Sunday, June 20, 2010


The sun shone. The sky was that beautiful blue one gets on perfectly clear days: only there on the rarest of days, and all the better for it. It made the straw into spun gold, the grass greener than any emerald, even the roads were bright.

"Storyteller! Storyteller!"

I smiled at the girl who ran towards me, straw shoes smacking on paving stones, hair messily tied back, dress undyed and wrinkled. Her eyes were bright as the sky, and her hair matched the hay. There were ink stains on her fingers, still sharp black against sunburned skin. And, of course, scrolls spilled out of her arms.

"Yes, Prema?"

"I--I got a commission!" She beamed at me. Prema had had some trouble around that. Never cleaning up will lose you quite a few jobs, no matter how well you write or tell.

"Wonderful, little one." I ruffled her hair, to the extent that was possible. "Who's the lucky patron?"

She gave some impressive title that rolled off her tongue as well as one of her first stories told around the campfire did now. My lips twitched. She'd been practicing her patron's name. "And what does she want you to write?"

Prema's eyes were still as bright, but their character changed. "Um, tell, actually." Now she shifted the scrolls to one arm and pushed her hair out of her eyes. " has to be something new." She shifted her weight and licked her lips, suddenly huddling in on herself. "She--she saw some stuff I wrote, and she wanted me to write something for her, then tell it, for her guests at the party."

"And you're getting...?"

"A good outfit, a night around potential clients, dinner and a few silver pieces." She flushed a little at the last, as if accepting food and fine clothing for one of her stories was perfectly acceptable, but money unthinkable.

I nodded and smiled. "Good, for a first commission." Premmy relaxed a little. "And what have you got there to look at?"

"Oh! Well, everything."


She laughed. "All right, not everything. Everything I've ever written. Unless a muse decides to come around and smack my head with a new idea, I don't have time to come up with a whole new story from scratch and memorize it in time."

"Oh? When's the party?"

She grinned sheepishly at me. "...A week? I know; I know!" was all she said to my look, "but I've got fittings, and...well, I'd get so nervous."

I laughed. "As you wish. So you need to pick one to finish."

"Yes! I've got all of these memorized as far as they go, they just don't end."

"Well, which one did your lovely patron like?"

"Oh...well, this one." She juggled the papers around until she had the right one on top.

"You know, you could put those on the bench." I nodded over and we sat together, keeping all the scrolls between us. When she handed me the scroll I'd asked after, she looked away. It didn't take me long to figure out why. The characters were a little exaggerated at times, and it skipped over some things I wouldn't've skipped, but...

"I didn't know you were writing an autobiography."

She squirmed a little. "I--I mean--I'm sorry! I know I should've asked you before I showed it to anyone, but she wanted to see something and I forgot to take it off the shelf! I--" By then her eyes were starting to fill.


She flinched. "Yes?"

How to say it... "You wrote beautifully. This is your story. I happen to be in it, but this, as it is written, is your story. As far as I am concerned, you never have to worry about showing this to anyone. If I had been hurt by this, it would have been because you believed something bad of me, not because you had written of it." I squeezed her shoulders and took in the air, tinted with the soft smell of hay and the warm smell of life, in general. "Not everyone will feel that way. But I'm your teacher too, and I'm honored I was there so much."

She looked at me. For a moment, she waited, as if she thought I would tell her it was some joke. Then she wiped her eyes, hugged me, and gathered everything up.

As she dashed away, she called over her shoulder, "I've got an ending!"

I smiled and walked around town. Nothing ever ends. But she'd found an ending, at least, and that would be enough for her patron. Knowing her, it would be fantastic. She wouldn't stop until it was.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Theft, Inspiration and Muses

The moon, a statuette, a loved one, sudden surge of hope, adrenaline rush, sunlight pattering on leaves, dappling, the sunset, fire.

Music. Amusing. Musings...there are doubtless more.

The fun bit in muses is half the effect they have here, now. Then the effect that work has. The Muses themselves inspire words, and the idea of them continues to inspire--is this the Muse yet speaking, or her echoes? Does it matter?

And there is that other piece, where it is no the work inspired that acts a a muse, a font of inspiration, not directly. Think of how often the sunrise or sunset has been described as fire. Who was the first? Who knows? But now it permeates, and describing it as another requires another step in thinking. The sun is fire, far away; the sun at the horizon is fire and fiery.

Some muse, some cue in our collective consciousness says that now. The sky is air; blue is water. Brown is earth, as surely as that warm, damp life with a sprig of green is. Wind whips through our hair, fire warms. Fire kills. Water refreshes; drowns. Earth is home, or have we moved past that?

That gives the tumbling, whirling, downright weird world of Muses, muses, inspiration. What would we be without them? We don't know. We can't, our language relies so thoroughly on being present in this culture that has had them for millenia, at least. Were there someone who could tell us, how would we even begin to communicate? Where did that idea come from?

And we're running into this issue, especially with the advent of the internet. Stealing another person's idea is wrong. But what constitutes stealing? For instance, we can no longer say that saying the sunset is like fire is stealing, because there is no one to steal the idea from. If anyone living tries to claim the idea, then there would be too many quotes to count that anyone could come up with--internet--that predate that author's line by at least a century. It would take a while to sift through all the not-quites, but it doesn't even take a handful to make one's point.

BUt copyright solves that, right? Well...legally, yes. But morally? Trot over to DeviantArt or YouTube. Are those things copyrighted, trademarked...? Well, no (not exclusive). Is it right to take them and claim them as one's own? Well, no.

That, we can probably agree upon. Of course, it is difficult to draw the line. Copying outright is wrong, I guess. But what if you use a similar juxtaposition of scenes to a video you saw? You're not copying, and it's not like this person drew the work in the first place--of course, if the creator did, that's just a whole 'nother can of worms. So, is using a similar way of putting clips together really wrong?

Nnnnno? Or does it depend on how long? Doing it for two minutes, thirty seconds of a three-minute video is probably wrong--it really depends on how similar 'similar' is. Doing it for five seconds is probably better, but what if the 2:30 is using similar clips in a completely different fashion, and the five seconds is outright copying?

That's the difference, to me, between inspiration and thievery. Granted, it's not clear cut in practice. But I'd say it's where someone takes the complete piece and steals part of it. This naturally gets difficult in the contexts of AMVs. After all, one is taking another's work. But it is no more stealing than a karaoke night is. Using another's work for profit, that's where it turns darker gray; claiming you made it is outright theft. These people have editing, acting, drawing, whichever, as a job.

ADDENDUM: For the record, I am not trying to imply that AMV-making is not a true art by comparing it to karaoke. This is so for two reasons: 1) I think the term 'true art' is so subjective as to be useless and 2) ...Wow that's a complex question.
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