Monday, February 27, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T...Find out what it means to ME: Has Mutual Respect died in the M/M Romance Community?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word RESPECT in the last couple of weeks.

Am I being disrespectful to others by expressing my opinions?...Do I disrespect an author when I go on in detail about the things that I did not like from a book they wrote?...Is it respectful for a person to personally attack me for disagreeing with them?..Am I being disrespectful when I respond to someone that has not addressed me, but has hurt or offended my friend?

Am I entitled to feel disrespected as a reader when I purchase a book and find it poorly written, edited, and researched?...Are authors obligated to show us respect by being honest and open about their work, and their sources?...Is a publisher anything more than a business, and are they actually disrespecting me when they sell me a book at full price when they do not live up to their end of the deal by making sure that I get a product of the quality I expected to receive?...Are authors disrespecting readers when they encourage fans or friends to give them favorable reviews?

These are all questions that have been floating in my head these last few weeks. I’ve thought hard about this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that mutual respect in this community of readers is becoming a rare commodity.

The environment in this genre is an interesting one. Readers are pundits, pundits are writers, writers are readers, readers are fans, fans are writers, half of us are bloggers, and those who aren’t are making their thoughts know on Goodreads and elsewhere. That is A LOT of opinions for things not get out of hand occasionally. Opinions are good, they keep things vibrant and diverse, as long as we all understand that differences in taste or views are not personal attacks.

Tj Klune a new author to this genre wrote a great book last year. Bear Otter and the Kid, I loved it. I still do. I thought it was funny, charming and clever. I loved the characters, and it has just the right combination of angsty and romantic that really works for me. I wrote a review for it on Goodreads that a lot of people have read, talking about how much I enjoyed that book. Only a few weeks ago I included BOATK in my picks for favorite couples in our Valentine’s Day post.

Also a couple of weeks ago a friend mentioned she had seen the 2007 LGBT film Shelter and that she noticed there were many similarities to BOATK. I was curious, I watched it, and I agreed that there were too many things that were similar for it to be just coincidence. Since then a few readers on GR have come out with reviews focusing on the similarities between BOATK and Shelter, others have changed their original reviews and ratings, and the word "plagiarism" has been floating around non-stop. I chose to leave my review just as it was when I wrote it in August, I have no intention of changing it.

So what is Plagiarism? According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own; to use (another's production) without crediting the source; to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

Do I think some of these meanings apply to what happened with BOATK and Shelter? Yes, I do.

Do I think that Tj Klune should be burnt at the stake for it, and the book he wrote be completely discredited? NO, I DO NOT. I stand by my opinion that BOATK is a very good book. There were a lot of things that were obviously borrowed from Shelter, but the great comedic timing, the character of the Kid (who was outstanding), the fantastic and dynamic cast of characters in the story. Those are ALL Tj’s, he made them, and he should be proud of the work he did.

Now, that does not mean I was not disappointed when I realized he used ideas from another story, and did not credit the original creator. Why? Because “I” think that is the right thing to do. You use someone’s work to improve yours, to inspire yours, they deserve to be acknowledged. Especially when the person is also a writer in the LGBT genre, where there are no big budgets, where it is still more a labor of love than for profit, where there is little recognition. Acknowledging the works of colleagues in this genre is that more important to do.

This was not a story line borrowed from Titanic that made a gamillion dollars. No, this was from a tiny film that made very little money, an author who probably made less, and got little to no recognition for it. So, not giving that person his or her due credit, does not sit well with me. Period.

I know some will say…

But Shakespeare did it!! Yeah, well when Shakespeare was allegedly borrowing verbatim from Plutarch to write Julius Caesar or handing over Kit Marlowe’s homework as his own, there were NO COPYRIGHT LAWS. Copyright exists, so that people who create are protected from having what they made being appropriated by someone else and claiming it as their own. And even with no copyright, Shakespeare should have still cited his sources. So that argument does not count for me.

But West Side Story is the same as Romeo and Juliet!! Why are we not accusing them?! Well, Romeo and Juliet is public domain, ANYONE can use that story. They can copy it, publish it, sell it, make a movie with it, or change the name to Romeo and Julio and write a sweet little gay romance. Even then West Side Story is only INSPIRED on Romeo and Juliet. Again not the same thing.

Dreamspinner Press didn’t know! They thought it was an autobiography. NO. Just…NO! Not only is this not true, but it’s beyond condescending to expect the readers to believe that. I’m not even going to go into DSP’s bad behavior, because there are writers from that publisher that I dearly love, and will continue to purchase their books. I can only say that bush-league does not even begin to describe the way that they have been doing business lately.

But people are being SO MEAN!!! Yeah well, they are being mean on both sides. I have seen in the last few days things that have seriously made my skin crawl. Authors belittling other authors work, readers going on blogs and calling people harpies and lemmings for expressing their opinions, publishers deleting comments from readers because they were pointing out their worse than bad behavior, people promoting “peace” by calling others bitches and bullies, authors that I respect and love suggesting that those of us who express our unhappiness with the lack of quality in the books coming out of DSP have become a pitchfork wielding mob…All very nice, very very nice.

To be honest, the only restrain I’ve seen so far has come from Tj. I don’t know his reasons. He might just be waiting for all of this to blow over, he might be afraid to get in the fray, or he might just be biding his time. I wouldn’t know, but I do respect his self-control. It cannot be easy to see your name and your work exposed like it has been, and not say anything to defend yourself. Especially with a publisher that makes things worse instead of better every time they make a statement.

So…I’m not sure where any of this will end up. People probably need to walk away, cool their heels, and come back later. The books will be there, and so will the drama. I just hope we stop before we kill the enthusiasm that made us love this genre to begin with.

Note: A portion of the title for this post was borrowed from the song "Respect" written by Ottis Redding and made famous by Aretha Franklin.


  1. I have seen this BOATK thing going on, and I haven't siad a thing because I have yet to read the book, I have seen the movie Shelter and quite frankly I am intrigued.

    I have seen the comments, and I shocked by the lack of respect we have for each other. Readers to authors, authors to readers and I think we have a lot of growing to do as a community. We need to learn how to cumminicate without going on the attack. Its just all been crazy ridiculous.

    Now I am gonna go read BOATK, and see whats up ^_^

    1. @DM It's crazy. It really is. I mean bad behavior EVERYWHERE.

      @B Thanks dear :O)

  2. Yes, this. Eloquently stated, LA. Thank you for articulating the sense of dismay I've had for the past few days.

  3. Well it was either saying something or having my head explode :O) Seriously, people need to CHILL.

  4. I'm not on Facebook or Twitter nor do I participate much on Goodreads. This is probably why. I just follow blogs and the comments on them and I've only done that for a short time. This is probably the third or fourth incident I have heard about in the last few months. Authors being called out on their "true identities" and another person becoming so upset about comments made that they even shut down their own blog for awhile. I don't want any part of it. Sure, I have my opionions on issues, but sometimes there is entirely too much drama going on. That's not why I follow these blogs. I like to read M/M romance books and I enjoy discussing them with others. I like to read reviews for these books. I do not want to fight with others or feel like I am back in high school again. It's okay for others to get involved if they want to, but I think I will just observe for now. If things get too bad, I will just find a good book to read and enjoy on my own.

    I think Amy Lane is going to do a post about this issue on her blog.

  5. Laura,

    I'm so glad you said so much of what was on my mind. I can literally not even talk when I see people arguing and being cruel to one another. Over a book?

    I think the passion over these books is wonderful, but I long for honesty in this community. Honesty with a soul, though. Honesty with compassion. Thank you for expression your opinion with those very traits.

  6. I have watched "Shelter" before reading BOATK. I loved this movie so much that I have watched it numerous times and have read (and still am) all the fanfics I have found on the internets.
    So of course, I have noticed the similitudes between the book and the movie but to be honest, I was not bothered by that, probably because of my love for the movie. And it didn't prevent me to find his book amazing.
    I'm always surprised to know that authors read lots of books, I wonder how they do to not be tempted to use what they have read, because they need inspiration after all.
    Reading your post made me think and yeah, TJ Klune should have acknowledged it, but all this drama should have been avoided. This world is really a scary place.

  7. I haven't known what to think about all this, and I've been reading all kinds of differing viewpoints and hearing all kinds of different emotions being expressed.

    Your post, which is extremely well-written bty, made everything I've been reading and thinking about fall into place. You couldn't have been more helpful to me in clarifying what I think. And I couldn't have expressed it any better than you did. So, THANK YOU for a really thoughtful post!

  8. Laura, your post was quite eloquent. I'm always happy to see when you speak up because you get straight to the point and always urge people to look at the big picture.

    You know I don't like to get on GoodReads much anymore for this very reason, so the other day was the first I heard of this. Of course, I'm not surprised that it has blown up like this. Something always does, doesn't it? It's like, once a month or so, like clockwork, there's some new world-ending issue going around. I just can't handle it, but that's me.

    Honestly, the reason I feel like I've been removing myself from the m/m online community is because it has become so public but with a convenient smoke screen for this very type of situation. Of course, some people are just nasty. But then some people are stressed every day and it gets really easy to take out all of that frustration online, where there's a semi-anonymous environment.

    Anyway, just my thoughts. I can't handle it and haven't been for a while now. It takes way too much out of me just to read a few hateful comments. I don't need that and I know that everyone else doesn't either. Maybe I'm a cynical bastard and I applaud you and the few others who always speak out with a rational mind, but I don't really think this will change. Maybe a little, but not really.

    That's why I'm just gonna go back to reading!

    1. Cole, it's interesting that you brought up removing yourself from the online M/M community.

      I've told Laura at least three times in the past few months that I've thought about leaving Goodreads or just not writing reviews anymore.

      I've met alot of great people through Goodreads but it's like a ticking time bomb lately. Expressing dipleasure does not make someone a troublemaker.

    2. Yeah I know exactly what you mean. I'm glad that I got in early, you know? Now, when the shit is hitting the fan (maybe because the genre has gotten so much larger than before) I have a solid core of friends and we don't need GR to talk, you know? Also, I've got a few solid blogs for reviews, cause I still love writing them. For me, GR mostly serves as my book catalogue now :( That's a bit sad, but also still kinda great, you know, cause I love to organize :)

  9. Carnell you know I thought Shelter was beautiful and think BOATK is a great book and an impressive debut novel.

    But I still think that the inspiration behind BOATK should have been acknowledged by Tj. No more, no less. People use stories and characters all the time, and put their spin on them and create great things that are just as good as the original. It's just nice when everyone gets the credit the deserve, and you are right, the world can be scary, it certainly has been in this community in the last few days.

    Thanks Cole dear, and I agree with you I think all of this stuff is cyclical and that there will always be SOMETHING. Emotions fly high when the lines are so blurred like they are in this genre.

    We all wear so many hats. You are smart to not fall into the temptation of getting into discussions that cannot possibly end well. You know me, I can never keep my mouth shut, so I end following these arguments until I cannot take it anymore. I think in the end for me it will have to come down to how I can be on GR without letting this stuff affect me.

    I've been PARTICULARLY disappointed with the attitudes of some authors. There is no excuse for publicly belittling another author's book, especially when they have not spoken out against your work. That's not cool.

    It is also not cool to side with a publisher and accuse readers of nasty behavior. Publishers might be the vehicle with which writers get their work out to the public, but it is US the readers that give that work its recognition. I was saddened to see an author whose work I love, dismiss LEGITIMATE complains from readers regarding DSP's complete and utter lack of professionalism.

    Since December I've purchased (and I counted) eight book I have not been able to read beyond the first chapter. If I went to the shoe store and purchased shoes that fall apart the first time I wear them, it would take A LOT less than eight tries for me to swear it off. So why am I a bitch for saying I'm done with DSP and their shoddy books? That seriously upset me, because it's not fair.

    I guess in the end we all have to say our piece and that is as it should be, I just think that taking the time to consider things from all sides keeps us from going places that we later regret.

  10. Yup, there needs to be a walking away period. Sentiments are running way too high and things may be said that can't be taken back. Regret is a very bitter pill and the internet has a very long memory.

    I believe in voting with my wallet. I have stopped buying certain authors and from certain publishing houses. It's my money and the money tree never really flourished =)

    Anyway, yeah, what you said.

  11. Replies
    1. Thanks E! And OMG how much do I LOVE you for recommending Chulito! I can't stop thinking about them <3

  12. I said this already on Laddie's post, but I'll repeat myself: these are two of the best posts on this issue that anyone has written. Thank you so much for laying it out in such a clear and even-handed way.

    There's something off about going on and on about how the m/m community is a "family" and then having a fit when people ask why, if a book seems to be inspired by a movie (let's leave aside the other issues), the author or publisher can't give it some credit. This was a very small budget film that touched a lot of people. How is it less deserving?

    1. Oops, sorry, I meant to sign with my nom de internet, VacuousMinx.

    2. Honestly I don't think I will ever understand how asking for honesty makes anyone the bad guy?

      These affronted immature reactions. I just don't get it. Why isn't it okay to just say 'yes that movie influenced my story'? To be fair, I appreciated DSP's statement, thought it was appropriate and thorough, TJ's response left a lot to be desired.

      If people are questioning the connection between his book and the movie than why not give a straight answer instead of being flippant and dismissive. As I writer what could be more serious than implications of plagiarism? I mean seriously.

      I think that I maintained a respectful tone towards TJ through this whole thing, because I thought his silence was because he was being cautious of how to handle this situation, but after his statement, he lost me as a reader.

      Not that it matters since he has so many followers and devoted fans, he certainly won't miss one little reader, and good for him, hope his audience grows more and more. He just has one less readers now.