2 (or is it 3?) Great Authors’ Quotes on Derivitive Works

I’ve been struggling with this quote for a while, because I can’t find it from the man himself, but I love it. So here is Neil Gaiman, quoting Terry Pratchett:

Genre fiction, as Terry Pratchett has pointed out, is a stew. You take stuff out of the pot, you put stuff back. The stew bubbles on.

He was writing in response to some souped-up charges that he was calling J.K. Rowling out for plagiarism (which he never did). Speaking for himself, in the same post he said:

My heart is on the side of the people doing the unauthorised books, probably because the first two books I did were unauthorised, and one of them, Ghastly Beyond Belief, would have been incredibly vulnerable had anyone wanted to sue Kim Newman and me on the grounds that what we did, in a book of quotations that people might not have wanted to find themselves in, went beyond Fair Use. (Which, I was told by my UK publishers, has now, as a concept, vanished from UK copyright law, although a moment’s Google seemed to disprove this.)

Most commentary on the internet seems to break down into people picking sides based on personalities and opinions. As with most grey areas of law, it isn’t cut and dried, and even when an appeals court-sized decision is handed down, it probably won’t become cut and dried, because “Fair Use” is one of those things, like pornography, we are meant to know when we see them.

The J.K. Rowling tiff brought about another of my favorite responses, this time from speculative fiction heavy-weight, Orson Scott Card:

It’s true that we writers borrow words from each other ? but we’re supposed to admit it and not pretend we’re original when we’re not. I took the word ansible from Ursula K. LeGuin, and have always said so. Rowling, however, denies everything.

If Steven Vander Ark, the author of Lexicon, had written fiction that he claimed was original, when it was actually a rearrangement of ideas taken from the Harry Potter books, then she’d have a case.

But Lexicon is intended only as a reference book for people who have already paid for their copies of Rowling’s books. Even though the book is not scholarly, it certainly falls within the realm of scholarly comment.

Rowling’s hypocrisy is so thick I can hardly breathe: Prior to the publication of each novel, there were books about them that were no more intrusive than Lexicon. I contributed to one of them, and there was no complaint about it from Rowling or her publishers because they knew perfectly well that these fan/scholar ancillary publications were great publicity and actually boosted sales.

While J.K. Rowling may get everyone in a fluff whenever she rips into her fans, as she does in ugly ways, I love that these men are so confident and secure that they can admit to borrowing when they write. And I did not expect Scott Card to be as blunt as he was–shows what I know from only reading Ender’s Game.

Inspirational Quote:

Towered cities please us then,
And the busy hum of men.
–John Milton

1 Comment

  1. I was a big fan of Neil Gaiman in my college and post-college years. “The Sandman” was my favorite comic book, during its run. I never explored Terry Pratchett’s works, though.

    There is another wordpress site that I frequent. It chronicles the online story of my post-Gaiman favorite comic book, Finder, by Carla Speed McNeil. Check it out, if you’d like: http://www.lightspeedpress.com.

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