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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Treading on the Genius of Others

   
Author Topic: Treading on the Genius of Others
s_merrell
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*spoilers for Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card*

So, I came up with an idea for the fantasy world that I'm developing for my story. It deals with a drastically-sped up evolution / transformation of coral-and-polyp ecosystems in a terrestrial (instead of submarine) environment. Essentially, when the "polyp" creatures die, their husks ("coral") help contribute to the environment. Over thousands of years, they create mountains, forests, etc. They create the environment.

The only real problem I see with this, is that it sounds too much like the post-Descolada world in Speaker for the Dead. Even though it's not due to some virus or whatever, the idea that dying creatures create environmental elements sounds too much like Lusitania.

Is it fine to take radical--nonconventional--science fiction and fantasy ideas from other well-established authors and utilize them for yourself? This may be a stupid question, but it's one that I'd like to clarify before making this concept an integral part of my world.

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extrinsic
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Ideas are not protected intellectual property. The divide falls at derivative works. Is the coral part of another writer's milieu or is it unique to yours? Seems to me unique enough. However, consider how to make it more unique.

One fundamental principle that provides guidance for creating unique milieus is how a setting premise causes complications. If the coral is a natural world or invented terraforming life form, entirely benevolent, it's just backdrop. If the setting influences the drama, it's a dramatic object and likely to be unique. What complications does the coral cause?

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Pyre Dynasty
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OSC used the ansible from Ursula K LeGuin. How many stories have used derivations from Asimov's three laws? We are all building off of one another's ideas.
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Brendan
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And this idea seems quite different to OSC's world. I probably wouldn't have noticed the similarity, because it is at a higher view that any similarity exists, not detailed level. Desscolada was a virus that changed all creatures at the cellula level. Your coral polyps are much more like the great barrier reef than a virus. So that is where most people would think the idea came from. (And it is an excellent idea, one that, like the Great Barrier Reef, could be so full of different life forms, and potential for surprises and potential conflict.
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MartinV
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I think you might be the only one that sees the resemblance between Card's world and your own. If you didn't intentionally copy it, you have nothing to worry about.
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Robert Nowall
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"If I see farther than others, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton, probably misquoted---but you get the idea.

Breaking it down a little further...well, of course my stuff does derive one concept or another from things I've read or seen or heard. I might use the word, "aircar," to describe a flying vehicle, and just because I've seen it used by H. Beam Piper and others doesn't seem a valid reason to change it to something else. I could say that I admired it so much I stole it.

And yet a little further...still, I do occasionally turn out something that seems much too close to somebody else's thing. I've got two stories on hand, complete, finished, revised, and everything, that I liked well enough, but they derive their central imagery from some well-known work. (One is from a 1970s medical thriller movie and / or book...the other from the early SF works of someone who has a major fantasy series out right now.) I don't submit them to market...I don't even post them on my own website.

*****

I can't say what the similarities between this idea and Speaker for the Dead are---I've never read Speaker for the Dead.

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babooher
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If the Hunger Games is original, your concept definitely is. To be inspired by the ideas of others is good. You're making it your own. Run with it.

Part of being an artist is not ever having to ask for permission. I forget that often, but I try to remind myself all the time.

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