Remember what I said about the one inch enemies...
Remember what I said about the one inch enemies…

Well, I’m not sure if Selanya’s going to make her post tomorrow, so I wanted to put something up just in case. I don’t have a lot of time at the moment, but this is something I’ve been thinking about lately. We’ve all heard of an homage, and if you’re like me, you want to honor some of your most significant influences in your work. However, the way you do that is exceptionally important. There is a big difference between an homage, an obvious influence, and outright theft. We’ve all seen movies that dropped in lines from the classics like Vader’s “All too easy” or Picard’s “Make it so”. These little things, in a small amount, can make a statement about your own work and simultaneously honor someone else’s (well, if your work is work watching anyway… an homage from The Avengers is a heck of a lot better than an homage from Krull The Conqueror). However, a little shift and you can move from honoring someone’s work to sullying it or blatantly ripping it off.

Right now I’m reading Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, and I’m enjoying it. The book is Scalzi’s first novel, and he has obvious influences from both Heinlein and Haldeman. The story centers around a 75 year old soldier (yes they make him young again somehow… no, I’m not going to tell you how) fighting alien bugs and giant, stinky teddy bears… and some guys that are only one inch tall… that was an interesting chapter. Scalzi does a very good job of walking the line between honoring his influences and blatantly ripping them off. While the influences of various authors (Heinlein especially) are obvious, the book, the story, and the universe are clearly Scalzi’s own. He doesn’t come across as trying to write ‘the next Starship Troopers‘, which would certainly be a mistake, but he does clearly seek to pattern his ideas and writing after the great writers that (at least, I’m assuming) inspired him. In fact, the only them that strikes me as even remotely over the top is the name of his first starship, the Henry Hudson, which (for some inexplicable reason) seems far too similar to the Rodger Young even though the names are completely different.

All in all, if you’re one for homage and stylistic patterning, I think that Scalzi’s novel would be a good thing to pick up and read. He certainly serves as a very good example of how to do just enough, but still make the book very much your own.


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