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April 8, 2004
The Year 1632 Was a Good One for Copyright
Well, not in this universe, but in the alternative universe of science fiction/fantasy author and editor Eric Flint [warning: website has lots of annoying java].
I've written about Eric Flint before, on LawMeme (Melancholy About the Future of Copyright). Flint is one of the main forces behind the Baen Free Library, which makes many of publisher Baen's books available for reading online, "no conditions, no strings attached." If you like science fiction and fantasy, go now and enjoy.
But read on, when you get back ...
In any case, one of Flint's more popular books is 1632, which was published in 2000 (and is now available for free online). The novel recounts what happens when a modern West Virginia mining town is mysteriously transported to medieval Europe. Not only do you have the obvious pleasures of modern technology meeting low technology, but you also have modern American values confronting the medieval point of view. As one website puts it, "Cardinal Richelieu is not amused." [Hmmm ... there seem to be interesting parallels with current events ... Knock it off, this isn't a political blog - Ed.] Personally, I found the novel quite entertaining.
Of course, I'm not the only one who likes the novel (and its sequels). There is an official fansite called, creatively, the Official 1632 Fan Site. The about page has this to say:
Fan fiction, fan activity, and fan participation has long been a staple in the science fiction community. But Baen's Bar has taken it to a whole new level. The hundrends of participants have become a strong support group and built-in research crew to Baen's stable of authors. But even for the Bar, Eric Flint's 1632 universe has attracted an unprecedented amount of activity. When you have over 200 posts arguing the subject of fulminate of mercury and whether or not it is possible, probable, safe, desirable, etc., etc., you know you have a winner. Dozens and dozens of would-be authors have posted stories based on the 1632 series. Since 1999 around 100,000 messages have been posted.
One of the great things about the universe Eric Flint has created is that he has encouraged others to add to that universe with fan fiction. Indeed, there is even the Baen-published Grantville Gazette (soon up to Vol IV) where the best fan fiction is collected and can be purchased online (which pays for making it available). I bet this has meant a lot more books sold for Baen and Flint.
More importantly, however, this openness has assisted consumers become creators. This is a very good thing.
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