I’ve been meaning to get this discussion post up for the past couple of weeks, but things keep getting in the way.
Lately, there seems to be a rise in plagiarism cases and with the growth of self publishing there’s bound to be a few more (I’m aware it happens in traditional publishing as well). I’m not going to discuss the morality of it since the concept of plagiarism is modern. Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry is basically Honore Bonet’s The Tree of Battles, but she disguises aspects of Tree of Battles by writing a dream sequence with Honore to discuss what he’s written. Throughout my academic life, I’ve sat through a dozen lectures regarding plagiarism and the fallout. In my final year of undergrad, someone in my upper division history class submitted a paper using British spelling when the student wasn’t British. That wasn’t his mistake-it was submitting a paper the professor had edited!
A New York Times article in 2010 claims that plagiarism isn’t a big deal unless in you’re in an area where originality is expected and as readers we’re aware that the stories we read today are recycled. How many times has a forbidden romance been written?
I’m not going to lie, I’m cautious about accepting review requests from authors I’ve never heard of or are just starting out. I took a chance with Shey Stahl’s Delayed Penalty when it came highly recommended by a big blog and loved it! Imagine my surprise during the whole Stahl plagiarism scandal. Stahl just shut herself off and no one has heard from her. Later, a few people said they warned Stahl about x, y, z book and how it mirrored t, u, v during the editing process and they refused to continue service. My question during this entire mess: why wait to say anything? Were they worried about the repercussions of coming forward? Don’t you think the readers who bought the book deserved to know there was a flaw in the product? Or did they believe she took out the plagiarized parts? I’m not here to judge them or point fingers, but rather question if an author can bounce back.
At what point does it take for them to be considered outcasts? A year ago, a very prominent blogger was accused and proven guilty of plagiarism. Said blogger is still around with a following and publishers still continue to send blogger ARCs and receives copious amounts of swag from them. Blogger apparently took down the apology and just blamed it on not knowing what they were doing was wrong. As a blogger, I know firsthand that time is precious. There are many times you can find me at 2 am on my third cup of coffee or tea trying to finish a review for a morning post or skimming through my notes trying to finish questions for an interview. I also know when it becomes too much. If a blogger needs to rely on taking what others have written, then you need to reevaluate and decide if you have the time to continue. Have I ever been stuck on how to proceed regarding a review, etc? Sure lots of times, but the way I see it is: if I have the time to search for a source to use then I have the time to write the words myself.
Look, I know writing is difficult especially for authors. I spent a summer researching and writing 16 hours a day for my master’s thesis. I worried when I couldn’t come up with a title, cried when I looked at the clock and had 9 hours before submission and I was still writing. In the end, I’m quite proud of mistake filled thesis because it’s an original piece of work. Yes, I cringe when I read it and can’t believe it got the grade it did (thank you postgrad God!).
Therefore, my question is, can an author, blogger, etc proven guilty of plagiarism be redeemed? Or are they forever tainted by the letter P?