Want to write Slaughterhouse-Six? Kindle Worlds licenses Kurt Vonnegut

Want to write Slaughterhouse-Six? Kindle Worlds licenses Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut was one of the unique voices in American literature.

Want to try to imitate it?

Well, you don’t have to try to write in the same style…heck, if you want to make Kilgore Trout (Vonnegut’s fictional science fiction author) into a hard-boiled detective or a kid-friendly cartoon character, go for it.

In a

press release

which Amazon sent me, they have announced having licensed the works of Kurt Vonnegut for Kindle Worlds, their “authorized fanfic” platform (although that’s an imprecise term).

That means, without first getting approval for a specific story, anybody can write a story set in the universe of Kurt Vonnegut’s works and put it up for sale in the Kindle store (provided it follows certain guidelines).

This is extraordinary.

It definitely broadens Kindle Worlds far beyond current pop culture, and I think it’s a good thing…although many will find it controversial.

One person who might have? Kurt Vonnegut.

As I recall, Vonnegut expressed considerable displeasure to Philip José Farmer about the latter having published a novel, Venus on the Half-Shell, under the name of Kilgore Trout.

That’s one of the fascinating things about this story for me.

With whom did Amazon negotiate?


They famously won against Random House in court, when the latter tried to claim to have licensed e-book rights for their authors…basically, before e-books were even a consideration.

RosettaBooks, like Open Road Media, recognized the potential of the e-book market before the Big Six US publishers, and made the moves to get those rights.

It’s intriguing to me that whatever they licensed is giving them the right to negotiate for derivative works.

I’m guessing Amazon paid a pretty penny for the Kindle Worlds license for Vonnegut…although spending money does seem like an area of expertise for the e-tailer. 😉

This is likely to help convince other publishers to do the same, but let’s take a quick look at other RosettaBooks properties in the Kindle store (since they might also be candidates for licensing):

RosettaBooks in the Kindle store

  • Arthur C. Clarke
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Richard Matheson (I Am Legend…could definitely make a good Kindle World)
  • Who Goes There? by John W, Campbell (the basis for The Thing…another good bet)
  • Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind…absolutely)
  • Marion Chesney and M.C. Beaton (romance fanfic is big, and could work here…more Poor Relation?)
  • Robert B. Parker (Spenser)
  • Edward Abbey
  • Ed McBain (Fuzz)
  • A Passage to India
  • Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison (the basis for Soylent Green…a potentially interesting world)
  • Ben Bova (Mars)
  • Sherryl Woods (Molly DeWitt)
  • Harry Kemelmen (Rabbi Small)

Note that I’m just listing a few…and just because RosettaBooks has the rights to one book by an author doesn’t mean they have the rights to all of the books.

I expect to hear about massive pushback on this in the next couple of days…I’m looking at you, John Scalzi. 😉

However, I also think authors will try it. I think a lot of it might not be good…and a small portion of it might be brilliant.

What do you think? Are you a writer who would want to attempt Vonnegut’s worlds? Are you a reader who would be intrigued to see what would be written…or appalled at the rights being licensed? Feel free to tell me and your readers what you think by commenting on this post. Actually, I think this is worth a poll:

Note: there is a band named Slaughterhouse 6. When I conceived the headline, I was unaware of that, and no connection between my suggesting a fictional fiction with the title Slaughterhouse-Six (spelled out) is intended

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

4 Responses to “Want to write Slaughterhouse-Six? Kindle Worlds licenses Kurt Vonnegut”

  1. jjhitt Says:

    Exciting and dumbfounding. I have to wonder if Vonnegut’s estate is on board with this. The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library doesn’t have a mention of this. They seem to be connected the literary executor. This is going to be very interesting to watch…

    As Bokonon would say “Busy, busy, busy…”

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I’ve read almost all of Vonnegut’s stuff — mostly when I was younger. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to dislike his brand of science fiction — just not my cup of tea. So your poll was missing an appropriate response for me: “yawn” (:grin).

    I also find myself disinterested in the extreme with the whole kindle worlds concept. Over the years I’ve read several works by authors attempting to pick up someone else’s mantle — I’ve found them wanting. Also of little interest: stories by many authors set in the universe of an established author. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Darkover” comes to mind, but there are many others.

    OTOH there all those Stratemeyer syndicate stories written by a host of who knows whos — that I’ve found enjoyable …

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      You’re right…not being interested in it might have been an interesting poll choice.

      As to Stratemeyer, those were done under a house name, which is different. I think there tend to be strong guidelines, and an editor perhaps with a strong hand…very different from this.

      However, I do think that works by different authors in one universe can be quite good. One of the keys for me is that they aren’t trying to imitate another author’s style (although as a parodist, I humbly think I’ve done that pretty well), but are exploring the same universe with often a different viewpoint.

      Clearly, for me, that works with TV series, like Star Trek (The Original Series), where there were several distinctive voices.

      Although again, TV series have a story editor, which this won’t.

      I think this is something pretty new…an “island configuration” of authors, who won’t consult or collaborate with each…but authorized to share a universe.

      I’m interested to see how it goes.

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