I wrote the ‘Old Spice’ theme song. Yes, you heard me right, I am the
composer of that most iconic of whistled jingles. Granted, it’s been around longer than I have, but I still wrote it. I was driving around in the country several years ago, the hole in my dash crawling with multi-colored worms of copper wire where thieves had stolen my alpine. I had taken to humming and singing to myself on these country drives and one day I found myself humming a tune that I couldn’t stop humming. I thought to myself, “this is really catchy!” I hummed that song for an hour, I made up words. I couldn’t whistle (that has been remedied) so I hummed it day and night. One evening, weeks later, I saw a commercial for Old Spice and I realized that not only was I not the first to write this little ditty, but I had most certainly heard it before. Damn. Yet there is a lesson here: Just because it’s been written before doesn’t mean that I didn’t write it too.
I was toying with an idea today. A story about a temple and some people in it. I had a whole map of the narrative, then I realized that the story was not my own. I had read it in a ‘best of’ anthology. It was not a particularly memorable story in its original. I think I might have done the idea more justice with my own treatment; I certainly made a more jaunty Old Spice tune. So why not rewrite it? There is no good reason. There are no new ideas. Even Shakespeare wrote tales rooted in the culture. Eight-thousand years of literate history means no new tales, only vibrant and original retelling. Shakespeare takes old tunes and applies rigorous and honest pathos to them. I take the Old Spice theme song and add new and exiting flourishes.
There is nothing wrong with flagrant theft in art. It isn’t plagiarism, not a one-for-one copy. You take the idea, you love it, you grow it in the pathways of your own mind and experience and you make it your own.
That is the science of fiction. I have to run now as I have an idea for a media mogul that runs for governor only to be destroyed by his own hubris. I’m going to call it Citizen Kanye.
So I missed the deadline for the Clarion workshop today. For those of you that don’t know what the Clarion Workshop is, well I don’t have the heart for talking about it right now. I tell myself it’s because I don’t really have fifty dollars to blow on application fees, but realistically, I can’t afford to go back to school for six weeks… in San Diego… studying under George R.R. Martin. Well, I missed it, or will have by 11:59 PST Monday night. I’m going to try and not think about it until it is only a regret.
Cheers!! That’s the Science of Fiction and them’s the breaks. One of these days I’ll have a good year full of leisurely workshops in so-cal, until then-