Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Euthanise Your Novel: Letters from an Evil Book Doctor #3

The Paranoid Copyright Warning


First off, we'd like to thank you very much for the chance to read your manuscript. We do appreciate--really, we do--the supreme ordeal you underwent in entrusting it to our care. Indeed, before going any further, we'd like to reassure you that while we're thankful to have been privileged with the opportunity to read the novel you obviously feel somewhat protective of, we are in fact returning it to you unread but for the title page. We do hope this will lay to rest the worries clearly troubling you, the twitching, growling fear and suspicion that we might, in our mad (book) doctor's malevolence, gleefully plunder your work with all the moustache-twirling villainy of a top-hatted malfeasant out of silver screen melodrama. We do not make it a habit to tie young maidens to railway tracks. Nor do we rub our hands greedily and cackle at the arrival of each virginal manuscript ripe for intellectual rapine. But even if we were such miscreants, the point is, we could hardly steal ideas we have not read, could we?

Yes, you will rather have to take it on trust that we read no further than the title page, but we hope you can find it in yourself to do so. There is, we think, perhaps a small chance that you can. Maybe. Possibly.

It's that distribution prohibition on the title page, you understand, that renders our faith in this regard shaky at best. There's no need for it, you understand, nor for the copyright and confidentiality injunctions on the footers of pages throughout, like labels marking the yogurts, juiceboxes, sandwiches and nectarines in an office fridge GAZZA'S. (OK, OK, I admit it: I did flick a corner of the title page up, just to confirm my weary expectation.) While it's customary on a speculative screenplay, to distinguish privately-owned material from studio-owned work-for-hire, here the staking of such a claim is wholly extraneous.

No, no, really. Trust us. In the UK and US, original written material is automatically copyrighted from the moment of writing, the intellectual property of its author. Rather than ownership requiring to be explicitly asserted, it is the license to publish that has to be explicitly granted by the author to any publisher. The copyright notice on a book is actually an assertion of that license, the mandatory crediting of the creator by the publisher. Even without your paranoid copyright warning, for the publisher to "circulate" your manuscript in any medium would be not just unethical but illegal.

In such circumstances, you must consider how your stringent warning might be construed as an implicit impeachment of agent/editor integrity, an indication of mistrust in the person you're submitting to. It rather seems you feel we need reminded, and in no uncertain terms, not to be the thieving, grifting, chiselling fucks we might otherwise blithely be.

It's not that we're offended by this mistrust, you understand, rather that we strongly suspect you're a fucking nutjob. Even were we the villainous sons-of-bitches you seem to think we are, your precious book would have to contain at least a nugget of originality and literary quality to merit theft. And you know how likely that is in general? Not fucking likely at all, mate. You know how likely that is from a writer whose presentation reminds us of nothing less than a mad-eyed Gollum cosplayer, back hunched protectively as with one hand he clutches to his chest a typescript screenplay for THE LORD OF THE RINGS 4, while with the other he flails defensively, shrieking "Leave my preciousss! Leave it, Bagginses!" at the very producer he's trying to persuade to option it? We're talking negative probability. There's a fine line between madness and genius, they say. But generally speaking the blithering egoistic paranoia of the full-on crank is wholly incompatible with the craft of writing.

It's the lack of self-awareness, you see, the faulty Theory of Mind. The writer whose crazyeyes announce themselves before the novel even begins is the writer who sees only the demons of their own bugfuck delusions. If you're oblivious to the realities of rational human behaviour, you can't very well conjure them, can you?

For that reason alone, we are returning your manuscript unread. We have not read a single word of it; of that you can be wholly and unequivocally certain.

For realz.

Believe me.

Hugz and kittehz,

Doktor Hal



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