Just now I had a Twitter exchange with someone that gave me concern. I tweeted innocently that I was thinking about writing a novella related to or about my short horror story “Candle Cove,” which was originally published at my horror fiction site Ichor Falls.
I wrote it in a cubicle in my stint as a graphic designer at Mary Kay in Dallas. It was inspired by this Onion article, which struck a chord with me even though I’d never seen the show Lidsville. I was also inspired partly by a story my father told me about reading a Donald Duck book, when he was young. In it, Donald is naughty and ends up being chased off by a farmer with an axe. On the next page, the illustration shows Donald embarrassed and exhausted and standing in a shallow pond, so his feet aren’t visible. This led my dad to think that the farmer had actually cut off Donald’s feet. There is something that is faulty or wrong with a child’s memory, and as children we misremember things or misinterpret things as part of our inexperience with the world.
“Candle Cove” was republished at the popular horror fiction site creepypasta.com, where it found a much wider audience and made its way to 4chan as a meme — people would orchestrate recreations of the story by pretending to be the characters in actual forums, to the confusion and discomfort of the forum regulars who are now wondering if Candle Cove was a real children’s program. I was and continue to be really flattered by this, and I love that in a way, Candle Cove has entered a subset of the public subconsciousness, much in the way the characters were trying to figure out if it was real within the story. It’s almost as if Candle Cove is becoming real.
But back to my Twitter exchange — I had said I was thinking about writing a “Candle Cove” novella. There have been a handful of attempts at doing fan continuations, or fan retellings, or fan videos that simulate episodes of the show, and while I’m excited to see them, I think there’s a subtlety absent that made the story work in the first place.
Someone tweeted back saying they were working on a film adaptation of the story. Confused why they thought I’d be excited about that, I asked why they hadn’t asked my permission. That’s simple — they didn’t know I was the author. They just assumed it was some public domain thing without an owner. It is not!
Attribution is so hard to manage on the internet, and I know full well I can’t clamp down on the spread of Candle Cove now. Nor do I want to — I think it’s so much more effective as something that can be spread and delightfully vague and confusing. I know that I can’t insist, either, that any repostings of the story include “(C) 2009-2011 Kris Straub.”
However, that doesn’t mean that my ownership of it isn’t real. But I’m also not an ogre — if you’re aware of my authorship of “Candle Cove” (and hopefully you are now), let me know if you want to do a radio adaptation or a film project for school or an RPG add-on. I am a nice guy. I will most likely share your excitement and say it’s fine with me, as long as you’re not selling it or claiming Candle Cove was your idea.
I know copyright and ownership issues are dark and amorphous, much like what lay beyond the mouth of a cave, where there may be pirate treasure. But like Pirate Percy, YOU HAVE TO GO INSIDE