Monday, August 26, 2013

'The Mortal Instruments' Cassandra Clare is a Thief

So there's this new movie coming out called The Mortal Instruments which I don't really care about. When you get older, the phrase "for the young people" really becomes a useful tag for things some people get excited about that you've seen a million times before. Later I found out it's based on some teen fantasy book series which I have even less interest in: The Mortal Instruments trilogy.

But when I found out the Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare started out as Harry Potter fanfiction, I started reading up on it. It didn't take long before I came to a sudden and inescapable conclusion.

Cassandra Clare is a thief.

Now let me be clear. I have no beef with fanfiction. Used to be a fanfiction writer back in the day. Fanfiction authors may not have to come up with the premise or characters, but they still have to make an effort to write an original story. I don't even have a problem with fanfiction turned into mainstream books like Fifty Shades of Gray. If you can get away with it, go for it. It would be nice to get paid for the hard work you do. I wish I could find a way to publish my Sliders fanfiction.

What made me angry about Clare is she didn't just use the premise and characters from Harry Potter. She stole dialogue from other works, including Red Dwarf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Blackadder. She stole description and almost an entire chapter from books by fantasy author Pamela Dean. You can read a good overview on Fanpop (and more detail in Bad Penny's article) and I think it's pretty shocking.

At the time, she acted like all she needed to do was give vague "some of this was inspired by/an homage to" credit, and that made it okay. She not only didn't care, but didn't stop. She claimed it was a game for readers to find the original source material. Of course, many of her readers were unaware of the "game" and she built a large following in the fanfic community for "her" great dialogue and descriptions. Fanfiction.net eventually banned her stories from their site, confirming it was not a game, but her audience followed her when she turned her work in The Mortal Instruments. Thus, her plagiarism led directly to her success as a mainstream author. Once she got a book deal, her disclaimers about where she got her material disappeared.

There are some people who have refused to let this plaigarism stand. Wherever she goes, whatever she does, people pop up to call her a thief. They're the real heroes. That's how I found out about it. Clare is aware of how she's regarded but won't apologize. She even wrote a whole article on the "cyberbullying" she endures, claiming it's because she's Jewish, never once addressing the real reason for it: her theft. When people complain, she and her fans whine that this all happened a long time ago. They're saying to let it go. When she gives some of her profits from the authors she stole from, I will. Now she has a movie adaptation to bring a whole new group of fans, none of whom will know the true source of her fame. Time has been on her side and that's not right.
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