I've spent the better part of the weekend, which I enjoyed at the Mothership, trying to decide whether or not to write this post. I don't want to cause trouble and to be frank, I'm getting a bit tired of talking about the whole thing, but the more I thought about it, the more I had to get my feelings out.
On Wednesday, I got an email informing me that someone had submitted one of my stories as their own for an anthology. To make matters worse, I also found out that the same story was for sale on Amazon, under a different name. I won't get into all the deeply stupid particulars of how the story fell into someone else's hand, but those are the facts. But, it's what happened after that I find most troubling.
When I confronted the person in question, the response I got was very disappointing indeed. Instead of any shred of remorse or contrition, I got a diatribe about how they were not at all responsible for their actions. Not only that, I got insulted. Basically, I was told that a person like them would never have to steal from an 'amateur' like me. But, the fact is, they did. Whether I am to believe that they did so 'unknowingly' (how do you not know whether you wrote a story? I mean, come on!) is not the point. You took a story that you knew wasn't written by you, changed a few things, put your name on it and called it your own. That is not writing. THAT IS THEFT. Plain and simple. By any standard definition, that is plagiarism. Whether or not you thought you were able to do so because of the crazy ridiculous shady dealings of a publisher who takes stories from other people, turns around and does what they please with them because they think they own them outright, putting your name on someone else's work is still wrong. No matter how many details you change, you didn't write it. It is also unethical and quite simply, not something a professional writer would do. Even with exclusive publication rights, you can't take someone else's name off a story and call it yours. Not how it works.
I chose not to ask the person any of the questions that have been dancing in my mind for the last few days, because I knew from their original response that I would get no satisfaction. And, I knew that nothing I said would make them feel the shame they should feel but clearly didn't. Also, I was not interested in going to war with the righteously justified who know in their heart they are wrong. So, I took the high road and kept it all inside. Until now.
More than anything, more than the anger and the rage, I feel hurt. That someone would do this to someone and then be so cavalier about it, as if because I am not of their 'stature', it's okay to steal from me, is beyond crushing. I cherish each and every word I put down on paper and send to someone. When I get into a book, I am honored and thrilled. For someone to take that from me, to take my words and treat them so frivolously, well, I am just so sad. There really isn't any other word for it. Not just because of everything I've mentioned thus far, but also because of the lack of empathy this person seems to possess. To say that you are too much of a big shot to steal from someone you stole from, speaks to a lack of awareness that just makes me ill.
So, that's how I feel. I've taken care of the business aspects of this incident, but the rest of it, well, that will take some more time to fix. Until then, I'll be asking myself the same question that has been on my lips from the beginning.