When does a reference to something from another work stop being an attempt to raise a wry smile and become plagiarism or infringe copyright?
Three examples I wanted in YLO:
- a drug called semuta, as in Frank Herbert’s Dune
- a minor character’s name taken from a John Wyndham short story
- mere hints that a long-gone society might perhaps have been the one from the Handmaid’s Tale
There’s no attempt to exploit the original, we’re talking single words and names (not chunks of text), it’s not fan fiction (not even in the same “universe”) and in no way denigrating the original. Just perhaps making aficionados grin.
At least I had the smarts to check whether these minuscule, innocent homage-style references were okay. Three strikes and out: blunt and unequivocal refusals from Brian Herbert, the agents representing the estate of John Wyndham and Margaret Atwood’s publisher.