Last Post on the Whole 1PDC Softcover Book Thing

1. I've been getting a lot of emails about my "tone"--from people calling me a tool to people saying I was too harsh to people telling me I was justifiably indignant. Tone is hard to read without verbal inflection. Suffice to say, my use of "what the fuck is going on," "WTF," "dick move," and "seriously pissed" might sound angry, might sound annoyed, might sound juvenile. Imagine The Dude saying these things. Then imagine Pee Wee Herman saying these things. Then imagine Krusty the Clown saying these things. Different tone each time, right? Right. Even if they were all angry or shocked or indignant, the tone you are hearing in your head is different.

What people are objecting to is not my tone but my word choice and the accusations I leveled. As George Carlin says, words are just words and it's the context that counts—and in this case the words were justified as I *was* shocked and indignant.

Bitching about "tone" was also a nice attempt to avoid dealing with the issues I raised. And notice that eventually Alex was kind enough to provide a detailed response.

2. Why didn't I email Alex privately? I didn't want a private conversation. This needs to be aired publicly as it was never discussed publicly before the book was printed, at least as far as I can tell. And to claim that he would have liked to have been contacted privately about it is a bit ironic, considering he never contacted me (and the other contributors) about the book being planned or in production.

3. I have never had a problem with the legality of someone paying to print the book. The CC license required for submissions to the 1PDC allows for commercial reproduction. It has been repeatedly explained by Alex himself (read the comments at the link) that this was done to allow anyone the ability to take a PDF to a local copy shop or upload it to a print-on-demand service (like and have a copy of the PDF bound in hard copy form. Because money changes hands in these instances—-you would be paying for the service of having the PDF printed, and thus the printers make a small profit--the commercial clauses of the license seemed reasonable.

But a single individual paying to make a one-off copy of the book is not what happened here. We have a small press publisher working with the contest coordinator to print and sell a book for a profit for at least several companies -- in this case, the publisher (Precis Intermedia), Ingram (the book distribtor), and booksellers (, your FLGS, etc.) all make a tiny profit. Meanwhile, those of us who created the work -- and really, there were some top-notch writers and artists who contributed (just look at Jobe Bittman's "Into the Demon Idol" for example) -- get nothing. And of course, this is legal.

But it isn't right.

Yes, I supposedly should have known that when I slapped that required CC license on my work. And I guess I did, but now I realize I was an idiot to trust Alex's explanation that the only reason for using that particular version of the CC license was because it allows someone to have their own copy printed off at a copy shop.

And I guess I'm an even bigger idiot to not know that Alex was working with Brett (the publisher) -- either before the contest or after the contest -- to bring a print version for sale to the general public. Because they clearly made it known far and wide that they were doing so, didn't they? Wait a minute--they didn't?

Yeah. See why I was a bit perturbed?

I have consistently claimed that selling this work in a printed format WITHOUT telling the contributors is a breach of ethical behavior. In no way does what Alex and Brett have done demonstrate respect for the moral principals of honesty and fairness. In fact, they didn't even offer an explanation about it until I posted my "angry rant," as Alex called it. The silence until pressed doesn't seem very fair or honest to me.

Fair and honest would be to contact those whose work is being sold and telling them that it is. Alex has every contributor's email address, as folks sent their submissions to him via email. How hard would it have been to write a quick note and say they were planning to do this, does anyone object? Or even better, why didn't he openly discuss it on his blog? Or better yet, why not mention on the 1PDC announcment page that printing the book for sale might be a possibility?

Brett can't claim that Precis Intermedia is printing the book "as a service to the community" if the community doesn't know about it. And he's not doing it as a service--he's doing it for a profit, however slim that might be. If this was being done for the community, the community would have known about it long before it was a done deal.

We might not have a legal right to object, but we sure do have a moral one. I don't like that this was done without my knowledge.

All someone had to do was ask. They weren't required to ask. But it would have been the ethical thing to do.

So, yeah, it wasn't fair or honest.

4. At the end of the day, here's the deal: Beware the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. That link, by the way, is to the full legal code, not the softly worded summary. By using this particular CC license, you give up commercial control of your work.


Digital Orc said…
Thanks for the info. I found a print copy of this at Origins this year and was surprised as I didn't know it existed. They did cite me as author and writer. Interesting note: At $29.99 it was beyond my wallet.
Matthew Schmeer said…
@Digital Orc: Yes, the price is a bit galling. I think it's a shame for anyone to discover their name and work in print and yet not be able to afford a copy of the book in which that work appears. I'm in the same boat. I don't have $60 to blow on the two books which contain my entries.

Needless to say, I won't be submitting work to next year's contest if the same license terms apply. That's no big loss to anyone, obviously--my ideas are half-cracked and gonzo and I can't draw a map worth spit.

That said, the prize I won was worth a lot--I received 19 PDF issues of NOD magazine, which sell for roughly $2.50 each, so that was roughly a $48 prize. I also received an electronic copy of Dungeon Map Classics from Undercity Games, which retails for $8. My prize package was worth roughly $56 bucks, then -- which about equals the price of both books.

So, to me, it's not about the money. It's about the principle of the thing.
Anonymous said…
I think your challenge was just. Those had best tread lightly who would make their business of a neighbour's pleasure.
Anonymous said…
Yeah, some sort of notification that this was going to happen would have been nice. I mean, on one hand, I want to be excited that I've got an adventure in print, on the other hand, Alex's apologia post is not how I wanted to find out about it. I really think that if this had been done as something of a collaborative effort, everyone would be a lot happier about it. But as it is, it's kind of like those scam poetry 'contests' where they accept every single entry and then publish them in expensive coffee table editions which they turn around and sell to the entrants. Only this time, the people publishing the book weren't even the ones accepting entries.
Matthew Schmeer said…
@cirsova: Agreed. And that's my entire point in a nutshell.