Short stories and fair use
May 12, 2014 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend older short stories, which fall under fair use? The darker or spookier the better.

I am working with film students on directing shorts. I am asking them to find material that is already developed and ripe for interpretation so they can focus on craft of TELLING the story.

I've thought of Poe, Lovecraft and fairy tales. I'm looking for recommendations of good stories that could be re-told with a modern, naturalistic rendering-- something Lynch or Cronenberg could sink their teeth into would be ideal.

BONUS: What makes published fiction fair use? (Is it 70 years after death?)

Thanks in advance mefites!
posted by demonstartivepapadonous to Education (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You may be thinking of public domain? That is a real thing that is determined, fair use is more when it's okay to use works or part of works in your own works. The Copyright Information Center at Cornell has this list of resources to help you learn about the differences. Here's another useful explanation of Fair Use from Stanford. Wikipedia has some good linsk where you can browse what is in the public domain (do a reality check also). Here's a list of 800+ short stories that are available online and in the public domain and here are detective and mystery stories fitting that description (holmes and a few others)
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 PM on May 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

BONUS: What makes published fiction fair use? (Is it 70 years after death?)
What country are you in? If you're in the U.S. some public domain ideas might include:

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James (It's public domain in the U.S. and there is a Project Gutenberg download available).

The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers, also available on Project Gutenberg. The title story is pretty high profile right now, having just been referenced on the HBO series True Detective.
posted by bcwinters at 8:18 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

What's in the public domain will also vary from country to country - if you're in Canada or Australia, for instance, check the Project Gutenberg sites for those countries, as they will have different things from the US site (there will also be overlap, and if you are in the US, you can't - for instance - use something that is in the public domain in Australia without making sure it's in the public domain in the US!).
posted by rtha at 8:24 PM on May 12, 2014

The Little Professor has a Halloween tradition of linking to a selection spooky stories in the public domain.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:37 PM on May 12, 2014

In the US, stuff published before 1923 is pretty much in the public domain.

Some talented writers who have ghostly or otherwise spooky short stories include Edith Wharton, Henry James, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:00 PM on May 12, 2014

These are public domain in Canada and the US; not sure about other countries.

Man-Size in Marble, by E. Nesbit

The Overcoat/The Cloak, by Gogol (in Project Gutenberg's Best Russian Short Stories)

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:14 PM on May 12, 2014

seconding m. r. james and "the yellow wallpaper". another favorite from my childhood is algernon blackwood's "the willows". shirley jackson has some creepy stuff, is she out of copyright yet?
posted by bruce at 9:22 PM on May 12, 2014

Directing shorts based on ghost stories without the use of CGI or grfx seems a tall order to me--you might want to broaden this assignment to include folk and fairy tales. Showing all the nuances of a James story might be pretty difficult. Free horror, ghost and gothic tales link here.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:27 PM on May 12, 2014

I'm pretty sure that The Bottle Imp (written in in 1891) is in the public domain by now. It's a terrific story by Robert Louis Stevenson about a man who buys a bottle that grants wishes -- but comes with a curse.

As originally told, it's set in Hawaii, but the essentials of the story could easily be adapted to another time and place.

As a bonus it's got a nice economic twist associated with it, which actually is an important element of the story.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:24 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Clark Ashton Smith's "The Empire of the Necromancers."
posted by codswallop at 10:42 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gabriel Ernest by Saki.
posted by the latin mouse at 12:13 AM on May 13, 2014

Guy de Maupassant generally fits the bill. The Horla describes supernatural terrors, which may or may not be real, whereas The Vendetta or Boule de Suif are heavily grounded in reality.

As well as direct adaptations, a number of his works have been used in film and television as loose bases, as many of his settings are incidental to the plot.
posted by frimble at 2:15 AM on May 13, 2014

The classic vampire love story La Morte Amoureuse, known in English as Clarimonde, by Théophile Gautier, is on Project Gutenberg (so it appears to be in the public domain). The link is: It's a beautifully written short story, both in the original French and in Lafcadio Hearn's English translation (Hearn being a great storyteller of the weird in his own right). There are many surreal elements in the tale that would do wonderfully in film.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 4:08 AM on May 13, 2014

Check some of the public domain tales on Amalgamated Spooks!

The Damned Thing, by Ambrose Bierce.
The Great God Pan, by Arthur Machen.
The Music of Erich Zann, by H. P. Lovecraft.
The Other Side, by Count Stenbock.
The John Silence stories of Algernon Blackwood.
The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
In The Light of the Red Lamp, by Maurice Level.
The Black Pool, by Frederick Stuart Greene.
The Spider, by Hanns Heinz Ewers.
The King in Yellow, by Robert Chambers.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:53 AM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Stone Soup folk tale is a personal favourite and several variations would be in the public domain. It's not very spooky though.
posted by ODiV at 7:52 AM on May 13, 2014

how love came to dr Guildea

Try finding a copy of The Omnibus of Crime, edited by Dorothy Sayers and containing a section on horror bits.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:40 PM on May 13, 2014

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