META: Inspiration vs. Theft (was Re: META: Wish Fulfillment, WCs, and Mary Sues)

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Tue Mar 14 09:56:23 PST 2006

Dave Van Domelen wrote:

>      However, the larger question (which I snipped) of "is it ethical?" is
> not so clear-cut.  At one extreme, you can take the position that there are
> only so many truly original plots or premises, and therefore all writing goes
> to the same well and it's perfectly okay.  At the other extreme, you could
> say that if it takes more then N words (N=100, 50, whatever) to adequately
> explain a plot or premise, it's original enough that the idea of theft would
> be plausible.
>      In general, I'd recommend citing inspirations in your end notes, but
> don't worry about it being wrong to take the idea.  Synthesis IS a valid form
> of creativity, and an unexploited or underexploited idea is fair game.

That's very sound advice.  Both you and the Joltin' One bring up some
good points here.

>      Dave Van Domelen, "Always be sure to be calling it 'research,'" - Tom
> Lehrer

I recently did a baptism video for a family member.  I was going to put
"Vatican Rag" in the background, but my wife talked me out of it.


"If a comic book, book, movie or novel is not somebody's fantasy
then who wrote it and to whom does it appeal to?  In order for a
shared universe to have a widespread appeal, it has to appeal on
a primal level.  If somebody says superhero comics are just 'wish
fulfillment' then he needs to explain what is entertainment that
doesn't satisfy our wishes and what satisfaction at all you can get
from it." -- Dr. Martin Phipps

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