eee!

Some short story sales make you happier than others.

Back in (I think) 2006 — maybe 2005 — a friend of mine named Crystal Black presented a paper at ICFA on the visual representation of Peter Pan, specifically with regards to his apparent age. She made some comment during the course of her talk that had nothing to do with that topic, but got my brain spinning on the ending of the story, where Peter comes back and takes Wendy’s daughter Jane to the Neverland, and then after Jane gets too old he takes Margaret.

The hindbrain, source of all truly good ideas, coughed out the phrase “The Last Wendy,” and left me to play.

I got maybe a thousand words in and stalled. Normally I start at the beginning, go on until I reach the end, and then stop, making it all up as I go. In this case, I knew where I was trying to go, but I just couldn’t see how to get there. One late-night Christmas conversation with kurayami_hime prodded at the unmoving mass of stuff in my head, and a couple of weeks later I called her up to say, “hey, I think I’m trying to make this be the wrong story. What if it was this instead?”

Her response, as I recall, was something along the lines of “That’s horrible. You have to do it.”

The result is one of my favorite stories . . . which came equipped with a little problem. See, the U.S. copyright status of Peter Pan and all his related materials is a tangled, bleeding mess. I’m pretty positive my story is in the clear, but not all magazine editors see it the same way. The solution? I mailed it to Canada. On Spec, the lovely magazine that published “Nine Sketches, in Charcoal and Blood” (one of my other favorite stories), has just agreed to buy it. You won’t get to see the story in print terribly soon, due to constraints on the number of U.S. authors they can publish, but it’ll be there eventually, and I don’t mind waiting. I think that’s a great home for it, and Peter Pan is firmly out of copyright in that country, so everybody wins.

But copyright or no copyright, I’d like to state publicly that I intend to donate my check from this sale to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, which controls the weird quasi-perpetual-but-not-really rights to J.M. Barrie’s works. They do good work, and I didn’t write this story for the money. I wrote it because my hindbrain latched onto some problematic points in the original and would not rest until it thrashed through them in narrative form. Secondary to that was the hope that the result could find an audience. Now that I have that, I’m happy.

(Actually, now I need to figure out some way to make my even-more-problematic Narnia story happen. I wonder if that’s out of copyright in Canada?)

0 Responses to “eee!”

  1. amysisson

    Are you familiar with The Problem with Susan, Neil Gaiman’s Narnia-inspired story that has been published in the U.S.?

    • Marie Brennan

      Yes, but I’m not sure it’s that simple. Gaiman said something in an interview about crafting the story in a manner that would allow him to eel around the copyright, by which I think he may mean the decision to have the characters talk about Narnia, as a book that exists in their own world, and leave ambiguous the identification between the professor and Susan. Mine would be a bit more directly connected, and therefore potentially more problematic.

      (I believe it would be defensible on transformative grounds, but if I’m bringing up that defense, we’re already talking lawsuit, which is bad — plus, being not Neil Gaiman, my odds of getting an editor to spring for it in the first place are rather lower.)

      • amysisson

        I know what you mean, about it being complicated. I’ve wondered about a short piece (flash, actually) that I did based on a painting — and it’s very obvious it’s based on the painting, even if not many people are familiar with the painting. And the artist is living. I’ve pretty much decided not to send it out. I enjoyed writing it in any case, and since it’s flash I don’t feel I have enough at stake to bother opening a can of worms.

        • Marie Brennan

          Have you thought about contacting the artist?

          (Says the writer who scoured the internet trying to contact Jose Maria Cano for permission to do a flash piece based on “Hijo de la Luna.”)

  2. dsgood

    Suggestion: study Karen Joy Fowler’s “The Faithful Companion at Forty” — which could be interpreted as being about Tonto, but doesn’t infringe any Lone Ranger related copyright or trademark.

    And: I can’t remember the title or author of a novel about Sherlock Holmes solving a case after his retirement. He’s taken an assumed name, and is raising bees. At the end, he tells the narrator (a young woman) his real name, and is offended when it turns out she’d never heard of him. The real name is not given.

    • Marie Brennan

      Some stories work well when they skirt the material in that fashion. My Narnia story, alas, is not one of them. It needs to go in with both fists, like this Peter Pan story does.

  3. intertext

    Yay Canada! Boy, copyright law is peculiar. And I know the Peter Pan copyrights are a quagmire. I’m surprised that it’s okay in Canada, but – hey, who’s complaining?

    • Marie Brennan

      Canada is author’s death plus fifty, which is 1987 in this case.

      Alas, C.S. Lewis won’t be public domain there until 2013.

  4. sora_blue

    Hooray!! 😀

    (No idea about the Narnia copyright.)

    • Marie Brennan

      It was a semi-tongue-in-cheek question; Lewis is not public domain there. (Not yet. Maybe I’ll just write the story and sit on it for five years.)

  5. j_cheney

    Congrats on the sale ;o)

  6. akashiver

    Congrats! I’m really glad it found a home. Go On Spec!

    • Marie Brennan

      And go Canada, for having less psychotic copyright laws.

      I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to sell the story on purely technical grounds, regardless of its merits.

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