Ripping Ideas Off
(sorry for the late post)
Yes, you read that right. Authors are stealing ideas from works of the past and changing them, making them their own by putting their own twist on it. Oh, woe!
Since this has been happening for as long as people have been writing (and being published), I really don’t see the avenue people are trying to take when they cry foul after another author writes a story which may be similar to something someone else had already written. I, for one, did not flip out after I saw that John Scalzi took a concept I alluded to in Corruptor and ran with it in his latest work, Locked In. I don’t own the idea of a virtual reality being used in books (and I’d be stupid to try and claim it, since Neil Stephenson did something similar awhile back in this little book you may have heard of, called Snow Crash), and quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to try to claim it anyways, because stifling ideas and trying to claim tropes is a Bad Thing (TM).
You see what I did there?
Part of the complete and utter coolness of being an author is taking some random idea and putting your own spin on it. Seriously, seeing something done and then putting your own spin on it stretches back to the time of Shakespeare and before (probably). So for anyone to try to claim an idea and say that nobody else can write it is, well, absurd. An author can copyright their characters, for example, and names of fictional lands. But for an author to claim, oh, Shakespeare himself as their own creation is on a lot of illicit drugs. Tropes are there for a reason, and it’s absurd to think that any one author can claim a trope.
Yes, a trope. You may have heard of them? They’re those things that people use with regularity and nobody bats an eye because we expect it. Kind of how in the old Star Trek series, if your name is Ensign Bob, you wear a redshirt and you are going on an away mission with Kirk, McCoy and Spock, the odds of your imminent death are at about 100%. Tropes are fun to play with and play against, and for anyone trying to claim a type of trope as their own is… well, you see where I’m going with this, don’t you?
So I ask you, gentle reader (hah!!!) — what sort of person tries to copyright a trope that they did not originally create, and attack anyone who wants to put their own spin on a trope they themselves have borrowed from elsewhere?
Probably the same kind of person who is totally cool with predatory contracts, if you ask me.
Look, authors typically aren’t going to try and stab each other in the back. We usually are trying to help other writers out because, deep down, we’re all fans of reading, and if someone new comes along and can tell a story, does it really matter if their tropes borrow the basis of ideas from other places? As much grief as I give Stephanie Meyer about sparkly vampires, it’s still a different take on a bloodsucking parasitical creature of evil (I have my own opinions of the vampire community, and I do believe the words “stake tartar” comes to mind) and one she did well enough to parlay that into enough money to do whatever she wants for the rest of her life. She played on a trope (seductive vampire) and targeted the YA and female audience, much like Anne Rice did in the late 80’s to mid 90’s. Did Anne Rice threaten to sue Meyers for “stealing” the trope of seductive vampires? I doubt it. Did the previous writers of British boarding school novels try to sue J. K. Rowling for using that trope to write Harry Potter (thanks for reminding me of this example, Sarah)? Heck no. They probably saw an uptick in sales from readers looking for something akin to Harry Potter when the series started to get popular (see Charlie Bone and Artemis Fowl for examples).
Tropes are there for us all to twist and play with. So don’t be a jerk and try to say you own a trope when (in Soviet Russia) the trope owns you.
Jason Cordova writes books. Really, people pay him to do this. It’s odd. He also blogs irregularly, and runs a book review site. His latest book, Murder World: Kaiju Dawn, is out and he believes you should buy it and gift it to the Firefly fan in the house. They’ll thank you for it.