Seen Scream? The first one. Remember the scene with the conversation about “Rules for Surviving a Horror Movie”? That’s what came to mind when I was re-reading a post over at Charles Stross’s blog.
Background: Charlie’s been posting recently about some background information, about the writing process for some of his books and how the ideas gelled to what they finally became. He recently posted about his Merchant Princes series.
I was first introduced to Stross’s work through both his Laundry series and the Merchant Princes books by my frined Chris. The Laundry books are episodic, self-contained pieces of a series, where Princes is a multi-volume story-arc, not to mention it’s what he describes the series as “SF in Fantasy drag.” It’s in this latest post (2nd linked above) that he references an earlier post that he had written (the 1st linked post). I read it before, when it was a shiny new post, as the last book in the (original) series was coming out [note: there is a second trilogy that he’s contracted for, due in the next few years], but it was rereading it that got me making the Scream analogy.
He talks about (unoffical) rules, or, as he calls it “Five Rules for Cold-Blodedly Designing a Fantasy Series”…
One of the things that struck me more now than when I first read it was this tidbit, mentioned in his elaboration of “Rule 5″(However much you’re stealing, make sure it doesn’t look stolen):
What matters isn’t the ideas, but what you do with them. I managed to take a grab-bag of ideas pioneered by other writers, and by inverting a couple of assumptions and hybridizing a handful of unrelated strains I came up with something new that, as far as I know, hasn’t been done before.
The “impementaion over ideas” is something I latched on to years ago, and the idea of “borrowing” ideas is likewise not foreign (slightly unrelated side: a recent episode of Jeopardy featured a category of “Jane Austen in Pop Culture.” Did you know Clueless is a comntemporary retelling of an Austen novel? As if!) However, it was re-reading the item above in the culmination of the larger context that made something else click.
Something I’m still coming to grips with, but should prove useful when I get around to planning out some of the future projects that “the boys in the basement” are working on…