Lately, I’ve fallen into a bit of a weird situation where ideas for stories I’ve had for years crop up in video games, movies or just actual real life news feeds. On one hand it’s kind of cool to see something I thought I’d made up appear in real life, on the other it’s kind of a bummer because that means I sort of missed my moment. If I’d actually finished Archaic Red before Emperor Trump came to power, it wouldn’t look so inspired by his Dark and Evil reign. It doesn’t matter that I’ve worked on it for over a decade if no one’s seen it before.
In situations like these I think it’s important to take advantage of the zeitgeist or life echoing art or whatever else you want to call it. There’s no such thing as a purely original idea, but everyone has their own point of view and so what if this story has already been told? The same could be said about literally every story ever written, going back hundreds of years. It’s the point of view that matters. It’s the personal spin you put on whatever you’re trying to do that decides if it’s derivative or something new.
For about a year now I’ve been working on a sci-fi story that can best be summarised with robot archaeologists. I won’t go into details because I’d actually like to get this thing published at some point, but I can say that it shares some of its premise with the hit video game Horizon Zero Dawn. The settings are vastly different from each other but they handle cultural aspects in a way that resembles how I’ve thought about my own story – how would future generations look at our culture, our treasured belongings, our memes and passive aggressive Facebook posts if they came across it as part of a lost civilisation? If you don’t know what a wrist watch is you may call it a shiny bracelet, an item of religious or ritual importance, a family heirloom to cherish rather than something you got for free for eating too much cereal.
Sometimes coincidences happen and sometimes we’re influenced by stories or events we didn’t expect. This is why it’s important to keep a critical eye on your own work – is this coming from me, or am I magpie-ing aspects that I like from other people and if that’s the case, is this done in a bad way? There’s no room for guilty feelings when it comes to writing and editing, I feel. Guilt kills honesty and we have to be honest.
Or just play Horizon Zero Dawn I guess. It’s pretty great.