The current arc involving shape shifters on Fringe may seem familiar if you’re a reader of F. Paul Wilson.
Wilson asserts that the current storyline has borrowed the plotline of last Friday’s episode from his and Matthew Costello’s novel, Masque.
Wilson issued the following statement in a forum devoted to his Repairman Jack novels.
In case you missed it, Fringe is developing a story line about beings from alternate Earth called shapeshifters who possess a special cellular structure. With the help of an implanted disc, they can sample anyone’s DNA and become a perfect copy (down to the base-pair level) of that other person. The disk stores the various genomes and can switch between them.
Flashback to 1998: Warner Aspect publishes a novel by Matt Costello and me called Masque. It centers around secret agents called “mimes” who have a special mimetic DNA (mDNA) that can be programmed to copy anyone else’s DNA. All they have to do is slip in a template disk encoded with that genome and their bodies change into a perfect copy of that person down to the molecular level. They also have blank programmable disks that can copy a DNA sample, allowing them to “steal” anyone’s genome on the fly.
Notice any similarity? Come on. Just a little?
And it’s not as if Hollywood has never seen Masque. It’s been floating around since Tom Cruise’s production company (Cruise-Wagner) optioned it for Polygram Pictures immediately after publication. When Polygram folded, so did the deal, but numerous game companies have been interested in adapting it to interactive form (which was how we’d originally conceived it).
However, Wilson says he isn’t angry at the Fox show, just “disheartened.”
“Where I come from, writers honor each other’s work. But the second-raters are always with us. They’ll rip you off without so much as a by-your-leave because odds are they’ll get away with it.” He also says that while most of the writers on the Fringe staff might not be aware of the original material. “Whoever introduced it into the story conferences had to have read Masque. It’s too…damn…close.”
Wilson says he’s not planning on pulling a Harlan Ellison and suing the series. He does, however, direct readers to see the episode here and check out an e-version of the book (under the name DNA Wars) here, so that they can judge for themselves.