Disney to scifi author Alan Dean Foster: Royalties, what stinking royalties?

Ah, so, yet another chapter opens in the sad tome of that perennial best-seller, ‘The Author Works for Free‘.

The trade body of authors writing in the science fiction and fantasy genre, the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) have just released a statement which they describe as “unprecedented”.

The short takeaway according to the SFWA is that writer Alan Dean Foster, who more or less created the sub-genre of media tie-in novels, has seen Disney acquire most of his original publishers – LucasFilm, 20th Century Fox, etc – with Disney taking the view that they are only buying these companies’ assets, not their debts and legal obligations – so, sorry, Alan Dean Foster, we’re going to keep on publishing all of your novels you wrote, but no royalties for you.

Alan wrote the first Star Wars novelisation ‘Splinter of The Mind’s Eye‘, as well as the books for Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3.

I recalled finding Splinter of The Mind’s Eye as a kid in the late 70s, and thinking, WTF, a book of the movie? What’s that about? Quite a lot of money, as it transpired.

SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal said, “In my decade with the organization, the fact that we are forced to present this publicly is unprecedented. So too, are the problems. The simple problem is that we have a writer who is not being paid. The larger problem has the potential to affect every writer. Disney’s argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company. If they are doing this to Alan Dean Foster, one of the great science fiction writers of our time, then what are they doing to the younger writers who do not know that a contract is a contract?”

Alan Dean Foster has released this statement,

Dear Mickey,

We have a lot in common, you and I. We share a birthday: November 18. My dad’s nickname was Mickey. There’s more.

When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote. STAR WARS, the novelization of the very first film. SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE, the first sequel novel. You owe me royalties on these books. You stopped paying them.

When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written. The novelizations of ALIEN, ALIENS, and ALIEN 3. You’ve never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them.

All these books are all still very much in print. They still earn money. For you. When one company buys another, they acquire its liabilities as well as its assets. You’re certainly reaping the benefits of the assets. I’d very much like my minuscule (though it’s not small to me) share.

You want me to sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) before even talking. I’ve signed a lot of NDAs in my 50-year career. Never once did anyone ever ask me to sign one prior to negotiations. For the obvious reason that once you sign, you can no longer talk about the matter at hand. Every one of my representatives in this matter, with many, many decades of experience in such business, echoes my bewilderment.

You continue to ignore requests from my agents. You continue to ignore queries from SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You continue to ignore my legal representatives. I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do. Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away. Or possibly die. But I’m still here, and I am still entitled to what you owe me. Including not to be ignored, just because I’m only one lone writer. How many other writers and artists out there are you similarly ignoring?

My wife has serious medical issues and in 2016 I was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer. We could use the money. Not charity: just what I’m owed. I’ve always loved Disney. The films, the parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show. I don’t think Unca Walt would approve of how you are currently treating me. Maybe someone in the right position just hasn’t received the word, though after all these months of ignored requests and queries, that’s hard to countenance. Or as a guy named Bob Iger said….

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

I’m not feeling it.

Alan Dean Foster

Prescott, AZ

With the world’s physical book-shops having the last few nails hammered into their limping corpse by the unending misery of these freaking pandemic lockdowns, I suspect that a great many wobbling publishers will be merging with each other and if not taking Disney’s ‘interesting’ view of royalties, perhaps imposing new contracts where you say, get 0.5% of what the old contract said if your name begins with the letter G, M or K in months that have even numbers during the Astrological conjunction of Sagittarius in your Moon sign. Otherwise, 0.2%.

The indie author route is now looking not so much like an alternative path, but the only road open without minefields, barbed wire, and tanks bearing scary corporate pirate flags.

Disney to scifi author Alan Dean Foster: Royalties, what stinking royalties?
Get this fabulous book royalty free … but only if you’re the author: the rest of you f^&*&*(ers have to pay!

3 thoughts on “Disney to scifi author Alan Dean Foster: Royalties, what stinking royalties?

  • I hope someone with authority at Disney takes note of this and orders the payment of whatever is owed.

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  • Well that sucks – big time.
    Not that I’ve watched a lot of Disney lately, but I sure as hell won’t now.

    Anybody up for a boycott? Or a petition?

    Remember “Mauschwitz” & “Duckau”? Perhaps Scrooge McDuck is now in charge….


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