New week, new month, new post! Well, sort of. Today, I thought I’d talk about ideas. You know, those things that form the basis of all out stories. In part, because there have been a recent spate of ‘you stole your idea from me’ slap fights out in the publishing world.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a gamer – I’m old enough that when I started playing, it was Chain Mail, not Dungeons and Dragons. These days, most of my gaming is done in the same place that I do most of my writing, seated in front of a glowing screen, chasing down whatever side quest I’ve been given, or looking for things to trade for caps and wares. I’ve also mentioned I’ve been playing the Fallout series since it began, lo so many years ago. Right now, I’m flipping between Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 depending on my pain level. Fallout 4 on those days when all I want is a little mindless violence with my exploring, or when I’m just not up to braining that much.
Anyway, one of the things I really like about FO4 is they finally embraced the modding community – mods abound, and you don’t have to jump through hoops to make them work. Most of my mods are either adding new lands/quests or new radio stations, because, frankly, the in game stations suck rocks, anally. One of the stations I’ve added is a 1980’s Canadian Corporation for Public Broadcasting program called ‘Nightfall’. As you can probably guess from the title, the show is/was mostly horror stories. I’m running around the wasteland last night, and I hear a story about a noble woman who invites Death to a grand ball . . . and Death shows up (Lady Death who is young and beautiful at that). There’s the usual fear of Death by the guests, and then finally, young Lady Death swaps her powers for humanity with the old noblewoman who invited her to the soiree.
And my writer brain went . . . wait a minute, I’ve heard this story before. So I went digging. Episode 27 of Nightfall, “Guest of Honor” is based on the 1963 short story “Come, Lady Death” by Peter S. Beagle. Now, I’ll admit, I’d never heard of “Come, Lady Death”, and my first thought was that 1998’s “Meet Joe Black” was based on the same source material, so I went down that rabbit hole. Turns out, “Meet Joe Black” is based on the screenplay for 1934’s “Death Takes a Holiday” which is in turn based on the 1924 Italian play “La Morte in vacanza”. As an aside, “Death Takes a Holiday” revolves around Death trying to figure out why humans fear him so much and taking on human form to discover an answer.
Which, to me at least, sounds like Death from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
By now you’re probably wondering what the hell my point is. It’s this – in writing, there is nothing ‘new’ when it comes to basic ideas. If you can conceive it, it’s probably been written somewhere in history. However, that’s not a reason not to write your take on it. Yes, Death becoming human to figure out why humans fear him so has been written. So freaking what. Write it. You don’t have the same life experiences as Peter S. Beagle, Terry Pratchett or Alberto Cassella for that matter. You will bring a different point of view to the concept.
Hope everyone has a good week!
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