Aren't we a sue-happy society? Are any of you worried about this lawsuit over The Da Vinci Code? That Dan Brown is having to go through this rubbish, with the authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh claiming Mr Brown "appropriated the architecture" of their non-fiction book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, published in 1982, is amazing to me. How can anyone who wrote a nonfiction history reference book claim that Dan Brown plagiarized the facts in his fiction novel? History is history, to be intertwined in our fiction books as our imaginations take wing. The lawsuit, coming in on the tail winds of A Million Little Pieces, is just too coincidental. But that book was totally different than the DaVinci Code. I mean, it was a memoir and was supposed to be nonfiction. The Da Vinci Code is a fiction novel, for heavens sake.
On CNN yesterday, the commentator was interviewing several experts on the subject. One guy was saying that the theory of Jesus marrying Mary Magdalena and having children has been around for thousands of years. So that's not a unique idea that Baigent and Leigh came up with; it's a historical point of view. One of the fiction characters in The Da Vinci Code says that the history book wasn't correct, and that's another reason for the lawsuit. Good grief, it was part of the plot for the character to claim it wasn't factual.
On CNN, the commentator was asking the others, "What is their objective? What do they want?" The three experts said, "Money." That's it; they're jealous that their book didn't make it big and they want a piece of the pie.
Maybe Dan Brown's mistake was that he shouldn't have mentioned any of the references in his story – just like I try really hard not to mention any names of actual restaurants in my settings. But then I'm sure that a lot of people probably went out and bought those reference books to see for themselves what Dan Brown's characters were talking about. I certainly did. To me, it's like cutting off your nose to spite your face for these authors then to sue Brown after he was so nice as to mention the name of their book in his story and generate new interest in something written over twenty years ago. So if Dan Brown would have said that he got his reference material from several sources and didn't give anyone credit in his story, just made up fictitious reference books, maybe he wouldn't have been sued. Then those nonfiction authors wouldn't have gotten an increase in their sales.
I just hope that Dan Brown wins the case, and that he counter sues. If he doesn't win, won't that set us all up for lawsuits? Right now I'm studying Celtic history, and I'm thinking of tweaking the mythologies to make them fit my story. Isn't that my right as a fiction author? Or am I going to have to worry about lawsuits? (I know, only unless my book makes a huge splash like The Da Vinci Code!)
My husband says anyone can sue anybody for anything. I know that's true. We can get sued for someone walking across our property and stubbing her toe. But I hope this isn't an indicator that fiction authors are going to have to face lots of lawsuits. I don't want authors to have to start monitoring their plots, or worry about what their fiction characters do and say because fiction authors can't tweak historical facts. After all, as an expert from the Library of Congress once said to me, history is what people report. Who really knows what really happened, and how it affected a person? Several people can see the same event, but because of their perspective, their prejudices, their experience base, or simply where they're standing, each report will be different.
And remember, we are writing fiction. (And I can't wait to see the movie!)
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