Spies everywhere

I hate it when someone steals my idea.

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I thought it happened again when I first saw a coming attraction trailer for the new movie Seventh Son, with Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes and Julianne Moore. It looked very similar to my first book, The Bones of the Earth, which I published in 2011.

I should be used to this. Back in 1980, when I was young and probably just as foolish as I am today, I decided to try running as a sport. I would run in the evenings in my neighbourhood, and realized that it was really quite boring. I thought how nice it would be to be able to listen to music while I ran.

I considered my Sony hand-held tape recorder, the one that was supposed to be used to record university lectures. I never actually used it for that, but did play music cassette tapes. The sound quality was … tolerable, and it was better than having no music at all.

Now, this tape recorder-player was designed to be held in one hand, but it was still pretty bulky for running. Heavy, too. I looked it over and realized that the speaker accounted for much of its bulk. “If it just had an earphone instead, it would be a lot more portable,” I remember thinking. “No—headphones! Stereo headphones! That would be awesome.”

Six months later, Sony released the Walkman.

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My first fantasy novel, The Bones of the Earth, in many ways follows the classic high fantasy quest genre. It’s set at a time before guns and gunpowder, when horses were the main means of travel, when civilization was still a tenuous bet and when magical beasts roamed the earth. It has a number of element that fantasy readers will find familiar: a wise old man, a young boy with a unique destiny, a damsel in distress and lots of monsters, witches, vampires and dragons.

In writing it, I determined to break as many of the tropes and conventions of the fantasy genre as I could. For starters, it’s not set in a made-up world, but in a real time and place, and some of the events in the story actually took place in history. But that’s a subject for another post. Suffice it to say, it’s not a conventional quest story, and the characters are not like those you’ll find in other quest stories.
But the main character, Javor, is the seventh son of a seventh son. In fact, I had recently decided to title the third volume of the planned trilogy (I have the outline already) Seventh Son.

Then Universal Studios brought out Seventh Son.

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And it features a wise old man and a boy with a unique destiny, who has to fight monsters, dragons and witches.

Damn.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I don’t know whether I ever will, but a little research showed that the movie is based on Joseph Delaney’s 2004 novel, The Spook’s Apprentice. There are other similarities, such as the main villain being a centuries-old, powerful woman. But there are also a lot of differences, enough to allay my misgivings.

I guess that the author of The Spook’s Apprentice and I were both tapping into the same energy and some of the same ancient mythologies. And let’s face it, the trope of the ancient master passing on his knowledge to a talented apprentice crosses many genre boundaries.

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11 comments on “Spies everywhere

  1. My new book I’m trying to hock I first wrote years ago… I told the concept to my husband and then SURVIVOR came out – that TV show where people were dumped on an island and left to survive? My husband said “Hey, that’s your book!” GRRRRRR…. yeah, it was…

  2. Scott, I think you’ve hit a nerve all writers have felt in one form or another. I read something one time that calmed my nerves. No matter what others have written, you write your stories anyway. Because through your voice and your technique people need to hear YOU. And your voice, theme, pace make your story different from anyone else’s.

  3. I shared a short story I wrote with a buddy and when he finished, his first words were: Wow! You plagiarized XXX (a very well known author) almost word for word. HUH? Yes,come to discover, that author had penned the story in 1975 – I wrote mine back in school, 1963. I told my family (parents and siblings) about a weird dream I’d had… three weeks later it was on Twilight Zone. So we must be sharing a plane of existence when we sleep/dream – as an author, we just have to keep our thoughts to ourselves. LOL. Or learn to writer faster than the other guy!!

  4. The closest I’ve come is having someone compare my romantic comedy, Her Best Match, to 50 Shades. What a laugh! Only similarity–a rich, arrogant, man interviews a woman, and there are “sparks”. Sigh—perhaps I’m not interesting enough for he spies….

  5. Wow… I can totally relate, Scott! I’ve been there so many times. Just when I thought I had a fantastic idea…. BAM, there it is. I’ve learned over the years to keep my really good ideas quiet. I simply don’t send them into the ether, unless I am currently doing or living the idea. HAHA!! I’ve always written it off to the old adage, “great minds think alike,” but it would be better if we could benefit from these brilliant thoughts now and then. Your time will come, just as mine will! 🙂 Great post! (and by the way, I prefer fantasy books that involve the real world).

  6. There are lots of stories and messages which are similar. I’ve definitely experienced this, with ideas I’ve had being turned into work, but those who simply have a bigger platform and more resources to create it – and that can be frustrating.

    But your work will always be uniquely yours, even if it’s similar.

  7. Pingback: The Trouble With George R.R. Martin | Guild Of Dreams

  8. Pingback: The trouble with other writers’ ideas | creativowls

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