down too hard. Then, unexpectedly, things come to a head.

A group of Peace Dragoons rape and murder an eighteen-year-old girl; then murder another woman who comes across the crime. Mike passes the news on to Prof and the others almost as soon as Chief Alvarez learns of it. Prof realizes that this is their "Boston Massacre", the incident needed to galvanize the people to active revolt. "We're on our tiger; we grab its ears.... Mannie, Mannie! This is The Day!"

They spread word of the atrocity throughout all the domes and warrens. Anti-Authority riots break out, overwhelming the Warden's security.

Mike turned out all lights in Complex,save those in Warden's residence, and reduced oxygen to gasping point ... Finn's men, waiting in p-suits at Warden's private tube station, broke latch on airlock and went in, "shoulder to shoulder." Luna was ours.

NEXT WEEK: They have Luna, but can they keep it? Chapters 14-19: Provisional government; Adam Selene goes public; Luna makes its Declaration, and the Embassy to Earth!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Suggested Reading For Cabin Fever

You say Potato, I say ...

Although I appreciated Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, I did so more from a perspective of appreciating the architecture and framework than the story itself. It was truly a masterpiece of creation, and a great work, but, to me, a fan of Robert E. Howard first, the characters didn't sound like they were talking, they sounded like I was hearing what they meant.



There are obviously people who would disagree with me. But what I found was that Dennis McKiernan's work, while clearly an homage in ways and surely draws influences from LOTR, was more emotively satisfying. I am well aware that this is sacrilege to the fans of Fantasy.

But, taste is a personal thing. I like my characters to be human. Unless of course, they aren't. I heard the emotions in the voices of McKiernan's characters.




Dennis McKiernan's home page
So, I need to ask you: are you tired of winter? Do you need a fun read?