The Trouble With Imagination

How much of it is actually mine, and how much of it is recycled ideas I’ve picked up in my past?  How many of my ideas actually belong to someone else?

Anyone who’s ever tried to write something has run into this wall; how hard it is to climb depends, I suppose, on your scruples.  And how well you can camouflage what you’ve borrowed.  If you’ve got a moral backbone, the ideas you’ve lifted never make it to an actual first draft.  They disappear into the notes, never to be seen again.

Case in point.  I once was working on developing an admittedly sub-par storyline.  It basically involved a lot of violence and superiority complexes.  Hence it’s eventual, and permanent, disappearance.  At this point, it remains only in my memory.  However, it did feature a glorified super-railgun, a massive ship-mounted weapon that gave my storyline humans the edge in their circle of “friends.”  The technical details of the fictional item in question aside, it was a large-bore weapon that did away with potential electronic interference by firing a cylindrical slug that weighed about as much as a loaded transport truck, across vast distances of space.  With a slug so large accelerated to an appreciable fraction of the speed of light, this thing was a literal planet-killer.  I called it the Mass Accelerator Cannon (because it was a cannon that accelerated mass), or MAC.

Thing is, when you look through the annals of science fiction, such a weapon is a fairly common occurrence.  In fact, they featured heavily in the television series Babylon 5, which I was a fan of.  Such weapons have also been featured in the Halo game series, even so far as using the same acronym, though I believe the game utilized it after I have already given up on the idea.

So, the question becomes, I suppose: given that science fiction is generally a discussion of futuristic technologies and social norms, and how these can be interconnected, how much does it matter if some details are the same, given that they can lead to widely differing opinions on the whole?  Further, should one consider the technologies as the inherent story, or simply a vehicle to explain potential societal norms and what the author thinks of them?

The huge chances of me being sued for copyright infringement notwithstanding.


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