The estate of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien is suing to stop the publication of a novel in which he's a character. If they succeed, they could make it very difficult for fiction writers to include historical figures in their work.
According to the Guardian, Steve Hillard's Mirkwood: A Novel About JRR Tolkien tells the story of a young woman who discovers her grandfather knew Tolkien. This is apparently so offensive to the estate that they are demanding not just that all publication stop, but that all existing copies of the book be destroyed. They are also threatening to seek monetary damages. Hillard's lawyer points out that the case could have far-reaching implications for historical fiction:
Imagine if you couldn't use Winston Churchill as a character in a book about the second world war. How many movies have used a fictional treatment of Churchill? The implications of this assertion by the estate would be that you couldn't do that.
The estate's suit also seems pretty mean-spirited, given that Hillard is a first-time author who's publishing the book himself (although it's sold 900 copies since January, which is not at all shabby under the circumstances). I am probably biased here, but I hope the Tolkien estate doesn't succeed in destroying all extant copies of his cool-sounding novel. And I agree with his statement about Tolkien himself: "His stories were unearthed from his research. He would be somewhat concerned about attempts to stifle works that borrow from history."