Magpies and shiny things.

The internet makes me so happy. Seriously, it’s all I dreamt it would be, and more. I went to a school which until the year above me had been a boys grammar school. Some of the teachers were misogynistic fossils who blamed the girls for the schools downgrading to comprehensive status. One of these men was the computer studies teacher. He didn’t believe that girls had the same intelligence as boys and directed his teaching only at boys. All I remember of his classes were diagrams of data, we never touched a computer at all.

I waited a long time to get my hands on a PC. When I did it was bliss. And it enabled me to get my writing out into the world. Through blogging I *met* other writers, made friends, learned, explored. Very cool. I’m self taught and probably go about things the wrong way at times, but I love how empowering it is. I persuaded my mum to get a MacBook, I think it’s an invaluable tool for older people and will help her retain independence.

There are some shitty things too. Online bitch fests, patronising people, twunts of all kinds. There are those who see other writer’s stories shining brightly and help themselves to ideas, layouts and themes instead of using their own imagination and fighting for uniqueness. (See Vanessa Gebbie’s latest post and Tania Hershman’s.)

I would like to say more about what I have been told has happened, but, ha ha, it’s not my story to tell, and I try to always be respectful to others stories. What I will say is that I am surprised at what it seems one can get away with. It would appear that one can take someone else’s stories and rewrite them, submit them, have them published, win money and acclaim, and then not be penalised if one hasn’t used the exact same words. Hmm. Sounds dodgy to me.

Also, reading up on plagiarism, it seems that it is not considered a legal problem, but an academic one. As such it is usually down to universities et al to dole out appropriate punishment. It is a matter of ethics, and when I share my work in progress with other writers there is an unspoken code of ethics which means we can trust each other. Sadly, just as in the Real World, some people are unethical.

There was apparently a huge plagiarism scandal in romantic fiction circles a while back. Googling took me to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books where what strikes me as most interesting is the amount of defending the people who shouted out about plagiarism had to do of themselves. Other peeps wanted them to shut the fuck up. Nasty business, move along now. But if it is not openly discussed how easy is it to move on? For me, unaffected by plagiarism (thankfully) it’s easy, but for the people whose work has now been diluted by repetition, whose trust has been shaken, not so easy I reckon.

2 thoughts on “Magpies and shiny things.”

  1. Good post, Sara. And to let you know, there are plans afoot, when the dust has settled over this little bit of skulduggery, to run a whole series of features right a cross the blog world, on plagiarism. Intended to be helpful to writers both new and old… on how to a void doing it. (Amazing how often the words are gabbled…”Oh. I must have done that unconsciously…”Yeah right. Like you dress up in yer black gear, stick on a black mask, fetch the bag marked SWAG out of the understairs cupboard and go off for a spot of gentle burglarising… unconsciously. Of course!

  2. Easy for me to say, but if I (a) ever had an idea worth stealing and (b) someone then nicked it – making themselves look brilliant and scooping up a pile of cash in the process, I would go bleedin’ mental. I’m sorry if this sounds inflammatory, but I’ve read all the blog posts and it seems like there’s been something of a tendency to almost tip toe around the offenders, lest they are … what? Upset? Interrupted whilst rolling around in their ill-gotten prizemoney? Limited in their ability to slink around abusing writing groups and on-line authors? I guess it could turn ugly though, so that might be a rash thing to say.My feeling is, legal business aside, I’m sure a habitual plagiarizer knows EXACTLY what he or she is doing when the decision is made to use the words or ideas of someone else. How anyone can think it’s OK and accept the ensuing praise is just beyond me. I can’t see how it’s worth it.Anyway, I’m in love with the design of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site! It’s actually really cool – and I don’t even like romantic fiction!

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