Let me tell you a secret… I don’t really like military fic in general. I skim the battle sequences in Lord of the Rings, and you’ll rarely find me picking up a book with soldiers and guns on the cover. Of course, there are exceptions to everything.
One of those exceptions would be Spots the Space Marine, an atypical humans-vs-aliens war story. It is the story of a woman who is first a mother and second a soldier, and what happens when her reserve unit gets called to the front of an interstellar war. She bakes cookies. She doesn’t swear. She kills the enemy. And she’s just flat-out awesome.
Spots began as a serial on M.C.A. Hogarth’s livejournal, where I first read it. Later, it was published as an e-book and a print book. You used to be able to get both on Amazon, but right now you can’t. The print book is available, but the e-book has been taken down. So has the archive of the serial, which had been available free to read on the web.
You see, Games Workshop, which makes the game Warhammer 40K, asserts that any and all mention of “space marine” outside its own works infringes on its trademark of the term. Despite the fact that their trademark in the US does not include any mention of e-books, or fiction at all for that matter. Despite the fact that the phrase can be legitimately traced back to the pulp fiction of the ’30s. Despite that it is currently in use in any number of sci-fi books dating back to Heinlein and up to the present.
So who do they attack about use of the term? A suburban working mom whose writing directly funds her daughter’s education, and who voluntarily sends a portion of all sales of Spots to the Wounded Warrior Project. An indie writer with no support system to handle a major lawsuit. I suspect that they may well have picked her because her title character is a woman and prominently portrayed on the cover. I have no proof of this, but given some of the things I’ve learned about GW since this began, it would not surprise me.
I have followed Micah’s blog since she started on livejournal ten years ago. I have been a fan of her work for longer. I own several prints of her art and have read her serials and a number of her short stories. I admit to bias in this situation; I am a fan and somewhat of a friend (I hope). At the very least, I respect her greatly.
Micah may be indie at the moment, but she’s been a pro member of SFWA in the past. She knows the value of editing and layout, and she’s even done her own cover art. The books she produces are as close to pro-publishing as one can get in the indie world. She knows how the business works. It doesn’t work like this.
When Games Workshop first came after her, she contacted Amazon and then Games Workshop directly. When they both blew her off, she contacted lawyers. But as a working mom in our economy, she doesn’t exactly have the wherewithal to manage a massive lawsuit on her own. So she did what any good geek would do and took to the internet.
Yesterday, the geekosphere got wind of this, and it exploded across the internet. Today, major news outlets are talking about it. I am very happy about this turn of events, and I am glad to see the outpouring of support. I’m sure it’s been overwhelming, but as far as I can tell, the response has been largely positive. Huzzah to all who have extended their support. There have been some encouraging signs so far.
If you’re interested in the coverage, Micah’s got a page on her wiki collecting the articles. Go read it.
So that’s why today, and until this situation is resolved, I am a Space Marine. Not only because the attack is on someone I know and respect, but also because it’s an attack on the whole genre. Genre is nothing without its tropes, and space marines are part of its great history. Space marines are not figures in a game, though those figures can be space marines. Space marines belong to all of us; those who write and those who read and those who dream.
Go Team Kitty!