I doubt my Loyal Readers will be surprised to learn that the first “grown-up” book I ever read was Star Wars, the novelization of the movie that was ostensibly written by George Lucas, but actually was ghost written by a dude named Alan Dean Foster.
The second grown-up book I ever read was Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, a sequel to Star Wars written by that same Alan Dean Foster, and the first of what has now become known as the “Star Wars Expanded Universe” of tie-in novels, comics and games… an empire that rivals Palpatine’s in its reach and wealth.
I think it’s fair to say that Foster was my favorite author when I was a kid, both for his original works and for his novelizations of popular films. He was the king of them during the ’70s and ’80s, adapting everything from the aforementioned Star Wars to Clash of the Titans. I read all of them over and over again because for me, especially in the pre-home-video era, they were the best way to recapture the experience of those beloved movies. In fact, at one point, I probably read more novelizations — and in particular the novelizations of Alan Dean Foster, because he was the best in this category — than anything else.
So when I heard earlier today that Foster would be delivering a virtual press conference along with the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America about something important, my antenna went up. The virtual conference was livestreamed on Facebook and is still there on SFWA’s page, if you want watch it, but the short version is this: When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, it also acquired Foster’s Star Wars books. And when Disney acquired Fox, it acquired his novelizations of Alien, Aliens and Alien 3. All of these books are still in print and still making money for their owner, which is now, of course, Disney.
And Disney has stopped paying Foster the royalties he’s owed.
Moreover, they refuse to even speak with Foster, his agents, or SFWA about the matter, apparently believing that they acquired the rights to those contracts but not the obligations thereof.
As a fan of Foster, a fan of Star Wars and Alien, as a would-be novelist myself who once thought the coolest thing in the world would be to have Foster’s job, I am infuriated. This is absolute bullshit, the apotheosis of corporate evil and of unfair, 800-pound-gorilla behavior. And here’s the thing: If the Mouse is screwing over Alan Dean Freaking Foster, a hugely successful novelist with a 50-year track record, what are they doing to other writers who don’t have his name or professional savvy?
I’ll be following this story…