Monday, April 24, 2006

It may be gone by the time you read this but...

You may remember that very old, and very silly, joke told by Francis Howerd.

Man goes into a doctor's waiting room, and the only other person there is a gloomy old lady. When her name is called, the old lady stands up (with difficulty), seizes her stick, and hobbles painfully into the doctor's surgery. Three minutes later, she comes out, cheerful as you like, minus stick, and walks out like a teenager.

When your man gets in to see the doctor he says to him, 'By golly doctor, you did an amazing piece of work on that old lady. She could hardly walk when she went in, and when she came in she was skipping like a lamb. How did you manage that?'

'Oh,' said doctor, 'it was quite easy really. When she got up this morning, the silly old bat put two legs in one knicker.'

My grandmother found that story really amusing. But in order to find it funny these days you have to have a good working knowledge of the kind of underwear that was favoured by old ladies of fifty years ago. Hint: they did not wear thongs.

Anyway, I was reminded of all that by a right little uproar which I got to hear about over the weekend -- one which involved large numbers of people getting their knickers in such a twist that lower limbs were threatened with gangrene on an international basis (tipoff from Clive Keeble).

It seems that there exists in this world a Star Wars fan who has written a 'fanfic' novel called Another Hope. Not only has she written it, but she has arranged for it to be published in paperback by Wordtech Communications.

The publication date given on is July 2005; if that is correct, then the world has been slow to notice it. But, as of last week, someone did, and since then there has been a flurry of interest/excitement, leading to 20-odd 'reviews' on Amazon, most of which give the book one star and express horror and dismay that the author has been dumb enough to breach Star Wars copyright in this bare-faced way. More to the point, perhaps, commenters worry that this incident might lead to an all-out war on fanfic in general.

Well, fanfic is a complicated field, too big to go into today. Basically, if you've never heard of it, fanfic is fiction written by fervent admirers of a book, TV show, or film, making use of well established characters, such as Harry Potter, the Star Trek team, et cetera, and involving in them in all sorts of new adventures and love affairs dreamed up by the fan in question. If you want to explore the subject, you might start with the Wikepedia article, particularly section 4 on legal issues.

One interesting aspect of this affair is that the Amazon page of this almost unknown (until recently) novel offers 21 used and new copies at less than Amazon price. The figure 21 is, I would guess, higher than the total number of books sold so far, so this leads some bricks-and-mortar booksellers to suspect that the 'booksellers' who are offering these cut-price used copies are just programming computers to go through the Amazon files and offer stuff at cut-rate prices (see last Wednesday's discussion of 'fulfilment services'). And, not surprisingly, the knickers of those orthodox booksellers are definitely creased as well.

I'm not sure if it's a coincidence, but if you Google "Lori Jareo" you will find that many of the links come up with 'page not available'. And the same may be true of the links given in this post by the time you read it.

Later -- Galleycat explains some of the background and confirms that Lori Jareo is being cooked over a slow fire by the George Lucas legal team.