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The Iceberg Theory and Plagiarism

Let’s talk about The Iceberg Theory and plagiarism a little while, shall we? I’m a big fan of Ernest Hemingway, and a whole bunch of other

  • Authors: like Roger Zelazny, Patrick O’Brian, Jack Vance, Douglas Adams, Steven Brust, Frank Herbert, Tolkien, Issac Asimov, Poe, Mark Helprin, Umberto Eco, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and many others),
  • Directors: like JJ Abrhams, Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Shyamalan, Cameron, the Wachowskis, the Coens (and many others),
  • Artists: like Van Gogh, DaVinci, Monet, Rembrandt, Dali, M.C. Escher and Picasso (and many others), and
  • Musicians: like Pink Floyd, The Stones, The Beatles, Rush, Dylan, Hendrix, Steely Dan, Cream, Yes, Bowie, Steve Miller, Wilco, Pat Metheney, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, Hancock etc., etc.: (the musician list is emormous). I mean, this list could go on and on, I’m just scratching the surface of incredible talents that have changed my life forever. The point is:

In their own ways they all share a common trait: within the context of their mediums, they all tell a HELL of a story, most of which require repeated listenings/readings/viewings, whatever, to fully appreciate the depth of their art. Most of the really great ones were so confident and comfortable in their greatness that they were also teachers of their respective arts, and I guess 3 of them really influenced me more than any others: Ernest Hemingway, Roger Zelazny, and Roger Waters. I’m not completely sure why, other than my admiration for the men themselves – They were men’s men, like a Brando, Sinatra or John Wayne, and you found yourself immersed so deeply in their works partly because you got the feeling that they weren’t just stories, they were events that they actually lived through, or somehow participated in, and there was no bullshit. EVER.

I studied and thought very deeply about what Hemingway in particular had to say about his methods and approach to writing and living. 2 of his rules affected me most deeply:

1. Economy. Don’t use 7 words to describe or say something when you can use 4, (or even better 3, or 2). Zelazny said much the same thing. They were masters of setting a scene, or creating a mood with a minimum of words, in the same manner that David Gilmour could make you feel more emotion with one wailing note of his guitar than a Malmsteen-type could with 100 notes flailing away at a furious speed.

2. The Iceberg. Hemingway’s stories were WAY fucking deep, because he knew things you the reader didn’t. We readers got the tip of the iceberg sticking out of the water, (maybe 10%? if we were that lucky) – he knew THE WHOLE FUCKING STORY. Every motive a character had for an action. Why they reacted the way they did in situations. What happened in their life before the story began, and what was going to happen AFTER the story ended.

One thing that bothers me about Hemingway is his use of the “zero ending,” which goes counter to the traditional “well-made” ending – in my experience real life sucks enough, when I “escape” to another world I want, if not a happy ending, then at least one that doesn’t leave me feeling sick. He considered himself one of “The Lost Generation“, justification for him, perhaps, but I got news: things never got any better for later generations. We’re ALL members of that club, unless you are born with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth, and guess what? Even the silver spooner’s are gonna roll over one day, spit out the spoon, and die like the rest of us. And their silver spoon kids, too. (for some reason I read that in the wicked witch of the west’s voice saying, “and your little dog, too!”). But I digress.

Here is an example that profoundly changed me: His story “Out of Season”. It was strong, I was completely immersed in that wholly believable world, and it made me think (and also left me with questions, the most concerning of which to me, personally, was “what am I missing here? Am I just too stupid to understand concepts that are apparently too deep for me to “get”?). It is an unsettling and humbling experience. I’ve always considered myself moderately intelligent in a lot of ways, and a High School English teacher I had named Dan McClain opened my eyes and mind up to symbolisms and hidden meanings, and red herrings, and things like unreliable narrators and so much more to such an extent that I owe him a debt of gratitude I can never repay. So I felt I had the tools to navigate these waters, no matter the depths.

It was only years later that Hemingway himself spoke of the Iceberg Theory, and using that story as an example revealed that the protagonist went home that night after the story ended and hanged himself. So when I re-read the story with this new knowledge the story was completely changed. I read it in a whole new light, but in some intangible fashion the story had also become somehow weaker for me. Hem was right, but for me and maybe millions of others he was wrong, too. I’m not a telepath, I can’t read the minds of the authors or the characters, sometimes I need a little help, and so I promised myself that if one day I ever wrote something Economically Icebergish, that I would give the consumer a little help, but only if he or she wanted it.

So I guess the point of this essay is to let anybody interested in the CYBORG story that if YOU want to know what I know about the CYBORG’s iceberg and a screenplay I’m working on, then read BENEATH THE ICEBERG, but be forewarned: it will change the experience. A lot of people HATE spoilers, and if Hem had come out and said, “oh, BTW this guy’s gonna hang himself after the end of the story” it would absolutely ruin it for a lot of people. So I guess I’m just trying to say: If you read BENEATH THE ICEBERG to find out more about Unit 42 (AKA David Benedict – and why is he referred to as unit 42, and why did I choose the name David Benedict?), you may want to look at it as a SPOILER ALERT!

– Dave Ryder, December 29, 2015

P.S. I didn’t actually talk about plagiarism upon re-reading this essay, but I’m going to now. All of the people I mentioned above influenced this album in some way. Roger Zelazny wrote a short story about a robot that traveled the stars and came back and terrorized his creators. Asimov’s galactic central planet Trantor was completely covered with metal. And so many more things like that worked their way into the cyborg story the question arises: is any of this plagiarism? Obviously I feel very strongly that the answer is NO. Claude Monet painted huge canvasses of impressionist flowers in glorious color. If I painted an impressionism painting of colorful flowers, am I ripping old Claude off? I don’t think so – they are MY flowers, as seen through MY eyes at a location I chose. It is those differences that make it more of an homage than a ripoff, especially if I introduce some cool new elements or colors that weren’t in vogue during Monet’s heyday. But that is conjecture and personal opinion, and may ultimately only be truly answered in a court of law (which I fervently hope it never come to, needless to say).

SO WHERE IS THE ALBUM AND THE SONGS, DAMMIT?! As of December 25th the digital versions are available through CDBaby, and they have distributed them through most of the major digital outlets: Spotify, iTunes, Number 1 Music, Google Play and many others. I will update this page as I get time, and will also make physical copies available – and these are not your cookie cutter CD in a shrink wrap jewel case, either: these are hand-made cases and CDs that I put a lot of time into.

Without you, I am nothing.

© 2015 Dave Ryder