Hollywood. Oh, Hollywood! Haven’t you learned better than to keep stealing ideas from noted science fiction authors? First it was Harlan Ellison and ‘In Time’. Then came Philip K. Dick’s ‘Adjustment Bureau’. Now F. Paul Wilson, best known for his novel ‘The Keep’ is claiming that Fox’s hit show ‘Fringe’ has lifted one of its episodes directly from one of his own novels called ‘Masque’.
The ‘Fringe’ episode in question is titled ‘Novation’ and aired back on November 4. Back in March, while that episode was being developed, Wilson, who also writes the ‘Repairman Jack’ series of books, recently made this lengthy comment on the Repairman Jack message boards:
“In case you missed it, Fringe is developing a story line about beings from alternate Earth called shapeshifters who possess a special cellular structure. With the help of an implanted disc, they can sample anyone’s DNA and become a perfect copy (down to the base-pair level) of that other person. The disk stores the various genomes and can switch between them.
Flashback to 1998: Warner Aspect publishes a novel by Matt Costello and me called Masque. It centers around secret agents called “mimes” who have a special mimetic DNA (mDNA) that can be programmed to copy anyone else’s DNA. All they have to do is slip in a template disk encoded with that genome and their bodies change into a perfect copy of that person down to the molecular level. They also have blank programmable disks that can copy a DNA sample, allowing them to “steal” anyone’s genome on the fly.
Notice any similarity? Come on. Just a little?”
The question is whether the writers of ‘Fringe’ actually lifted the idea directly or whether it was unintentional. Wilson went on to say in his post that you “can’t copyright an idea” but he believes that ‘Fringe’ didn’t just take the idea but rather that they lifted the story wholesale since it uses the most of Wilson’s plot and all of the technology of ‘Masque’. He goes on to say that somebody at FOX had to have at least seen his original tale.
“And it’s not as if Hollywood has never seen Masque. It’s been floating around since Tom Cruise’s production company (Cruise-Wagner) optioned it for Polygram Pictures immediately after publication. When Polygram folded, so did the deal, but numerous game companies have been interested in adapting it to interactive form (which was how we’d originally conceived it).”
And while Wilson says he has no plans to sue FOX over the alleged infringement, he does say that their show is “too… damn… close” to his original story. He does want fans to judge for themselves though by reading the original tale, now retitled ‘DNA Wars’ which can be downloaded as an e-book here.
Is Hollywood going too far with all of these recent lawsuits? Or are authors reading too much into movies and shows that have similar ideas? I think it’s more likely than not someone trying to make some cash without giving the authors their due.