This week: Sneak Preview, plagiarism and Lord of the Rings (movie and book).
I should just mention that this week’s blog title is a joke. Normally I use film titles and of course there is the film Copycat with Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter, but I thought that film was called Copycat Killers and I like the title so much I am copyrighting it here, right now.
Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved
A story about love, death and the habit of murder.
Now on to the except. This week’s its from my imminent busking blockbuster, King of the buskers! Just joking. This project is still sitting in the sidings waiting for somebody to take it on. If any publishers out there are interested, please get in touch. I have rewritten the end to Chapter One and this is the revised version.
King of the Buskers
Copyright © 2013 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved
[My parents] visited me. The atmosphere was congenial enough at first. We went for a curry around the corner and then back to my flat. It was only when my mother went out of the room for a while, that my father said something very peculiar to me. He asked how Lina was, and I told him I had split up with her.
He said, “I dunno. You always go for girls with exotic names.”
Now although Lina is in fact a typical name for a Dutch girl, it may well sound a little exotic to a man born in 30s England. But my previous two girlfriend’s names had been very typically English and not exotic at all. It may sound like an inoffensive comment but it made me start to think.
What if my father is deliberately undermining me – trying to play on any insecurities I might have? What if he often does that? What if he has always been doing that since I was about three?
The last thought occurred to me simply because I could remember that far back clearly, and I recalled that my father had always made little comments like that. He had also recently started saying that music was too tough an industry and that I would never make money from it.
I had already been living largely off income from busking since the autumn, and had already contemplated living solely off busking. To my knowledge nobody had ever done this before. Was it even possible I wondered?
Now I determined that this was what I was going to do. What’s more, I was going to do it for three years. I was also going to move – and not tell my parents where I had gone, or leave any clues. If I was living off cash alone, this should be possible, I thought. I would become invisible to those I didn’t trust. What I needed was space to think. My scientific, analytical and empirical brain had decided that the best way to separate out what was manipulative bullshit from the truth, was to isolate myself and remove as much external stimuli as possible. From there I could piece together what was truth and what was fiction. I have always been passionate about truth, and now I needed it more than ever.
The last piece of the jigsaw that led to a major break with my past, was my contemplation of religion and my faith. I am not an evangelist and I won’t belabour the point, but I was thinking more and more that meditation was only giving me half of what I wanted. It didn’t, for instance, satisfactorily answer the fundamental question of what happened when we died. I already believed in reincarnation, but what happened at the point of death? I found some answers in Gurdjieff. In particular, I found a reference to a very old tale, told by the wise, in remote parts of Afghanistan and Armenia: that at the point of death, time slows to a standstill and infinity opens up before you. Your life flashes in front of you but in the end, there is infinity.
I was strongly attracted to this idea and decided it would be a good subject for a concept album. It was nothing if not ambitious!
So that was it then: My plan was to move to a secret location, begin recording my concept album, and for three years, and attempt to live solely off busking. It was a momentous decision. In a strange way this was the moment when everything I had gone through up to the point came together. It was the moment when I finally accepted that my father wasn’t going to change. Breaking away to be myself rather than trying to compromise with his views, I had to put my ideas to the ultimate test. I knew I was putting my life on the line; busking can be a dangerous occupation at times. I was certainly also putting my reputation on the line so one thing was for sure; if I survived, my life would never be the same again.
It occurred to me this week to talk about plagiarism. My partner often asks me if I don’t think something has been copied from somewhere else. In particular she has been watching the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies and feels that a very well-known (and very rich) writer may have copied a very well-known series of books from J. R. R. Tolkien.
I am not disagreeing with her. I happen to know, however, that the author in question claims to have been ‘inspired’ (my parentheses) by Tolkien, but not to have copied him. Quite often an author is unaware of the extent to which they have copied something. They are adamant that they haven’t done so and yet the evidence seems against them. This complicated matters.
Also, there are many books which openly ape or satirize well-known books. I remember chuckling through a few tertiary college break-times while reading Hordes of the Things by Andrew Marshall, a satyr on Lord of the Rings. Did the Tolkien estate complain? No. Would J K Rowling complain if something similar were done for Harry Potter? Probably.
So why is satyr allowed and yet inspirational versions are called into question for their validity? I think the answer is that the public feel plagiarism is the act of copying something without adding something meaningful and possibly making something inferior for the gain of profit. And plagiarism is illegal.
Collins English Dictionary has plagiarise as: “to appropriate (ideas, passages, etc) from (another work or author)”
In other words, plagiarism to make a work or parts of a work one’s own without reference to the original.
Clearly Horde of the Things is felt to be a new work and only inspired by Lord of the Rings.
Whereas when a work is claimed to be original and yet the main characters and main plot seem in many instances to bear a great similarity to the original, the author really needs to examine their conscience. Yes, writers all know that a ‘quest’ is a common theme in a book and a ‘magical device with great power’ is also a common motif. Indeed there are reckoned to be only roughly 18 (some would have it as few as 8) themes in the whole world – ever. However when the movie version of the ‘inspired’ work casts a similar looking lead actor to the original work and they both have the same genre and themes, it leaves the public feeling slightly queasy. It puts my hackles up even further when the ‘inspired’ writer protests loudly, and long, their innocence and proceeds to prosecute anybody and everybody who says otherwise.
Do the Tolkien estate (led by the redoubtable Christopher) prosecute all and sundry for writing satyrs, guides and critiques of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work? No. Why, because they know the story is so deeply original and enchanting that no reader could possible be duped into preferring a fake version.
Or could they?
Lord of the Rings
Please note, I am not saying that this article is in any way related to the article above about plagiarism.
Let’s just say that my partner, who is not English and is discovering our heritage slowly, has finally discovered Lord of the Rings.
So much does she shun Harry Potter, that I thought this would never happen. I even lent her The Hobbit – a friend had taken her to see the film – but to no avail. Then I told her a bedtime story about a wizard and a magic ring and a log fire into which the ring was thrown to reveal secret, evil writing. Well, you must admit it sounds enticing. I must have done a good job because the next day, she wanted to give The Fellowship of the Ring a go. After enjoying the first few chapters she then wanted to see the films. Of course I was delighted so we settled down to watch together. She was full of questions. She wanted to stay up all night to watch to the end. The films only made her more hungry for the books.
However, she could not understand why the books had evaded her. Why had somebody told her they were just like the Harry Potter books? Furthermore, why were the books so much better than Harry Potter books?
I can only say that I am delighted we have watched all three films and she is now close to starting the second volume.
As a footnote, I had accidentally deleted the third film from my Virgin Media library so we had to watch the extended edition. While it did have some nice extras – the Mouth of Sauron was particularly good – on the whole, the film was too long. Then, of course, there is the absence of Tom Bombadil in the first film, even the extended edition; such a loss.
I haven’t written much at all this week; not writer’s block but just me easing back into writing after a long-needed break. As you can see, even in this break I have done a little work on the busking book. Several readers are part way through Iron III and I will let you know their opinions when they have finished.
I set out not sure what I was going to write today and I have written quite a lot! I just wanted to mention the MotoGp tomorrow. I saw Valentino Rossi narrowly miss getting another pole position today. Good luck to him tomorrow.