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You Have No Right! Or Do You? I Don’t...

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After weeks of thinking, whining, ranting, and being generally disoriented in the aftermath of Savage Gate (phrase courtesy of Seressia Glass), it finally dawned on me that all of the brouhaha, both with the plagiarism thing and the mean girl thing, is all about boundaries (yes, I know I’m slow). Where does “inspiration” end and plagiarism begin? What is and isn’t appropriate for readers to discuss? What is and isn’t okay for readers to want to know? What once seemed like a series of no-brainers to me have suddenly become contested territory, with ongoing struggles and negotiations, not only on the limits of intertextuality (which is a wonderfully vexing or fascinating gray zone, depending on your perspective), but also of where blogging ends and “reporting” begins, and even on the limits of civility (this last, of course, not always addressed directly).

For every right someone claims, of course, a boundary in the form of a competing right or limiting obligation circumscribes it. And every boundary one person thinks is obvious seems foreign to someone else. For example, as someone who doesn’t really need to know what an author thinks of processed meat or face care products, I am interested in how I can find out more about 5th century Visigoths or 19th century American women frontier lawyers. Inquiring about an author’s historical sourcework for a book seems a much more natural inquiry to me than a personal question about an author’s life. But apparently not everyone sees it that way. And what seems obvious to me – that authors and readers lose every time plagiarized books are given a pass, either overtly or inadvertently – maybe isn’t so simply defined by others. Rights and boundaries, once again. Where do they begin and end?

Most of the time I’m content to just muddle along, griping, as is my way, but basically content with the kvetching nature of online communication and the tensile negotiations between authors and readers. But the fallout from Savage Gate has got my spooked. Because for once is seems really important that there be some understanding of rights and boundaries, some agreement about what readers and authors have rights to and where our obligations to one another begin and end. Because on this issue – textual honesty – we should, it seems to me, stand together, if not necessarily in agreement. And yet, there not only seem to be significant schisms, but outright hostility between readers and authors. Hostility that has an uglier-than-usual edge to it.

You may remember the literary brouhaha of a little over a year ago involving Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement and Lucilla Andrews’s memoir No Time For Romance. An Oxford student noticed some similarities and contacted Andrews about them. Somehow, almost a year afterward, the story made the international press, and suddenly McEwan was under scrutiny of plagiarism. In an editorial for The Guardian McEwan wrote an eloquent and detailed defense of his use of Andrews’s memoir, concluding with the following:

I have openly acknowledged my debt to her in the author’s note at the end of Atonement, and ever since on public platforms, where questions about research are almost as frequent as “where do you get your ideas from?”. I have spoken about her in numerous interviews and in a Radio 4 tribute. My one regret is not meeting her. But if people are now talking about Lucilla Andrews, I am glad. I have been talking about her for five years.

I have been thinking a lot about Ian McEwan’s comments lately, about their sense of confidence, their lack of defensiveness, and their seeming lack of rancor. Whether one believes that McEwan acted badly in not offering a more detailed acknowledgment to Andrews or in not changing some of the phrases that echo hers, it is difficult, I think, to deny the tone of calm explanation in his words the sense that he, indeed, respects the rules as much as his critics. That he respects his readers, even those who accuse him. That he has, within his grasp, an understanding of and respect for the very issues for which he is under fire. That he isn’t standing behind an infantry line, defending his very life and limb against, well, against whatever might try to invade across his comfortable boundaries.

Despite the fact that a reader found the similarities between Atonement and No Time For Romance, and despite the press attention and accusations of everything from "discourtesy’ to plagiarism, the McEwan story never seemed to develop into a grudge match between the author and readers. So why did the Cassie Edwards issue careen so quickly down that road? Why the charges of “dishonor” among various smart bitches and intimations of witch huntsamong apparently mean girl power-mad, Google-happy readers, waiting to assault authors with questions about research sources we apparently have “no right to ask”?

Yes, yes, I realize that some of it was heat of the moment anxiety on the part of some authors who perhaps felt overwhelmed by the number of people weighing in on various blogs. And I can see where some of the reader anger over the number of examples could seem overzealous and not a little bit intimidating. And certainly not every reader showed their best face during the discussions. But still. It felt to me (and still does) that there was a frighteningly easy shift into reader v. author discourse, not just a deflection away from the issue of plagiarism, but a potent antipathy, especially from authors to readers.

There are so many things that have been circling in my head that I don’t know how to bring them all together in a coherent statement. I know they seem to cohere in the way I read Ian McEwan’s statement – from a man accused by some of no less than plagiarism – in contrast to the way I read numerous comments and blog posts in the aftermath of the Edwards situation. I understand that we’ve hit on yet another dispute over the boundaries of blogger conduct, author professionalism, reader expectations, and genre community ethics. But all I have are questions and problems.

For example, is the fact that McEwan can come across as so quietly confident a reflection of a inherent respect that literary fiction gets, as opposed to the quest for mainstream respect Romance seems endlessly to pursue? In other words, is it that McEwan didn’t have to be defensive because he was speaking from a perceived position of cultural power that Romance authors and readers might not feel themselves? And is the reader – author exchange going to be forever tainted by the perceived outcast status of Romance?

Or is there something different in the author – reader relationship in literary fiction than in Romance, something that changes the dynamics when an issue like this one arises? And is that something different related to gender or fan culture or something else (or a combination of things)?Do authors, in general, really feel reticent about discussing the outside sources they use in their books? McEwan’s statement (and my own experience with lit fic authors and readers) reflects a very different dynamic, one in which authors writing about history expect that their readers will be interested in that and will want to talk about it. So is there a sense in Romance that readers shouldn’t be interested in those things, that it’s a secret somehow, or is there a fear that any reader asking will want the information for unsavory purposes (like Googling the author’s book or writing something similar)?

Or are the references to witch hunts and bitches, etc. merely an anchor for an underlying disdain for a certain type of reader – that is, the reader who writes and/or reads critical reviews, the reader who doesn’t venerate the author or view every book published as entitled to a positive review (or no review at all)? In other words, did the Edwards situation just allow for voice to be given to simmering discontents on the part of authors toward readers? Or do authors feel that the Edwards controversy was itself an anti-author exercise, and if so, where did that perception come from?

One of the things I’ve had the hardest time understanding is the idea that bloggers and/or readers are exercising some sort of “power” in reporting on the plagiarism issue. Those comments feel to me (I’m not saying this is the case, just that it appears a certain way) as if some authors see themselves as lacking power or as in fear of readers. And this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this dynamic either, but the common theme seems to be this idea that authors have to fight against bad reviews or blog discussions, and other reader-centered exchanges. Simultaneously, though, I sometimes get the feeling that there are unspoken expectations and entitlements that readers are not meeting or recognizing – that we are crossing a line, somehow, by critically reading novels or writing critical reviews, or talking openly about something like plagiarism and even going so far as to talk about a specific author. If authors feel entitled to certain things, what are those, specifically, and can they be openly and civilly expressed and discussed?

Several authors expressed a real anxiety about how readers would act in the aftermath of the Edwards situation. Do authors really have so little trust in readers, or is there something else going on there? And if so, what is it? And where is all that hostility coming from? Is it really centered on this one issue, or is it reflective of other issues? And if it’s reflective of other issues, what are those?

If there is really a basic level of antagonism between authors and readers, I cannot imagine we can ever hope to come together on an issue as fundamental to our shared interests as plagiarism. And if that’s the case, maybe we need to face it now. To get it out in the open so that everyone knows what to expect and can feel liberated from inadvertently crossing someone else’s boundary line or feeling the need to defend one’s own rights. That’s certainly not my vision for the idea online Romance community, but sometimes I worry that’s where we’re headed, and while it might sound enticing in theory, I don’t think it would provide welcome relief but simply a new boundary crossed from which there’s no going back and, ironically, no real advance, either.

I don’t know anymore, so please help me understand all of this better.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

65 Comments

  1. Charlene
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 07:19:42

    I would like there to be criminal consequences to plagiarism. I mean jail time, not a slap on the wrist or a fine. That would a) discourage plagiarism, b) ensure that only clear plagiarism was prosecuted, and most importantly c) shut up people who care more about not rocking the boat than protecting authors from theft.

    I was shocked by everyone who called the smart bitches mean. I was enraged by the fangirls who tried to eke out excuses for the most blatant plagiarism I have ever seen. The response purporting to be from Ms. Edwards disgusted me: I can only surmise that the Myspace announcement that included allegations of racism came from an unthinking fangirl and not from the author herself, who must be smarter than that.

    But still: why can women not understand that being a thief is a million times worse than being a bitch? Why can women not understand that having integrity is more important than being nice?

  2. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 07:48:26

    I’ll have to do more thinking about the issues raised by the post, but I wanted to point out a technical problem. In the second paragraph there’s a link embedded in “But apparently not everyone sees it that way” (well, actually, there are two links). It’s the link attached to the “not” which isn’t working.

    The url is (http://www.lydiajoyce.com/blog/?p=977#comment-39908) which leads to a page where it says “Error 404 – Not Found.”

    I think it’s supposed to take us to Lydia Joyce’s website, but at the moment it’s taking me to an error page on this blog.

    If this gets fixed, please feel free to delete this comment.

  3. Michelle
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 07:50:47

    “having integrity is more important than being nice”
    WORD

  4. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 08:04:05

    That he respects his readers, even those who accuse him.

    I have to wonder how his situation would have turned out if he had either ignored the matter or tried to brush it off. Instead, he acknowledged her.

    That there show he doesn’t just respect his readers but writers.

    is it that McEwan didn't have to be defensive because he was speaking from a perceived position of cultural power that Romance authors and readers might not feel themselves?

    Sadly, part of me believes yes. Romance gets looked down on so easily and many of us just have that knee-jerk defensive response when it gets slammed.

    My own belief is that everybody is entitled to their personal opinion.

    I do believe that how that opinion is voiced is going to affect how it’s received. Accusatory, judgmental, or just plain mean isn’t going to have the same affect as a rational, well-thought calm response, even if they are dealing with the same issue.

    No reader should be made to feel as if they don’t have a right to know about issues that affect their genre, and this has affected the genre. Now if a reader is asking about somebody’s sex life, their income, or other personal matters, sorry, that goes over a line. But asking about research? Asking about ethical issues?

    They’re entitled.

    Writers as well. All writers have the right to an opinion, and they can voice it however they wish…but there’s a chance it can come back to bite the author on the butt, no matter how well thought, diplomatic or calm the opinion was stated. I try to be calm, diplomatic (not the easiest thing for me, trust me) and yet I still have fall-out over voicing my opinions. It won’t stop me, I have issues keeping quiet about things that bother me but there are those who wish I’d just keep my trap shut.

    So if the author is going to voice their opinion, they’d better be ready for the consequences that might arise and I’d recommend they use the rational, diplomatic approach~ nasty consequence risk drops significantly.

    It boils down to professionalism on the author’s part, as well as respect . Readers don’t need to worry about the professionalism part as much, because this isn’t their career. But they are more likely to be heard by more people if they speak with respect.

    I’m not going to comment about the witch reference except to say I still suspect much of that arose because the overall tone that unless you make a PSA, it means plagiarism doesn’t concern you that many writers saw in the initial posts. I think there’s more understanding all around now, but I still can’t deny that my knee jerk response was… well, ouch when I first read the ‘Plagiarism is a community issue”.

    So there’s my two cents.

    That’s my two cents.

  5. Sherry Thomas
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 08:32:38

    There is a part of me that always wonder about the cultural exposure aspect of how authors react to reader-run, reader-oriented sites/blogs.

    I’ve been reading AAR and Mrs. Giggles since the previous century, I think. And I visit several romance blogs frequently (SB & DA since long before I had a contract). I am familiar with how these sites/blogs operate. I don’t always agree with everything that goes on and every opinion expressed, but they are known entities to me, and I am very fond of them. A bad review on any one of those would not stop me from visiting, just like a simple spat with my mother will not cause any permanent alienation.

    But for an author with no prior acquaintance with reader sites/blogs, whose first knowledge of them may be when someone contacts her with news of bad review/press, the attitude is bound to be different.

    I think it is good practice for all aspiring authors to visit frank, honest, dedicated reader sites, read the reviews favorable and unfavorable, and the range of opinions that form on any given book and understand that when they publish, they will receive the exact same reception–some people will love their book, some will hate it, some will like it but not love it, and some will be completely indifferent.

    And I think a little more familiarity would help them understand that reader blogs are not out to get anyone–I never thought the SBs were out to get Cassie Edwards. I slam Battlefield Earth at any given opportunity–and that’s John Travolta’s labor of love–does that mean I’m out to get John Travolta? And should I be the first person to break the story that John Travolta didn’t do his own dancing, is that a reason not to take my story seriously just because I thought Battlefield Earth sucked donkey balls?

  6. Jules Jones
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 08:32:43

    Seconding Shiloh’s comment about the tone of the “plagiarism is a community issue” post. I have very little sympathy for plagiarists and their defenders, but that post really did come over as accusing authors of defending plagiarism if they didn’t actively speak out against it. Not just that, but there didn’t seem to be any acknowledgement that many of us *had* already said, “This is plagiarism, plagiarism is bad.” It played into the hands of those looking for a reason to say that the whole episode was just Mean Girls looking for a way to vilify authors for fun.

    But god knows there enough people out there who were looking for excuses to claim that the whole thing was just made up by nasty bloggers with too much time on their hands. It’s not just authors who are feeling defensive about their babies. There’s a fangirl culture that won’t tolerate any criticism of the author they admire. And I think that yes, there is a gender element in it, stemming from this idea that Nice Girls Are *Nice*, and fanned by the disdain often shown to romance.

  7. Julie Leto
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 08:40:49

    Jane, I can’t say about an “us vs. them” mentality because I don’t feel it. I don’t see it. In my case of plagiarism, it was found by a reader…as it usually is…a reader or a reader/librarian…so to me, I’m eternally grateful.

    Do I, as an author, ever feel attacked? Well, sure. I’m sure readers do as well. But that’s part of any interpersonal communication, don’t you think? Even you and your best friend get defensive with each other sometimes, depending on the situation. Doesn’t mean you love each other less.

    As for all the mean girl stuff…I don’t buy it. I think plagiarists should be vilified and piloried and every other awful thing that can be done since there is no other real recourse or punishment. I’ve put myself in Cassie Edward’s shoes and thought, “what would I have done if I’d got caught doing something so stupid?” (Because, let’s face it…while I’d never plagiarize, I’ve certainly done stupid things over the course of my lifetime). Anyway, I certainly would not have reacted the way she did…and I think that had she reacted differently, the brouhaha would have died down much sooner. But that’s just a guess.

    I have no sympathy for thieves and I don’t qualify my outrage over plagiarism. If people have to be mean to get the point across that stealing is wrong, then be mean. The meaner the better.

  8. I-Can't-Believe-I-Just-Read-That
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 09:01:48

    Charlene : I would like there to be criminal consequences to plagiarism. I mean jail time, not a slap on the wrist or a fine.

    jail time for plagiarists? next to the drug dealers, assaulters, rapists and murderers? wow. just, wow. talk about adding more burdens to an already overloaded justice system for something that isn’t ILLEGAL, simply IMMORAL and UNETHICAL.

  9. Ann Aguirre
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 09:12:33

    Yes, I’m sure McEwan’s response made a difference.

    But hostility between camps? Hm. It behooves both camps to remember there’s no inflection in text. What someone intended as sincere / puzzled may come across as judgmental and condemning. Assumptions are made on both sides; motives are ascribed. Then a reasonable discussion becomes layered with acrimony. I would tend to say there are personality clashes between people who rub each other the wrong way via online manner / mode of communication. Sometimes people just irk each other, and it’s not simply because they’re readers or authors. Reasons and definitions are seldom that straightforward.

  10. Nora Roberts
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 09:14:33

    There was, without question, also an author v author fest going on. The issue of plagiarism, to my continued surprise, seems to generate that sort of thing.

    The fact that the messengers were slapped around, accused, demeaned, insulted–by both readers and authors–is a sad, sad state of affairs.

    To me, this isn’t about boundaries but about deflecting the message because you don’t like what it says. About attacking those who speak out against the issue because you don’t want to deal with the problem.

    For the rest? Invariably, for me, tone plays a lot more than boundaries. How something’s put to me matters almost as much as what’s put to me–personally. Readers ask me about my research all the time. So what? It’s a valid question and interest.

    Respect matters on both sides of the page.

    In three out of the four times I’ve been plagiarized, it was a reader who blew the whistle. I’m grateful. It would’ve been easy for each of them to shrug it off, turn the page and go on. They didn’t. Personally, I don’t care if they said: Holy shit, take a look at this! Or: I believe it’s possible we may have come across a bit of a problem.

    In this case, tone goes way down the list, weighed down by issue and facts.

  11. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 09:28:52

    Or is there something different in the author – reader relationship in literary fiction than in Romance, something that changes the dynamics when an issue like this one arises?

    One of the things I've had the hardest time understanding is the idea that bloggers and/or readers are exercising some sort of “power” in reporting on the plagiarism issue. Those comments feel to me (I'm not saying this is the case, just that it appears a certain way) as if some authors see themselves as lacking power or as in fear of readers.

    I think you might be right in thinking that different authors and readers react in different ways, depending on how they envisage the relationship between readers and authors, and how much power they think they each have. I can think of a variety of different mindsets which authors might ascribe to (and I’m making these up by thinking about the various possible power-dynamics, so it may be that they’re pure invention and don’t reflect reality at all).

    Author 1 thinks of herself as the employee of the readers (who pay her for her work and assess her performance, and whose approval she needs in order to further her career) so the readers are cast in the role of the boss. Depending on her personality, Author 1 may be nice about the boss to her face, but complain about the boss behind her back. The employee may well feel that the boss isn’t supportive enough/doesn’t understand the employee’s vision etc. Still, the author will try to look professional and act nice at all times, so as not to annoy the boss. Some authors of this kind may feel their position is under threat from other employees, and in particular from Author 2.

    Author 2 thinks of herself as providing a valued commodity for which there is considerable demand. She knows she has a guaranteed market for that product, so even if a few readers don’t like it, Author 2 will shrug off the criticisms (if they’re on issues of taste) because she knows that there are plenty of others who will still buy the books. She may, however, get annoyed if anyone questions her professionalism, because she thinks of herself as a professional.

    Author 3 considers herself to be a towering literary genius, whose work should never be questioned. She is the one with the artistic vision, not the reader! She would scorn anyone (author or reader) who criticised her or suggested making changes to her work. If the criticism persisted, she might get upset and suggest that it was damaging to her delicate emotional and artistic balance.

    Author 4 is very emotionally invested in her work. She thinks of her books as her babies that she’s sending out into the world. She wants everyone to love them and be kind to them. She wants to have readers who will be kind and gentle to her too, because the books reflect so much of her own personality. She may make suicide threats or perhaps she’ll try to emotionally blackmail the readers making the criticism, but either way, emotions will run high.

    Author 5 thinks of her novels as intellectually challenging works which require intelligent, committed readers to understand them. She treats her readers as colleagues in the work of understanding literature and creating a dialogue of ideas about it. Depending on her personality, she may at times feel a bit of scorn or impatience for readers who aren’t “getting” her ideas.

    I suspect that authors of these types can be found in all genres, and there are probably authors who combine a few features from more than one category. Like I said, I’m just thinking about this theoretically, not trying to psychoanalyse anyone ;-)

    There are also different kinds of readers.

    I remember we had a discussion on here not long ago about the meaning of the word “fan girl.” Some readers get very emotionally involved with authors (they’re possibly the equivalent of Authors 3 and 4). If they’re like Author 3 they may scorn other readers who don’t “get” “their” author’s work. If they’re more like Author 4 they’ll mostly stick together with other likeminded readers, unless there’s an attack (or perceived attack) from an outsider, in which case they can retaliate viciously. Or they may take the supposed moral high ground and tell everyone else to be “nice.”

    Some readers just want the books to entertain them/give them a particular feeling and they’re the reader equivalent of Authors 1 or 2. They may well evaluate an author’s performance against specific criteria and get annoyed if standards seem to be slipping. They may very well not want to know about an author’s personal life, and if they do meet the author online, they’ll want her to act professionally.

    Some readers want to analyse their reading experiences in a more intellectual way (the equivalent of Author 5). Readers like this can come across as snobs and may irritate readers and authors who don’t want their enjoyment of genre fiction to be spoiled by analysis.

    Again, I’m thinking about this theoretically, and may have missed out some categories, and I’m simplifying things rather than looking at how the same person can read in different ways at different times (e.g. people might read a “guilty pleasure” book in a different way from the way they’d read a more “meaty” one).

    There are upsides and downsides to all these attitudes and ways of thinking about the relationship, and I can see that some authors and readers might have such different paradigms for thinking about the relationship that it’s likely they’ll never get on well when interacting online. Authors can’t be sure to get fans/readers who match their own personality types, and readers often like reading books written by a variety of different types of author but may then get upset by an interaction with an author whose personality type conflicts with their own.

  12. Lorelie
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 09:51:16

    is it that McEwan didn't have to be defensive because he was speaking from a perceived position of cultural power that Romance authors and readers might not feel themselves?

    Or perhaps he’s just confidant in himself and knows he’s followed an ethical standard he is comfortable with.

    I don’t think I believe it’s about readers vs authors. I second Shiloh and Ann and LaNora above, tone plays a very important part. If an author’s first introduction to SBTB is “OMG, this book was horrid” and it’s their baby, they’re going to get their back up. Because they *don’t* know it’s not personal, because they don’t know that almost everything Candy and Sarah says has a playful, irreverant tone.

    From there is where things seem to go wrong. And I have to think the medium of internet/blogging communication plays a factor as well. Not only is body language gone, people seem to spout the top-most thing on their mind, with little explanation and it’s instantly out there for everyone to see. And later they explain in more depth but by then it’s too late and the train’s off the tracks.

    And honestly? What’s been a nuclear blast in the blogosphere has barely been an M80 IRL. The blogsphere/internet seems to attract those who are more vocal about their opinions, one way or the other.

    talk about adding more burdens to an already overloaded justice system for something that isn't ILLEGAL, simply IMMORAL and UNETHICAL

    Well technically, in order to give jail time for plagiarism, wouldn’t they have to create a new law? Thereby making it illegal?

    But yeah, jail time would be a strain on our overloaded prisons.

  13. Shannon Stacey
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 10:06:45

    Every time somebody mentions PBW’s post in the same breath as people decrying the SBs for being meangirls, I go back and read PBW’s post and come out with the same interpretation—she was reacting to the accusations that a writer who said nothing was condoning plagiarism. If you don’t publicly say you’re with us, you must be against us. Unfortunately that post has been mentioned so often alongside comments by people wanting to silence the bloggers, I think PBW’s been wrongly painted with the same brush. Just my take on that.

    One of the things I've had the hardest time understanding is the idea that bloggers and/or readers are exercising some sort of “power” in reporting on the plagiarism issue. Those comments feel to me (I'm not saying this is the case, just that it appears a certain way) as if some authors see themselves as lacking power or as in fear of readers.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding this, and I don’t think fear is the right word, but in this relationship the readers naturally have the “power”. We’re the producers, you’re the consumers and your (collective) perception is everything. And even with an issue readers and authors agree on (plagiarism is wrong, for example), when for one group this is largely entertainment and for the other it’s work, there are going to be different needs, goals and viewpoints. Nature of the beast.

    I, personally, think that this situation started becoming devisive when it left the larger issue (plagiarism is bad) and started breaking down into how an author works. Readers wanting to know how the finer points of plagiarism and what constitutes research, talking about footnotes and bibliographies is great. Readers have the desire and the right to demand the best product for their money. For the author, it starts to feel as though the reader’s been given a visitor’s pass and gets to look over her shoulder as she writes, and we don’t really work like that. So while everybody agrees on the bigger issue, those smaller issues are where the different viewpoints begin to show and perhaps butt up against each other. Just my take on that, too—not a bad thing, just the way it is.

    As for the reporting, Savage Gate happened to out a well-established, consistently high-earning author who will probably come through this unscathed. But if the exposed author was new or struggling to stay mid-list, it probably would have destroyed her career. As well it should, of course. But clearly the reader/reviewer/blogger does have power. And we (as authors) are told repeatedly not to engage if something negative is said about us by a reader because we only end up looking worse. So there’s going to be a little, maybe not fear, but some resentment.

    But with all that said, I don’t personally know any authors who don’t regard DA and SB, etc, with a great deal of respect. You hold this industry to a high standard and when it’s not met, you expose it. And when it is met, you celebrate it.

    The bottom line for me is that, even though it at times puts us under an uncomfortable spotlight, you guys (DA, SB and regulars collectively) demand the best from the romance industry and that’s good for all of us.

    (Umm…the whole highbrow literature thing doesn’t really register on my radar so I don’t know about that.)

  14. ilona andrews
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 10:20:00

    Seconding Shiloh's comment about the tone of the “plagiarism is a community issue” post. I have very little sympathy for plagiarists and their defenders, but that post really did come over as accusing authors of defending plagiarism if they didn't actively speak out against it. Not just that, but there didn't seem to be any acknowledgement that many of us *had* already said, “This is plagiarism, plagiarism is bad.” It played into the hands of those looking for a reason to say that the whole episode was just Mean Girls looking for a way to vilify authors for fun.

    I didn’t read the post as a command to speak out but more a frustration that the issue wasn’t being discussed in any authorial forum a blogger or a reader had ready access to. (To be completely fair, shortly after this scandal broke, Fangs, Fur, and Fey did a post on it: http://community.livejournal.com/fangs_fur_fey/266206.html And promptly caught flack in the comments.)

    I do have to say that I have seen some remarkable vitriol from authors regarding this blog’s and SB’s handling of plagiarism. Quite frankly, I do not understand it.

    Let me put this into perspective: in the 10 months since I became a regular reader of this blog, here is what this blog does:

    a) The blog offers honest reader reviews. When I run my manuscripts through beta readers – that’s what I want. The reader reviews, thoughtful ones, are pure gold. I benefit both as author and as reader – I have picked up a lot of books because of this blog, the latest being Spymaster’s Lady.

    b) The blog promotes authors: it does ARC giveaways (how many now, I’ve lost count?), offers contests, highlights when authors are behaving well, and does its best to spread the name of the books and authors they like through the internet

    c) The blog offers up-to-date industry news, something very few venues do.

    In addition, it also highlights people behaving badly, outs plagiarism, and ridicules authorial stupidity. I know that a lot of the authors here, in particular e-book authors, benefited greatly from the spotlight, because let’s be honest here: e-book reviewing sites, good ones, are very few. So it is okay when the positives are showcased but when the negatives come to light, it’s suddenly a no-no? Are we that fragile?

    It seems to me, you can’t have half-way honesty.

    The Ja(y)nes and Jias are passionate about the industry. The tone of the blog reflects that. We, as authors, don’t get to decide who says what about our products or our conduct. We have no professional union. We have no professional forum. In a sense, we are contractors. In cases such as CE plagiarism, we, as a professional body, can’t level any sanctions against her.

    We are accountable to nobody but our readers and SB and Dear Author are reader blogs. Any author with a book out can tell you that you can’t force people to have a favorable opinion of you or your work. True, we may not always like the delivery of the message or its substance, but we don't get to decide how it is delivered, whether it’s positive or negative.

    Yes, sometimes it feels like we’re under siege and our professional and personal conduct comes under undue and intense scrutiny. It’s the reality of the information age. I don’t think actors like when they are going grocery shopping and fifty cameras are shoved into their face.

    I’m naturally a very mean person, yet I don’t believe this blog engages in random meanness. I think most of the posts have a message. And in this case the message was quite simple: Evidence of plagiarism is presented. The readers are outraged. The ball is in our court. And it appears to our audience that we are doing nothing.

    It’s up to us to alter this perception.

  15. Janine
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 10:20:06

    Laura, since I don’t know exactly which comments of Lydia Joyce’s Janet/Robin was referring to, I can’t fix the link, but I’m pretty sure it was one of the comments in this string.

  16. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 10:32:19

    Thanks, Janine. I think Janet (or someone else) has fixed the link in the post now, because it’s taking me straight to message 13 on the thread you just linked to.

  17. Jules Jones
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 10:42:28

    Ilona @12, I agree that this blog doesn’t engage in meanness. What the Janes serve up is thoughtful commentary, without malice, and I appreciate that as both a reader and as an author. My response to authors who want nothing but 5 star reviews is to tell them to put their reader hats on, and think about how seriously they take the egoboo sites when they’re looking for books to spend their money on.

    But that particular post did read to me as saying to authors that if they didn’t publicly speak out against plagiarism, it must be because they didn’t have a problem with plagiarism — and I felt that tone even though I’ve been reading the blog for some months and know what the usual tone is. For me it crossed the line. It’s the one thing in the whole CE episode where I feel that there’s some faint justification for the accusation of witch hunt; because someone who wasn’t familiar with the blog could have come in, read that post in isolation, and gone away thinking that it *was* saying that any author who didn’t explicitly come out against plagiarism must be at least a supporter of plagiarists, if not one herself.

  18. ilona andrews
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 11:02:13

    Jules,

    We read the post differently but I will defend our right to do so to my death. :makes bitting noises: I think the post itself didn’t really go there. I believe it’s the comment 23 that hammered the point home.

    My comment was more to the outpouring of “How dare she!” done very quietly behind closed doors. I really don’t see the point in it.

    I’ve had some pretty ego-shattering reviews on some of my stuff and I agree with you 100% on the 5-star review mentality. It’s a hard business and you’re only as good as you next book. A perpetual Project Novel, if you will. Some I win, some I lose, and when I decide to wear an asshat, the line to point it out to me usually goes around the block. That’s just the way things are. The bloggers/readers/critics do not owe us anything. We provide book for entertainment and hope we ourselves do not become the entertainment.

    Curiously, however you (generic you) read the post, it accomplished its goal: a lot of authors posted on the issue, mostly raining holy fire upon the post, but also mentioning the plagiarism issue. As I said, it’s up to us to disprove perception of tacit approval, if we choose to do so, and a lot of people have chosen to do just that. And some have not. :shrug:

    :offers Corona with lime:

  19. Jane
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 11:24:24

    I see that there will be alot of unresolved tension and that people will view things according to whatever filter that they have set at any given time. It’s just part of human nature. I’ve just recently started to be less defensive about every single thing that someone has to say about romance and the romance industry. I’ve become more secure in my own appreciation for the genre and I think that helps.

    As long as there are those (both authors and readers) who think that critical views of the industry hurt the genre more than help it, there will always be a divide. Whether the divide deepens I guess remains to be seen. I still love the genre and the books but I might not love all the authors within it. The same could be said for authors. That they still love the genre and the body of readers but not all the readers within it.

  20. Jules Jones
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 11:26:32

    On the topic of less-than-rave reviews, I don’t like getting them any more than the next author does. But one of the useful bits of advice I’ve had out of hanging around more experienced writers is this:

    There is no book written that is going to appeal to everyone who reads it, because people have different tastes. So if your book reaches a wide audience, sooner or later it’s going to get a bad review, no matter how good a book it is. If it reaches a really wide audience, it’s going to get the sort of review that strips paint from walls. The thing to worry about is when you *don’t* get any bad reviews — because it means that not many people have read the book.

    The duelling reviews on this and other sites occasionally demonstrate the truth of that. What one reviewer adores, another loathes, and sometimes for exactly the same reason. Bad reviews are part of the job description. You don’t have to learn to like them, but you do have to learn to live with them. And an honest review of the book isn’t an attack on the author, even if the reviewer didn’t like the book. A thumbs-down review may help sell the book to someone with different tastes, if the reviewer sets out clearly why the book didn’t work for her.

  21. Janine
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 11:32:49

    Great post, Janet/Robin! And great responses from so many people in this thread.

    I must confess that I didn’t follow much of the Cassie Edwards story because I was away from home when it broke and when I returned, there were so many things waiting for me to do that I didn’t have time to catch up on the hundreds of posts that had accumulated.

    But in regards to an author/reader divide, it sometimes does feel like a divide exists, at least on the internet.

    I think there are many authors who respect blogs and review sites and are who add immensely to the conversations in blogs like this one by their presence here.

    At the same time, though, some authors appear to me to feel alienated from sites like DA, SB, AAR, Mrs. Giggles and the list goes on. Who can say that she hasn’t seen authors, on their own blogs or sites, make negative comments about reader blogs and review sites of the kind that don’t give a glowing review to every book?

    I personally believe that embracing criticism is good for any genre, any art form. It’s good for the readers, but I also believe it’s good for the books and for the authors, yes, because it can bring them publicity, recognition, perhaps even some sort of canonization someday, and let’s not forget that authors are readers too, and that they too need to find good reading material.

    Now I’m not saying DA can give the genre all of that. But it never hurts to aim high; and it never hurts the genre as a whole for us to demand quality writing.

    It can, however, hurt the feelings of an individual author who has sweated blood to write her book, to see it get a low grade and a distinctly un-glowing review. And I am imagine that when combined with all the disrespect that is flung at the genre by people who don’t read romance, it can be immensely discouraging and even feel like an attack.

    I think it is possible that since the romance genre doesn’t get the kind of critical respect from the culture that literary fiction gets, readers’ reactions carry more weight with some authors in the romance genre. I can imagine that a stinging review can seem to an author in this genre like “Gosh, the NY Times won’t even review books in my genre because they think the whole genre is crap, and now some blogger is saying my book is crap, too.”

    I understand that makes it very hard not to get defensive — because a bad review can feel like somone is backing up the argument that there’s no merit in a romance author’s work.

    (I think about that every time I write a review here, BTW, and do my best to make them just as honest, but polite and respectful at the same time, even if I’m giving a DNF grade).

    By the same token, I think readers are defensive as a result of being told that we who love this genre love something with no merit. And so we look for the merit, and when we find it, we are over the moon, ecstatic, and can’t wait to tell all our friends. When we don’t find it, our disappointment is that much stronger because it can feel like someone is backing up the argument that there’s no merit to the genre that we read.

    Because the genre gets so little respect, both sides are more protective of their beliefs about it, and more defensive. And that also goes for fans of the books that get less-than-glowing reviews. They too are protective and defensive.

    Combine this with the internet’s lack of facial expressions and body language, and sometimes, lack of context.

    Combine this with the feminine culture of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

    Combine this with the limitations of human nature, the way we each have our own persepctive and don’t always stop to consider others’, and yes, you get a divide.

    Only I would not exactly describe it as an author/reader divide, but rather, as a divide between some authors and their fans, and some readers, reviewers, bloggers and others (including some authors) who appreciate the good that honest criticism can do.

    Maybe there is bound to always be a divide. But if so, I think the numbers of those on the side of thoughtful criticism are growing. When I first joined the online romance community things were no less contentious, but there were far fewer authors on the review sites that existed at the time. Now we even have a few authors, on paperbackreader.net, writing thoughtful, honest reviews of their fellow authors under their own names.

    I take heart from all this, and I hope that what it means is that things are changing for the better. Or at least, for what I believe is the better. There’s no way to know with certainty, of course, but I hope I’m right.

  22. Barbara Samuel
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 11:37:52

    In defense of the link to my blog here, I feel obliged–simply for the sake of clarity–to point out that my musings were not directly related to the plagiarism scandal. In part, I was exploring the idea of honor, but in part, I was devastated by the act of a local woman who committed a crime which will send her back to jail. I moved on to the SB outing of plagiarism because, as a former journalist, it seemed that blogging and journalism were very much part of the discussion of honor that was the subject of my post.

    Simply because the smart bitches have taken so much heat, I wanted to make plain that I defend their actions and their very intelligent site. This is what I posted on my blog:

    There are dishonorable actions all around on this one–the plagiarism is wrong, and should rightfully have been reported. But with power comes responsibility, and the glee of the exposers is in poor taste. The body of journalism law and ethics has developed for a reason, out of trial and error. Plagiarism is a crime that must be reported whenever it is discovered.

    I did follow with a scolding about tone, but that’s a matter of opinion and I am allowed my own.

    They did the right thing.

  23. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 11:51:24

    wow. just, wow. talk about adding more burdens to an already overloaded justice system for something that isn't ILLEGAL, simply IMMORAL and UNETHICAL.

    Actually plagiarism can be an illegal action. Not always, and I’d let one of the lawyers explain in detail, but copyright is something protected by federal law. If whatever plagiarized act counts as copyright infringement, then laws have been broken.

    From the post on Defining the meaning of Plagriarism

    As we have said and others have said, there are times in which plagiarism and copyright overlap, but they are NOT INTERCHANGEABLE. A commenter and lawyer on Ros' blog may have put it the best:

    * copyright infringement = stealing or taking someone else's property and profiting from it.
    * plagiarism – lying or taking someone else's property and saying it is your own.

    Not interchangeable, but definite overlapping. Taking somebody else’s words, putting them in a book and selling it counts as profiting, I’d think.

    However, I do think jail time is bit excessive.

    There does need to be some sort of consequence, but I don’t think somebody swiping my work means they belong in jail next to somebody that killed a couple of people, sold drugs, or molested a child.

    Some measure of accountability, public apologies, fines… but I can’t in good conscience say that a plagiarist belongs in jail.

  24. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 12:02:56

    I didn't read the post as a command to speak out but more a frustration

    Ilona, that’s the eventual conclusion that I came to. There were reasons behind why some things aren’t ‘discussed’ in the public arena and I also think there was more understanding on both sides by the time the thread wound down. But that initial response was one that a number of authors felt and I still suspect that was the reasoning behind the ‘witch hunt’ post, and since I was one of the authors that felt an initial knee-jerk defensiveness, I can easily see where PBW was coming from. Doesn’t mean I entirely agree, but I can certainly understand.

    Every time somebody mentions PBW's post in the same breath as people decrying the SBs for being meangirls, I go back and read PBW's post and come out with the same interpretation-’she was reacting to the accusations that a writer who said nothing was condoning plagiarism. If you don't publicly say you're with us, you must be against us. Unfortunately that post has been mentioned so often alongside comments by people wanting to silence the bloggers, I think PBW's been wrongly painted with the same brush. Just my take on that.

    Ditto, Shannon.

  25. Jackie L.
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 12:07:41

    Existentialism–if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

    Tone does not come across in typing. My teen-aged daughter was very upset with her BMF last nite. I told her to stop texting and talk it out on the phone. Took less than 5 minutes to solve the problem.

    I am a lowly, loud-mouthed, opinionated reader, but I took Jane’s post about the CE thing as just frustration. Authors are the ones being plagiarized, why isn’t plagiarism a problem for them?

    I think the perfect fan is polite, always enthusiastic, but not TOO enthusiastic, enjoys every word written by every writer everywhere, or if one book out of thousands doesn’t resonate, then they are NICE enough not to be judgmental.

    The perfect author writes books that I enjoy. They never make an error in grammar, syntax, punctuation, they don’t have typos, they don’t mess up their French, or Spanish or German, or their medical references (my areas of some mild expertise), they don’t contradict the view of Regency England propounded by Georgette Heyer (’cause she was the first, dontcha know), etc, etc, etc.

    Guess what, both readers and authors are flawed. Some flaws (like plagiarism) bother me more than others. But perfection is an unachievable goal.

  26. Jody W.
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 12:49:35

    One thing worth noting about this author/reader divide. There is a middle ground between authors who decry reader bloggers & bad review(er)s and authors who post on said blogs or openly praise those efforts. When this breach is discussed, in my view it’s two opposite ends instead of everyone lining up on one side or the other. The breach is full of readers and authors who have their own unique meld of ideas.

    They are neither with, nor against. They are somewhere else. And they aren’t necessarily compelled to vocalize it. YMMV, but most people I know, both readers and authors, don’t swim in the blogosphere much, for various reasons.

  27. Bev(BB)
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 13:24:50

    Several authors expressed a real anxiety about how readers would act in the aftermath of the Edwards situation. Do authors really have so little trust in readers, or is there something else going on there? And if so, what is it? And where is all that hostility coming from? Is it really centered on this one issue, or is it reflective of other issues? And if it's reflective of other issues, what are those?

    Just thinking out loud here but could it possibly be a rebound effect of longtime overuse of the mantra “by women for women” when romance should be for all?

    Hmmmm?

    No, really, I’ve wondered about that one for years. We’ve essentially been told over and over again that the genre is all about this great bonding between women. Heroine’s taking on the world. Which is why the authors understand their readers so well.

    Except there are two people in a romance. (Okay, don’t go there. In any direction. ;p)

    Anyway, what strikes me as pertinent to this discussion is that, basically, that construct of “by women for women” is a house of cards and always has been. It was fine as long as the readers didn’t have any major voices in the discussion. Sporatic communication between authors and their readers through snail mail wouldn’t challenge it as a fantasy. It might even reinforce it.

    Enter the Internet and the various reader sites and blogs and suddenly authors and publishers are confronted by readers who think for themselves. And they definitely have their own ideas about what the genre is about.

    Are they the majority of the readership? No, not by a long shot. However, they are vocal. They are opinionated. They are educated.

    More importantly, they aren’t going away.

    Maybe, even more important, not all of them are women who are wondering why they should even be reading something that isn’t even “for them” in the first place.

    Slowly but surely the face of the “readership” is changing in a genre that hasn’t seen this kind of change in decades . . . and in many ways it’s because of the very sites we’re talking about. Change of this nature is good but it’s also disturbing to many.

    Believe me, I love the genre and even I have conflicted feelings sometimes about some of the “changes” I see all the time. I’m not even sure I want some of them to succeed in the long run but it’s never dull watching things evolve. ;D

    What I’m getting at is that the simple fact that readers can get online and have opinions about just about any aspect of the business is mind-boggling. Does anyone honestly believe that isn’t going to cause ripples? Earthquakes, even?

    The bigger question is why should readers and authors be expected to agree on anything? Why don’t we expect a divide of some type in the first place?

  28. Janet
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 13:34:22

    But that initial response was one that a number of authors felt and I still suspect that was the reasoning behind the ‘witch hunt' post, and since I was one of the authors that felt an initial knee-jerk defensiveness, I can easily see where PBW was coming from. Doesn't mean I entirely agree, but I can certainly understand.

    I think it’s quite logical to understand things better when they happen within your particular group paradigm. For example, my readerly sensibilities keep going to the fact that it’s one sentence of Jane’s that seems to have set authors off, a sentence in the comments that Jane apologized for and clarified within the same day. I keep thinking about how Jane and I were the only ones who apologized (me for making authors feel defensive when I said I didn’t understand why authors wouldn’t want to talk about plagiarism), and that while it was worth it to me to apologize because I didn’t intend to offend any authors, I basically feel like I’m being asked to extend understanding to those who have no interest in offering the same to me (and I’m speaking both personally and as a reader who participated in the plagiarism discussions here and at SB). And further, while I understand how my lack of understanding about why authors don’t talk more openly about plagiarism might seem unsympathetic, if it made any author feel pressured to speak, I think at a certain point that’s on the author, not on me.

    Anyway, like I said, I think this whole thing boils down to feeling like I’m (I personally and generally as a reader) am being asked to extend understanding that’s not being extended to me. Anyone who has seen some of the pseudo-private comments made about some of us bloggers cannot, I believe, actually think there’s parity between what, for example, Jane said in that first editorial piece (Plagiarism is a Community Issue) and a lot of that. And for those of you who think PBW was justified in her piece, it obviously strikes me differently. I think about the fact that it was written four days after Jane’s initial piece, after her apology, after more discussion, etc. I think about the fact that if I judged everyone based on one sentence they spoke, I’d be speaking to just about no one. I think about the fact that PBW’s piece was her only public statement on the issue, that she closed comments after someone dared ask her about her own research, and that to me the piece was sarcastically dismissive, not written in any way that would incite thoughtful reflection from readers. And seriously: comparing plagiarism to communism? I can see how someone might find the political system of communism appealing (I know my share of Marxist academics, after all), but finding plagiarism appealing — no way, at least not among writers. Which may be why I don’t understand how it’s possible to talk endlessly about how costumes are unprofessional but not to say anything about what the SBs found other than that they’re exploiting their dislike of Cassie Edwards’s books by posting about similar passages that, last I checked, amounted to an 80 page PDF file. I admit that as a reader I don’t get all that.

    As for the issue of readers talking about plagiarism, while I’m not and have no interest in becoming a Romance author, I am a writer by training and trade, and so plagiarism is a very personally significant issue to me, especially having friends who have been plagiarized (and who knows, as a writer, if you have been plagiarized, unless you’re lucky enough to catch it or have someone else inform you that they’ve caught it?). I can absolutely see how an author might feel, in the aftermath of Savage Gate, that readers might be looking over their shoulders. Even though I doubt most of us have the time, let alone the inclination, to make ourselves even more potentially disappointed by tracking authors’ writing in Google or whatever. But in any case, I can understand that fear to some degree. I would just offer this in contrast: that having readers participate in and understand how this community defines plagiarism is in the interest of every author who is afraid of having readers mount a witch hunt against another author. It’s sad to think that some authors truly believe that readers gleefully seek out plagiarism, but hey, I can live with that. I can even live with the sense of insecurity/entitlement that comes across in the assaults on DA and the SB’s, because it’s broken off something inside of me in terms of my own anxieties around what I can and can’t say, as well as how I say it. If some authors are simply waiting for the right moment to pounce on something I’ve said, well, all the care in the world to be reasonable and civil means squat. So perhaps there’s a certain freedom in that I need to experience.

  29. Meljean
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 13:49:48

    From Jules’s comment:

    But that particular post did read to me as saying to authors that if they didn't publicly speak out against plagiarism, it must be because they didn't have a problem with plagiarism

    That was my initial reading of that statement, too (not the post, which I read as ilona did, but the comment thread following) — and I do think that later in the comments, Jane explained that it was seems to give tacit approval, which to me changes not just the tone (not as important) but the meaning (v. important to me).

    But was that a reader/author issue? Frankly, I’d have reacted exactly the same way to the comment no matter who had written it, author or reader. If, for example, HelenKay Dimon had been the one to say that silence equals approval, I’d have posted the same response on her blog. It was the statement (and that one statement was more powerfully worded than anything else in the post/comments, IMO, which is probably why is stood out so much) that I objected to, not the person it came from. ‘Cuz god knows, I lurve me some Jane. Now, the tone I perceived (also from others in the comments) undoubtedly informed the tone of my response, but the content of it was pretty much the same.

    So I wonder if there is some kind of solid reader/author divide (which I hope there isn’t, but I also naively hoped that the issue of plagiarism wouldn’t devolve into the attack-the-messenger scenario) if it comes down to the same issue we deal with over and over in criticism: the ability (or inability) to not interpret an opinion — or disagreement — as a personal attack. Not just books, but anything written (by readers or authors).

    And when ethics are being questioned and discussed and disagreed over, that IS a personal decision … so I don’t know if it is even possible to separate it from the personal. It’s one thing to say, “I think this book/statement presents something badly” and something wholly different to say, “I question your ethics if you write your book this way.”

    So I understand the backs being raised around the blogosphere — but again, I’m not sure that is a reader/author divide, either. For me, and most authors and readers I personally know, plagiarism itself is a pretty clear-cut issue and is unethical (but the definition has shades of grey, like intertextuality) but for others it isn’t, and it does boggle my mind. But I also understand — even as I disagree with them — why they might get defensive when I say, “How can you not think this is a big deal?” because implicitly, I am questioning their ethics. I *am* taking it into personal territory — a territory that, online, we are reminded again and again — by readers and authors — not to stray. And so even authors/readers who don’t disagree and feel just as strongly about the issue might hang back, because they aren’t all that eager to put the personal out there.

    And there is something to be said for places where authors/readers DO feel comfortable enough to come forward, and have the sense that their words and opinions will be taken in a non-personal way, and judged primarily on their content. Because — as I’ve said above — although my response to certain statements wouldn’t have been different no matter who said them, I would have felt very uncomfortable stating so on many other reader/author blogs. I’d have said it, but I’d have been cringing the whole time, especially if I knew the reader/author did take some things personally. I don’t feel that discomfort here.

    From Jane’s post:

    One of the things I've had the hardest time understanding is the idea that bloggers and/or readers are exercising some sort of “power” in reporting on the plagiarism issue.

    I don’t understand this either, because to me it was an issue that needed to be brought up, no matter who did it. And I’m glad it was brought up and the passages compared and out in the open.

    And, whether it should be so or not, reader bloggers do have power (not that I’m saying they wield it like a mace, shouting ‘bow down, authors — I’m definitely not saying that) But any strong voice has power, no matter their relationship to the text. So if a strong voice says something, people will stop and listen, and we all respond to power differently and interpret tone differently — but again, that is where it is so critical to try to take the ‘personal’ out of it. I’ve always thought that half of these blog explosions would be more like firecrackers if it was easy to do so — but it’s not, and IMO, that’s mostly where this divide and discomfort comes into play, and the perceived “agendas” (reader or author).

    Can that ever be really done? Dunno. I do think blog discussions are slowly evolving in that direction as people become used to the format, but I don’t know that it’ll ever be completely comfortable and the politics of every discussion so easily negotiable, no matter where it takes place (mean girls or hugs and kitties sites or author sites or wherever.)

  30. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 13:57:06

    I basically feel like I'm being asked to extend understanding to those who have no interest in offering the same to me (and I'm speaking both personally and as a reader who participated in the plagiarism discussions here and at SB).

    &

    Anyway, like I said, I think this whole thing boils down to feeling like I'm (I personally and generally as a reader) am being asked to extend understanding that's not being extended to me.

    I don’t feel you should have to do anything more than what you feel moved to do. If somebody is asking something of you that they aren’t willing to give back, then they have little to no right to ask.

    And I’d like to clarify that I’ve said several different times that while my knee-jerk reaction was defensiveness, I don’t necessarily think I needed to feel defensive~ I hope you understand that I’m not trying to pick on anybody for how they reacted.

    Neither the DA or the SB bloggers did anything over the line, IMO. They handled it all with professionalism~and actually, they handled it with more professionalism than some of the professional authors. They’ve been on the receiving end of quite a few catty remarks and it was uncalled for.

    I suspect we’re going to just have to disagree on the subject of PBW.
    The timing~eh, I write blog posts days, sometimes weeks in advance, so I don’t always think of timing much. The closing of comments? Not something I can speculate on, because I wasn’t in her shoes.

    Possibly we’re looking at it from cross-ends and I’ve said a number of times that she’s an author I hold in very high regard, so yes, that could be coloring my view point. But I also can’t say I wouldn’t have reacted in a similar manner had some insinuations come at me.

    plus, we don’t know how much crap she had coming at her offline. I know the DA bloggers and the SB bloggers have gotten some crap flung at them via private email, so I can easily imagine that the same has been directed at her.

    that having readers participate in and understand how this community defines plagiarism is in the interest of every author who is afraid of having readers mount a witch hunt against another author.

    I can definitely agree with this, 100%.

  31. manloveebooks
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 14:25:06

    I believe Signet was instrumental in making this a community issue when their initial response blew off the allegations. If they had responded with concern or even a “we’ll look into it”, that would be one thing. But by giving an immediate “…in this case Ms. Edwards has done nothing wrong…” they tossed the ball back into the readers/Bitches court, practically daring them to dig further to prove their case. Had Signet responded appropriately, and at least given the impression of doing their job, I’m betting this wouldn’t have gotten one-tenth the blogtime it has, because when TPTB abdicate their responsibility so quickly and fully, the community has no choice but to police itself.

  32. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 14:37:21

    Daggone it… my post got eaten.

    I’m not going to try and remember what I said, but Janet, I did want to make it clear that I don’t think you owe anybody any explanation, any apology (and that extends to all the ja(y)ne’s and the SB bloggers)

    It seemed to be by the end of the initial ‘community’ thread that most of us weren’t talking around each other anymore and whatever knee-jerk reaction I felt at first was gone.

    I suspect you and I are going to be at cross-ends regarding PBW, although I want to repeat again that I don’t necessarily agree with her views. I voiced my two cents over there before the post got shut down and I stand by them. However, I also have a huge amount of respect for the lady. Is that coloring how I read her post? I don’t think it does, but others can make their own conclusions.

    having readers participate in and understand how this community defines plagiarism is in the interest of every author who is afraid of having readers mount a witch hunt against another author.

    This, however, I agree with you 100%. Understanding this mess is absolutely vital, for readers and writers.

  33. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 14:39:42

    Daggone it… there’s my post. My PC hiccuped and I thought it got lost.

    Oh well.

  34. Janine
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 14:59:15

    Meljean, the post was written by Janet, not Jane.

  35. Meljean
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 14:59:15

    Shiloh said:

    I'm not going to try and remember what I said, but Janet, I did want to make it clear that I don't think you owe anybody any explanation, any apology (and that extends to all the ja(y)ne's and the SB bloggers)

    It seemed to be by the end of the initial ‘community' thread that most of us weren't talking around each other anymore and whatever knee-jerk reaction I felt at first was gone.

    *nod nod*

  36. MaryK
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 15:17:00

    And even with an issue readers and authors agree on (plagiarism is wrong, for example), when for one group this is largely entertainment and for the other it's work, there are going to be different needs, goals and viewpoints.

    Exactly. So wouldn’t you naturally expect the group for whom it’s work to take the issue more seriously? And if you then didn’t see much seriousness, wouldn’t you ask “Anybody out there taking this seriously?”

    That’s the light in which I read the “community issue” post.

  37. Sunita
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 15:24:45

    Janet, I frequently agree with your take on issues, but in the case of PBW I too have to agree to disagree, like Shiloh. I don’t know her IRL or any other way, but I used to read her blog daily, for at least a year, and I interpreted the witch hunt post the way that Shiloh and Shannon S. did; it wasn’t about plagiarism so much as the requirement to speak up. And given that it was written in generalities and allusions, I’m not as sure as you seem to be that it was directly aimed at Jane’s one sentence (that was soon clarified). PBW has generally not weighed in on blogosphere uproars beyond one or two posts, and she never comments that I’ve seen. So I can imagine her response being not just to DA but to the general frenzy of “we must speak up now and loudly, all of us, especially authors.” Again, that’s my just my interpretation. But I had the same thought as Shiloh, that we don’t know what her private correspondence was like.

    I also had a different reaction to the question about sources that was asked in the comments to that post. I didn’t see it as shutting down discussion when someone dared to ask her about a passage in her book. I read it as a challenge by someone wondering about possible plagiarism. After I went to the original threads on the Brockmann board I was clearer on the questioner’s motivations, but I still think that kind of question could have been asked and answered through a private email exchange. Readers popping up on author blogs asking for the provenance of particular sentences or paragraphs seems like a bad idea generally, but in that case it struck me as stemming from the heightened emotions about plagiarizing and I’m not surprised PBW read it as accusatory. I probably would have and been just as annoyed.

    I didn’t mean to hijack the thread and PBW sure doesn’t need me to defend her, but this example has been bothering me for the last few days. It seems to me an unfortunate consequence of the author-reader asymmetry. I have seen non-authors say several times that plagiarism doesn’t get punished so authors aren’t likely to suffer, especially if the challenges are groundless. But tell that to an author whose name comes up on a Google search for plagiarism because someone raised a question that turned out to be false. People remember the mistake, not the correction.

    I’m also less persuaded by McEwan’s explanation than you, but that’s for another comment!

    Thanks for the post, though; it and the comments have been helpful in making sense of these apparently unresolvable issues.

  38. Meljean
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 15:27:52

    Meljean, the post was written by Janet, not Jane.

    I’m ‘tarded. My apologies, Janet.

  39. Jane
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 16:01:23

    I think that the one thing that is missing from this community is to the right to dislike each other. Some authors dislike DA and other bloggers and we dislike other authors right back. There is no way to get around that. Let’s just acknowledge our own bias and move on.

    It's okay to not like everyone within the community. You can actually still have a community without all the group hugs and kumbaya. Authors can talk about whatever they want or whatever they don’t want but you put it out there public consumption there’s bound to be comment. Don’t want that scrutiny – talk amongst yourself behind your filters and your private loops.

    Let’s just be frank. Some people think that we at Dear Author (probably me specifically because I write most of the opinion pieces for the blog) have some kind of agenda to do something with the romance industry. I don’t but it doesn’t matter how many times I say that because some people will always believe it to be true. I don’t really care. I don’t care that some have taken one sentence out of the hundreds I have written and decided that it is the basis for a hate mongering festival against authors because I think that reflects far more on those posters than it does about me.

    I have bias and prejudices that affect my viewpoint just as anyone who has life experiences does. I don’t expect anyone to put them aside to make allowances for me. If I’ve been misunderstood it is either because a) I haven’t been articulate enough or b) the reader of the comment/thought/opinion has pushed it through her own filter and it has come out different than I intended. Can’t do anything about the second but can strive to do better about the first.

    I'm not going to stop being controversial and opinionated and I won’t stop using DA as my platform because well, this is the platform that I built with my time, money and energy and I am entitled to use it however I want.

  40. Bethany
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 16:04:59

    Hi there, I’ve been reading through all these comments–all wonderfully fleshed out, btw–but I believe I missed who or what “PBW” is. Could someone kindly post a link?

    Thanks.

  41. Jane
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 16:10:22

    Paperback Writer is author Lynn Viehl. She’s well known for not liking blogger reviewers. http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/

  42. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 16:12:08

    Bethany, PBW’s site was linked to via a link embedded in the original post by Janet, but she wasn’t named. PBW is Paperback Writer, or Lynn Viehl, and the original link was to this post.

  43. Bev(BB)
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 16:29:44

    Let’s just be frank. Some people think that we at Dear Author (probably me specifically because I write most of the opinion pieces for the blog) have some kind of agenda to do something with the romance industry. I don’t but it doesn’t matter how many times I say that because some people will always believe it to be true. I don’t really care.

    Here’s the thing. Would it be wrong if you – and that’s a general you – did have an agenda?

    I mean we talk about having a right to our opinions and having our own life experiences. Why can’t we have our own agendas, at least some of the time? What’s wrong with owning up to that? Readers have voices and they use them. So do authors. Those voices are not always going to tow the party line either way. Plus, romance is a gigantic genre. I defy anyone to describe what the heck the party line is – not just from one author to the next but from one reader to the next.

    There ain’t no way we’re all going to agree on everything. It’s amazing we can even have civil discussion on most days on any forum. Expecting it all to be just one big sisterhood is crazy.

    It’s regrettable when discussions degenerate into chaos and confusion but it happens. The amazing thing to me isn’t when the discussions do that but when they actually manage to stay on track and still shine light on various sides of an issue.

  44. Jane
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 16:37:11

    I suppose you are right Bev that there is some kind of agenda. Maybe I should have said I don’t have a nefarious agenda, but again, the adjective before agenda could be different from person to person.

  45. Bev(BB)
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 16:54:17

    but again, the adjective before agenda could be different from person to person.

    This is probably going to sound extremely cynical, and I don’t necessarily mean it that way, but I tend to believe it’s not “could be” but “is” different. Always.

    Everyone has their own agenda. And that’s not cynical. It’s practical. Why? We wouldn’t be interested in discussing the same topics if we didn’t.

    The trick with agendas isn’t recognizing whether or not one has one but figuring out what goal one is working towards. Because if one doesn’t know that, navigating the chaos won’t ever be worth it in any endeavor.

  46. Laidybyrd
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 17:31:00

    I think the reason McEwan could be so at ease in his responses was because he acknowledged Ms. Andrews in the Author’s Note in his book and in subsequent interviews. He wasn’t hiding anything.

    Interestingly, just before Savagegate occurred I had finished reading a historical novel that had numerous books listed at the back as references. Just goes to show romance books can easily acknowledge other writers’ influences without footnotes.

  47. Nora Roberts
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 17:31:41

    Yesterday I received one of the loveliest and most powerful letters from a reader in all my years of writing. It was not, specifically, about my writing style, but how a particular book/character had effected her personally. I’ll treasure that letter always.

    Today, I received another that crosses every possible line in a personal attack. Vicious, almost violent and very ugly. Way, way beyond ‘mean girl’.

    Oddly enough both these letters dealt with the same character.

    You’ll have to take my word as I won’t quote any part of either of these on a blog.

    Believe me, the bloggers at DA and SB do not attack the author. I know what an attack is. They review and report, and back up their opinions. Do they occasionally rant. Sure, we all do.

    I can only think a writer who’s really offended by what these bloggers post hasn’t been in the business long enough to be contacted and attacked–as a writer and a human being–by a real mean girl.

  48. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 18:41:42

    I think the reason McEwan could be so at ease in his responses was because he acknowledged Ms. Andrews in the Author's Note in his book and in subsequent interviews. He wasn't hiding anything.

    Interestingly, just before Savagegate occurred I had finished reading a historical novel that had numerous books listed at the back as references. Just goes to show romance books can easily acknowledge other writers' influences without footnotes

    This says it all for me.

  49. Sunita
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 19:13:42

    Back to McEwan. I think it’s easier to be confident and at ease when you have Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro etc. defending you and your publishing house counterattacking the charges with guns blazing. I definitely think that part of the difference in the two cases is that in his case, a literary giant was borrowing from a romance novelist’s memoir. But there’s still disagreement over whether it was plagiarism or not, even about how much he acknowledged her. For me, the acknowledgement (right under the one to the Imperial War Museum, apparently) would not have sufficiently communicated the extent to which Briony’s thoughts and experiences were based on Lucilla’s (unless his use of the term “indebted” was meant ironically).

    But as I don’t need to tell you especially, Janet, the lit fic author’s relationship to readers is miles away from that of romance authors. The personalization of the author-reader bond is really singular, I think, as is its on-line manifestation. I found Jane’s comment about liking or disliking authors really interesting. I can’t think of a genre in which I would even think about what a reviewer’s personal feelings were toward the author of the piece under review, unless there was a clear conflict of interest. But in romanceland it seems that the emotional pleasure we get from reading is extrapolated to be seen as the appropriate attitude for all interaction. And the the negative side is that negative emotions are just as legitimate to express. Not just negative opinions, but negative emotions. That was what I found troubling about some of the comment threads during the CE mess: some commenters (not the bloggers) seemed to think that it was open season to say anything in the service of wit and snark.

    I can only imagine the kind of comments that you here at DA, let alone SBTB, received. I don’t have the internal fortitude to do what you do, but thanks for doing it.

    I really enjoy the reviews and the discussions here, and I find the tone refreshingly matter-of-fact. I certainly hope you all (the Janes) have an agenda and continue to pursue it, because that’s part of what gives this site its coherence even when it ranges across so many topics.

  50. Janet
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 19:37:38

    Neither the DA or the SB bloggers did anything over the line, IMO. They handled it all with professionalism~and actually, they handled it with more professionalism than some of the professional authors.

    I guess, Shiloh, this is why I don’t understand either PBW’s post or the high fives she got over it over there or some of the defenses she’s received here for it. Well, as for some of those high fives, I do understand those, because some folks are, IMO, overtly using the Edwards situation (and in a strange way, exploiting her) to exercise an existing campaign against some bloggers. But, as a friend of mine would say, that’s as transparent as a plate glass window on a clear and sunny day. But beyond that take this:

    Imagine, losing your writing career because you wouldn’t pick up a torch and set another helpless writer on fire in front of a screaming mob. Not that something like that could ever happen or even be suggested in today’s enlightened, fair-minded and intelligent publishing industry. . . . Thank heavens we no longer live in the era of witch hunts, of the women or writer variety.

    Now, it may be that my own view is being colored, as Jane said, because PBW is “well known for not liking blogger reviewers.” And it may also be because when I think of what Arthur Miller was standing up for, and what he represented in terms of artistic integrity, the metaphor doesn’t hold for me. Let alone the Crucible reference. And the tone of the post came across to me as derisive, especially given the fact that the tone of the discussion here and at the SBs was hardly, IMO, hysterical. In fact, the most extreme comments I saw came from the folks defending Edwards. And it also didn’t help that PBW had no apparent interest in engaging in public discussion despite the fact that she made her post — again, her only statement in the aftermath of the Edwards revelations — very public, so there was no chance at arriving at any kind of understanding like the one that happened here. I guess my bottom line here would be that those authors who had a negative reaction to Jane’s post (and whatever comments and posts I have made) are seeing my negative reaction to PBW’s. And at least Jane and I stuck around afterwards, which I would hope reflects a basic level of respect we have for other people, author or reader, and for civil and sincere discussion. Beyond that, I’m willing to let my views on PBW’s post stand, and anyone is obviously free to disagree, as several have.

    And while I very much appreciate that you and Meljean have acknowledged the comment I made about Jane and I apologizing, I meant that statement more broadly, in the sense that there just seems to have been so many really extreme insults to readers and reader bloggers coming from some authors, an absolute trashing all couched in accusations of “mean girls.” If the irony of that didn’t kill me, I suppose the lingering disgust won’t, either.

    It’s very strange, actually, because I have never put authors on a pedestal. I am equally uncomfortable with comments about how author x is the bestest ever as I am with comments about how author x is an attention seeking prima donna. And god knows I don’t need an author’s pat on the back to feel fully accomplished in my own life. But I find myself disappointed by so much of what has occurred around Savage Gate. By author comments like this (when Alice at Heart is such a wonderful book, IMO) and comments like some of these. And I say this as someone — to make this personal — who had an online dispute with Nora Roberts over a year ago that made me feel like it would be a cold day in hell before I conversed with her again, let alone read one of her books. So imagine my surprise that I continue to do both. I only offer this as a way of saying that IMO Roberts is completely justified in both what she’s said in the aftermath of Edwards Gate and that it’s disgusting to me that she is being dismissed as an attention grabbing diva for taking more shit over having been plagiarized. Why is it that authors like Eloisa James have no problem publicly declaring their love for Jennifer Crusie on her blog, but aren’t rushing to share a similar sentiment for Nora Roberts or Julie Leto or Leslie Kelly or every other author who HAS stood up for the principles of ethical conduct in Romance writing? What message is that sending to those authors, or to readers, for that matter, who DO listen intently to what authors say and consider them authority figures? I think we can see it on the message board to which I linked.

    Now, do you think Kensington worried at all about the intellectual honesty of any future Dailey books when they signed her to a major contract? I ask this sincerely, because while I think the reader’s contract with a book is basically moderated by the publisher, I am not so convinced that publishers are going to protect the interests of readers and writers in this regard, especially if the countervailing consideration is lots of cash.

    So when I see authors and readers going after each other for daring to talk about this issue, it’s mind bending to me, because it seems so against the logic of what every writer claims to value — protection of their own work as creative and original and THEIRS. And if talking about something that affects me both as a reader and as a writer in my own stead makes me presumptuous, so be it — I’m okay with that.

  51. Charlene Teglia
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 19:41:03

    Okay, I haven’t read through all the comments because I’m in the middle of moving and I have edits and copyedits and I had to scrap the book I was writing and start over. BUT let me just say this: I don’t want to write in a void. A book needs readers. Art needs to communicate to an audience, or what’s the point? And you never know if or how or what your book has communicated until readers respond. Readers, do not go away and stop talking! And as for blogging, I’m here just about every day. Obviously I get something out of it. I think that readers talking and blogging is valuable. Also the term “Savage Gate” totally cracked me up.

  52. Janet
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 19:59:07

    Back to McEwan. I think it's easier to be confident and at ease when you have Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro etc. defending you and your publishing house counterattacking the charges with guns blazing. I definitely think that part of the difference in the two cases is that in his case, a literary giant was borrowing from a romance novelist's memoir. But there's still disagreement over whether it was plagiarism or not, even about how much he acknowledged her. For me, the acknowledgement (right under the one to the Imperial War Museum, apparently) would not have sufficiently communicated the extent to which Briony's thoughts and experiences were based on Lucilla's (unless his use of the term “indebted” was meant ironically).

    I think Andrews deserved more, and that what McEwan did in appropriating some of her words was not as intellectually honest as I would expect of him. Not because Andrews was still alive, or because hers was a memoir, but because, as I’ve said before, I believe that if something is as vital and important as McEwan claims it was to his story, it’s worth acknowledging, and in this case, I think it deserved direct and specific acknowledgment. But then, one of the reasons I think these conversations are so important, and the McEwan comparison so valuable, is that there are many steps, IMO, on the road to out and out plagiarism, and we can talk about different levels of intellectual honesty because IMO there are a few. Especially given the fact that the purpose of fiction is opposite that of academic research, in that we reference in academia to show we didn’t make something up (and to provide a chronicle and a trail for others to follow), whereas in fiction the assumption is that stuff is made up. But the inversion here actually lands us in a similar place, IMO: that if we cite in academia to show we didn’t make something up, some acknowledgment in fiction serves the same purpose, even though the overall intent of the projects may be opposed.

    But I think you’re right about the confidence Mcewan showed, and I think it’s a powerful example of what solidarity among authors — professional solidarity at least — can accomplish. Lit fic authors have their petty differences and hatreds, and sometimes they let those loose in public. But there does seem to be a core of self-confidence within the literary culture that generates and cultivates its own sort of authority. Which goes back to the comments about how Romance, as a cultural outsider, of sorts, tends to go into circle the wagons mode whenever certain issues arise. And I wonder — what’s it going to take here. Is external respect what you get when you show self-confidence, or is that confidence bestowed in the wake of respect?

    I don’t mean that to be a rhetorical question, at all, because lit fic isn’t the perfectly loved baby in all circles. Look how often it gets slammed for being pretentious drivel in certain genre fiction circles. And I think many lit fic authors struggle with a sense of cultural irrelevance, as well. And yet the self-confidence remains, or at least the sense of cultural authority you see in McEwan’s comments and in some of those defenses you refer to. I’m not sure the personalization in Romance is ever going to go completely away, especially with the advent of the online community and the fact that readers and authors are interacting outside the pages of books, and we’re not just doing it in the traditional fan/author relationship. But I do hope that we can move away from the excessive personalization that seems to take center stage and even subvert issue-oriented discussions. How that’s going to happen, though, I have no idea. But then, I’m feeling particularly cynical these days.

  53. Michelle
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 20:13:33

    Sigh, why did I follow that link to Eloisa James site. Are you freaking kidding me? Still chants of CE is innocent, she did nothing wrong, she needs to sue SBTB for slander/libel, mean girls, blah, blah, blah. Do these people have brains, can they not read documented evidence and think for themselves? Why can’t people understand the difference between word for word plagerism and research? I just don’t understand published authors thinking that plagerism is ok and should be tolerated-I just really don’t get it. I can understand authors who think it is wrong but don’t want to get into public blogwars, flames etc. But to actually condone it-it just leaves me speechless.

    But as others have said I think some are just using this as a smokescreen to take swipes at some bloggers. Too bad they don’t have the balls to say yup plagerism is wrong but I still hate SBTB/DA. But as others have said some people don’t have any personal integrity.

  54. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 21:08:30

    I guess, Shiloh, this is why I don't understand either PBW's post or the high fives she got over it over there or some of the defenses she's received here for it.

    I’m not attempting to defend her, Janet. I don’t really agree with her view on things, but I can’t say I can’t see where she’s coming from, considering my initial reaction. I’m seeing that post from different viewpoints~I disagree with her perception, but defending it in my mind is sort of like saying she was in the wrong and I can’t see this as a matter of right and wrong, but as a matter of perception.

    I’m just trying to explain my perception of her perception…. try saying that five times fast.

    I really don’t think PBW needs anybody to defend her even if they felt compelled. I suspect she could handle it just fine on her own, if she felt the need.

    So when I see authors and readers going after each other for daring to talk about this issue, it's mind bending to me, because it seems so against the logic of what every writer claims to value -’ protection of their own work as creative and original and THEIRS.

    Again… on perception…lol… I didn’t read her post as a

    Don’t You Dare Talk About Plagiarism

    but more along the lines of…

    … Just Because I’m Not Joining in Doesn’t Mean I Approve of the Plagiarism

    What disturbs me far more than PBW’s witch hunt post was the many, many, … sigh… many comments I was made aware that because this is romance, why does it matter?

    Or that fact that we should ignore it because of a person’s age. I’ve said once, I’ll say again, anybody that implies that a 71 year woman can’t handle herself in a debate, argument, scandal, needs to talk to my grandmother. I don’t scare easy. But she gets mad, I want to run for cover. The idea that a 71 year woman is too helpless to handle ‘mean girl bloggers’ is mind-boggling.

    And the general implication of some comments about how nobody should pay attention to what a bunch of ‘mean girl bloggers’ say.

    Then the comments from writers, of all people, that it wasn’t really plagiarism, just laziness, and it’s not a big deal.

    Those implications bother me far more than anything else I’ve read on this matter.

  55. Janet
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 21:21:06

    Just to clarify, Shiloh, I wasn’t talking specifically about PBW past that comment that I was willing to let my opinion on her piece stand among disagreement by others. Sadly, there was sniping galore that I was referring to in that later assertion, lol.

    And yeah, there were mindbogling comments of all sorts.

  56. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 21:33:34

    Sadly, there was sniping galore that I was referring to in that later assertion, lol.

    And just as sadly… sigh… yeah, I can imagine. I’ve seen comments over this that have totally blown my mind.

  57. LinM
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 22:34:03

    Sigh, why did I follow that link to Eloisa James site.

    Yeah, me too.

    I don’t know how to organize all of my responses to Janet’s post and the links to other sites.

    Margaret Atwood’s defense of “Atonement” made me buy “No Time for Romance” and it sits somewhere in the TBR pile. I will never be able to read “Atonement” just for pleasure because I don’t think that the acknowledgement was sufficient.

    The day that Amy’s research uncovered the passages copied from “Laughing Boy”, I wondered how many other blogs would inspire a reader to do that much work. Plagiarism hurts. There have been so many publishing scandals that it is easy to look at my bookshelves with a jaundiced eye. But the discussions here, at SBTB, at AAR and at TeachMeTonight have been wide ranging. I’ve appreciated all of the input from authors, editors, readers, lawyers, academics, … These discussions revive/reinforce my love of books.

    Just over a year ago, my favourite SFF blog (Emerald City) quit publishing with the saddest comment – “Some people have been saying nice things … Other people have been saying how it won’t be missed”. So, it is not only the romance community where there is a backlash against a blog that reviews its genre. I’m saddened to hear the same tone in some of the posts here particularly by Jane and Janet. Because of DA, I’ve tried more books by more new authors than I ever would have picked up otherwise. Some I’ve loved, some I’ve hated, some have been OK but I still love the reviews, discussions, and information. I guess I’m just a DA fangirl.

  58. Rachel Carrington
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 23:19:28

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Nora. I’ve been on the receiving end of attacks, and what I’ve read here doesn’t fall under the definition of “attack.”

    IMO, DA provides information. It might not be information that everyone wants to read, but then, that’s the beauty of the back button. Just click out of the website if you don’t want to know what’s been written or if something offends you. (Thankfully, I’m not one easily offended-’okay, except by the reader who sent me a note saying that since I wrote erotica, she was expecting someone beautiful. WTF?? But I’m not bitter.)

    At any rate, I said all this to say I’ve never understood people who come to sites like DA and SBTB, get offended by something they read, spew their disgust…and keep returning to post even more comments about how disgusted they are. Again, the back button is a wonderful tool!

  59. Janet
    Jan 29, 2008 @ 23:48:48

    I'm saddened to hear the same tone in some of the posts here particularly by Jane and Janet. Because of DA, I've tried more books by more new authors than I ever would have picked up otherwise. Some I've loved, some I've hated, some have been OK but I still love the reviews, discussions, and information. I guess I'm just a DA fangirl.

    Speaking for myself, I can tell you that I blog first because I want to, and second for other readers, not for or because of authors. So having authors (or other readers) dump on me or DA or critical attention to Romance wouldn’t scare me away from blogging. Some of the comments I’ve been privy to have been eye opening in a good way, actually. What’s been unexpectedly disorienting is the sense that I’ve gotten from some quarters (and I’m just saying this is what I’m taking away, not trying to make any accusations) is that crapping on bloggers and readers is more of a priority than talking about plagiarism. Which creates this sense in me that some authors don’t take writing or the genre seriously. So in turn I find myself wondering: if they don’t take these books seriously, if they don’t communicate respect for professional authorship or for the genre, why should I? And while I realize that I should be able to separate these two things, right now I can’t completely do that, can’t answer that question satisfactorily, and that’s a bummer for me, both as a reader and as a writer.

    Ultimately, it will probably come down to remembering that the real value of this for me is being able to talk about books with other readers (including authors who are, in those conversations, readers) and going back to that place where I don’t think of author x as the one who said that what Cassie Edwards did was okay, or that authors who stand against plagiarism (which, you’d think, would be seen as standing up for authors in a big-picture sense) are attention-seeking divas, or that readers who keep talking about it are power-mad witch hunters, etc.

  60. Poison Ivy
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 00:53:27

    It has occurred to me that no one in all the threads I have read has mentioned something that may have been a subtext to some of the seemingly extreme reactions to the discovery that Cassie Edwards is a serial plagiarist. And it’s this: The fear that her fans, whom many of us believe lack good taste, simply will not care.

    This fear has been bolstered, as someone said above, by the initially dismissive and patronizing reaction by Signet in denying any wrongdoing. And then it was bolstered even more by one disingenuous response from Cassie Edwards herself denying the need to cite sources, and then by the self-pitying and irrational response alleged to be from her. It was necessary for SBTB to continue to press the issue, and for us, the people who read and comment on that blog and others, to sustain it, because no one in a position of authority or directly involved wanted to. There was little or no comment on this in the mainstream press. There continues to be very little to none. Paul Tolme, one of the plagiarized and infringed authors, treated it publicly with bemusement and basically as a joke. No other author plagiarized by Cassie Edwards that I know of has spoken up. Of course it helps her that she stole so much from dead people who can’t defend themselves.

    So, faced with potential indifference from readers, and with real indifference from the rest of the world, many of us wax indignant perhaps more heartily than we would otherwise. We have severe doubts that Edwards’ readers will desert her. We also have severe doubts that her publishers will do much of anything. And we know that many if not most of the authors whom she plagiarized simply are not in a position to mount a lawsuit to punish her.

    But it’s the likelihood that the readers won’t care that is particularly galling. Because it says something about romance readers that most of us do not want to hear. We want to promote the world of romance as more tasteful and intelligent than that. Yet if we are truly confident about the worth of romances and of genre fiction in general, we can admit that some of it is trash. And that some romance readers do not have refined, discriminating tastes. And that they do not care about the ethics of their favorite authors. And further, that some romance writers may not be moral or law-abiding people. In other words, that there is nothing special or different about romance as a genre that exempts it from normal moral standards, or that makes us, the readers and the writers, all best buddies with but one opinion on everything.

  61. Nora Roberts
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 07:33:20

    ~I'm not sure the personalization in Romance is ever going to go completely away, especially with the advent of the online community and the fact that readers and authors are interacting outside the pages of books, and we're not just doing it in the traditional fan/author relationship.~

    I think some of this is simply organic. Reading is a kind of intimacy, and can foster a personal connection in the reader’s mind. It can be a good thing, or a bad thing.

    Romance by its very nature adds a click. The books are about relationships and again intimacy. Emotions and more emotions.

    The writer isn’t the book, but writers and readers often can–and do–link them like Siamese twins.

    It may be a matter of finding boundaries there, as Jane said, but everyone’s going to have their own personal sense of where their boundaries are.

    There are writers I can’t read. I knew one who was renowned for her sensitive characters and heart-warming situations. In reality she was known as a staggeringly insensitive woman, hugely egotistical and cold. I saw her humiliate a reader more than once at events. I doubt those readers felt inclined to read her again. I know I didn’t.

    But I haven’t been able to enjoy a Woody Allen movie–and he’s brilliant, imo–since he cheated on his wife with her daughter.

    I guess you could say, in these cases, my personal boundaries were crossed.

    In the example of the reader who wrote me an extremely over-the-top, personal and very ugly note–that would be contact 13 from that same reader on this same subject in the last four months. This I document and make sure my publisher also has documentation.

    Let me tell you, that is PERSONALIZATION.

    The reader who writes she hated the book, and I’m a crap writer and probably a lousy human being? That I ignore.

    Put that on a public blog that I frequent? I’m probably going to address it.

  62. azteclady
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 11:39:16

    Back over in post 37, Sunita speaks about my question at PBW’s blog.

    I didn't see it as shutting down discussion when someone dared to ask her about a passage in her book. I read it as a challenge by someone wondering about possible plagiarism. After I went to the original threads on the Brockmann board I was clearer on the questioner's motivations, but I still think that kind of question could have been asked and answered through a private email exchange. Readers popping up on author blogs asking for the provenance of particular sentences or paragraphs seems like a bad idea generally, but in that case it struck me as stemming from the heightened emotions about plagiarizing and I'm not surprised PBW read it as accusatory.

    I have to confess that to this day I am amazed at the shit storm that one question started. Particularly since the question itself was as the result of someone else’s statement, as fact and in a public venue, that a passage in Evermore had to be lifted from a text book because the author “clearly hadn’t been alive” during the time the character is talking about.

    What on earth???

    This same person had said in a previous post on whether CE has committed plagiarism or not,

    I find myself agreeng(sic) on the out of copyright not being unethical. She did not publish the entire protion(sic) as her own, she took segments and formulated a plot and charazcters(sic) of her ow(sic) around them.

    My motivations, which are spelled clearly in my comment, were and are to educate fellow readers to the fact (which up to then I had considered blindingly obvious) that no, authors don't need to be there in order to paint an accurate and realistic picture of a particular time or event. That's what research is for indeed. And no, research does not equate cut and paste from your sources, with or without acknowledgment. And not just yes, but hell yes, writers do care about accuracy and research in their DETAILS and BACKGROUND.

    That aside, I have to say that from the first read I felt the tone of PBW's post in the same vein as Janet does, and that I believe she closed comments not because of my question-’which she so graciously answered-’but because of SandyW's comment, which reverses the argument and exposes the bias in the use of the term “witch hunt.”

  63. Alyssa
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 12:34:25

    In the example of the reader who wrote me an extremely over-the-top, personal and very ugly note-that would be contact 13 from that same reader on this same subject in the last four months.

    Good Lord. I’d think one would be enough. More than enough. Sorry to hear about this.

  64. Robin
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 16:22:04

    I’ve just been reading back through all the comments as a whole, and I want to thank everybody for contributing. There are some really interesting points raised that IMO deserve more consideration somewhere down the line — from Laura Vivianco’s observation about the different reader/author types to more general notions about personality/role to all the issues raised around the relative “power” of readers and authors. Sometimes I think both authors and readers under or over-measure their influence, which leads to its own crop of problems.

    I was also intrigued by Meljean’s comments on the idea of ethics as “personal” (meaning I’ll probably do a whole post on that topic at some point) and on Shannon Stacey’s comment that authors may have felt that readers wanted to sit over their shoulders to observe or monitor process. I had wondered about that, actually, and I’m glad someone commented on that.

    I wonder how much frustration comes from miscommunication and paradigm differences. For example, while authors might feel that readers shouldn’t be involved in discussing what plagiarism is in fiction, since so much of it seems to be caught/alleged/reported by readers, it seems to me — as a reader — that we’re already part of that equation. Different paradigms, different perceptions. And, on top of that, how do our individual interactions affect our general perceptions and expectations of different “groups” (authors, readers, bloggers).

    Anyway, thanks again, everyone, for some good food for thought.

  65. Criticism Is Not a Four-Letter Word « The Not-so-deep Thoughts
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 21:42:59

    [...] time to edit.  This post is pretty much a stream of thought.  Jayne from Dear Author penned a thought-provoking post yesterday. Essentially, she’s asking why is there such a them (bloggers/reviewers/readers) [...]

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