Today I remembered a great quote, but couldn’t remember where I heard it. It was something like: “Old stories are like old friends. You have to drop in and see them now and then to see how they’re doing.” It’s a brilliant insight, and it explains so well why writers are so often drawn to sequels. As much as a reader may fall in love with the characters, the writer is even more intimate with them, and setting a world aside is like saying goodbye to people you love.
I tried to look up the quote on Google, and found a crapload of results attributing this quote to one of George R. R. Martin’s characters. Well that couldn’t be right. I haven’t yet read any of his books (though I’d like to), and I don’t have HBO, and the quote predates either the book or the TV series. I was sure I had heard it in a movie or something.
The Internet has an unfortunate tendency, though, to accumulate garbage so thick it covers up real facts. If I want to look up the lyrics of a song, what I’ll find instead are five different versions where people misheard critical lines, in some cases so stupidly that these people should probably be rounded up and forced to have a show on Bravo or TLC; if I’m unlucky I’ll find only one wrong version, repeated everywhere because the sites crib from each other. So when you have a well-known fact that’s technically correct but not what you’re really looking for (e.g., who made a song popular vs. who first performed it), it’s unlikely you’ll ever find the truth from Google.
In spite of the difficulty however, I did find the origin. It’s from an episode called “Masques” from the show Beauty and the Beast. Not the current crappy one on the CW, but the original with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. A lot of love went into that show, and its first season in particular was blessed with brilliant writing. When I found out this was the source of the quote, I realized Martin must have seen the show and gotten the line from there, perhaps even without realizing it. But some writers aren’t above stealing a line like that because it’s so good, and it’s often a wink or a nod to the original writer.
When I mentioned the quote’s original attribution, though, someone pointed out a fact to me that I didn’t know: Martin was a writer for Beauty and the Beast. When I heard that, I looked up the episode on IMDB. The writers for the episode that had that quote were series creator Ron Koslow, and George R. R. Martin.
That means unless Koslow came up with the quote, which doesn’t seem as likely, Martin stole his own line. Now I really have to read that series. I figured he must be good, but I didn’t know he was—twice over—the author of such an awesome quote.