Honorverse Update Posted by: Dale Franks
on Thursday, June 22, 2006
I recently announced that my Honorverse web site had been chosen as the basis for the canonical images of the rank insignia for the Honor Harrington book series. On 5 Jun 06, I signed a contract with Ad Astra games to that effect.
Subsequently, I was told that David Weber, the Author of the Honorverse book series, felt that I had misrepresented my work as being somehow part of the official canon of the Honorverse. As a result, he denied permission for Ad Astra, or any of his other delegates to use my artwork. As a result, they did not countersign the contract.
This came as a complete surprise to me.
This evening, I was contacted by Mr. weber's official licensee who requested I recreate, as best as I could, the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Honorverse, and my contacts with Mr. Weber and Baen Books.
Since this is a matter touching upon my honor, I not only prepared the reply, but I reproduce it here.
Prior to commencing the account of my interactions with Messrs. Wever, Baen, Mattingly, and Arnold, let me state first and foremost that, if I have ever, in word or deed, caused any offense to any of these gentlemen, I apologize abjectly for it. It has never been my intent to misrepresent or otherwise falsely characterize my Honorverse artwork as being in any way canonical or officially approved.
I am also willing to go to any length necessary to provide Mr. Weber with any assurances that he requires to satisfy himself that that I willingly, and without any reservations whatsoever, give him the sole and complete ownership of any Honorverse-related images that I have created. Moreover, I am willing to make any revisions, without remuneration, that he considers necessary to conform the images I have created to the canonical vision of the artwork that Mr. Weber envisions.
The account below is based both on memory, and on the reconstruction of my personal email files from the times in question. At the time, I had two computers: A work computer, which, sadly, is no longer extant, and a personal computer which I still own, and use now as a print server, although my contemporaneous files still exist on the machine. The account below is written both from memory, as it concerns the messages I sent via my office computer, and from the contemporaneous files that are still stored on what was then my home computer.
On or about 15 Jan 2000, I sent a PowerPoint presentation to Jim Baen at Baen Books. This presentation contained a set of notional rank insignia, qualification badges, and branch insignia for the Royal Manticoran Navy. This PowerPoint presentation was done basically as a lark. Initially, my creation of this PowerPoint presentation was done for solely personal enjoyment. After I had completed the Powerpoint presentation, I showed it to my partner, Ms. Christine Johnson. At her urging, I sent it on to Jim Baen at Baen books, whose email address I had gotten from the Baen web site.
At no time prior to, nor immediately after sending this presentation, had I had any conversation or other contact with David Weber. Not only do I, nor Ms. Johnson, have no recollection of any such conversation, I can find no record on my personal computer of any conversation, via email, Usenet, or Baen's Bar, with Mr. Weber. My understanding is that Mr. Weber is under the impression that I had some conversation with him, presumably by electronic means, prior to sending the PowerPoint presentation to Jim Baen. Instead, prior to sending the presentation to Mr. Baen, the RMN insignia I drew were shared with no one at all, other than Ms. Johnson. This was entirely a personal project.
I sent the initial presentation to Mr. Baen from my work computer on the morning of 15 Jan 2000 or thereabouts. In that message, I described myself as a fan of Mr. Weber's work, as well as a graphic designer, and proffered the presentation as an example of fan art. Later that day, Mr. Baen replied to me, and asked if I would consent to the presentation being displayed on the Baen.com web site. I consented, and before the end of the day, Arnold Bailey had posted the PowerPoint presentation.
As a fan, I was excited to see my work so prominently displayed. So, I posted a link to the presentation at the Baen Books web site on the alt.books.david-weber Usenet site that evening. A Google archive of that initial post and the replies to it, can be found here.
I immediately resolved to build a web site for my RMN rank insignia. In furtherance of that, I obtained a free domain from virtualave.com, and proceeded to convert the original PowerPoint presentation into a web-friendly format. I announced that intention in the thread linked above.
Again, I reiterate, I had no contact whatsoever with Mr. Weber prior to this time. At that time, however, there were a number of web sites already devoted to the honor Harrington universe, a number of which already had displays of Honorverse rank insignia. I have no knowledge of any conversations Mr. Weber may have had with the operators of those web sites.
By 17 Jan, 2000, the initial work on the web site was completed, and by July of 2000, the web site's initial work was finally completed. A Google archive of my various progress reports, criticisms, etc. of the web site can be accessed via the Google archive for alt.books.david-weber here (this archive is presented in reverse chronological order).
At no time did I ever make any representation that the work on this web site was canonical. I explicitly noted that these were "my vision" of the Honorverse rank insignia. Additionally, the main page of the web site posted prominent copyright notices for the Honor Harrington book series for Mr. weber, as well as the copyright for my personal drawings of the rank insignia.
Apparently, this was not enough of a disclaimer.
Prior to the release of "War of Honor", I noticed that the beret badge that appeared on the cover of the book looked like the Manticore image I had created for the Honorverse web site. On the Friday prior to the release of the book, I asked a local bookstore if they had a copy of the book. They refused to sell a copy to me, but did show it to me. This confirmed to me that the Manticore beret badge imagery on the cover of WoH, had been taken directly from the Honorverse web site. That day, I posted about this experience at the alt.books.david-weber Usenet group, a Google archive of which can be seen here.
At the open of business the next day, I called Baen Books directly, to ask why my imagery had been used on the cover of WoH. Jim Baen, obviously, was not pleased to hear from me. Mr. Baen asked me repeatedly where the image had come from, to which I replied that I had drawn the image for my web site. Mr. Baen promised to look into it.
Later that day, I was contacted via telephone by David Mattingly. Mr. Mattingly told me that the use of my imagery had been an honest mistake. Because the images on the Honorverse web site were so detailed, Mr. Mattingly related to me that he had assumed that they were approved by David Weber, and were part of the canon. Mr. Mattingly related to me that he had confirmed this to Jim Baen. By way of restitution, Jim Baen credited me with the beret badge image on the cover art for "Ashes of Victory" that appeared at the Baen web site. David Mattingly, in addition, gave me the rights to use an original Honor Harrington image for one year. This solution was eminently satisfactory to me, and I publicly stated my satisfaction. At no time since have I ever raised the issue again with Baen Books, nor have I ever sought any further compensation or recognition.
My recollection is that Mr. Baen, and Mr. Mattingly acted in a straightforward and honest manner, were apologetic, and made every effort to resolve the incident satisfactorily.
In the weeks subsequent to this, I corresponded, for the very first time, directly with David Weber at the Baen's Bar newsgroup. On or about 12/21/2002, in a message on the Baens' Bar Honorverse newsgroup, Mr. Weber asked me to post a prominent disclaimer at the Honorverse web site, making it clear that the imagery there was not, in way, canonical, or approved by Mr. Weber, and that it consisted of my personal interpretations of the Honorverse insignia. This was the very first contact i ever had with Mr. Weber.
I replied to Mr. Weber with a proposed disclaimer, asking him if it met with his apporoval. Once he had approved it, I immediately posted this disclaimer, not only on my web site, but at the Baen's Bar newsgroup, as well as at the alt.books.david-weber Usenet group (a Google Archive of which can be found here).
I reiterated several times to Mr. Weber that I had no wish whatsoever to infringe on his intellectual property rights, and I complied in every case with his directions on how to sever my artwork from any perceived juxtaposition with any canonical relationship to Mr. Weber's intellectual property. Mr. Weber approved the proposed disclaimer on 12/22/2002, again on the Baen's Bar Honorverse news group, and thanked me for understanding his concerns.
At no time, in conversations with Jim Baen, Arnold Bailey, or David Mattingly, did I ever intimate in any way that I had been in contact with David Weber. Nor did I make any private representation with them, or with any other person, about the substance of any conversation with David Weber. My only contacts with Mr. Weber were on publicly available newsgroups, whose content were open to anyone who cared to peruse our conversations. At no time prior to the 2002 publication of WoH, did I have any contact with Mr. Weber at all.
In addition, the correspondence I had at the time with Mr. Weber was entirely cordial.
It is my understanding that Mr. Weber is under the impression that, sometime prior to 15 Jan 2000, we had a conversation in which he requested that I not perform any work on Honor Harrington rank insignia.
With the above in mind, I can only make the following assertions:
1) I have neither recollection nor record of any such conversation with Mr. Weber. No one, outside of mny immediate family, had ever seen, or had any other knowledge of, the PowerPoint presentation I sent to Mr. Baen in 2000. I am in possession, moreover, of the contemporaneous email correspondence from that time, and no record of any such conversation exists.
2) Since there were a number of publicly available web sites with Honor Harrington-related artwork and rank insignia prior to this time, it is my belief that Mr. Weber is mistaking a correspondence he had with one of those web site administrators, or some other person, with me.
3) At no time have I ever, in any forum, prior to signing the contract with Ad Astra Games, represented my artwork as being officially sanctioned by Mr. Weber, Baen Books, or their delegates. I think this assertion is amply borne out by the comprehensive Google Archive thread linked above. At every step, I publicly solicited questions and comments from the fan community, an exercise that would hardly have been necessary if I was representing my artwork as canonical. Moreover, in my intitial contact with Mr. Baen in 2000, I explicitly told him that my work was fan art.
4) I complied immediately, and apologetically, to every request made by Mr. Weber subsequent to our initial conversations in 2002, in the aftermath of the WoH publication, to every request made to sunder my artwork with any perceived official approval of it.
Other than a mistaken memory, I can offer no explanation as to why Mr. Weber feels that I have misrepresented myself to him, or to any other person. I am, in addition, willing to open all of the personal computer files I still possess to inspection by Mr. Weber or his designates.
I am at a loss to see how I can further satisfy Mr. Weber's concerns in this matter, but am open to any reasonable suggestions.
So, there it is. If this isn't a satisfactory reply, then I don't know what else I can do.
I always find it sad when an author goes paranoid over fan art (or other fan contributions). Dale’s work on military insignia, real and fictive, is top-notch, and certainly not emberassing in its quality. Nor is Mr. Weber complaining that it’s inaccurate (which, to the fan base, would be the most damning comment possible). That too is typical of quality fan contributions - fans can be incredibly obsessive over details, usually moreso than the author.
It’s sad whenever an author sees honest attempts by fans to contribute and enrich the fictional universe as somehow infringing on their IP rights. I’m assuming here that Ad Astra games properly licesed the rights to make an Honorverse game in the first place (I was once invoved in a similar dispute where that was the issue). If Mr Weber thinks he’s somehow been slighted financially, I don’t see it. Game artwork has to come from somewhere, and fans work far more cheaply than hiring an artist (often working just for recognition).
If the complaint isn’t financial, isn’t about quality (and I don’t see how it could be), and isn’t about the accuracy of the work (does anyone think Dale wouldn’t change the details of a badge in response to a request or even offhand comment from Mr. Weber?), then there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate complaint here. One hopes this is all miscommunication.