Unacknowledge Debts - But not Plagiarism

I was thinking about “Pirates of the Caribbean” and how much it reminded me of Tim Powers’ “On Stranger Tides.” I don’t think “On Stranger Tides” was plagiarized by PotC, but I do think there’s a similar “look and feel” between the two stories: the influence of the supernatural in the story, the two young lovers caught up in the adventures of a morally ambiguous pirate, etc. The two stories are different enough that I’m satisfied that no wholesale borrowing went on, but I think there might be some unacknowledged debts there.

Any other such works come to mind?

Starting Over and The Accidnetal Tourist
Their plots are strikingly similar. They are both based on books. One is a comedy, one is a drama. The comedy came first. I don’t know if the later (Accidental Tourist) is debted to Starting Over but it really jarred me seeing both them within a day of eachother.

I’m pretty sure that Pirates Of The Caribbean owes a large debt of inspiration to George Macdonald Fraser’s novel The Pyrates, which is a gloriously funny send-up of every pirate book, movie and cliche ever. I was always hoping that someone would film the book, but in its joyful exuberance and sly send-ups of all things piratical {the crewman who had his tongue cut out and taught his parrot to talk for him - no-one’s quite sure how}, PotC is close enough to the spirit of Fraser’s book for me.

Almost every pirate story since Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson. Though J.M. Barrie acknowledged the influence of Stevenson in his novellization of Peter Pan.


Any movie with a time machine has a debt to H.G. Wells. Same for alien invasion stories.

This whole thing gets tricky – is it plagiarism or borrowing or unintentional borrowing? David Gerrold swears that he didn’t intententionally steal his Tribbles from Heinlein’s “flatcats” from “the Rolling Stones”, although he acknowledges he read the book. The LucasFilm artists who came up with the two-legged “AtAt”-type Imperial Walkers for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi didn’t intentionally steal the idea from artwork portfolios that came out earlier and featured sucvh walker tanks. The guys who did “Joney, I blew up the Kid” say they didn’t steal Kit Reed’s “Attach of the Giant Baby”. I suspect that Stephen King didn’t knowledegably steal Robert Sheckley’s “The Prize of Peril” for “The Running Man”. In other cases, I suspect he didn’t consciously know of his borrowing, or else thought the resemblance went no further than the basic premise (“Thinner”, "The Mist, and “The Ten O’Clock People”, especially the latter.)

I think there’s some influence of The Secret of Monkey Island in there too.

In fact, it seems Dead Man’s Chest is even more inspired by Monkey Island. It has a main villiain whose “beard” moves like LeChuck’s. It also has a black “voodoo mistress” who guides them on their quest, like the “voodoo lady” in Monkey Island.

It’s not theft. They just are quite similar.

I hope they make a Monkey Island movie.

“Bridget Jones’s Diary” from Pride and Prejudice. Mark Darcy from Fitzwilliam Darcy.

“Clueless” from Emma. Elton for Mr. Elton, a photograph for a painting.

Oops, I guess those don’t fit since they are pretty freely acknowledged.

When you do it, it’s plaigiarism. When I do it, it’s an homage! :slight_smile:

Um, are there any stories that don’t have unacknowledged debts to other stories? Practically all fiction draws on established narrative conventions to some degree, yes?

Sure they do, but in most cases, the debts aren’t all that easy to recognize. The thing about PotC is that even if they made a book based on “Stranger Tides” I don’t know if they’d do a better job of capturing the “look and feel” of Powers’ version of the Caribbean pirate scene. (In fact, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t.)

In much the same way, I think the best movie set in William F. Gibson’s Necromancer universe is “Strange Days” which isn’t even based on a Gibson story – it’s much better than “Johnny Mnemonic.”

The best John Norman adaptation is “Princess of Minerva,” an anime that’s far truer to the look and feel of Norman’s Gor than the two movies that were putatively based on the story (and that’s all I’ll be saying about that).

None of these movies are plagiarism or anythign like it, but it sure do feel like SOMEBODY read the novels they capture the feel of so well …

Not like Heinlein had a problem with it-


I once observed in an online discussion that Lois McMaster Bujold’s SF novel Komarr has a lot of simularities to Ken Follett’s WWII thriller The Eye of the Needle.

I’m fascinated by the similarities between Timothy Hunter and Harry Potter.

Disney’s “Aladdin” bears more than a passing resemblance to the story structure of the 1940 movie, “The Thief of Baghdad.”

The various miniseries and one-shots U.S., Justice, Kingdom Come, Kingdom, Top Ten, the superhero barrio subplot of 49ers, all have a significant portion of their genesis in Alan Moore’s Twilight of the Superheroes proposal.

For that matter Moore owes a debt to Marvel Comics for borrowing elements of the Kree/Skrull/Captain Marvel war for the Qys/Warpsmiths/Miracleman conflict in Miracleman. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an explicit acknowledgement of that aspect of his analog.

As well as some inspiration from a theme park ride called…oh, dear. I’ve forgotten the name.