Tagged: David Gerrold

Oh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

Oh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

The Dr. Seuss Enterprises lawsuit against us is finally over.

In August 2016, we put up a Kickstarter for Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, a mash-up of Star Trek and Dr. Seuss to be written by David Gerrold, drawn by Ty Templeton, edited by Glenn Hauman, and published by ComicMix LLC later that year. DSE sent us a cease and desist letter on September 27, 2016. (Yes, the legal wrangling lasted longer than the Enterprise’s original five-year mission.) DSE filed a DMCA motion to take down the Kickstarter campaign on October 7, and filed suit against us on November 10, 2016, alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition.

We put up a good fight. We defeated the trademark infringement and unfair competition claims, and that win was affirmed on appeal. We also won summary judgment on the claim of copyright infringement, though that was reversed on appeal. The court set a pretrial schedule in September 2021 and we were well positioned to have a jury resolve whether or not you could see this book.

And yet, today we’re announcing that we and DSE submitted a proposed consent judgment for the suit, and that the Honorable Judge Janis L. Sammartino granted it on Friday, October 8, 2021 and closed the case.

Why? The simple truth is— we ran out of time.

This past year, Ty was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer. This has required him to undergo months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, just to prepare him for the needed surgery—which will then require weeks of recuperation until he recovers enough to go through six MORE months of chemo and radiation, and then MORE surgery after that. This has affected his ability to work, to draw, and to do any of the things an immunocompromised person shouldn’t do, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.

And the trial schedule would have been smack in the middle of all of that. After five years of sometimes ridiculous litigation and with the pre-trial deadlines looming, as Ty’s collaborators and friends, we refused to put him through any additional stress that could in any way impinge on his health and recovery. To the credit of the people at DSE, they didn’t want to put Ty through that either. So we joined in a motion to end the suit the day before Ty’s surgery, in order to alleviate the less serious pain in his ass so he can deal with the far more lethal and literal pain in his ass.

In the consent judgment, DSE concedes some of our defenses and we concede some of their claims. Unfortunately, the terms stipulate that even though the book is complete, we won’t be able to present Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! to you for another forty years, when the Dr. Seuss copyrights are set to expire and his books enter the public domain. (We can start taking preorders in January 2062, so set your calendar reminders now.)

We still passionately believe in and stand for creators’ rights, including fair use, and we still maintain that Boldly is a fair use that could not have harmed DSE in any way, now, five years ago, or in forty years. Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’s view of fair use makes it very difficult to overcome a well-heeled copyright holding corporation if it wants to stand in the way (anyone who thinks “corporations are people” has never seen a corporation in a cancer ward) and they decided that the book was over the line. We’re looking forward to the day when you can finally see the full book for yourself and make your own determination about it—until then, it’s like writing a book report by just looking at the cover, never seeing what’s inside.

It has been a long five-year mission filled with many absurdities. At one point, Universal Pictures asked us to help promote “The Grinch” DVD release, so DSE could make more money to bash over our heads. At another point, DSE paid an “expert witness” who got an artist to redraw our book in the most dreadful way imaginable, and then did a trademark survey asking shopping mall customers to compare Ty’s artful mix of Seuss and Trek with that hack job. We’re still wondering how our book referencing a single illustration from How The Grinch Stole Christmas could have taken “the heart of the work,” as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals thought, when the illustration in question shows neither the Grinch, Christmas, or anything being stolen. And less than thirty-six hours after the Ninth Circuit reversed the fair use ruling, we got to watch Saturday Night Live air a sketch about the Grinch in a Whoville three-way, with nary a peep from DSE.

We’re also grimly amused about how we had to fight a fair use case while DSE’s own publisher, Penguin Random House, put out their own unauthorized parody, Oh , The Meetings You’ll Go To! (Although there is some question as to whether or not Meetings is officially sanctioned by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, as the copyright page of Meetings makes no mention of a DSE license, yet this since deleted tweet from Eric Nelson on August 4th, 2020 says otherwise…)

But when we were sued two days after Election Day 2016, we knew that letting anyone with lots of money, name recognition, and power have the ability to shut down even the gentlest of parodies and mildest of commentaries about them unchallenged was an extremely bad precedent to set for the future—if for no other reason that we make up for one another’s biases by being able to criticize each other, whether we are children’s book authors or circuit court judges.

We can take satisfaction in many of the victories and precedents this case has set, including:

  • The Ninth Circuit made it explicit that mash-ups can be fair use. (Just not, apparently, ours.)
  • The District Court’s summary judgment ruling held that there are no exclusive trademark rights in an artistic style, or a distinctive font or typeface.
  • In fact, the trademark infringement and unfair competition claims wound up a total rout. They were dismissed based on nominative fair use in 2017. DSE renewed them, and we won judgment on the pleadings over its claims about the book’s title based on the Rogers/First Amendment test in 2018. We won the “that’s not even a thing” issue over the Seussian art style and typeface in 2019. And in 2020 the Ninth Circuit affirmed everything under Rogers and the First Amendment.

While we’re not entirely pleased with the case’s outcome, we remember the words of historian Richard Hofstadter, who observed that sometimes people must “endure error in the interest of social peace.” If we were ultimately unable to persuade the Ninth Circuit to reduce the amount of error involved in determining fair use for creators, we’ve done what we can to forge a path for future fair use activists.

There are many people we’d like to thank for helping us go boldly, as we believe that, as our book says, no one goes forward alone. First and foremost: our lead attorney Dan Booth of Dan Booth Law, who fought the good fight with the strength of a hundred lawyers against a firm with four thousand lawyers. We also give thanks to Michael Licari, now in-house counsel at Veteran Benefits Guide, Dan Halimi, now at Halimi Law Firm, T.C. Johnston at Internet Law, Joanna Ardalan of OneLLP, who appealed our case to the Supreme Court, and Ken White of Brown White & Osborn LLP, who sent up the Popehat signal that brought us much needed assistance in the first place. And we thank Dr. Joshua Gans, our expert witness, who generously donated his time and testimony and worked under ridiculous constraints.

We’d also like to thank the people who filed amici briefs taking our side:

Francesca Coppa, Stacey L. Dogan, Deborah R. Gerhardt, Leah Chan Grinvald, Michael Grynberg, Mark A. Lemley, Jessica Litman, Lydia Loren, David Mack, William McGeveran, Mark P. McKenna, Lisa P. Ramsey, Pamela Samuelson, Jessica Silbey, Rebecca Tushnet, Magdalene Visaggio, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Organization For Transformative Works, Public Knowledge, and their counsel Chris Bavitz, Mason Kortz, Phillip R. Malone, Meredith Rose, Eric Stallman, and Kit Walsh.

And we’d like to also thank Mike Gold, Martha Thomases, Brandy Hauman, Keiren Smith, Pam Hauman, Shann Dornhecker, Mark Treitel, Joshua Masur, Katherine Trendacosta, Heidi Tandy, Meredith Rose, Brian Jay Jones, Mike Godwin, Margot Atwell, Camilla Zhang, Oriana Leckert, Allison Adler, Michael C. Donaldson, Film Independent, the International Documentary Association, and Steve Saffel.

We’d very much like to thank United States District Judge Janis L. Sammartino, who presided over our case with patience, fairness, wisdom, and thoughtfulness, and all of the staff that supported her.

And finally, we’d like to thank all of the Kickstarter backers who wanted to make this book a reality, all the supporters who helped cover (the start of) our legal expenses, and all of the journalists and scholars who followed and reported on our case. We are grateful for your generosity and faith, and are very disappointed that we can’t show you what you’ve been waiting years to see. At least not yet.

For those interested, the case is Dr. Seuss Enterprises LP v. ComicMix LLC et al.,; case number 3:16-cv-02779 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and case number 19-55348, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

P.S.: There’s two more last minute “thank yous.” The proposed consent judgment was submitted this past Tuesday, October 5. On Wednesday, October 6, Ty had his surgery, which went well. And on Thursday, October 7, two guys joined David and Glenn in sending get-well notes to Ty—a Mr. Shatner and a Mr. Takei.

Thanks, captains.

ComicMix Vindicated in Dr. Seuss Lawsuit Over Literary Mash-Up; Judge Dismisses Trademark Claims, Copyright Claim Will “Boldly Go Forward”

On Friday, June 9, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California partially granted ComicMix LLC’s motion to dismiss the Dr. Seuss estate’s copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit over the book Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!  To prevent publication, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, LP filed the lawsuit in 2016 against the book’s publisher ComicMix, its author David Gerrold, illustrator Ty Templeton, and Glenn Hauman, ComicMix’s co-founder and vice-president.

United States District Judge Janis Sammartino dismissed the trademark claims under the doctrine of nominative fair use, and largely agreed with ComicMix’s position that fair use protects the book from copyright infringement claims. Judge Sammartino found that the book is “a highly transformative work that takes no more than necessary [from Dr. Seuss’s books] to accomplish its transformative purpose and will not impinge on the original market for Plaintiff’s underlying work.” She emphasized that the case has broader significance: “This case presents an important question regarding the emerging ‘mash-up’ culture where artists combine two independent works in a new and unique way. … Applying the fair use factors in the manner Plaintiff outlines would almost always preclude a finding of fair use under these circumstances. However, if fair use was not viable in a case such as this, an entire body of highly creative work would be effectively foreclosed.”

As an example, Judge Sammartino refers to this image:

Plaintiff’s work depicts two similar-looking, fanciful “Zax” creatures arguing in the middle of a desert, with footprints to mark their arrival. Boldly takes the same desert landscape and footprints, and in the fanciful creatures’ place puts two similar-looking beings of seemingly Vulcan descent—one of which is drawn in the same position as his Dr. Seuss counterpart and one of which is transformed from the Dr. Seuss creatures’ aggressive stance into a contemplative pose—deep in the midst of playing some type of alien board game. Additionally, Boldly’s text reveals that the two Vulcan creatures are, in fact, the same person, unlike Go!’s distinct “North-Going” and “South-Going” Zaxes. Boldly therefore transforms the argumentative Zaxes and their corresponding depiction into a cloned Vulcan matching wits with himself over an alien boardgame. One Vulcan is positioned almost identically to his Zax counterpart to “conjure up” the Dr. Seuss work, while the other Vulcan is drawn anew and a board-game added in order to fully accomplish the work’s overall transformative purpose.

The copyright claim survives, awaiting proof of any harm to the Dr. Seuss estate’s licensing opportunities, and the estate was given two weeks to amend its trademark claims.

Dan Booth of Booth Sweet LLP, ComicMix LLC’s lead counsel, said, “I have never seen a case so focused on mash-up culture — and so strongly supportive. Judge Sammartino’s decision implicates not just literary hybrids but music remixes, appropriation art, supercut videos, and more, strongly suggesting that they should be protected from copyright claims.”

Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go began as a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, written by Gerrold, a Hugo and Nebula Award winning science fiction author perhaps best known for writing the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.”  Ty Templeton is a veteran Eisner Award winning comics artist known for his work on Batman, The Simpsons, and as the co-creator of the Vortex Comics series Stigs Inferno.

ComicMix publishes a line of graphic novels by some of the best new and established talent in the industry.  ComicMix Pro Services works with creators to produce, publish and market their work in a competitive marketplace.  In addition, ComicMix runs one of the Internet’s most popular pop culture news sites.

Joe Corallo: Rebirth of an I-CON

This past weekend I found myself at a convention once again with Molly Jackson, but now joined by ComicMix’s own Glenn Hauman. It was an island getaway. Sure, it was Long Island, but it was still technically a getaway so I’m sticking to it.

The convention in question was I-CON, and no, it is not a convention dedicated to the superhero Icon of Milestone Media fame, but he should really be used more over at DC and his original run written by Dwayne McDuffie and penciled by M. D. Bright should be collected in its entirely as it has never been before.

I-CON is a long running non-profit science fiction, fact, and fantasy convention. This show was billed as I-CON 32, but the convention was on hiatus after I-CON 31 in 2012. This new iteration debuted at a new location, Suffolk Community College.

Having grown up on Long Island, I had attended a number of I-CON conventions over the years. In fact, I volunteered at I-CON 31; I worked the indie film track. It was tough and took a lot of time and effort and even more meetings, so I understand how hard it is to put a show like this together. Five years is a long hiatus, and while many of the original volunteers were back, they no longer had Stony Brook University as a potential venue and really had to start fresh in a lot of ways.

Anyway, let me get back on track. The con was this past Friday through Sunday. ComicMix had a table that Glenn arrived early to set up, and we’d alternate watching over while taking time to walk the floor and speak on panels. I even got to moderate one.

I’m getting ahead of myself here so let me back up a bit. This past Friday Molly and I arrived in the evening to be on a panel about socio-political commentary in comics. Also on the panel were Adam McGovern, Beth Rimmels, Alitha E. Martinez and Christopher Helton with I-CON’s Patrick Kennedy moderating. It was a nice discussion about politics and the industry. One of the questions was about the comics we think had some of the best socio-political commentary. My answer was The Question written by ComicMix’s Denny O’Neil, drawn by Denys Cowan, and edited by ComicMix’s fearless leader Mike Gold, and Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson which was inked by Rodney Ramos who was also a guest at I-CON.

Saturday we were there pretty early and stayed for most of the show and really starting feeling the con experience. We were tabling next to David Gerrold, the well-renowned science fiction writer who created the Tribbles over at Star Trek, and it was a great experience. There was a whole table of Tribbles for sale that shake and coo when you touch them. While they’re fun, a whole table of shaking cooing Tribbles can get a bit intimidating.

Molly and I were on a panel about if indie comics can save the comics industry. The short answer is the industry might not need saving right now, but… probably… yes? Unless by indie they meant Indian Jones comics, in which the answer is a very firm yes. We were then joined by Glenn to talk about comics journalism later in the day. I’d tell you about it, but you’re already reading some arguable comics journalism.

Sunday I got to moderate the panel on Gender and Sexuality in Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Comics with David Gerrold, Molly Jackson, Alitha E. Martinez, and Beth Rimmels. I spent a long time pondering on what to ask the panel despite the fact that it’s the topic I write about here roughly every other week. David Gerrold told me he liked the questions so that’s good enough for me.We touched on women written as men, trans representation, toxic masculinity… lots of tough stuff that could cause all sorts of Twitter drama.

Other highlights included talking a while with Pat Shand about comics, getting another sketch cover from John Broglia, and meeting and talking movies with Christopher Golden.

While I-CON 32 seemed less attended than the previous ones I’ve been to and I do miss it being at Stony Brook, this was a valiant effort to give a convention a rebirth after five years and was definitely the con at which I’ve been best fed. They have a few kinks to work out, but it was good to be back at I-CON and I’m excited for what the future will bring to this Long Island tradition.

David Gerrold: What Were You Doing, Nerd Year’s Eve?

David Gerrold, the writer best known for his script for the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”, for creating the Sleestak race on the TV series Land of the Lost, and for his novelette “The Martian Child”, which won both Hugo and Nebula awards and was adapted into a 2007 film, contributes a guest column about the trainwreck that was Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve. For more, read the coverage at The Beat.

I was an invited guest at the “Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve” Comic-Con held in Dallas over New Year’s weekend.

Apparently, it was a disaster of biblical proportions. Not just dogs and cats living together, but suing each other for palimony and custody of the kittens.

The convention organizers over-promised, under-budgeted, over-extended, under-performed, and committed what I consider acts of “criminal incompetence.”

Why do I use the adjective “criminal?”

Because people were hurt. Not just by the incompetence, but by the deliberate incompetence.

Many of the guests — not necessarily the A-listers — depend on the sales of autographs and photographs as part of their income between gigs. They are not all millionaires. Many actors and celebrities, especially those from TV shows of yore, have some income from royalties and residuals, but often depend on convention appearances to give them a little bit of a cushion — or even cover the mortgage.

So when a convention signs a contract, makes a commitment — such as, “We guarantee that you will make $5000 in autograph and photo sales, or we will make up the difference” and then fails to provide enough attendees to make those sales and then fails to cover the guarantee as well — that’s criminal incompetence.

Even worse, the company formed to put on the convention is dissolving itself, so there will be no one to sue.

Most of the other guests had their air fare covered and meals covered by a per diem. So at least their basic travel expenses were covered.

I drove.

After four days of promises, I had nothing but four days of promises. My travel expenses were never covered.

Based on their promises, I had expected $2500 and travel expenses as the bare minimum, and I budgeted for that.

Instead, I’m out my travel expenses. Nearly $800.

Did I sell enough books and tribbles and scripts to make it worthwhile? No.

Because first, they didn’t have a dealer’s table for me, and the woman who was supposed to arrange it was more interested in talking about how busy she was than in actually making arrangements for the table. Not a bad person, but not really focused on the job.

When I finally did get a sales table, it wasn’t in the dealer’s room, it was in a second room that was carefully hidden from most of the convention membership. I did not sell enough to cover my expenses.

I am particularly angry at the CFO of the convention who lied to my face, three times — that he had a check for me for my travel expenses (I’d already turned in my receipts) — when he already knew damn well that the convention was so far in the hole that the hotel was about to lock all of the guests out of their rooms because the convention couldn’t cover the lodging bills.

Any other convention, I would have made enough to justify the effort. Instead, I have a hole in my budget that is going to create a problem for the next month or two. I had planned to spend the money on paying for the kids’ wedding pictures. Now I have to generate that cash somewhere else. (January book sale starts momentarily.)

So yes, “criminal incompetence.” People were hurt. Not just me — but every celebrity guest (over 40 of them) and every vendor (at least as many) who invested his or her weekend on the promises of this criminally incompetent group of people.

I’ve had nearly a half century of convention experience. Most of the cons I’ve attended, whether professional or fan run, have been managed well enough that fans and guests were taken care of. I have never been caught up in a disaster as big as this one. (Which is why I didn’t recognize my personal alarm bells when they went off.)

I would hope that the individuals responsible for this particular train wreck have enough class and courage to issue a public apology — but more than that, I hope they get out of the convention business, because, based on the evidence, they are a danger to the well-being of everyone who trusts them.

The other bad news coming out of that cluster-fuck in Dallas is that after a celebrity gets burned by one convention, he or she is a lot less likely to say yes to the next few conventions who invite.

So both the celebrity and the fans are deprived. The fans lose the chance to meet the star, the celeb loses the possibility of income.

Therefore: Seven lessons that a certain con-committee should have learned ahead of time.

1) First, don’t call it a Comic-Con if it’s not about comics and comic artists. Call it Okla-Con or Dallas-Con or something that identifies it for the specific region.

2) Don’t over-promise. You only need one or two big name celebs. And maybe three B-listers. Then, as you get more pre-attending memberships, enough that you know you can afford more celebs, you can add more. Being able to announce that you’ve just added another special guest builds momentum.

But don’t start by promising 40 with the expectation that the fans will come flocking. They won’t. Because fans have a loyalty to existing conventions. They’re not going to come to a new convention, just because you promised it’ll be great. They’re skeptical and they’re already saving their pennies for the cons they attended last year.

3) If you don’t have enough money up front to pay your bills, cancel the con. Be honest with everyone. That’s a lot better than the disaster of bankruptcy and embarrassment.

4) Be honest with your guests. If you know you can’t afford them, tell them so before they get on the airplane. Have enough class to treat them like people, not commodities to be marketed.

5) And for those who drove — COVER THEIR FUCKING TRAVEL EXPENSES, send them a check ahead of time — or tell them not to come before they waste their time.

6) MOST IMPORTANT — get people on your committee who have been part of successful conventions and listen to what they have to tell you. They will be your best asset.

7) Train your volunteers to do something more than suck up oxygen. Most volunteers are happy to be on staff. Most are eager to help. Most are competent enough to get the job done. But don’t hand out those “volunteer” T-shirts to people who couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel.

BONUS HINT — most of your celebs view cons as a specific kind of job. Sit, be pleasant, sign autographs, pose for photos — and be paid for each autograph and photo. Make sure they have opportunities.

Most of your dealers are there to make money too. Set up the fucking dealer’s room so that fans are exposed to as many dealers as possible. Set up the dealer’s room so that dealers are exposed to as many fans as possible. You’re not doing anyone a favor putting dealers in a place where there is no traffic. Those dealers won’t come back.

SECOND BONUS HINT — If you bring in writers and artists, they are likely to be overlooked as the fans rush to meet the A-list actors. You need to find ways to bring them to the attention of the great majority of fans, so they don’t end up sitting alone at a table or speaking to an empty room with only three attendees. (Despite all the creebing about Creation Con, they are set up to make sure that writers and other behind-the-scenes people are speaking to a full house. And they pay their bills.)

THIRD BONUS HINT — Don’t lie to anyone. Tell the truth to your guests. Keep your promises. Especially the ones that are on your signed contracts. And if you can’t keep your promises, be honest about where you fucked up. Take responsibility like a grownup.

(If the Con Chair will send me a cashier’s check for my travel expenses, I will delete this post. Otherwise, you are all invited to google the various news reports about who else got stiffed in Dallas.)

Glenn Hauman: Trek Against Trump

armin-shimerman-usaFifty years and one month ago, a new TV show came to the airwaves that was unlike anything ever really seen before – science fiction, but not childish stories of space cadets with their zap guns, only different from shoot-em-up westerns because they shot beams of light instead of bullets of lead. Star Trek was something different. Unique. And incredibly long lived. Star Trek has become part of the American story, with the original model of the U.S.S. Enterprise hanging in the Milestones of Flight section of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, right next to the Spirit of St. Louis.

David Gerrold, author of the episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”, recently wrote,

“From the beginning, Star Trek was a series of little morality plays. From the beginning, Star Trek was an examination of the human condition. From the beginning, Star Trek was a vision of a future that works for all of us, with no one and nothing left out. For some people, Star Trek was just another job. Okay, fine. Collect the check and go home. But for many of us, maybe even most of us – Star Trek was something special, something apart from every other job in the world. It was a vision of possibility. It was an assertion that the way things are is not the way they have to be. It was a bold assertion of hope in a decade that had fallen into despair.”

And today, half a century later, despite the dated production values, Star Trek‘s best stories are still strong statements that the future will exist with humans in it, and will be what we make it.

But it’s not easy living up to that standard of a golden future. It requires commitment to an ethos of inclusion, that the stars are not just for rich guys, or white guys, or guy guys – we’re all going to go there. All of us, in our infinite diversity and infinite combinations, boldly going forward.

It requires a commitment to science – all science, not just the stuff that reinforces what you already believe. Why guess when you can learn? When you can know?

It requires a commitment to education – not only learning new things, but letting go off old lessons learned that we cling to because of nostalgia and superstition instead of accuracy.

It requires a commitment to competence. There are times when someone’s got to take the wheel— shouldn’t it be the best driver available? Shouldn’t it at least be someone who’s driven before?

And most of all, it requires a commitment to finding a way to work together instead of against each other. We aren’t going to go anywhere if people keep tossing sand into the machinery.

To a lot of the people who work on the franchise, including at various times me and ComicMix contributors Robert Greenberger, David Mack, Peter David and others, Star Trek is more than mere entertainment— it’s a message of hope, and we make contributions to a secular mythology where we are the gods and demigods who span the heavens.

And there has never been a presidential candidate who stands in such complete opposition to the ideals of the Star Trek universe as Donald John Trump.

That’s why over 130 members (and counting) of the cast, crew, and contributors to the Star Trek universe, including myself, have added their names to a voter mobilization movement called Trek Against Trump, an effort spearheaded by Armin Shimerman – and if the most famous Ferengi in the universe tells you that Trump is a greedy, manipulative, tasteless boor who doesn’t have the brains to run a banana stand, believe him.

Do you want to live in a Star Trek future? Well, you can’t take the future for granted — we build it today by what we all do in the present. If you want a better future, you have to make it happen, and you have to act like citizens of a better future. The people who made the stories of that future are telling you how to make it happen.

There are some who have objected to the group’s explicit call not to vote for third-party candidates, and I say— get over it. The only way Donald Trump is not going to be elected is if Hillary Clinton is. You don’t like “voting for the lesser of two evils”? Then realize you’re voting against the greater of two evils. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. You might have heard that somewhere.

So: register to vote. And if you’re really passionate about it, here is your five week mission– to explore strange new neighborhoods. To seek out 18 and older lifeforms to build civilization. To boldly vote, like you’ve never voted before.

Because if you don’t– Melakon wins.

I’m giving the last word to John deLancie, Star Trek‘s “Q”:


Ed Catto: The Mission of Star Trek – Mission New York


idw-john-bryne-stmnyFans, creators, actors, historians, licensees, NASA and even the United States Post Office celebrated Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary last week at Manhattan’s Javits Center during Star Trek: Mission New York. This convention was a triumph of Geek Culture and how one man’s vision inspired so many others to create one of the most successful and enduring entertainment franchises.

Star Trek fandom has always been passionate and vocal. They’ve banded together to keep the Enterprise flying and have been holding conventions since the 70s. This convention, created by Reed Elsevier’s ReedPop division, was held in the same location as their New York Comic Con. That’s become such a behemoth that, by comparison, Star Trek: Mission New York seemed to embrace a more intimate vibe.

There are benefits to a smaller convention. This was so much easier to navigate than New York Comic Con. There were shorter lines and no crushing crowds. Fans were in a better mood. But try as I might, my observations of this show are undoubtedly influenced by other trade shows and fan-focused shows. And there were a lot of shows this past weekend. Convention expert Rob Salkowitz analyzed the “so many nerds, so little time” phenomenon for Forbes.

star-trek-con-4lPanels: Where the Fans Are

The heart and soul of the convention seemed to be in the panel rooms, even more so than at a conventional trade show or comic con. These panels allowed fans the opportunity to explore the many niches of Star Trek in intense and personal ways, despite sitting in a room with 400 other people.

When I left for college, my dad suggested that it would be wise to join a group or team as a way to break down the overwhelming scope of the university. He was right – and the advice would have been appropriate for Star Trek fans that weekend.

A few of the most fascinating panels included:

  • The Women of Star Trek Reflect on 50 Years – Star Trek actresses candidly discussing the difficult choices they were, and are, often forced to make
  • The Lost Years: Treks that Never Were A panel that explored the strange but unproduced worlds of scripts, movie concepts and series that never made it onto the screen
  • Writing for Star Trek, where David Gerrold, you may know him as the writer of the classic episode, The Trouble with Tribbles (now back in print through ComicMix), passionately encouraged would-be Star Trek writers to create their own books, with their own characters and their own universes
  • Leonard Nimoy: A Tribute provided great history, including photos of Nimoy with Adam West and in costume as the Grand Marshall of a local parade
  • Star Trek: The Roddenberry Vault panel, teasing unseen footage. More on this in a bit
  • A stage reading of Star Trek IV, which I enjoyed more than the actual movie… and I like the movie


Creative and clever cosplay clearly was a theme at this show. Pattern manufacturer Simplicity’s booth spotlighted their licensed Star Trek patterns, but the real creativity was with the fans. Some highlights:

  • A medical student designed and sewed an elegant starship dress
  • One clever fan appeared as an animated Nurse Christine Chapel, who’s arm was miscolored for just a few frames in the Star Trek Animated Series episode The Lorelei Signal
  • A fan dressed as Lt. Uhuru in the toga-esque outfit worn for TV’s first interracial kiss

The cosplay contest on Saturday night also included brilliant pop culture mashups like Khan-ye West, Kim Cardassian, and Ensign Trump, complete with his “Make the Federation Great Again” political sign.

vulcanThe Show Floor

The exhibition floor offered an eclectic group of booths and activities. On one end, NASA’s huge booth helped fans understand upcoming space exploration, (like the Tess satellite) while on the other end, the U.S. Post Office sold the new Star Trek stamps.

In between there was a mix:

  • Comic publisher IDW was there with creatives who were signing comics. The legendary John Byrne made a rare convention appearance to sign copies of his recent photoplay Star Trek
  • Eaglemoss was selling individual Starships and Starship Dedication Plaques from their Star Trek Starships collection. Many sold out quickly. The steady crowd of fans at the booth kept me from speaking to my friends at Eaglemoss crew too much.
  • Likewise, rabid fans kept the Titan booth busy, as they also sold out of many of their products. Their new coffee table book Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years, was gorgeous. I had loved the exhibit that the book is based upon when I saw it in downtown San Diego during July’s Comic-Con.
  • The Smithsonian touted their Star Trek documentary, but somehow that seemed like an assignment a teacher would give you, rather than something fun you’d find on your own. But I’m clearly not giving it a chance and I haven’t seen the documentary yet (it debuted September 4th).
  • Microsoft’s Star Trek: Bridge Crew offers an amazing virtual reality experience for fans. The reality of the long line, however, discouraged me from taking part of it.
  • Star Trek Timelines is an immersive game that spans the many Trek franchises and, for the vast majority of users, is free. A very patient but energized (I mean that in the non-Trek sense of the word) staff helped fans play the game on the mounted iPhones and tablets – and gave away a lot of prizes.

reliant-eaglemossThe Son of….

Rod Roddenberry is the son of Star Trek Creator Rod Roddenberry. Rod carries on the business side of the work that was established years ago as his father, with prescient insight, kept many of the licensing rights.

Rod’s an affable guy. He’s warm, humble and friendly. And he announced an astounding project. It turns out that his father maintained a warehouse full of dailies and outtakes from the original series. Gene Roddenberry had gathered up everything that was on the metaphorical cutting room floor and preserved it. Working with Roger Lay, Jr., Rod and the new team have assembled these treasures in the Star Trek: The Roddenberry Vault, on sale later this year.

star-trek-con-3rA Few Stumbles

For every Wrath of Khan or ST:TNG, there’s a Nemesis or a Star Trek: Enterprise. There were some shortcomings with this convention too.

After 50 years of merchandise, collectibles, comics and books, I was disappointed that there weren’t any dealers selling those treasures in any meaningful way. I had gone into the show on the lookout for vintage Trek comics and books but left empty handed. I wanted to see things like Topps cards, Ben Cooper Halloween outfits and 70s Star Trek guns that fired little plastic disks. I hadn’t planned on buying any of those things… but you never know.

My frustration was compounded when I asked the woman in the information booth if there were any dealers or back issue sellers. She informed me that she “had no idea” but that I “was welcome to wander around the exhibition floor” to try and find what I needed. I was, quite frankly, stung by the impoliteness and uselessness of that suggestion. That’s not the Reed Expo Customer Service that I remember.

The whole exhibition floor was a bit underwhelming, but on the other hand, it seems that companies with product designed for fans sold a lot this weekend. There wasn’t a crushing competition for consumer dollars.

Years ago, I had enjoyed a Star Trek novel now and again, so I was really surprised how unwelcoming the Simon and Schuster booth was to new or in my case, lapsed, readers. I went to that booth planning to purchase a book, but after a sour experience, I decided against it. My to-read pile is tall enough, anyways.

And there’s so much more going on in the “world” of Star Trek fandom that I wish was front and center at this convention. I wanted to learn more about the many Trek podcasts, the high quality fan-films and the boom in impressive fan artwork.

star-trek-con-2Box Office? What Box Office?

Last week, The New York Times had a front-page article on changing movie going habits and this summer’s box office sequels that didn’t become hits. I was surprised to see Star Trek: Beyond on that list. I had thought it made its money back and I had enjoyed the picture. But maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised – the faithful superfans at Star Trek: Mission New York had all but ignored that movie.

The Next Frontier: 50 More Years

What’s the real magic of Star Trek? Is it the hope for an optimistic future? Is it the smart science fiction? Is it the ripping yarns? Is it really just the story of a guy and his buddies? Who knows? I’ll leave it to deeper thinkers to sort that all out. All I know is that Star Trek fan culture is thriving. It’s a robust intersection of fandom, commerce & entrepreneurialism. And that a good time was had by most at Star Trek: Mission New York.


Dennis O’Neil: “Star Wars. Nothing But Star Wars…”


Yo, fellow geeks! Are we holding our breaths? Can we squirm with anticipation for another day or two? Because, as you well know, this is the week. The latest Star Wars flick is about to open and hey! I thought the fuss surrounding the release of the last Batman movie was a big honking deal, but that, compared to the Star Wars fuss, was a third grade talent show.

At what point will we see it (and be assured that, despite our extreme maturity, we will see it because under our wrinkles live, well, geeks.) Will we be waiting at the 21-plex when its cute little machines and pleasant humans begin ticket-selling on Friday morning? Or will we exercise a little self-restraint and avoid the mall for another little while until the dust settles and maybe there’s a few more parking spaces? (But who am I kidding? It’s the holiday season and there will never be enough parking spaces, at least not until January. Then maybe.)

Television commercials and magazine covers and news stories…

Yep, big honking deal, all right and a stark contrast to the release of the first Star Wars entertainment, way back in 1977. I saw that almost be accident. I was doing something or other in Los Angeles when I encountered David Gerrold, science fiction writer and editor who had, bless him, published an early sf story of mine in an anthology. David was going to a movie screening and had an extra ticket and was I interested and… why not? I knew virtually nothing about the movie but David was pleasant company and the screening was in a theater owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the Oscar awarders – which made it the toniest theater I’d ever visited. I was going to pass that up? Nope.

What followed was a great afternoon in the dark.

And Star Wars quickly became a hit (and helped spawn an interest in mythology) and, along with its sequels, has been in our heads ever since. All to the good? Shrug. I’m a pop culture guy – read: geek – and you’re not about to catch me knocking the stuff that’s given me so many good moments and, not incidentally, kept me warm and nourished for about a half century.

But I look at the news media and behold the shabby state of the world and wonder if, as a civilization, we aren’t paying too much attention to our amusements and not enough to matters that make us squirm, not with anticipation, but with dread. Global warming. Terrorism. Mass shootings. Mutating microorganisms. Racism. Education. You know. To find relief from the planet’s woes we engross ourselves in all things pop culture, and let’s include athletics and gossip in that category, and we neglect what’s genuinely important and when the world worsens from the neglect, we again run from the fear the neglect causes by seeking refuge in the trivia that, arguably, has been contributing to the worsening. Round and round and round…

But, you know? Maybe if we get to the mall early, before school lets out, we might find a parking space…

(The editor would like to thank Nick “Winters” for inspiring today’s headline. His Christmas special presently airs on Netflix.)