Why Are So Many Indie Author Gurus Talking About Originality Lately?

I talk quite often about originality and the unfortunate way that word is almost treated with contempt in certain indie publishing circles.

Over the last couple of months I have also seen quite a number of prominent indie publishing gurus write articles and record videos about the subject, mostly in terms again of treating it as a pejorative.

“Don’t worry about being original!”

“It’s not that important”

“It’s not copying, it’s paying homage to …”

Now, while these statements all grade on my last nerve they aren’t entirely without truth behind them. If we really want to look at what is original there is a case to be made that no story created today is original. In fact, I’d consider it an impossibility. Just about every variation of mythos has already been created centuries before the printing press. In the digital age where there’s a Democracy of Publishing aka Self Publishing it goes without saying that you’ll see themes and myths repeated.

That part I don’t disagree with at all. However, that’s not what the issue is with most of the people I see playing defense on the whole originality issue.

Original Myths vs. Original Stories

A myth, or even a trope, are at the core of storytelling. Girls meets boy, stranger comes to town, the hidden world undiscovered: all of these themes and a few others are the basis of every single story you’ll ever read, watch, or play. Unless someone discovers a new aspect of reality we’re likely to not have a new myth emerge in our lifetime.

There’s a difference between that and original stories. Telling a story is how we achieve something fresh (which is more important and often confused with originality) in modern fiction. You can take a theme or a myth and tell your own personal story using it as a template. For instance, if your story is about an affair between a wife and a circus clown, you have a unique story based on a tried-and-true myth.

Where there seems to be an issue, and it’s appearing more and more in customer reviews on Amazon for books lately, is when a story is basically following the same story beats and using very similar characters (only slightly altered) as popular books, movies, comics, or even video games.

Defending that with the “nothing is original” excuse is transparent and annoying.

It’s Not Everybody

Edward Cullen from TwilightBy no means are most of the prominent indie authors doing this however. Many are creating their own versions and variations of established myths and tropes. They write to a particular genre but the story they’re telling doesn’t feel like you’ve read it before. Nor are they using characters (the Hermione Granger character type is so overused now it’s giving me a headache) that have been established in other series or novels and just inserting them in their own story.

There’s a big difference between The Bad Boy trope and blatantly taking Edward Cullen from Twilight, changing his name to Jorge, having his skin sparkle, and basically go through the same plot points. Some of this stuff borders on parody while others come extremely close to plagiarism.

Write Your Own Stuff

I’m not going to say whether or not someone is or isn’t a true writer or an artist. Being a talented artist and being an original artist aren’t divorced from one another. The fine art world has a history of talented painters doing recreations of other artist’s work.

However, trying to deflect an obvious lack of creativity by saying “nothing is original so it’s no big deal” is lazy and damages the reputation of the indie author community as a whole. A book cover is different. That’s marketing and not the creative. The content of your story is an entirely different thing.

I’ve already read Twilight, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Carrie, The Davinci Code, and countless other popular books. I’ve already seen Star Wars, Star Trek, Iron Man and so on. I’ve played Mass Effect, Metal Gear Solid, Halo, and plenty of other games. I don’t want to re-read it in a book I went on a limb to download or, even worse, paid for. Give me the story that you came up with and not some cobbled together rip off of something that’s already been sold and told a thousand times over.

Clive Barker Recovering From a Coma

Mastermind of the classic horror films Hellraiser and Candyman, as well as the author of such fantastic novels like Imajica, Weaveworld, and the young adult series Abarat Clive Barker, suffered for seven days in a coma after a routine dentist appointment.

He recently commented on the incident on his Twitter page.

My friends,Clive here.I’m at home now after a while in hospital,thanks to a nearly fatal case of Toxic Shock brought on by a visit …

…to my dentist.Apparently this is not uncommon.In my case the dental work unloaded such a spillage of poisonous bacteria into my blood..

…into my blood that my whole system crashed,putting me into a coma.I spent several days in Intensive Care,with a machine breathing for me.

..Later,my Doctors said that they had not anticipated a happy ending until I started to fight,repeatedly pulling out the tubes…

…that I was constantly gagging on.After a few days of nightmarish delusions I woke up to my life again,tired,twenty pounds lighter…

..but happy to be back from a very dark place.And here in the world I intend to stay.I’ve books to write ,films to make and paintings ….

…to paint. I seem to have come home with my sight clearer somehow,and my sense of purpose intensified.Thank you all for your messages…

…your prayers and love.What better reason to wake to life than knowing I have such friends? Again,thank you.My love to you always.Clive.

Thankfully, Clive is still alive and kicking. We look forward to the continuation of The Art series, the second book of Galilee and the final two books of Abarat.

Books to Look For – Abarat: Absolute Midnight

Some time ago I posted about Clive Barker’s lack of activity with his series. He’s got three going that are over a decade old and none of them have been completed:

The Art trilogy (2 of 3)

Galilee (1 of 2)

Abarat (2 of 5)


Well, it seems our wait is over for one of these as Abarat: Absolute Midnight is finally going to be released next month on September 27th. I adore this series, and cannot wait to see what wonderful, weird, colorful and outrageous things Barker has come up with for this latest installment.

The trailer is here. If you’re familiar with where book 2 left off, there’s a pleasant surprise right at the beginning of this. The art direction is pretty darn good too.


The Immanent World Concept

We’ve seen a billion or so anthologies over the years. We’ve also seen a few fantastic collections of short stories and poetry. Of course, being myself, I wanted to up the ante on the anthology concept by taking it a step further, especially with the new electronic media we have.

Some of my all time favorites are The New Weird, Zombie Stories of the New Age, and Books of Blood.

The New Weird
Time for an even NEW weird

So, The Immanent World (please look up the definition of immanent as opposed to imminent) is an anthology we hope to have out later this year. It’s a combination of various writers, photographers, poets and illustrators who all contribute to the project. The theme of this book is “weird and dark” – essentially horror fiction, odd photographs, strange illustrations and creepy poetry.

The book will also work as a promotional piece for all those involved, and as such, we want to emphasize the creators of these works as well. Each creator will have a section of the book that starts with a profile of them complete with social media links, a short ‘get to know you’ part and some photos. For the eBook, I’m looking to fully utilize html5’s video capabilities for more in-depth commentary by the authors on their work.

Projected date for the release of The Immanent World is February 2012 (paperback and eBook).

More to come …