The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle -- Intro through Part IV
The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle
Cassieclaire and people who insist on defending her (reprehensible) actions are in one group, and you absolutely cannot use them as a representative example of the entire fandom.
I don't see why not. I didn't say 'every person in HP fandom is a plagiarist.' I said that the fandom tolerates known plagiarists. It does. Mods of large and popular lists think it's okay to rip off published authors, word for word, for pages. There was a huge uproar when Cassie Claire's stories were kicked off ff.net. I distinctly recall seeing a link within the last month or so to yet another explosion on the subject.
When one of your own people comes into the argument and says, "hey, what's the big deal, in our fandom we don't care," I don't see that you have much of a case. - Sarah T.
Contents: Introduction: My motivation; Part I: Cast of characters; Part II: How it began; Part III: My impressions of the Draco Trilogy; Part IV: Waiting
Introduction: My motivation
I have written different versions of this document many times over the years with differing tones and differing goals. I've always been reluctant to put much effort into this for a variety of reasons. My motivation for doing it now is having read Aja's post
about her time in the Inner Circle and Ari_O's post
during the Ms. Scribe Story.
I am trying to explain exactly what happened in June 2001 from my point of view. As you read, you may say, "Your grudge is showing." You're probably right. I do have a grudge. It is not possible for me to provide a wholly unbiased account of these events because I was involved. On the other hand, I am in the interesting position of being the only person with any access to some of the information about this incident.
To follow the links in this document, I recommend joining several Yahoo! groups. HP_FanFiction
, and fanfiction-writers
are open membership. Glass_Onion
are restricted to over 18 and require an age statement and moderator approval to join.
I will note the following restrictions. At some point between the last time I checked (I'm not certain when this was) and June 20, 2006, the majority of posts related to this incident on the ParadigmOfUncertainty list were either deleted or screened. At some point between May 20, 2006 and June 20, 2006, the cassie_and_rhysenn list was renamed "Rhysenn"
and all access to the list archives was restricted to group moderators
Rhysenn has unlocked the archives; thank you; unfortunately, all posts after 6/22/2001 and prior to 6/26/2001 are missing.). ParadigmOfUncertainty has posts of interest in December 2000 and January 2001, despite the removal of several posts from June 2001. Because
the archives are locked ETA: all the relevant posts are missing
, I do not recommend joining Rhysenn.
As a result of the locking of Rhysenn and the screening of posts on ParadigmOfUncertainty, I will be working from saved versions of the text I have in several earlier drafts of this document. In the interest of not misrepresenting what was said, I will usually use the entirety of posts when I have them available.
Part I: Cast of characters
There are five major players in this incident, and a large host of minor players.Major players:
- Avocado: I am writing this document. By and large, I am a lurker in Harry Potter fandom. If you have been in Harry Potter fandom for several years, I probably know who you are. Odds are, you do not know me. I am happy that way. You will see me link comments written as "White_Serpent" (my LiveJournal and JournalFen names) and as "Stealthuser" (a secondary Yahoo! groups account I once had). I am one of the moderators of the Fandom Wank wiki. I should also note that I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and have been for the past eight years.
- Michela Ecks: Former staff member at FanFiction.Net. After an acrimonious split with Xing, she resigned and detached her "Writers U" website from FanFiction.Net. In early to mid-2001, she was a member of most HP fandom-related Yahoo! Groups, and I recall her posting survey questions, observations, links to Minotaur's website, etc., on some of the lists I frequented. At the time of the incident, she was still friends with several FanFiction.Net staff members, and received private updates from some of them about current affairs. After this incident, she went on to found the Fandomination.net archive, with which she is no longer affiliated. She currently owns the Fandom Wikipedia at www.fanhistory.com. She no longer uses the fandom name "Michela Ecks," but, as she did use it in 2001, I will use it here.
- Cassandra Claire: In June 2001, Cassandra Claire was the author of Draco Dormiens and Draco Sinister (at that time, Draco Sinister was incomplete), along with-- as I recall-- two side stories connected to these. After this incident, she completed Draco Sinister and went on to write a sequel, Draco Veritas, and the very popular Lord of the Rings parody series, The Very Secret Diaries. She is currently under contract for a fantasy trilogy which will be professionally published under the name "Cassandra Clare."
- Pamela Dean: Author of The Secret Country Trilogy, comprised of The Secret Country, The Hidden Land, and The Whim of the Dragon. All three books were out of print in 2001, and could be purchased used at very high cost on the Advanced Book Exchange. They have since been reprinted.
- FanFiction.Net: In early 2001, this was the major archive hosting most Harry Potter fanfiction. It had columnists posting articles on writing and message boards for each of its major categories. Staff members specifically involved in this incident include Xing, Meimi, Cairnsy, Steven Savage, Michele Savage, and Flourish.
Others of note:
- Colin: A Cassandra Claire fanboy; I made the mistake of emailing him.
- Eliza Diawna Snape: Then-BNF, author of Harry Potter and the Story of Eliza, and owner of a website called "The Best of Harry Potter Fanfiction."
- Assorted BNFs, fangirls, and fanboys: Includes Heidi, Stacey, Aja, Ivyblossom, Ebony, Rhysenn, Lori (author of Paradigm of Uncertainty), Carole (with Penny, co-author of A Sirius Affair, the prequel to Paradigm of Uncertainty).
- Ignatius: Wrote the summary of the Cassandra Claire plagiarism incident on Fandom Wank's Greatest Hits (FWGH)
- Stellabymoor: Saved several chapters of the Draco Trilogy from FanFiction.Net before Cassandra Claire's account was removed.
Some of the major players have been conflicting publicly for years.
Part II: How it began
The origin of this conflict is actually on the hpslash Yahoo! group. I was a member of hpslash
, and several other slash-related (and Snape-related) groups in 2001. It was all part of my ceaseless quest to find more Severus Snape/Sirius Black slash fanfiction.
Considering that I believe exactly four pieces of Snape/Black fanfiction existed at the time and
I had written one of them, you can imagine this quest didn't work out very well for me.
In retrospect, it's funny that the catalyst for the incident was a post by Heidi which (as I discovered several years later) was posted to the wrong list (HPS 6923
: June 8, 2001). The full text of this post:
re: OT: COMPLETLEY OUTRAGED!!!
Punker wrote about Eliza's fanfic site:
I am only posting this because all these things are on a public
message board - (first, a note - Eliza is 14ish, and I don't even
think she's online much these days because she's dealing with final
Eliza has never made any secret that she is an anti-slash person -
back around New Year's there was a long discussion on HP_Fanfiction
about slash - people like Al, Rhysenn, Cassie, Minx and others chimed
in on this issue, and Eliza eventually posted in response to this
post from cassie:
*Cassie ponders about where to fit a / into DS.* My favorite pairing
after Harry/Draco (which I really can't make work) is Remus/Sirius,
and Sirius needs to marry Narcissa so H&D can stay related, and
anyway, Remus has been turned, possibly permanently, into a big wolf.
That leaves Ron, I guess, available for.....um.....well, we'll see.
*grins* The Ron/Draco knife-throwing scene I believe started out as a
response to the Teenage Witches who asked for a scene with Ron and
Draco where Draco starts taking off his clothes. They tend to ask for
peculiar things, but then they are peculiar people. ;) (she also
mentions Lucius-redemption in that post - it's an interesting little
bit of history!)
Eliza's response follows:
From: "Eliza Diawna Snape"
Date: Sat Dec 30, 2000 4:04 pm
Subject: Re: [HP_FanFiction] Re: Draco sightings, Ron/Draco and
>*Cassie ponders about where to fit a / into DS.
Oh, please, Cassandra, don't do it. Trust me on this; you may think
perfectly accepted my most people, but, call me close-minded, I don't
care, I believe it's wrong. I'm not going to start preaching at you,
far during this entire discussion I've stayed quiet about this, but
add a slash, I'm going to stop reading DS, and take the story off my
That's not a threat... I'm not trying to scare you into not thinking
it. Don't get me wrong, you can write what you like... but, even when
story is good, I have a very hard time getting myself to put it up.
one of the reasons you will NEVER find PoU on my site, not because I
its not a good story, but because of the ratings. Basically, if you
slash, you're going to offend a lot of people, including me.
-Eliza, who is wondering how many people are going to start yelling
You can read a lot more on the thread by joining at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HP_FanFiction/ if you want a little
historical perspective on it. Believe me, flaming Eliza will get you
nowhere. She thinks what she thinks - and at the moment, she's not
changing it. Grr. However, DS is still up there, despite, well,
hintiness in some of the more recent chapters of a ben/gareth thing.
Heidi never commented to the thread to clarify that she had misposted. I only discovered that she had
misposted in 2005
when I discovered the original post
on the harrypotterslash Yahoo! group.
Without the context of the original post, Heidi's post was read by several list members (including me) as an attempt to incite slashers to go join the HP_FanFiction list and defend slash against the ignorant Eliza.
By and large, that idea didn't meet with a warm welcome on the hpslash list. I posted the second reply to this post (HPS 6927
); some excerpts appear below:
I know there are many archives out there that say, "I'll host
anything as long as there's no slash/yaoi/yuri" or "No lemons" or "No
such-and-such couple" or "This couple only" or "I'll post only if you
don't have it posted anywhere else." The person who runs the archive
makes the rules. That's the way it is, even when we don't like the
rules. Of course, it's bad if they /change/ the rules at a later
date, but it's still their right if the archive is privately run.
If you're well-known, you can use that to your advantage: "Those are
your rules, huh? Well, I don't like them. I won't /let/ you host my
fics, even though they qualify." That has its moments too.
My comment strikes me as spectacularly ironic.
In any case, people generally took up the "archive rules" topic and ran with it.
Cairnsy chimed into the discussion; she mentioned being irritated that Eliza direct-linked to FanFiction.Net without asking permission (HPS 6952
). I'd encountered her fanfiction.net account prior to the discussion and read some of her fanfiction, but I hadn't previously realized she was a FanFiction.Net moderator.
The discussion continued, but I was still feeling slightly irritated at Heidi's apparent attempt to incite slashers to go over to another list and defend Cassandra Claire's right to slash. On the other hand, my ceaseless quest for Severus Snape/Sirius Black fanfiction propelled me over to join the HP_FanFiction
list; I hadn't previously known of its existence.
As expected, Severus Snape/Sirius Black fanfiction was not forthcoming.
However, much to my surprise, there was also no current discussion on slash in Cassandra Claire's writing. A quick perusal indicated that Eliza and Cassandra Claire were getting along perfectly well. I went back to the message on hpslash, clicked to the posts, and finally realized the posts were six months old.
Why, I wondered, is Heidi bringing this up now?
It piqued my interest, and I started reading Draco Dormiens
for the first time on June 8.
Part III: My impressions of the Draco Trilogy
I should note, here, that I had certainly heard of the Draco Trilogy before Heidi's post on hpslash. At the time, it seemed like around half of the Harry Potter authors on FanFiction.Net had Cassandra Claire listed among their favorite authors. People praised her witty dialogue; people borrowed "Draco in leather trousers." All in all, she was difficult to miss.
In addition, I was a member of the cassie_and_rhysenn
Yahoo! group. I had been following something Rhysenn was writing at the time (you have to read something
when you can't find Snape/Black fics). On March 18, 2001, Rhysenn had announced
the creation of the C&R group on hpslash. As I suspected she would not continue to post updates to her story on hpslash, I added the C&R group as well.
With all of these opportunities and recommendations, why hadn't I read Cassandra Claire's stories? Very simply, they were het (not slash) and about Draco Malfoy
. Neither particularly interested me.
This aside, once I started reading, I enjoyed Draco Dormiens
. It was amazingly well-written in some sections, while other sections were much rougher. But, well, fanfiction... you take what you get. What I found oppressive were the television quotations. A long-time fan of Black Adder, I was able to find all but one of my favorite quotes from Black Adder in Draco Dormiens
. I was also a fan of Red Dwarf and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both of which were quoted heavily. I recognized the book Epicyclical Elaborations in Sorcery
from Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecilia
, and there were other lines (and sometimes scenes) that seemed familiar.
None of the quotations were specifically cited, nor was there a general disclaimer in the posted version of Draco Dormiens
indicating that quotes were used.
The use of occasional one-line quotations without citation was not particularly unusual at the time, but the sheer number of quotations used in Draco Dormiens
By and large, however, the prose was well-done, if uneven, and I'd enjoyed the story.
I left a fairly positive review on FanFiction.Net; I think it mentioned the Black Adder quotes and Sorcery and Cecilia
reference. In keeping with my then-practice of emailing criticism privately, I also sent Cassandra Claire an email. In it, I commented that she wrote too well to borrow so much dialogue from other sources. I said I had found the constant use of dialogue from sources I recognized distracting and out of character. I believe I mentioned Draco's comment about airline food in coach class in particular; Draco Malfoy
would be unlikely travel by plane instead of using Floo powder, and, when he did
, he almost certainly would not fly coach class.
Cassandra Claire responded. Summarized, she said that she enjoyed the quotations, her friends enjoyed the quotations, and, generally, she planned to keep using them.
In any case, I decided to continue reading and started Draco Sinister
. In chapter four, the first disclaimer for use of quotations appeared:
Disclaimer: I’ve mentioned all this before, but I suppose it bears repeating: none of the characters are mine, they all belong to JK Rowling (obviously) and Draco’s & others’ lines come from many sources: some are made up, some inspired by many sources, including but not limited to : Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Forever Knight, Due South, the X-Files, Woody Allen, the Handbook for Evil Overlords, obscure British sitcoms, Monty Python, Shakespeare, and I could go on and on, but rest assured that no maliciousness is intended and I am making not one cent (even more obviously!) off writing this, nor would I even want to. If you want to play spot-the-quote, feel free! More fun for everyone. - Disclaimer posted by stellabymoor, who saved the originals from FanFiction.Net before deletion
I was initially very happy to see the disclaimer. As I kept reading, however, I found quotations being used with even greater frequency and even greater length.
Multi-line exchanges were being used, and, based on that, I thought they deserved citations. An example follows:
Draco Sinister, chapter 11
"What are you looking at, Black?" demanded Snape.
Sirius brandished the book in the air. "Demons, Demons, Demons - what a title."
"It´s a book about demons. What would you call it?"
"The Book of Demons?" Sirius suggested, flicking idly through the pages.
"A name rife with single entendre."
Angel, season 1: "The Ring"
CORDELIA: Demons, Demons, Demons. Wow! They put a lot of thought into *that* title.
WESLEY: It’s a demon database. What would you call it?
CORDELIA: I don’t know. How about – Demon Database?
WESLEY: Ahh! A name rife with single entendre.
(As of the writing of this document, the citation in Draco Sinister
says the following: 4) " Sirius brandished the book in the air. "Demons, Demons, Demons
- what a title." "It´s a book about demons. What would you call it?" -- Angel.
As demonstrated above, the current citation is incomplete. These lines had no citation at all in 2001.)
I did not enjoy Draco Sinister
, largely due to these quotations. I also felt that the story was boring and dragged on too long. Still, I pushed through. I finished reading the posted chapters (up through chapter 14) either late at night on June 15th, or early in the morning on June 16th.
As I was reading, I had also noticed several references to Pamela Dean's Secret Country Trilogy.
- There was a reference to "Fire Letters" in an early chapter of Draco Sinister
- There was a footnote in chapter 9 which said "Credit for the inspiration for this conception of the wizarding afterlife goes to a book called The Secret Country, alas, I no longer recall who wrote it." (My reaction upon seeing the footnote was "Pamela Dean wrote it, and Ted doesn't die until The Hidden Land")
- Chapter 11 made use of Nightmare Grass, Dean's version of shapechangers, and two specific lines I recognized (emphasis mine):
She seemed to be involved in a battle with her own hair, shrieking and flailing with her arms at nothing.
"You're all right?" she said, in a quavering voice. "Your bones aren't coming out?"
I recognized both of the bolded lines immediately as originating in the Nightmare Grass scene in The Secret Country. (Page numbers here are from the current edition, and can be verified using Amazon's "Search Inside This Book" feature.)
86: "Laura was engaged in a vicious battle with her own hair."
87: "'It's you?' said Laura. 'Your bones aren't coming out?'"
The use of the specific recognizable lines in chapter 11 bothered me because there was no citation at all referencing Pamela Dean or any of her books in chapter 11.
I will say here that the Secret Country Trilogy was one of my favorite series. I had purchased The Secret Country
in a used bookstore in 1988. I had read The Secret Country
at least nine times that year (according to my reading log), and had searched everywhere for the sequel, The Hidden Land
. I finally found it in 1989 when the third book, The Whim of the Dragon,
came out in print. Since that time, I had read all three books several more times. In all, I had probably read The Secret Country
at least fifteen times by 2001. I was especially familiar with the Nightmare Grass scene, which I'd found particularly vivid.
Having finished reading, I started to write a review of Draco Dormiens
and Draco Sinister
. I have often suffered some delusion of putting up a website containing reviews of published fiction and fanfiction. (In 2005, I finally got a LiveJournal
; that is as close as I've ever come.) The gist of the review was "fairly enjoyable, if slow, but too many quotes.
I pulled a few examples from Black Adder and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then remembered the Nightmare Grass scene in chapter 11.
Pamela Dean's books were very seriously out of print in 2001, but I still had my copies. I went in, got The Secret Country
off the shelf, and flipped to the Nightmare Grass scene. It contained the lines I thought it had, and another line as well. "Okay," I thought, "two or three lines, similar scene structure. It should have a citation, but..." I dutifully typed the lines into my review. If I had done more searching through the chapter at the time-- as I did a few days later-- this story would be somewhat different.
I then remembered the "Wizarding afterlife" in chapter 9. I went to get The Hidden Land
off the shelf and flipped to the chapter where Ted awakens in the Kingdom of the Dead. Then I went back to chapter 9 of Draco Sinister
. Below, excerpts of both passages, emphasis mine.
Draco Sinister, Chapter 9 (this is still viewable in PoU 5359)
Draco opened his eyes, or thought he did. He could not see anything
with them, not blackness, not anything. Harry, he tried to say, but
he had nothing to say it with – no throat, no voice. It was like
dreaming, and knowing he was dreaming, but not being able to wake
"Harry!" he called out, and this time he heard his own voice, and
jumped. And as if that jump had cracked some glass he was imprisoned
in, light and color came rushing at him like a river in full flood.
He stared ahead into green-gray mist, and blackness, and a thousand
shadows suggestive of nothing familiar.
"Where am I?" he said out loud, more to hear his own voice than
because he expected an answer to the question.
No answer came.
He glanced down at himself, and the sourceless light showed him his
own form, still wearing the clothes he had been wearing last,
although his sword was gone and he was dry. He saw the darkness caked
all over the front of his shirt and knew it was the blood from his
face; he touched his cheek gingerly and felt the cut, but no pain.
I'm dead, he thought. He didn't feel anything particular about it,
other than a sort of bemused astonishment. I guess I should have
killed Wormtail when I had the chance, he thought, while knowing, in
his heart, that he couldn't have done it.
He took a step forward into the mist, and another, and abruptly it
thinned out slightly, showing him the contours of the place he was
standing. An unadorned, rocky plain stretched behind and to the sides
of him, gray and barren-looking. Ahead of him were more shadows, that
as he neared them took on the form of a narrow but fast-flowing
river. Its water was also gray, and on the opposite side of it were
more huddled grayish shapes. Rocks? Trees? It was hard to tell. He
took a step toward the river.
A voice spoke out of nowhere.
"Stop where you are."
Draco glanced up and around and saw no source for the voice which
spoke to him. He cleared his throat. "Why?"
" Such water is not for you."
"Where am I? Is this Hell?"
Now the voice sounded amused. "This is not Hell. This is between."
"Between life and death."
"Why is this water not for me?"
"The living cross it to become the dead. You are neither. There is a
bargaining for you."
Draco was dumbfounded. "A bargaining?"
"Your life hangs in the balance," said the voice, sounding
clipped, "Only the outcome concerns me."
"What," asked Draco, "if I went ahead and crossed the river anyway?"
"You cannot cross with the blood of life still in you. But," said the
voice, sounding amused again, "do go ahead and try."
Stubbornly, Draco stomped forward, his boots making no sound
whatsoever on the brittle ground. </b>The misty shapes across the river
surged as he neared the banks – he squinted into it – and at that
moment, the mist came into focus, and he knew what they were.
Spirits crowded the opposite side of the river, seething and
numberless, seeming somehow both extremely close and very far away.
If he looked closely, he could see their individual faces and bodies,
but when he stopped staring, they seemed to meld together into a
formless gray mass. He shook his head, stared again, and saw movement
this time – not aimless, but directed movement. Several of the
spirits seemed to be shoving their through the packed masses, like
rioters at a Quidditch match. He had the feeling, he could not have
said why, that they were trying to get at him.
Draco took a step forward, but the river and the spirits across it
stayed the same distance away.
"You cannot cross," said the cold voice, again.
It seemed to be true. Draco stood and waited at the river's edge as
the struggling spirits – there were three of them, two women and a
man, he could tell that much now– broke free of the rest of the crowd
and came to stand at the very edge of the river, just across from
him. The taller of the two women gazed at him, her ghostly mouth open
in an O of surprise.
"Salazar?" she said.
Draco froze. And stared. And as he stared at the three spirits, they
seemed to leap into sharper focus, their outlines solidifying, color
surging into their faces, their clothes. A tall man with clipped,
dark hair –a small, round woman with a long tangle of flaming red
hair and Ginny's dark eyes – and the woman who was gazing at Draco,
her blue eyes filled with a terrible sort of indefinable longing and
He knew her voice, he realized. It was the voice that had screamed in
his head when the dementors got near him, crying out, asking him what
he had done. "Rowena," he said, knowing now who she was. "Rowena
The dark-haired man – Godric – stepped in front of Rowena and glared
at him, his outline wavering but distinct. "So at last you are dead,"
he said. "We have waited a thousand years for someone to give you
the punishment you deserve and to end your worthless, stolen
Godric looked rather as if he meant to go on in this vein for quite
some time, so Draco interrupted him. "I'm not who you think I am,"
he said. "I'm not Salazar Slytherin."
The spirits looked doubtful.
"Look at me," insisted Draco.
Rowena, who had had her hand over her mouth, lowered it
slowly. "Godric...He cannot be Salazar. He is only a child."
They all stared at him. Draco was indignant. "I'm sixteen. I'll be
seventeen in a few weeks."
"I wouldn't put money on that," said Godric, quite unkindly.
"Godric!" the red-headed woman – Helga Hufflepuff – interrupted
him. "Do not tease him. He is but a child, and he has his death
Draco looked down at the blood on his shirt, and back up. "I do not
have my death wound," he said crankily. "I drowned, and anyway,
there's a bargaining for me."
"Is there?" said Godric, looking bored. "That hardly ever works."
Draco glared at him. It struck him that he did not like Godric. It
also struck him that in order to free himself from the Tragic and
Destructive Cycle of History Repeating Itself, it might be wise to
try to like Godric.
But he didn't want to like Godric. Godric, he thought, was a prat.
"You're dead, boy," said Godric with immense satisfaction, cementing
Draco's dislike of him on the spot. "Face it – you're dead."
Draco paused, unable to think of any suitable reply. "Am not" lacked
a certain style, while "Is it serious?" seemed somehow too frivolous.
Finally, he settled for smiling at Godric. "I may be dead, but I'm
still pretty," he pointed out cheerfully. "That's more than I can say
Pamela Dean's The Hidden Land, Chapter 14
Ted opened his eyes, or thought he did. He could not see anything with them, not blackness, not anything. He did not seem to have eyes, or anything else. Randolph, he tried to say, but he had nothing to say it with. It was like dreaming, and knowing you were dreaming, and trying to wake up by remembering the bed, and the pillow, and the color of your pajama sleeve: it was like the time just before the trick worked and you woke up.
"Randolph!" said Ted, and jumped. He had a voice, and ears to hear it, and a nervous system to make him jump when he was startled.
He stared into grayness, and blackness, and mist, and a hundred shadows suggestive of nothing familiar. He looked down at himself. The sourceless light was not strong enough to show colors, but he knew well enough what the blackness caked over the whole front of him was. He decided not to look more closely. He held out a hand and looked at it instead. His fingernails were black. He was as grimy as he had been in the battle. He stared around him again, and a few yards ahead of him the shadows took on shapes that might have been the foam and waves of a swift river. Ted stood up. Everything worked and nothing hurt, but there was a curious emptiness in the region of his chest. He took a step toward the river.
A voice spoke out of nowhere. It had a clear and piercing sound, like a flute heard from a distance. Its tone was neutral.
"Such water is not for you."
This did not sound promising. Ted decided to find out the worst. "Is this Hell?"
"This is not."
Not Hell, or not anything? thought Ted, and realization smote him. He had given the Secret Country neither Heaven nor Hell, only a shadowy, dim, pathetic sort of place, like Hades in the Odyssey. What had anyone else done? Patrick didn't believe in an afterlife; he wouldn't have bothered making up what type the Secret Country had. But people in the Secret Country said, "Dear heaven," or "For the love of heaven."
Ted looked around again and thought that it was clear that nobody besides himself had so much as considered the matter. Nobody in the game or out of it, he thought grimly. This looked to be the one place where there were no unexpected changes. Then he wondered whom he was talking to. In the game Patrick had done well at being a bent and twisted figure in black robes; but here there was nobody to be seen.
"Why is the water not for me?" he asked.
"The living cross it to become the dead. You are neither. There is a bargaining for you."
Well, Ruth had managed to get their attention, at least.
"What is the bargain?" His lines came easily to him.
"What must it be? Life for life."
That was wrong. Ted, Ruth, Fence, and Randolph were all supposed to promise to do certain labors for the Lord of the Dead. Once or twice Ted's family had spent Christmas at the farm, and those labors had come in handy then.
"Whose life?" said Ted.
"That concerns you not. Only the outcome concerns you."
"Who are you?"
"I am the Guardian of the River."
"What's the river?"
"If the bargaining is not concluded, you will know. If it is, you will not need to know."
The question had a quality of rote about it; the voice clearly expected that Ted would know the answer. As a matter of fact, he did not. He stared into the mist until his eyes ached, but neither memory nor logic gave him an answer. Then he was distracted. Like an aerial photograph of familiar country, the mist came into focus and he knew what he saw.
It was ghosts, hundreds of them, crowding down to the opposite bank of the river and staring at him across it. Their voices came across gradually louder, like the television warming up.
"Living man, hast thou brought blood?"
"He is not living man, he hath had his death's wound."
"He is not dead man, for his substance is solid."
"Hast thou brought us blood?"
"Only mine," said Ted, wryly.
"Come across, that we may drink of thee and be for but a brief while what we were. Let us remember."
Too bad I don't have a sheep handy, thought Ted crazily. Not that I'd want to cut its throat anyway. He put a hand to his chest. It came away sticky. Maybe that blood would do; it seemed a pity to waste it. He stood up.
"I'll give you what blood I can," he said, "if you'll tell me, what power hath the Hidden Land over the Lords of Death?"
The voice said, again with a faint note of amusement, "You cannot cross with the blood of life yet in you."
"Well, they don't want me without it!"
"This is the doom of men," said the voice, not sepulchrally, but with the glee of someone making a particularly complicated pun.
Ted took a step toward the river, and another. The river and the ghosts stayed the same distance from him.
"You cannot cross," said the voice.
Ted had been staring steadily at the ghosts, and their outlines had become clearer. He saw creatures like the ones he had killed in the battle. He hoped only the newly dead were here. He did not want to see the King. Then he froze, and the breath went out of him as if someone had hit him. Down at the very edge of the river was a group of children. Ruth, Ellen, Patrick, and Laura. Oh, God, thought Ted, were we all killed, did we lose the battle? And then, are they all dead but me?
Then he saw himself. He was taller than Ruth; but it was he. Ted felt the hair prickling on the back of his neck. He had always thought it would be terrible to meet one's own image walking in the garden; but that would have been a charming surprise compared to meeting it in Hell.
ETA: From Terry Pratchett's Mort, p. 96 (as spotted by LJ user charliesmum below)
"You're dead," he said.
Keli waited. She couldn't think of any suitable reply. "I'm not" lacked a certain style, while "Is it serious?" seemed somehow too frivolous.
From Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 1 "Prophecy Girl"
Master: You're dead!
Buffy: I may be dead, but I'm still pretty. Which is more than I can
say for you.
God, but I was furious-- and furious in a way that I can't even begin to explain.
There were several elements that went into my fury. One was that I'd actually enjoyed
reading Draco Dormiens
, another was that I'd emailed her saying she wrote too well to borrow so much dialogue (the irony!), and a final-- and not to be omitted-- element was the author's note itself. That much lifted and she couldn't remember the author's name or the title of the book?
What did the note at the top of the chapter say? "I realized I'd criminally neglected Terry Pratchett so far, so made up for it by nicking several quotes in this chapter at once.
Was "neglected" the word?
I looked back at the chapter itself and my eyes were opened.
One thing I'd noticed in reading both Draco Dormiens
and Draco Sinister
was inconsistency in the prose-- the style changed. Scenes would be in tight third person and have highly evocative language, then there would be clumsier scenes with bouncing viewpoint. There had been several lines in the course of reading that had jerked me out of the scenes they were in, and some scenes had seemed oddly familiar.
On the initial read-through, I'd chalked all of these factors up to the fact I was reading fanfiction.
I was no longer so generous. I believed then-- and believe now-- that the explanation for the unevenness, the inconsistencies, the viewpoint changes, and the strange lines is plagiarism on a large scale. These changes in style are largely concealed by the placement of scene breaks and the insertion of humorous television quotations.
I have never
read anything that so clearly screamed, "Sue me!"
I started doing web searches, and what I found were people posting quotes attributed to "Cassandra Claire" which I recognized very clearly from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Red Dwarf, and Black Adder.
I searched through the reviews posted on FanFiction.Net-- I couldn't
have been the only person who noticed. I searched through the group archives on C&R. I joined ParadigmOfUncertainty at this point to search as well. On PoU, I found references to someone who had been found to be plagiarizing the Draco Trilogy. Cassandra Claire had asked her fans not to flame.
Was there anything regarding Cassandra Claire
plagiarizing? No. But I did discover that she was a journalist and her beta reader, Heidi, was a copyright attorney.
I researched plagiarism-- this clearly qualified. (While I have no idea at this point which sites I visited, these linked sites have similar content
And here, of course, I ran into an enormous conflict of interest. It was one I'd tried to avoid. As a member of the RWA, I stayed in portions of fandom where fanfiction was permitted by the creators. For this purpose, Harry Potter fandom was safe. The incorporation of quotes in fanfiction had always bothered me, but... with a single line here or there, it's always possible that the writer simply does not realize the quotation is not their own writing. On the other hand, a two-word phrase or a character name could pass as a reference. Cassandra Claire presented me with an entirely different problem. In essence: "Do people know she does this? Does everyone do this? If so, then I can't have anything to do with fanfiction."
I searched through the FanFiction.Net Terms of Service. It was not explicit, but plagiarism seemed to fall under the heading of "not allowed"... at least, plagiarism of other fanfiction was clearly not allowed. Plagiarism of published works? It was unclear.
And I just kept looking at the text comparison and thinking that I must
be imagining things. If I were correct, how could someone else not have seen?
I left a signed review on Draco Sinister
on FanFiction.Net. It said, "Pamela Dean wrote the Secret Country Trilogy." I have no idea whether I attached the review to chapter 9, chapter 11, or chapter 14.
I considered this a warning, and, from my perspective, the only warning Cassandra Claire deserved. (I eventually received a reply to this review. I will discuss that later.)
I considered a number of different courses of action. First and foremost, I considered running directly to Pamela Dean and her publisher. But that hardly seemed fair. FanFiction.Net had a policy stating how to deal with suspected abuse. I saw the firstname.lastname@example.org email address, but I badly wanted clarification from FanFiction.Net on whether the plagiarized text was really contrary to their policies.
I remembered the discussion on hpslash about archive rules. After all, Heidi's post had prompted me to read Draco Dormiens
and Draco Sinister
in the first place. I remembered Cairnsy chiming into the discussion. I decided I would email an inquiry to her.
Summarized, I said that I was contacting Cairnsy because I enjoyed her work and remembered her mentioning that she was a FanFiction.Net moderator in the archive rules discussion on hpslash. I explained that I'd been reading the Draco Trilogy, which seemed to be filled with television quotations-- sometimes in the form of five or more lines taken at once from Black Adder, Red Dwarf, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then I included the text from The Hidden Land
and Draco Sinister
along with the author's note. I asked if this was considered acceptable on FanFiction.Net.
While waiting for her reply, I started trying to compile a more complete complaint. I didn't have to wait long. I received a reply from Cairnsy the next day (well, technically, the same day-- it was around midnight when I discovered the plagiarism; I believe I received Cairnsy's reply around five or six in the evening of the 16th). She said that the lifting was not
considered acceptable, and she was forwarding it to the rest of the board. The complaint would take about a week to review, and, if Cassandra Claire was found to have plagiarized, her account would be deleted. Cairnsy would let me know what was decided, and, whatever happened, FanFiction.Net would never reveal who had filed the complaint.
I was relieved.
Part IV: Waiting
My relief didn't last long.
Over the following week, I tried to avoid thinking about the Draco Trilogy. It didn't work. As the week progressed, I grew angrier and angrier. I looked back at the Nightmare Grass scene. By reviewing the pages immediately around the lines I had already found, I realized that more lifted text was present. There didn't seem to be any point in sending it to FanFiction.Net since they were already reviewing a block of text. I didn't bother.
Draco Sinister, chapter 11 (see a web version or PoU 6241)
Harry felt a keen shock of disappointment as soon as they stepped through the door. They were outside the castle in a sense, but not really outside. He found himself in a space between two very tall walls that rose up and up, making a walkway that ran from where they stood to an open door in the far wall at the opposite end. It was thickly overgrown with grass, as if people rarely passed there. Above him, Harry could see that the moon was lopsided, not quite full, but it gave more light than he was comfortable with. He craned his neck back and looked up and around – the castle seemed bigger than he remembered, and much less tumbledown – the moon-silvered battlements were very forbidding in the darkness, and there were dark shapes ranged along them.
Guards, he thought, and Draco and Fleur followed his gaze upward, and nodded. Fleur’s face was pale with fear in the moonlight. "We must be very careful of those," she whispered. "Those are shapechangers. They are Slytherin’s creatures. Each possesses several shapes, and one must dispatch them in each shape before they can be killed." Then she pointed across the narrow walkway towards the door in the far wall. "We are going there," she whispered. She looked at Harry. "You go first."
They went forward in a line: Harry, Fleur, and then Draco. At first it was bare moonlit ground, but it kept getting rockier and weedier, and they had not gone very far when it turned into wet knee-high grass. A cold, wet, close sensation overtook Harry, as if he were crawling through a slimy cave. It was extremely unpleasant. He shook his head, looked up – and nearly yelled out loud.
Get up, Draco told him, sounding less amused this time, and Harry got to his feet. His hands were still shaking but the cold fog seemed to have lessened. Come on, and Draco grabbed him by the shoulder and propelled him forward. Harry took two steps, and the grass twined itself up around his legs with blades as sharp as swords and began cutting into his skin. He yelled. Draco’s grip on his shoulder tightened. Think about something else, he told Harry urgently, and keep moving forward, and Harry thought hard about Hermione, squeezing his eyes nearly shut, even though every time he took a step he felt as if the grass was cutting his legs to ribbons. But he went on being able to walk on them long after they should have been mincemeat, and after a few strides he was able to ignore the feeling.
What’s going on? Harry demanded.
Nightmare Grass, Draco replied shortly. Makes you see whatever you’re most afraid of. Trick is to walk right through it and ignore the pain; it goes away after a little bit. The slower you go, the more nightmares you get.
Harry was about to retort when he caught sight of Fleur, lying in the grass on her back. She seemed to be involved in a battle with her own hair, shrieking and flailing with her arms at nothing. Draco knelt down next to her and touched her shoulder gently. She yelped and hit out at him, screaming in French.
Draco caught one of her arms and Harry seized the other. It wasn’t easy holding on to her – she was kicking and screaming and seemed inclined to bite as well. They dragged her quickly from the grass to the dirt at the foot of one of the walls. She went instantly quiet, and pulled away from them, gasping and wide-eyed. She stared up at Draco, who was closest to her. "You’re all right?" she said, in a quavering voice. "Your bones aren’t coming out?"
Draco blinked. "It’s me."
Fleur took a shuddering breath. "What was that?"
"Never mind," said Harry, and craned his neck back, pointing up to the dark shapes on the silvery battlements. They were no longer still, but moving slowly, purposefully, torches raised... the guards.
Pamela Dean, The Secret Country
82: "The moon was lopsided, not quite full, but it gave more light than was comfortable."
84: "Right above them torches flared upon the moon-silvered battlements of High Castle."
Pamela Dean, The Hidden Land
"Hast been told of shape-shifters?" said Matthew.
They were always harder to understand when they got excited or worried. "I don't think so," said Ted.
"To kill them once sufficeth not; thou must kill each of their shapes."
Pamela Dean, The Secret Country
83: "There had been a path of sorts when they started, but it kept getting rockier and weedier, and they had not gotten very much farther when it turned into wet knee-high grass."
84: "A cold and wet and horribly close sensation overtook her, as if she were in a slimy cave. She shook her head and looked up, and shrieked."
85: "Ruth took two steps into the grass, which twined itself around her ankles with blades as sharp as swords and began climbing her legs."
85: "The grass sank itself into her legs again, and every time she took a step she felt as if it were cutting her legs to ribbons. But she went on being able to walk on them long after they should have been hacked to mincemeat, and after a few strides she was able to ignore the feeling."
"As the Border Magic protects the Secret Country against invasion from without," said Ruth, "so the Nightmare Grass protects High Castle from treachery within the Secret Country. It's planted in all the possible sneaking-up places--"
"--and it makes you see whatever you're most afraid of."
86: "Laura was engaged in a vicious battle with her own hair."
85: "A more serious problem was Ellen, who was kicking and scratching and seemed inclined to bite as well."
He tried to pick her up, and she hit him in the eye.
Ellen staggered up in time to help Ruth prevent Ted from hitting Laura back.
"It's you?" said Laura. "Your bones aren't coming out?"
"Not yet," said Ted, trying to get his eye open.
87: "What was that?" said Laura, wrapping her arms around herself and shivering.
The scene structure itself was also similar-- in Draco Sinister
, Harry, Draco, and Fleur were trying to sneak out of Slytherin's castle at night. They descended a railless stone staircase, got outside, walked through Nightmare Grass, and alerted the guards. In The Secret Country
, Ted, Patrick, Ruth, Ellen, and Laura were trying to sneak out of High Castle at night. They descended a railless stone staircase, got outside, walked through Nightmare Grass, and alerted the guards.
On Friday, June 22, three things happened. I am no longer entirely certain of the order of these three events. However, based on my notes from 2001 and Colin's posts, I believe the sequence was the following.
I was reading the Harry Potter message boards on FanFiction.Net (these no longer exist). Someone had asked for a recommendation for a long fanfiction series. I recommended Slytherin Rising; someone named "Colin" posted to recommend Cassandra Claire. The sight of the name inspired me to new levels of rage. I responded to Colin, saying that Cassandra Claire was probably my least favorite fanfiction author. (I am aware this was both obnoxious and stupid.) He asked why. I didn't answer on the boards, but looked up his email address on his author profile. I considered whether or not to respond.
Then, I received an email from Cairnsy. She said the board had found Cassandra Claire had plagiarized, and that her account would be deleted later that day.
I sent Colin email, showing him the plagiarized text. He said he was shocked. As I recall, he also claimed have chatted and exchanged email with Cassandra Claire a few times-- though he said he was mostly a fan of Alicia/Sue (or perhaps AngieJ/Ebony-- I can no longer recall). He said he wouldn't contact Cassandra Claire.
(Did I mention that contacting Colin was both obnoxious and stupid on my part?)
In any case, not long after, Cassandra Claire's account was deleted.
I knew exactly when because I kept refreshing the page until it disappeared.
It was finished.
With great anticipation of being triumphantly cleared of all charges and exposing Msscribe to the fandom-wide censure she rightfully deserved, they made their move.Next Post (Part V (post 1))
I feel for them. I really do. I was once that naive. - Avocado