Who do I have to hug to get a Jennifer Government movie made,
that’s what I want to know. It’s been like seven years. Yeah, yeah, it’s hard to
make a story work in 100 minutes when you’ve got six major characters and
nine interconnected plots. Boo hoo. You know what that sounds like? “I’m a crappy
In the meantime, here’s something almost as good:
a wallpaper! I stumbled across this a year
ago but it took that long to track down the original artist:
it started as a
by Patrick Shettlesworth
that had nothing to do with Jennifer Government until
of deviantART reworked it and added a barcode tattoo, which I stuck
in front of a background designed by
Michael J. Windsor.
That’s three different people who can now sue me for copyright infringement.
But at least two of them said it was okay so here you go:
It may help you enjoy this image if you imagine you’re a teenage boy.
I don’t need to do that. But you might. Here it is in different sizes:
other day I was digging through my Junk folder when I found an e-mail from the
United Nations. I know what you’re thinking: “Wow! That is one politically astute
mail filter.” But pretty much all email to my public address without the
word “duck” in the subject, as per
my contact page,
gets flagged as spam, and the UN chose not to do that. Apparently arbitrary
yet effective protocols for ensuring open communication aren’t something
the UN wants anything to do with. Or maybe they have something against
ducks. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, they went with the subject,
“Notice of cease and desist.”
Naturally, it was about
NationStates. It’s always about
NationStates. I have
Nike shooting teenagers
and Coke marketing Fukk,
that’s no problem. But one player says something mean to another in my
web game and they’re going to sue me into oblivion. Anyway, what upset the
United Nations was that I put them into NationStates. It’s the place where
players come together to debate and pass international law; in the five years
the game has been running, they’ve implemented privacy safeguards,
promoted religious tolerance, passed a universal bill of rights, and outlawed
child labor, amongst 240 other resolutions.
Clearly this wasn’t anything the real UN wanted to be associated with:
Dear Mr. Barry,
It has come to our attention that you are operating an online game called
“NationStates”, www.nationstates.net, and that this game uses the UN name and
emblem, without authorization…
We therefore demand that you immediately cease and desist from using the United
Nations name and emblem in the above-referenced online game, and that in the
future you refrain from using or making any reference to them in connection with
[ Full Letter ]
My first reaction was pride. Receiving a threatening letter from the United Nations;
I finally felt like I’d done something with my life. Also,
there is something inherently amusing about UN threats. I mean, I think the
UN does a lot of great work, but let’s face it, they tend to
specialize in demands backed by the threat of further, even more stridently
voiced demands. Frankly, “You are hereby ordered to cease and desist” was a lot scarier before
I got to “says the UN.”
But they did have a point. In 2002, I whacked the United Nations into my
game, complete with copyrighted emblem, not so much in parody as
to say, “Hey, look, this is just like the real UN.” I can’t remember ever
thinking about the legal consequences; I probably assumed that even
if the UN noticed, they’d have plenty of blood-thirsty dictators and international
war crimes to prosecute before me. But what with Saddam behind bars
and all that world peace you’ve been hearing so much about, I guess
they worked their way down to me.
I wondered whether it was worth fighting.
It would probably be eight years before they got inspections organized, and by then
I could keep moving my UN references around where they wouldn’t find them.
And it could be great fun. I could represent myself and wear cheap suits and tell the court
that it was on trial. But for that to work, I would
need an opponent who might actually be embarrassed by the expense and
public profile involved in a petty IP lawsuit, and I just wasn’t confident
the UN falls
into that category. That the single biggest label on the front page of
the UN web site is
“Copyright, United Nations, 2008” struck me as an ill omen.
Also, I do support the UN. I mean, sure, it’s about as functional as a cat with 192
heads, and a lot of those heads are corrupt. But at least they’re trying.
At least the heads have to look at each other. I feel like if I’m going
battle with somebody, it probably shouldn’t be an organization
whose foremost goal is world peace.
Plus I got a lawyer’s opinion, and he said I was blatantly in the wrong. So
I decided to cave.
So now I have to rename my UN. I was tempted to go with something a
little insulting, like “Discordant Nations,” or “Ridiculously Petty Bureaucracy
of Nations Who Should Have Better Things To Do.” But no, that would be
sinking to their level. NationStates now has a
By now four thousand people have told me about
the shooting at the Playstation 3 launch.
Well, all right, it wasn’t four thousand.
It was sixteen. Fifteen, if you don’t count the guy who thought it was over
an XBox. (I love it when people remember everything about a marketing
promotion except the product. Just knowing that some marketing executive
signed off on a million-dollar campaign only to boost his competition
gives me a warm feeling inside.)
Not that I’m saying Sony deliberately engineered a stock shortage and
then hired an assassin to shoot someone in the stampede in order
to build up the hype. That would be unspeakably immoral. To
rip off the opening of Jennifer Government so blatantly, I mean.
I’m thinking about creating a special section on this site: “Stuff that
happened in real life that’s kind of like one of Max’s books.” That way I won’t
feel the need to salute each individual event: I can just add it to the list.
Then on cold, quiet nights when I’m feeling insecure, I can browse that list
and feel good about myself again. The best part is there need never be a list
of “Things that were predicted in one of Max’s books and, boy, was he off-base.”
Those things just haven’t come true yet.
Of course, it’s not that hard to predict advances in marketing. You just
imagine what you’d do if you wanted to sell something and had
absolutely no morals, self-respect,
or dignity. Wait six months, and bing! There it is.
Now you know I hate blowing my own trumpet every time something happens
in the real world that’s straight out of one of my books. Well, maybe
“hate” is too strong a word. I mean, “enjoy on a deep, almost
sexual level.” Yeah. That’s more like it.
Anyway, I think this one is worth mentioning because it’s at the more extreme
end: it’s that thing in Jennifer Government where everyone takes
their surname from their employer. John Nike. Billy NRA. Violet ExxonMobil.
And so on.
There’s a historical precedent for this: in centuries past,
John Smith was the town blacksmith, Tim Baker really was a baker, and
Geoff Wang was… well, let’s not think. In the Jennifer
Government world, where a person’s job is the most important
thing about them, returning to that concept made
sense to me. Also, when I worked in sales, I’d get a call from “Michael
Jamieson” or whoever, and frantically think, “Jamieson, Jamieson… who
the hell is that?” It would have been so much simpler if he was “Michael
Now, we’ve already seen
their surnames to corporations,
and even a particularly disturbing case of
parents auctioning naming rights to their baby.
But does it really count as a fulfilled prophesy when the people doing
the fulfilling are missing some essential part of their brain?
I dunno. I think that’s a little like saying, “I foresee a day when
people will smack themselves in the face with hammers for fun,” and then
claiming it came true because of my cousin Donny. Poor Donny. Well, you
pity his parents, mostly. But back to the issue. For me to feel
like I really nailed this one, it has to be done in all seriousness.
Nobody should even see anything wrong with it.
So here we are. Lately companies have been stampeding into
Second Life, a virtual reality
of the kind that everyone thought
the internet would be, before discovering it was just typing and
clicking on links. In Second Life, you create an avatar—a little person
to be—and run around… um, doing stuff. You know, like walking around…
or going shopping… or building a house. But without having to stand
So. The news agency Reuters just
opened an office
there and assigned reporter Adam Pasick to the beat. So now there’s an
avatar that looks like Adam in Second Life, reporting on news.
Only what’s his name? Adam Reuters.
Oh yes. Innocuous. That’s how it starts.
this is too funny not to mention. I offered to send some signed
books to Kurt Busiek—the writer who put Jennifer Government
in Clark Kent’s hands in Action Comics #838—and he kindly
sent me some of his stuff in return.
Included in the stack of goodies that arrived on
my doorstop was a signed copy of that issue—with
this modified cover.
let me just get my breath. All right. The other day—no,
wait, I need another minute.
Okay. Okay. I’m just going to say it: in the latest issue of
Clark Kent is reading Jennifer
Action Comics is the series that introduced Superman in 1938.
And now he’s reading my book.
This is possibly the greatest moment of my life.
Just before I left Australia, I noticed I had a couple of emails with odd
subject lines, like “Superman reads Jennifer Government.” But I had a
plane to catch and didn’t get around to reading these for a couple of
weeks. Then I was sure that it couldn’t be true, that maybe Clark
was reading a book that just looked a bit like one of mine if
you turned the page upside down and squinted, because… well,
it just couldn’t be. But if that was happening, a lot of people seemed
to be doing it.
So I emailed DC Comics, pausing only briefly to wipe the drool from my
keyboard, and soon had not only confirmation that this extraordinary
event had actually come to pass, but a fascinating (and flattering)
explanation as to how:
I’m glad you enjoyed the bit — I’m Kurt Busiek, co-writer of that
issue, and the guy who violated copyright on your book cover for my own
nefarious purposes. The idea, mostly, was that in the past, whenever
Clark mentions reading anything, he almost invariably mentions Dickens
or Austen or some other long-dead writer that the audience knows from
being forced to read them in high school lit class. Since Clark’s
supposed to be in his early thirties, I want him to come across like a
reasonably young guy, not like your college professor’s dad (and I say
that as a big Jane Austen fan; it ain’t the quality, it’s the image).
So I wanted Clark to be reading something current, interesting and
smart. Something that made him look like he’s part of this century and
knows what’s good.
I’m not ashamed to admit that this made me giggle like a schoolgirl
who just found the penis pictures in her biology textbook.
My new goal is to land a poster-sized copy, so I can frame it and
hang it somewhere conspicuous, like on the front of my house. I mean,