I’ve been thinking a lot lately about intellectual property and public domain.
It’s a very grey area. (sorry. I’m typing at 4:30 in the morning.)
Recently, I got a very nice letter from a young person asking if she could rewrite a certain derivative work that I wrote as Justin Bieber fanfiction. My gut reaction was oh-god-please-no. But what if Stephenie Meyers or JK Rowling had not let folks play in her world? Hundreds of thousands of fledgling writers would not have had a place to stretch their wings. And what part of the story I wrote can I actually consider mine? If you take away the setting, the characters and the music, you’re left with a Halloween party, two iPhones and some poetry. That’s not much.
So what happens when there is a LOT of story, and once you pull away the derivative copyrighted elements, you are left something that can stand on its own? Are those naked bits yours to make private? I’m not talking Cassandra Clare’s City-of-Draco-draw-dark-marks-on-me-with-your-uh-wand. Or West Side Story. Or even JRR Tolkien’s rework of the Kalevala.
But what about Eden Barber’s gorgeous story Sleepers, Awake? This book may have had some roots in other places (and still has some strong ties to Neil Gaiman’s A Game of You, which owes much to Bones of the Moon, by Jonathan Carroll) but the story itself is original and unique, and in fact, stripping the borrowed stereotypes has made for a richer discovery of the characters.
It’s a complicated story, and beautifully written. Agnes grows on you, becomes you, and dares to dream and love the way you wish you could. And her best friend is the absolute best. All the people grab you as real, and the main character’s choices and her obsessions and her wolves are flawed and perfect at the same time.
Sleepers is a book that takes brains; and is not for the faint of heart or those wishing for a mindless forgettable read.
So maybe I’ll tell the Bieber girl to have fun with it. Who am I to stifle creativity that could lead to greater things?