So I’ve just had another dent in my bid to become the biggest sci-fi author ever born (or something like that) as I watch what I thought was a new concept and perhaps even a new genre go to the proverbial dogs.
Actually, it’s not that bad, and I’m not so naive to think I’d created a completely new genre. But still…
Nobody said it’s easy getting a story published, and I’m expecting my fair share of knock-backs when I eventually do set upon the task of trying to get a publisher. But I hadn’t expected to receive any knock-backs quite this soon in the process.
You see, when I initially came up with the particular genre of sci-fi I wanted to write, I thought the idea may be a little novel (pardon the pun). Not unique, perhaps, but at least different.
That – as it happens — is apparently not the case. It has been cruelly demonstrated over the previous few months that others may have already had the same idea as me, dagnabbit.
Still, looking at things optimistically, I’ve done my best to see the positives in all of this.
But I’ll get to that in a second…
After I’ve had a moan…
Ok, so deep down I knew I was never going to find anything entirely original. In all honesty, I just really wanted to write this book. In the back of my mind, though, was always the hope that perhaps there was something new in my novel, and that this would stand me in good stead to get people interested in reading it.
Nevertheless, to find something so close to what I have written is a blow.
But before I continue, it might be prudent to quickly explain what my genre is.
It’s something I’ve nicknamed, Maritime Sci-fi, or perhaps even Swashbuckling Sci-fi. The story places the 18th century Royal Navy in space, far from Earth and away into the 28th century. But despite this geographical and temporal variation, the Georgian culture, values and colourful language are all present. As are massive man-o-wars, an age-old political discord with the French, and some honest-to-god, full-throated naval warfare. It’s what I’m calling ‘an 18th century British seafaring space opera’.
You get the picture, right?
So, on first conceptualising this world I wanted to ensure it hadn’t done been already. I mean, no matter how much I wanted to write this book, I wasn’t going to bother if there was already a 12-book, international bestselling series in circulation. I spent many an hour using search terms such as “sailing ships in space”, “maritime sci-fi”, “Nelson in space”, &c. And nothing came up.
Now don’t get me wrong here; one of the huge inspirations for my book is the awesome Honor Harrington series — often dubbed Horatio Hornblower in space — and I’m under no illusions that my idea isn’t completely unique. And yet, the HH books are far enough away from my own concept to still be viable.
A concept (which, did I mention?) is mine, mine, mine… and yet, perhaps not so much.
Which bring us onto problem no.1:
This little gem came to light when I was about 3/4 into my novel, and when I finally discovered some images of sailing ships in space. And these images weren’t simply some artist’s doodles. Oh no. These were images from a Disney film. That’s right; a bloody Disney film. How on earth could I have done all these searches for my genre and missed a flipping’ Disney film, for goodness sake? Admittedly, I’d never heard of this movie before and it is a few years old… but did I mention it’s a Disney film? It’s basically the tale of Treasure Island, but set in space and titled Treasure Planet (it must have taken them ages to come up with that one). More pointedly, it has spacebourne sailing ships which look very close to mine. Grrrrr.
My next dread discovery came just the other day: I was looking on the Sci-Fi writers of America website at this year’s Nebula award winners when a book in the sidebar attracted my attention. It was The Encedalus Crisis, by Michael. J. Martinez.
And guess what?
Yes. That’s right. Sailing ships in space. The author has also combined this with the ethos, language and the general feel of a traditional seafaring adventure, just like mine. Double grrrrr. Oh, and to make things even worse (but congats to the author), this book has already won acclaim and got some great reviews.
But, now for the positives…
When I discovered Treasure Planet, I didn’t really find a positive per se. But then I told myself: had I found this prior to writing my book, then I probably wouldn’t have written it. So I guess that’s a positive. I mean, I really enjoyed writing it.
With the Martinez books, I’ve decided that maybe these are a good thing. First of all, they are not completely identical to my concept as they seem to involve some kind of time travel. Second, my editor told me that my concept – as cool as it is – may be a trifle hard to sell to an agent due to it’s genre-blending and niche audience. I’m thinking, therefore, that perhaps a successful and acclaimed book that adopts a similar world may pave the way for agents and publishers to take a look at my story. A process akin to, say, the indie folk rock music of Fleet Foxes paving the way for the indie folk rock (and yet commercially more successful) Mumford and Sons.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of competition, of course. But my main worry in all of this is that others may think I copied my ideas from some other source.
And I assure you… I did not.
Like I said, it’s MY genre. I’m just letting the others borrow it for a couple of books and movies.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. Can I just add: I like Fleet Foxes so much more than I like Mumford and Sons
Photos by Disney/Pixar and Baen books.