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