The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
Tess Gerritsen, author of the astronaut novel Gravity, is suing Warner Bros., claiming the studio's failed to credit her as an inspiration for last year's film starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Warner Bros. bought the film rights in 1999. Gerritsen says the studio owes her 2.5 percent of the film's profits and that it broke an agreement that the movie be released with a "based upon" credit. In the past, Gerritsen has been quoted saying that "Gravity is a great film, but it's not based on my book." But, according to The New York Times, her lawyer says that "Ms. Gerritsen in recent months was given information — he would not be specific — that caused her to believe that Alfonso Cuarón, who also directed "Gravity," winning an Oscar, based his screenplay on her book." Cuarón and his son Jonás are credited with writing the screenplay.
Adam Johnson won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for The Orphan Master's Son, a novel set in North Korea. For Granta, he describes the bizarre reality of spending time there: "For a week, my minders had been steering me daily into shopping opportunities at various gifts shops and department stores. And I was ready to pay. I was dying to buy something, anything that would help my wife and children understand the profound surrealism and warped reality I'd experienced on my research trip to North Korea. But there was nothing to buy."
In an essay called "Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing," Daniel José Older argues that in order for children's books to begin to show perspectives other than white ones, editors, publishers, agents, and the rest of the book industry need to become more diverse — not just authors. He writes, "The publishing industry looks a lot like one of these best-selling teenage dystopias: white and full of people destroying each other to survive."
The Marxists Internet Archive, an online library of Marxist texts, is fighting a U.K. publisher to be able to put a copyrighted translation of Marx online without paying for it, because, you know, they're Marxists. The publisher Lawrence & Wishart — a historically leftist publisher — said they were met with a "campaign of online abuse" after they asked Marxists.org to take the copyrighted text down. A petition by a supporter of the Marxists Internet Archive, which has attracted thousands of signatures, states: "It is immensely ironic that a private publishing company is claiming the copyright of the collected works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the philosophers who wrote against the monopoly of capitalism and its origin, private property, all their lives." Lawrence & Wishart responded: "Income from our copyright on this scholarly work contributes to our continuing publication programme. Infringement of this copyright has the effect of depriving a small radical publisher of the funds it needs to remain in existence."
Frankenstein in Baghdad, a novel by the Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi, has won the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The prize, established in 2007 to combat the "limited international availability of high quality Arab fiction," comes with $50,000 and an English translation of the winning work. The prize website describes the novel like this: "Set in the spring of 2005, Frankenstein in Baghdad tells the story of Hadi al-Attag, a rag-and-bone man who lives in a populous district of Baghdad. He takes the body parts of those killed in explosions and sews them together to create a new body. The body is entered by a displaced soul, bringing it to life. Hadi calls the being 'the-what's-its-name,' while the authorities name it 'Criminal X' and others refer to it as 'Frankenstein'. Frankenstein begins a campaign of revenge against those who killed him, or killed those whose parts make up his body."
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