Monday, February 14, 2011

LJ Smith fired from writing the Vampire Diaries novels. Huh?

Some of you may or may not have already heard about what happened: LJ Smith, bestselling author of The Vampire Diaries series that was the basis of the popular TV series Vampire Diaries, was fired from writing the novels. Others have already covered what happened and done it well, but I wanted to try my hand at explaining the situation. There are still many who have no clue what happened. This whole situation interests me not only because of the author, who was once my favorite author but has since lost that position for reasons that shall not be explained here, but because of how unusual this is. How often do you see an author fired from writing their own series?

The tale begins in 1990. Author LJ Smith is contacted by an agent to write The Vampire Diaries novels and she takes the offer. This agent turned out not to be from Harper, the publisher of The Vampire Diaries, but from Alloy Entertainment, a book packager that takes novels, put covers and blurbs on them, and sells them to publishers. The contract she signed was a "work for hire" contract that gave her the copyright, but the ownership of the novels went to Alloy and Harper. By the time she figured this out, it was too late. She had to have Alloy's permission to write the novels and had to write what they told her to write. From how it appears, few to no readers knew this before now. I can imagine why--this isn't something an author would want to tell her readers about.

Cut to February 6th, 2011. An email begins to circulate in which LJ Smith explains the above circumstances and tells everyone that she has been fired from writing The Vampire Diaries series. Why? Because they wanted her to write more Stelena (Stefan and Elena), less Delena (Damon and Elena), and less Bonnie. She refused to bow to their demands and wrote the novels the way her heart told her to. The owners' wishes were to have Stelena be the endgame and from the way Smith was writing the novels, Delena looked like a serious possibility. This led to her dismissal. The new Vampire Diaries trilogy, beginning with Phantom, will now be written by a ghostwriter.

The news sends her fans into a frenzy. Is it fake? Is it real? The fans had to know! contacted the publisher to find out whether or not the rumors were true and did a fine job explaining what was going on. In the comments, people were not happy at all. They immediately reacted by hoping that it was false ("NO.THIS BETTER BE A LIE," said Sabrina Shariff) or implying that it was a hoax. Some fans also expressed sadness, but were not afraid to criticize the Return trilogy or the original books.

On February 9th, Smith posted an entry in her blog asking fans not to boycott Harper over what happened. The entry, while short and slightly vague, was a solid confirmation of the rumors that had been swirling. Reactions were posted all over the Internet, most expressing general outrage at what happened. Talks of boycotting Harper still stirred despite Smith's pleas and I know firsthand that people are already protesting. Someone I spoke to about the situation later contacted me and asked me to sign multiple petitions and send letters to Alloy and Harper to try and get Smith rehired. (Note: the site I linked to on "multiple" is the best one to go to see reactions from fans that want Smith rehired.)

Much to the delight of fans of the TV series and her other novels, neither would be affected by what happened. The TV series would go on without any problems and her other series such as The Forbidden Game and Night World were contracted directly with the publisher so that the rights and ownership belonged to Smith. Stefan's Diaries was never written by her to begin with and would also go on without problems.

Now it comes to my opinion on this matter. What happened was horrible and it is tragic that LJ Smith won't be allowed to keep writing the series she has slaved over since the 1990s. Despite this, I believe that it was within the rights of Alloy and Harper to fire her. It all comes down to the fact that LJ Smith was an employee of Alloy and Harper. They employed her to write the novels the way she was told to and she refused to do so with the Return trilogy. She was an employee who refused to do what she was told and as the right-holders and her employers, Alloy and Harper were within their rights to fire her. Legally, they took a justifiable action, one they might not be willing to reverse.

 I have done my research and provided the facts of the matter. Everything is up to you now. What is your opinion of this sorry situation?