Thursday, May 22, 2008

Them Similarities

Orson Scott Card vs. J.K. Rowling

A few weeks ago, science fiction writer Orson Scott Card criticized J.K. Rowling for suing a fan. Here's an excerpt:

Rowling "feels like her words were stolen," said lawyer Dan Shallman.

Well, heck, I feel like the plot of my novel Ender's Game was stolen by J.K. Rowling.

A young kid growing up in an oppressive family situation suddenly learns that he is one of a special class of children with special abilities, who are to be educated in a remote training facility where student life is dominated by an intense game played by teams flying in midair, at which this kid turns out to be exceptionally talented and a natural leader. He trains other kids in unauthorized extra sessions, which enrages his enemies, who attack him with the intention of killing him; but he is protected by his loyal, brilliant friends and gains strength from the love of some of his family members. He is given special guidance by an older man of legendary accomplishments who previously kept the enemy at bay. He goes on to become the crucial figure in a struggle against an unseen enemy who threatens the whole world.

This paragraph lists only the most prominent similarities between Ender's Game and the Harry Potter series. My book was published in England many years before Rowling began writing about Harry Potter. Rowling was known to be reading widely in speculative fiction during the era after the publication of my book.

I can get on the stand and cry, too, Ms. Rowling, and talk about feeling "personally violated."

Card also provides a link to a page devoted to revealing other inspirational sources of the Potter books, though we shouldn't trust it because it's hosted on Geocities (and I need to add that Neil Gaiman says the claims made on that site are false.)

More from Card:

Once you publish fiction, Ms. Rowling, anybody is free to write about it, to comment on it, and to quote liberally from it, as long as the source is cited.

Here's the irony: Vander Ark had the material for this book on his website for years, and Rowling is quoted as saying that when she needed to look up some 'fact" from her earlier books, she would sometimes "sneak into an Internet cafe while out writing and check a fact rather than go into a bookshop and buy a copy of Harry Potter."

In other words, she already had made personal use of Vander Ark's work and found it valuable. Even if it has shortcomings, she found it useful.

That means that Vander Ark created something original and useful ? he added value to the product. If Rowling wants to claim that it interferes with her creativity now, she should have made that complaint back when she was using it ? and giving Vander Ark an award for his website back in 2004.

Card criticizes her quite a bit more, but that's for you to read. I agree with Card though that Rowling's lawsuit was without merit. A writer should be flattered someone, anyone was so inspired by their work to spend years creating an encyclopedia about it.

(Though I criticized it yesterday, I still take when it's good; via.)


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