I have been reading a self-published novel described by a publicist as “Tolkien with a twist.” The kind of twist you give a bird when you wring its neck.
Because I don’t pick on the defenseless, I won’t give you this author’s name. I won’t give you the book’s title, either, because I don’t want anyone buying this and then coming after me with a broken bottle. I don’t like to think of how much they charged him to publish his 500-page monstrosity. They’re supposed to provide “editorial services,” but there’s no evidence they did: the book is littered with typos and weird sentences. An elf queen, for instance, is described as “statuesque” and having “a slight figure” in the same sentence. Not even an elf can be statuesque and slight at the same time. No editor should allow something like that.
But the real crime here is larceny. “Thou shalt not steal” applies to ideas and concepts as well as to cars and cash. I haven’t even finished the first chapter of this book, and the author has already transported wholesale, into his own fantasy world, the entire population of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth–elves and dwarves and orcs and dragons and even the poor hobbits. He has shanghaied the whole works. And not content with that, he has also robbed C.S. Lewis, Lord Dunsany, and Anne McCaffrey. The only thing he couldn’t manage to steal was a creative spark.
If you only saw this in publications by vanity presses, you could laugh it off. But I’ll bet there was never a writer who got ripped off more than J.R.R. Tolkien. In the wake of his success, every fantasy writer was populating his world with elves and dwarves–and then you’ve got the figurines, the role-playing games, and even amusement park rides. All of it without a by-your-leave from the estate. And as for paying for the privilege of battening off Tolkien’s creation–well, dream on. If the estate tried to sue everyone who ripped them off, they’d never do anything else at all–and they’d still never get around to all the offenders.
Half the fun of writing fantasy is making up stuff. Why would you want somebody else to do that for you?