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Today in literature: Harlan Ellison sues to stop a Justin Timberlake vehicle, Oscar Wilde's grandson does not care for an alleged "brand new" play by his grandfather, and Emma Thompson is writing a Peter Rabbit book.

  • Harlan Ellison, who fantasy readers treasure for his loopy, wildly ambitious short story collections (including Deathbird Quotient and Strange Wine) and non-genre fans will remember as the mouthy young writer whose boots infuriated Frank Sinatra in  Gay Talese's seminal Esquire feature, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," is suing 20th Century Fox  to stop the release In Time next month, claiming the Justin Timberlake vehicle is a knockoff of his from 1965 Hugo Award winning short story "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman." Copyright infringement lawsuits are hard to win and Ellison's evidence consists largely of a plot element--a man in the not-too-distant future whose job is to determine when people die--that dates back to 8th century BC, which is when Greek poet Hesiod established Thanatos' backstory as the earthly embodiment of death, but this is old hat for Ellison--after The Terminator came out in 1984, he sued the film's production company, claiming the film's plot was taken from his Outer Limits teleplay "Soldier" and received an out-of-court settlement and an on-screen credit in future prints. In 2009, he reached an out-of-court settlement with Paramount after he sued for unpaid merchandising and publishing royalties from his 1967 Star Trek teleplay, "City on the Edge of Forever." So if you like Justin Timberlake in movies and don't ever want him to go back to making music, Ellison's track record should be cause for at least some concern.. [The Hollywood Reporter]
  • Oscar Wilde's grandson Merlin Holland is feuding with the proprietors of the King's Head Theater in London, which is advertising its upcoming production of Constance as "a genuine, brand new, Oscar Wilde play." Holland tells The Guardian that his grandfather sketched a "minimal" outline for Constance but "never wrote a word of it." Wilde's conceit inspired a play in French by Guillot de Saix and collaborator Henri de Briel, which has been adapted back into English for the new production. The theater's creative director says he's "completely comfortable" with how the production, which opens tomorrow, is being sold to the public, although his case probably suffers when he makes a point of noting that artist Damien Hirst "doesn't paint all his paintings."   [The Guardian via Arts Beat]
  • Actress Emma Thompson told Craig Ferguson on The Late, Late Show Wednesday that she's writing a new Peter Rabbit book for release in 2012, just in time for the 110th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's original story. Thompson's experience as screenwriter for the two well-received Nanny McPhee movies, based on Christianna Brand's series of beloved novels, lifts this beyond the usual celebrity-writes-children's-book side project, but only slightly. [EW]
  • Former Harvard University president Neil L. Rudenstine was elected chairman of the board for the New York Public Library yesterday. He replaces Carol Marron, who had led the board since 2004. The Library is currently in the middle of a $1.2 billion fundraising drive, a number that's going o take a whole lot of late fees to hit. [Arts Beat]

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