It seems we like our grapes sour, with a side of schadenfreude. Why?
One thing I can say for certain is that even this whine about someone else's lack of originality is nothing original. I've heard it many times before: about Cormac McCarthy's The Road; about Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale; about Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. Writing in Inferno, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle reserved a special place in Hell for Kurt Vonnegut, ostensibly for theological reasons but mostly because he wrote novels that used science fiction tropes without being one of us. When Neuromancer first broke big there was a faction whining that Gibson hadn't done anything that John Brunner and Alfred Bester hadn't already done years before, and better; luckily for Bill there was another faction already publishing in Asimov's that argued that yes indeedy, Bill Gibson was a true original, who had sprung fully formed from the brow of Campbell to show us all the New True Way. (At the time Norman Spinrad argued quite seriously in the pages of Asimov's that this new subgenre a-borning shouldn't even be called "cyberpunk," but rather "Neuromantic" fiction, because it all began with Neuromancer, and Gibson was the Alpha and the Omega.)
My own sour grapes? Call it that, if you like. But right now I'm thinking about Charlaine Harris and all the opprobrium that's been heaped lately on the paranormal romance genre in general and Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books in particular. "She's not doing anything that Elaine Bergstrom—" (or Lucius Shepard, or Fred Saberhagen, or Brian Aldiss) "—didn't do first, and better. She's not that special. She didn't pay her dues."
If you mean her SFWA dues, no, of course not. Harris is a mystery writer. She had eleven published novels under her belt before she struck pure gold with Dead Until Dark. She paid her dues in the MWA.
Undeserved overnight success, I've observed, comes most often to someone else, and then only looks like it's "overnight" because the carping critics haven't been paying attention and can't be bothered to do research. When Headcrash came out—after fifteen years of my writing seriously, and ten years of my publishing short stories professionally, and two previous novels under my byline—there were reviewers who complained about my overnight success, and how dare I make fun of the sacred tropes of cyberpunk, and who was I, anyway? After all, they'd never heard of me before, because I wasn't publishing consistently in the one magazine they read.
Sour grapes again? Okay, let's instead talk about Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. When that book first came out in the U.S. I read one wonderfully awful venomous review—by a writer I know, so I won't name him—who heaped several bushel-baskets of steaming, reeking scorn on this Adams fellow, for having had the temerity to make fun of science fiction tropes without having paid his dues. The reviewer was blissfully unaware of Adams' long stint as a writer and story editor for the Dr. Who TV series and equally unaware that the HHGG was already a successful BBC radio series. Adams had never published any short stories in the American pulp magazines that he read, therefore, quod erat demonstrandum...
Vox Day has a quote in the footer on his site:
Success comes most swiftly and completely not to the greatest or perhaps even to the ablest men, but to those whose gifts are most completely in harmony with the taste of their times.I've asked him for the source of that quote, but since he's still unable to supply it, I'll instead conclude with a quote from my own personal source of all that is good and true, The Tao of Jack Burton:
When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."