Why no posts?
I've been over at SBTB watching in growing dismay and distress as an author previously known for her "meticulous research" has been outed for plagiarism. The evidence is overwhelming and growing by the day. (see the PDF comparisons as of Sunday here)
The initial reluctance to act on the part of her publishers (one had a "she did nothing wrong" response, others have yet to respond) and "you're so mean" response of both the author and a few of her loyal fans has in parts saddened, baffled, hurt and angered me. I was a little late to the story, as I only check in at SBTB about once a week (their brilliant thoughts are hidden behind potty mouths--you've been warned), but I've spent most of the weekend following the comments and chasing the story as it was picked up by the Associated Press and slowly distributed (MS NBC, CNN.com and others picked it up). Here's a sampling:
This story upsets me on sooooo many levels.
First--Plagiarism itself. The knowledge of what it is and fear of being caught began for me around 3rd grade and apparently begins earlier now. You copy, it's cheating, you fail. If you do it in university or college, you get expelled. The sheer terror of being even accidentally guilty of it as a student has never left me. I used to go through triple jumps of obstacle courses to be sure that any ideas I had were my own and that any research I had was solely to prove or disprove my theory. In fact, in all my papers-- Psychology, Sociology, History, English, etc.--I would start with a theory that I would write down along with supporting and non-supporting ideas that would pop into my head. THEN--and only then--would I begin my research and write my paper showing how the evidence either supported or dismissed my original premise. I agonized over when to paraphrase findings vs. when to quote directly. I cited absolutely EVERYTHING and used to almost cry when I came across what I thought was my original idea researched or quoted by someone else and then cite it. I no longer risked claiming it as my own once I knew someone had been there first. I worked hard on my papers and had nothing but respect for those whose work informed my own. Pretending their work was mine? That would be stealing. The end.
Given, those were research papers, but I read a LOT of historical romance. Many (most?) of the novels I read include some kind of author's note about their best research sources and any authorial licence they took with dates/facts/etc. to fit the story. This is always an entertaining and appreciated part of the book (for me--history geek) but easily skipped over if you only care about the story.
The defence of "I didn't know" just doesn't work. If you spent any time in the school system, you know about plagiarism. If you read any works by your peers, you know about author's notes. If you read your contract, you know that you agree that the work submitted is original and your own. Furthermore, a few years ago one romance author was found guilty of plagiarizing another's work. It was big, GIANT news in the romance community and pretty big news outside of it as well. You couldn't have been a romance author at the time and missed it. It should have given you a clue and, IMNSHO, makes the "I didn't know" defence absolutely ridiculous. More clues about this plagiarism thing should have jumped out after each of the big cases (Dan Brown? JK Rowling?) in recent years.
Second, the plagiarism is blatant and jarring. Not only is it unethical, it jumps out as a different voice (which is how it was eventually detected) and is just bad writing.
There is NO, NONE, ZERO reason for it. It actually would have taken slightly MORE work to transcribe another author's words like this than it would to translate them into your own voice. I have never read this author's books, but it was kind of a running joke on SBTB about how bad they were and one of the chief complaints all along were the wooden dialogue and abrupt shifts in voice. Abrupt enough that someone finally said "this is TOO much, I'm googling the wonky bits" and found out why.
Once upon a time, I had a dream. A dream to be a brilliant writer. I'm not sure if every reader goes through this, but I wanted to write (still do). I wrote silly stories and bad poetry. I took composition classes and filled up notebooks. Here's the thing: I'm not a good writer (you may have already come to this conclusion on your own). I'm not always great at the world building, I lack originality and I never did learn to be brief (HA! Understatement). Writing is an art, and though I worship at the gallery, I'll never be an artist. So it burns me when others steal legitimate art, slap their own name on it and accept the rewards. This case is not merely uncredited sources, it's taking words wholesale from others and claiming them as your own---and making it look bad! This is going to sound horrible, but if you're going to steal something, shouldn't you improve upon it instead of defacing it?
Third, I love Romance and I'm also painfully aware of its lack of respect as a genre. I've seen the looks, caught the snorts, tried to defend myself against the "I thought you were smarter than that" accusations. This post is already long enough without me defending the genre, but it is a wonderful and legitimate form of literature. This news is going to cast it, once again, in an unfavourable light, and that saddens me. I can hope that people won't mistakenly think that this is an example of the genre, but I'm afraid it's a false hope.
There's much, MUCH more rolling around in my head over this issue, but I've gone on long enough. You can believe I'll be watching for the outcome, though with due diligence and all the legal ramifications I'm not expecting immediate action. If you're interested, wade through some of the comments over at SBTB. There are many more articulate commenters than I examining every angle of this issue. Feel free to jump in.
But please don't feed the trolls.