Genre Talk

Genre talk: o, vile cat of copyness

5031312940_copycat_xlargeSo there’s been a bit of fuss recently on the Book of Face about an instance of so-called ‘plagiarism’. Have you seen it? I’m talking about this author here, whose book supposedly features a scene that is ‘similar’ to a scene in another bestselling author’s book in the same genre.

Apparently it’s a sex scene, which takes place in an alley. Gasp!

Yeah. Because that’s so unique, right? No one ever wrote an alley sex scene in motorcycle romance before. OMG, call the idea police immediately.

I mean, I’m all for protecting copyright, and flushing plagiarists down the nearest noisome rat-infested drain to stink and choke on fatbergs. Of course I am. I’m an author. But IMO this particular accusation is flat-out ridiculous.

People get the same ideas independently all the time. Just ask Newton and Leibniz. Guess what? You don’t own ‘your’ ideas. No one does. If text isn’t recognisably copied? Sorry. You lose. Suck it up.

Because if this kind of thing starts to be taken seriously… well, we’re all in trouble, aren’t we?

Especially in paranormal, where there can only be so many ideas about stuff like how werewolves work or what a vampire’s powers are. Writers use similar world-building and plot tropes all the time. That’s what ‘genre’ means. Might as well call all motorcycle club romances ‘plagiarised’ because they feature a tattooed hero on a bike. Uh. NO. MC authors write tattooed heroes — and alley sex scenes, for that matter — for one reason: it’s what their readers like.

Sure, the familiar can get boring. There are only so many orgasmic blood-sucking scenes or alpha-beta werewolf pack dynamic books you can read before your brain rots away. And the familiar can also be utterly lame, just because it is so familiar. If anyone other than Stephanie Meyer ever writes a sparkling vampire again, there’ll be groans and the crashing of Kindles being hurled through windows from here to Forks, Washington.

But ‘lame’ and/or ‘familiar’ don’t equal ‘illegal’. They are not food for authorial outrage. You want to rant against something that deserves it? Here’s some for ya:

Get your rage on at the people who just copy other author’s books in their entirety and put them up on Amazon with a new cover.

Pour the boiling oil of your anger onto the head of P2P, which IMO is a far bigger threat to the continuing existence of good books and fresh ideas than a few too many alley sex scenes in MC.

Get pissed off at the person who just sold their One Direction fanfic for six figures – or better still, vent your ire on the brain-dead cultural vandals at the publishing house who bought the fucking thing – and wail over the bleeding corpse of the forced ignorance of all those unknowing readers who’ll purchase the book when it comes out, because they’ve been conditioned by too many years of mediocre publisher-hyped bestsellers into thinking that they have to read this shit because there’s nothing better out there…


Dudes, we could rant all day about publishing idiocy. I’ll even bring the popcorn. And if someone really does copy from another author’s book? By all means, break out the name-and-shame pillory and the rotten eggs, and let’s get hurling.

But let’s spare from name-calling and vitriol those authors who write genre tropes simply because they want to please their readers. They’re not doing anything wrong.

I’m the first person to puke a little and toss the book aside when I see yet another self-conscious intern tripping over her hot boss in the lobby, or whatever. But that doesn’t make it stealing.

Sure, it might make for a dull book. But guess what? It’s not illegal to suck. And a good thing, too. If it were, we’d all be out of business…

5 thoughts on “Genre talk: o, vile cat of copyness

  1. LOL! I do love a good rant!

    I just had the experience of reading a book by a beloved author and having that moment of panic that a core piece of her premise is similar to my WIP. But then noticing all the ways its also different helped me calm down.

    I guess its an occupational hazard related to my being a priest, but I’m a big believer there are really only a few stories out there and we are just retelling them. The same with symbols, tropes, etc. I even think P2P is essentially just working off character types, like, say “Byronic Hero” or “spunky innocent virgin” so even that doesn’t ruffle my feathers. Yeah, spunky innocent is overdone, but I’m sure there is someone else could do it so well it would blow my mind.

    If the writing itself is good (quality prose, with plenty of rich texture and emotion) I’ll kind of go anywhere with the author.

    • I’ve had that panic too when I read other time travels and the heroine has a similar reaction to the situation, but then I’m like well, yeah, that’s probably a normal reaction…

      • Oh, this happens ALL the time. I see stuff on TV that’s similar to my WIP, or to something I’ve planned out and haven’t even started yet. Sigh… but then I think, well, that’s good – if it’s made it onto TV, it’s probably got an audience somewhere, right?

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