Thursday, January 17, 2008

Witch Hunt?

I thought long and hard about this article and finally decided that I’d take the risk of posting it. Risk? Because I’m going to state how I feel about one of the Internet’s most vicious groups.

I’m sure you all have heard about the big brouhaha with the romance writer accused of plagiarism. Let me be clear...I do not now nor ever have I condoned plagiarism in any form. But neither do I appreciate a ‘witch hunt’.

Again, let me be clear. The writer accused of allegedly plagiarizing is not one of my favorite authors, nor even close to them. I am assured she is a genuinely nice person (by those who know her) but I have never found much interest in her books. The few that I’ve read left me cold and I was thankful that I’d not spent money on them. (They were freebies from RWA National.) I will admit that seeing a particular reference to a type of technology that I was sure wasn’t available in the time frame of the story did send me googling for facts about it. And I was right. The technology would have been extremely unlikely at that place and time.

That did not prompt me, however, to do a search for particular phrases to determine their origins. No, what it did was convince me that I would never purchase her books.

Not so with these other bloggers. They’ve spent hours, perhaps days, ‘ferreting’ out the phrases that ‘were written in a different voice’ from the author’s own. One has to wonder why they went to such lengths.

They claim their intent is altruistic; that they merely want to bring an ‘injustice’ to light. Perhaps they did. Or perhaps…not.

They’ve created a controversy and that draws hits. They’ve created a furor and that draws hits. I won’t even address the ‘glee’ I hear in their voices as they post the juicy details, as they build ever higher the bonfire to 'burn the witch' on.

And this isn’t the first time they’ve done this though perhaps it is the first time they’ve been quite so vicious. They’ve a track record for such antics.

You know who I’m talking about. I won’t give their web url or name them. Why not? Because that’s what they want, in my opinion. Hits, hits and more hits. It may be that this is their way to attain ‘popularity’ or ‘immortality’. I don’t know.

All I know is that because of these...women, the romance genre is again being lambasted as ‘bodice-rippers’ and ‘trashy’ books. Only now, in addition to being ‘trashy’, we’ll bear the stigma of being plagiarists too lazy to take our research and put it into our own words.

I won’t buy this writer’s books, not because of her alleged plagiarism, but because I simply don’t like her writing. And neither will I contribute to more ‘hits’ to a site so desperate for ‘popularity’.

I left high school long ago.

What are your thoughts?

-- Lynda


Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

The whole thing is a slippery slope. Wrong is wrong, and I don't condone sweeping things under the rug because someone is successful, or because they claim not to know they were doing anything wrong, but it does strike me as a bit scary to see how the writing community turns on one of its own so fast and so furiously. It's one thing to rant about the 'crime' that was committed, but most accounts also slam the author's work as well, which while it might not be the best stuff out there, has certainly been popular and garnered her loyal fans.

I blogged about my own disappointment that the industry can turn a blind eye to someone who is making money, but be so hard on newbies and I stick by that opinion, but it's still sad to see both the genre and the author's work being ripped to shreds.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Exactly. I'm with you completely. Wrong is wrong but this isn't something that should be settled in the court of 'popular opinion' (the case, not the act). And I've never liked to see absolute viciousness anywhere.

romblogreader said...

My guess (and this is just a guess) is that people wouldn't have gone after this with quite so much vigor if the company hadn't greeted the initial complaint with basically a "so what, it's not really plagiarism".

At that point, everyone who felt like they were in the right (which I assume would be most of them, since they are right) was essentially slapped with a challenge to *prove* that it was plagiarism, and make it so that the publisher couldn't just brush off the *legit* complaints.

Not saying there aren't a lot of gleefully schadenfreude elements, but getting what amounted to a denial from the publisher made it so that the court of public opinion was the only place to go.

If the publisher had responded with a "We take plagiarism very seriously and will investigate your claims" rather than "lalala who cares it's romance and no it's not plagiarism" when it obviously was... well, those who give a shit about plagiarism as a serious issue had no choice but to be public and start repeatedly shouting their findings from the rooftops until *someone* listened.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi romblogreader! Thanks for stopping by.

I can't quote the timeline precisely but it appeared to me that there was quite a bit of fuss even before the publisher came up with their first response. If I recall, and I may be wrong, it was the desire to see the author punished that prompted them to contact the publisher to start with.

And, by the way, I agree the publisher should most definitely have given a better initial response. I suspect, however, nothing less that an avowal to 'string her up' would have been satisfactory.

Angela Verdenius said...

I understand how some people would have felt that the author was wrong. But it's been pointed out, and, one would hope, dealt with by those in the publishing business.

Apart from that, I don't have the time to worry about it to add to the bonfire, and nor do I want to! LOL I struggle to get enough time to write my own books.

I'm sorry for the author, the readers, and anyone else who is involved, but apart from that, I don't count it as my business.

Call me wrong, call me right...I just don't have the time or the inclination, and I believe in leaving it where it should be - with the publisher and the author.


Kaz Augustin said...

Hey there Lynda! The bloggers in question can get snarky, no question there. But they weren't the ones who went through the books, pulling out passages. That was initially done by a geek like myself! :P If I was in that situation, with the time available, would I have done it too? Yes, I would've.

And would I have then forwarded my news to that site? Yes, I would've. Because it's something that is so huge, especially for us who depend so much on our words, that the maximum exposure was required.

That site has unmoderated comments, so you can't blame them if someone else flames. Censoring flames is a double-edged sword. The SBs have covered that issue before, and explained why they have a policy of not deleting comments and I agree with them.

As for the rest, they don't need the hits. It is my firm opinion that they did it because they love romance.

Don't believe me? I need to tell you that I'm ripping a-p-a-r-t a book I'm reading at the moment. Despite the veneration with which the author (non-fiction) is held, I have found sloppy and unsubstantiated facts in his chains of logic. It's not plagiarism, just shabby research. But do you know WHY I'm essentially destroying his thesis? Why I'll be meticulously documenting every misstep I can find and writing to him of his many mistakes? Because he and I are ideologically THE SAME.

Do you know what's worse than having someone opposed to you criticise you on baseless grounds? It's having someone supposedly on your side do such a poor job of representing your common position that they make a mockery of what you stand for.

This is why I will be writing to Dr. "X" about his work. And this is why, I believe, Sarah and Candy used their blog to air work that others discovered. It's not because they hate; it's not because they're vicious. It's because the genre is already getting enough of a hammering without someone like Ms Edwards coming along and just adding kerosene to the blaze.

I hope to get at least some kind of concession from Dr. X. Not because I'm a vindictive bitch. Not because I detest everything he stands for. But because I care too much for his (and my) underlying ideology to stand seeing it used so carelessly. It's, I posit, the same with romance.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Kaz, thanks for stopping by (and thanks again for being our guest earlier this week!)

Yes, the initial discovery appeared to be by the 'geek' as you called her, but the majority, from what I read, seemed to come from the list owners. That's got to be a lot of time and effort involved. But it is their time and their effort so I'll leave it at that.

As for whether they love romance, well, maybe they do. But I sure don't see it. I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on that one :D

I've been known to pick apart books by well loved writers myself (though not in non-fiction...well, normally not in non-fiction. As I said previously when I encounter books that I strongly dislike/disagree with, I tend to toss them) and I sympathize with you. It's hard to accept that they could have 'feet of clay', especially when you've looked up to them for any length of time.

Skylar Masey said...

We'll never get away from those people who want to gossip. Whether or not were in high school any more, some people still think like they are.

It's inevitable, especially when a big name is involved. However, it shouldn't have been talked about every where. Plagiarism happens, just look at the case last year against the college student who had a two book deal (which quickly fizzled).

It should've been left cut and dry. The big name involved clearly could've gotten her lawyers, and especially her publisher, involved to tidy things up.It's simply sad for all romance writers who'll be branded by the stigma.

Kaz Augustin said...

and I sympathize with you. It's hard to accept that they could have 'feet of clay', especially when you've looked up to them for any length of time.

Actually, this guy is new to my reading list, but I know he's venerated by a lot of other people. Not to worry though...rebar is on its way! *g*

Lynda K. Scott said...

Rebar, duct tape and a leatherman could solve a lot of problems :D