John, I’m only Homaging….

Further on from my post the other day regarding a book that had just been submitted for review on Speak Its Name

I’ve read the novel in question now, and I had to spend 24 hours vacillating and deciding whether a review should be done of the book at all.  I listened to a lot of advice, and all of it was of the same mind. The consensus was that it needed to be posted about, but not reviewed.

So the commentary is here, and I’m only sorry that it had to be this way. I personally consider that the author concerned has the talent to be able to write on her own behalf, and god alone KNOWS the gay historical fiction world needs more submissions, more books, more authors – but this, I’m afraid, is a step backwards.

An homage is just that. It’s fanfic.  “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”   The important term here is IMITATION. NOT replication. An homage is generally accepted to be someone who imitates an author’s style perhaps, or who takes an existing story (that’s out of copyright, such as Les Miserables or a book or series you have permission to write more of, such as James Bond). The author will then dip into it-writes a prequel, sequel, or even the same story from another POV.  

There’s plenty of precedent for homage original fiction.  Wide Sargasso Sea (even though it doesn’t name the characters) is widely known as Eyre fanfic/homage/prequel, Mordred Bastard Son is the Arthur Legend told from Mordred’s perspective, and there are many others too, famously the Star Wars franchise.   But what the author does is to take the original story and finds another way to tell that story.  I’m planning to do a Shakespeare tale at some point told from the POV of a minor character observing the huge events that sweep around him. But it must be, in the end, something original.

But what you DON’T do is take the entire text of a novel, and copy it to this degree, including chunks of the original text. The commentary says much more, and far better than I could, but as it’s my community, I felt that a comment was necessary here.

No-one should have published this, and no-one should be making money for this.  The author could have the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she doesn’t quite get the fact that despite the copyright being expired, you can’t copy text from another author.  But the publisher? No. There’s no excuse there. I hope the publisher will act accordingly.

And I hope to god that the author takes this on board and her next project is her own work and not a story of Fencliff and Charlie, or Monsieur Bovary or god knows what.

ETA:  reminds me that copying chunks of text is permissible for satire/spork and critique purposes, but this is not the point of the book concerned.

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