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Possible Discussion Topic--feedback requested

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JohnB suggested that we might want to have a chat about some other related issues than specific short stories.

 

He mentioned the recent trend for deceased authors to have books published posthumously (either works previously rejected by authors, ghost written (pun intended) by other authors having access to outlines or drafts of books by the deceased writer, writers using the deceased writer's by line with permission of the estate of the deceased, etc.)

 

There seems to be a broad spectrum of such works handled in any number of ways by publishers.  Tom Clancy's characters (Jack Ryan and his family, as well as some of Ryan's cronies from earlier novels) are being reused by other authors and published with titles such as "Tom Clancy's Ops Center--Terror In the Night" by Hermione Qumquat.  Clearly our imaginary Hermione as well as the publisher have no desire to fool the readers into believing that Tom Clancy had any input into the book, whatsoever.

 

"Isaac Asimov may have died in 1992, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still publish new books. The sci-fi giant’s estate signed a deal last week with Penguin’s Berkley imprint for a new I, Robot prequel trilogy penned by Mickey Zucker Reichert..."1  "...Michael Cricthon’s Pirate Latitudes, an adventure story set in 17th-century Jamaica apparently completed before his death, as well as Kurt Vonnegut’s story collectionLook at the Birdie, William Styron’s The Suicide Run, and Vladimir Nabokov’s unfinished final novel The Original of Laura. Signs suggest that none of these authors have drawers of unpublished material quite as deep as Western storyteller Louis L’Amour, whose estate produced a whopping 15 new books after his 1988 death..." 2

 

There are numerous series of novels published under a pen name owned by the publishing house but used by a collection of various authors.  The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy's young people's books have been written by many different authors, all using the same pen name.  There are many well known authors who use several pen names depending on the target audience of the work.  Nora Roberts (also known as J. D. Robb) is one example.

 
I have done some research into the topic and have found various legal and ethical opinions about the use of ghost writers, pen names, and similar issues.  (I started by googling pen names, ghost writers, and 'use of deceased authors' names")  I also checked out"wikipoedia" for pen names and ghost writer.
 
So, do we want to devote a chat to an open discussion of how we feel about the issues, pro and/or con.  We could pick a night other than our regular #readers_corner scheduled meeting time, devote one of normally scheduled chat's to the issue, confine our discussion to comments posted to this thread in the forums, or forget the idea entirely.  Please provide your comments.
 
Thanks. 

 

1  http://shelf-life.ew.com/2009/10/28/asimov-robot-trilogy-reichert/

2  ibid.

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I wonder if we we might get a bigger response if we list some of the pros and cons. Then, each reader could choose one or two to look into.
or
For me, I don't know what the pros and cons are. You mentioned that you found various legal and ethical opinions about the use of ghost writers, pen names, and similar issues. Perhaps you could give us a url to some article (or two or three depending on length). Then we could read those articles and discuss them.
I am worried that if we make it seem like homework, we'll get a very small response.

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I used a number of web sites.  the one sited in basic post is .http://shelf-life.ew.com/2009/10/28/asimov-robot-trilogy-reichert/

Two useful wiki's are at .http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pen_name and .http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghostwriter  note the . in front of the url, to prevent it from truncating.  just delete the . and paste into browser.  I also did a bit of reading on copyright issues, to clarify, in my own mind, the issue of using dead authors' names, or for that matter living persons' names in works of fiction and or as "co-authors" of new material.  check .http://www.iuniverse.com/ExpertAdvice/PublishingLaw/FAQ.aspx as a quick summary of copyrights and how they work.

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That sounds like a good topic for discussion, my thoughts are similar to what Koach said, if we make it seem like homework, we'll probably be talking to ourselves. I don't have an answer for that, but it's a topic I think I'd enjoy as I've often thought about that topic, beginning with the James Patterson novels that are James Patterson and Unknown somebody.

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I agree with the "homework" comments. However, I love to chat on anything so I will go with the flow. I would attend if John hosts anything. :)

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Smiley said "I have done some research into the topic and have found various legal and ethical opinions about the use of ghost writers, pen names, and similar issues."

 

If we want to talk about legal and ethical opinions, maybe we should list a few of them for our readers to focus on. We would not necessarily all search for the same legal / ethical issues, nor would we all come up with the same list of authors.

 

How do you all envision the chat working?

 

Also, I keep thinking how hard it is for Smiley to get anyone to do a summary of the story. I am worried that Smiley will be met with silence when he gets us started lol. 

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Bowing to your desires, I have prepared a tentative outline of the general direction I would expect the chat to take, to include a rough outline of the general kinds of opinions which might be espoused by various chatters.  Here is that tentative outline...please feel free to comment on it (gently and politely of course--I have very tender sensibilities).

 

Proposed Protocol for December 27th Chat  (I just love that word "protocol", it sounds so darned officious.  It's more ambiguous than "agenda" so it gives us a lot of wiggle room.)

 
TOPIC:  Pen Names, Ghost Writing, and Plagarism 
 
I hope that the chat will consider three things (and we won't have any experts on copyright laws or publishing house/newspaper guidelines to their contributors--so we will be using our own consciences and our common sense to guide our judgement):
 
1:  The ethical considerations of publication of written works attributed to deceased authors or to famous persons other than the writer.
 
     Considerations:  Books continue to be published under the names of respected writers long after their death, some of those works being edited / rewritten versions of drafts or outlines written by the deceased before their demise, some being reprints of works published by the deceased writer under a pseudonym or pen name before they became established as a professional writer, and some based solely on a situation or set of characters initially invented by the deceased author.
     Dead Authors whose names are being (or have been) used on newly published works include: J.R.R.Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Robert Ludlum, Douglas Adams, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, and Louis L'Amour.  (Can you think of any others?)
     Often the purchasers of those works are unaware that they were written by some other writer than the one listed on the cover.
          A variety of labeling techniques are used in attibution to include for example:
                 Robert Ludlum's The Borne Redundancy  (actual author's name appearing in very small print somewhere on the copyright page)
                 The Silmarillion by J.R.R.Tolkien as edited by his son
                 My Favorite Short Stories by Isaac Asimov as selected by .....
                 Tom Clancy's Ops Center--Terror in the Desert by .......
(Have you ever purchased a book then been disappointed when it turns out to be inferior to what you would expect by the famous author?)
 
     Our Opinions:  for example, should there be a standardized method for labelling such works so that the reader knows it was not written by the named author? Does the use of a dead writer's settings, characters, or series name entail plagarism?  Does the use of the dead writer's characters make it easier on us to get into and enjoy the plot without having to learn a whole list of new characters?
 
2.  The ethical questions involved in the use of "ghost writers"
 
     Considerations:  Many works are attributed to famous (or notorious) persons when they are actually written by someone else.  It gives the reader reason to suspect that at least some of the autobiographical or philosophical works attributed to those persons are in fact well written stories for which the famous author takes credit.
          Examples include:  Speaches made by politicians which are written by professional writers, autobiographies penned by someone other than the subject of the bio, and stories, books, novels, attributed to famous persons.  (Can we trust that Hillary Clinton is the actual author of It Takes a Village ?)
          Often the Autobiographies include the disclaimer, "...as told to <name of the ghost writer>
           What about the recent spate of books attributed to <Famous Author and not-so-famous author>.  James Patterson and Clive Custler seem to have an inordinate number of co-authors.  How much input work does the famous named writer actually contribute to the collaboration?
 
Again, Our Opinions:
 
3.  And lastly, what about the series books which use a house name (generic pen name) for a group of writers, or writers using multiple pen names?  
 
     Examples of house names:  Elery Queen (mysteries),  Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew mystery books), Franklin W. Dixon (The Hardy Boys mystery books), and  Laura Lee Hope (The Bopsy Twins series).  I hesitate to mention (and must admit to complete ignorance) of the various house names used in the various series books involving romance -- gothic or otherwise.
     Examples of multiple pen names:  Nora Roberts ( J.D. Robb) and Harry Turtledove (H. Turtletaub)
 
In all the above, does it make any real difference to the reader?  Does it make any difference to the serious scholar studying the works of a specific author or literary movement?  Have we personally read any books written by now established authors that were written under other names  (usually early in their career) then republished under their current name--if so, was the work as polished and interesting as we expected from the famous named author?

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"...I have prepared a tentative outline of the general direction I would expect the chat to take..." Very smart idea Smiley. We are trying something new and I feel some guidelines and suggestions is helpful indeed.

 

As always, I know if anybody can "pull this off" and make it a success, it would be you Smiley. Seriously, I think your contributions to readers corner is vastly under realized and therefor under appreciated. 

 

Returning to the actual chat session content, I think it is apropos to what is occurring today with hacking and stealing of intellectual  property.  I am truly looking forward to this chat session.

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