Nobody writes in a vacuum. (Okay, there was that one guy in Sumeria who invented cuneiform, but he was the last one.) Every author starts off as a reader, and while some take up the writing craft because they’ve been inspired by the work of their predecessors, others write to refute the themes and messages of others’ work, as though having arguments with dead men. Sometimes this leads to inspired works of literature; other times it’s just tacky.
Any particularly tacky examples spring to your mind?
My nomination is Philip Pullman. His mid-90s’ fantasy series, His Dark Materials, was marketed as being the “anti-Narnia,” and he’s on record as saying he dislikes the theist themes of Lewis’ work. That’s his privilege, of course, and for most part the series is excellent, whether you agree with Pullman’s anticlerical bias or not. But one scene in the third book, The Amber Spyglass, was so overtly a response to the final volume of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle that it jarred me out of the story:
Using a “subtle knife” that can open doors between world’s, the story’s two adolescent protagonists, Lyra and Will, have organized an escape from the Land of the Dead. Meanwhile, Lyra’s estranged father is leading a rebellion against “the Authority”–basically God, or rather a mighty angel who has convinced everyone else in the universe that he is the creator, and now rules as a cruel despot.
While both the living children and the vast majority of the dead spirits see the LotD as a grim, colorless, thoroughly horrid expanse, a few ghosts–the only ones who voice any faith in the Authority–claim that everyone else is deluded, and that the landscape is a beautiful land of plenty.
The bit with the minority-opinion ghosts seemed tacked on to me, and very odd; it doesn’t add anything to the narrative. However, after a moment’s thought, I realized that Pullman was inverting a similar scene in The Last Battle, in which recently-deceased friends of Narnia, inside a stable that leads to Heaven, see a beautiful table laden with a delicious feast, while unbelievers can perceive only darkness, dirty water, and rotting straw.
The similarities between the two scenes is too great to be coincidental, especially given that Pullman has been known to criticize Lewis for “sending Susan Pevensie to hell for liking makeup.” I can’t see any point to including this bit. It makes no sense to anyone who hasn’t already read the Chronicles, and for those who have read the earlier work, it disrupts the story to no advantage.
What about the rest of you, Dopers–any examples of a writer directly attacking another author in the middle of a story you want to share?