IS THERE SUCH A THING AS AN ORIGINAL IDEA?
In April of 2015, I was watching a television program called “Hangar 1: The UFO Files.” The episode was called, “Space Weapons,” and was about the secret space program, specifically Solar Warden. I had seen other programs, such as “The Conspiracy Show” with David Syrett, but they never mentioned the name, “Solar Warden.” Hangar 1 had an official name – and it also devoted a portion of the episode to the enigmatic “TR-3B.”
As I watched, I thought, this would make a great novel. So I started writing. And researching. My son Jonathan is a character designer for Riot Games in Los Angeles, working on their online video game, “League of Legends.” I would go to LA to visit him, and work on my novel while he was at work. Using his home computer, he somewhat nervously declared that he and I are probably on an NSA watchlist because of all the websites I would visit while doing my research. He’s probably right! Regardless, I finished the first draft of my novel in just over a month. It was pretty rough, but the concept was there. The ideas kept flowing, so I continued to write. In the course of about 18 months, a sequel grew into a trilogy, and finally into a six book series. And I’ve already written most of a novella that takes place within the six book story arc.
Throughout all this frantic writing, I developed quite an arsenal of technology for my Solar Warden universe. From signal non-locality to Magnetic Frequency Disruptors to stealth suits to–you name it. Most of it came from what I call the Solar Warden mythology, information gleaned from the myriad books and websites devoted to the secret space program that I poured over. But some of it I conceived of on my own. Well, not exactly on my own–my computer whiz son helped. A lot. I asked him what a computer would look like 50 years from now. He described the tablet in my novels–the small, domino block-sized quantum computer that works with an ARI screen and keyboard. He also came up with the A.I. “Bird-brain,” as well as several other items in my Solar Warden inventory.
During the course of my writing, I started seeing elements on television programs and movies that bore a striking resemblance to the technology in my novels. But not just technology, like signal non-locality, but scenarios as well. I remember one evening my daughter Justina called me and told me I needed to publish my novel right away, because she had gone to see the Marvel film, “Black Panther,” and in the film they had various elements that, as she put it, “were right out of your novel!”
This was very disconcerting. I wasn’t ready to publish my first novel yet, and it appeared that all over the entertainment industry, ideas I had formulated years before were showing up on the big and small screens. As a result, those who read my novels could potentially say, “Oh yeah, I saw that in such-and-such a movie or TV program. This guy just copied them.”
Not so. If you’ve seen something presented after 2015 that matches something in my novels, then I either conceived of it first, or at least simultaneously. I spoke to my son about this a while back during on of my visits to LA, and he said it was understandable, since some things are inevitable. He said they would eventually come out in entertainment, whether it’s literature, film or television. It’s all just a matter of time. My problem is I’m slightly behind the curve. I may be coming up with a lot of these things for my novels, and my ideas are original (at least as original as they can be), but there is also someone else out there (actually, a lot of someone else’s) who are coming with the very same or similar ideas. It’s just that they have access to the entertainment industry and are presenting their doppelganger ideas to audiences before I can. Being stuck like that is –very –frustrating.
So what do I do? I keep writing, presenting my concepts and ideas on the printed page, and hope that not too many of them get pilfered by other imagineers. I can’t sue them for plagiarism because, while I’ve had many of my ideas for over five years, much of them haven’t been published yet.
I guess it sucks to be me.
A very wise man once said (in the book of Ecclesiastes), “There’s nothing new under the sun.” He was very correct. Don’t think for a second that you can have an entirely original idea. They’re as rare as unicorn fingernails. It doesn’t matter what it is, someone else has already thought of it, and tried to exploit it for money.
Just like you planned to do.