Authorship Chicanery

Somebody mentioning “The Princess Bride” by Goldman, purportedly based on the Florentine novel by S. Morgenstern got me thinking. Morgenstern is, of course, entirely fictional, being a device used by Goldman, who fleshed out some of his “biography” in the interludes of the story.

Off the top of my head, other instances of gags perpetrated by authors attributing work to fictional characters created by them or other writers:

Phillip Jose Farmer writing “Venus on the Half Shell” under “Kilgore Trout”, from Vonnegut’s character, with the initial permission of Vonnegut, who eventually regretted going along with the gag.

Tim Powers and James Blaylock’s running “William Ashbless” gag. I first came across “William Ashbless” in Powers’ “Anubis Gates” and actually had to poke around a bit to figure out that there really wasn’t some obscure 19th century poet named William Ashbless, whose works were actually excerpted in the novel.

Harlan Ellison writing under the name “Cordwainer Bird” when he wanted to disinherit a work. Then inserting Cordwainer Bird into a story - “New York Review of the Bird”. “Cordwainer Bird”, of course, being a sort of perverse homage to “Cordwainer Smith”, the pen name of Paul Linebarger.

Others? It should be good enough to have actually generated some confusion as to whether the fictional “author” was actually real or who was really doing the writing. So I might discount George MacDonald Fraser’s footnotes as himself making scholarly comments on his presentations of Flashman’s “memoirs”, for instance. That might of counted had Fraser decided to publish the things with authorship by “Harry Flashman, (edited by George MacDonald Fraser)” on the front cover.

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Well, there was the whole Stephen King/Richard Bachman thing, if that actually fits into your definition. The only reason I bring it up is because one of the Bachman books (Thinner, I believe) actually references Stephen King. One of the characters accuses another of sounding like a Stephen King novel. Whether King did this as a red herring or to poke fun at himself for being a literary commodity and something of a cliche, I don’t know. But keeping the identity of Bachman a secret, when other authors who use pen names are open about it, seems to fit the bill.

Or, if the above is off track, perhaps this is more along the lines of the OP:

Sherlock Holmes, himself a fictional character, is well known as the author of several monographs (one being re: the identification of dozens of varieties of tobacco ash) as well as a treatise on beekeeping. Of course, these books don’t exist, because Holmes never existed, yet he wrote them.

Well, there was Asimov’s “Murder at the ABA” where he claimed to be writing as Ellison. For a while the rumor was it was really Ellison writing as Asimov writing as Ellison.

And of course there were the early Flashman novels where a number of authors got together and wrote chapters separately all under the tent of a single author. Not exactly what you were talking about but…

Virtually every new Sherlock Holmes (and the original ones for that matter) story perports to be by John Watson.

“The Name of the Rose” purports to be a translation of an actual medieval manuscript.

Ed McBain’s new book is co-authored by Evan Hunter, who is…Ed McBain.

Archie Goodwin, in addition to being Nero Wolfe’s right-hand man and gadfly, wrote the books that appeared under Rex Stout’s name.

Jonathan Carroll’s The Land of Laughs concerns a quest for legendary author Marshall France, who wrote such imaginary children’s classics as The Land of Laughs, Pool of Stars, and Green Dog’s Sorrow.

I always loved C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

Cracked me up, the whole idea that the book was actually the mss of a Hellish Demon Administrator written to help his nephew tempt his human “assignment” up on Earth.

Lewis begins the book:

“I have no intention of explaining how the correspondance which I now offer to the public fell into my hands…”

(Great book. The image of Hell as a bureaucracy is, in my mind, perfect!)

Norman Spinrad’s “The Iron Dream” is actually just a wraparound cover to keep American readers from realizing the book was actually “Lord of the Swastika” by Adolf Hitler. Hitler, of course, had emigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s to begin writting his very popular heroic fantasy novels.

Pat Murphy’s name is on the cover of “There and Back Again,” though she makes it clear it was written by Max Merriwell. She did a collaboration with Max on “Wild Angel,” though Max used the pseudonym “Mary Maxwell” (For those keeping score, it was one fictional author pretending to be another). She’s planning a third novel with the three collaborating.

William Shatner’s name is on several Tecworld novels . . . oh, wait. That’s something else. :wink:

Does “V.C.Andrews” fit into this? She’s been dead for years, but still keeps churning out books. A true ghost writer?

I’ve heard that VCA is a trademark that various authors write under. So, could anyone trademark some famous author’s name, and churn out new stuff?

And if you are working for VCA, how do you get credit for authorship when you want to go out on your own?

Well, you’d probably need to get permission from the author’s estate, but otherwise, yes.

Hard to say. Shatner’s ghostwriters, for instance, are easy to figure out – they’re usually listed in the acknowledgements. (BTW, I’ve heard that Shatner did want to share credit with his ghosts, but the publisher wouldn’t let them, arguing that people would assume Shatner did none of the writing.)

The name of the main “V.C. Andrews” ghost has been revealed (he’s Andrew Niederman), so he can use that as a credit, and I suspect the name of anyone ghosting a book would be an open secret in the book industry.

I personally regard the various novels put out as “Created by Tom Clancy,” such as the Op Centerbooks, as an example of authorship chicanery. Obviously meant to trade on Clancy’s name, but also meant to be misleading as to who really writes them.

(I won’t even go into my opinion of novels that are really glorified ads for Clancyish computer games.)

This isn’t quite what the OP was looking for, since the device is never mentioned in the story proper, but in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien poses as the translator of the Red Book of Westmarch, which contains the memoirs of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins (and Sam Gamgee). (Indeed, there are a very few references that don’t quite fit with this conceit, mostly in the early part of LotR.)

Very similar to the Flashman example, where Fraser pretends to be presenting Flashman’s memoirs. I admit that what I was looking for is sort of ill-defined, but ghostwriting and author sharecropping don’t fit. Neither do fictional “authorship” devices which stay entirely in the bounds of the work, such as the “Screwtape Letters”.

This last stipulation may have more to do with the credulity of the readers than the intents of the author - nobody believes a demon actually wrote Screwtape, but quite a number of people thought Goldman was actually adapting somebody named S. Morgenstern. Fraser could have probably muddied the waters enough to make a few people think there really WAS a Harry Flashman, if he had wanted to. Given that Tolkien was clearly writing in a fantasy universe, it would have been difficult for him to fool people into thinking the “Red Book” really existed.

There have been some interesting responses anyway. I haven’t read Eco. If he did “Name of the Rose” well enough to have people scratching their heads as to whether there really was a medieval manuscript, that’s a good example.

What I’m after are the ones that “broke the plane” between the story and the publication process, particularly if they were done convincingly enough to fool people - people not familiar with Vonnegut looked for other stuff by “Kilgore Trout” as if it was a real author, or at least wondered whose pseudonym it was without being aware of the background.

(Many people who WERE familiar with Vonnegut thought Vonnegut himself had perpetrated it, which is why Vonnegut regretted giving Farmer permission. Also, the idea Farmer had of enlisting a bunch of other people to write “Trout” books never materialized.)

As I noted, when I read “Anubis Gates”, I had to do some research (pre web - it was harder) to figure out that William Ashbless wasn’t a real 19th century poet. In that case, it was aided by the fact that the work in question featured appearances by real historical characters as well to muddy the waters. Powers and Blaylock once published a hoax prospectus of a collection of Ashbless’ works with a sample poem, signed jointly by them, one doing the “William”, the other doing the “Ashbless”.

I’ll leave it vague, and see where people want to wander with it, if anywhere.

And another one: nobody has mentioned Lovecraft yet, with the perennial stuff surfacing about the “real” Necronomicon.


To back up what RealityChuck said, and to give the much-maligned Mr. Shatner at least a little credit for some integrity, I have seen three or four interviews, and have read interviews, in which he freely acknowledges that the TekWar books are “written with” Rob Goulart and his Star Trek novels are “co-authored” by Garfield and Judy Stevens. In fact the latter duo do get inside the book, frontispiece credit, just not on the spine or cover.

I believe he also acknowledges Chris Kreski on his autobiographical Trek Memories.

End of hijack.

To The OP: Not quite the same, but Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the “Mars” series as if they were manuscripts written by John Carter, etc., and given to him to publish. Burroughs even inserts a fictional version of himself into the series as John Carter’s nephew. Likewise, he was “told” the story of Tarzan, which he then “fictionalized” and published.

Sir Rhosis

Make that Ron Goulart.

Jorge Luis Borges and his friend Adolf Buoy Cesares (sp?)
co-wrote a series of detective stories called Six problems for Don Isidro Parodi under the name Bustos Domecq, then proceeded to publish a collection of his essays and criticism ‘edited’ by themselves. Apparently many people in the South American literary circles believed Domecq was a real person.

(Incidentally, anyone who enjoyed The Name of the Rose should read some Borges. Many of the themes of Rose are lifted from him: forbidden books, labyrinths, religious heresy, and (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) the murderer is named after him - Jorge of Burgos = Jorge Luis Borges. Because Borges never wrote a novel, only short stories, several writers have attempted to create a Borgesian novel.)

But the king of all pseudonymous authors was a Portuguese dude called Ferdinand Pessoa, dead now but well on his way to becoming Portugal’s national poet. He wrote under dozens of names, providing extensive biographical information for may of them. One of his ‘heteronyms’ (his term) was the disciple of another, and most had wildly different styles to the rest. He’s not very well known in the Anglophone world yet.
Alex B

Stephanie Barron’s “Jane” series of murder mysteries are presented as the recently-discovered, private journals and letters of Jane Austen, with Barron merely being their editor.

Kierkegaard wrote his books under a number of pseudonyms, and I believe that he gave a different authorial voice to each pseudonym. However, I think people also knew it was him, although he wouldn’t admit it. (The pseudonyms tended to be comical, like “Hilario Bookbinder,” so he seems to have been steadfastly maintaining a charade which he expected no one to believe.) Bear in mind that I’ve probably munged the facts a bit- this is from my dim memory of Kierkegaard for Beginners.

I realize that a mere pseudonym isn’t what you’re looking for, but in Kierkegaard’s case the relation to the pseudonyms was kind of weird.