Friday, March 23, 2007

Oh no! Not again!

I downloaded the trailer for the next Pirates of the Caribbean film today. Wish I hadn't. Now I'm feeling rather depressed.

Let me explain. Some time last year I wrote the following text on my Caliban's End wiki.

...Originally Sefar and the Kheperans had tentacles at the base of their heads and their mouths lay under a grotesque collection of tendrils covering the bottom of their faces. Then Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest came out and the promo trailer revealed a bunch of similar-looking individuals. My heart sank when I saw the antagonist (Davy Jones?) - he looked exactly as I had envisioned Sefar. I thought about keeping the design, but it seemed too derivative. I wanted something to make him stand out and the look had to be something that would instill fear into the hearts of others (which is important in terms of irony as there are times in the story where Sefar is not as brave as his physique would imply). This picture experimenting with the horn sold me on the idea and since drawing it I have written the design into the narrative. It now seems like such an essential aspect to the Kheperans that I am quite pleased that Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest made me change my mind. Now if the next Pirates film has someone in it with a big horn on his head, I will scream.

Well, I'm now on the verge of screaming. The trailer didn't have a man with a horn on his head, but it did have two elements that are significant in my book. The major one is the use of a vortex of water as a set piece in the film. I can't express how annoying this is. The vortex in Caliban's End is a pivotal part of the book - it's even called 'Caliban's End'! I can't change it; I can't take it out. Damn. Hopefully the film will bomb as I really don't want people to read it and sarcastically say, "Hmmm... I wonder where he ripped that from?" I'm not sure what to do. Perhaps it doesn't matter, but it feels like a major setback. If only I could get the book finished before any other films use the same ideas.

The second 'similarity' is a thing in the book I called the volvelle (based roughly on a real maritime instrument). Here's how it appears in the book:

"To aid his passage through the complex currents, Gerriod consulted a volvelle, an expensive piece of maritime equipment his father purchased at considerable expense from a Spriggan trader over half a century ago. The volvelle was a map of sorts, an intricate system of revolving copper disks ranging in size. Dependent upon the time of days, the seasons, and his vessel’s position on the vast lake, the volvelle was able to indicate the direction and speed of the brutal currents that lay just below the lake’s surface. It was mid-September – early spring. The disks had been set to accommodate the incredible vol
ume of water cascading down from the mountains to the east. Very few sailors knew how to use a volvelle properly, and even fewer would dare navigate the inner currents of Erras. But Gerriod had been taught by the best and although Gamelyn Blake had long since departed, his son remembered every lesson he ever gave."

Now look at this screengrab from the film.

It's the same bloody idea! Okay, perhaps not exactly the same, but a map made of circular disks to navigate tricky waters!

Now these two coincidences came from a sixty second trailer. God knows what other similarities also exist in the film. On one hand it's made me keen to finish the book as soon as possible, but part of me is actually thinking, "Oh bugger it - it's all too hard." Changing jobs at the start of the year was a great move professionally, but the book has really suffered - it's just stopped.

Now if I seem a tad sensitive on this issue, there's a good reason. About six years ago, I almost finished a book called Taken at the Flood. It was comprised of two books. In one, the protagonist Francis Grimm goes through an intersection as the lights change to red. In the second book he brakes. The two books then chart how Francis' lives unfold from this seemingly trivial moment. I was really pleased with it and was not far from sending it off to publishers to read. And then the film 'Sliding Doors' came out. The entire premise was the same! Even though I didn't particularly like the film, the idea running through it was so appallingly similar to the idea at the heart of the book, I shelved the whole thing and it has stayed in a manila folder ever since!

Maybe I should be a screenwriter instead.

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