Friday, April 09, 2010

Bela Lugosi's Undead

This post from Publisher's Weekly puts a particular trend in fantasy (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter; et innumerable cetera) in context. The author predicts that the 70-year lag between death and fictionalization she identifies will collapse on freedom of speech grounds. This, she suggests, will make what I know as contemporary RPF (real-person fiction) into a broadly commercialized genre. One of the upcoming books she lists, Paul Is Undead, is already well within that 70-year window (which I take it she uses by analogy to copyrighted works in the public domain, as some right of publicity statutes do).

I agree that it's quite unlikely that there's any viable cause of action standing in the way of Alternate Sarah Palins. In fact, there is already a volume of Alternate Kennedys, which includes one story that has stuck with me for years. Here's the thing: Alternate Kennedys, which dealt with Kennedys both (then-)living and dead, was published in 1992 by an established publisher. That's a reminder that "permission culture" isn't just recent, it's really recent. Even if you're not Joyce Carol Oates, writing fiction about public figures is okay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a reminder that "permission culture" isn't just recent, it's really recent.


Many years ago I read a novel called Joshua Son of None, in which the protagonist slowly discovered that he was a clone of JFK whose entire life had been manipulated to replicate JFK's life, including the traumatic loss of family members, so that he could run for president and do what his clone-father could not.

Thinking about the timing, that book was written only about 20 years after JFK died. I'm not sure anyone would have been able to get away with that now...