Homage or Fanfiction

Reflected books

The book in question is not one of these.

I’ve been working my way through a book…

I remember a time when reading wasn’t work, but now I have to make an effort. It’s actually not this book, which seems to have a decent story when I don’t fall asleep on it.

Don’t worry, anonymous author, it’s not you, it’s me.

Really, I’m just so busy and stressed with the end of this semester, reading is happening very little, and usually at times I should be sleeping. Like last night, when I fell asleep in the middle of my planned reading time.

But that isn’t what I wanted to talk about. Starting this book was more than a little jarring, and not for the usual reasons of ‘bad writing!’ run away! I have no problems anymore with giving up on a book which isn’t worth my time. I think, pending a bad ending, this book will be getting a good review from me. No, it was jarring because…

I’d read it before. The names of people and ships were different, and after about a chapter that sense of deja-vu went away. It’s not plaigarism. But what do you call this, when the scene is ripped from another book? Is it thinly disguised fanfiction? What qualifies as an homage? I don’t think this one qualifies as the latter, as there is no direction to it, no way to clue the reader that “this is to honor a writer I admire.”

What do you all think, and how would you react to a book beginning with a scene from someone else’s work?


10 thoughts on “Homage or Fanfiction

  1. Depends on the scene and what the author DID with it. That’s WAY too variable to say. A word-for-word steal with nothing new added? Probably stop, if it was that obvious. But if, on the other hand, the author used that to bring me in and then hit me with a shift, or did something that showed “yeah, I know what I’m doing” in some other way, I’m cool with it.

    In my (yet unpublished) space opera Demons of the Past, the prologue starts out deliberately almost identical to the prologue of Asimov’s _Foundation and Empire_… and then shifts it halfway through. I have of course done a number of other homages and such up to and including creating a version of Doc Smith’s Marc C. DuQuesne as a major character. Like so many other things, this is something too subjective to easily categorize.


  2. Third possibility: they don’t recognize where the idea CAME from; I “invented” scalloped potatoes that way, when I was trying to figure out a Lent casserole with potatoes instead of noodles.

    If they were exposed to the thing early enough, it may have been set in their head as the ultimate example of the action.


    • I suspect in this case it might have been intentional fanfic. I know the author is a fan of the original work, so… And I’m okay with fanfic, and it wasn’t close enough to the original to be word-for-word, which would have set off red flags and likely a quiet and firm email to the author.


  3. Wow. that’s a tough call. I’d say it depends. Do they show something wildly different coming out of the same situation? I can imagine (I suppose) putting together a similar situation in a homage, then skewing things in such a way that the result of situation turns out VERY different– both as a reference and to tweak the nose of the fan. But… word per word? Eh… that wigs me. I’d twist the words so that they /resemble/ the fic, pick a cadence that points to it, but not copy.

    But this might be a personality thing.

    The first poem I ever wrote — it was about a duck — strongly resembled “Tyger, tyger”. The teacher was charmed and pointed it out. I was CRUSHED. I thought I’d never write another poem again, because, plagiarism. (*it wasn’t.*) Some things don’t change— much.


    • Well, the next section of the book has… resonances of Star Wars. But not as strongly as the literary reference the author opened with. Overall, I think what the story is doing is working.

      We are influenced by what we read. I had deliberately paid homage to Spillane and Hammet with Pixie Noir, much less so with Trickster, although I will come back to it with teh final book. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that when I can recognize your scene as the opening scene of another book, it makes me lose the story thread a bit.


  4. If the author is relatively inexperienced, he or she may have tried opening with a “Standard Trope” and then gotten into their story, without realizing that what they thought of as “the standard” was too close to a recognizable single work. Not an “all space operas start here” sort of thing. For whatever genre.

    I hope you know you’ve got us all curious/apprehensive.


    • It is not a regular commenter 🙂 will be reviewing the book positively, but will ask readers of it to report back what they thought? Don’t know. Its an honor Harrington book, I can’t remember which one and don’t have time to go look. I suspect a fan will spot it instantly. I will say, as I draw near the end, that he has combined Star Wars and Honor very effectively.


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