Sunday, January 20, 2008

When You Say Nothing At All

Anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time knows that I have two sisters. Both of whom are intelligent, gorgeous and way more outgoing than I am. My older sister in particular loves a grand debate. She'll tell you her opinion whether you want to hear it or not! To my sister's credit, she does her best to stay well-informed. If she's ignorant on the topic, she won't talk out of the side of her mouth. She'll hit the public library and research that topic within an inch of it's life. And then she'll debate her ass off.

I wouldn't call my sister apathetic. She's well informed, vocal and has a strong enough personality that no one is going to run roughshod over her. I am exactly the opposite. Honestly, it's amazing we sprang from the same gene pool. While I like to think I'm reasonably well informed, and marginally intelligent, I'm not very mouthy about it. Code for: I'm perfectly happy sitting alone in this corner, can you please leave me alone now? So I wonder:

Does being silent automatically make one apathetic? In some instances, yes - although I always thought apathy was more about being ignorant and choosing to remain that way. But maybe I'm wrong?

The reason I ask is because of the latest controversy/discussion going on in Romance Blog Land. I have chosen to remain silent on the matter, which probably strikes some as odd given 1) I'm a librarian and 2) this debate involves plagiarism. I probably shouldn't have stayed silent, but felt that others were essentially saying what I would have and far more eloquently. Seriously, I wouldn't know eloquence if it bit me in the butt. But now I'm wondering, have I made the right decision by not discussing this? Does my dusty Master's degree in library science automatically make me some sort of authority? I don't think so, but other people might.

Part of me is glad to have largely observed this debate without weighing in because it has degenerated into name calling in some circles (notice I said some, not all) and after almost five years of blogging (yes, five) I've grown weary of train wrecks. Which is what I think this discussion has "evolved" into, again, in some circles. Which is a shame, because the issue at large is a very, very important one. It's an issue that should be discussed, and very seriously. Unfortunately human beings are extremely flawed creatures.

Part of me thinks that some that have commented on this issue should have just kept their mouths bloody well shut, while the other part of me thinks "Wait a minute, isn't that condoning apathy?" And honestly, I'm not sure where the answer lies. I'm not condoning goody-goody nice girl behavior and do think that honest, open, challenging discussion can and does happen in romance blog circles. But then I inevitably get cheesed off when someone wanders in, spewing forth nonsense, thereby degenerating the discussion into a bunch of finger gestures and name calling.

Which is when I exit stage right. Or in this case, don't enter at all because honestly, when I first read about the plagiarism allegations my first thought was, "Oh, this isn't going to go over well." And you know, I was right. Damn. I probably have been blogging for too many years. I'm getting more jaded than usual.

So what say you? Are there instances where saying nothing or "staying out of it" is the best course of action? Or should people freely weigh in and voice their opinions (no matter how unpopular)? And honestly, were you happy that I kept my damn yap shut because the Bat Cave was a happy oasis on the outskirts of the Romance Blogging Universe? And have I just gone and ruined everything? Typical Wendy, really typical.


Joy said...

Well, I guess it just depends, Super Librarian, if you have anything to say about the whole Cassie Edwards thing. Yes, other blogs broke the "news" and pretty well laid out the case line by line. Others picked it up and dealth with the injustice to the writers whose work, it is pretty clear, was "copied"/"borrowed"/"quoted without attribution", take your pick. If I were a teacher grading a paper I'd call it by the "P" word and give a F. Do you have anything more to say? Do you as SuperLibrarians have a SL viewpoint you want to share? After all this is YOUR blog. Are you outraged? or simply indifferent? You share your views on romance novels....what actually DO you think of Ms Edwards books (I don't read them myself, never liked the noble savage since I'm of native american descent.) No opinion, then just send your readers links to the controversy. Your blog, up to you.

Wendy said...

Joy: I hadn't participated in the discussion up until now because I felt I didn't have anything more to add. That others had pretty much said what I would have. I'm naturally outraged by the allegations, as I think many readers/librarians/authors should be. Plagiarism is serious business and should be treated as such. I certainly have my own opinion, but it mirrors a lot of the comments so many others have made - so I stayed out of it because honestly how boring is "Yes, yes, I agree?"

As for CE's books - I've flipped through a couple, but I've never given her a thorough reading. The ones I flipped through told me enough for me to determine that she's "not for me."

I think what really disturbs me is the backlash that has occurred. The "shoot the messenger" mentality. That, and a lot of authors stepping up and saying things that boggle my mind. That's the issue I'm currently trying to come to grips with.....

Carolyn Crane said...

I don't think silence is apathy or indifference, not in a case like this!

There's something about debates in a digital medium that can be scary - I think people can become less reasonable than when they're face to face. And a little poison thrown into the mix tends to make the whole thing get pretty yucky pretty fast.

I haven't read the commentary exhaustively, but there are side aspects I am interested in. Particularly how it came to be that romance would be held to a lower standard of originality. I mean, obviously it's a genre thing, but what's up with that? And I'm interested in the psychology of the defenders. Is this truly an intellectual position, or is it purely emotional? Are they friends rushing to the defense no matter what? What is really happening here?

But in the atmosphere you so aptly point out, answers just move further away. Any analysis, even on the questions I just asked, seems just to invite trouble. And, well hell, I'm not talking about this on my blog, either!

vanessa jaye said...

Wendy, you could have reached into my brain and picked out this post word for word (except for the stuff about being a librarian. heh).

Wendy said...

Carolyn said:
Particularly how it came to be that romance would be held to a lower standard of originality. I mean, obviously it's a genre thing, but what's up with that?

This is another aspect I've been wrestling with. Especially since I've been "defending" the genre to my colleagues for years by telling them how vital and imaginative the genre can be and how there are some amazingly talented authors writing romance. Then something like this comes along and leaves a pretty nasty bruise.

I firmly believe the SB's should have broken this story, and am glad they did. It's the reaction to the story, especially on the part of some authors, that gives me pause and has me more than a little concerned.

Joy said...

Wendy-I guess I'm not as up to date on the blogs as yous are since I hadn't really read as much "shoot the messenger" type stuff". A lot of support for black footed ferrets but not a lot of really nasty stuff. I'm sorry for Cassie Edwards frankly. I suspect that she got caught up in the urge to write fast and get money. I'm sorry for that. Getting rich on writing romances isn't a dream many people achieve. But what she did to fill out her pages was definitely WRONG.
On one level she had to have know that changing a word or two and including it into your work wasn't "right" even if it wasn't illegal (which I suspect it was but whether anyone will take her to court is unlikely).
On a deeper level she defends this practice by saying she didn't know that it was wrong to include such passages in fiction. Baloney! in my Humble Opinion. If she had lifted a section of her steamy sex from someone else changing a word (or garment or two) she would have known it was wrong (at least I HOPE so). Why would nonfiction be considered fair game! Did no one ever teach Cassie Edwards what plagerism is! Where were her hight school teachers! Where were her college teachers (did she go?). And more than that WHERE WERE HER EDITORS!!!! Didn't they bother to edit this woman! Didn't they notice like the rest of us that this was awkward exposition, bad writing, and possible plagerism? Blast it! Why aren't editors and publishers more responsible! What is happening to publishing! As a librarian myself I'm outraged. They've yet again violated our trust. STring um up and leave them out to dry! They deserve it more than the author!

Wendy said...

Joy: If you head on over to Dear Author, some authors have popped in and offered an interesting perspective on publisher/editor responsibility. I found it interesting....

Dear Author

There are a mess of comments, so if you want to cut to the chase, start with Nora's comment #43.

Kristie (J) said...

Most train wrecks I stay out of but in this case I have posted my thoughts a few times. Not to jump all over CE - nope that's not why I posted - but rather to say plagiarism is wrong - no matter who does it, or what they plagiarize. And I guess I'm rather surprized and shocked that some authors almost seem to condone it and then blame or condemn others who do speak out and say it's wrong.

Nora Roberts said...

Wendy, I was certainly interested in your comments.

Phyl said...

Wendy, I'm curious. Do librarians have policies about books that are proven to be plagiarized? If Signet comes out and says yes, CE is guilty and we're pulling her books, will libraries also remove them? Or will it be considered banning or censorship?

Wendy said...

Kristie: I'm thinking we should form a "Surprised And Shocked" party. We can all room together at RWA :D

Nora: Awwww, shucks.

Wendy said...

Phyl: Good question! I just had my boss clarify our policy to me last week. In instances of plagiarism, we wait for the law to get involved (if it ever does). If CE is found guilty in a court of law, then we'd yank her books. Up to that point we do not. Naturally policies vary from library to library.

That said, for a library system our size, we have very, very few CE titles. I've been purchasing adult fiction for all of our libraries for almost 2 years and have not bought a single CE title - and that was before all of this. We have the odd title here and there - most of which appear to have been library patron donations.

Phyl said...

Thanks, Wendy. That's interesting. Unless some of the copyright holders sue CE for infringement, it's possible there will be no court action, right? I can see CE losing her contracts for future work (and at the very LEAST this should happen), but it doesn't stop her published work from continuing to circulate in libraries and UBSs. If her publisher pulls her books out of the stores, it'll just drive up prices on ebay. That's just wrong.