literary estate news

In the wake of the sad news about Tom Disch, I also came across the following:

Sci-fi writer Andre Norton’s legacy still in court’s hands

“Andre Norton, one of science fiction’s most prolific female writers until she died three years ago, intrigued her readers by creating hundreds of fantasy worlds during her 70 years of writing…..conflicting claims have erupted over the copyrights and royalties of Norton’s work. One comes from the woman who cared for Norton in her later years, the other from a fan who contends he’s better suited to care for Norton’s literary legacy.”

Since U.S. copyright still cedes control of intellectual property to heirs after the death of the creator (insert speech by Cory Doctorow here), it is a sad state of affairs to see people who cared for Norton fighting over her legacy. One wishes she had been more clear in assigning a literary executor and designating how the income from these rights was to be shared among those who cared for her and her work as an author.

Back in the days when I had the time to read and re-read books for pleasure, Norton’s Witch World novels were among my favorites to revisit. Despite the fact that I never knew her personally, those stories were companions to me, and so I am unhappy to see their future being threatened by this issue of control and money instead of seeing those who cherished Norton herself working together to preserve that for the next generation of readers to find and enjoy.

Regardless of where one falls on the issue of copyright terms and so forth, I think stories deserve to be read, and anyone who truly cares about an author and their creative works would keep that in mind, no matter what. So, please find someone like that for yourself and then use Neil Gaiman’s excellent post on this topic, including a sample simple will to see that what you might leave behind is treated in the fashion that you want it to be treated, whether that is releasing it into the wilds of public domain or providing for those you care about. Right now, it’s still your choice. Why leave it up to someone else?

10 responses to “literary estate news

  1. Andre Norton lived just a couple of blocks over from my mother, and I was thrilled to be able to attend the auction of her things (prior to her death). I have three or four pieces of artwork from it, and we *nearly* bought the house (dude, her library space was bigger than my house. We lost the bid, though.)
    It’s too bad that there has to be fighting over her estate. 😦

  2. Jennifer, have you or anyone your know ever had a submission you’ve fallen in love with, only to learn the author passed? What happens then? Do you try and persue it still with a family member, or just say that’s the brakes?

  3. One of the things that me and my wife actually discussed was my literary heritage (which is small now, but hopefully will get bigger). One of the things that came up was the Tolkien estate, who I have a lot of issues with. So, we came down to what I want to happen with my writing after I kick the KFC bucket.
    Need to get it on paper though, too many things got thrown up in the air and we are waiting for a bit of settling before we get a good and proper will going. 🙂

  4. Thank you for this post.

  5. Wow. That’s not something I know I thought about before.

  6. I had blocked it from my memory that she’d died. Blight. O:(

  7. Yes, making these kind of plans is incredibly important. People also don’t think about what’s going to be done with their manuscripts and other papers. I did a post on the SF/F research collection at Cushing Library a while back (it’s here), and how they’re trying to collect all these materials before they get discarded. They almost got Andre Norton’s papers and the High Halleck library (and she did manage to send them a few manuscripts and her portrait before she died) but there were problems with her heirs.

  8. From reading the article, it appears that there is a dispute as to what the actual words in the will mean. The wording is subject to interpretation, unfortunately.
    So, not only do you need a will (naming a literary executor who actually understands their responsibilities), but it needs to be crystal clear. Another reason to find a lawyer who understands intellectual property and publishing. There are times when the experts are worth the money!
    I know of another case where the estate of a former best-seller has allowed all his work to go OP because they don’t know what they are doing. The family is trying, but the executor is, well, set in his ways.

  9. Great post.
    I checked out the Neil Gaiman link and decided to download the pdf file.
    What happens to my work after I’m gone is not something I’ve thought about. I’m an unpublished writer, with bits and pieces of stories here and there.
    But I think this is something important for anyone who creates things out of thin air–protect your work.

  10. definitely something i’m thinking about.
    i alrady have a living trust set up so i’ll
    have to contact the lawyer who drew it up to
    see if she can just add to it.

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