they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

5 years ago | lifesharpener (Member)

So I am a frequenter of the novel translations subreddit. The reddit posts various asian light novel translations (similar to the web serial format). Something about these foreign epic story lines really gets me, although they are all very similar to each other. (Chinese wuxia novels tend to revolve around a underdog character that becomes someone with undeniable talent, someone who stands up for what they believe is right. Japanese novels tend to revolve around an suddenly overpowered character that is placed in a position where they can do whatever they want, so they do.)

This is all besides the point.

The point is, that as I was browsing the latest reddit posts, and something caught my eye. An english novel, called [the steel harvest]. (the subreddit generously allows works in english to also be posted).
I make it a point to look (briefly) at the english works that people put on the reddit, so I opened it up. To my surprise, I found that many points in the story are very similar to mine.

Very quickly I want to say that I am in no way upset by this. I honestly think in many ways it is a great thing.

But I am just curious. Am I crazy? Am I seeing similarities that are easily explained away? There is only one thing that really makes me think that [steel harvest] was in part inspired by my own story.

Man of Last Millennium - Plot: A thousand years into the future, a man wakes up from cyrogenic sleep. He has no memory, and is picked up by two boys that work as scavengers. The earth, (1000 years in the future), is covered by a giant metal covering called Upper, where the rankers live (people with heightened levels of thetans, an internal source of power). The surface, is a wasteland covered with trash. One of the boys is actually an abandoned child from upper, (he had a strange marking on his arm). Eventually, the trio are found and pursued by a gang of business rivals, who want blood.

The Steel Harvest - Plot: Far into the distant future, in a world where humanity managed to resist a catastrophic event, a boy is a scavenger, trying to make a living by scavenging various wreckages that fall to the surface. The world is covered by a shell, where the elite/royalty live. A girl from the shell gets stranded on the surface, and turns out she is royalty, (she has a marking somewhere on her body). The boy and the girl go on a journey to return the girl back to the surface. They are also being pursued by a gang of scavengers.

The only thing that I have a hard time believing is NOT a coincidence, is the shell surrounding the earth. This to me, was my one unique idea. At least, I thought it was. Looking it up, the closest concept that I could find was something called a dyson sphere, which would cover the sun, not the earth.

Almost all of my plot devices have been done in multiple places:
Cyrogenic man wakes up in world filled with trash- Idiocracy
Two scavenger kids making a living off of trash dumps- The Electric Kid
Concept of dying earth, and elitism in another part of the world- Elysium

I'm sure many more of my world/plot are simply spinoffs of some sort from another person's work. But that metal shell was one thing I thought for sure was pretty unique (at least, as unique as an idea can get. It doesn't get a genius to go from a shell around a sun to a shell around a planet).

What do you guys think? I would honestly be pretty stoked that aspects of my story inspired other projects; although at the same time, it gives me some pressure to hurry up and get my own story out there into the market...
Perhaps the simplest thing to do would be just to ask the writer. It would be quite flattering (in a way) to know that your work was able to spark inspiration in someone else.

Read responses...


  1. ClearMadness (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    This is why my web serial contains absolutely no original ideas what so ever. ;)

    In all seriousness you should probably just ask the other guy. It would be interesting to know if he read your stuff.

    Author of The Iron Teeth, a online dark fantasy story.
  2. Jim Zoetewey (Moderator)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple "shell surrounding the planet" examples.

    Isaac Asimov used the idea not once but twice. He used it in his SF mystery novel "The Caves of Steel" where he has Earth be covered in a shell with no view of the sky for the majority of inhabitants. He used the same idea for Trantor, the capital of the Galactic Empire in his Foundation series.

    There's also a series where a future China conquers the Earth and replaces all cultures with pre-Communist Chinese culture. They had the majority of the Earth covered in a shell with some exceptions. I can't remember the name of the series.

    There are probably more. Asimov was hugely influential in science fiction, and the works of his that I referenced are generally regarded as classics.

  3. Psycho Gecko (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    At first, I thought you were talking about SPARK of Tyranny. It has the crew of a spaceship resorting to looking for salvage and finding an old spaceship, centuries old, holding a man in cryogenic sleep. They tend to operate in a space station out in the boonies of space, far from Earth or Mars, where the main character could easily make a better living.

    As for me, I've stolen all sorts of stuff, but I often tend to warp things a bit so that they don't quite fit the old way. Like even when I used a bit of Repo! The Genetic Opera. See, even if you were to use the same story as other people, it's amazing how much different a story can be when the author's voice shines through. It'd be interesting to see what happened if someone posted a prompt with a summary of a few plot points that have to happen in a certain order, and see how different we all made it.

    In a way, some of us already have.

    It's pretty cool to inspire someone else, though. Like ClearMadness said, just ask them. One thing that's pretty clear in both analyzing both real life and literary relationships is that communication is important.

  4. Patrick Rochefort (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Honestly, unless you believe you have grounds for real, actionable plagiarism? Chances are MUCH more in favor of simple convergent evolution of ideas. Sure, read a few chapters, but unless things are jumping out at you as failing the "transformative" standard? I think you stand a better chance of just embarrassing yourself if you reach out to people like that. There's not much way for you to talk about it without it sounding like "You stole my idea!".

    From Winter's Ashes: A Detective with nothing left to lose, against a Necromancer with a world to gain.
  5. TanaNari (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Yeah... and even if you can prove bits were lifted, there's a lot of murk in the waters between 'copycat' and 'plagiarized' that shields the creators of such things as Battlestar Galactica, Twilight, and approximately 50% of all comic book characters ever.

    ... Although how they got away with it in Deadpool's case, I'll never know...

    So discretion's probably the better part of valor in this case.

    Although... it may also be an opportunity for cross promotion, if the stories are in that 'similar but different' vein that sometimes happens. You advertise on that story, it advertises on yours, and there's a reasonable chance of picking up a bit of cross pollinated audience. All for the price of a few emails and a tiny corner of your site.

    Author of Price.
  6. lifesharpener (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    good points. i probably would be better off not saying anything. i'm honestly surprised that the concept was actually old news. i should read more science fiction.m


You must log in to post.