The New York Times story "The Same Pooh Bear, but an Otter Has Arrived" (a deceptive title — Lottie the Otter is given only the briefest of mentions) describes the first authorized Winnie the Pooh book in eight decades, published this past week. It got me thinking about the correlation between author and creation.
In cases such as this, the author is unavailable to continue his work. Just as Winnie the Pooh has outlived creator A. A. Milne, amnestic superspy Jason Bourne has outlasted original author Robert Ludlum. Since these characters were probably copyrighted by the publishers, it is within their legal right to hand them off to other authors. But had their creators known this would actually come to pass, would they have signed the contract that made it possible?
I'm thinking specifically of a fantasy author whose books became a New York Times bestsellers. The publisher, wanting to capitalize on the success of this author's characters, recruited another author to write even more books using those same characters. From what I understand, the original author said, "That may be your legal right, but if you do so, I have no obligation to ever write for you, ever again." The author was protective of his characters and had a successful enough resume that he could throw his weight around to get his way. Was he preserving the integrity of his literary progeny? Or was he being unrealistic about the degree of ownership he should expect to have over his creations?
Can or should books even be considered separate from their creators? Doubtless no secondary author can or will write in an existing franchise quite like the original author would. At what point does a literary series jump the shark?