They leave a comment saying "Ah; I see someone else has stumbled across a Gearworld concept! I love what you do with it. I have to say that I felt slightly guilty in an innocent way (figure that...) when I saw that you too have a travel guide to Gearworld. *sigh* Oh collective unconscious how cruel you can be."
Then an hour or two later they send a note saying that yes, they were inspired by one of my early paintings, they remember now.
Um. Sure, dude, whatever. I'll let you say whatever you want to save face, because I'm really not confrontational about this sort of thing, and the cold sweat and whatnot is way worse than anything I'm likely to do to you.
Since I got these in backwards order, I thought it was just another you've-inspired-me thing, so I sent my standard boilerplate glad-I-could-inspire-someone kinda note, but after the comment I got weirded out and looked and they're...err...well, I don't think it's suspicious-minded of me to call it Really Really Really Inspired, shall we say. I wish I'd known that before I sent the note. Still, people do thank me for inspiration, and I really am glad to inspire people, so it didn't set off any warning bells.
I've never minded fan art. Fan writing makes me a little twitchy, but even that's been flexible. I didn't mind tributes or inspirations--lots of people had used it as a springboard, people have used it as campaign settings, have made nods to its direction on writing, have talked about writing RPGs based on it--and that's all fine. It's a helluva cool visual, and cool visuals were what inspired me to make my version--obviously mine's a product of countless inspirations as well--the Cell and the art of Oscar Chichoni and WWII bunkers and my Mom's art and everything else. And there's more than one clockwork labyrinth in art. (I nearly had a geargasm over the one in the Hellboy movie.) And inspiration is where you find it, and there is nothing new under the sun.
And I still surprised myself by getting really rather pissed.
I suspect he'll abandon it quickly, as is the fate of most art projects the world over and it's so not worth getting my undies in a knot. It's a minor thing. I know this. Internet drama is a dime a quadrillion, and I try to stay about a thousand miles from it. (And c'mon, any success would inevitably run into my fan base, and I would fear that with the fear of a thousand gibbering weasels. I have weathered such wars, I wish no truck with them.)
I am quite shocked at how visceral my reaction to this is. It's not my standard "Ha! Art theft! How cute that you'd try such a thing!" response. My guts actually knotted up. Gearworld, however dormant it lays under the byways of my brain, is obviously still rather shockingly important to me. I got mad. A small screaming hamster ran up and down the roads of my intestines waving its arms and yelling "No! This is mine! This matters to me!"
It wasn't that it was at all an unjustified feeling, but it certainly startled the hell out of me.
Edit: Have been contacted by intermediary. Hopefully this can be handled in a way that doesn't involve anybody having to get yelled at or smote or eating any more antacids.
I hate internet drama, I hate it with the force of a thousand burning suns...but as Grandma used to say, "This, too, shall pass."