Fictional Works


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Fictional Works

Jan. 23, 6:01am

This isn't a combination issue, but I couldn't find another group which seemed a more appropriate place to post. If anybody knows of such, please do redirect me.

In H. P. Lovecraft's short story The Thing on the Doorstep, the main character, Edward Pickman Derby, has a poetry book published under the title Azathoth and Other Horrors. This is one of many fictional titles created by Lovecraft, however, somebody has added it as a work within Library Thing, along with over 50 others, which can be viewed via the tag 'fictional works'.

While the quixotic part of me likes the existence of fictitious works in the database, the anally-retentive part of me is ingesting my underwear. Should fictitious books and fictitious authors be in the database?

An added wrinkle is that Edward Pickton Derby is used as a pseudonym in the Chaosium publication, The Azathoth Cycle, so obviously it is appropriate that this author name is retained, in any event.

Jan. 23, 6:12am

Well, like it or not - if someone added them, they are here :) A user wanted them here, they added them. We cannot do much about it.

LT is not really a curated DB - it is the combination of all the "books" someone added. Those can be real books or pretty much anything else people want to add. Fictitious books are still better than perfume or shoes - and we have both...

Jan. 23, 6:15am

>2 AnnieMod: Yes, this is what my natural-self is telling me. My fussy-self is still feeling huffy! 😄

Jan. 23, 6:18am

>3 Michael.Rimmer: Well, you can be as huffy as you want ("kids these days!") but that won't change how the site works :) I've learned to just accept it - as long as the things don't show up combined with my items and proper books, people can catalog whatever they want.

I catalog stories and radio plays in addition to books. None of them are books but... I need a place for them and LT works :)

Jan. 23, 6:27am

>1 Michael.Rimmer: That's also how the actual copies of the Necronomicon began. (There are several different ones). Personally I find them amusing.

Jan. 23, 6:27am

>4 AnnieMod: I think just sharing this here has got it out of my system 😊

Jan. 23, 6:30am

>6 Michael.Rimmer: Where is a like button when one needs one? :)

Funny how that works that way sometimes :)

Jan. 23, 6:37am

>5 Nicole_VanK: Yes, I know that's how the now physical editions of the Necronomicon began 🙂🦑 I also find it amusing on one level. I think I've worked through my super-ego reaction now.

Jan. 23, 6:39am

>7 AnnieMod: 😄💖

Jan. 23, 7:33am

>8 Michael.Rimmer: Ooh, I like the dodecapod icon! 🦑

Jan. 23, 9:27am

>11 norabelle414: Some of those seriously qualify as spam?!? They are commercial products with brand, type, etc.

Jan. 23, 10:29am

Here's a record of my answer to the question, "Should fictitious books and fictitious authors be in the database?"

Fictitious books: no.
Fictitious authors: maybe.

Can we do anything about the titles of non-existent works? Nothing decent, no.

I just believe it's important to clearly say it is problematic to add something that doesn't exist as more then a title or idea as a work on LibraryThing. Dresses and earrings are understandably irksome on this site, but at least they really exist(ed) in a collection outside a list.

Jan. 23, 10:39am


Fictitious authors: maybe.


Jan. 23, 11:27am

>12 SandraArdnas: Nah, they're just weird things that people cataloged on the site. Books are commercial products with brand and type too, but cataloging them is only a problem if people are trying to use the site explicitly for selling them.
(According to the terms of service. Not saying I agree.)

Jan. 23, 11:50am

>14 lilithcat: I can't speak for asprit, but crediting books to an "author" who is part of the fictional world rather than an actual person is a thing -- to give a well-known example,Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (also the How to Train Your Dragon books and arguably The Princess Bride.) It's related to the "fictional manuscript" genre, in which the author purports to be publishing a lost text, along with his or her editorial comments, of course.

Now, whether one believes that it is appropriate to catalog books under the name of the fictional author rather than or in addition to the real author is a different question. I can see arguments for both sides, but probably personally would tend to use the real author when known.

However, there are going to be cases that are grey areas, i.e., where the non-existence of the fictional author isn't an open secret (as was the case the Ossian poems, for example), or where a text is traditionally credited to a legendary person who may themselves never have existed as such (e.g. Homer).

Jan. 23, 1:06pm

I don't object to LT being used to catalogue real works that aren't books, but I honestly think entering nonexistent works is harmful to shared data. Admittedly this isn't the worst possible example – for example, I'd be more concerned about nonexistent books appearing on the author pages of real people.

Would it be reasonable to set canonical titles like "Azathoth and Other Horrors [nonexistent work]" to reduce the risk of misleading people? (I'd prefer "nonexistent work" to "fictional work", which I'd normally understand to mean "work of fiction".)

Although there doesn't seem to be anything in the community rules about nonexistent works specifically, it's unclear to me whether using LT for a catalogue of books mentioned by Lovecraft is consistent with:
"LibraryThing is for your books—books you own, have read or want. It would not be appropriate to fill your LibraryThing catalog with all the books in your local library or Project Gutenberg."

Bearbeitet: Jan. 23, 1:22pm

>14 lilithcat: I have a couple that were allegedly authored by the archangel Raziel (or Rezial according to some editions) for instance. I don't actually believe that's true, but that's what it says and I think it's better to attribute those to them than to the various editor(s) of modern editions of those works.

Jan. 23, 1:20pm

>14 lilithcat: What >16 spiphany: said.

Another example is Richard Castle, a TV show character who in the story writes detective thrillers. The character's titles were actually ghostwritten as media tie-ins to the show. As far as I know, the names of the real-life ghostwriter(s) is a marketing secret. The only byline we have for books such as Heat Wave is for a fictitious author.

Jan. 23, 1:35pm

>16 spiphany:, >18 Nicole_VanK:, >19 aspirit:

Okay, that all makes sense.

Jan. 23, 2:55pm

>17 Edward: But people could very well want books that don't exist.

Jan. 23, 3:22pm

>21 MarthaJeanne: Yes, in theory someone could want all the books in their local library, or in Project Gutenberg, or that are mentioned by a specific author. If so, I accept that they wouldn't be breaking the rules as written by cataloguing those books in LT.

However, I don't think wanting all the books in one of those categories would be the most common reason to have a catalogue of them, and in this case I'm not aware that the user in question has said they want the fictional books.

Jan. 23, 4:34pm

>15 norabelle414: Books are supposed to be catalogued. RAM, TVs, washing machines and such isn't, so an entry such as Delvcam DELV-7XLPRO LCD monitor/receiver kit is spam in my book

Jan. 23, 4:56pm

>23 SandraArdnas: It's not spam under LT's definition of spam. Anything real that is being cataloged is not spam.
Some items (t-shirts, washing machine paddles, etc.) are the result of bad Amazon data.
The monitor/receiver kit in particular is an item that is held by a real library that checks the item out to people.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 23, 10:36pm

People catalog books they want that don't exist (yet) as wishlist titles all the time: the next book in a series that has only been announced as a title, for the most obvious example.

I'm not sure why cataloging titles like De Vermis Mysteriis or the Books of Hsan is a problem for the database - it doesn't hurt anything, and as both the Al-Azif and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, mentioned upthread, demonstrate, a previously-fictional book can become real if enough people wishlist it.

In fact I'm now almost tempted to make a list for the Library of Dreams just to see how many of these we've already got.

(I'm still holding out for the original unabridged Princess Bride myself.)

And we certainly don't have any rule that a book has to be a certain level of "real" - I have some works in my catalog published by friends that exist in a hand-bound edition of maybe dozens, and I'm quite sure they belong in my library, and will fight you on it. It's quite likely that there are handmade versions of a lot of these famous fictional books that somebody threw together for a LARP or something and do physically exist in some form.

...I'm somewhat more concerned that whoever cataloged the Lovecraftiana did a bad job of it. I'm pretty sure the Poakotic Fragments don't exist even fictionally, it's the Pnakotic Manuscripts. Unless they *are* cataloging deliberately off-kilter props from their CoC game.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 23, 11:28pm

>26 melannen: I'm somewhat more concerned that whoever cataloged the Lovecraftiana did a bad job of it. I'm pretty sure the Poakotic Fragments don't exist even fictionally, it's the Pnakotic Manuscripts.

Must be ratty data from Amazon. We should see about adding Miskatonic to the list of library sources.

Jan. 23, 11:34pm

>27 amanda4242: ...I bet Tim would go for it, but someone would have to talk the librarians there into a setting up the right API, and library politics in Providence are, let me tell you, scarier than anything in Lovecraft.

Jan. 24, 2:48am

I’ve cataloged some of the titles sold at Flourish & Blotts:

Had a disappointing exchange with one staff member here about author profile pictures at one time. No sense of the possibilities of the impossible.

Jan. 24, 4:37am

>26 melannen: I could also conceive of cataloging titles that are known to have existed but have since become lost as part of a "legacy library" project (say, for some of the libraries of antiquity where we have partial information about their inventory, or for the Herculaneum papyri).

Jan. 24, 11:27am

I'm a little dismayed that there's already confusion about the differences between a book that did exist, a book that exists but wasn't officially published, and a "book" that is actually only a title or an idea.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 24, 11:34am

I have catalogued books that only I own. Just because I created a book for myself and there is no other copy doesn't make it less real.

Having said that, I have no problem with people entering books that have never existed. However, if they are literary references it would be nice if the CK were done.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 24, 2:14pm

>31 aspirit: The argument I was trying to make is that there isn't a nice firm line between those things.

The next installment of my newest favorite series, Fugitive Telemetry, is out for pre-orders but won't be available to have in hand for several months. I don't think anyone would argue it doesn't belong on my wishlist.

The next installment of my oldest favorite series, The Door Into Starlight, has existed as a title and outline in search of a publisher for decades. I would argue that it, too, belongs on my wishlist - I certainly want it just as much, and want to be reminded to check if it's available just as much - even though it exists only as a title and idea.

And as >30 spiphany: brought up, the older 'legacy libraries' almost certainly include titles that no longer exist, but also very likely include titles that never existed - that were misleadingly catalogued leading to a "phantom" book that exists in the historical record but not in history, or that were deliberately inserted into an old catalog to create a false provenance or citation for something, or were old not-yet-published wishlist titles that never came to fruition. And in many cases we won't be able to prove the difference between those and books that did exist but don't anymore.

That's particularly relevant to the Lovecraft discussion, because a lot of the Lovecraftian tomes were supposed to be that sort of thing - phantom titles that float around in old catalogs and titles or as spurious 'translations' but most reasonable people don't believe actually ever existed. Which aids in the game of pretending they aren't fictional.
What's the difference between a medieval grimoire that may have been made up by a 15th century fraudster and one that may have been made up by a 20th century racist? Only the depth of provenance. The line between The Red Book of Westmarch and The Red Book of Hergest is deliberately slim.

And of course, putting titles of well-established fictional books into real-life library catalogs is a long-standing part of the game - of the 'kafaybe' in which people treat imaginary books as real across different novels and authors and worlds (including ours). Behaving as if Hogwarts: A History or The Junior Woodchucks' Guide are real books in real libraries is both part of the fun, and a way of playing with ideas around history, fiction, truth, imagination - and the fact that sometimes people eventually publish them as physical books just makes the game more fun.

And as they are part of a shared imaginary world lived in by many people, people are going to create 'physical' versions of those books, because people like making things real. I think we'd argue that a hand-bound, 1-copy-edition book made just for us belongs in our catalog, so the fact that they're unpublished handcrafts shouldn't be the difference.

I think there are questions of cataloging here that are interesting and difficult: i.e., does someone's handmade Necronomicon belong in the same work as any of the several, completely different, printed editions, or as the overarching work that represents the lost book reference by Lovecraft? That's where the messy data problem comes in again - I can't tell if the badly cataloged Lovecraft is badly cataloged Lovecraft or somebody's correctly-cataloged slightly-altered house rules version, which is a particular shame because we actually have a fair amount of cataloging data for a lot of those titles, that user just didn't enter it. But then that's a problem with a lot of LT data, not just imaginary books.

I'd also say there is a line to be drawn with books that don't even exist as a codified title and idea - an uncontracted next-book-in-a-series that doesn't even have a title or outline yet is questionable, and I would probably agree that somebody just making up titles out of thin air and cataloging them isn't great. (Nor would I support somebody trying to auto-catalog all of Borges' Library of Babel, just for practical reasons - though that would hopefully fall under the 'don't add all of Gutenberg' rule and be stopped before it crashed the database.)

Jan. 24, 2:16pm

>16 spiphany: You forgot to deal with the situation like Lemony Snickets and related series.

Jan. 24, 2:47pm

>33 melannen: I like your arguments. I was wondering about the book within the book So You Want to be a Wizard by the same name. One is authored by Diane Duane, the other by The Powers That Be.

Jan. 24, 3:03pm

>35 2wonderY: Also The Book of Night With Moon!

That's another one of those sticky cataloging things - theoretically it should be obvious the tBoNwM by Diane Duane is different than the one co-authored by Herewiss s'Hearn - but people have a tendency to catalog them by their popularizer as their author (see the Red Book, currently attributed to JRRT rather than Bagginses in LT.)

I'd be tempted to start a project to clean up at least the CK on these if I was confident it wouldn't turn into edit wars.

Jan. 25, 10:05am

>19 aspirit: Wiki and goodreads have the real author as Tom Straw, but it's not official.

In that case, the "fictional" name would count as a pseudonym, since the books exist, but it's bad data to enter fictional authors and works on a database site. (Let alone dresses and shoes....?)

Jan. 25, 10:06am

>25 lesmel: Whoops, should have scrolled down further before posting!

Jan. 25, 10:07am

>31 aspirit: Me too, but I guess we're in the minority.

Jan. 25, 10:09am

The Book of Night With Moon is a real book. I have it and I have read it. There is a fictional book in the world by this title, but this is a real book. The second in the cat wizardry series.

Jan. 25, 10:38am

>31 aspirit: >39 the_red_shoes: Maybe because every book starts as just a title and an idea until the author actually writes it?

Jan. 25, 11:08am

>41 gilroy: Yes, counting a title or an idea as a LibraryThing "work" when a typical writer comes up with hundreds or thousand of those every a year, for a wide range of reasons, seems dismissive of what goes into writing for a shared work. I'm fairly certain most titles and concepts are either throwaways or mentioned with the understanding that another writer may use it for an unrelated work.

The titles or description used in fiction are rarely meant to confuse people into believing the titles are for actual books, but that confusion happens when a phrase is discussed as if it's a work, despite how the the phrase was likely chosen to add characterization, comedy, or to add a feel of realism to a setting, not to market a draft that exists somewhere.

Equating phrases as if each is an existing body equivalent to a book seems wrong to me.

Seems even worse if the phrases are knowingly entered as writing prompts. That's not the purpose of the LT database.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 25, 12:09pm

>40 al.vick: Right - that's why we used it as an example!

>42 aspirit: If what you got out of my argument is that they were entered as "writing prompts" I guess my argument was very poorly stated. Nobody entered the Necronomicon into the Harvard Library card catalog because they were hoping someone would notice that and then write the thing. They entered it for fun. Part of the reason things like that are fun is that they're a way of playing with, and thinking about, what archiving and preservation of knowledge really mean - for example, is the Necronomicon entry, which describes an imaginary book that thousands of people know about, more or less 'true' than an entry for a 'published' book that nobody remembers or has ever looked for, could be cataloged wrong, has been sitting in a box in the basement for 300 years and nobody knows if it's even still there? That's not a writing prompt, it's a thinking prompt. (You would probably say that's a silly question and of course the 'real' book is more suitable. But a lot of people find things that raise those kinds of questions valuable for their own sake.)

The point that sometimes these books eventually come to exist as physical copies relates not to the idea that they are 'writing prompts' but that a site that allows a) wishlists and b) legacy libraries is already saying that it is not just for cataloging books that somebody physically owns.

I think there is a stronger argument to be made that putting the Liber Paginarum Fulvarum in Worldcat as currently owned by a real library is a bad idea (I would argue it's still worth it for the whimsy, and because it's useful to throw in the occasional reminder that a database entry is not the same as a physical object, that all books are to some extent imaginary, to ask the question, but I get that not everybody puts that much weight on the whimsy argument.)

But on a site that has built-in infrastructure for listing items that nobody owns yet but they want to, and items that somebody said they owned three hundred years ago but we can't verify, the argument that it's bad data because there's no corresponding physical object doesn't hold. LT isn't a cataloging a physical library; it's a lot more complicated than that; LT is already designed to list books that are wishes, ideas, dreams, memories. And the fact that somebody who had Quidditch Through The Ages wishlisted fifteen years ago might now own a copy is a demonstration of the fact that wishlisting these titles does serve a purpose for some people other than whimsy.

Jan. 25, 3:38pm

I didn't realize until just now but there is actually an LT group that addresses Fictional Books and the like...

Jan. 25, 3:47pm

>44 Crypto-Willobie:

You might want to fix your link here: It takes people to the last unread post in this thread, not to the top of the thread. (And can I just say that I hate that the Groups re-design did that?)

Jan. 25, 4:36pm

>46 Crypto-Willobie:

Actually, I meant that you should use this link in the other thread so that people will get to the beginning of this thread.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 25, 8:41pm

Isn't that the one I give?

Oh wait. You mean without the #unread.
Very confusing.

Jan. 25, 8:59pm

>48 Crypto-Willobie:

Yes, it's confusing. If you've been to a thread, and go back to it, the url will always be to the last unread. So if you want to direct someone to the thread, you have to strip out a bunch of stuff.