Coincidence…or subconscious plagiarism?


I’ve been talking about the book I wrote recently for National Novel Writing Month entitled “Tom Horn versus the Warlords of Krupp.” In a nutshell, here’s what it’s about:

It’s the year 1900 in the border region between Texas and Mexico. Tom Horn is a gunslinger/former Pinkerton Detective/former indian scout. He is recruited by a group of historical characters that is trying to prevent a coming war in Europe, one that they believe will bring the entire world into chaos in which millions will die. The group that recruits him fights against the Krupp Weapons Manufacturers in Germany, who make money by promoting war. Horn is asked to protect Eleanor Roosevelt (at age 16) as she travels from New York to Vienna to speak at a conference. In the meantime, Krupp and his private army tries to stop them using zeppelins, steam-powered armored tanks, and machine guns.

So that’s the gist of it.

Last night, we watched the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was on cable. I haven’t seen it in years. Here was the basic storyline.

It is 1899. Allan Quartermain is a hunter/adventurer in Africa who is recruited to join a team that is trying to prevent a coming war in Europe. He joins a group of mythical characters (Tom Sawyer, a vampiress, Dr. Jeckell/Mr. Hyde, Dorian Grey, the Invisible Man) who are up against a character called the Phantom. The Phantom wants to provoke England and Germany into a war so that he can profit by selling them weapons. His troops are armed with machine guns.

As interesting as the story is, I was dismayed as I began watching it. How could this happen?

Well, as I tell my students, “Every good idea I ever had I stole from someone else.” But in this case, the story I ended up with it really too, too close to the original. And I had no conscious intention to steal someone else’s idea.

So you tell me…did I subconsciously plagiarize this idea? Or was it just coincidence?

In the meantime, let me tell you this other great idea I have. It’s about this guy who travels back in time to protect a woman from these machines who want to take over the world….

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