Afterthoughts

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.

Comments

  1. martian moon crab chimes in

    the internet is a small and shallow pool some days, and once its out there, there is a trail of electrons. I am sorry that this happened to you, and that that person tried to pass off your work as theirs. If at the end of all this the excuse comes down to “wanting to share” then its so much simpler to post a link or attribute the work. Not that hard.

    a *hug* if you need it, a fancy drink with an umbrella too.. or a nice bottle of red.

  2. R Morris chimes in

    I do not write for the public, I write for myself (mostly because I am too afraid of the critique I would received as my own opinion of my work is so poor). So I cannot put myself in the position of having someone steal my thoughts, life and inspiration.

    All I can say is I love your “Squirrely” work, the depth, the imagination and the humor. I see squirrels everyday in my backyard and neighborhood and think of yours. The only way I can think to go on from this is to put YOUR work out there for us to consume so that is the lasting legacy not the theft and pathetic consequences.

    Just my wish. Please do as you feel you need to do for your happiness.

  3. chimes in

    I absolutely adore your Squirrel Terror saga and, should you choose to publish them, will be first in line to order and reread.

    I’m sorry you had that happen to you – it’s horrible. I am impressed by your reasoned response. Give my best to Ms. B and Odd Trundles, as well as the other denizens of your backyard.

  4. Demetra aka Steelflower fan chimes in

    I like your squirrel stories. They are funny and make me laugh. You mentioned you were happy people had printed and kept your stories. They did that because the stories are great. Your fans would be happy to buy the stories if you make them available.

    Please don’t let your fans be disappointed and “punished” for what a bad person did.

  5. Badger chimes in

    You have handled all of this with grace and class. Whatever you do with the SquirrelTales is up to you & you alone, & I don’t blame you for wanting to take some time. Jedi-hugs always.

  6. Jennifer Scarberry chimes in

    Thank you for showing us how to still be a gentlewoman when others have practiced VERY bad form. Thank you for sharing your stories (the true ones and the fictional ones) with us. Obviously, you are under no obligation to anyone but yourself to publish anything outside of your contracts with your publisher, etc. (And even those are finite.) I would LOVE to have more SquirrelTerror, to buy the book and, perhaps, one day get it signed. You have been violated. As with any violation, in the end, only you can decide if you are ready to open this wound again.

  7. JP chimes in

    Big hugs to you. Of course I would love to see your SquirrelTerror tales in print (or whatever official form!), but whatever you decide to do, I’m behind you!

  8. Stonemeadow chimes in

    Proud of you chica for sticking this through the unpleasant feelings. You bring joy to the world and get little credit. Thank you for sharing and fighting the good fight.

  9. chimes in

    I am very sorry your Squirrel Tales have left a nasty feeling for you. It is so sad that a story that brought so many chuckles is leaving you undecided about it’s future. If you can bear to publish them-many of us would still enjoy them & it is kind of thumbing your nose-“my work, my squirrels!”

  10. Michael M. Jones chimes in

    I was going to post the comparisons to help out, but sadly, Kos requires all newbies to wait 24 hours before they can post replies. By the time I was good to go, everyone else had already jumped on the case.

    I would urge you to go ahead and bring out the Squirrel!Terror stories, because they are awesome and hilarious and deserve to be collected as their own thing. Especially in the wake of this incident, it’s important to claim them and make them yours. The world deserves the one, true, unadulterated, original SquirrelTerror saga, accept no substitutes or impostors.

    And hats off to you for staying classy through the whole thing.

  11. chimes in

    I have never heard of Kos.

    I have enjoyed your squirrel tales and would happily give you some money in exchange.

  12. chimes in

    Wow. I am appalled at the behaviour this person has shown to you. Thank you for handling it in a mature and understanding way; you are an example to us all.

    As a writer, I dread to imagine how I would feel in a similar situation. I hope the person responsible doesn’t steal your joy for this story forever. Good luck!

  13. Brian chimes in

    Sadly, the (non-apology) “apology” only served to make clear the totality of her disrespect. It makes the entire incident(s) infinitely worse.

    Noddy could have simply admitted responsibility, offered a sincere and unqualified apology, and attempted to move on – but she did not. The original statement (I really can’t call any of her post-revelation missives “apologies”) from Noddy read strangely aggressive to me – almost as if she has adopted an indignant posture… ‘Offended’ that the true author of the various pieces has dared to call her on the transparent theft of that work. Since sending that original NAA (‘non-apology apology’), her submissions have contained nothing to suggest anything remotely related to sincere contrition or even casual regret.

    My natural instinct to feel sympathy for her has been nullified by her refusal to apologize and her untenably specious rationalizations (/lies).

    ‘Noddy’ is an unrepentant thief, and apparently she doesn’t care who knows it.

    In the time since her plagiarism was revealed, she has done nothing but thumb her nose at the Daily Kos Community, and – more egregiously – her victim.

    Her behavior, past and present, is absolutely inexcusable.

    I’m so sorry this has happened to you. What an awful and deeply personal violation.

    Your handling of the situation is testament to your restraint, decency, and grace.

    As you said, “There really is no punishment like that we mete out to ourselves, very simply, by choices we make.”

    Well said, well done, and very sincere best wishes

    *hug*

    ps – Skyla Dawn Cameron is decidedly cape-worthy :)

  14. chimes in

    Hi, I used to blog at Daily Kos and I still read the blog quite a bit. People on the Internet are sometimes quite nuts in ways that are less than obvious. Attracting the crazy is an unfortunate side effect of being a public figure.

    This may have been an instance of that, or of something more along the lines of a failure of morality and self-discipline. Sometimes people do things simply because no one is currently stopping them.

    I am sorry to see you are so upset about this, though it’s of course perfectly understandable. But whatever you choose to do should be about what you need and want, not about something ugly someone did to you. Don’t let this control you, it’s not worth it.

    Kind regards, and best of luck with your writing,

    Miep

  15. Angela chimes in

    Just wanted to send you some love and support. When you wrote these and shared them with us you were sending a bit of light out into the world, and it sucks that you got crap like this back for it.

  16. Denisetwin chimes in

    love your squirrel stories and was appalled, sad and angry that someone stole them. I don’t feel sorry for the person who did so, when you steal there SHOULD be consequences. When you steal and are caught a grovelling apology is the start of healing for yourself and those around you and she decided not to apologize. Her response brought into question the truthfulness of all of her interactions and posts with the internet community she was part of as it was not an apology. I am so sorry this happened to you. I am so sorry you had to go through this. I hope that someday the Squirrel stories will be fun for you again and that you will be able to share them with us once again.

  17. Underwhelmed chimes in

    I am heartbroken for you. Those stories were utter genius. It’s cold comfort to know the reason that piece of human excrement stole them from you is because they are so spectacular. Whatever you do with the stories now, in the long term, I hope you can take some small comfort in knowing how much they are loved, and you are supported.

  18. chimes in

    I spent the weekend trying to stay off the net, so I didn’t see any of this (besides your Facebook/Twitter posts) until this afternoon. I am amazed at the grace that you have shown. Calling that reply an “apology” is the most generous and diplomatic thing that I have seen in recent years.

    I respect your decision to put the pain away. Should you decide to publish the Squirrel!Tales, I would be lining up to buy them, but as always—your work is your own, and thank you for sharing.

  19. Katherine C. chimes in

    Son of a biscuit!!!! I go a few days without checking the blog because of a busy weekend, and this happens. As so many others have said, I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I so admire your restraint in how you’re handling it. I love all those stories — possibly even more than your books, which is saying something — and I’m angry that some half-wit with no morals has spoiled it for you. I wish it was possible to shake people through the internet. I wish even harder that someday you’ll be able to revisit SquirrelTerror without immediately associating it with this mess, even if it’s only for yourself.

  20. Wave Seybold chimes in

    I am sorry this happened, and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the SquirrelTeror tales; Enough that I told my family about them.

  21. chimes in

    I can’t even imagine how much it sucks this happened to you. I came into the SquirrelTerror stories much later and am saddened I might not have a chance to read all of them, but understand your reticence to continue with publishing them. I’m glad you’re moving on and I look forward to your future posts, whatever they may involve.

  22. Damiana chimes in

    I really, really wish this hadn’t happened to you. I’ve enjoyed everything you’ve written, but the SquirrelTerror stories brought me so much joy at a time when I really needed it, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate the gift you gave all of us.

    If it helps, it looks like Noddy has, QUITE appropriately, been banned from DailyKos. There’s a post she put up with another non-apology-apology, which quite a few other users called her on… and they mentioned that she has now been banned for having plagiarized your work. Many of them are quite sympathetic to you, and are utterly horrified at what was done to you.

    At some point, I hope you will publish a story where a plagiarist receives the karma she has so richly earned.