Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another Plagiarist

LJ User Gwendolynflight, over in the Merlin fandom, decided that she didn't want to do the work to learn to write and refine her technique and develop her own style. She wanted hugs and pats and e-cookies for her wonderful writing right now. So instead of writing a novel of her own, she grabbed a copy of Jordan Castillo Price's first PsyCops book, Among the Living, did a bit of editing to change the names and the setting and such, and posted it to her journal as a Merlin fanfic. And of course, she got a lot of applause and e-cookies for it, because it's a very good story. (Jordan isn't a particular friend of mine, I don't even have her journal friended, but we both publish with Torquere Press and I have Among the Living -- it's a good read.)

Of course someone figured out what was going on -- 'cause there are fanfic readers who also read original m/m books, who knew?! -- and after some incredibly lame excuse-making, the plagiarist took the story down. But check out this screencap and read through the comments. :/

I love the part where Gwendolynflight assures a commenter that "it is completely and fully beta'd." Umm, right, because the real writer polished it, then sent it to a publisher where a line editor and a proofreader went over it. [eyeroll]

And then lower down where she actually admits that the story is a "fusion" with Price's PsyCops series. o_O This is where I get the idea that she's actually just that stupid, rather than a bold-faced thief. Not that being a moron is an excuse, but you know, it's something different to smack her for.

Then a few comments later where she's talking to a reader about how dark the story is, and mentions that Book Two is particularly dark, and she's glad that isn't turning the reader off. So she fully intended to go on doing this, through the whole series? Once she'd ripped off all the available novels, since she seems to think she's doing absolutely nothing wrong, I wonder whether she'd have had the balls to, like, write to Jordan and nudge her about hurrying up on the next installment. :P

Finally, about 2/3 of the way down, LJ user Throwawayreview calls it what it is and clues poor Gwendolynflight that this isn't a "fusion," it's not fanfic, it's plagiarism. And of course Ms. Gwen has all sorts of excuses, because plagiarism is "a social concept" and not absolute. And later on she says that "plagiarism isn't an inherent moral wrong - it's an issue firmly bound up in economic and patriarchal issues." Umm, right. It's a weapon of the Patriarchy. So her stealing the actual words of another woman writer and posting them as her own and accepting praise and credit for writing the words another woman actually wrote, is actually Ms. Gwen sticking it to the Patriarchy. Wow, good to know. [eyeroll]

Note that Jordan has no problem with fanfic. She said, in her reaction to this situation:

I'd also like to say that fanfic is an entirely different thing. If a reader said, "Wouldn't it be funny if Victor and Jacob got a flat tire...?" and wrote that story, using my characters and storyverse but their own plot and words, that would be fanfic. I've written half a million words of fanfic; it's how I learned to write, for good or ill. This re-tooling of Among the Living was not fanfic.

So this isn't a case of one of the uptight pro writers trying to stomp on the poor fanficcers. Actual fanfic would've been fine. Copying a whole freaking novel (with plans for the second one) and swapping out the names and places and a few police procedure details, but keeping the other ninety-some percent of the original author's verbage is not fanfic, in any way, shape or form. Gwendolynflight is one of the people who gives all fanfic writers a bad name. She's one of the people whose actions convince the New York publishers and the Hollywood producers, and their writers and their lawyers, that we're all a bunch of pathetic, talentless thieves who are too lame to write our own stories and get credit and praise and e-cookies for our own work, so we steal from them and pretend their work is ours and claim credit for the wonderful writing we didn't do. That's what they think of all of us, and one of the reasons they think that is because there are people who do it in exactly that way. Because that's pretty much what's going on with Gwendolynflight.

She's gone into hiding now -- her journal's been completely locked down, although it hasn't been deleted. I'm kind of disappointed by that, because it means she might slink back out from under her rock at some point. I'm sure she has her own little group of friends who are all rallying 'round her now, giving her pets and hugs and feeding her chocolate and assuring her that she did Absolutely Nothing At All Wrong, and that all those evil mean people are just being so meeeeeean to her, isn't it just terrible?! Those bitches!!

But you know, this isn't the sort of person fanfic fandom needs, any fandom. And if she were eventually to pick up her dolls and flounce away and find a new hobby, I'd be just as happy.

Angie, who's in no mood to give this idiot any slack whatsoever

ETA: LJ User Pecos pointed this out, from Gwendolynflight's LJ profile:

This journal is primarily for whinging about school and/or teaching, and for posting the fanfic and fanvids which i occasionally, sometimes, rarely produce. You know, every once in a while.

This woman is a teacher. O_O


Charles Gramlich said...

a teacher? Oh man that's just really really depressing. I wonder if there is any negative influence brought on by the success of that recent mash up. somebody famous with zombies! I mean, although the author is long dead that book, as I understand it, is still mostly written by the original author with some zombie stuff thrown in.

Angie said...

Charles -- yes, her being a teacher just makes it all that much more depressing. :/

I haven't read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies myself, but there are some differences here. One is that it's out of copyright, so the usage wasn't a violation there, whereas Gwendolynflight's usage of Jordan's novel definitely was a copyright violation.

The other difference is that it's clear to everyone that most of P&P&Z was written by Jane Austen. (Of course, since it is one of the iconic works of English literature, it doesn't take all that much to make this obvious.) For example, P&P&Z lists Austen as a co-equal author, while Gwendolynflight's version of Among the Living lists only her. The writer of P&P&Z is being praised for the funny mashup, but isn't trying to take credit for Austen's words. Gwendolynflight, in contrast, was accepting praise in the comments for things like the setting and the setup and the character development and the "layers of their interactions," none of which were hers. She mentioned Jordan's book in a couple of places, but it's clear that most of her commenters didn't pick up on that. Fanficced versions of novels or movies with the characters swapped out aren't terribly unusual, but it's understood that the book/movie will be re-written, not just copied word-for-word, so I'm guessing that most people who saw her "fusion" note in the header assumed that's what she was doing. But IMO she very clearly crossed the line when she started taking bows when people praised aspects of the story she herself had nothing to do with.

So it's copyright violation and plagiarism, a really stupid combination for anyone to get involved with. :/


Anonymous said...


I've only just discovered your blog, which I'm enjoying reading. In particular, I appreciate your robust attitude to plagiarism.

As I read through the various blog entries you've made about plagiarism, one thing which strikes me is the similarity between the cases you report and a case I've been keeping track of for several years.

This case is, in my opinion, so outrageous that the author's actions need to be publicised. My two problems are that no one in the media seems to be interested in pursuing the matter regardless of the evidence I provide, and that the author's agent threatened me with legal action if I publicised my claim. Hence my anonymous post.

The thing is, the plagiarism stretches across at least three novels the author has published, with material drawn from at least three source books, and my suspicion that at least two other source books are involved.

I live in a country where the legal action I've been threatened with is a serious concern for me and my family. I was therefore wondering whether you'd be willing to publish my evidence as a way of publicising this author's actions?

Angie said...

Anon -- I'm sorry you've run into so much resistance, and particularly the legal threats. :/ It's always frustrating when plagiarists get all indignant on you.

I'm interested in looking at your material, and you can send it to me at angiebenedetti at gmail dot com. I have to add the caveat, though, that I have a very small platform and a tiny little megaphone. I have three blogs/journals I use for my pro writing, and three more for my fandom persona, but only my main fandom journal has a significant reader base. Even there, most of my readers are not terribly participatory, so just posting about something on the forums available to me probably won't do much to help publicize a new case of plagiarism.

If it has to do with fandom, as the case in this post does, then I can post about it with a medium sized audience, and I know some other people who'll probably take an interest. If the book (either the source material or the plagiarized book itself) is a romance, then again, I know of some people I can contact who might (or might not) be interested in waving that flag. Outside that genre, though, I'd be willing to give it a shot, but I honestly can't predict how much real-world notice it would get.

I definitely have a strongly agressive attitude toward plagiarism. It's just that I don't have enough personal influence to be able to start a grassroots campaign against a plagiarist and have any assurance that it'll go anywhere. I'm willing to try, if I agree that your evidence does indeed indicate misappropriation of someone else's words, but I can't guarantee anything coming of it.

That said, I'd be willing to take a look at what you've got. E-mail it to me and I'll let you know what I think.


Anonymous said...


Just wanted to let you know I've emailed you the first instalment of my material. I hope it.

Angie said...

Anon -- thanks, I saw it. I'm on a deadline right now, and am also trying to hang with relatives and do holiday stuff around the edges of finishing up my book. When things calm down a bit, I'll take a look.

Have a good Thanksgiving. :)