So, I'm having tequilas with Harry Harrison (Soylent Green) in about 1985, in a revolving restaurant in Cambridge, MA. Actually, he's drinking, I'm babysitting. "I don't speak to Michael Crichton," he slurs.
"Really? Why not?" I ask.
"Well, I actually don't know him and have never met him, but I'm still not speaking to him. He stole my idea and turned it into the Andromeda Strain," says Harry.
[A huge bestseller and big movie too]
"Harry," I ask, "How did Crichton get your idea?" I was busy imagining that they shared an agent or something.
"Oh, he didn't. It's just that a month before his book came out, I started thinking about this cool idea, and just after I finished the first chapter... boom. A pre-steal!"
They happen all the time, and for a really good reason. Ideas are a product of their time.