Daily Archives: March 6, 2009

Spoiler Statute of Limitations

Last night I decided to annoy some geeks, so I wrote on Twitter: “Note to Watchmen fans: THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY. THE COMEDIAN JUMPED.” Which immediately returned a series of death threats and furious rebukes, so, you know, mission accomplished (note: no, I don’t think any of those people were actually upset). But along with those were a couple of people who twittered back, “Uh, dude? Did you just, like, do a spoiler? ‘Cause that’s not cool.”

It’s not a spoiler, since, among other things, within the first three pages of the comic it becomes evident that jumping is not precisely what the Comedian did (see above comic panel). Also, given the placement of the Comedian’s death in the novel (i.e., right at the beginning), and its being highlighted in the various movie trailers, discussing it is no more spoiling Watchmen than noting that, say, Marley was dead, to begin with — or, alternately saying that Marley wasn’t dead to begin with, he just moved to Jamaica and picked up the guitar.

That said, even if it were a spoiler, the thing is: Look, Watchmen is twenty three years old. Surely the statute of limitations on spoiling the book has run out by now. SPOILER ALERTS should not be in effect forever. Yes, they have their place: If I had run out of The Crying Game screaming “The chick’s a dude!” as people were waiting to see it for the first time, it would be a case of justifiable homicide. But now, in 2009? Sorry, man. You missed your window to be outraged.

(Funny story about that particular movie is that I actually first saw it at home: I was a movie critic and Miramax sent me a screener on tape. I remember getting to that part and going “wait, what?” and actually rewinding. And then I remember writing a very careful review.)

If there is, in fact, a spoiler statute of limitations, the question then becomes, well, how long is it? I throw that question open to the crowd, but here are my suggestions:

Television: One week (because it’s generally episodic, and that’s how long you have until the next episode)

Movies: One year (time enough for everyone to see it in the theaters, on DVD and on cable)

Books: Five years (because books don’t reach nearly as many people at one time)

So, for example, the big spoiler in Old Man’s War (gung Wnar Fntna vf Wbua Creel’f qrnq jvsr’f pybar!) should probably remain a spoiler until next January, the five year anniversary of OMW. But the big spoiler of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (Oehpr Jvyyvf vf gbgnyyl qrnq!) expired on August 6, 2000, and the big spoiler of the same director’s The Happening (Z. Avtug Fulnznyna’f fugvpx unf orra fhpxrq qevre guna n urzbcuvyvnp ng n inzcver pbairagvba!) runs out next June 13, although in that case, it won’t be that much of a surprise to anyone.

Your thoughts on the spoiler statute of limitations? I crave your input.

My Policy On Talking About (Other People’s) Personal Things Here

On occasion, I will be having a private chat with someone, either online or in the real world, and when they come to a part that they find especially personal, they will pause, look at me (the ones in the real world, at least) and say, “now, you know this isn’t for the blog, right?” and then once assured that indeed I know this, we continue the conversation. I’m not in the least offended by this — when one has a prominent blog in which one talks about many things, one gets this a lot — but it happens enough that if for no other reason than to have it here as evidence of my thinking on the matter, it’s time for me to post my policy about things other people tell me, and whether they show up on the site.

1. If you and I are having a personal conversation, in real life or through electronic means (e-mail, IM, etc), you may assume I have no intent (or indeed no interest) in posting all or parts of that conversation online. This includes both personal and professional details and aspects of the conversation.

2. If there is something in particular about the conversation that I find might be of interest to post on Whatever (or elsewhere), I will ask you “may I write about this?” If you say yes, I will (you may of course choose not to have the conversation attributed to you). If you say no, I won’t. This does not happen as often as you might assume, however.

3. I may from time to time discuss conversations I have had with others in a very general sense as a springboard to an entry (for example, as I did in the opening paragraph here). When I do that I leave out any identifying trace of those to whom I have spoken.

4. Conversely, because I do assume all personal communication is off limits to public airing, if there is something you would like me to note online, it’s best to tell me so explictly.

Now, you ask, what about conversations where it’s more than one-on-one? It pretty much falls out the same way as the above. My basic rule of thumb is that any discussion of personal matters or business matters relating to the specific parties in the conversation are out of the ambit of sharing online, and as a general rule I don’t spread gossip, so that’s out too. That said, if the discussion is in a publicly accessible space where others can join or listen in (say, at the bar at a convention) general discussion is fair to be noted. So, for example, if I were having a group conversation, I might mention online that the group discussed, say, the typical sad level of book advances. What I won’t tell you are the amounts, if any, that the people in the discussion listed for their own advances.

When do I feel fine about posting news about you, without your permission? When you have made such news available in a way that’s publicly accessible, or the news is otherwise available. So, as an example, if you post “Hey! I sold a novel!” on your blog or LiveJournal, I may blog about it. Alternately, if I read in the news that you won an award, I may blog about it as well. I do try to use my judgment on these things, however; I tend to value news sites and sites of people I know/trust over random blogs and journals. When I have doubts about something I’m likely to ping you first.

Basically: I’m not going to talk online about what you tell me unless you tell me you want me to, or I ask first.