I am not a Da Vinci Code fan simply because I couldn't get past the prose to the story underneath. That's the snotty English major in me, I admit, and it's not very nice. Tess Gerritsen had a great post over at her blog about why even the very successful can get upset over bad reviews:
You'll never catch me saying anything bad about Cornwell or Dan Brown because I know that, despite their successes, they're also human beings who probably feel the stings as acutely as I do. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm just a weenie, but I suspect not. I suspect that even those at the top of the bestseller lists — Patterson and Crichton and King — still die a little when a reviewer says “their latest book stinks.”
So you won't catch me bad-mouthing DB anymore. It's not nice and though I doubt he gives a flip what I think, I'm just not going to do it.
But today, I think I'm on his side. From the NYT:
“The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” (published in the United States as “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”) posits that Christ survived the crucifixion and went on to marry Mary Magdalene, that the couple's descendants are still flourishing today, that factions within the Catholic Church are eager to suppress this information, and that the Holy Grail is far more mysterious and far more complicated than anyone ever imagined.
The three authors spent five years, from 1976 to 1981, researching the book, they say, before arriving at what they call the “central architecture” of their argument. It is this architecture — the trajectory of the case they make in “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” — that they say Mr. Brown appropriated, rather than individual words or passages.
Holy crap! You mean DB did some research, read some non-fic stuff and some stuff that claimed to prove–or at least posit–a theory about Jesus and then used his research to write a novel? OMG! Do authors really do that? Do we come up with ideas from watching CSI or from reading about how Henry VIII battled a pope for the right to be the titular head of EVERY institution within his borders? Do we make up our own stories using these ideas and then write them as FICTION? Can you do that?
And hey, where the crap were ALL these guys when Nikos Kazantzakis was writing The Last Temptation of Christ (English translation, 1960)? Didn't that book have something to do with a certain divine person's relationship with a certain lady person, huh? Apparently, this idea has been on the cooker before.
I don't know everything about the case, sure, but darn if this doesn't sound ridiculous and frightening. Ridiculous because it's an idea and someone used it to write fiction. DB even admits to using that book for research, as well as several others. Frightening because if somebody gets a lock on ideas, where will it go from there? Do writers need to live in fear that Steven Spielberg will sue them because they wrote a novel about a German guy who helps Jews escape the Nazis?
Maybe there's more to it, but for now, I'm with DB. Writers make things up. They use facts, spin them, throw in their own twists, and come up with a story. The world is our well. If someone manages to argue that an idea is sacrosanct, then writers are in trouble. And so is the reading public because the books on the shelves are about to slow to a trickle.
I am pretty upset about this too. It means that if you are a fiction writer and you do your homework then you can be sued for doing your homework. This is not right.
Someone is mixing their apples and oranges. Fiction is not non-fiction. I would be on the other side IF Dan Brown had written a non fiction book.
He did not.
Great post, Lynn. The patent courts figured this out decades ago. You can patent a specific process but you cannot patent an idea. Period.
There was a great short story by Kurt Vonnegut in, I believe, Cat’s Cradle. In it, music copyright was so tight that composers could claim title to sequences of 2 notes. Music died.
You know what’s amazing, Cyn, is that I’ve read about how there are a lot of people who don’t realize that Da Vinci Code is fiction. I’ve even had people tell me it’s all wrong and I say, “But it’s fiction,” and they just don’t get that. 🙂
Oooh, thanks for the Vonnegut tip, Terry. I haven’t read Cat’s Cradle. I think these guys are motivated by money, naturally. And it’s not hurting DB’s sales either. If the novel had only had modest numbers and then sank into midlist obscurity, no one would be saying anything. But let the guy make a fortune, and they’re coming out of the woodwork.
I agree, Lynn. I think this lawsuit is all about trying to get a piece of the financial windfall generated by this book. I don’t know the case details, but I bet they lose.
It is interesting, though, that the court hasn’t already granted a motion to dismiss….
It’ll be interesting to follow, Millenia. Since England’s libel laws are so different from ours, I’m wondering about their copyright laws. It’s hard to believe this lawsuit has a chance, but who knows? It’s about money. Even if they lose, their sales have already gone up. Heck, now I want to read the book!