A few days ago an individual enamored of the Dvarsh script approached me with what he considered a reasonable proposal. He offered $50 for me to create a wrap-around page border in Dvarsh for his book project. He has specific text he would like translated, specific formatting requirements, and a deadline only days away. His proposal was that fifty bucks was to cover both production of the art and a license to use it in perpetuity. In his mind, the proposal is generous. A piece of his pitch is that every sale of the book would increase the public exposure of my world and my work. I should have been prepared for this, but was, in fact, so shocked at the time that I could not even process what I was hearing.
This person has tried several times over the past couple of years to convince me to allow him to use the Dvarsh font and script at no cost whatsoever and in any way he sees fit. I have no idea what informs his thinking, other than a writing system as developed and beautiful as Dvarsh would be an asset to his project. All the better if he could get such a thing without paying for it.
His most recent attempt to get it completely free alluded to the fact that Dvarsh Book, the regular text font without its Bold counterpart, is available as a no-cost download from Stikmantica. In his mind, a download with no cost means that it is available for unrestricted use by anyone—despite the fact that the license that accompanies the download states explicitly that it is available for non-commercial use only. The reasoning behind making it a no-cost download is to facilitate exploration, discovery and co-creation within the Dvarsh field of play. I have always been adamant that if you want to use Dvarsh for any commercial purpose, you must obtain a separate, paid license from me before proceeding. This has been a source of frustration for this individual, who feels the exposure that costs him nothing should be worth more than nothing to me. Fifty dollars was his concession that, okay, maybe there is material value in the object of his desire.
The largest effect of his proposal is that it broke my concentration at what feels to me—admittedly, only to me—like a crucial time in the development of MY current project, the Dvarsh language poem, Dzadefve oa Charls’m. The poem and the book forming from it have progressed despite everything life in the past year and a half has thrown. My current driving desire is to immerse myself in the project until it is done, but anxiety and frustration connected to this proposal have scattered my thoughts. This individual is not the first, and I fear will not be the last, to try hijacking my labor of decades.
I know the value of Dvarsh in my gut, despite the fact that no one except maybe Paul Cooley has taken the time to actually look at what I have done and see what is plain upon the pages. There are people who have recognized that it embodies a treasure without recognizing of what the treasure consists. Several of these are benevolent, and they are my friends. Others are thieves who have stolen copies of the books from under my nose at conventions while I have divided attention between several visitors at once. Still others are like this individual, persons who lack the creativity to produce something similar, the imagination to penetrate what I have done, and the fundamental respect—and love—for art to celebrate its intrinsic worth.
Book thieves are criminals. Of that there is no question, whether they snatch physical books or avoid paying for copies by digital misappropriation. The author of this proposal is not a criminal, or even necessarily a bad person, but his devaluation of creative work as nothing more than a commodity to be obtained with the least possible expense does far more damage than any mere shoplifter. That kind of damage is both cultural in a world that cries for what art can give it, and psychological in the assault it makes on artists, their craft and every aspect of art including the economic.
Fending off this kind of vulgar acquisitiveness is a constant struggle for every independent creative who produces work of beauty, substance and originality. It has been an ongoing struggle for me. I am tired of it. This latest proposal has me wondering again how to find a legitimate publisher to defend the work and promote it to our mutual profit. I have no idea where to begin. What I crave is that elusive immersion and the joy it brings, but what I fear is that I’ll spend the rest of my life divided between snatching moments to create and ceding hours to protecting what I have made. It’s that fear that keeps blasting me out of the joy since this contact. I finally decided to burn a day trying to bleed off the fear with a column. After all, what good is a blog if I can’t wield it against demons?
For the record, I worked out how I would have bid just the production part of this proposal back when I was a practicing commercial artist. Including rush charges for the unreasonable turnaround, my price would be $1200 payable in three installments: one upon acceptance of the work, the next at client’s approval of a comp, and the balance on final delivery. That amount does not cover a license for use of the Dvarsh language and font by a third party.
To tell the truth, I am disinclined ever to grant such a license. The Dvarsh language is mine, the writing system is mine, and the world is mine. While I am delighted when a gamemaster tells me, “My team is going to find these books in the ruins,” the crucial distinctions are that they pay for what they are getting, and such use depends upon the integrity of the Habdvarsha universe. It makes no attempt to subvert any aspect of it for someone else’s ends. In other words, the difference is respect.
I have to go. My poem is calling.