To be a victim of your own success

Ask any celebrity!

Wait, that's the conclusion of this post. Start over.

We have in this country a kind of crank you all know very well. "It was my idea," or "I thought of that years ago." The flip side of this is "My idea was ripped off."

In order to protect itself from these people, the recorded music industry stopped accepting unsolicited demo tapes in about 1983. Someone got in front of a jury and convinced them that a partial sequence of notes - maybe it was just a chord change - appearing on a submitted demo tape was recycled on some hit record. The jury awarded millions and that was the end of unsolicited submissions. I don't know why print media never followed suit. Perhaps they need to be sued to abandon their unsolicited "slush piles."

The "I invented" geniuses I have met tend to couch their inventions on the highest plane of generalization. I would say they generalize "at 50,000 feet," but two weeks ago a colleague at work corrected me: "That's my phrase, at 50,000 feet." Have you ever met someone who said something like, "That was my idea, years ago, shirts that don't need to be ironed"?

I once worked for a company whose technology was 15 years out of date. Employees were very careful because the CEO was convinced that there were plenty of companies out there sitting on piles of cash waiting to reverse engineer our laughable technology from the meager clues that might be found in a sales brochure or tech manual.

And so we see the news in Eric Wittenberg's blog. EW and JDP think they have been accused (wrongly) of plagiarism per se. No. Not at all.

At first, I thought "The crank confronting Eric Wittenberg and J. D. Petruzzi is telling them in his twisted way that they "stole" his idea for a book. After all, there are thousands of us wandering around with the time, energy, and discipline needed to write books - we only lack a single idea for a book. That's why we need - and exploit - cranks, er, idea men. Delaware cavalry charge? I'd steal that idea in a minute. My ticket to riches.

On the other hand, given a little reflection, I reached a different conclusion. This character wrote a threatening letter himself (sans lawyer) to an attorney- talk about a crank.

So this is about stalking, not publishing rights.

Civil War authors who reach a certain level of celebrity have earned not just fans but stalkers.

Congratulations, guys!