The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle

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Fanwork
Title: The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle
Creator: Avocado (white_serpent)
Date(s): 04 August 2006
Medium: online meta
Fandom: Harry Potter
External Links: The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle; wayback link page 1; wayback link page 2; wayback link page 3; wayback link page 4
WebCite page 1; WebCite page 2; WebCite page 3; WebCite page 4
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

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 expose was published over a span of three days at the Bad Penny community on Journalfen in August 2006. See Heidi8's 2013 post about it on her Tumblr [1]

For a 2001 ironic prequel to Cassandra Claire's plagiarism, see the discussion at ParadigmOfUncertainty regarding a fan who'd lifted lines from Draco Sinister six weeks before Claire was banned from Fanfiction.net.

Another irony: the last chapter of "The Draco Trilogy" was posted August 4, 2006, the same day as Avocado's expose was posted on Bad Penny. On August 4, 2006, Lori Summers made a post at ParadigmOfUncertainty, the yahoo group where The Draco Trilogy had been serialized for years, and announced the end of the series:

Everyone ought to be aware that Cassie has posted the final chapter of Draco Veritas:

http://www.fictionalley.org/authors/cassandra_claire/DV17.html

This completes the DT, a truly staggering and historic piece of fanfiction the likes of which I'd never seen before and none of us are likely to see again.

Cassie is moving on to professional publishing, and I know we'll all be queuing up to buy her first novel. We all wish her the best of luck, and I know that I for one can't wait for the rest of the world

to discover what we've all known for years! Lori [2]

Background

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.[3] 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.[4]

Contents

Additional archive links.[5]

Evidence Overview

Pamela Dean

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

This article or section needs expansion.

Other Borrowings

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." [6]

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.

At Least One Fan Retracted Her Comments

In 2013, Heidi8 commented on the comments Laura Hale made during and after the expose.

I haven’t spoken with Sinead, directly or indirectly, in over ten years. The lies she told about me were the basis for a screed posted on Bad Penny in late September of 2006 by a longtime multifandomer who used a range of fandom names including Michela and various others that included the terms Purple, Bouncy, Partly and Popple.

I discussed a little bit of Michela’s first post on my LJ at that time but at some point on October 1, 2006, Michela pulled down everything she’d written on Bad Penny and posted this there instead:

In light of the comments I have received regarding my current draft and citations, I have decided I was less ready to begin posting this account than I thought I was. I will take all of the comments I received on bad_penny and my journal into account, and work on revising this from start to finish. It was never my intention to post something inaccurate. I was trying to be as accurate and as neutral as possible. Based on reader reactions, I have not succeeded. When things are completely revised, I will be reposting.

She never did.

She never, ever did, at least not publicly. All the comments to her tale were deleted or hidden when the post was pulled down - and even the quote above isn’t on the B_P journal anymore; there’s something else there at September 29, 2006 if you want to read it for yourself. I won’t try and categorize it since anyone can see it if they want to.

The thing is, thousands of people had already read it! Dozens if not hundreds had been told bits and pieces of it for years, and I had no idea, In august of 2006 when a friend told me that Bad Penny was about to go live with a post detailing phone calls I had made to parents of kids who had written bad reviews of Cassie’s and my fics, I told her that never had happened.

I learned later that Michela had been circulating drafts of her screed and that so much of its content was based on Sinead’s baseless tales.

I don’t have all of what Michela posted back in September of 2006, but I do have this paragraph which I addressed in my own LJ that week:

> It is also about this time, in the spring of 2002, > unsubstantiated rumors circulated saying that Heidi Tandy was going after > an adult woman who had left Cassandra Claire negative feedback. Along > with Stacey and with Cassandra Claire’s involvement in helping with IP > information, they tracked down the woman and her employer. Supposedly, > one of them contacted the employer and informed the employer of the > woman’s fannish activities. This led to the woman being fired. This story > cannot be verified and the truthfulness of it is almost not important. > What is important is that people heard this story and believed it to be > true. The story helped stem a great deal of criticism regarding Heidi and > Cassandra Claire’s actions out of fear that the duo would do similar > things to the unfortunate person who crossed them.

“This story cannot be verified and the truthfulness of it is almost not important.”

Michela, if you’re still around, this was as honest a thing as I have ever read anywhere.

The story cannot be verified. The truthfulness of it is almost not important. [7], September 2, 2013 </ref>

A Canceled Panel

One result: Heidi8 and Ebony Thomas both stepped down from a Harry Potter convention panel a year later. See a canceled panel at Phoenix Rising in 2007.

Further Reading and Comments

2003

2004

2006

Multiple Dates

Unknown Date

  • [bookshop], journal since deleted, quoted at Heidi8's Tumblr in 2013: "Things that are not true: 1. “Her books are reworking of her own fanfiction.” This is not true. You may think it’s true because Tumblr repeats this lie over and over, but *it is absolutely not true.* Her books are original and, with the exception of a 3-page word-for-word recycled backstory for Draco—>Jace, do not contain plot points used in the DT. Gav detailed this in her article. I don’t know how many other ways we can say it; it’s not fucking true. 2. “She was involved in H/Hr ship wars.” No, not really. She shipped Harry/Hermione but she had an equal number of friends from the Harry/Draco side of the fandom, and she *got* involved in the widespread war on Gryffindor Tower because the husband of one of its moderators allegedly stalked and threatened her. She was really snarky and superior about her ship just like everyone else, but she was never involved in any “war” apart from the business with MsScribe, which… 3. “She played an integral part in the biggest wank in history” — she played her part in a number of them, but the MsScribe wank was not something that Cassie, or any of the rest of us, had any control over, since Cassie along with everyone else was being manipulated by Dionne. 4. “That she was a rampant cyberbully who attacked people online, and even went so far as to involve the police and try to get someone she disliked kicked out of their university?” okay, so. This is the thing. The post that everyone uses to retroactively declare CC a cyberbully has been deleted and has never been sourced. It has, however, been refuted in a number of places, and the actions that were allegedly ascribed to Cassie have been, by the own admission of one of the mods, claimed as action taken by members of the HPFGU mailing list after Sinead (the author of the Tumblr post) hacked their account repeatedly. I know that that post went viral and everyone now takes it as gospel truth, but *at no time has any part of it been substantiated, and its author deleted her post,* which is as close to a retraction as you can get on Tumblr. So this is THE main evidence that people are using to declare CC a cyberbully, and it’s just not based in fact. (Though I will say that given the widely substantiated reports that, at the time, Sinead, the author of the Tumblr post, was stalking and harassing CC, the likelihood of CC telling her that her mother should have aborted her is extremely high.) I have no idea why the nastyclare/clarewitchproject journals were deleted because I only saw one of them before they were removed and I saw nothing objectinable; but what we do know is that Tumblr considered them to be forms of harassment and they were subsequently suspended. Since we’re only getting one side of the story, I would be extremely hesitant to list them as a part of the evidence of “abuse.” Evidence that CC can’t take criticism? Absolutely. At this point the only verifiable, fact-checked source I know for the claim that CC mistreated her friends in HP fandom is my own post from 2006, and while I think I was and am pretty damn objective, at no point in it do I call her a cyberbully. If you want to dislike CC for plagiarism that she engaged in 13 years ago and has, despite the internet’s constant scrutiny, never repeated, go ahead. If you want to dislike her because she’s mean, or because you think her books are terrible, go ahead. But don’t hate her because you think she plagiarized all 7 of her enormous books, because she didn’t. I was there, I saw the kind of writing ethic she had. I saw her writing at home and on the bus and on the subway and every chance she got, and I know that you all hate to admit it, because a large part of fandom culture has defined itself around being antithetical to the BNF worship that CC engendered; but the truth is that she worked hard, she wrote constantly, and she wrote books people like to read, and she didn’t fucking plagiarize the Mortal Instruments series. And don’t hate her because she allegedly got someone kicked out of college, because, again, THAT NEVER HAPPENED. So judge her based on the things she’s actually done, instead of constantly exaggerating the myths and rumors about her, and giving her way more credit and way more power—still! after 10 years!—than she deserves. As someone who has plenty of reason to dislike CC, I should not be in the position of having to defend her by pointing out that half the things people say about her are complete bullshit. And yet here I am, because really, Tumblr, we can all do so much fucking better than this. [8]

August 6

  • [comments at Fandom_Wank]: "~toodles off to assign charlottelennox the new title of Better Than Bob Woodward~" [9]

August 7

  • [angua9]: "I am certainly not saying that I regret my contribution to the unmasking of Msscribe, or that I disapprove of what white_serpent has done. On the contrary -- it is pretty much my life motto that the truth will set you free, and I strongly believe that both of those accounts are as close to the truth as a conscientious but biased and fallible reporter can achieve. In many ways, my entire time in the Harry Potter fandom has felt tainted by what I saw as the suppression of those two truths by a certain group of people, and it is a huge relief to me to see them exposed. But the whole Cassandra Claire story makes me feel sad and uncomfortable. I don't think Cassandra Claire is a villain, the way I think Msscribe plainly is." [10]
  • [tacky tramp]: Does plagiarism matter in fanfiction?: "Many of you have probably already seen bad_penny's latest piece of fandom history: one longtime fan's account of "the Cassandra Claire plagiarism debacle." It's not quite as delightful as the MsScribe chronicle -- there's much less jaw-dropping bat-shittery here, but perhaps more seriously thought-provoking fodder for fanthropological discussion." (August 7, 2006)
  • [caras galhadon]: Cassie Claire, Plagiarist Extraordinaire; archive link: "How so many people can love and adore a known plagiarist is beyond me. I've been following this brouhaha from almost the very the beginning, and I didn't have the faintest idea of the scope of "borrowing" that went on, not by a longshot. Plagiarists, in my book, are the lowest of the low, and should not be tolerated, not on any level. It's theft, clear and simple, of the highest order. Anyone using "fanfic is plagiarism" as a defence is either really, really naive or hopelessly stupid."

August 8

  • [mmichelle]: "I've finally figured out why the bad_penny community on JournalFen bothers me. I mean, I respect the right of the people over there to write what they want, and I do read a lot of it, regardless of whether or not I agree with the argument being made, but it's always made me a bit uneasy. And today, I realized that this uneasiness comes from purely selfish reasons: it just reminds me of what a brat I've been in fandom from time to time." [11]
  • [ trinityofone ]: Degrees of plagiarism: where do we draw the line?: "I’ll admit, I’ve been reading the latest incarnation of the Cassandra Claire plagiarism debacle over at bad_penny. Like the whole Ms. Scribe saga, I find it fascinating the way I find most human drama fascinating. However, there are some issues related to the various plagiarism charges that make me uneasy, and that’s what I want to talk about. From the account, I think it’s clear that Cassandra Claire plagiarized Pamela Dean, and I think that’s pretty inexcusable, and made worse by how badly she handled it. My opinion on this is meaningless; I’m not even in Harry Potter fandom. But it’s the issue of the other quotes she used that has me worried." (August 8, 2006)
  • [ rahirah ]: Weekend stuff and pondering on plagiarism: "Reading the Cassie Clare thing has made me re-ponder the question. At what point does allusion become plagiarism? A lengthy exchange of dialogue substantially reproducing a conversation from another source would seem to be a no-brainer: that's plagiarism. But where do we draw the line? One sentence? Two sentences? Three? What if the sentences are re-worked a bit for humorous or ironic impact?" (August 8, 2006)

August 11

  • [caras galadhon]: More Moral Outrage. Go Me.; archive link: "I'm disgusted. I'm completely and utterly disgusted. Heidi and AngieJ/Ebony are going to be on a panel at Phoenix Rises with Henry Jenkins. HENRY JENKINS. They have the gall to put one of the pioneers of Fan Studies on a panel with two plagiarists. Two people who feed off fans and fandom. Excuse me while I go dry heave in the corner. What is WRONG with these people? Heidi and AngieJ should be pulled from that goddamn con this minute. Raaargh! *stabs random things* ...Ow. ETA: AngieJ is an English teacher?! Oh lord, I'm gonna throw up again."

August 15

  • [Heidi8]: "I had YMs and emails calling me a plagiarist because I didn't do MLA citations for a fic that I wrote over five years ago, or because I stupidly forgot to cite a Prefab Sprout song, or a Shel Silverstein poem, or three lines from Cicero. Yes, I was stupid to forget to cite them, and I am sorry that I did, and that in the ensuing years, I didn't go back and reread the fic and realise it at some point along the way...[snipped] There's a discussion I tried to have five years ago about plagiarism - what is it, where are the lines drawn, how do we cite, how should we cite - but it often disolved and devolves into extremism. I hope it stops because there are some terrific people - and some people who are complaining about me in this past week - who have used lines from other sources in the fics they've written and haven't done MLA style citations, so maybe we do need to again revisit the issue of disclaimers and what should and should not go into them. The discussion didn't go anywhere five years ago, and when I've brought it up since then, it's never gotten much attention. Maybe now, it will." [12]
  • [caras galadhon]: "A rather large part of my brain wants to point at the bad_penny exposes and the related fussing about people holding those exposed to account and shout, "What exactly did you expect to happen?" In my world, I'm responsible for more than myself. I am obliged to right what wrongs I can, and not to simply think of myself. I have an ethical obligation to try and leave the world better than I encountered it, and to try and do the right thing. Just because something does not affect me directly does not mean that I can turn my back and ignore it. And that is the problem with the whole setup of bad_penny. There is an inherent flaw in the idea that it's ok to air dirty laundry, but it's not ok to want that laundry washed clean. This brings us to the specific instances under examination in these cases. Is contacting Cassie Claire's publisher to let them know they're harbouring an unremitting plagiarist trolling?" [13]

August 16

  • [ Ebony (AngieJ) ]: "Posting Trouble in Paradise in the early days of fandom was, for lack of a better comparison, like sitting down and telling bedtime stories to my sisters, cousins, niece and nephew. To be honest, I was a really lazy writer back then, more concerned with getting out the story than with the necessary mechanics of attribution and formatting. I took care with my original fiction and of course my academic work was cited in MLA or APA format, but at the time, I thought that all fanfiction was plagiarism, anyway... and my biggest concern at the time was that someone would send this R-rated Harry Potter fanfiction to the school district where I taught fifth grade. Fate, it seems, has a sense of irony." [14] [15]
  • [ telesilla ]: It's time for HP fandom to put up or shut up: "Harry Potter fandom has no one--not bad_penny, not white_serpent or charlottelennox or anyone else--but themselves to blame for what's going on at the moment. This is the fandom's fault.... HP fandom could have stood up back in June of 2001--yes, for those not involved in this, the fandom has known about Cassie Claire's plagiarism for over five years now--and said "Hey! That's wrong! Apologize, and then either cite or pull your work and if you don't we'll abandon you." But they didn't. The story of Cassie Claire and her plagiarism could have been one of those stories old HP hands told to n00bs to make sure they understood the rules and the penalty for breaking them. But it isn't."
  • [shezan]: Of lynch mobs: "I take no pleasure in having been the first to call the wankers a lynch mob. Nobody sane would want to operate in a social environment that can produce one. Yet what else will you call something that has now come up with death theats against one of the people they've been so happy to abuse? Some of these cretins are now creeping up in the targets' LJs, bleating apologies. They did not mean it! Sure, they criticised, and joined the wank, and named the guilty, and sputtered insults, and called them criminals, but they never intended things to go that far! And they were right in the first place, surely?"

August 17

  • [savageseraph]: "[Plagiarism in fandom] also violates the trust of their community. Unfair or not, BNF's have the responsibility to lead by example in their fandoms. They become role models of a sort for many other writers in their fandoms by virtue of their status. This is true in any position of authority in any organization. It is not a opportunity to get a bigger hat for your bigger head. It's an unavoidable responsibility." [16]

August 18

  • [zoepaleologa]: Fandom and the Cult of Personality: "There may have been one or two wake up calls over the past few weeks, though, as some of the fans finally dared suggest their empresses were naked."

August 19

  • [statement by FictionAlley mods]: "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." [17]

2013

  • [Heidi8]: "Hi, I’m the “lawyer pal” that Alli is referring to. I never threatened anyone who accused Cassie (or me) of plagiarism. Cassie never called the police on people who disagreed with her. The girl who claims that Cassie tried to get her kicked out of her Uni is named Sinead; Cassie was not involved in anything regarding the aftermath of Sinead’s hacking (alongside her then-boyfriend and possibly others) into a mutual friend’s Yahoo account (yes, they admitted to it) or the subsequent deletion of the main Harry Potter for Grownups list." [18]

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." [19]

2016

  • [biochemhippy]: "yknow, i was really into hp fandom when this all happened and never even noticed. I’d read vsd of course, but the rest of it went *woosh* thank god" [21]
  • [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." [24]

References

  1. archive link, September 2013
  2. Mad Lori at 27149 The final chapter of DV, post at ParadigmOfUncertainty where the Draco Trilogy had been serialized, August 4, 2001
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. Avocado's Bad Penny account, http://www.journalfen.net/community/bad_penny/10481.html Posted August 06, 2006. Archived September 20, 2012 at WebCite
  7. http://heidi8.tumblr.com/post/60076435247/top-posting-to-note-that-my-post-below-far-far ], archive link
  8. bookshop's comments reposted by Heidi8: [1] heidi8.tumblr; archive link, September 2013
  9. Plagiarism doesn't count if I think you have talent!; WebCite, August 6th, 2006
  10. I Can't Believe I'm Writing About This...; WebCite by angua9, August 7th, 2006
  11. I've finally figured out why the bad_penny community on JournalFen bothers me; archive link, by mmichelle (August 8, 2006)
  12. untitled; archive link page one; archive link page two; archive link page three by Heidi8, August 15, 2006
  13. When Did Having Ethics Constitute Trolling?; archive link
  14. General Public Statement to the Latter-Day HP Fandom; archive link by Ebony Elizabeth, August 16, 2006
  15. Ebony commented on September 5, 2000 at Harry Potter for Grownups, a little less than a year before Cassandra Claire was banned from FanFiction.Net for [[plagiarism]: "For those of us who are men and women of letters, plagiarism is what horse theft was to the settlers of the Old West. It's a sin I despise in my students, in my colleagues, and in fellow writers."
  16. The Harry Potter Plagiarism Scandal of Doom (HPPSOD)...; archive link by savageseraph, August 17, 2006
  17. Statement from the Administrators; WebCite; FictionAlleyPark, August 19, 2006
  18. Heidi8: [2] heidi8.tumblr; archive link, September 2013
  19. tumblr reblog, Archived version by flourish, posted 20 August 2015.
  20. berlynn wohl.tumblr
  21. biochemhippy.tumblr
  22. princesschickadilly.tumblr
  23. horrorhouses.tumblr
  24. fragileliquid.tumblr