Francis Spufford’s New “Narnia novel”
A few weeks ago, NarniaWebbers were surprised and intrigued when writer Frank Cottrell Boyce started tweeting excerpts from Francis Spufford’s Narnia fanfiction The Stone Table. Spufford is mostly known for his non-fiction, but in 2016 earned the Costa Book Award for his first novel, Golden Hill.
No, this is not an official 8th Narnia book.
NarniaWeb would would not normally report on “fanfiction,” but since this has been receiving a fair amount of attention and many of our readers have reached out to us about it, we thought it might be worth a post explaining the matter.
According to theguardian.com, after he finished writing it for his daughter, Spufford printed multiple copies of his work to share with friends. Cottrell Boyce was not the only one who enjoyed it. Writer Adam Roberts also publicly talked about how much he liked it.
According to Oxford Mail, Spufford did seek official approval from the C.S. Lewis Estate before he printed it, but received no response.
Although the Estate certainly has influence on whether something like this will become official or not, according to Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham, it will be up to the publishers:
“I don’t remember receiving any material from Mr Spufford for a long time but when something like this comes up, it is up to our publishers to sort it out, and I daresay they will.”Oxford Mail
It is important to note that although many articles are writing about Spufford’s piece as though it is a novel that simply hasn’t been published yet, it is more properly categorized as a novel-length fanfiction. Fanfiction has existed pretty much as long as stories have existed in some form, but due to current copyright laws are often considered to be lesser works and are not published for profit. According to the FAQ page of The Organisation for Transformative Works, fanfiction is allowed under copyright law.
Fair use is the right to make some use of copyrighted material without getting permission or paying. It is a basic limit on copyright law that protects free expression. “Fair use” is an American phrase, although all copyright laws have some limits that keep copyright from being private censorship. Fair use favors uses that (1) are noncommercial and not sold for a profit; (2) are transformative, adding new meaning and messages to the original; (3) are limited, not copying the entirety of the original; and (4) do not substitute for the original work.Organisation for Transformative Works
The copyright for Narnia might run out eventually unless the Estate and/or Narnia publisher Harper Collins seeks an extension much like Disney’s continued renewal of Mickey Mouse. If they allow Narnia to enter public domain there is a possibility that works like Spufford’s might be legitimately published in the future. Works like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (a novel and then a movie that adds zombies to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) or Wicked (a novel and then a Broadway musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz) might also have Narnia counterparts eventually.
Thanks to Hyoi14 for sending in a spy report!