The JJ Massa Thang--veinglory

Saturday, December 01, 2007


The interverse is all abuzz (again). The first accusation came from a fanfiction writer, that JJ Massa's title 'The Edge' (Linden Bay) borrowed heavily from her story. You can see the relevant excerpts more clearly here. Linden Bay seems to have withdrawn the title from their site while they presumably look into the matter. The accusations are spreading to other of Massa's title and other published and unpublished sources.

Who knows how this will shake out. The copying is not direct and word for word but it is well beyond what can be explained by coincidence. One thing this issue does prove--an awful lot of people don't know how to spelled plagiarism ;)

My prediction: cue lots of angst about how this reflects on epublishing/small presses/POD/romance etc etc.

28 comments:

Katrina Strauss 4:37 PM  

I don't care how it reflects on any of the above. Plagiarism (I admit I learned how to spell it correctly after it happened to me!) occurs at all levels of the writing community and publishing industry. Whether one is lifting from fanfic or Faulkner, a plagiarist is the lowest of the low. This case will certainly be interesting to watch. While the affected writer(s) may never see financial compensation, I do they at least receive an apology along with rightful recognition of their work.

Dusk Peterson 6:28 PM  

My only comment at this stage is that I wonder how a legal case about the plagiarism of a work of fan fiction would play out in court.

Elisa 6:50 PM  

I don't know if feel sorry that all this is begun in my LJ. I have an high opinion of Linden Bay Romance. Elisa

Anonymous,  7:10 PM  

It happens in the NY arena, too. Remember Opal Mehta?

Emily Veinglory 7:34 PM  

I suspect it might be a similar scenario to OM :(

L.E. Bryce,  10:15 PM  

And guess who's book is paired with The Edge on Amazon.com? That's right, not both of my books together, but one of mine with J.J. Massa. Just a bit of pointless trivia there.

Whatever the story, I don't think the other author should have snarked in Elisa's LJ, or threatened her. Elisa didn't know when she posted that review, it's not her fault.

Amanda Young 10:57 PM  

Hmm... This is the first I've heard about it. I wonder if the dates check out, because The Edge was originally published with *smacks forehead because I can't remember* one of the epubs that went out of business. It started with a V. Man, I hate it when I can't remember somthing. The only reason I know that, lol, is because I bought the early version way back when.

Anonymous,  11:46 PM  

Venus Press. JJ had a ton of works there.

L.E. Bryce,  12:05 AM  

Well, if JJ still has the contract, and it predates the fanfic....

Dusk Peterson 12:27 AM  

I don't want to sound like a prude, but I really think it's a shame that this has to be discussed in public. I don't like the idea of us speculating on the two authors' innocence or guilt, without any of us having the behind-the-scenes evidence that would make clear what happened. I've seen far too many cases of people drawing hasty conclusions about people, based on insufficient evidence, with the result that a person is haunted for years afterwards by unjust online accusations.

From what the fan fiction writer says, she's currently in conversation with JJ Massa and her publisher. I hope that what happened can be determined quietly. After that is determined, then is the time to publicly draw conclusions, it seems to me.

(And yes, I nearly posted a message on evidence of the timing of publication of the two stories, so I understand the temptation to chat on about an incident as exciting as this.)

amanda 2:26 AM  

In answer to your first question, Dusk, the fanfiction in question was written in the StarTrek Voyager fandom. Paramount, who own the Startrek franchise, not only allow non-profit fanfiction to be written and published but have agreed that the stories (rather than the characters) are the copyright of the fanfiction writer. So, yes, I do have legal standing in this.
In response to your second post, this situtation became public primarily because when JJ Massa was confronted regarding the plagiarism she made the accusation that it was actually *I* who had stolen the story. *My* reputation was being ruined within my own community and my silence on the matter would have added credence to her false claims.
And, clearly, there are people who belittle the idea of fanfiction and consequently don't feel that a fanfiction writer's reputation are important compared to a 'real' writer's reputation... but, consider this; when I wrote this story in 2003 I was already well established as a writer and had my own following of readers and a high reputation (albeit in the fanfiction world). JJ Massa didn't even start writing until a year later and first published her rip of my story in May 2005 on Venus Press.
So, actually, I consider MYSELF to be the author of long-standing reputation, and JJ Massa is just a johnny-come-lately who has built her reputation on the back of at least ONE stolen work.
And finally, for those who have little respect for fanfiction, please consider the fact that with nothing more than a fancy paintjob (one I could have done to the story myself, had I wanted to) my fanfiction story became a best-selling ebook.

Dusk Peterson 3:16 AM  

1) My question concerning fan fiction wasn't intended as a jab at you; it was pure curiosity. I'm a member of the fan fiction community too, and I'd be interested to see how a case involving fan fiction played out in court, as there's been lots of speculation as to how the courts would handle such matters. Needless to say, I hope it won't reach that point in this situation.

2) My remark about discussions in public weren't aimed at the principle parties in this case, namely you and JJ Massa. Rather, it was aimed at those of us who aren't involved in the case and therefore can't base our remarks on anything except pure speculation.

amanda 3:34 AM  

I appreciate the reply, Dusk, and I'm sorry if I came across as over-defensive, but I'm fighting an uphill battle here against what feels like unsurmountable odds and it's very hard for me to be objective about the situation. I seem to be spending a lot of time snarling, then apologising, at the moment.

Dusk Peterson 3:41 AM  

I can see how my remark about fan fiction could be taken as criticism. I was addressing it to Emily Veinglory, who has also spent time in the fan fiction community, so I knew that she'd understand it, but I forgot that others here wouldn't necessarily know of my background. Anyway, I hope that everything works out without too much conflict.

Elisa 4:28 AM  

Thanks L.E. for what you have written. In these days I "feel" an heavy "silence" around my LiveJournal, and I don't know if all is linked to this matters... I really didn't want to do nothing wrong, on the other hand seem that I was the only to read and review the book when it was re-release or maybe, my LiveJournal is read by more person of how I think. Elisa

amanda 4:35 AM  

Elisa,
I have already apologised on your LJ for my initial comments to you, but if you feel I owe further apology consider it yours. I certainly didn't intend to get you embroiled in this situation personally. You haven't done anything wrong, and it's obvious to everyone hopefully, that the only people who have behaved badly in this situation is JJ Massa for stealing my work and Myself for striking out blindly (in clearly the wrong direction) when I first discovered the horrific situation. So, again, I am sorry for making you feel uncomfortable.

Elisa 4:46 AM  

Thanks Amanda. I really appreciate your words, both here than in my LJ. In a certain way my LJ never had a so huge window, but really I'd prefer a low profile existence on line, than all this. Maybe it's the first time that I really understand that what I write could influence or affect someone else. Elisa

Katrina Strauss 9:22 AM  

Dusk,

A few of us in the e-book community (and yes, also former fanfic writer here) felt this needs discussion (tho I agree, no determinations of guilt or innocence as we aren't court-appointed officials) because of the fact that, *if* the fanfic is indeed a plagiarism, then there may very well be others who have had their work stolen and need to come forward. If the work in question had just been quietly pulled, we might have never known. In light of recent uproars in the e-book community, and without an official organization to moderate things (yes, we supposedly have a few such groups but they ain't no RWA) we really do have to police ourselves. No, we shouldn't go vigilante and form a lynch mob. But yes, some investigation needed to be done, so we could produce some actual evidence rather than just "speculation", and thanks to a bit of grassroot effort, it's being done and more Massa titles are being compared to other existing work.

I'm sure a few of you are wondering why this particular incident is such a hot button for me, particularly when, prior to this, I had neither met nor chatted with either party involved. Well, it strikes a nerve in a few ways :

1. I was once plagiarised by a more-established author, so I know that yes, it happens. I know what it's like to fear that "no one will believe little ol' me."

2. While your comments about fanfic were misinterpeted, I have seen others *immediately* dismiss Amanda's allegations because oh, she's just a fanfic writer and we all know they aren't real writers. As fanfic alumni, I trust you'd find such immediate assumptions as insulting as I have.

With that being said, I'm attempting to remain unbiased in this. I'm sure I'm not coming off that way, but note I have not officially stated who is at fault here, hence why I did a bit of research in the first place before jumping the gun.

But with a continuing lack of ethics rearing its head in the growing erotic/romance e-book industry, we have to answer to someone, and for now that someone would be our peers.

Teddy Pig 9:43 AM  

Sorry Amanda but you owe some more apologies to people since did not stop at attacking just Elisa over her review of J.J. Massa's book but also hit Book Utopia on her review of the book.

You might have a case here since I can clearly see your original post of the story was Dec 2003 from my review of The Internet Archive but to cause issues at review sites is just silly.

They had nothing to do with this issue.

amanda 12:03 PM  

You're right, teddy, that I also hit Book utopia ... but, if you are fair, you know that I have already apologised to Book Utopia Mom and my apology was accepted.
And, being fair, let us clarify that my 'hit' on Book Utopia consisted of an author's response and acknowledgement of the critical review. The only part in which I possibly crossed over into bad taste was in my comment that JJ Massa is a thief. The comment was posted to an inappropriate place, perhaps, but was totally true as far as I'm concerned and whilst I might regret saying it *there*, I don't in any other way regret saying it.
I'm the first to admit that in my initial horror of the situtation, I behaved badly. I made every effort to apologise 'immediately' about crossing that line. It seems a little unkind for people to keep chastising me for that initial reaction, especially in light of my apologies. Please clarify for me who it is I have 'failed' to apologise to, so that I can do so and then move on to dealing with the actual meat of this matter, that being the plagiarism of my story.

Emily Veinglory 12:04 PM  

I take Dusk's point. I delayed a day or two before posting about this. But Linden Bay's interum withdrawl suggested it was a substantive issue and on of interest in the genre. Personally I would hope that the publisher might be able to mediate something satisfactory to everyone. I wouldn't want to suggest that there is ill-will or malice by any party in the issue.

Teddy Pig 2:00 PM  

Well good then Amanda I am glad you addressed that situation.

The point is until proven I know I personally would not want anything to do with the situation and would be very reticent to have accusations posted on my own review site without the person making them fully mapping out the proof.

Even then I do not think I would want to be seen as a representative in the legal proceedings where those issues should be addressed by professionals.

I am not a legal expert, I just review books and discuss them.

Elisa 2:08 PM  

I'm totally agree with Teddy and this is the reason, why, in the beginning, I have deleted (maybe I was wrong...) the first comment and was very surprise by the reaction I received (I know Amanda that you have made your apologies to me, I only want to explain). After your reaction I post on the issue, but sincerely I'm not very happy that my LiveJournal is a place where people question on the issue. I read and discuss on book, I'm not even consider myself a real reviewer (you have only to look at my English to know that I can't be a real reviewer). Elisa

Emily Veinglory 2:41 PM  

Hi Elisa. I would consider you very much a real reviewer. But feel free to send those who want to debate with other issues over here and I am sure Karen will take them too. Your LJ is focus on the joy of reading rather than the drama of blogging :)

Katrina Strauss 2:52 PM  

Elisa,

Your integrity is not being called into question, hon. *hugs* Amanda's allegations just happened to be noticed by some of us here in e-pub land at your journal first. I personally have only been interested in sharing the info I found after the fact, that info namely being the story archived at the fanfic site, and the "offline" Massa excerpt. Please know that you may also direct people over to Ash Arceneaux' MySpace blog as she is one of the unbiased authors who put her name on the line by bringing this to the much-needed attention of the e-publishing community. I think it is safe to say that the focus is now on Amanda and JJ Massa. You are fine, Elisa, and no one is upset with you! Neither are we questioning Linden Bay or any of the other publishers that may have inadvertently been involved with possible plagiarism.

Elisa 2:56 PM  

Thanks Emily and Katrina, I'm happy to listen your words. Elisa

Teddy Pig 7:57 PM  

Don't get me wrong though.

If this is real then it needs to be dealt with. I just know both these ladies are good people.

I know in my case Amanda if you had come to me in email and told me what was wrong I would be more than willing to take the review off line for whatever reason or think twice before reviewing that persons books. Depends on the situation and all but email allows me to consider the situation better.

That's just me though.

Dusk Peterson 8:47 PM  

I don't have any problems with Emily posting news that was already circulating in the blogosphere; nor do I have problems with people having abstract discussions about plagiarism. I certainly don't have any problems with authors' works being scrutinized to see whether they are original; that sort of thing ought to be going on all the time, preferably at the time a work is accepted for publication.

But beyond that, I just don't think that we have the tools needed to determine what happened in this particular case. The evidence for that is held by the two people concerned, and unless they plan to spread all their evidence out in front of the public and ask the public's opinion, I don't think we're in a position where we can judge what happened.

Katrina Strauss wrote:

"As fanfic alumni, I trust you'd find such immediate assumptions as insulting as I have."

I do, but I'm also (1) a former investigative reporter with a due sense of humility about the limitations placed on investigators who have little information and (2) someone who has been victim, more than once, to online slander. Plagiarism is a very serious charge, and that charge has been made against two people in this case. I'm not saying that bystanders shouldn't be curious and concerned about this situation; I certainly am. I just don't think that any of us can say definitively at this point what has happened - and I'm afraid I've seen people doing that around the blogosphere.

My contribution to the abstract discussion of plagiarism is Helen Keller's plagiarism in "The Frost King". Here's a second anecdote along those lines:

When I was thirteen, I read a famous fantasy novel. I was so deeply impressed by the storyline that I promptly added variations of it to my nightly fantasy-spinning. My variations changed over time, and over time I forgot where the storyline had come from.

Thirty years later, having never reread the famous novel, I began to write my own novel, based on my fantasies. Fortunately, this was safe enough for me to do; by this time, my fantasies departed considerably from the novel that I'd derived them from. But in one of the scenes I included a short exchange of dialogue that I was hideously embarrassed to discover - when I reread the famous novel a couple of years later - was lifted straight out of the other author's mouth.

This sort of thing has happened to more than one author, so I don't think one can make hasty conclusions about motives in cases where plagiarism occurs.

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