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JeffreyHarlan.com Posts

Rise of the Public Domain Superheroes

Almost immediately after Superman first appeared in 1938’s Action Comics #1, other publishers took note of the character’s instant popularity, and rushed to produce similar characters of their own, giving rise to both the term “superhero” and to an entirely new genre of speculative fiction. Many of these publishers went out of business. Others failed to provide proper copyright notices, or to renew their copyrights, as required under the copyright laws in effect at the time. The laws have changed in the intervening decades, but those older works had already fallen into what is known as the public domain.

The Bloody Road to Star Trek’s Future

The future of the human race in Star Trek is a bright one. Humanity had struggled with war, disease, and hunger, but had “pretty much wiped ‘em out,” by the mid-twenty-second century, as Charles “Trip” Tucker bragged in the first episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. But, as the theme song to the series made clear, “it’s been a long road, getting from there to here.” The path to the bright future of Star Trek’s Earth was a dark and bloody one.

Minneapolis and the Bell Riots

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the unrest that has followed, many have taken to the Internet to compare recent events with the Bell Riots from Star Trek, and others have questioned whether the comparison is apt, or even appropriate.

In the two-part episode “Past Tense” from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s third season, a transporter accident sent Commander Sisko, Lieutenant Dax, and Doctor Bashir back in time to San Francisco in the year 2024. Sisko and Bashir were immediately taken into custody and placed into a Sanctuary District, while Dax was taken in by a wealthy media executive. The fact that Sisko was a black man, and Bashir middle eastern, whereas Dax was an apparently white woman (her spots notwithstanding, which were quickly dismissed as tattoos), was not lost on most viewers when discussing their treatment.

Dungeons, Dragons, and Disease

In the COVID-19 world we all have had to make changes to our routines. People have begun working at home, businesses have switched to curbside pick-up, restaurants have switched to a pick-up or delivery model, and in-person meetings have been replaced with virtual meetings. One of my weekly rituals was going down to my local game store to play in-person pen and paper roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. I would meet weekly with a group of friends and huck the dice around while imagining my players in a fantasy world of fighters, wizards, rogues, dwarves, and elves.