October 12th, 2006


Emily Dickinson

First, the fact that there is Good News should be acknowledged. My lit agent (Merrilee) and I received this e-mail late yesterday from Liz, my editor at Penguin:

Good news for you - the print order just came through and we're printing a very respectable 7,000 copies of Daughter of Hounds. (Your pre-order campaign worked beautifully, Caitlín!)

Which is to say thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered the novel. See, you can make a difference. My "street team" is the draddest. And if you haven't already pre-ordered, this is to ask you to please consider doing so soon. The initial print order is an important battle won, but just a battle, not the war, which still yawns before me.

Anyway, good news aside, yesterday was a somewhat awful and excruciating day, having begun with an earlier e-mail from Liz, telling me that we couldn't use the four Emily Dickinson quotes in Daughter of Hounds because, even though Dickinson died in 1886, they're under copyright. She asked if I wanted to replace them with something else. No, I said. I want to use those quotes, which I was very, very certain were not actually under copyright. And this all gets quite muddled and complicated. Let me see if I can perchance explain (and any Emily Dickinson scholars reading this will be excused for skipping ahead):

Upon her death in 1886, Emily Dickinson had published very few of her poems. Something like ten. After she died, however, two friends — Mabel Loomis Todd and literary critic Thomas Wentworth Higginson — published three volumes of her poetry between 1890 and 1896. Then, early in the 20th Century, Dickinson's niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, produced further collections, reprinting much of the Todd-Higginson books, as well as previously unpublished material, in The Single Hound (1915), The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson and The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1924), and Further Poems of Emily Dickinson (1929).

Now, here's the deal. Dickinson poems published prior to 1923 are in public domain and may be quoted without infringing upon anyone's valid copyright. And, in truth, most of her poems were published after her death, but well before 1923.

However, here's where things get confusing and sticky — in 1955, Thomas H. Johnson published The Poems of Emily Dickinson, which presented new transcriptions of the poems first published by Todd, Loomis, and Bianchi. Todd and Loomis had made changes in Dickinson's punctuation, standardizing it and sometimes misinterpreting it. Johnson corrected the texts, and his The Poems of Emily Dickinson has been adopted as the standard for Dickinson scholarship. A division of
Harvard licenses the Johnson copyright from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst (or maybe it's Amherst College, I'm not entirely sure which). And they have a reputation for suing anyone who reprints Johnson's versions of the poems without permission. I cannot claim to say exactly how this works, since Johnson merely reprinted Dickinson's work, and I cannot even begin to see how that makes it his own, but there you go. US copyright law says it's so, so it is so.

However, as I pointed out to Liz early yesterday, I'd not quoted from Johnson, but thrice from the Loomis and Todd texts and once from one of the Bianchi books. And since the Bianchi book was The Single Hound (1915), I was in the clear on copyright. But legal wanted proof, in the form of photocopies from those original editions demonstrating that my quotations had not drawn upon the Johnson text. So, this meant I had to go back to Emory University, back to the Woodruff Library, for the second time in as many days (having finally gone on Tuesday), and show my ID to the security guy, etc. & etc. Which I did, though it ate up the entirety of a day which should have been spent either writing or preparing to write. I'd chosen those four quotes carefully, and I wasn't going to give up on using them without a struggle. To my great fortune, the Woodruff Library has copies of both The Single Hound and the first of the Todd and Loomis volumes (1915, Poems). Between these two books, I had all four of the poems I'd quoted. The texts as they were printed pre-Johnson, pre-1955, pre-1923. Today, Spooky will photocopy the pages and send them to Penguin, and the four Dickinson quotes will appear in Daughter of Hounds as per my original intent. No copyrights, however dubious, will have been violated. Only a day lost. And I even took photos of the adventure, just so I could share the splendid tedium with my readers. They are not exciting photos. They are behind the cut:

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After Emory, we got some hot and spicy Thai for dinner, then headed home just as a wonderful thunderstorm stuck Atlanta. We've been needing the rain. There's not much to the rest of the evening — I played more Drakengard 2 (the world has ended, but the end was only the beginning), watched Project Runway (and I am sick and disgusted at this whole mess with Jeffery), and read and read and read. I have this habit of reading many books at once, mostly non-fiction because I mostly read nonfiction. Currently, I am reading, simultaneously, the following:

Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski
Visions of Mars by Olivier de Goursac
The Monuments of Mars: A City of the Edge of Forever by Richard C. Hoagland (the less said about this awful book, the better; research for The Dinosaurs of Mars)
Cauldron of Hell: Tunguska by Jack Stoneley
The Amber Forest by George Poinar, Jr. and Roberta Poinar
The Geology of Mars edited by a bunch of folks
Mars: A Tour of the Human Imagination by Eric S. Rabkin
Tyrannosaurus SUE by Steve Fiffer
Magnificent Mars by Ken Croswell
The Spiral Dance by Starhawk (20th anniv. ed.)

Danielewski, planetology, palaeontology, pop culture, and Wicca — all at once, and I can still walk a straight line.

Okay. Must go attend to busyness, e-mail, and maybe even some actual writing. Oh, wait. The platypus says sheheit will be looking for comments today (and perhaps answering them), because I'm boring herhimit sideways, so, yeah. Surely there's comment fodder here somewhere. Don't be shy.