Just as a warning, this post contains spoilers.
In college I started a series of short stories with mythological characters put into a more modern setting. It was a fun project. One of the stories involved the myth of Admetus. You see he found out he was going to die and that didn’t go well with his weekend plans. So, naturally, he doesn’t want to do it. Well, the gods say, if you can get someone else to take your place, you can go that concert instead (you know, just like shift swapping). So he asks his parents, they say no, retirement is too cool. He asks everyone and they are all too busy.
But then his wife says she’ll do it. Which throws a wrench into the whole affair, because she’s the reason he wants to keep on living.
The modern story I began writing was a bit more dramatic. In it, the wife is dying. She has heart failure. The doctors are frantically looking for a donor, but she is getting worse. Then the husband finds out he is a perfect match. He gets a gun, goes into the hospital and blows his brains out.
Then I saw it on an Ally McBeal episode.
My second published story was called “Angel Watch Over Me,” and was found in Sinisteria Magazine. It was a small press magazine, and this was the first print issue. A brief synopsis: A girl is sitting on her bed while her parents are fighting. An angel shows up. They talk for a moment. There are gunshots from downstairs. The angel gets up and goes to kill the abusive father.
Now watch this:
In my heart, I’d like to think that Seth Green somehow had that issue of Sinisteria and thought the story rocked. Then, one day, while dreaming up funny skits with his toys, he thought “if that were the tooth fairy, that would be HIGHlarious.”
Just like that.
But that probably wasn’t the case. Ally McBeal writers didn’t steal my notebooks at night. There isn’t a snitch amongst my friends who posts my best ideas for other artists to take.
Other examples? Sure. I had started a project where I was re-writing the end of Wuthering Heights, but with zombies; a space carrier based future where my main characters were fighter pilots; a tale of a radio signal that scrambles people’s minds and turns them violent. I wanted to make an opera using Tupac songs.
And it isn’t just me. Similarities between stories exist throughout. Brian Keene’s The Rising and 28 Days later; Hunger Games and Battle Royal; Avatar and Dances with Mecha; all of these things were created independently, yet share some other connection.
That connection is, of course, us. We, as humans, do not live in a vacuum. This world, this life, is absorbed by us every day. On top of that, we are, as a species, creating more art, publishing more art, spreading more art, than ever before.
This is why you cannot copyright an idea. You cannot own an idea. You can only own the specific implementation of that idea.
Will I give up on my implementations? Some I have. Others I have postponed. Even with the similarities, these ideas are still mine. And with time, I expect to bring all them out. Some will be altered now that time has passed, but some will be as I originally envisioned.
And yes, I just admitted to watching Ally McBeal.