I just wanted to quickly talk about a certain author who’s become both famous and notorious in YA/UF fiction, Cassandra Clare.
Now, a lot of virtual ink has been used on the topic of Cassandra Clare, so I’m not going to really go in-depth into her many online misdeeds (which reportedly involve cyberstalking and cyberbullying among others). But I do have to address some of her problems, because they will be mentioned at least in passing in her book snarks.
Now, Cassandra Clare originally got her start in the Harry Potter fandom, which has a LOT of fanfic. Clare became somewhat famous within the fandom for spending years writing three novel-lengths fanfics based about Draco Malfoy, who is sort of the nemesis of Harry Potter, but who has enough redeeming qualities that fangirls just worship him.
These fanfics actually became very popular, and they still have fans to this day. But some people started noticing something… off about the Draco stories: there were passages, phrases and even a whole chapter that were pretty much copied verbatim from other sources.
Among the sources:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel
- Roger Zelazny
- Patricia Wrede
- Caroline Stevermer
- And particularly Pamela Dean, a very talented author whose Secret Country trilogy is sadly OOP. There were a LOT of phrases, lines and concepts lifted from this book.
Now to be fair, Clare DID acknowledge that some of this material was from other sources… but the problem is that she didn’t always acknowledge it until pressed to do so. And this weren’t quick one-off quotes like Jim Butcher loves doing – the sources of those quotes and homages are usually made clear in the text (like the references to the Evil Overlord List) or are so famous that they don’t really need explaining (Yoda).
No, this was actual DIALOGUE AND SCENES lifted from other books. Google “cassandra clare plagiarism” for more details.
Now I don’t know if this counts as technical plagiarism because fanfic exists in a sort of gray zone. Plagiarism is usually condemned because people don’t want plagiarists to benefit (scholastically or financially) from ripping off somebody else. Fanfic, which is usually done for love of the fandom, doesn’t give you either benefits. HOWEVER, it does count as artistic plagiarism. This was not a wink and a nod to this author or that TV show – this is stuff from other authors, filling a space that Clare COULD have filled with her own work. And these are BIG, BIG spaces.
So am I going to hold her current work responsible for the plagiarism?
No, not really. Fanfic is a totally different area from published fiction, and while what she did is reprehensible, I’m not going to assume that she’s actually going to do the same in a REAL work.
… but I AM going to keep an eagle eye out for the shaping influences of those other works. Especially, you know, because people say that her first trilogy is basically the Draco Trilogy with all new names. I haven’t read the Draco trilogy, so I don’t know… but expect many Draco Malfoy jokes!