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New Bram Stoker Stories Published: Family Still Denies He Is Immortal

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | December 20, 2012 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | December 20, 2012 |

Bram Stoker was far more famous in the afterlife than during his life, and he spent most of his career working not as a writer but as the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London. He worked with famous actor Henry Irving, going so far as to name his son after the man. It’s a strange sort of irony that the man who in life was a content second fiddle has become immortal while the object of his idolization is forgotten by any but historians of Victorian entertainment.

In any case, a new volume of Bram Stoker’s writings is being released, a sort of anthology that includes: “for the first time since their publication over a century ago, are twelve previously unknown published works of fiction, poetry, and journalistic writing by Bram Stoker (1847-1912), three works by Stoker never before reprinted, twelve obscure period writings about Stoker, and the exceptionally rare 1913 estate sale catalogue of Stoker’s personal library”.

I’m a bit confused about how these are being explicitly advertised as lost stories, while the fine print says that they were published over a century ago. I’m not sure if they’re just being overzealous in their description, or if there’s a deeper and more interesting story, for instance, if these stories were originally published in a small run and essentially all copies had been lost until today.

But either way, if you haven’t read them, they’re new to you. This Huffington Post article has an excerpt from one of the stories, including the fantastic line: “All babies are malignant; the natural wickedness of man”.

Here’s the Project Gutenberg link to Stoker’s public domain work. One question I have is where copyright law lands on this. If works are found and then published posthumously, long after they would have been in the public domain (i.e. the life of author plus x number of years rule), then are those works implicitly in the public domain? As I understand it, copyright is established the moment the work is written, without the need for assertion. So this sentence is copyrighted right now. And so is this one. So just because the works weren’t seen for a century, does that mean the copyright clock starts now or then? Or is it intertwined with the preparation of the text as well? I’ll defer to anyone who actually knows what they’re talking about on this manner. Or whoever fakes it the best.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.