There are those who might refer to me as a geek. A writer of fantasy, I have eagerly consumed the works of Tolkien and Salvatore; often asking myself why I would start a new book when I could simply read the Silmarillion a third time. I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons since the seventh grade (second edition, thank you very much), and once suggested to less socially adept friends that we crash an anime con to score with chicks (can you say “niche market?”). I even listen to metal albums about fantasy, such as Blind Guardian’s “Nightfall in Middle-Earth” and Kivimetsan Druidi’s “Shadowheart.”
Now that I have established my credibility in all things geekoid and alienated any female readers that may previously have swooned at my faux-poetics, I am compelled to relate a tale about the works of Terry Brooks. I first picked up “The Sword of Shannara” in high school, and enjoyed the novel for a little while. As the story progressed, however, it became abundantly clear the Mr. Brooks had ripped off Prof. Tolkien’s work in a staggering number of ways – I put down the book in disgust.
Six or eight years later, I was advised by a friend to reconsider. I began the book a second time last night, taking the first few pages to re-learn how to read as a consumer and not a producer of fantasy. I do not know if I will finish the novel immediately, as there are a number of other fantasy titles competing for my attention, but I am considering reversing my earlier judgment if the rest of the book is as enjoyable as the first chapters have been.
The reason I bring this up is neither to wax poetic about the intricacies of fantasy, nor to apologize publicly to Mr. Brooks (who would never have known of my discontent prior to this writing.) Rather, I would like to address the implications of Brooks’ “infraction” as they relate to intellectual property and the ethics thereof.
In undergrad, a mythology professor explained to me the Greek interpretation of intellectual property rights: there were none. Shouldn’t this view gel more harmoniously with my own socialist tendencies? For fuck’s sake, the above-mentioned Dungeons and Dragons game impinges frequently and unapologetically on the work of Prof. Tolkien, yet I can barely constrain my fervor when a good second ed. campaign takes form!
Musical artists, too, are afflicted by such misconceptions. Did the Chili Peppers really “rip off” Tom Petty, as so many fans implied, or did they utilize a simple chord progression in a key that rock musicians, due to the structure and requirements of the genre, might frequently be inclined to play in?
Of course, as a writer I should probably careful here. I can only imagine logging onto the interwebs tomorrow, only to find snippets of my own poems re-crafted into shite-mongering emo sonnets on some jack-off’s myspace. Nonetheless, I believe the insights raised here are more than poignant, and that we should proceed into this still new-ish millennium with the good of the people in our minds and hearts. The alternative, of course, would allow a capitalist definition of “ownership” – a tricksie concept, on its best day – to impede the public welfare by compromising our aesthetic experiences and our composition thereof.
Red Pill Neo is a contributing writer for Project Group Think. Follow us on Twitter (username: pgtblog.)