Fishing from the same stream

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Fishing from the same stream is a literary phenomenon that is common among authors- particularly ones from the sci-fi and fantasy genres- that is the source of great discussion from fans, journalists, and lawyers alike.

Many people believe that the use of this is plagiarism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Terry points out that the stream is like a boiling pot- different writers use its contents, but ‘’do not steal each other’s ideas’’. That is not how ideas function. A school for wizards- that works. It was no-one’s idea per se, but it captures the imagination, and is good to use in novels. The reason clichés are so popular is that they are the nuts and bolts of a writer’s toolkit- the ideas are emblazoned on the public consciousness, and are simply used separately by different writers. As the creator himself said, when questioned about the Rowling/Plagiarism debates: "[When people ask:] So, are you accusing JK Rowling of plagiarism? [I] sigh deeply and say: No. Don't be silly, that's how genres work. Writers have always put a new spin on old ideas. I can think of a dozen pre-Hogwarts 'Magic schools'. Some of them are pre-Unseen University, too. It doesn't matter. No one is stealing from anyone. It's a shared heritage."

And by its very nature, fantasy fiction draws on the whole vast panoply of the world's mythology, history and folklore, which by its very nature is common heritage and cannot be copyrighted.

See The Folklore of Discworld (with Dr. Jacqueline Simpson) for further examples of this phenomenon in Discworld.


Examples

  • If your gang consists of two people- if it is, in fact, a gangette- one will be the brains of the outfit and one will supply the muscle and speak like dis. They must both, of course, wear black suits. If there are three of them, this still applies, but the new one will be called Fingers.

There is the mediaeval idea of the Invisible College (does the name ring a bell?) which a seeker after wisdom had to find for himself in order to learn all about sorcery, wizardry and magic. At all stages the neophyte wizard was warned that magic was a tricky thing that could bite back and cause damage. As the price for the Devil providing teaching, one pupil in every class was taken to Hell (the Dungeon Dimensions?). Echoes of this concept inform both Unseen University and Hogwarts.

The Hiver draws from an ancient Celtic spirit of evil and destruction, previously used by author Alan Garner in his fantasy novel The Moon of Gomrath. If readers of both books have noticed similarities, they would be dead right.