Monday, April 24, 2006

The latest writer's fad: plagiarism!

John Scalzi was among several bloggers last week who made the world aware of some dumb, dumb, dumb girl named Lori Jareo, who wrote a dreadful novel-length piece of Star Wars fan fiction titled Another Hope and, in an act of ballsiness heretofore unseen in publishing, offered it for sale on Amazon, where the listing, astonishingly, is still up as of Monday evening!

Though Jareo herself clearly got wind of all the bad ink she was getting through the blogosphere for her actions — literally no one defended her — and promptly took her personal site down, I can't believe the book is still up on Amazon, where I'm beginning to think the staff is hired specifically for their cluelessness and indifference to the concerns of customers, publishers, or the law. (Amazingly, the book is still up on both Barnes and Noble.com and Powells.com too. Are Lucas's lawyers in cryosleep or something?)

But now, even more amazing is the story of some 19-year-old chippie at Harvard who signed a — wait for it — half-million dollar book deal for a couple of chick-lit books, one of which has been revealed to have significantly plagiarized passages.

Get a load of this girl's excuse.

"When I was in high school, I read and loved two wonderful novels by Megan McCafferty, 'Sloppy Firsts' and 'Second Helpings,' which spoke to me in a way few other books did. Recently, I was very surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities between some passages in my novel ... and passages in these books," Kaavya Viswanathan, 19, said in a statement issued by her publisher.

"While the central stories of my book and hers are completely different, I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words. I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious. My publisher and I plan to revise my novel for future printings to eliminate any inappropriate similarities."

Oh, please! She was "surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities"? I imagine that I am expected to believe that, while she was writing those similar passages, one of two things happened — she either blanked out and forgot she had ever read the McCafferty books, so much had they taken control of her mind that their "internalized" content was just pouring out in defiance of Viswanathan's free will, or, her brain has actually been possessed by plagiarism demons from the fourth level of hell, near the back in the ghetto reserved for bad hip-hop artists who sample Sting songs from the 80's.

In any case, this is the kind of lame excuse a junior high schooler would give caught with shoplifted items under her sweater while walking out of a grocery store. I just don't know how those got there! I must have put them there to free up my hands — and then forgot!

But what's really disheartening is that the girl's nascent writing career isn't going to suffer for this at all. Is her publisher doing the ethical thing by dropping her and tearing up the contract? No, no. They're just letting her revise the book for future editions. What procedure they have in place to ensure the revisions won't simply be more regurgitated "internalized" content from someone else is unclear.

Why is this, you wonder? Well, if there's one thing we've learned in the last couple of years, it's that dishonesty pays. First the scandal was simple lying, with guys like James Frey and Stephen Glass just making shit up, passing it off as true, then banking cash when the "controversy" hit the media and their sales soared as curious book buyers snatched up their crap to see what all the fuss was about. Now, this "oops, you mean I copied that? so sorry" routine is going to boost the sales of the girl with the hard-to-pronounce name as well, mark my words.

Meanwhile, hordes upon hordes of undiscovered, talented writers desperately trying to realize their own personal original visions will continue to labor in obscurity, most never getting a book deal at all, let alone one with a half-million dollar advance. Life is unfair, and the cream sinks to the bottom, it seems.

1 comment:

jason said...

You're right about that: There's no way her writing career will suffer for this. The publisher's already invested too much to let it hurt.