The tyranny of originality

It’s NaNoWriMo month and I’m using the opportunity it provides to complete the first draft of my WIP (work in progress). Only two days in and I discover a published book with the same name I was going to use for my latest – Zero Day. Not only that, but it’s in a similiar domain (cybercrime and zero day exploits) … and it has a forward by Bill Gates. Top that!

It got me thinking about originality. I inhabit the software industry with its endemic start-up culture. The water-cooler conversations are always about cool ideas for a new web site or business. It is almost a religion in this business – the cult of originality. It can become tyrannical. That same tyranny to be original seems to be a driver in “high-concept” thrillers too. It is said (I can’t remember who) that for every original idea you think you have, there are at least 3 people in the world having the same idea. Some will be in better position to pursue that idea, or further along with it than you. For example, tablet PCs have been around for years. The idea was in even Star Trek (and probably earlier than that). But it took the convergence of Steve Jobs to bring the idea to its time with the iPad. Now they are everywhere.

Then there is the school of thought that says there are no really original ideas in the world anyway – it’s all been done before. If we followed it to its logical conclusion, we would never do anything at all!

So does the discovery of a potentially similar book de-rail me?

No.

There is also the school of thought that you can do something others are doing, but you should do it in your own unique way. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Don’t let the tyranny of orginality topple you. As they often say on Litopia, you can’t protect ideas, only the expression of ideas. So I won’t be reading any cybercrime novels for a while, just in case!

I have always asserted that authors can only write the books they can write. Authors are the amalgam of all the ideas, philosophies, experiences, and people that have influenced them in their lives. There lies the originality and the uniqueness. It is a writer’s style, and the way he or she combines story elements and plots that makes the work unique. I want to complete my own draft this month. I want to write those scenes in my mind on the steps in Odessa, and that pivotal character piece in the Karelian forests, and that closing scene in the streets of Seattle (whose charms I first discovered last year).

I noticed the same thing even happened to Mr. Russinovich – a novel just published after his by David Baldacci with the same name Zero Day! At least I can change my title. (By the way guys – I have the domain zerodaynovel.com registered if you want it!)
Congratulations to them both. I know that writing and publishing a book is a major achievement.

In truth, we write because of our creative drive, our characters, our own imaginative worlds … and for the fun of it. There’s nothing like it!

2 comments November 3rd, 2011

World War III

I’ve heard political and economic commentators say that this global economic depression could lead to another World War, just as the previous depression did. Who would be the powers in such a scenario – China, the USA, Europe? Only if they have any funds left to rage a costly war!

Recently, I started to think that we might have it all wrong. The third World War may already have begun.

Unlike the last World War, it won’t be a war between nation states. It is a war within states. A global civil war. It may be a war unlike any we have seen before. All facilitated by modern social networks. Civilians rebelling against the stringencies and austerity imposed on them by their governments.

“The Arab Spring” in the middle-east. Civil unrest in Greece. London riots today. Where next?

Add comment August 9th, 2011

The kindness of strangers

I’ve noticed a new phrase in the daily lexicon of Irish people. It’s one that I haven’t heard around this land in a long time, until this week – “the kindness of strangers.”

Snow drifts and financial storms happen for a reason. Trouble brings people together.

Add comment December 3rd, 2010

Broken Evolution is published

Broken Evolution is now finally published in paperback and ebook. Publication feels more like relief than victory after such a long journey to get here. A long-overdue holiday is calling me too — just a few days away.

After I get back the REAL work begins – promoting it! And then a first draft of the next novel. Busy, busy.

See you in a couple of weeks!

Add comment September 1st, 2010

A Welcome Review

I got word of the first of the pre-publication reviews to come back for Broken Evolution. I must say it was one thing to get good feedback from beta readers, friends and family, but it takes it to a whole different level when the opinion comes from a person I’ve never met – and a person with a high profile in the field of bioethics.

To read about my own work things like “enjoyable and a very good read” and “the author does seem to have done his homework both from an ethical and scientific perspective” and “I really believe this book should be made into a film” is wonderful and great validation of the years of work in getting it to this stage.

But the nicest surprise is this: a totally independent view of the meaning of this story.

Of late, I had been so mired just getting it all right, making a good thriller, tweaking the pace, or editing the grammer and punctuation, or fixing typos, or submitting to agents, or receiving the obligatory agent rejections and false starts, only to be left spinning and wondering what I actually had in this story at all. How nice to get this assessment – pinpointing with laser precision – the true meaning of this tale: “this book raises the fundamental bioethical questions about the definition of human dignity, how it is conferred and the manner in which a person understands his or her identity.”

Thank you Dr. MacKellar; you have reminded me why I sat down to write this book in the first place.

Add comment August 11th, 2010

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