If you’ve ever read a novelization of a movie, chances are you may recognize the name Alan Dean Foster. While Foster is well known in the sci-fi community for his original works such as the Spellsinger and Humanx series, he also became well known as the go-to writer when a studio wanted a novel tie-in for a movie project. And now, some of those works are at the center of a potential legal fight.
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has publicly denounced the Walt Disney Company in a blog post for failure to pay Foster royalties on novelizations and one tie-in novel Foster wrote related to the Star Wars and Alien movie franchises. Foster ghostwrote the novelization of the first Star Wars movie (originally credited solely to George Lucas in early editions) as well as Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye, a sequel novel. Additionally, Foster also wrote the novelizations for Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3. Foster neatly summed up the situation thusly: “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 miniscule (though it’s not small to me) share.”
Foster brought the lack of royalty payments to the SFWA’s Grievance Committee, since he is a member, and the SFWA generally responds by assisting members with contract disputes. Such assistance is usually handled without any fanfare. But as SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal pointed out, “In my decade with the organization, the fact that we are forced to present this publicly is unprecedented.”
Food For Thought
While the Star Wars and Alien books are publicly in question, Foster also wrote a novelization for Disney’s The Black Hole and the Lucasarts video game The Dig. There’s been no mention of these works so far, but if Disney is refusing to pay royalties on these as well, it’s an even bigger problem, not just for Foster, but for writers everywhere.