News & Notes is a weekly Saturday post featuring book- and publishing-related news, links to interesting articles and opinion pieces, and other cool stuff.
Jan Morris, noted historian and travel writer, died Friday (Nov. 20) at a hospital in her native Wales. Morris was 94. As a journalist in her early career, Morris broke the story of Edmund Hillary’s summit of Everest and reported on the Suez conflict. Her books include the Pax Brittanica trilogy (history), Venice, and Conundrum, a memoir of her transition.
- Is Simon & Schuster a Bargain at $1.7 Billion? The venerable Big Five publisher is up for sale. HarperCollins (HC) and Penguin Random House (PRH) are the leading contenders… which would further consolidate the Big Five publishing firms. (Publishers Weekly)
- Disney has failed to pay royalties to author Alan Dean Foster for some books he wrote in the Star Wars and Aliens franchises, including the novelizations of A New Hope and all three Alien movies, and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Foster still owns the copyrights on the books. Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox respectively owed, and paid, royalties for those novels up until Disney purchased each company. SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal explains why this sets a dangerous precedent, and why the SFWA has taken the unusual step of going public regarding the dispute. You can also read the thread on Kowal’s Twitter feed, and check out the hashtags #DearMickey and #DisneyMustPay. Cory Doctorow’s explanation of the situation, Disney’s position, and the implications is also well worth reading. (Editor’s note: If you believe authors and rights-holders should be compensated for their work, and that large corporations shouldn’t ride roughshod over those rights just because they are big and powerful, please share and publicize the SFWA post, and use the hashtags mentioned above when discussing on social media. Given Disney’s vast corporate might and wealth, negative publicity is really the only viable way to put pressure on them.)
- Allegheny County Jail Deeply Restricts Access to Literature for Incarcerated Individuals. The inmates can no longer order from Barnes & Noble or ChristianBook.com, the only two services from which they could previously buy books. Now, they are restricted to about 214 books (mostly public-domain) and 49 religious books, on tablets provided through a contract with a for-profit company. There are all kinds of problems with this scenario. (Book Riot, based in part on an article in the Pittsburgh Current.)
- The 2020 National Book Awards were announced Nov. 18, in a virtual awards ceremony which you can view here.
- The 2020 Booker Prize went to Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain, a semi-autobiographical novel about an alcoholic mother and her young son in 1980s Glasgow. (See “Worth Reading,” below, for a link to an interview with Stuart.
- PRH Doubles Down On Spanish-Language Publishing (Publishers Weekly)
Worth Reading/Viewing/Checking Out
(not all book-related)
- Booker winner Douglas Stuart: ‘I owe Scotland everything‘ (The Guardian)
- Presidential Memoirs Are Big Business. Will Anyone Buy Trump’s? (Publishers Weekly)
- Some books are nearly impossible to turn into an audiobook. Nick Sullivan talks to The Guardian about the challenge of narrating William Gaddis’s JR, a 700-plus-page novel which is 90% unattributed dialogue and contains 120 different characters. The audiobook first came out in 2011; a new print edition of the novel and Sullivan’s audibook were both released this year.
- The Most Unusual Weapons in Crime Fiction (Lynne Truss, Crime Reads) I have actually read two of these: Dahl’s short story, and Ngaio Marsh’s novel. (A note for my fellow US readers: The game “Cluedo” is better known here as “Clue.”)
For Readers, Writers, & Bloggers
- Writing Outside Representation: “E.A. Aymar talks with fellow crime writers about appropriation, and how to write across identity lines responsibly.” (Crime Reads)
Books, Movies, TV
Bookish Gift Giving
- 14 Cozy Book Care Packages for Readers (Book Riot)
- 15 Holiday Cards Perfect for Book Lovers (Book Riot)
- Tor.Com’s Best Books of 2020 (science fiction and fantasy)
- Amazon’s Best 20 Books of 2020
- 22 Books for Fans of The Queen’s Gambit (NYPL)