Excerpt from Cory's story "The Man Who Sold the Moon"



I should write a story called Stranger in a Strange Land.


Why reuse such a well-known title?

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The sinterer would be lighter-weight if the lens was of the Fresnel kind. I think that with some care these could be poured from transparent resin to a silicone mould made from a factory-made lens (todo: try), in a hacklab.

Sealed bearings for space… unless they are for Moon, they won’t be exposed to much of dust. Moon dust is Da Bitch. Space itself has a different set of trouble; atomic oxygen on low orbit that eats through silver and corrodes all it can, hard UV that does a number on polymers, thermal cycling that provides the delicious cyclic loads that breed fatigue cracks, thermal management problems as what you won’t radiate out stays with you (and conversely you can radiate it out all and freeze solid), outgassing of everything that creates a merry cloud of molecules that follows you, breaks down by the hard UV and deposits on your panels and sensor ports, and for moving parts there’s the always happy can of lubrication worms.

Nice story. I had a similar thought of a roving solar sinterer but it was for a Moon base.

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I do like your work, Cory, but this is the second time I’ve seen you use someone else’s title for your work.

I, Robot was used by Isaac Asimov and The Man Who Sold The Moon was used by Robert Heinlein.

It’s okay, it’s probably irony or something!

I enjoyed the excerpt. Thanks Cory.

He has a series of (otherwise) unrelated stories that riff off some cornerstone SF titles.

[digs around in the internet for a bit]

Ah, here we go:

In spring 2004, in the wake of Ray Bradbury pitching a tantrum over
Michael Moore appropriating the title of Fahrenheit 451 to make
Fahrenheit 9/11, I conceived of a plan to write a series of stories with
the same titles as famous sf shorts, which would pick apart the
totalitarian assumptions underpinning some of sf’s classic narratives.


I, Robot was also followed by I, Rowboat

If I return to this theme, it will be with a story about uplifted cheese sandwiches, called “I, Rarebit.”

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You know that Asimov took the title “I, Robot” from Eando Binder’s book?

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Thanks for that!

That doesn’t really help. “I, Rowboat” is cute and witty and works quite well as a title, but straight-up copying well-known names unmodified is just being confusing and difficult for its own sake.

As it happens, I did. How is that relevant? “A famous person did it first” isn’t much of a defense.

Hey, Cory, using an old saw like “He did it first!” just doesn’t cut it, at least not past maybe second grade…

As an avid reader for longer than you have been sucking air, I find your use of identical titles of “golden age” stories to be simply distasteful and, sorry, disrespectful not only of the original author and story, but of the reader.

I enjoy a lot of your writing, Cory, but the use of titles such as this just leaves me cold, and actually unwilling to even read the story.

You’re better than this Cory, more original. A title that is a take-off of the original would be great and potentially amusing and inventive. Just doing a cut and past on a classic title, not so.

Perhaps I should try out using Cory Doctorow as an alias for a while. Would save me from the excessive effort of coming up with a more original alias, eh? :wink:

Take care,

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Good idea. There’s at least 7 other stories with that name. At least yours will stand out from the crowd.

Also: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SimilarlyNamedWorks

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Do you listen to cover versions of songs and think “you jammy uncreative bastards!” ?

I hope you never find out about Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation.

One of my first thoughts was “whoah, this will cause confusion.” My second thought was “heh! That’s pretty cool.”

Phrases like “you’re better than that” are just concern trolling, and I won’t deign to answer them. The fact that you’re old is likewise irrelevant here. You’ve read sf for a long time. So have I. If we’re going to start playing credentials, we could count lots of things besides seniority to establish our right to hold opinions about literature, such as hundreds of thousands of books sold, or number of graduate workshops taught, or volume of critical essays in print, or any number of other metrics. But I’d prefer to confine the discussion to substantive points, not “I read more SF than you so I’m right so there.”

The point isn’t that “someone else did it, so it’s OK” – it’s that the use and re-use of titles, references and allusion are a critical part of discourse in the arts. The reason Eando Binder called their novel “I, Robot” was a reference to “I, Claudius.” Asimov’s story was a response to the Binders. The three different tales called “Nightfall” all comment upon one another.

Whether or not the way that I engage in that discourse is to your tastes isn’t really here nor there. The stories please me, their maker, and are both popular and critically acclaimed, and have garnered two Hugo nominations, a Locus Award and dozens of reprints in many languages to date.

You’re entitled to your aesthetic judgement, but the pretence that there is some objective consensus that holds the re-use of titles to be beyond the pale (despite a long and honorable tradition of it), then this is clearly, factually wrong.


What about a story about the particle accelerator business? “The Man Who Sold the Muon”?

…edit: also, from the online/virtual porn industry, “The Man Who Sold the Moan”…?

Such permutations could make a nice collection of short stories…

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One more thought re lenses and hacklabs. Amateur astronomers grind-polish their lenses and mirrors for centuries already, and they aren’t any worse than “pro-made” ones. There are jigs that can be made for it, there is quite a lot of documentation out there.

With lasercutting and 3d-printing on hand, if you cannot make it directly, whatever it is, you can more often than not make tools and jigs for making it. Cannot print metal? Print it from wax, lost-wax cast it (though it is usually done with PLA these days). Cannot print glass? Make a jig for grinding a block into desired shape; it can even be automated so you go away for the weekend and leave the shop bot working (and watch the progress on the cellphone to see if you should return earlier to replace the failed workpiece or if it works as desired).

Within the laws of physics, there is no “impossible”. There is only “not feasible” and “we don’t know yet how to approach it well enough”.

That would be the opposite of what I was talking about, actually, since Scalzi deliberately did not reuse one of Piper’s titles.

That’s not what “concern trolling” means, and it’s pretty crappy to assume that Tom Losh wasn’t being sincere when he said “you’re better than that.” There’s quite a few of us who really do like your work, Mr. Doctorow, and it would be less frustrating if we could dismiss you out of hand when you do silly things (and this one is pretty minor, comparatively). Obviously you don’t agree with us, but please at least have the courtesy to recognize that we’re being sincere.

Instead of re-using a title, which is not copyrightable, and commonly reused, he rewrote the book.

I’ve always been baffled that in music remixing, sampling, and “variations on a theme by Foo” (as well as improvisation) is common and respectable, but it literature it’s now sneered at. Some sort of post-oral thing, I suppose.

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