Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Linen and Woodsheds


In March,
Yuri P. Kugach,
oil on board, 1973.

Discovery by google.

The internet and investigation made easy.

Seems there is a startling similarity in mutiple passages between the works of a long-selling romance writer with mutiple published novels (about a hundred) and a number of specified non-fiction books.

Read the whole story at Smart Bitches.

Who ferreted it out.

This latest revelation of the obscene (a Kipling quote, btw, from Stalky & Co.) leaves me with three questions. Besides disgust.

1. (a) Though I have never (to my knowledge) read the author in question, it's claimed that the passages in question differ strongly from the author's regular style. A fact which initially caused the critics to goggle and google.

If so, if the change in style and tenor is as blatantly obvious as claimed, whyinhell didn't the writer's agent/editors notice?

(b)Surely, this apparent editorial failure did not stem from a perception that romance readers are either too stupid to notice or too lazy to care?

2. Whyinhell didn't the author make some passing acknowledgement of her sources. At the very least?

3. And will we see in the future, powered by google, an internet industry devoted to uncovering similar incidents of alleged plagiarism?

Santa Booty:
A cling thing. In the form of a stretchy-armed tree frog with startled, bulbous eyes.

Though the product warning advises against placement on car windows, to me, that seems like an ideal location.

32 comments:

SzélsőFa said...

while the writer is all right not to dig out completely new material from his brain, there are limits. this is just ridiculous. As the linked site shows any time a material is taken from the original, writing becomes clumsy.

The thing is that most people who read the original will not read the plagiarism. And vice versa. So a little acknowledgement would not hurt anyone. It might direct readers of romance novels to some non-fiction material as well.

Bernita said...

Ridiculous and weird, Szelsofa.
Makes one wonder how many more "paraphrased" passages might come to light.

StarvingWriteNow said...

Rule one when you're copying stuff: change the fricking wording around so it sounds more like you!

And afterwards, give a nod to your sources.

Okay, I'm done pontificating--I'm going to work on my jaundiced eye the rest of the day... :)

Jaye Wells said...

The editors most likely trusted their author not to plagiarize. Period. At the very least, a good copy editor would have questioned some of the material, but that's not a sure-fire filter. I would't be surprised if we're all required to submit bibliography some day.

Re: 1B. I find it really hard to justify connecting this incident to the rote "we don't get no respect in romance" argument. Plagiarism is serious enough without adding that tired element to the discussion.

BernardL said...

As you say, it would have been nice to at least acknowledge the sources.

Church Lady said...

I read the passages you're referring to. They are almost WORD FOR WORD.

I agree with you and Szelsofa. Why didn't she bother to put these passages (or the gist of them) in her own words and reference these wonderful books/authors?

Makes me angry....

And the editors? Were there no red flags (re the style differences?)

Bernita said...

Yes, Starving,copyists could at least be clever about derivation.

I suppose, Jaye, the agents/editors relied on the usual contract clause wherein the author affirms s/he ownes copyright to the material.
The point is, readers seem to be the ones who catch these incidents.
Of course, we have no idea how many MSS passages of similar ilk may have been eliminated from the pool before they reached the public because agents/editors noticed something untoward.

And express the information in one's own words, as well, Bernard.

Julie said...

....would suspect that the speed with which such gaffes are picked up in the future will accelerate sharply, given what they can already do in this area, and the number of known texts which are being entered in databases today. Suppose scanning will become a matter of course.
Kind of electronic dope test??

Bernita said...

I have to wonder, Chris, if her editors became used to voice changes in expositional passages and so no bells rang. They may have thought it part of her style.

Dope test...Very good analogy, Julie!

spyscribbler said...

Sheesh, see, that stuff scares me. A friend and I used to share our day's output everyday. One day, I read her bit, and I had written nearly the exact same scene, practically verbatim! Even though I hadn't seen her scene until after I wrote mine, and she hadn't seen my scene until after she wrote hers.

Freaky. That's why this scares me. Or I don't know. It just makes me shudder. I'm afraid of what's stored in my brain because I'm afraid one year it'll go in as a fact, and the next year it'll come out but it'll be story and a forgotten fact. If that makes any sense.

moonrat said...

thanks for posting this.

an extra reminder for continued vigilance and creativity.

Julie said...

...just to add I love the quiet quality of the oil.

Bernita said...

All responsible writers fear that sort of accidental plagiarism, Natasha, but this is passage after passage, almost literally transcribed, not merely ideas.
And it seems like someone found yet another book of hers with more cribbing.

MoonDear, it seems editors must take an extra dose of caveat emptor these days.

Julie, reminds me of some Giles cartoons.

Robyn said...

I agree with the rest of your commenters on acknowledging the source. I would have paraphrased differently in my own style, but put a Big Honking Advertisement for the source and called it an homage.

Bernita said...

And by doing so, Robyn, would have impressed readers by the quality of your research.

raine said...

I got wind of it on Dear Author.
Don't understand it, never will.

I worry about unconsciously lifting a line from something I might've read here and there. Strange things stick in my brain. But something so obviously deliberate...I'm stumped.

Bernita said...

Raine, the only conclusion I can come to is that there are people out there unclear on the concept.

The Anti-Wife said...

It's wonderful that she wrote books with authenticity in mind, however acknowledging those from whom she garnered the facts would have been prudent.

Bernita said...

More than prudent, AW, it might have been honest.
And in her quest for authenticity, it might have been better if she hadn't apparently copied whole hunks of other people's prose.

Charles Gramlich said...

any one or two such "cloned" passages could very well be accident. But the sheer force of this is compellng, and troubling.

Bernita said...

Yes, Charles, the sheer quantity is conclusive.

Amy Lavender Harris said...

I haven't checked out the original blog post and have no idea who the author or works are, but to me it smacks of ghost-writing. A "long-selling" romance writer -- perhaps s/he has started farming out some of the writing work?

But regardless how the passages ended up in the text, acknowledgment of sources is required at the very least. Indeed, it is common even in fiction to point out where some of the ideas come from -- it even adds credibility to many works.

As for Googling, I routinely Google passages from undergraduate student essays when they seem a little familiar. Now that many scholarly articles and books have searchable digital text, it makes such investigations increasingly easy (sadly, it probably also makes plagiarism a matter of copy and paste).

For the most part ideas can't be copyrighted (enter patent law) but text -- that's the stock and trade of this profession, and proven violations of textual copyright are serious matters indeed.

Bernita said...

Very serious, Amy.
A ghostwriter has been raised as a possibility during the discussion at SB. Nevertheless, the responsibility remains with the writer.

Travis Erwin said...

IT seems to me that cheaters always get what is coming to them one way or another.

Ello said...

So my question is how do you think it will affect her career? When the Kaavya Viswanathan plagiarism happened, she disappeared from publishing. But she was a new author. What happens to established writers caught doing this?

ORION said...

Heck- when I was teaching high school a student in 6th period submitted a paper his girlfriend in 2nd period turned in...and HERS was cut and pasted from the internet...my tip off? they both left all the mime errors in...
We are teaching our children that it's ok if you don't get caught...
and the students? Were children of a teacher and a principal...

Chumplet said...

Well, if it's not cheating, perhaps we're more psychic than we think.

Bernita, you can put the sticky tree frog on your car window, just not the front windshield!

Bernita said...

Travis, we'd like to think so. Unfortunately...

Ello, I don't anticipate anything more than the minimum effect on either her sales, her reputation or her contracts.
Particularly when one sees how Dailey ( of the Dailey/Nora Roberts case) continues to thrive.

It's the culture of convenience, Pat.
At first, some may have thought they were safe because so few people were internet acute. Now, some may think they are safe because there's so much out there, they believe it will never be detected.

I once went drinking with the son of a strict Baptist minister.

Sandra, considering how little I produced yesterday while fascinated with these revelations, perhaps I should just stick my cling thing on my monitor!

writtenwyrdd said...

Wow, that's some awfully similar writing, isn't it? What really made me snort is that, even in what may be unlawful plagiarism, Cassie Edwards manages to destroy the stuff.

Bernita said...

Doesn't seem to be much question, Written.

M.E Ellis said...

Oh. My. Goodness.

From an editor's POV, I wouldn't have questioned those words if I hadn't read the original. Not everyone reads everything. I only get red flags mainly in horror manuscripts--namely King--where I advise that though they may have written it and thought of it themselves, that they may not even have read the King book their words reminded me of, they had better change it. Just in case!

:o)

Bernita said...

Quite true, Michelle. The sheer volume of works out there prevent an encyclopedic knowledge.
And editors are very busy people.
Further, when she first began writing ( c.1982) there was no easy internet method of checking out suspicions either. I've come to conclude they just thought the uneven style was her style.