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Monday, January 07, 2008

File this one under, "and you were thinking what?"

If you follow this blog you might remember NE Ohio's resident plagercop Jack L. Herman who swiped plays wholesale from Canada, produced them under his own name, and I guess just assumed that the language barrier would prevent him from getting caught. I said in that post:

It goes to prove that direct word-for-word plagiarism is rare because it is an incredibly stupid practice to engage in. Especially for serial plagiarists like Det. Herman. The fact that your crime will remain on public display until someone figures out you stole it means that potential for eventual discovery is about as close to 100% as you can get.

This is certainly true for the wholesale plagiarist like Mr. Herman. But in our Googleized Wiki Wide Web World, this is also true for the less grandiose plagiarist. Someone who doesn't cop the whole shebang, but just a bit here and there. The writer who's like a lazy college student, copying chunks of research materials directly into their paper. . .

Maybe exactly like that lazy college student, copying chunks of research materials directly into their paper. Now, more than ever, one should ever hear the Grundyesque voice of their sixth-grade teacher muttering, "In your own words, now, boys and girls."

You see, when a writer drops in a chunk of text from an external source into their novel it's sort of noticeable. It will read like someone else wrote it, because someone else did. Eventually, an enterprising reader is going to pump those borrowed words into a search engine. . .

When they do, you end up with something like this series of posts appearing on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog. In the Bitches' own words:

Shadow Bear [by Cassie Edwards] introduced poor Kate to all-new levels of pain--she’d never encountered a book in which ellipses and exclamation marks were abused with quite that much abandon, or in which the characters spoke in Glossary with such distressing consistency. What especially caught her eye, however, were the didactic passages in the book. They were written in a distinctly different voice, and out of idle curiosity, she decided to Google certain phrases and sentences.

The results were...interesting. Kate was able to find large chunks of text from a few sources that seemed to have been inserted into Shadow Bear with little to no modification, mostly from Land of the Spotted Eagle by Luther Standing Bear and, I shit you not, an article about black-footed ferrets from the Defenders of Wildlife.

Yes. Ferrets.

Thus launched a rather extensive research effort that reveals a distinct odor around Cassie Edwards' work that has little to do with ellipses and exclamation marks. Even if the passages used by Edwards and itemized in these blog posts aren't actionable, they certainly are embarrassing.


RobRoy said...

Unfortunate on the one hand for a writer who is desperate/lazy. Fortunate, on the other, that even the most obscure of efforts has a high potential of being caught.