Saturday, December 17, 2011

Plagiarism...and Ravens

As you've read here in past postings like "What I Learned From Meeting Brian Jacques," one thing that really bothers me is when authors fail to strive for honest originality, stealing instead from the hard work and creative genius of others.  (Brian Jacques being an author who was so concerned about originality that he avoided reading similar books to his masterful Redwall series.)  It makes no difference to me whether, or not, the original author is living or dead.  Whether a student or author, using the unattributed writings of others, is both a form of theft as well as a blatant lie.  Perhaps in times like these when moral relativism seems the moral compass of so many, we shouldn't be so surprised.
Still, I consider it important to make a sufficient stink about plagiarism when it raises its ugly end.  The most recent case-in-point is Lenore Hart's The Raven's Bride.  While Saint Martin's Press is defending its author from the charges concerning her novel on the life of Edgar Allan Poe and his young wife, Virginia Clemm Poe, the mounting evidence against Lenore Hart seems quite convincing indeed.  
Writers such as Jeremy Duns  have already done a great job documenting the plagiarism, so it's not my intention to rebuild the case they have already presented so convincingly.  (Interesting exchange here via Google cached content.)  I was a little dismayed earlier today, however, when I tried to add a comment to Saint Martin's Press' Facebook page.  It appears that my comment has been blocked, effectively preventing some users from reading it.  To the end of addressing this case of censorship, here are the thoughts I shared online earlier today.

Any writer is familiar with the disappointment and annoyance of finding a particular phrase of theirs to have been used many times before. When we google our own favorite turns of phrase, the results remind us of the inherent difficulties of stringing a few words together which are entirely new and original to the language--"moral entropy," for instance. There is never a question of plagiarism in our minds, since we were entirely unaware of the other uses of the phrase in question, but what Mr. Duns is highlighting is entirely different and goes straight to the heart of the author's integrity--as well as the publisher's. There is a world of difference between coincidental similarities in short passages or phrases--due to inherent mathematical limits concerning the order of words, conceptual similarities, as well as other limitations of the English language--and wholesale plagiarism of another author's content. Mr. Dunn has clearly demonstrated that too many "coincidences" exist for any reasonable person to believe that plagiarism has not taken place here. As a mainline publisher, you have a responsibility to your readers to do the right thing. In an age when everyone from authors to students seem to think nothing of plagiarism, it's time we all put down our collective foot on this issue, declaring "Enough!"

No comments:

Post a Comment