Most of you know that I am a big fan of both Harper Lee and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve also read just about every Dr. Seuss book out there. They are three authors that have been with me for a long time, that I go to over and over again. And while I certainly wish that there was an unlimited amount of quality material by them for me to read, I have, until recently, always accepted the last page as the last page.
First, I heard that Harper Lee will be publishing a sequel to To Kill a Mocking Bird, titled Go Set a Watchmen. I was excited, but felt a nagging voice at the back of my mind. I wanted to ignore it, but I couldn’t help remembering that I had read that Harper hadn’t been in control of her estate for a number of years due to a want of privacy as well as a decrease in her capacity to manage her affairs.
Since I don’t know Lee, or the whole story, I don’t want to delve too deeply into whether or not this is a legitimate act made by Lee or if it’s something else—the ugly side of the publishing industry poking its great head out of a murky sea. Still, I’ll admit that I will read it, if to do nothing else but to sate my own thirst.
Then, I was scrolling through the plethora of “news” on my phone, and saw a headline that indicated a lost story from Dr. Seuss had been found. 25 years after anything has been published under his name, and years after his death. This news comes only a matter of weeks after we hear that a sequel will be appearing from Harper Lee after decades of silence.
If these two weren’t enough, yesterday, I read that someone found a long lost story from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Although I would love to hear about Sherlock one more time, and to read stories from authors who I have long thought were passed the point of publishing anything, I can’t help but feel at least a little suspicious. I mean, three well-known, respected, and famous authors will have new stories published (except possibly Doyle’s, but it will at least be viewable by the public, I believe) and two of them are not even alive.
I could have taken the news of Go Set a Watchmen on its own, even though I still would have wondered if reading it would be taking advantage of Lee if she has indeed been persuaded to publish it. But for stories from both Seuss and Doyle to be found only weeks later makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Perhaps it is coincidence, and they are all legitimate stories that the authors do or would fully support, but if they’re not, something terrible is happening. If, and it’s a big if, these stories are not either real or, in the case of Lee, they are being published under duress, then we are witnessing a horrible manipulation of intellectual property—the thing that we, as writers, authors, designers, artists, and even thinkers use to protect the intangible products of our minds.
It’s one thing to market to an audience. I work in marketing myself, and I can easily say that I don’t undertake any actions that I am not proud of. Products need to get to the people that want them, and marketing is the river that sees the goods to their destinations. However, if these new-found manuscripts are products of uncouth and downright dirty marketing, then I myself feel a little ashamed at being a part of the industry.
Again, I don’t have any “insider information”. I am simply commenting on, what I am sure, many of you have wondered about yourselves. Three is coincidence enough, but if they find a long lost manuscript of Shakespeare’s in the next few weeks I might just lose a little bit of my sanity.
It’s one thing for a living author to publish a book that she wrote years and years ago, but for two more manuscripts to be found, within weeks of each other, from different authors? It makes me a little suspicious, to say the least. Our intellectual property as writers deserves to be respected and protected.
What are your thoughts? Do you think that these three stories are legitimate? Will you be reading any?
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