Here you go. No real spoilers or anything. This was recorded at BEA last week. Enjoy!
Today my wife and I went into our lawyer’s office and updated our everything, including wills, living wills, donor registries and so on. Why did we do this? Because at this point in our life we have a fair number of assets, and given my recent deal, it’s likely we’ll have more in the future. Moreover, as a creative person, I have a considerable amount of intellectual property, which will need to be attended to if something should happen to me. If Krissy and I didn’t specify what was to become of all of that, it would be up to the state to deal with it. No offense to the state, but I don’t know it all that well. So Krissy and I have made sure that our own wishes for everything are in legal documents and up to date. Now there is no confusion about our wishes.
I frequently harangue writers and other creative types about financial issues, so allow me to do it again here: Creative folks, you must do some estate planning. You have assets. You have intellectual property. You (probably) have family or friends that you might want to have benefit from your work after you’re gone — and you might have some people (which may even include family) that you might not want to have a say in what happens to your work when you are dead. If you die — and you will die, one day! — and you have not left direction toward the disposition of your intellectual and real property, then someone else will make those choices for you. As a result, some of the people you would want to benefit might get nothing. Some you don’t want to get anything could get a lot. And in the meantime, it’s all going to be stuck in probate, which is fun for exactly no one.
No, it doesn’t matter if you’re young. Young people die all the time, and creatives are famously prone to bad habits that increase their risks (including, in the US, not carrying health insurance). No, it doesn’t matter that you’re not famous or that your work doesn’t have wide circulation. There are tons of artists who became far more famous (and rich!) after their death than before it. In my field, a fine example of this is Philip K. Dick, who struggled financially in life and has become a multi-millionaire in death as his stories have been turned into successful films.
And yes, it does matter to your legacy if you don’t give direction for what happens to your work after you die. Academic James Boyle notes that something like 95% of all copyrighted material since 1900 is “orphaned” — that is to say, material for which there is no clear owner (either an estate or designated individual), and so cannot be legally reproduced. If you want your work to be legally available after you die, the best thing you can do is leave clear instruction as to what or whom owns the rights (including, if you so desire, giving the work a Creative Commons license until it makes it into the public domain a ridiculously long time after you are dead).
Beyond that, I know personally writers who have died and whose families have decided to withdraw all of that writer’s work from the public sphere, forbidding reproduction or republication. In the particular case I’m thinking of, it’s almost impossible that this choice is what the writer would have wanted. But the writer never said in life what they wanted to have happen to the work, and therefore in death no longer has a say.
This is important stuff, people. I can’t stress this enough. And yes, it costs money, and yes, it takes time, and yes, you might think it doesn’t matter. But it’s worth the time and money, and if you believe your choices about your work matter while you’re alive, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t matter after you are gone. And if you have people you love and care about, whom you wish to see benefit from what you’ve created, then it’s smart — and kind — to make a document that makes your wishes clear and spares them the pain, aggravation and expense of having to deal with your lack of planning while you were alive.
So: The Scalzi Estate is now updated and planned for. Is yours? If the answer is “no,” ask yourself why not. And ask yourself if there is anyone in the world for whom a little bit of planning on your part would make their lives easier if and when you go. And then, go take care of this stuff. It matters.
When I first got heavily involved with science fiction and fantasy fandom, I was surprised at how frequently I saw knitting going on at conventions and other geek events — which only showed how little I knew, as geekdom and knitdom always has significant overlap, and that overlap has only grown over time. Now Joan of Dark (aka Toni Carr) has brought together the two in book form with Geek Knits, which features nifty knit projects for crafters, modeled by geek notables and celebs in photos by Kyle Cassidy (disclosure: I and Krissy are featured in the book). Here’s Joan to explain how the book got crafted in the first place.
JOAN OF DARK:
“You know what would be cool?” I tend to say that sometimes to people, and miraculously, sometimes they listen. (This is why there is a roller derby knitting book in the world) I think the first time I uttered those words about Geek Knits was after a visit with Neil Gaiman, when he wore the softest, blackest angora sweater that a friend of his had made for him. As my companions and I were heading home I said, “You know what would be cool? A knitting book with novel writers and scientists and comic writers and you know, GEEKS wearing knit stuff. Really good photos too. A knitting book that could almost double as a coffee table book. That would be really cool.” I mused on it a little bit, mentioned it to friends, and tried to let the idea go while I worked on other projects.
Then I hung out with photographer Kyle Cassidy a few times, and mentioned the idea to him. We started running over our dream list of geeks to photograph and what we would have them wear. Then we started talking seriously, who did we know? And the people we knew, who did they know? Could we make connections and make this happen? How could we do over 30 photographs in less than a year without having to fly to 30 different locations? This was madness. So naturally, I pitched it to my agent. She agreed. Wonderful, magical, madness. Let’s do this thing!
Selling the idea of the book was the easy part. It’s difficult to narrow down an idea as broad as “Geek Stuff” when working on a pattern book. Should everything be cosplay, mostly unwearable in real life, and probably hard for the beginner or average knitter to complete? Or should everything be fairly simple, such as sweaters worn in the Harry Potter movies and scarves worn in Doctor Who? Or how about general geekiness like ties and pocket protectors? Obviously, part of the fun of making a book like this is making things that people want to recreate!
Luckily, I realized that trying to please everyone is a quick path to the bad sort of madness. I decided the best thing to do was to design the patterns I wanted to design, and enlist the help of other designers to bring some dimension to the book. Which is how we came to have wonderful things like a stuffed Bunnicula Vampire Bunny (permission granted by James Howe to make him), an amazing sweater inspired by the question “What would Molly Weasley knit for Arthur?” and Cthulhu gloves.
I wanted to bring my favorite ideas about knitwear to life. I love that knitting can be either average or absurd and no matter what, it is, it’s a work of art. A bit of string looped around some needles becomes a sweater! Sure, a sweater is a pretty basic piece of clothing, but to those who know the hours it takes to create one, it’s sort of an amazing concept. Then there’s the slightly absurd. Could I design a knit fez? Could I get my talented designer mother to create a snow beast balaclava inspired by the alien that scared me in Star Wars? These are things most people aren’t going to throw on when they run out to the grocery store, but they fall into the “so weird it’s wonderful” category for me.
My initial idea, the “You know what would be cool?” concept of getting geek celebrities to do the modeling was almost as hard as the designs themselves. Writing to my heroes and asking if they would mind being a little silly, donning socks and hats and sweaters for my knitting book. Those were pretty tough emails to write. Luckily I have friends, and friends of friends who helped make connections. Even luckier, I realized that lots of celebrities don’t mind being silly. Paul and Storm serenading a stuffed worm comes to mind.
I’m going to keep saying “You know what would be cool?” and working to bring those ideas to life. Because you know what? This project was really cool!