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December 3, 2007

An Unlikely Result

Posted by John Baez

Andrew Stacey points out this weekend’s most amusing submission to the arXiv:

Believe it or not, this is not the first paper by this author with this title.

You can poke around and figure out for yourself what’s going on…

But, if you’re too busy for such games, here’s the point. Originally this paper had three authors, and a very different title:

  • arxiv:math/0511544
    Heterochromatic tree partition number of a complete multipartite graph
    Authors: He Chen, Zemin Jin, Xueliang Li, Jianhua Tu
    (Submitted on 22 Nov 2005 (this version), latest version 30 Nov 2007 (v3))

But then the authors withdrew it! They must have found a fatal mistake.

Why change the author’s name to “A.N. Other”? Andrew Stacey explains:

If you click on, say, Xueliang Li’s name (he was the submitting author), you will not find arxiv:math/0511544 listed as one of his papers. So if you don’t want your withdrawn papers to show up when someone searches for your name, just alter the author field to ‘A.N.Other’!

You may have heard of A. N. Other’s cousin — the infamous Hollywood director Alan Smithee.

Posted at December 3, 2007 6:35 PM UTC

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Cordwainer Bird; Re: An Unlikely Result

Before I launch into this, let me first say that I admire Harlan Ellison, have been the recipient of his kindness and generosity, and have learned as much as I can from his writing in many genres.

As wikipedia puts it:

In the late 1950s, Ellison wrote a number of erotica stories, such as “God Bless the Ugly Virgin” and “Tramp”, which were later reprinted in Los Angeles-based magazines. That was the beginning of his use of the name Cordwainer Bird as a pseudonym. The name was later used in July and August of 1957, in two journals, each of which had accepted two of his stories. In each journal, one story was published under the name Harlan Ellison, and the other under Cordwainer Bird. Later, as discussed in the Controversy section below, he used the pseudonym for material when he disagreed with its use or editing….

Ellison has on occasion used the pseudonym Cordwainer Bird to alert members of the public to situations in which he feels his creative contribution to a project has been mangled beyond repair by others, typically Hollywood producers or studios. (See, e.g., Alan Smithee.) The first such work to which he signed the name was “The Price of Doom,” an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (though it was misspelled as Cordwainer Bid in the credits). The “Cordwainer Bird” moniker is a tribute to fellow SF writer Paul M. A. Linebarger, better known by his pen name, Cordwainer Smith. The origin of the word “cordwainer” is shoemaker (from working with cordovan leather for shoes). The term used by Linebarger was meant to imply the industriousness of the pulp author. Ellison has said, in interviews and in his writing, that his version of the pseudonym was meant to mean “a shoemaker for birds”. Since he has used the pseudonym mainly for works he wants to distance himself from, it may be understood to mean that “this work is for the birds”. Stephen King once said he thought that it meant that Ellison was giving people who mangled his work a literary version of “the bird” (given credence by Ellison himself in his own essay titled “Somehow, I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas, Toto”, describing his experience with the Starlost television series)….

Ellison has been vocal for many years in his criticism of how Star Trek creator and producer Gene Roddenberry (and others) rewrote much of his original script for the episode “The City on the Edge of Forever”. Ellison’s original work included a subplot involving drug dealing aboard the Enterprise and other elements that Roddenberry rejected for various reasons. Despite the award-winning, classic status of the episode (on which Ellison retained credit rather than using his “Cordwainer Bird” nom-de-plume), Ellison continued to be critical of how his work was treated by Roddenberry, decades after the fact. Ellison’s original script was eventually reprinted in the 1976 collection Six Science Fiction Plays, edited by Roger Elwood. In 1995, White Wolf Publishing released Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever, a book that included the original script, several story treatments, and an extensive introductory essay by Ellison explaining his position regarding the situation which resulted in what he called a “fatally inept treatment” of his work. Both the filmed episode and the original script won prestigious awards, the episode winning the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the script winning a Writers Guild of America award.

Dave Langford’s e-zine Ansible reports:

Harlan Ellison is hopping mad, again, having heard the rumours that J.J. Abrams’s new Star Trek film (please imagine a spoiler warning here) will involve time travel arranged by the Guardian of Forever, as first introduced in HE’s ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’. Ellison expostulates: ‘… “City” and all its elements EXCEPT specific Star Trek characters, belong to Harlan Ellison – author of that much-lauded episode – by terms of the Separation of Rights clause of the Writers Guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), and if Mr. Abrams – with whom I’m currently on strike – or anyone else, at Paramount or elsewhere, thinks they’re going to use MY creations – whether the City, the Guardians, Sister Edith Keeler, or any other elements CREATED BY HARLAN ELLISON … they had damned well better lose the unilateral arrogance, get in touch with me, or my agent, Marty Shapiro, and be prepared to pay for the privilege of mining the lode I own.’ [12 November] Cinemablend.com notes that the Guardian has been repeatedly used in ST novels and comics, and that Paramount surely wouldn’t allow its inclusion if legal trouble was likely to ensue. Also, of course, the rumour may be false.

Posted by: Jonathan Vos Post on December 5, 2007 2:25 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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