Brand's First Law of Creative Works

Years ago, I was at a con, in a panel on intellectual property. At the time, I said, “If anybody out there can make a better ‘Calls For Cthulhu’ than I can, they deserve the right to do it, and I’ll help them if I can.” It was considered a magnanimous and surprising statement, and I stand by it.

(Let me take a moment to explain my thinking) I consider C4C something I created. No, I did not create Cthulhu. I did not create the mythos surrounding him. Hell, I didn’t even make the puppet. However, I did come up with the idea for the show. I came up with that interpretation for the character (how would you play the part of ultimate evil? Would you humanize it? Demonize it?). I came up with the Rapid Fire Round gag, I came up with the new interpretation for Xenu, I wrote every single line from that series. So while I didn’t make the character up, I did make the show the success that it has been.

I made a TV show about an ultimate amoral alien whose claim to fame was destroying humanity in violence and madness, and I did it without using any profanity. I did it without using buckets of blood or overt violence. I made a PG-13 version of ultimate darkness, and made it popular enough to have a fanbase. That’s something to be proud of.

So if someone comes along and can make something better out of it, they are a force to be reckoned with. I don’t mean that they’re a threat to me, but they are a danger. If I fight them, then my fanbase goes to see what the big deal is, and I lose the fans. If I ignore the threat, their quality will show through, and they will rise to greatness while I am left to antiquity. That’s what happens if someone can do the show better than me.

If, however, I embrace them, then they are my friends. I offer them access to the fanbase, and receive the benefit of their goodwill. I may learn how they do it better, and while they learn how I do my show, I can learn how they do theirs. A high tide raises all boats, and we would all do better for the effort. If, after that, they are still better than me, I can move on to other projects, knowing that I did a good job with my stewardship, and that there will always be another project.

So, that was my thinking at the time, and I stand by it. If anybody can take my characters, my storylines, my gimmicks, and make a better C4C than I can, I will help them. But let’s talk about what I’m seeing now.

There are people who have taken my show, and made WORSE shows with it. They put the puppet on YouTube, spewing hate speech (not against humanity, but against specific groups). They use profanity to the point that it dilutes any effectiveness. They have no set, no effects, no decent sound, no decent video. They put a puppet in front of a camera, then pitch shift their voices down, and go on racist, sexist tirades.

I’m not okay with that. I’m not going to call them out specifically, because I don’t want to give them that much notice. I want them to disappear in their well-deserved ignomy. But I do want to amend my statement. Let’s call this Brand’s first law of creative works: When you stand on the shoulders of giants, you must be taller than them.

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  1. do they call it the same as your show?

    • To date, I haven’t seen one that took my title. I have seen them take my interpretation of the character, the storyline (Cthulhu can’t sleep, so he answers questions), the ranting, Xenu, and even the surprise ducking at a key phrase (in C4C, it’s “rapid fire round”).

  2. Okay, that sounds really fucking annoying. You are going about it the right way, no argument.

    Can I make a small suggestion?

    When you stand on the shoulders of giants, you must build higher than they did.

  3. TerminusVox says:

    I was sort of thinking ‘you must be at least this tall’ to stand on the shoulders of giants.