Problems with posthumous publishing

As their Book of the Week recently, the iBookstore featured the new Michael Crichton novel called Micro. Except, it’s not really a fully baked Crichton book. I’m a massive Michael fan, Timeline is one of my favourite books of all time. Some of his later works turned out to be a bit hard work, but Jurassic Park, Congo and Sphere are all great pieces.

I was very sad when he died and paid tribute to his back catalogue, before finding a new book of his – Pirate Latitudes. This one was practically finished and just had yet to be published before he died, so although I felt a bit weird reading it, it was understandable.

Micro, however, is stepping over a completely different line. They’ve found one-third of the novel written, along with research and notes and they’ve brought in another writer to finish off the work. Aside from the fact that this means only the idea and a small portion of the text is Crichton’s, it also makes me very uncomfortable to think of his drafted words becoming public. I would absolutely hate for any of my drafts, notes or ideas to be published whether I was alive to see it or not. Writing is such a personal thing, to not be able to give it the final approval is a huge deal.

I can’t bring myself to read this one, it seems wrong in every way – just a means of making more money off the back of Crichton’s name.

2 thoughts on “Problems with posthumous publishing

  1. They’ve found one-third of the novel written, along with research and notes and they’ve brought in another writer to finish off the work.

    So basically after the other two-thirds is written, edited and re-drafted numerous times before it’s published there will be nothing written by MC left?

  2. Frank Herbert’s somehow ended up writing more Dune books after he died than beforehand, thanks to Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson finding a load of his notes and cobbling together where the series was meant to go. It worked well, except for the bits where they forgot to cross-check what they were writing with what was already canon. Which occurred a surprisingly large amount. Including one book which, if you believe the original Dune book, cannot possibly be canon. Oops.

    I think the idea can work but only if the author has seen the possibility coming, made sure whoever is/are to be the co-author(s)/ghostwriter(s) of the series are properly briefed and authorised and the publishers then check the end results fit into canon as well as they would if the original writer had submitted the work. A sensitive writer can make a satisfying contribution to a well-loved writer’s “universe”, especially if they’re tying up loose ends (Brandon Sanderson’s currently doing a good job trying to complete the fantasy tangle that is Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series). A merely average writer will make such a mess of it that their work will not be worth the ink/electricity expended in its production.

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