Saturday, September 01, 2007

Story of my life ... again

They say that there's no such thing as a truly original idea ... and there is some truth to that. The reason that you can't copyright an idea - only the application of an idea - is because no copyrighter can guarantee that the idea has never been thought of before. Just recently I was discussing this very issue with BBC Wales as they have had to invoke a policy of strict non-reading for submitted Dr Who scripts. Being such a popular show, the Beeb gets hundreds of submissions from would-be screenwriters. Problem is ... there are only so many ideas out there so if they turn a script down and then commission a script with a similar idea, the first author starts screaming 'Infamy! They've nicked my idea!' All of which means that none of the hundreds of packages recieved at BBC Wales gets opened any more - they just get returned to sender. It's all very sad as the greatest Dr Who story of all time may well be sitting, unread, in some mail out-tray in Cardiff even as I write this. But that's the way it is. Which brings me to this week's knock back ...

About 10 years ago, I wrote a novel called Apollo wears a vest which, without revealing too much of the plot, centred around the idea that the Gods of Olympus have fallen on hard times as no one believes in them any more and, therefore, their powers have waned. But while they are immortal, they are degenerating slowly - hence the book's title. Apollo now looks like Onslow from Keeping up appearances and Hera resembles your grandmother in a Wonder Woman outfit. I sent the book out to a couple of publishers in the late 1990s and elicited some mild interest but nothing positive.

So, imagine the huge gusting sighs emanating from my now slimmer body when I read this review this week ...

Gods behaving badly by Marie Phillips

'Gods Behaving Badly finds a motley crew of Olympians living together in considerable squalor in London, in a house they haven't maintained too well since they moved in back in 1665. With what little powers they have left they are like old royalty, full of themselves but barely scraping by. Artemis earns some money walking dogs, Aphrodite is doing phone sex, Eros has been born-again, and Dionysus runs a nightclub 'in a basement down a poorly-lit side street, popular with prostitutes and junkies, somewhere between Euston and King's Cross', called The Bacchanalia.'

Okay, so Marie Phillips hasn't written exactly the same novel as me, but the central idea is just similar enough that I now have to rip up a 120,000 word novel and start all over again.

Bugger.

This is the 4th or 5th time this has happened to me. I wrote a book about some people meeting via the Friends Reunited website who then get bumped off one by one. One is a police officer and he has to figure out who's doing it. I sent it off to an agent the day before Ben Elton released Past Mortem ... which has almost exactly the same plot. So, plenty more work for the shredder there ... and I won't mention my superhero living in suburbia novel that I wrote five years before My Hero appeared on BBC1.

Thing is ... I'm convinced that the books I wrote are more original than the ones that got published. But you'll never be able to judge that for yourselves, will you?

Sigh.

3 comments:

Me said...

Dearest stig
Having read some of your material I can confirm your work is superb and a contender for a bestseller if only those welsh would open the bloody stuff! Buggar!

Maria Aragon said...

I found out about Miss Phillips novel last night and had a similar reaction to yours. Last summer I gave up on the publishing industry in the US and Uk and around this time last year published my own comic novel about some Greek deities interacting with mortals in Essex. The difference between hers and my work is that the deities have not lost their powers, but were sent to actually help some poor Joe Schmoe get his life together. However, she has corporate publicity and I don't. Ah well.

Steve Colgan said...

Ah, I knew that I wasn't alone! It's so frustrating isn't it? Not least because although her novel is good (I've read it and it is pretty good), the idea I had was bigger, bolder and more creative I feel. But because the underlying concept is so frustratingly similar, I have to scrap it. Damn! Luckily, I'm not short of an idea or two and I am having several meetings shortly with agents and publishers ... watch this space.