Tuesday, January 18, 2011


You know I got this really odd feeling whilst I watched the film Lemony Snicket (which came out in 2004) upon viewing the scene with the leeches. My initial reaction was, did the film-makers read The Skinner, which was published in 2002? I mean, the boat, the sea, water you just can’t swim in, carnivorous leeches? Well, no, because the book in A Series of Unfortunate Events that has the leeches in it, called The Wide Window, was published in 2000. The congruence of some ideas amidst writers can sometimes be quite astounding, and I think it all comes about because though people might be writing something they think of as new, they are all always standing on the shoulders of giants (especially in SFF), who are the source of their inspiration.

Recently, whilst sitting down to watch the fourth season of Primeval, I realized I’d missed Season Three so bought a box set of One, Two & Three. I didn’t know what Season Three was about but, catching a hint of the storyline (not sure where) I looked up a review of it and got a feeling similar to that I experienced while watching the leech scene in Lemony Snicket:

…you can really see where most of the budget of the series went as Conner, Danny and Abby jump from anomaly to anomaly following Helen through a series of times, encountering creatures and dinosaurs in each time period they visit…

Eventually tracking Helen down, the team confronts her and finds out that her plan is a lot more insane than first thought. Having figured out what the artefact is and what it does (it's a sort of future hard drive for anomalies), it's then revealed that it can be used to go back to a specific point in time, namely 333 (a specific code used by archaeologists when describing the first ‘dig' where hominids - or proto-humans - were found). The team find that it's Helen's intent to go back to the site in Rift Valley and poison the first settlement of hominids, which would mean that humans would not evolve and as such never exist.

Did the writers of Primeval read Cowl? If they were into time-travel it would have been an good choice since there aren’t many modern time-travel books out there and it was shortlisted for the PKD Award.

But no, I think not. It’s that congruence again showing us that there’s nothing new under the sun. The idea in Primeval was just putting a spin on and ramping up of the idea implicit in the time-travel paradox of, ‘What happen if I go back in time and shoot my grandfather?’ which is what I did in Cowl. Though I must admit the future monster on this car could (at a big stretch) be Cowl himself!


vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

leeches, and hominids were the buzz in the early part of 2000. everybody wanted one in lieu of ear rings.

the only thing that was amusing about that Jim Carey vehicle was the dvd extras. they drop a tree on a house for a crunch effect. sound effect dedication.

Neal Asher said...

I got a similar feeling too when I watched the sea serpent in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader open up its top end. It opened into a hood exposing all sorts of eating cutlery.

Fader209 said...

It's a strange thing really how some people can have the exact same idea without copying one another.

I suppose sometimes it is down to things we experience in our lives that give inspiration for an idea, and it only takes another like minded person to also make that connection too.

Then of course there are the ones who blatantly copy...the movie world is full of those types. And the especially lazy ones who can't think of anything at all so they "remake" or "reboot" a series.
Oh, and they slap some 3D in there too.

...that turned into a rant =P

Carbonize said...

Well J K Rowlings claimed she made up a lot of the names in her Harry Potter books and yet it turns out they are all words they either exist, or have existed. Hogwarts, for example, is a plant. Yes I got it of QI but it's still relevant. As to people having the same ideas I think part of it may be subconscious. They have read a book or seen a film that had that in it but then forget about it until they are trying to create and it comes back to them as an idea.

BTW in my opinion Primeval died after series one and even that wasn't that brilliant. Like X-Files and similar it started off with a different story each episode and just a hint of a story arc but then in later series it becomes more about the story arc than the anomalies and creatures. Oh and for the first couple of series Primeval seemed to be set in a world devoid of non-white people.

beak said...

i'm trying to write my first novel and keep coming up against this, starting to feel like there are no original ideas anymore (or I'm just not clever/imaginative enough to come up with them) and its quite frustrating..

that said, have just bought Cowl, based on this post


Fader209 said...

Carbonize - "I before E except after C"
Cieling? Lol.
I watched that episode of QI yesterday :)

Alex - OK let's brainstorm an idea right now :)
Are we thinking characters here or general plots?

Neal Asher said...

Fader & Carbonize, like I said 'shoulders of giants'. In the SF world things spring out of a pool of scientific knowledge, and so much of what has appeared in the genre before. In recent decades nanotechnology has been the in thing, and it's not a big leap to visualize something based on it growing like a plant and subsuming everything in its reach. So the equivalent of Jain technology can be found in books other than mine that appeared at round about the same time.

Alex, exactly how I felt. Take what is and twist it. Shoot down a few tropes. Write it out of your system. But most importantly, don't let an obsesson with trying to have a new idea get in the way of telling a story and being entertaining.

Michael Reid said...

I really hate it when a new book, film or tv series starts or is released and it's one of your own ideas that you've spent month humming and hawing over in various notebooks... really annoying.

Hitch said...

Not really on topic but, Ya know I think Cowl is my favourite book by you.

Any chance of a re-visit some time?

AngryMurloc said...

I expect a lot of it is subconscious recollection; where you have seen or heard a phrase or idea in the past, and later on you create an idea not realising that you have been recalling past experiences in its formulation. I do it all the time!

Neal Asher said...

Michael, most of my ideas happen at the keyboard so the humming and hawing process is just a fwe seconds long, if that.

Hitch, my reply as always is 'I'm not dead yet.'

AngryMurloc, the one I can firmly point a finger at with me is the Skinner's head rolling on the floor of Ambel's cabin and sprouting legs. Straight out of the remake of The Thing. But of course, some helpful fan will always point this stuff out to me.