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Beiswenger Owes Alan Hathaway Royalties
on April 19, 2012
Published in 1981, the short story "They Died Twice" by Alan Hathaway included, among other things, a machine developed for the express purpose of delving into ancestral memories. "Link" is a clear rip-off of this now 31 year old classic tale. While this reviewer would nominally ignore such things as there is no such thing as a new idea, the author's insistence of suing a company for essentially the same thing he did in 2003 deserves a low rating.
As an addendum to the above explanation, as many sites throughout he blogosphere and tumblrverse quoting my wording misunderstand the content and message. In no way am I accusing Mr. Beiswenger of stealing or otherwise plagiarizing "They Died Twice". The purpose was to demonstrate that creative minds can, and frequently do, create works with plot devices that are remarkably similar to one another. Ancient societies have creation stories that are similar to one another in ways that almost indicate that such creation stories could be true. For example, the Maya have story elements that could be confused for the Biblical story of Noah's Ark despite the two cultures never having come in contact until thousands of years after the stories were originally developed. "They Died Twice" was selected as it is an incredibly obscure book that Mr. Beiswenger could not have possibly known about. The only references I've been able to find on this book were a 12 year old defunct website that provided a short summary of the story and, when doing research to find out the publication of the story, was only able to find reference of it in a book called "Literary Afterlife: The Posthumous Continuations of Author's Fictional Characters". In other words, an obscure website and a book referencing what could possibly make "They Died Twice" professional fanfic. Because of the confusing content of "Literary Afterlife" and how it lists works, I'm not sure if "They Died Twice" is a continuation of a work from November 1942, and if it is, when the various genetic memory themes an other elements present in Link were originated in this universe, so I defaulted to 1981. If it was in 1942, it only makes the point more poignant. Mr. Beiswenger independently developed the concept of utilizing a machine to seek information on genetic memory to solve a present issue (what other purpose would it have?) and combined it with another common and ancient theme of using science to better understand God and religion. Nothing particularly new here.
I used "They Died Twice" because pointing out the same plots and themes from major greats like Edgar Rice Borroughs or Frank Herbert, or on pop-science during the 1800s that did attempt to decode human ancestral memory through our genes as well as psychological research performed by individuals such as the great Carl Jung, would have limited the impact and further confused this as a claim of accusing Mr. Beiswenger of plagiarism. "Link" is an incredibly obscure book, so it was best to juxtapose this situation against an older, equally (or more so) obscure literary work. This reviewer fully believes that Mr. Beiswenger developed "Link" without engaging in any intellectual theft. The plot details do not copy others, nor are characters, events, or personalities lifted out of other fictional efforts wholesale. Nor has "Assassin's Creed" done the same to "Link". While "Link" and "Assassin's Creed" have high level plot similarities, they are not remotely the same in the content. If this were even a reasonable lawsuit, LucasArts, a far more sophisticated entity than Mr. Beiswenger, would have done so against Naughty Dog and Sony over the Uncharted series (or even the older Tomb Raider series) since LucasArts has an almost identical claim as "Link" does against "Assassin's Creed" in that both "Indiana Jones" and "Uncharted" feature snarky, conventionally attractive archaeologists that engage in treasure hunting against an organized military force that also include elements of the supernatural.
As is common with individuals who cross the thresholds of their main professional focus, Mr. Beiswenger is unfamiliar with the world of literature. I speculate that, in his primary profession, engineering, he is aware of the term "prior art" when engaging in patent work and is casually aware of the patent environment to the point he does not have to engage in too much serious research to determine if a development is based on prior art or is legitimately original (the United States Patent Office sure doesn't as the court system frequently invalidates patents the USPO grants). However, he is, even by his own admission, not an author by trade and wrote this from an idea that popped into his mind one day. Because is was not casually aware of the particularly old themes of genetic memory, machines to access those memories, conspiracy stories involving opposing secret societies, or using science to explain religion, he has confused himself into thinking that he was the legitimate origin for these themes, or even their mixture in "Link".
The general purpose was to, if the short odds lined up, have Mr. Beiswenger find this review and have him realize, "Wait, I really didn't come up with that idea, and I really should drop this lawsuit before I find myself sitting on a huge legal bill with nothing to show for it and possibly an ugly counter-suit from UbiSoft to recoup their legal costs of defending this clearly frivolous suit".
As for the book itself? The plot was creative, but the writing left much to be desired. The book overused "said bookisms" (look it up on TVTropes) and could have benefited greatly from reading Nick Lowe's "The Well-Tempered Plot Device" and James Allen Gardner's "A Seminar on Writing Prose" since the plot itself is poorly developed and the characters are not exactly well developed either. It's more of a two star book - good basis, bad execution.