Did Marty McFly cause problems with "Star Wars?"

Got to thinking about this last night.

In the first Back to the Future, Marty dresses up in his radiation suit and goes and visits George McFly while he’s sleeping. He says that he’s Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan, and that he’ll melt George’s brain if he doesn’t ask Loraine to the dance. This happened in 1955.

We know that George McFly likes to write science fiction stories, since he tells Marty that shortly after they first meet (it’s what gives Marty the Darth Vader idea). It seems logical that George would incorporate the elements from that night into his writings.

So what happens when Lucas tries to write Star Wars in the 70’s? Did McFly get the name copyrighted? We know that, in the new 1985, he’s written a novel, and the radiation suit is shown on the cover. It’s unknown if that was the first appearance of McFly’s “Vader,” but it seems logical to assume so.

I wonder if there was any plagiarism/intellectual property conversations between the Georges, or their attorneys. I would imagine that, once McFly learns of the Vader character in the Lucas film, he’s at least on the phone with his agent (if he has one), trying to figure out how Lucas came up with a name that holds a special significance to McFly.

What say you, Dopers?

I believe it was intimated that it was his first novel, and as it was published in 1985, if George is using the name Darth Vader in it then he’s the one in trouble. Most likely he doesn’t remember the name, just like I can’t remember half of the silly character names I made up when I was a teenager.

Indeed, George’s memory of the conversation is “I’m <garble> from the planet <not earth> and you must take that hottie to the dance!” He’s unlikely to remember the details exactly.

You see, I’ve turned the moon into what I like to call a “death star.”

And we’re all sure “Operation Bananarama” will be huge.

The next day, however, George’s memory was spot on. “Last night, Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out, that he’d melt my brain.”

I’ll concede that it was his first novel (I’d forgotten that; I thought Biff said his NEW novel was there), but I still think the usage of Darth Vader would trigger something in George’s mind. Hell, maybe he managed to cause enough of a disturbance with Lucas that he got paid off for the usage (maybe a lawsuit and a settlement, since Lucas maybe couldn’t recall where he got the name).

Lucas!!! George McFly made Star Wars… oh crap, I’m in the wrong universe again.

Aren’t we all?

I’m pretty sure Biff says “New Book”. I always assumed George was an author which explains why they have more money in the new future.

Lorraine calls it his “first novel,” but he’s had to have other decent income before that from writing.

Lots of short stories, or even screenplays, maybe?

“Darth Vader” and “Vulcan” are not hard things to come up with. Vulcan is the Roman god of fire, and “Darth Vader” sounds like “Dark Invader,” which was always how I thought Lucas came up with it, even when I was a kid. I know someone else who always thought it was “Death Invader.” Regardless, the point is, it sounds very English-y.

In early Star Wars, everything sounded like something: “droid” was from “android,” “Tusken raiders” used animals that had tusks. I personally think that the whole “parsec” sounding like it’s being used as a unit of time, when it’s a unit of distance happened because Lucas wasn’t familiar with the term, and thought he made it up. After the first movie, and the parsec debacle, Lucas started using words that didn’t sound like they could be English, like “Kashyyyk.”

It isn’t that hard to imagine that two different people could come up with a name like “Darth Vader.” Whether the source was “Dark Invader,” or “Death Invader” (or a portmanteau) it follows English morphological and orthographic rules. Even if McFly and Lucas both produced works independently that had a character with the name, it would be simple to get a linguist to testify that two people could invent the name independently, with no plagiarism involved.

There have actually been suits like this.

Someone who wrote a book called Rah and the Muggles, the plot of which bears no resemblance to Harry Potter, other than, it has some magical elements, tried to sue JK Rowling. I don’t know exactly what came of it, but I remember at the time thinking that “muggle” is exactly the kind of word an author writing in English, making up a word would come up with. It’s a word that could be English, but isn’t (or, wasn’t). It’s similar to muddle, and juggle, both of which are perfectly good English words, and it’s quite reasonable that two authors might come up with “muggle” independently. It’s not like “pfuiadzk,” something that couldn’t be an English word, so if two English-language authors both came up with it, you’d have a better case for plagiarism.

So no, I don’t think it would mess up Star Wars. If McFly came out with a book with “Darth Vader” first, Lucas would just have to come up with another name, and otherwise, the story would be different, unless you think some butterfly effect would cause the name change of necessity to alter Lucas’s story. Personally, I don’t think so. If Lucas used the name first, McFly would come up with another name.

And, FWIW, this could be McFly’s first book, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been making a living as a writer. He could have been publishing short stories, and contributing to TV scripts, or working as an editor, or copy writer. He could have been a journalist, or even a science writing consultant-- someone who helps scientists write articles for lay people. He could have been a “novelizer,” the guy who writes novels from movie scripts, so he may have had straight to paperback books under his name, but they weren’t his original work-- this was the first book that was all his own. Hardly anyone comes out of the woodwork with a full-blown book, who has never written anything for the public before.

More than that - “Vulcan” was the name assigned to a hypothetical planet between the Sun and Mercury, first postulated in the 1800s, and forwhich there were several (obviously erroneous) observations in that century.

And I knew that. I meant to stick that in, but I got all carried away with my other points, posted, and then missed the edit window. I felt silly posting again with “Oh, one more thing…” Thanks for catching it for me.

Since he apparently hasn’t noticed that his son bears an uncanny resemblance to his buddy “Calvin” from school, a guy who played such an integral role in George getting together with the love of his life, and whom his wife had an enormous crush on at the time, I think it’s safe to assume that George’s memory isn’t the most reliable thing in the world.

I think the world Marty McFly returns to is one where his father spent the last several years accusing his wife of infidelity and trying to track down that Calvin guy.

When Calvin Klein made a name for himself as a fashion designer, George probably thought to himself, “Hey, that’s that guy from high school back in '55. I always thought he’d make it big someday.”

I don’t know why it would be so hard. His name’s all over the underwear.

I think many authors would read this as sarcasm. :wink:

We’ve had that thread.