View Full Version : Novel Meant as Tribute, too derivative?

02-22-2006, 10:16 PM
Okay, Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) was a big inspiration in my youth. I decided I wanted to write something as a tribute that captured the flavor and excitement of those books. Now I understand that his stories were primarily echoes of heroic myths since the spoken word ruled and as such, the trappings are different.

My question is, How do I know if I'm just doing ERB and not doing me as a tribute to ERB?

Any ideas on possible pitfalls and such?

Yes, plot-wise it follows a fairly typical ERB line of stranger in a strange land immediately engaged in heroic activity. Yes, exotic locale/other world with strange plant and animal life and different races. Push ahead, Indiana Jones style excitement (borrowed from ERB of course).

So, where do I plant my differences (apart from a better understanding of culture and history of the world in which he finds himself).

Thanks in advance.

02-22-2006, 10:35 PM
Whatever you do it will be your own. You won't be able to emulate ERB's writing. You can try, but it will just end up sounding like a tribute to ERB written by you. Which is kind of what you want.

02-22-2006, 11:00 PM
Actually, I'm trying very hard to NOT emulate his writing style. I am using my own voice, so that's comforting that it will be different on that level. I guess I was worried about the big picture. Carter Johns (not real character name) is just John Carter, NotBarsoom is really Barsoom, and the like. The world has it's own culture and it is basically a hero-quest story. Maybe I'm just agonizing over nothing.

02-22-2006, 11:04 PM
You should probably worry more about it NOT reading like a tribute. There are hundreds of stories that follow the role of a hero in a world with its own culture. I think they call it "fantasy" - I might have to look that one up though. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/wink.gif

02-22-2006, 11:06 PM
Somewhere on an earlier thread Uncle Jim made some key points about Burroughs' work, notably that Tarzan, at least, is a trademarked character. Meaning you can't publish new Tarzan stories without permission of the Burroughs estate (or whoever owns that trademark privilege). I don't know about John Carter, in this regard, but it would be worth checking. Note also that trademark is a different animal from copyright.


02-22-2006, 11:43 PM
I'd be worried about an ERB tribute being hackneyed, given that his pulpy style and subject matter have become so ingrained in the mainstream of many different media over the past 80 years or so.

If your goal is publication, I think you're shooting yourself in the foot by not aiming for something more original. With a tribute, I think the highest you'd get on the "most to least obvious rejections" scale would be #10: "The book has an engaging plot. Trouble is, it's not the author's, and everybody's already seen that movie/read that book/collected that comic." --Slushkiller http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html

If you're just doing it for fun, or as an exercise, I don't see anything wrong with it. I'd concentrate on improving the aspects of the ERB story that you find lacking.


02-23-2006, 12:20 AM
Good points all -- note: I'm not using ERB characters, it is entirely new, but in the spirit of those stories.

Well, the problems I perceive with his work are: Lack of genuine character development and depth of character. Implausable, at best, deus ex machina resolutions. Add lack of well developed characters. Nearly all the characters in his books are plot devices or stand-ins.

No, I wanted to celebrate the fantastic, while delivering these lacking elements and still tell an exciting story.

So, it should come out as having more depth without seeming hackneyed. I also, will go to darker places, as that is just something I explore with my characters, dragging them through the pits before raising them up to the heights (and sometimes, just pushing them off again, because I can http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/biggrin.gif).

So, I guess I'm on pretty good ground, and my differences will be sufficient.

Thank you -- I'll continue to take comments, but I really do want to write this, so, hey, I will.