Fine Line Between Plagiarism and Flattery, and Other Random Thoughts

Chris Van Deelen

Chris Van Deelen is the author of the Skirmisher Publishing LLC sourcebook Creatures of the Tropical Wastes sourcebook and co-author of its Wisdom from the Wastelands game supplement. 


The first weekend of February 2014. Still cold outside, still kind of crappy, but at least I know that winter is on the downslide. Before I know it the weather will be nice and warm once again and I’ll have the task of mowing the lawn and making my yard look good.

Yes I hate winter, if that wasn’t obvious. But being a Canadian means having to deal with the snow and cold, although many American’s are getting a taste of winter weather as well, and those fine folks are simply not used to it! Fortunately for them, it’s going to be over before they know it.

Last week I decided that I would print out and bind a couple of Mutant Future compatible source books I purchased. As easy as it is to sit and read these books on my computer screen, I often like being able to sit anywhere, and have a physical book in my hands to do so.

One of these books is ‘The Deviant Database’ by Tim ‘Sniderman’ Snider. For those who frequent the Goblinoid forums, he is very well known and respected there.

I discovered that several of the creatures that I had written up and posted on the old Skirmisher site were used as inspiration and changed in this book. My initial reaction was anger and incredulity when I saw this.

I quickly changed my attitude, however.

Why should I be angry? There is absolutely no reason why I should be. See, if I remained angry over this, I would be very hypocritical and two-faced. First of all, I mine all manner of sources for ideas to write up and use in my writing. That means I get inspiration from movies, television, videogames, books and so forth.

In fact just a few weeks ago Wisdom from the Wastelands issue 35: Terror Weapons was released and anyone who followed the show ‘Fringe’ could see that I was inspired by several episodes of that show. As well as one of the terror weapons was inspired directly from a novel called ‘Sleepless’ by Charlie Huston.

Wisdom from the Wastelands issue 24: Weapon Modifications was inspired from Fallout: New Vegas. Even my various weapon issues were typically inspired by video games and television. Like Phasers – right out of Star Trek!

There are people who would claim that I am plagiarizing other’s work. That is rather tricky when it comes right down to it, because it could be argued that I am in fact doing just that, even though I am only using basic ideas. That could be construed as intellectual property theft.

But at the same time, when I look through many of the various books I own, I can see where a lot of the game material has been inspired from other sources, including the various sources I use such as movies and television.

So the crux of the situation is this. I am no longer angry about it. I never will be again. Quite the opposite in fact, I am flattered that some of the ideas that I wrote up are being borrowed and re-written!  After all imitation is a form of flattery, as the old saying goes.

As many of my readers know, I have been working quite diligently over the past 10 weeks to repost the old conversions that I wrote up from the former Skirmisher forums to the D-Infinity site. During this period I have converted over thirty monsters from the Metro 2033 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series of games. Today I posted the last one, the Pyrogeist.

I’m going to finish converting the various mutants that I missed from the Fallout series of games. Currently I have at least another 8 to go, which means I should be finished writing and posting these near the end of the month. During this time I will be editing and reposting more of the monsters that were presented on the old Skirmisher forums. So on average, expect a new Fallout conversion once every two days.

After I’m finished with the Fallout conversions I will be writing up a handful of monsters inspired by one of my favorite book series, Repairman Jack by F. Paul Wilson. Friday I finally finished ‘Nightworld’, which is the final in the Adversary Cycle, and the last novel featuring Repairman Jack (although Mr. Wilson still has one more novel coming out later this year, part of a trilogy that explains how Jack came to New York city and how he met his various friends and allies).

Last week my best friend and I caught the movie ‘I, Frankenstein’. This movie was based on a graphic novel of the same name by Kevin Grevioux. Personally I really enjoyed the movie, but then again I’m quite easy to please when it comes to that type of entertainment. I am really considering converting the Angelic ‘Gargoyles’ as a free conversion. Might not happen right away, but eventually I will get around to this.

Once I have finished with those conversions, I know that I will have more to write, I just need to find suitable sources to mine and convert!  I’m still leaning quite heavily towards writing up the various zombies that have appeared in games like Left 4 Dead and Dead Island.

But one thing I have been considering is this. I may start to write up robots from various sources, or maybe even start converting weapon systems from various videogames. Odds are quite high that both will end up occurring. This does present one conundrum however. I still have a lot of weapons that I would like to write up. I’ve been seriously thinking about writing up a book for weapon systems once I have completed my Armor and Robot books.

Lastly as of adding the Pyrogeist today, the converted mutant main book is now at total word count of 124,631 words and is 289 pages long.

Once again we are talking about inspiration from all my usual sources, with these weapons converted and written up. It’s a fine line for me when it comes to deciding if I’m going to write and post these on the D-Infinity site, or if I am going to take all the work and inspiration and write the weapons up in a single book. I am sort of leaning towards this latter idea, and adding all my various Wisdom from the Wastelands weapon issues to it, as well as the Wisdom from the Wastelands 11: Optional Combat Rules and the soon to be published Optional Combat Rules 2. This should be issue 45 or so.

Last week I was able to work on my Armor book, but not as much as I would have liked. It is now 26,644 words in length and 70 pages, but a lot of this is notes and material that I may end up cutting and not using. One thing that I found while using the inspiration from various sources such as ‘Robocop’, ‘Starship Troopers’, and of course the great and venerable ‘Battletech’ is that several of the systems that I am using could fall under categories such as new weapons, defenses and software.

So I’m cutting these and placing them at the end of the document in order to make a final decision, such as creating an entirely new category. If I use the software option, I am going to wait until the Robot book is finished as well before submitting both to Michael Varhola for editing. The hacking rules that I am working on for Robots will fit in perfectly with the software that I am creating and it is best to have both available for publication at the same time.

The one major issue that I am encountering with this is that I don’t have enough time to work on the book during my coffee and lunch breaks at work. And due to all the conversions that I’ve been working on the past ten weeks, it’s really eating into my writing time after work. I think that my best bet is to maybe cut back on the number of conversions to allow me to concentrate on the armor book itself.

But again we shall see what happens.

And over the next week I will be putting aside the Armor book so that I can concentrate on writing the first of (at this time) four short stories to help promote my upcoming novel ‘Sword of Kos: Dark Inheritance’. This short story is entitled ‘Reunion’. I hope to have it written by this time next Sunday, and it will be no longer than 10,000 words in length.

And once Giorgio Alfonso Maesa has finished his finals in March, I am hoping to commission his work for these four short stories as well. To me its money very well spent! And as I have with all my previous blogs, the image provided was drawn by Alfonso. This depicts a scene from Chapter 9.

The last thing I would like to mention is that it looks like I will in fact be attending Comicpalooza at the end of May down in Houston, Texas during the May long weekend. I just need to make sure that I book the flight and find a good hotel to stay at while I’m down there.

And that is pretty much that. I hope that everyone is staying warm and comfortable and enjoying the year thus far.