We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Evil
In all my years of blogging, both here and elsewhere, this is the most difficult post I've ever had to write.
I've spent the last two weeks trying to determine how best to address the subject I must write about, and the last day agonizing over how best to phrase it.
It's unavoidable, writing this post. I was hoping to not have to, and have, admittedly, put it off until the last possible moment. I should have had this written and posted yesterday, but I could not think of how best to begin.
"What is so dire?" you may ask.
Betrayal. That is what is so dire.
As you may or may not have noticed, the Evil League of Evil Writers has had to dismiss one of our members. They were dismissed because of allegations of plagiarism. Though the former member would not come right out and admit that they plagiarized another writer's work for their new release, the evidence presented in support of the allegations was vast and damning. In light of the evidence presented and the former member's responses to the allegations, it was the opinion of all involved in the ELEW that our association with this writer be terminated, and terminated permanently. While this former member has been dismissed from the ELEW, and has been stricken from the site, we have left intact their comments and previous posts, as there was useful discussion there and things of value to readers.
This was not an easy decision, and it was not done in anger or without considerable discussion and negotiation among the other members. It was not an arbitrary decision, either. Though this issue has deeply affected both members and readers on a personal level, we put our feelings aside and concentrated on the issue, not on our emotions.
I quote to you here an excerpt of the dismissal letter sent to the former member:
"It is with deep regret that I write you this letter. Dissolving any kind of relationship is never easy, and this one is especially difficult because of the circumstances which prompted it.
You were nominated to and accepted within the ranks of the Evil League of Evil Writers for reasons unknown to you. Rest assured, though our group may seem like a loosely-connected club of tough chicks who share an interest, the ELEW is a professional organization of writers. More to the point, it's an organization of professional writers.
If we are to maintain the level of professionalism we desire, we cannot, in good conscience, be associated with an alleged plagiarist. Plagiarism is, as one member said, the bestiality of writing, and what you have allegedly done with < title redacted > disgraces not only you, but everyone associated with you."
I go on for a few paragraphs talking about how the decision of this person's removal from the ELEW was made (because it was a decision made by the entire organization, not just the two founders), then wrap up the letter with this:
"I also feel you should know that your professional image as a writer has very likely been irrevocably damaged by what you have allegedly done. Beyond that, you have irrevocably damaged the credibility of any and all associated with you, and that, < name redacted >, is a complete and total violation of every ounce of professional support you were ever given by anyone, including the ELEW. You have betrayed trusts of so many with this alleged action. Even if the allegations against you are false (and the evidence to the contrary is vast), the damage has been done."
Read that again, writers. Read it and understand. Plagiarism not only hurts you as a professional writer, it hurts the person you plagiarized, and it hurts the editors, the beta readers, the publisher, the cover artist – EVERYONE INVOLVED with you and your work.
And I'm not just talking hurt feelings here. I'm not just talking about "oh, they stole someone else's work." I'm talking about legal ramifications in addition to social and moral ones. Plagiarism is a very serious crime. It's theft on many levels, and so many people associated with the plagiarized work, however loosely, can suffer for what you might think is "borrowing" someone else's work.
All those court cases of people suing certain authors because they wrote something that even remotely SOUNDED like something another writer wrote? Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. Plagiarism is a very serious thing, and can have repercussions beyond your imagination.
The worst part about it though is the betrayal. Because call it what you want, plagiarism is just a nice word for "thief" and "liar." When you plagiarize something, you not only steal someone else's work, you pass it off as your own, and that makes you a liar.
When you're caught in that lie – when the person you stole from notices that you've stolen their work – not owning up to your crime (because it IS a crime, you know) only compounds your grave error. When you're caught, it does no good to tell those who caught you that they must be mistaken. You're already a liar, so why should they believe you when you tell them they're wrong?
The time, effort and money spent on a book that is revealed to be plagiarized is money wasted. There's no recompense for it. Such a thing can cripple a publisher even more than it cripples the author. The author can always change their name and write something else (or steal something else), but the publisher is left with nothing. There is no way for them to recoup their losses, and despite what you may think about the money they make, remember that they pay the authors as well. Money they don't make is money they can't pay the other writers they publish, so you're not only hurting the publisher, you're hurting everyone associated with them.
To all writers out there: If you choose to plagiarize, however remotely, you risk not only your reputation, but friendships with fellow writers, respect from readers, your relationship with publishers and industry professionals, and so on.
We're writers. Words are sacred to us, and when you take them from us and tell everyone that they're yours, you're violating the one thing we hold most dear.
I write the following paragraph because the former member involved has not written it themselves, despite voicing a desire to do so.
The Evil League of Evil Writers offers its sincerest apologies to both our readers and our remaining members that our former member (allegedly) committed this heinous, despicable act of betrayal. The acts of one member of an organization can taint all associated with it, and the ELEW no longer has any association with this person.
Evil League of Evil Writers
I now turn this post over to our Bitchstress Dreamkiller for her own, personal sentiments.
As well as echoing the comments above from Dina and the organization as a whole, I would like to extend a personal apology. I still feel responsible in many ways. I was the one who nominated her as a member for the ELEW and vouched for her with the others, most of whom didn’t know her well at all and—I worry mistakenly—trusted my judgment in these matters. In doing this, I staked my reputation on her as well, and have felt this betrayal quite acutely during the past month. For any harm done or felt, I can only extend my deepest apologies to the ELEW readership and my sister members.