I wonder if I’m the only writer with this “problem?”
A few casual remarks on some board of which I don’t remember the name intimated that there were some similarities between a serialized story called Captive Prince and my Dark Tales. Later I got questions about that in private conversations. Not that anybody even remotely suggested that there had been copying going on either way. Just some general themes were more or less parallel.
I can’t answer. I haven’t read Captive Prince. What I do know is that it has a huge following and most people who have read it think it is a fantastic story. I’m reluctant to read it because I’m afraid for what I call, for lack of a better word, contamination. Given that there seem to be some similarities already, I don’t want Dark Tales to be influenced, not even on a subconscious level, by another story in more or less the same vein.
I know, it is impossible to be completely original. All stories have already been told. Over and over again. We can only hope to tell them in our own, distinctive voice. Maybe we can arrange the flowers somewhat differently, but ultimately we’re always working with the same elements to tell our stories.
Most people would agree that Merlin, Gandalf, Dumbledore and even the older Obi-Wan Kenobi are, if not brothers, close relatives. So are their respective protégés. They are all orphans — or they have been led to believe they are — and they grow up in Suburbia of their world. Privet Drive and Tatooine are both as far from the center of power as you can get. As is the Shire. All of the main characters are unprepared for the task that awaits them, and they are equally reluctant at first. They all make the right decision in the end, when confronted with their heritage. “You are a wizard, Harry.” “Your father was a Jedi Knight, Luke, and the Force is strong with you.” “You’re the rightful heir to the throne, Arthur.” The decor changes, the basic story remains the same.
So, this is not my problem. I know, and accept, that we all try to tell the same stories, hopefully giving them just that more depth or discovering an until now hidden aspect in them. We can try to give them other faces and new voices and perhaps offer a new perspective on the same landscape, pointing out other landmarks. But there is a difference between this and outright copying storylines.
Then a reader wrote that Dark Tales reminded him of Game of Thrones, but with gay protagonists. Although another reader had written earlier “George R. R. Martin this is not.” It wasn’t meant in a flattering way. I seem to have broken some laws of how one should tell a Fantasy story. Not that I care. To each his own. But it goes to show that readers have their own, individual take on a book. Nevertheless, now I’m afraid to read Games of Thrones as well, or watch the televised series. I understand the story is rather brutal, complicated, with battles and a lot of political intrigue. Those of you who’ve read Dark Tales will see why I’m more than shy to embark upon reading Martin’s epos.
I positively abhor imitation for imitation’s sake. I can appreciate an homage. I can savor clever paraphrasing of the classics. But the most certain way to make me not read a book is by promoting it like e.g. “If you like Stephen King, you’ll love this horror story.” When I’m in the mood for a hard-boiled detective, I will read Ross Mcdonald or Dashiell Hammett, but not someone who tries to copy one of them.
Of course, there is another reason as well why I am reluctant to read Captive Prince and Game of Thrones. Maybe I would discover that I am just Salieri to their Mozart. Maybe I would find that they are so brilliant that I would lose whatever confidence I have in my own abilities to tell a decent story.
Writers, not known for their unflinching lack of self-doubt.
So, I wonder. Am I the only one?