I've been toying with this concept a while and it seems to follow logically from the cliché discussion so I figured I'd give it a spin. I mentioned in an earlier post that I've been in a tribute kind of mood with my writing lately and I'm currently working on a piece that pays homage to a classic sci-fi/horror story. Hopefully some of you will give me some feedback on it when I get it posted. But when Ms. Kitty mentioned ERB's Martian stories, I began thinking more about this whole concept of art imitating art, specifically with reference to a particular story—but I'll get to that in a moment.
I want to put two examples out there of stories 'paying homage' to other stories and get your reactions and opinions. The subject of the discussion is, when does 'paying homage' cross the line from tasteful and fresh to downright copycatting? Orson Scott Card mentioned on his writing website that in his Alvin Maker novel he included a dream sequence that basically was a scene out of LOTR, and he goes on to explain how this should and shouldn't be done. As I've said, I like the concept of bringing a fresh spin to classic stories, but where exactly is that line between the right and wrong way to do that? Here are two examples that are, in my opinion, the opposite extremes of this concept:
I don't know if the similarities were intentional in this case—it's hard to imagine that they weren't but the Wiki article doesn't specifically mention it—but for me Independence Day the film, is a modern retelling of War of the Worlds. Alien invasion with an end-of-the-world scope. Seemingly invincible aliens who are eventually destroyed by a virus, in the modern version's case, a computer virus. Whether the similarities where consciously or subconsciously created, I think it's a cool and fresh take on a classic story.
The other example is a story by Lin Carter. Now, this isn't a Lin Carter bash—I wouldn't want to offend any Lin Cater fans, but my limited experience with his work is his (mis?)treatment of Conan after Robert E. Howard's death and this one other story, Lankar of Callisto. Lankar of Callisto is a shameless derivation on ERB's Princess of Mars that simultaneously fascinated and appalled me when I read it years ago. Not only is it blatant in its annexation of ERB's concepts but he makes himself, Lankar=Lin Carter, the main character. Evidently this was common for Carter and he didn't shy away from this particular philosophy in his writing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Carter
So, what are your thoughts on this? Do you believe that all writing should be completely original? Difficult, in my opinion—see previous post on clichés. Or, is it OK to 'pay homage' to past classics? And if so, when does writing cross the line between cool and fresh to fanfic?