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.