So yeah. That happened.
It was, I told a writer friend, like coming home and finding someone had broken in and filled my bed with offal. I felt sickened, physically nauseous. At the time, I didn’t know that the plagiarist was a big name in the Kos community, or in a certain area of fandom. I didn’t know who the hell it was, or even if it was a she or a he. All I knew was that the stories about Neo and the gang–bits of my life, hysterical little tales I’d written through a very dark time and continued to write afterward because I liked the critters so much–had been taken and were being passed off as someone else’s work. I probably should have waited until Skyla (gods bless her) put together the spreadsheet’s worth of proof before I said anything. I apologize for that. I still stand by my decision to post the links and invite people to see for themselves.
First, I owe some thanks.
* Thanks first and foremost to Skyla Dawn Cameron, who brought this to my attention and spent time out of her busy day compiling the evidence in a way I doubt I could have. I was so sickened by the whole thing I could barely look at the proof myself, other than simply to verify it. She was also incredibly supportive and reassuring. If I can ever write another SquirrelTerror story–if I can ever bear to chronicle the second half of Le Napoleon Amorous, Interrupte, for example, or write more Canine Tales–it will be because of Skyla. I’m not sure I ever will, but if I do, well, thank her. (Preferably with kale. Or, you know, booze.)
* Thanks to my Readers. Without you asking repeatedly for the SquirrelTerror stories, and without the Readers who had printed them off or kept them to read (a perfectly valid use for them, and one I applaud), I would never have been moved to start compiling them again. I would never have had the material, because going back and combing through the Wayback Machine for them just was not something I had time for. I would never have even known plagiarism had happened. All in all, I am glad I found out, even though it was sickmaking. Thank you.
* Thanks to the users at Kos who posted side-by-side comparisons, exposing and publicizing the evidence. Thanks also to the admins at Kos for their swift but measured response to the whole situation. Thanks especially to the two lone members of the Kos community who messaged me through their system to offer support and invite me into the comment threads, if I chose to return. (I don’t, but your kindness means an incredible amount to me.) Thank you especially to those Kos users who were initially skeptical but took the time to look, and once they realized the evidence was there, set about convincing their fellows. It takes a special kind of courage, as Dumbledore said, to stand up to your friends. I appreciate that, even if I haven’t replied to your comments. Thank you.
* Finally, thanks to the many who, online and off, contacted me privately and publicly to offer support. I am glad to call you my friends, acquaintances, fellow writers, and Readers. Thank you.
Am I still going to bring the SquirrelTerror book out? I don’t know. When this first started happening I felt as if the stories had been utterly violated and that I couldn’t bear to read through them to proof them, let alone…I just ran out of words and sat here and stared, just thinking about it. Bottom line: I’m still unsure. I’m receiving lots of advice, and when I can reach a decision I feel good about, I will execute it. Skyla still intends to finish the work I paid her for, at least, so I have the luxury of choice.
There have been several questions on Kos about why I didn’t “stick around” in the comments, why I just put up links, etc., etc. The first avalanche of comments made me very glad I did not stick around. Partly my own fault, because I was too distressed to be thinking clearly. On the other hand, if you had time to write a nasty comment, you had time to look through the links and perhaps think a little. But that’s not why I didn’t “stick around”. For one thing, I sincerely thought that the plagiarist, seeing that she’d been caught, would quietly remove the posts and I would delete my own and say no more about the matter, the end result being not perfect but the best I could hope for on the Internet. For another, the proof was so overwhelming I didn’t think I needed to vomit it all up when I was shaking and sick inside. And lastly, I had not visited Kos for a number of years, despite having a lifetime membership and having dabbled in writing diaries there for a little while those long years ago. I had not earned the right to go jousting in comments, later, when it became apparent that the plagiarist was a “big deal” on the site and comments started to pile up elsewhere, I didn’t feel it would be proper for me–a virtual stranger in that community–to push farther. All I could in conscience do was bring the matter to their attention, since it was on Kos the plagiarism occurred, and me commenting afterward would have been impolite. Not to the plagiarist, but to all the others who were the fabric of that community and did not need an interloper tromping around in their living room and telling them what was what.
Also, I did not trust myself to stay classy during such high emotion. (I still don’t, really.) So I refrained. I am ashamed to admit this was not a bigger factor in my decision to leave the Kos comments alone, but at least it was there.
As for the plagiarist…well.
Her long rambling Kos message to me was not an apology. I have not received an apology from her, publicly or privately, and I certainly have not come to any “agreement” with her, as she has implied publicly.
Now, an apology that satisfies John Scalzi’s requirements would have been accepted, had she chosen to deliver it. Even if she had sent me the rambling non-apology that she did through Kosmail, if she had still satisfied Scalzi’s requirements when she made her public non-apology on Kos, I would have called it good enough. An admission that she fucked up, that she was sorry, and that she would accept consequences for her actions would have not only been welcome, but appreciated by me, and I could have forgiven her freely and would have said so stridently, openly, and repeatedly.
That is not what happened, and I almost resent that she had the gall to intimate that she had made some sort of reparation or that some sort of “agreement” had been reached. I said I was done, and done means I am not wasting more time on you, not gee, everything’s swell now! The window for a proper apology and free and full forgiveness has somewhat passed. At some point in the future, if said apology is made to me, I’ll decide how to handle it then. Personally, I think I will be waiting a long while.
I am also very sorry for the plagiarist. It must be horrible to steal, to be desperately convinced you don’t have words of your own and you must therefore take others’ by deceit. I pity the desperation, and the way this person has harmed herself. She robbed herself of a community that was willing, when the evidence was first brought to them, to close ranks against an outsider on her behalf and presume her innocence. She robbed herself of a community she spent a large chunks of everyday time interacting with. I am told she is a member of fandom as well and part of some conventions, I don’t know how those communities are going to react to her choices.
She stole from me, yes. She violated my stories. I’m saddened, sickened, upset over that, of course. She robbed herself of more. There really is no punishment like that we mete out to ourselves, very simply, by choices we make.
I’m guessing that’s all. This has been hideous, horrid, crazymaking, and terribly stressful. All this, and yet I realize that I had the benefit of clear and incontrovertible evidence as well as Skyla’s mad spreadsheet-making skills. I fully realize that this series of events could have been so much more tangled and awful and long-term and messy and complicated and oooooh my GOD. I was lucky. At certain points I didn’t feel it, but damn, I was lucky.
Now it’s time for me to get back to work. Thank you all, and I’m hoping to move on from this. Comments will be open until the usual shutoff date, but please do be civil and remember the comment policy. (Also taken from Scalzi. What a marvelously useful man he is.)
Over, and out.
UPDATE 5/12/2013: After much thought I have closed down the SquirrelTerror posts both here and at my LiveJournal. The WayBack Machine and the SquirrelPlagiarism doc still have all the relevant screencaps. I just…I can’t have them out there anymore. I’m sorry.