Posthumous Release

I was talking to a friend of mine tonight and J. D. Salinger was brought up and the different rumors about just how many manuscripts are stored away in a safe, and it made me think about all these people who are somewhat happy now that the man is dead, because there's a chance that those unpublished novels will finally see the light of day. And my simple question is: why should they, those unpublished novels, be forced into the light of day to begin with?

It happens all the time, though. An author dies and leaves behind completed manuscripts, partial manuscripts, whatever, and nine times out of the those manuscripts (if written by a well enough known author) are published. Most recently it happened to Michael Crichton. A few months back HarperCollins published his novel Pirate Latitudes, which was a novel found on his computer after his death. I don't know much about the book, haven't really seen any reviews, and as I haven't read any Crichton in years, I doubt I'll be reading it any time soon.

But still ... it just seems wrong in a way, to have an author's work published after they are dead. Or maybe not. I don't know. Guess I'm just thinking about me in that (dead) position. Right now I have a few first drafts of novels on my computer, as well as a number of short stories, all ranging from those that I'm happy with (i.e., I have been submitting places), those I'm not completely happy with (i.e., I am still revising), and those that I wrote but don't think they have any real value and have no intention of ever submitting them anywhere (i.e., they suck).

If I were to die tomorrow, would I really want those unpublished works published? (For argument's sake, let's assume journals and publishers would actually want to publish that work in the first place.) Some would argue that the readers deserve to read those works. Like those people happy now that Salinger is dead because there's the possibility his unpublished novels will be published. They somehow feel invested in the author and his work and are under the disillusioned idea that they are owed something by that author.

Personally, I don't think the readers are owed anything, but that's just me. That, actually, gets into the topic of who really owns the story or book or whatever -- the author, the publisher, the reader?

What do you think?


Last week I had my great Twitter Giveaway Contest thingy. It went okay, I guess. Did not get close at all to 30 retweets, but that's all right. In fact, I only got about 10. Why? Who knows. A lot of different variables are involved. Maybe nobody cared to win the prize. Maybe when I first posted the contest tweet, nobody was watching Twitter at that moment (you have to figure not everybody checks Twitter every day, and when they do there is just so much in their Twitter stream that they can't sort through it all). Or maybe, maybe, maybe. Regardless, it was an interesting experiment and I'm sure I'll try it again. Somewhere down the line. Oh, and the winner was @jointhebirdies. Congrats, Jeremy.


Lastly, Laura Ellen Scott is the March guest editor of Everyday Genius. Go send her something, why dontcha?