May 23, 2013
Amazon to monetize fan fiction, he moaned
by Dustin Kurtz
“Blair,” Jeff whispered, his lips almost touching her earlobe, “I have something I need to tell you.”
“Jeff, please,” Blair danced away. She laughed coyly, mercilessly. They’d both had too much to drink.
“It’s important you listen to me, Blair.” Jeff ran his hands over his gleaming scalp. He was sweating.
“Fine, talk, ” she said, looking away. “But don’t bore me, Jeff. I’m warning you. There are plenty of other rich boys in tight pants at this party, and some of them can dance.”
The air was heavy in this velvet-curtained room on Park Avenue. Her necklace glinted in the lights from cars passing far below.
“Blair, I’ve started a new program to make money off of fan fiction,” he pleaded. “I’m letting authors sell stories on a platform I’m calling Kindle Worlds. We’ve licensed three so-called ‘worlds’ from one company, to start. So now authors can submit fan fiction using the plots, setting, and characters of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, or The Vampire Diaries.”
Blair stalked past him over to the balcony doors. “Jeff, that sounds like a fine and interesting thing. So good, in fact, that I find it all a little…” she tossed her hair and let her empty martini glass fall to the deeply carpeted floor “…boring.”
“Wait, wait!” Jeff could feel himself growing shrill. He wished he had a bookseller or temp worker or British Prime Minister to rough up. That always calmed him down. “It’s not so simple. I’m paying the fan fiction authors, it’s true, but at half the rates I pay the rest of our self-publishing authors. And the licensing is downright evil!”
Blair opened the heavy balcony doors and the city noise, the city air, rushed in. It smelled of youth and wealth and a hint of her perfume.
“Listen…” Jeff unfolded his arm and revealed the bioelectric screen embedded there beneath his definitely-not-the-Borg-because-we-don’t-have-licenses-for-that-franchise human skin camouflage. “This is from our first announcement about the program:
Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.
You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. We will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other’s ideas and elements. We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.”
There was a strange whistling and Jeff felt a sudden wind on his sallow cheeks. He looked up again. Blair was pressed against the crimson wallpaper, silent with fright, though in her eyes Jeff saw a flicker of something more like the flickering flame of curiosity. Standing close—too close—before him was Damon Salvatore, a vampire nearly two centuries old in a loose-fitting shirt and pants that hugged his thighs like an oily leather skin.
“So this is more akin to a the sort of freelance work that’s common in, for instance, movie tie-in books, or comic books?” he asked in his honeyed voice, leaning over Jeff.
Jeff felt like he couldn’t move, as if Salvatore’s gaze held the unbearable weight of each of the immortal’s years. “Yes, but at much worse rates. John Scalzi seems to get it right when he writes:
‘I would caution anyone looking at this to be aware that overall this is not anywhere close to what I would call a good deal. The thing that can be said about it is, it’s a better deal than you would otherwise get for writing fan fiction, i.e., no deal at all.’”
Jeff looked up from his arm screen to find that Damon had leaned in close enough that he could smell the cool death on his breath. “Glad to see you’re up to your usual business, Jeff—taking a happy and vibrant community and doling out a pittance to exploit and corrupt it.”
He placed his long-fingered hand on Jeff’s chest. Jeff heard himself whimper quietly from somewhere beyond his control. “And what about content, Jeff? I assume there are restrictions? You have to take the fun out of it somehow.”
“Well we’re not allowing crossover, where characters from two fictional worlds interact.” Jeff could barely get the words out now. He had never felt this strange intensity, this lust for anyone. He felt a strange throb where his soul had once been, years ago. He’d forgottten all about cruel little Blair.
“We’re also not allowing anything we deem pornography. Or ‘offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.’”
“Well, then, Jeff, we’ll just have to be sure not to do anything ‘offensive’, won’t we?” Damon’s muscles were like iron as he pushed Jeff softly down onto the plush lounge chaise. “Fortunately, I’m not so easily offended.”
And that is the story of how Jeff Bezos had robotic sex with a vampire.
Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.