The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle
|Title:||The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle|
|Date(s):||04 August 2006|
|External Links:||The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle|
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The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle is a 2006 exposé by Avocado detailing the events surrounding Cassandra Claire's ban from FanFiction.Net in June 2001 and the plagiarism present in The Draco Trilogy.
The Draco Trilogy was posted in installments over a period of six years (2000-2006). In each installment, Cassie deliberately inserted unattributed quotes from various science fiction television shows and may have expected her readers to identify them, but many readers were not aware that the quotes were not her writing. Not everyone thought that this practice was ethical. Matters came to a head in 2001 when Avocado identified extensive sequences of action, description and dialogue from Draco Sinister, Chapter 9 as having been lifted from The Hidden Land, an out-of-print fantasy novel by Pamela Dean. Cassie was subsequently banned from Fanfiction.net for plagiarism. There was much wank. However, not all the plagiarized passages were discovered at that time. Not everyone thought that the plagiarism mattered. Wank, debate, and plagiarism accusations would resurface from time to time between 2001 and 2006.
Avocado's exposé was posted less than two months after a widely read magnum opus detailing the misbehavior of another Harry Potter fan, MsScribe, and in fact was inspired by this earlier account. See The MsScribe Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography. Both exposés were posted on LiveJournal several years after the fact, thus exposing a newer generation of fans to old Harry Potter wank that had happened to some extent on other platforms.
As noted in the comments, The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle was posted on the same day as the last chapter of the last book of The Draco Trilogy.
- Introduction: My motivation (WayBack Machine link)
- Part I: Cast of characters (WayBack Machine link)
- Part II: How it began (WayBack Machine link)
- Part III: My impressions of the Draco Trilogy (WayBack Machine link)
- Part IV: Waiting Part IV: Waiting (WayBack Machine link)
- Part V: The brawl (WayBack Machine link)
- Part VI: What changed? (WayBack Machine link)
- Part VII: Aftermath -- the other reason I shut up in 2001 (WayBack Machine link)
- Part VIII: The excuses, a summary (WayBack Machine link)
- Part IX: Contact prior to account deletion (WayBack Machine link)
- Part X: The foundation of Fiction Alley (WayBack Machine link)
- Part XI: R.J. Anderson, Pamela Dean, and permission (WayBack Machine link)
- Part XII: Plagiarism? What plagiarism? (WayBack Machine link)
- Part XIII: Is Cassandra Claire claiming credit for it? (WayBack Machine link)
- Part XIV: Is Cassandra Claire profiting from plagiarism? (WayBack Machine link)
- Part XV: Heidi (WayBack machine link)
- Epilogue: Why bother, five years later? (WayBack Machine link)
Additional archive links.
The largest portion of borrowed text appeared in Draco Sinister Chapter 9 and was taken from Pamela Dean's The Hidden Land, the second book of her Secret Country Trilogy. The chapter's original disclaimer read only: "Credit for the inspiration for this conception of the wizarding afterlife goes to a book called The Secret Country, alas, I no longer recall who wrote it."
Below is a portion of Avocado's side-by-side comparison of the Draco Sinister scene (left) and the plagiarized scene from Dean's The Hidden Land (right):
Draco opened his eyes, or thought he did. He could not see anything with them, not blackness, not anything. Harry, he tried to say, but he had nothing to say it with – no throat, no voice. It was like dreaming, and knowing he was dreaming, but not being able to wake himself up."Harry!" he called out, and this time he heard his own voice, and jumped.
Ted opened his eyes, or thought he did. He could not see anything with them, not blackness, not anything. He did not seem to have eyes, or anything else. Randolph, he tried to say, but he had nothing to say it with. It was like dreaming, and knowing you were dreaming, and trying to wake up by remembering the bed, and the pillow, and the color of your pajama sleeve: it was like the time just before the trick worked and you woke up."Randolph!" said Ted, and jumped. He had a voice, and ears to hear it, and a nervous system to make him jump when he was startled.
See the entire comparison in Part 3 of the exposé.
Chapter 11 of Draco Sinister also contained several lines lifted from The Secret Country and The Hidden Land, as well as the concepts of Nightmare Grass and Dean's version of shape-shifters from the trilogy. The original version of the chapter was uncited; a later footnote credited Dean for the Nightmare Grass and shapechangers.
Pop Culture Dialogue
Cassandra Claire often reproduced concepts, rough scenes, descriptive phrases and dialogue from several fantasy novels. These borrowings were often uncited (or cited in such a way as to make the amount of borrowed text appear far less extensive than it actually was.)
For instance, in Tanith Lee's "Magritte's Secret Agent," a character description reads:
"The skin of his face had the sort of marvellous pale texture most men shave off when they rip the first razor blade through their stubble and the second upper dermis goes with it forever."
Cassandra Claire rephrased this line in Draco Dormiens, chapter 6:
"I'll be sorry when you start shaving," she said dreamily (she was quite lightheaded now), "I love that translucent quality your skin has, I always have. And when you rip that first razor through your stubble, that'll go with it forever." 
Unlike the TV quotes from Buffy and other shows, which were usually altered very little from their original form, Cassandra Claire's repeated borrowing from classic fantasy authors like Roger Zelazny, Tanith Lee, Gene Wolfe and Pamela Dean was both more extensive, and harder to pick up on, as descriptive passages and particular turns of phrase were inserted subtly into paragraphs of Cassandra Claire's own work.
Again, citations were either nonexistent or failed to fully account for the amount of material that was borrowed.
Fan Comments: 2015
[flourish]: Oh, I wouldn’t go so far to call Cassie a villain! She wasn’t always a paragon of shining virtue, but she was a friend at the time, and she got the short end of the stick at least as much as she gave it. The whole thing has gotten so freakin’ weird in the way the internet remembers it.
Fan Comments: 2016
[berlynn wohl]: I feel like, between Cassandra Claire, Ms. Scribe, Andy Blake (whom you may remember as Victoria Bitter), Interrogating the Text From The Wrong Perspective, My hed is pastede on yay, and the friggin’ Domlijah color wheel, wank just instantly turned everyone who was in fandom in the early 2000′s into Benjamin the Donkey from Animal Farm. Every week since 2005, someone brings us the receipts about a new problematic fave, and we just shrug, like, “Windmill or no windmill, things will go on as they always have.”
[fragileliquid]: The wiki entry for the Very Secret Diaries made me laugh and brought back some oooooold memories. I hold no malice toward Cassie–maybe, because I never really followed her after getting a good chuckle from the VSD, so this whole kerfuffle was off my radar. Plus, her story is, by far, one of the less messed up things that came out of the LotR fandom. 
Further Reading and Comments
- Originality Considered Harmful?; WebCite, by nostrademons, March 23, 2003
- The Cassie Claire Primer; WebCite, October 15, 2004
- Plagiarism doesn't count if I think you have talent!; WebCite, August 6th, 2006
- I Can't Believe I'm Writing About This...; WebCite by angua9, August 7th, 2006
- Does plagiarism matter in fanfiction?, August 7, 2006
- I've finally figured out why the bad_penny community on JournalFen bothers me; archive link, by mmichelle (August 8, 2006)
- Statement from the Administrators: "It has come to the attention of the officers and directors of FictionAlley that allegations as to improper citation of sources have been made against fics posted by Heidi, Cassandra Claire and Ebony. Such allegations have to be taken seriously, and, accordingly, the authors and the mods have been given time to consider the allegations, and for the authors to edit the fics concerned. As Cassandra Claire had already decided to delete her fics for unrelated reasons they will not be restored; the other authors are or are in the process of editing, and revised versions either have been or will be posted in due course." 
- In the introduction Avocado says, "My motivation for doing it now is having read Aja's post about her time in the Inner Circle and Ari_O's post during the Ms. Scribe Story." The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle -- Intro through Part IV, posted to bad_penny on 4 August 2006.
- See thread starting at 2006-08-04 09:10 pm UTC on the bad_penny post "The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle -- Intro through Part IV"; WebCite.
- WebCites: Intro to Part IV | Part V through "Email: Michela Ecks and Pamela Dean" | Part V "Ranting_page" through Part VIII | Part IX through XI | Part XII | WebCite Part XIII through Epilogue
- Avocado's Bad Penny account, http://www.journalfen.net/community/bad_penny/10481.html Posted August 06, 2006. Archived September 20, 2012 at WebCite
- tumblr reblog, Archived version by flourish, posted 20 August 2015.
- berlynn wohl.tumblr
- Statement from the Administrators; WebCite; FictionAlleyPark, August 19, 2006