You notice quite a few things if you read magic books. Different styles, presentations, foci. One thing that remains (relatively) uniform, though – giving credit.
It happens all the time: ‘This trick is based on a Marlo variation of a Vernon experiment, originally presented by Thurston who borrowed it from an unpublished idea of Reginald Scot.’ Seriously, more accreditation than a doctoral thesis, leading the reader to source the original idea, which is often unrecognisable, or unusable.
It makes me wonder about such things. After all, you never hear of an actor giving credit on this level. Yes, they give praise. Effusive actors always enjoy praising those who came first, those who influenced them. But never do you hear credit for a hand movement, or an inflection, or an aspect of Richard III. Never ‘The idea for Willie Loman being slightly slouched came from Lee J Cobb.’ Instead, actors build on what they know of the scene, and the audience, to create a character and action that serves the message they’re trying to deliver.
To do similar in magic, however, is unforgivable. It’s seen as heresy in the magic world second only to revealing secrets. Naming and shaming tactics are acceptable against those who don’t footnote. It’s a curious behaviour. I think there is a fine line between crediting and not, but I don’t think the latter equates to theft.
Maybe it’s because the magic community is so small, that it’s easy to accuse one’s contemporaries of stealing. But ideas come from experience, and because of the small community, the experience context is smaller. Therefore, overlapping ideas are not only likely, but more probable. I suppose it’s a matter of quantity, though: ‘taking’ someone else’s idea once can be called shoddy research; do it twice, and you’re a thief. Either way, not a good position to be in.
There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know. – Ambrose Bierce