Who writes my books when I'm dead?

The Family CorleoneIn the world of “problems I would both like and not like to have,” Paramount Pictures is suing the estate of Mario Puzo, author of THE GODFATHER novel, to stop the estate from putting out a new Godfather book. I’ll summarize below, but if you want more in-depth coverage, read the article from The Hollywood Reporter and/or Businessweek.

The situation in one paragraph (or less)
Mario Puzo is dead. His estate wants to put out a new novel, THE FAMILY CORLEONE, written by Ed Falco. This novel details the rise to power of one Vito Corleone (the role made famous by Marlon Brando) in 1930s New York. Paramount Pictures filed suit that the novel “tarnishes the legacy” of it’s films, which were made based on the novel THE GODFATHER, written by Puzo. Proceeds from THE FAMILY CORLEONE will go into escrow while the courts determine the lawuit’s result. In retaliation. the Puzo estate is counter-suing to terminate the original 1969 agreement that gave Paramount the movie rights to the book (I will avoid a mafioso line like “if they hit us, we hit them back twice as hard” because I’m mature and shit).

How this impacts me
This case, of course, has nothing to do with me directly. But, it makes a body think about the future legacy of works that I already wrote, am writing today, and will write for the next 352 years of my baby-blood-makes-me-nigh-immortal life.

Let’s say someone buys the movie rights to NOCTURNAL. Let’s say NOCTURNAL flick is a smash hit. What does that mean for the story integrity looking out ten, twenty, fifty years or more? Will my heirs someday commission multiple sequels to cash in on what I created and you guys dig? I’ll be in the ground so I probably won’t care, but story is the only real legacy an author can leave.

Just look at Marvel and DC:
The ongoing reinventions of Batman and Spiderman show that an author’s original storyline is irrelevant when coporations own copyrights. Granted, those were works-for-hire, and corporations have owned Batman and Spiderman from day one (correct me if I’m wrong, here, I’m not an expert on comics history). So the people who came up with those original tales of the Dark Knight before he was the Dark Knight can’t say shit as Frank Miller totally upends their creation and makes it something new. If I was the guy who created the original storyline? As an author who works very, very hard on creating solid stories, I’d want to come back from the dead and murder everyone involved. I’m a bitter ghost like that.

NOCTURNAL, the sequel! Based on the novel INFECTED:
When INFECTED was optioned for a movie in 2008, part of the deal was that the studio could make an INFECTED II and I would have no say over what that might be. So, while I had a perfectly kick-ass sequel with CONTAGIOUS, the studio could opt to go in a completely different direction. I tried not to think that INFECTED II might be as God-awful as HIGHLANDER II. To watch something I’d spent a decade on turned into a cash-grab piece of shlock? That would be a living nightmare. Yes-yes, I know, “First World Problems” and all, but that’s not hyperbole.

Sometimes we creative types can get crazy-possessive of what we make. It’s that obsessive nature that makes us slave over it, re-write it, edit it, re-write it again and again to make it the best if can be that brings it up to a certain level of quality. The story matters. It’s not “just a book” to me. It is to you, and that’s fine, but that is my creation. Would you tell Dr. Frankenstein to chill the fuck out when the villagers burn his monster? You could, but Doc would pimp-slap you all across the lab.

Which begs the big question: who controls quality after I’m dead?
And the answer is, I don’t know. I know that the Puzo Estate thinks they can control quality (and cash in as well, let’s be honest here). I know Paramount Pictures thinks they can control quality (and cash in as well, let’s be honest here). This is about money. But is this also about protecting the integrity of a story that has surpassed mere entertainment and become part of the American culture?

Should creators take the money while they can, or should they try and find a way to protect their legacy? What if someone wrote GONE WITH THE WIND II: SCARLET FLASHES THEM TITTIES? How would that impact a piece of our shared identity?

What do you think?
As fans, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Say I get eaten by a rabid llama tomorrow. Should the GFL series be done, or should someone else write it? What if ARealGirl hires my nemesis J.C. Hutchinssssss to write it? If I had a grave (which I won’t, because my ashes will be spread over the ashes of Marilyn Monroe (awww yeah)), would I be turning in it? As the person who’d control that business, does ARealGirl have the right to party on with the story, both to make her duckets and to satisfy all y’all who want to know what happens?

Comment. I’ll be watching.

Comments

  1. Stormy

    True, but an earlier empire also would have far more decentralised – he could have ruled the Americas, or greats swaths of Europe, etc, but the limited tech would have meant being vulnerable to rebellion at the edges.

    However, pull the internet into the equation, and you’ve got real-time monitoring of everyone, the ability to cut people off from communication channels, and the ability to draw in new followers with a +like button.
    In short, bigger empire with less hassle.
  2. Sigler-spreader_655

    Why did i suddenly get the Image of Scott as an evil He-Man…..

    Maybe you could ride a Ki instead of Battle cat….

    Alothough you may have a point Stormy i find it difficult to believe that Scott has had previous persona, surely he would have made himself known earlier. Cementing an empire would have been much easier a few hundred years ago.

    —————————————————————————————————————-


  3. Stormy

    @SS-655

    True, he’s immortal, but at some point he may wish to retire this persona and adopt another (for all we know, he’s done this several times already), so with the new advents of copyright law that have occurred during this persona’s time, he is trying to ensure that a) he damn well continues to profit or b) something else suitable happens with his work.
  4. Sigler-spreader_655

    Hold up I have a flaw in the logic of this entire thread.

    while it may be true that IP once taken up by lesser parties becomes watered down and altered, or evolves to fit the needs of the new “owner” (using the term loosely),

    arn’t we all forgetting that our beloved FDO is immortal, and when he does reach the twilight years of a mortal life, those who did not embrace the Church Siglerism from the beginning will be sacrificed to ensure the unholy immortality of our lord and Master.

    Pope Siglerus has probably prepared for this, as he will probably be doing most of the sacrificing and disemboweling of said heretics  and unbelievers….

    but hey if you do decide to ascend to god-hood Scott, then why not write a legal clause in your will that forbids lesser mortals rehashing your works, and any money made from the works afterwards could go to local charities…..

  5. scottsigler

    Well you look at some of the continuing properties out there, and there is little or no money going back to the original creators and families. The thing is, if corporations own, things keep getting extended or redone.

  6. Lone_Ghost_Jinn

    Personally, even with characters and books I love, I stop reading them when the author passes and/or it becomes a franchise.  The other person I can add to this is my brother who loves reading Ian Flemming’s novels but does not read any of the other books written by someone else.  So, what ever happens, when it is not Scott Sigler writing Scott’s novels, they are no longer Scott Sigler novels even if they are about blue triangles or Quentin Barnes and I will not read them.

  7. steffiebaby140

    You know, this is something that I think every creative type thinks about.  And I don’t think there’s any wrong or right answer.  Personally, if I become a super uber famous writer one day and then get plastered by a bus (and let’s face it working in San Fran makes it a distinct possibility for me!), I would love it if my ideas lived on through people who enjoyed and were passionate about my work while I was alive.  Obviously I would not want them messing with MY stuff, but if you want to make a porno addition to one of my stories, have at it!  You want to add 20 new books to a series with a bunch of other writers, be my guest!  To me, writing is meant to be enjoyed, and if someone continuing my legacy provided that enjoyment then I would have no problem with it.  But I would want some of the proceeds to go to my heirs or a charity since if I was still alive I’d be getting a cut for using my IP anyway! 

    But then we also have to look at how far should we should take this idea of protecting an author’s property when they die.  Case in point….Stieg Larsson died with 3 unfinished manuscripts which were published after his death.  If someone had put a halt to the whole thing because he died then it would have remained 3 unfinished manuscripts gathering dust in the closet somewhere.  And if that happened, the 27 million+ readers wouldn’t have been able to buy the books and enjoy them.

    But as a writer I totally get the possessiveness of it.  I feel like my characters are my friends, I know them better than people I’ve known my whole life!  There are days when their exploits have me thinking of writing in a nuclear bomb attack to finish them off, and other days when I sigh with contentment and realize it was a job well done.  But possessive though I may be, I wouldn’t want people to stop adding to my worlds when I die if there’s a demand for it.

  8. Stormy
    @Scott
    That’s probably the way to go. If I can finish up the various series and let them be complete, I am creating ample room in my universe for others to play both while I am here and after I am gone. 
    I think creating room in your ‘verse is the only way to go – there are only so many books one writer can write, and only so many perspectives they can bring – another author can look at the same circumstances and situations and want to tell an entirely different set of stories.

    It’s why I can’t understand why some authors are so precious with their work that they think even fanfic in obscure corners of the internet is somehow devaluing or defiling their work.

    Bringing up the comics example again – sharing the universe hasn’t hurt Marvel or DC, and while we’ve had to deal with crap, we’ve also gotten stories that couldn’t have been conceived of fifty years ago.

    Alien is another good example – one film, which has spawned into a franchise, and although we’ve had to suffer through crap, it’s kept the xenomorph in the public consciousness, to the point where it’s just one more thing in the dark to be afraid of. 

    I’m biased, because I used to write fanfic when I was a teenager, but I’ve never seen the harm in letting other people play in your sandbox. I mean, the first time someone posted an R-rated fanfic of my stuff, it felt like some sort of authorial milestone. :D

    I may even be missing some. 

    You likely are – even if you don’t know it yet, because these are just the ideas you have right now, you don’t know how many ideas you’ll generate in the next five or ten years that have to go on the back burner.

    And who knows how many stories in the HUNTER HUNTERSON & SONS series. I may even be missing some. 
    Are those going to stay at the shorter lengths like the “$15 Burger”, or will they eventually move into novel-length evil-smashing-adventures?
  9. scottsigler

    @Stormy said:

    I would like to have capped off all of the stories by then, but if I haven’t, I may nominate a literary heir, and designate them as the “continuation of official canon”. Canon might contradict with what’s going on in works done by people using the elements in the public domain, but if Wolverine can be on a dozen teams at once, I don’t see the problem. ^_^”

    That’s probably the way to go. If I can finish up the various series and let them be complete, I am creating ample room in my universe for others to play both while I am here and after I am gone. 

    The trick is that “finishing the series” bit. As you’ve seen, until I started working with ARealGirl, I was great at starting a series but no so good at continuing it. Here’s’ the problem:
    • Four more books to go in the GFL series
    • Three more in THE CRYPT series
    • One more in the ANCESTOR series
    • Three more in the NOCTURNAL series (two sequels and a prequel)
    • Two more in the EARTHCORE series

    And who knows how many stories in the HUNTER HUNTERSON & SONS series. I may even be missing some. 

  10. Stormy

    FDO, I think there’s a certain fucking ineffable quality that you bring to your writing that couldn’t be replicated by anyone else. Your voice is just so you that no one could live up to it. 

    However, that’s only a problem when you’re talking about direct sequels. (If you die before Mt Fitzroy, I will use black magic and science until you can write again). Other authors exploring your ‘verse would be fine.
    So, while no one could write Pookie and Bri-Bri, there could be an off-shoot Nocturnal series about a National-Enquirer-type newspaper/blog that tries to investigate the monsters, or whatever.
    While your stank pervades every inch of the universe, in every time period, I think it’s also a living, breathing thing that stands on its own well enough to let other authors play with it.
    So my suggestion would probably be to find several literary heirs, who you feel comfortable enough with to give them free rein with the future stories of the ‘verse. Have an estate, possibly run by A2, or B ( :P ), who is in charge overall, and who deals with rights and licensing, etc.
    And there’s nothing stopping you from setting this up while you’re still among the living – you’ve likely got too many stories to tell in one standard lifetime, so – like with Mur and The Reporter – give people a chance to sink or swim while you’re still around to smite them/guide them.
    My plan for my stuff at the moment is to work with people while I’m still alive, and expand that way while, of course, still taking charge of the main story threads and major changes to the ‘verse. 
    I also have a plan for when I die though – have the stuff I’ve written continue to bring in money for my kids/family, but release the ‘verse itself into the public domain (I may do this when I’m getting old, just to see what sort of random crap people come up with…why yes, I do love fanfic :D).
    I would like to have capped off all of the stories by then, but if I haven’t, I may nominate a literary heir, and designate them as the “continuation of official canon”. Canon might contradict with what’s going on in works done by people using the elements in the public domain, but if Wolverine can be on a dozen teams at once, I don’t see the problem. ^_^
  11. toxic

    ok….first off Hutchinsss has to have Siamese twin surgery with Mur Lafferty to continue the Siglerism campaign (under the harsh and direct supervision of A)
    Second
    Mario Puzo DID write a sequel to THE GODFATHER called THE SICILIAN
    It was really good -BUT- was not focused on the Corleones..also..Puzo told his family and publishers that after his death do whatever you want with his material as he knew he could never top what he had done…
    Back in 2002-3 the estate of Mario Puzo had a CONTEST to see who would get to write the new chapters of THE GODFATHER.The winner was MARK WINEGARDNER..He is no slouch of a writer.His two sequels THE GODFATHER RETURNS and THE GODFATHER’S REVENGE were very entertaining with new ,well defined characters.Of course they were NOT as good as the original GODFATHER.They did-answer many questions and gave more ink to minor characters of the original.My personal opinions mean little in a literary sense..Afterall.I did call FDO a sell out and and bagged on him over writing YA novels and then accused him of planning to have magic dogs ala Koontz….


  12. Beth_Ailis

    You could require that the IP is put in the public domain or something after the last surviving person that you chose is taking the proverbial dirt nap. There are ways to leave stuff (property, a business) that require liquidation after the last surviving member is dead. My great grandfather did that with the family business – once his last child died, everything had to be liquidated. There were plenty of grandchildren involved in the business, but that was what happened. He was a little bit of a control freak, I guess. And with IP you should be even more so…
    Best plan, just don’t die on us.

  13. cyberjnkee

    Well, I’d say the obvious answer is…..train someone to do it when you’re not here. Take on a protege (an offspring would work too) and drill into them exactly what you’d want done. A good lawyer would be helpful in filling in the legal details, of course. In the end, however, if you die, you won’t be here, so all the planning in the world could go right out the window and your amassed wealth used up on dancing girls and fine bourbon. So, the best advice to this quandry I can think of comes from the Last Crusader…..”Choose wisely.”

  14. scottsigler

    I don’t trust a trust. Maybe I don’t understand the concept or how it works, but the trust is eventually going to fall under the control of someone who never knew me, someone that has to make the best decisions available to him or her. Once you are a degree of separation from the creator, “best decision” always means “biggest paycheck.”

    Still, the idea of leaving the IP to a charity is something to consider. I’d like to think that the Wounded Warrior Project could make good use of a military story like THE CRYPT. That will only happen if I’m the last survivor of several people, though — if you want to leave something to someone, in short order that ownership will move down the line to a person that did not know you and doesn’t have your final wishes at heart. 
  15. scottsigler

    @JDSawyer: 

    For me, my central concern is to what extent I want to protect my original vision versus giving the stories a hopping chance to live long (or forever) in the popular consciousness, a’la the works of Lovecraft or Dickens or any of the others, whose works would probably not survive to this day had they not slipped into the public domain and/or been deliberately opened up while they were still in the popular imagination.”

    That’s a point I hadn’t considered. My goal from day one has been to create monsters that join the cabal of American culture: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Alien and Predator. The later two are relatively new additions, but their ubiquitousness and semi-open-sourcedness make for many stories and more exposure to the public. I had hoped the Ancestor would someday join this cabal. So far, not happening, but I’ve got a little time left before I poison the worms (hey, them bitches are gonna eat me? I got a little something planned for you, you uppity worms). 
  16. aashish

    hey FDO just make a trust of all your work and let all the proceeds go to a charity or select nice corporation to take care of your work and let it grow like the batman and iron man and again let some of its proceeds go to a charity or to your family. i guess that is a risk that you have to take.

  17. cyborg

    I think that by respect of the author, no one should be allowed to make changes or write another sequel or prequel, as the author who is dead cannot review it and say ok or dump it in the garbage.

    You have to keep material authentic and i agree with Paramount Pictures not tarnish the original work.
    Otherwise, you see as you said anyone who owns the rights get a new book under the same saga or name which almost most of the time is shit.
    I myself would not want anyone to do that if i survive you, what makes your books so special, unique and get an “army of darkness” followers in the church of scott sigler is you! not your descendants or someone who owns your estate…no one can replicate your work, i say to anyone who wants to do that, why don’t you start your own original work and build your own legacy instead of taking a short cut.
    Scott, keep up the good work, love your stuff, and your’re right, you should be concerned about that as anyone who created something special!
  18. Mycroft

    I thought you were going to do an L. Ron hubbard and form the “Church of Siglerism”  Then, as Hubbard’s church continues to write his books, so the church of Siglerism could continue on writing your holy books.

    Of course, paraphrasing from the Planet of the Apes movies, you would need the Alpha and the Omega book, the begining and the end (the real bomb….).  Better to get those into the can now, just in case.

  19. MuchAdo

    Awww snap!!!  All I can say is that I’ll be pretty damn pissed if I don’t find out what happens to Quentin Barnes.  Having said that, you should do whats in the best interest of The Evil Queen, ARealGirl, and your estate.  While I would cry over your untimely death, I would want you to rest in peace knowing your wishes were granted and your loved ones taken care of.

  20. Kefo_of_The_Mountain

    My Dear FDO, if I may offer my humble, unworthy ramblings,

    Estate planning is something that all creative people should make clear in their wills and such.  Do you want your stories to go into the public domain?  Do you want your Estate to hang on to your stories until you are all but forgotten?
    The Puzo/Paramount lawsuit is all about Money.  Anyone who says it’s about the property or legacy is blowing smoke.  The books are good, The movie is a classic (2 and 3, depends on your view). But we know it’s about the money.  If Puzo was alive and wrote it, Paramount would still file a lawsuit if they didn’t get their cut.
    As for Dark Overlord Media.  You and A should have this in your partnership agreement written out who controls what in the event of death of one partner (or dissolvement of the partnership) or both.   My personal thoughts should be that your books be in the public domain in electronic form (Creative commons license) and any other media forms should be in a trust for the betterment of society (however you wish that to be)
    You have seen how “the media machine” will turn your work into whatever they can for money.  and making money is good.  Just make sure Dark Overlord Media gets their cut because the original work is yours.
    As for  the GFL series.  IF you have the general outline for the next 3 books already done.  I believe ARealGirl should be allowed to finish the series as is best for D0M.  But only YOU should write Mt. Fitzroy.
    But you cannot, are not, allowed to die until you finish “The Crypt”.
    Thank you my Dark Overlord for taking the few minutes to read my unworthy thoughts.
    Kefo_of_the_Mountain
    Skybox #18, Ionath Stadium
  21. occupy_my_rocktopi

    While ARealGirl is kickass at what she does, I gotta say I’d rather see the series be done, even if left open ended because of your untimely death (“Et tu, Brute?”) than risk seeing Infected 4: The Perry Chronicles Based on the Universe by Scott Sigler; Written by some shit writer who has no passion for your books.  Even if the nemesis J.C. Hutchinssssss took up the reigns.  He is good, but he is no FDO.  I am so tired and leary of good books, movies, and even tv shows that end and then are brought back simply in hopes of squeazing another few buck out.  I’m not saying that someone somewhere could not write in a style very similar to yours.  I’m saying that in my opinion your creative works are unique enough that I don’t think they could survive without you and your fucked mind.  Cause as you have written in one of my books, your mind is not fucked up, just fucked.

  22. Beth_Ailis

    Very interesting question! BTW there was an “official” GWTW sequel, “Scarlett” and it didn’t suck horribly, but the writer was no Margaret Mitchell.
    I think the person who suggested leaving your works to the public domain might have something there. I’m a big fan of open source and I’d love to see the Siglerverse continue on after the FDO fakes his death.
    With the guest writers you’ve brought in, like Mur (LOVED ‘The Reporter’), you already have somewhat of a path laid out if A decides to continue publishing storied based on your characters.
    I’d just hate to have some corporation take over — they wouldn’t care about quality, just money. (Money isn’t a bad thing, but if that’s all you care about you get Highlander II, an abomination.)
    Best thing, just don’t die. Work on transferring your consciousness to a robot or clone.

  23. tsolo888

    This is all very interesting but I think you all should be aware that there is a rabid llama in Oklahoma.  
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00001582.htm

    Be careful what you say in your posts.  
    On a serious note, I think the will idea mentioned by agent minivann would probably help.  Ultimately it should be your decision who gets to carry on your legacy  if you choose to make it.
  24. agent_minivann

    I think the savvy, forward-thinking author would put something in his/her will.  I like to think that (when I finally get off my butt and write that novel I have bouncing around in my skull) I would put in my will that after I die my work goes into the public domain as soon as realistically possible.  If it is worth the paper it’s printed on, it will be printed and in the hands of readers for a long time. Estates and publishers/producers couldn’t have legal battles as well

  25. Twainy

    Why do you think you are gonna die!?

    (I see your brain floating in a tank 1,000 years from now, writing writing writing … )

    You don’t think there’s a GWTW porno out there?

    Something about imitation being the most sincerest form of flattery. Hey, as long as they’re still writing about it the original is still getting read?

    Nothing will tarnish Infected (etc), NOTHING I tell you!!

    I woke from a sound sleep to write this … so I expect a 1,000 extra Pandemic words, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 200K, a novel so long that the movie will need an intermission or to be broken into 2 parts!

    G’nite, miss u all, hugg

  26. scottsigler

    Can’t I just possess someone? Come back from the dead to work someone else’s body like a puppet?

  27. PerfectDayForDying

    I would like to think that folks who have the intellectual capacity to read also have that capacity to tell the difference between an author’s original work and follow-on books that are “based on” the original… which is really just a fancy name for fanfic. I would like to think that those readers will judge the work in that light. 

    For example, Ian Fleming’s 007 books have a particular style and tone, and as good as some of the later Bond books written by other authors are, it’s still fairly obvious that they aren’t “the real thing”, kinda like how the cheap Best Value Cola at the grocery store is similar to, but definitely not the same as CocaCola. And when you buy that cheap-ass crap, you know exactly what you’re getting, you know that you’re settling for second best, and you don’t hold it against the CocaCola folks for the difference.
    At then end of the day though, everything comes back around to money, we all know this. As long as the Sigler estate is getting a fair piece of the action from the publisher, I don’t see an issue with it. I don’t think that follow-on works by other authors necessarily damages the integrity of the originals or their author’s memory, because reasonable people will recognize them as someone else’s interpretation of the where the story might have gone.
    I guess my point is that as long as people know that “NOCTURNAL, the sequel! Based on the novel INFECTED” didn’t actually come directly from the twisted mind and fingers of the FDO himself, they will regard it as such. If it is a good story, they’ll say “hey, Scott would be pretty proud of this, but it still doesn’t really count as canon.” If it is a sucky story, real fans will say “wow, Scott will probably drag himself up from whatever realm he wound up in after Hell kicked him out for being too much of a badass and tear the still-beating heart out of the chest of whatever hack wrote that garbage… oh and it definitely does not count as canon.”
    Not that it really matters, because we all know that the powers of absolute darkness the FDO possesses renders him effectively immortal anyway.
  28. Wyll

    Interesting question…

    I’ve kept all my rough notes and drafts in a large folderr. I got about ten decent drafts that could leave to some good material.

    I’ve told my eldest daughter that if I pass suddently, it is hers to do with as she pleases. My only stipulation is that if she shares any success with her two sisters.

    As for the Sig’s massive body of work, I think he should write me one of those mysterious Lovecraft letter’s that vauge hints at what works he will leave to me to take care of and I can nebulously claim copyright over them for the next 50 years.

    Another option would be to hit up a few doze big name horror writers, tell them the Sig went out the way he wanted to (guns blazing, over the cliff on a flaming llama while being pursued by flying monkeys) and that it was his dying wish that each of them write a short story based upon his work. All proceeds will be donated to charity.. the prevention of flaming llama accidents.

  29. 573ph4n13_84rn35

    Come on, do the V.C. Andrews thing! “Write” a million books after you die without telling anyone you are dead, have someone dress up like you and continue to do your videos, and when the public finds out- hello! Perfect plot for a horror novel. Except you’ll probably have to add in some murder (hopefully?).

    Realistically, it would just be cool if you let all your rough unpublished stuff be published. It might turn out like Amy Winehouse’s last record, but even if it is a hastily thrown together hodge podge there are still some good songs on it. The best thing you can do it set it up how you want it and hope everything goes to plan.
  30. tquillin

    I guess you have to give her credit taking time from her busy Nurse Jackie schedule to write a book.

  31. jdsawyer

    I’ve been hashing through these issues myself as I try to figure out how to structure my literary estate. As like you, I don’t now have nor likely ever will have children, the question of the income from my copyrights providing for them is moot. That income providing for my partner, should she survive me, is a live question, but it’s a separate question from who controls the trust that owns the work.

    The basic options are:
    1) signing the copyrights over to a trust, which then maintains and controls the properties after you die for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries. In this case, selecting the trustee and the beneficiary are the two tricky parts. As the literary trustee for a couple other writers, I’m not eager to ask someone who isn’t already very good with both the art and the business to do this job.

    2) Release the works into the public domain upon my death (or upon satisfying any debts I leave behind, should I die in ignominious circumstances).

    3) Some combination of the above, where the trust was designed to operate for a limited time and then dissolve, releasing the works into the public domain.

    For me, my central concern is to what extent I want to protect my original vision versus giving the stories a hopping chance to live long (or forever) in the popular consciousness, a’la the works of Lovecraft or Dickens or any of the others, whose works would probably not survive to this day had they not slipped into the public domain and/or been deliberately opened up while they were still in the popular imagination.

    It’s a toughie.  As far as corporate licensees, what I worry most about is corporations attempting to maintain a lock on the property long after my interest has expired. This prospect does not make my pink parts all happy.

    FWIW

    Dan Sawyer