Hmph. Of the big films this year, we have had Spiderman re-booted only a few years after the last trilogy finished, followed by a re-make of Godzilla. I read that a new version of Batman is on the way, just after the Bale/Nolan franchise bowed out (on a low note, in my book).
You can probably find plenty of laments about unoriginality and dearth of new ideas. Before I join them, I need to take a little look at my own house. What full-length novels have I written to date? A re-setting/mash-up (depending on what audience I’m pitching to…) of Great Expectations, followed by a re-doing of the Arthurian legend, where I like to point out I’m somewhat closer to an old version than most re-tellings. Could I claim to be original?
Ooooh, I’m feeling all defensive now. But aren’t there only one, three, or seven stories in the world anyway, depending on who you ask? Everything is a variation of “rags to riches”, “The Quest,” “The Lovers” etc. And as Terry Pratchett has pointed out, if only one person had ever been allowed to use the idea of time travel, we would have lost an awful lot of very good and novel fiction (plus rather a lot of less novel ones).
A girl at the writing group was concerned that a wizard losing his staff was a fantasy cliché. But then, if it was a spy novel and some important documents were involved in the plot, would that be a cliché? More like a standard building block. If you walked out of a war movie saying “They’ve got guns, again!” then you probably shouldn’t have walked in to begin with.
Originality is as originality does. I certainly found that writing Space Expectations, in some ways, demanded more imagination and thought than some of the original stuff I’ve done, while in other places, it was a bit like building a house to a plan. Whether it’s art and whether I’ve done enough to make it worthy of consideration in its own right, other people will have to judge (although if you are judging a competition, I would just like to express utter and complete confidence in what I have done and its ability to win people over!)
Just about every year, the Royal Shakespeare Company comes back to Newcastle. Many of the same plays have been done and re-done during my sojurn, and have been for a long time. Sometimes they put Macbeth in modern dress, sometimes in period costume. Sometimes they take some scenes out of Hamlet, sometimes they put a framing device around “Taming of the Shrew” to try and de-fang the misogyny. By and large, you don’t get people howling “Shakespeare being re-hashed, again!”
Maybe Godzilla, Spiderman etc are just the modern equivalent of RSC plays; they will come back every few years with a new cast, new costumes and a new spin. Sometimes it will be original enough to merit another look.
Have a nasty feeling it often won’t, though.