I have a confession to make: my last story Grind was named after the Alice in Chains song.
The whole issue of using anything belonging to another artist is something of a sticky point because the last thing anyone wants is to get their ass sued to high heaven. The issue of copyrights and fair use was brought up recently in a blog post by Chuck Wendig, which in turn led me to another article that went into the matter more thoroughly. It’s a short read, but a very good one, and I strong encourage you to have a look at it.
Firstly, I don’t think Alice in Chains is going to Hulk out on my any time soon, nor do I expect to be haunted by the ghosts of Layne Staley or Mike Starr. Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t want those guys to haunt me. In my defense, “grind” is a common word used in the story itself, and it was an unpaid publication so there’s no commercial gain, right? Besides, Grind the song and Grind the story don’t deal with the same subject matter; the former was written about the rumored state of the band, and the latter, truly, just sounded like the right “I’m in a bar getting drunk with a model” vibe to my ear.
But I digress. We were talking about ninja penguins, right? No? Well, we should…one day.
Anyways, the fact is that I love rock music. If I had it my way, I’d name every story I wrote after a rock song, but I can’t, and in the meantime, my gut is always telling me to be on the lookout for when I might be treading towards something that might be frowned upon in artist circles.
Of course, a working title is another matter, and to the best of my knowledge, there’s nothing illegal about using a preexisting title as a placeholder until the day comes when your conscience comes up to you like a disapproving girlfriend saying, “We need to talk.“
For example, one of the upcoming Andrew Ursler stories I’ve got lined up is all about one character apologizing to another. My gut instinct titled it All Apologies after the Nirvana song. In fact, there are easily half a dozen Andrew Ursler stories named after rock songs, and I can almost guarantee that I’m going to change the titles before the end.
Because at the end of the day, it’s probably best not to push your luck.