Semantic Shenanigans Episode 1 – Origin Stories

Janet Gershen-Siegel

Jespah (Janet Gershen-Siegel) has been a fan of Star Trek since probably the first set of reruns of The Original Series. She has an eclectic background, including an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, a JD (she practiced insurance defense law for a few years in New York and is a lot happier since she retired from that in 1990), and a MS in Interactive Media, which is a real-live social media degree.

Along the way, she has about a decade and a half of data analysis work under her belt and currently works as a blog coordinator for a high-end wedding blog and also as a blogger for hire (topics include diverse subjects like ad retargeting but also the nursing job market), and has a shingle out to work on social media presence, with a focus on independent authors as she is also a published science fiction author. Plus, she has been a community manager for a large Q & A website since 2002, which is before that existed as a job title.

She was raised on Long Island so, when she is riled up, the accent gallops back out and she can sound like Fran Drescher with a law degree. She lives in Boston with her husband of over 20 years and more computers than they need.

She can always be bribed with pie.

Semantic Shenanigans Episode 1 – Origin Stories

Origin Stories. Every fandom has them. So here are ours.
Semantic Shenanigans Episode 1 – Origin Stories

Our first show is ready to download here. We got right down to business with introductions and then launched straight into social with the Shenanigans.

Social Stuff

Shanna went to the Midwest Popular Culture Association conference

http://mpcaaca.org/

Janet got pie!

Thank you, Kasey Shafsky!

Our backgrounds

They don’t involve radioactive spiders or lightning strikes, but we have origin stories reflecting our diverse and (we hope!) interesting backgrounds.

Janet

Janet spent many of her formative years on Long Island (the accent, yo’) and got her undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Boston University. She then attended the Delaware Law School of Widener University in Wilmington. She passed the New York state bar examination and practiced law for a little over three years. Because she worked for an insurance company, she worked in defense, handling trips and falls, car accidents, construction claims, and product liability.

However, practicing was not for her and so she left in 1990. She got married in 1992 and she and her husband moved, first to Providence, Rhode Island and then to Boston in 1995. Janet worked for five years as a legal auditor and spent time as a road warrior, out of town about 200 – 250 days per year. It was great revenge on a profession she’d hated. She then got into IT and worked in data analysis.

In 2013, she participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote a novel which won a competition. The prize was a one-book publishing contract, and so she is also a published author.

In the meantime, she had volunteered as a community manager and became interested in it as a profession. This culminated in getting her MS in Communications (Social Media) from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

She currently works as a blog coordinator for a high-end wedding blog, and as a freelance blogger.

Shanna

Shanna hails from Michigan. She attended Eastern Michigan University for a while, dropped out and went into customer service and then hair cutting. Most importantly, Shanna made her way back to school, getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and then heading to Ohio and Bowling Green State University where she teaches and is getting her doctorate.

She reports that Ohio is a noteworthy source of corn in the world, and not the fun Beavis type of corn.

And then we got started on our first topic.

David Gerrold – Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

First of all, for anyone who does not recognize the name, David Gerrold is very well-known in the Star Trek community. Because he wrote one of the most memorable and beloved episodes of all time, the TOS (original series) episode, The Trouble with Tribbles.

We acknowledge his contribution and offer kudos. However, then we get down to our discussion.

The tribbles episode is pushing fifty, and of course Mr. Gerrold continues to work. However, his most recent foray proved problematic.

Recently, Mr. Gerrold came up with an interesting idea. It was to tell some Star Trek stories, using Dr. Seuss as a means of expression. So essentially the idea was to use the Seuss template to write Trek. And this involved not only the familiar rhyming cadence known to a few generations, but also the iconic illustrations. As a result, the story was to be told in rhyme and its accompanying illustrations were effectively a stylistic copy of the originals, such as are seen in works like The Cat in the Hat. This wholesale copying was essentially his first error. For, while it could be argued that the book was a parody of Star Trek, it was merely using people’s memories and positive feelings about the Seuss ouevre as a means to publish the work, which he was going to call, Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

It’s Kind of Like …

Essentially, it was almost as if I was to parody Ernest Hemingway but do it using Thunderbirds (oh no, now I’ve got an idea …). Thunderbirds, in that instance, would be a mere vehicle. Same thing with Seuss in the real case.

Furthermore, Mr. Gerrold took to Kickstarter in an effort to crowdfund this project. And that was, maybe his second mistake. Because, since Axanar, Kickstarter has realized it needs to be more vigilant about copyrights and crowdfunding. And maybe they were leaning this way on their own. However, the Star Trek lawsuit versus Axanar certainly added to any urgency they might have in doing so. Hence Kickstarter got serious when they heard from the lawyers representing Dr. Seuss Enterprises. And so Kickstarter immediately suspended Gerrold’s campaign.

DMCA Takedown Notices

The lawyers filed what’s called a DMCA takedown notice. DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. First of all, please understand that such notices are not necessary for a copyright or trademark infringement lawsuit to go ahead. And they hold no specific force of law, except they do serve to give an alleged infringer some notice. Furthermore, the alleged infringer can see just how serious the IP holder is, e. g. a notice from a lay person is not going to have the same implications as one from a law firm. However, again I caution readers, with reference to not only the Axanar matter but all others: the notice could have been skipped, and we could have gone straight to a lawsuit.

This Cuts Both Ways

Because I am a lawyer and an IP holder, I’ve had my own experiences with sending DMCA notices. I’ve found the National Press Photographers’ Association has great information. And while the NPPA might be more interested in visual works being infringed, the matters are still similar when it comes to books, plays, etc. Hence I encourage IP holders, big and small, to protect their rights.

Knowing (Willful) Infringement

Finally, what is perhaps of most interest and concern is that Mr. Gerrold certainly knew what he was doing. And he knew there could be possible ramifications. So while he may have thought he was okay with CBS and Paramount (the current IP holders for Star Trek), he still ended up in dutch with the Seuss people.

And how do I know this? Because Mr. Gerrold blogged for Axanar. And he did it not once, not twice, but three separate times. Hence he had to have been fully aware that this kind of wholesale copying, and in particular coupling it with crowdfunding, had the potential to raise ire in IP holders. Why is knowing infringement problematic? Because willful infringement brings higher penalties.

And then we segued into our next topic, because Star Trek now has fan film guidelines. However, when Axanar was sued, some fans pointed out that Star Wars had guidelines. But that’s not quite right.

LucasFilm Sues ‘Lightsaber Academy’ and ‘Jedi Club’ for Trademark Infringement

So in case anyone thought LucasFilm was some sort of fan film paradise and infringe-a-palooza, that person would be in for a surprise. Because this week, LucasFilm filed a pair of trademark infringement lawsuits. Their origin stories are as follows. Trading on renewed interest in Star Wars, Californian Michael Brown opened classes in midtown Manhattan on how to ‘properly’ fight with a lightsaber and how to ‘perform as a Jedi’. Furthermore, Brown’s company used a very similar logo to the original, trademarked LucasFilm Jedi Order Logo.

Hence, LucasFilm sued Brown (in California). And readers are reminded that trademark infringement matters differ from copyright. Because while copyright claims can be pursued at will (or not at all), while still maintaining an ownership interest in an IP, trademark just plain doesn’t work that way. Instead, intellectual property holders must assert their rights in a timely fashion. Fortunately for LucasFilms, Brown’s school was covered in the mainstream media.

And to circle back to both Gerrold and Axanar, anyone who thought the Star Wars rules were somehow signaling tolerance for infringement has to be feeling chilled by this big bucket of cold water suddenly thrown over that idea. Because not only are the Star Wars fan film contest rules more restrictive (shorter running times make things easier for overburdened judges), Star Wars makes it clear they will own a fan’s work product at the end of the contest. Furthermore, Star Wars fan films created and distributed outside of the official contest operate in the same legal limbo which affected Star Trek unofficial productions prior to the promulgation of the new guidelines.

And then we moved onto our next subject, which is extremely topical.

Trek Against Trump

Recently, on Facebook, a new group emerged. And of course groups are created all the time. However, this one married Star Trek and politics. Trek Against Trump opened with a bang, a kind of manifesto. A veritable Who’s Who of Star Trek professionals, from in front of and behind the camera, and within the book-writing community, came out and said the following:

  • Star Trek stands for certain ideals of toleration, such as IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations)
  • The candidate Donald Trump does not, as is evidenced by his statements about women, minorities, and the disabled.
  • The group asks that you not vote for Mr. Trump.
  • The group does not endorse any other candidate.

They have just under 30,000 likes (as of the writing of this blog post), and the new page was covered in the Hollywood Reporter. The group’s size is somewhere between small and moderate, particularly for notables on Facebook.

Some of the biggest names include:

  • JJ Abrams
  • René Auberjonois
  • Scott Bakula
  • Brannon Braga
  • LeVar Burton
  • John Cho
  • Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • Michael Jan Friedman
  • Dominic Keating
  • Walter Koenig
  • Justin Lin
  • Gates McFadden
  • Robert Duncan McNeill
  • Nicholas Meyer
  • Anthony Montgomery
  • Ronald B. Moore
  • Kate Mulgrew
  • Larry Nemecek
  • Adam Nimoy
  • Susan Nimoy
  • Simon Pegg
  • Chris Pine
  • Zachary Quinto
  • Eugene & Heidi Roddenberry
  • Brent Spiner
  • Marina Sirtis
  • George Takei
  • Connor Trinneer
  • Karl Urban
  • Wil Wheaton

The fandom had mixed reactions. Some support this initiative. Other persons who intend to vote for candidate Trump often seem to feel the fandom no longer welcomes them. And the third opinion doesn’t take a position on any of the candidates but those fans feel the brand has been improperly coopted for a political statement.

Politics in Star Trek

However, Star Trek has always been about politics and making political statements. Nichelle Nichols and George Takei didn’t get bridge crew roles just because of their talent; they were also hired because of their races. And Walter Koenig did not play a Russian crew member just for fun; Chekov’s mere presence told the audience that the Cold War wouldn’t last forever. Furthermore, the character casting choices followed through with people of the same races in the Kelvin timeline films, e. g. Zoe Saldana and John Cho. In addition, the late Anton Yelchin’s casting kept Chekov Russian, and not just some guy with a Russian surname but with neither accent nor pride of origin.

And Star Trek didn’t just show the first interracial kiss on television. Other episodes contain controversial subjects. For example, in the TNG episode, The Outcast, Riker falls for a woman (Soren) from a world which denies gender. In Enterprise, T’Pol was mind melded with against her will (and the presentation was very much like a rape) and contracted a disease, Pa’nar Syndrome. The Stigma episode referenced the earlier attack and the writers intended to parallel HIV.

And this discussion segued to our final subject.

Problematic Fandoms – Loving Something with Issues

Much like we often love flawed individuals, fandoms can also come with issues. Perfection? Elusive at best. Furthermore, fans sometimes lord it over each other, attempting to decide on authenticity or judge others’ commitments. Much like with Trek Against Trump, however, the fandom usually doesn’t act as a monolith.

Consider the Kelvin timeline (e. g. the JJ Abrams films). Some fans love it. Others feel the former aren’t ‘real’ fans. Still others feel it’s impossible to love both the Kelvin timeline and classic Trek. Yet none of these groups should speak for all fans.

Dr. Who sometimes experiences similar issues, when the actor playing the Doctor changes. However, no one seems to bat an eye when James Bond gets a new face. Fandom reactions are mixed when an IP changes.

How do you, as a fan, react to changes? Tell us in the comments, if you like. Or send us a note!

Thank you!

Thanks for listening to our origin stories! Our show would not be possible without the help, kindness, and generosity of some truly wonderful people. First of all, we would like to thank Busy Little Beaver Productions and more specifically the G & T Show for giving us this great opportunity. We would also like to thank our music providers, Cerys and Kailani of Invocation Array. Thank you, ladies!

So our biggest thanks go to sound engineer extraordinaire, Michael Medeiros, and his niece, Katie, our announcer girl. Yes, we have the only announcer who has to take a break and study fractions and the times tables.

Furthermore, we would also like to thank our families for instilling in us our curious and creative impulses, and for encouraging us in all we do.

Finally, thank you, our audience. Because you’re why we are here. We do this for you.

Our Next Show

And in case you weren’t sure, our next show will be live and it will be a part of the 24 hours of G & T. This is the annual fundraising drive for Busy Little Beaver Productions. Because servers cost bucks! However, any funds raised go only to the running of the shows and their associated websites. And we don’t use raised funds for personal expenses, convention trips, etc. So be sure to join us on October 29 and 30 (our specific segment will be on the 29th) when we talk to the Women at Warp podcast! And stay tuned for three AM when suddenly everything seems to be a good idea. Be very afraid.

Show Note URLs

Finally, please check out these links to our origin stories and everything else we talked about!

Janet’s Presence on Social Media

Janet has a huge presence on social media. And a lot of it connects to what were originally class projects. However, some links directly relate to her writing, either professionally or as an avid fan ficcer.

Shanna’s Presence on Social Media

Shanna is a lot more focused than Janet is when it comes to social media. And you can always follow her on Twitter.

David Gerrold and Dr. Seuss

Mr. Gerrold’s legal saga highlights are here:

LucasFilm

Trek vs. Trump

Problematic Fandoms

Busy Little Beaver Productions and The G & T Show

While you’re here, please check out our parent show and the links to our sister shows.

Invocation Array

Thank you SO much, Cerys and Kailani!

Mike & Announcer Girl Katie

And Mike is a published author, too! Please check out his work. It’s just wonderful.

Janet Gershen-Siegel

Jespah (Janet Gershen-Siegel) has been a fan of Star Trek since probably the first set of reruns of The Original Series. She has an eclectic background, including an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, a JD (she practiced insurance defense law for a few years in New York and is a lot happier since she retired from that in 1990), and a MS in Interactive Media, which is a real-live social media degree. Along the way, she has about a decade and a half of data analysis work under her belt and currently works as a blog coordinator for a high-end wedding blog and also as a blogger for hire (topics include diverse subjects like ad retargeting but also the nursing job market), and has a shingle out to work on social media presence, with a focus on independent authors as she is also a published science fiction author. Plus, she has been a community manager for a large Q & A website since 2002, which is before that existed as a job title. She was raised on Long Island so, when she is riled up, the accent gallops back out and she can sound like Fran Drescher with a law degree. She lives in Boston with her husband of over 20 years and more computers than they need. She can always be bribed with pie.

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3 Comments:

  1. Pingback: G & T Show 257 - Jad and Branet - G & T Show

  2. Janet Gershen-Siegel

    Aw, shucks, thanks! <3

  3. Great show.

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