[Update! On 8 February the EFF reported that Amazon has reinstated Spots the Space Marine. This is excellent news, but the fight isn't over yet. Read the full article here.]
My next post was going to be a long-winded reflection on our first year in France. You have been temporarily spared. I’ve just returned from reading the blog of M.C.A. Hogarth, author of Spots the Space Marine (among other things), and all I can say is Games Workshop, really?
On 13 December, 2012, Hogarth reported that “Games Workshop has accused me of infringement on their trademark of the word ‘space marine’.” Amazon, where Hogath’s Spots the Space Marine is currently available as a print book, removed the ebook edition because of this alleged infringement. Go read Hogarth’s initial post here.
Then read the update here.
Then read the further update here on her Livejournal.
And then, if you don’t mind, go read Wikipedia’s entry on the phrase Space Marine:
“The earliest known use of the term “space marine” was by Bob Olsen in his short story “Captain Brink of the Space Marines” (Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8, November 1932)…”
I personally was first introduced to Space Marines in the completely awesome Star Blazers television series. I loved that show so much. Then I read Robert A. Heinlein. You’ve heard of Heinlein. I wonder if Games Workshop has?
“Heinlein won Hugo Awards for four of his novels; in addition, fifty years after publication, three of his works were awarded “Retro Hugos”—awards given retrospectively for years in which Hugo Awards had not been awarded. He also won the first Grand Master Award, given by the Science Fiction Writers of America, for his lifetime achievement. In his fiction Heinlein coined words that have become part of the English language, including “grok” and “waldo”, and popularized the terms “TANSTAAFL” and space marine.” (emphasis mine)
From this I deduce that the phrase Space Marine belongs to the readers and writers, not to a giant gaming company. I agree with what Hogarth says: “I want there to be a world where Heinlein and E.E. Smith’s space marines can live alongside mine and everyone else’s, and no one has the hubris to think that they can own a fundamental genre trope and deny it to everyone else.”
Games Workshop and I go back a long, long time. I used to paint the little figurines. I loved the little figurines. I loved the imaginary world Games Workshop let me play in. I’m not sure there even was a Warhammer in those days. It is in Warhammer we find the GW version of Space Marines. I’d like to point out to GW that their version is just that, one version of an old archetype loved by many people — some of whom I’d bet don’t even know what Warhammer is.
Hogarth hasn’t formulated a plan yet. Lawyers cost more than most writers I know could afford. What income she was earning from the sales of the ebook edition of Spots the Space Marine is now a thing of the past, thanks to GW’s draconian and downright ignorant enforcement of a trademark that may not even hold up in a court of law (read Hogarth’s posts for more info). I don’t know what the outcome of this travesty will be, but I can’t help but wonder what the Heinlein Estate would do if Games Workshop had gone after them.