The Cassandra Cla(i)re Saga

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Title: The Cassandra Cla(i)re Saga
Creator: iwasonceafangirl
Date(s): 06 October 2019
Medium: Online
Fandom: Harry Potter
Topic: Cassandra Claire
External Links: The Cassandra Cla(i)re Saga; archive link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The Cassandra Cla(i)re Saga is a 2019 essay by iwasonceafangril.

It was posted to Reddit where it has 228 comments.

The introduction: "TL;DR: The author of the fanfic trilogy that popularized “Draco in Leather Pants” is also a famous YA author, with a long, complicated history involving fandom drama and Ginny/Ron romance fic.... What do you get when you cross the pure insanity of the Harry Potter fandom at its peak with the nightmarish hellscape of YA lit? The Cassandra Cla(i)re drama, that's what. "

For more on this topic, see The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle and CharityWank.

Some Topics Discussed

  • what is a BNF and why this is important
  • the Saga as defined by:
    • "Draco Dormiens and the dawn of Sexpot Malfoy" -- the tensions and culture of the het, gen, and slash fans of the time in the Harry Potter fandom
    • "Draco Sinister and the Plagiarism Scandal"
    • "Draco Veritas and LaptopGate"
    • "The Mortal Instruments"
  • a mention of the MsScribe drama and a recommendation of a site to visit
  • Holly Black and Soap Dick
  • the toxicity and drama of YA fandom and culture
  • an accusation about artwork for the Nimbus 2003 convention
  • a library employee complains about the hassle of shelving CC's heavy books

From the Essay

You can make the claim that [BNFs'] notoriety was earned through legitimate means, but that didn't guarantee that they'd behave once they were fandom-famous, and plenty of people used their BNF positions to cyberbully and harass younger and less well-known fans. The main issue with BNFs was that small groups of them had a tendency to control nearly everything in a given fandom, making challenging them fruitless and often unwise. If you were slighted by a regular fan — say, someone plagiarized your work—you could try to reason with them, and, if that failed, you could call them out for it and people would rush to your defense. But if you were slighted by a big-name fan, they'd probably just ignore you, and what were you going to do about it, fight them? If you got on a BNF's bad side, you'd soon find yourself unable to participate in any parts of the fandom that they controlled—you'd be taken off the mailing lists for their fanzines, barred from their fanfiction archives, and banned from their discussion forums. Then, after all that went down, you'd still have to deal with their friends, who were sometimes just as powerful as they were. And, back before FF.net and Ao3 and Tumblr existed, this was a Big Deal. Getting on a BNF's shit list basically made you unable to talk to the vast majority of the fandom, which was pretty shitty for a community that usually consisted of nerds and geeks anyway. It was like going from eating at the losers' table to eating alone in the bathroom stall because even the weirdos don't want to be friends with you anymore.
This fear of contradicting BNFs was especially prevalent in certain fandoms, which were entirely controlled by one group of people, most of whom were friends with one another. Harry Potter was one such fandom. For a short period in the early-to-mid-2000s, the online Harry Potter community was ruled by a clique called the Inner Circle. Though politics and scandals meant that the members of the Inner Circle constantly switched affiliations and fell in and out of favor with fandom as a whole, it's generally agreed upon that there were a few main members who stayed in the Circle for the duration of its existence. Among these people were the founder of a popular mailing list, the mods of two well-known websites [1], an actual reporter hired by a real website to talk about fandom issues, and, last but certainly not least, the author of perhaps the most well-known fanfiction trilogy that wasn't a cult recruitment material. That is, I'm talking about Cassie Claire, writer of the (in?)famous Draco Trilogy.

Draco Dormiens and the dawn of Sexpot Malfoy

The Draco Trilogy kicked off with Draco Dormiens, which, judging from the little Latin I remember from CCD, means Draco Sleeping. I don't actually know how true that is, because this fanfiction is the only thing that comes up when I Google the phrase. It features a bodyswap alternate universe where Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy accidentally become trapped in each other's minds and must learn to live as each other, while also competing for Hermione Granger's heart. Though the vast majority of the plot hinges on this love triangle, there is also a lot of Draco/Harry, or "Drarry," subtext. This is important because it meant that Draco Dormiens appealed to two groups of constantly warring fans: the hets and the slashers. This was published in an an era long before "slash shipping," or wanting two male characters to get together, was popular or even really accepted. Now it's uncommon for a fandom to consist of majority het shippers, and people who ship heterosexual pairings are generally few and far between compared to the hordes of slash shippers. Back then, though, it was the exact opposite: homophobia was rampant and violent, and some sites banned slash altogether because mods "disagreed with its values." (You know, because 14-year-old Hermione "seducing" her middle-aged Potions professor is fine, but god forbid two consenting adults have sex with one another.) My point is that it was uncommon for people who shipped heterosexual and homosexual pairings to get along, and it was even less common for them to like and enjoy the same content. Draco Dormiens, though, was very popular with the slash community, despite containing no actual gay relationships, and this vastly broadened its appeal.

Draco Dormiens quickly became one of the most popular Harry Potter fics of all time, and Cassie Claire amassed thousands of ultra-dedicated fans. It became common practice to refer to her as a "genius" or "goddess," and Draco Dormiens was added to dozens upon dozens of rec lists. People absolutely ate it up, and soon they were demanding more. This eventually resulted in two things happening: a sequel was announced, and Cassie Claire became possibly the biggest BNF in Harry Potter history. Everyone wanted to be friends with her or be her.

Draco Sinister and the Plagiarism Scandal

Draco Sinister, the much-anticipated follow-up to Draco Dormiens,raised the stakes: now, Hermione's been kidnapped, and it's up to Malfoy and Harry to rescue her. What follows the kidnapping is your standard action-adventure fanfiction fare, mixed with increasing amounts of erotic subtext and sexual tension. Draco Malfoy was by and large portrayed as a angsty, antiheroic sexpot, which drew even more fans to the trilogy. It even became the trope namer for the TvTrope "Draco in Leather Pants," thanks to a sequence in which Malfoy wears a pair of extremely tight and apparently very flattering leather trousers. But Draco Sinister wasn't all random action scenes and descriptions of hot boys—it was also a lot of uncredited quotes.

See, Cassie Claire did this thing where she included a lot of quotations from her favorite series in her own work, almost always without giving proper credit. This would probably be considered okay if said quotes were things like "may the force be with you!" or other phrases that readers would understand as having come from another work, but they weren't. They were, by and large, random paragraphs and conversations lifted from other pieces of media, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Black Adder, Red Dwarf, and various Terry Pratchett novels. Initially, Claire didn't even mention that the quotes were taken from elsewhere, leading fans to believe that particularly profound or witty things were entirely her original work. Eventually, people caught wind of this, and they started to inquire about why some parts of her writing didn't really sound like her at all.

Once people started getting on her case about it, Claire put a general disclaimer at the top of her chapters that certain aspects of her fanfiction were taken from other people's work. Of course, most fans assumed that she meant things like throwaway references, inside jokes, and general concepts. The vast majority of people never thought she was taking full scenes and descriptions and simply changing the characters' names. It didn't help that some of the books Claire took passages from were relatively obscure, and most Harry Potter fans hadn't read or even heard of them. There was still a small yet dedicated group of people who grew increasingly pissed about the plagiarism, though, and they continued to attempt to convince Claire to stop stealing writing (or at least credit the original authors.) Over time, Claire's disclaimers became less general—while she still didn't cite her sources properly, she eventually started at least saying what her sources were. Even then, though, she often "forgot" to mention all the works she'd taken things from, and she frequently misattributed quotes and dialogue. After a while of this happening, a former fan called Avacado got tired of this, and reported Draco Sinister to fanfiction.net. In less than a day, Claire's works were gone and her account deleted, as plagiarism violated FF.net's terms of service.

As was to be expected, this caused a total meltdown. People rapidly started accusing anyone who disagreed with Claire on what constitutes plagiarism of being bad writers who were jealous of her ability. Then people started getting banned from mailing lists and message boards, likely because Claire's BNF status meant that she was very close friends with the owners of many Harry Potter fan spaces. This continued for quite some time, and eventually spiraled into cyberbullying and harassment. One of Claire's friends and a fellow BNF was apparently some sort of lawyer, and she regularly showed up in comments sections to threaten critics with legal action, which terrified younger fans into keeping quiet (sure, it sounds like a bullshit claim now, but it looked pretty legit to 12-year-olds and particularly gullible adults.) There are also allegations of people actually calling the police on each other in some bizarre early form of swatting. And, finally, there was at least one instance in which Claire allegedly attempted to get a "hater" kicked out of her university for somehow "hacking" her (but keep in mind that, while I can find websites and threads referencing these instances, the majority of pages discussing it have since been deleted, which is why I say "alleged.") Apparently a real, actual lawyer had to get involved, and it was a whole big mess, but the accused woman was eventually cleared of all charges because Claire had basically confessed to making the whole thing up in the comments section of her own LiveJournal.

Meanwhile, as the fans were warring over whether lifting passages from other works was technically plagiarizing and how best to ruin the critics' lives, Claire went to work on Draco Veritas, the last book in the trilogy.

Draco Veritas and LaptopGate

Draco Veritas was not met with quite the same enthusiasm as previous installments of the Draco Trilogy, but it still had its fair share of readers. So, when Claire announced that her apartment had been broken into and her laptop stolen, people were pretty pissed. Don't worry, though, guys: her lawyer friend was raising money for Claire, as well as her roommates and her boyfriend, to buy all new laptops! And it's totally okay that the amount donated greatly exceeded the amount necessary to get new computers, because all the excess money was going to a vague charity! Oh, you want proof that a robbery happened and proof that the money actually went to sick kids with cancer? Well, uh, you see, the thing is—anyway, do you want to abruptly change the subject?

So that's how Draco Veritas began: with a scandal that later became known as LaptopGate or CharityWank. Nobody could actually prove that Claire and/or her lawyer friend had just stolen all the donated money, though, so all they could do was sit there and angrily mutter about how the lack of proof was suspicious. At the same time, some people became angry that Cassie Claire, who at this point was somewhat infamous for cyberbullying, had managed to raise an alleged ten thousand dollars despite no proof, while people with much more serious issues and actual proof of their need went without any help. Claire and her lawyer friend were again accused of using their BNF status to scam people and hurt smaller creators, and they responded to this criticism by posting links to another less well-known user's charity in order to support her. However, when contacted later about signal boosting a cancer charity, the lawyer friend claimed she was "too busy" to help, even though all she was asked to do was post a link.

Meanwhile, as Draco Veritas continued to be updated, Claire had another falling out, this time with a friend called Aja, moderator of mailing list Armchair Slash and fellow BNF. Claire accused Aja of plagiarizing her, which I can neither vouch for or against because the story in which the alleged plagiarism occurred has since been removed (this is the problem with investigating old fandom drama—all the links and sources lead nowhere because so much of fandom was concentrated on long-dead sites like Geocities, so if archive.org doesn't have it, you're screwed.) This accusation failed to turn into anything serious, and Claire then accused Aja of intentionally posting spoilers for Draco Veritas. That didn't become much of anything, either, but the two were never really friends again, and the fight was something of a catalyst for the collapse of the Inner Circle.

Claire didn't get too caught up in the Harry Potter drama this time around, though—she had something else in the works. Just as Draco Veritas was completed and the last chapter posted, she announced that she was going to be scrubbing all of her work from the Internet. This was perhaps partially because Avacado (remember her, the one who reported Claire to ff.net and started this drama in the first place?) published an exposé of the events [2] the same day (I'd link it here, but it seems that half of it hasn’t been archived), but also because Claire was embarking on a new writing project.

The Mortal Instruments

Before I continue, I should mention that The Mortal Instruments is a YA urban fantasy series by Cassandra Clare. Mortal Instruments without the "the" is a Ron/Ginny romance fic by Cassie Claire. The main characters in The Mortal Instruments are fake siblings who are in love with each other, and the main characters in Mortal Instruments are actual siblings who are in love with each other. Yes, the authors are the same person writing under two slightly different pen names. Yes, it's confusing.

Anyway, similarities to squicky Ron/Ginny incest fic aside, Cassie Claire changed her pen name to Cassandra Clare (with no I) and deleted all of her fanfiction, then published the YA series The Mortal Instruments. This became popular, and Harry Potter fans got pissed. The fact that Cla(i)re changed the surname of her pen name made it so that her past didn't appear in most Google searches, leaving buyers in the dark about what they were supporting, and some people who'd been on the receiving end of her alleged cyberbullying didn't even realize they were looking at her writing until they noticed that The Mortal Instruments had phrases and dialogue lifted from Cla(i)re's previous work.

It didn't take long for The Mortal Instruments to rack up its own drama, and soon Sherrilyn Kenyon, author of a different romance/urban fantasy series called Dark Hunters, slapped Cassandra Clare with a lawsuit over… you guessed it, plagiarism. I can't vouch for or against this, either, because I've never read either series. I can, however, say that Kenyon lost. While it appears to be somewhat agreed upon that Clare and Kenyon's work do share a number of similarities, copying ideas isn't grounds for a lawsuit, so I can't say I'm surprised that it didn't hold up in court. That didn't stop fans of each series from attacking each other, though, and it brought Clare's history with plagiarism into the limelight again. People started posting opinion pieces about why others shouldn’t support Clare's work, and Clare's team responded with accusations of hatred and anti-Semitism, and things just kind of spiraled out of control. From there, people started accusing The Mortal Instruments of all sorts of things, ranging from perpetuating rape culture to supporting incestuous relationships. Again, I never read these books, so I can't claim that these accusations are true or untrue. In any case, The Mortal Instruments now has a (failed attempt at a) movie series and a brand new TV show called Shadowhunters, so the claims that it's problematic enough to warrant being cancelled don’t seem to have held much water.

Anyway, I haven't seen too much said about Cassandra Cla(i)re and her online drama in a while, but I also haven't seen much said about her work, either. It's very possible that The Mortal Instruments went the same way as the dozens of other fantasy/dystopian YA novels released in the 2000s—it had brief success, then people stopped caring. This post is probably like beating a dead horse at this point, because this is old drama by now.

Fan Comments: At the Post

Wow, I never knew Cassandra Clare had this huge weird backstory. Thank you for this.
Just had the same realisation backwards. I knew about all this drama, but I never realised she was the same person who wrote the Mortal Instruments series.
I remember a mailing list request thing going out for a copy of the Draco trilogy when her works were being taken down. And also the sudden inclusion of citations where all the quotes and stuff came from... and also reading mortal instruments when it was released and thinking hmmmmm at the similarities... 🤔

Thanks for this write up. I was there*, watching Laptopgate unfold and I got into it with Heidi (Tandy, Rumelt's "lawyer" at the time) on the CharityGate thread on LiveJournal. My God, what a bunch of psychopaths.

I could never get into the Draco Trilogy because it was such poor, poor writing; technically and re: characterizations (she wrote an awful Prof. Snape). I really don't know how any serious reader could make it through such tripe.

I don't even like to call Judith by her pen name. She will always be Judith Rumelt--cyber bully and all-around malignant narcissist--to me.

The bullying, when claiming to be against cyberbullying, the disdain for criticism, the abject shamelessness of her exploitation of young girls for her benefit...she's the Donald Trump of YA.

*I was a more minor fandom artist/writer LNF (Little Name Fan) who was part of an adult-oriented Potter group (which existed before Pornish Pixies). I had no problem opening my mouth to the BNFs, mocking them, making fun of them, especially on Journalfen.

There was also the fact that CC lifted large chunks of both ideas and actual text from the works of an author called Pamela Dean to use in the Draco series. I'm not going to go through all that but there was lots of "Oh well CC reached out to the author & her agent said it'd PROBABLY be OK" but I don't think official permission was ever granted. http://web.archive.org/web/20131013014202/http://www.journalfen.net/community/bad_penny/9989.html#p11
At the time, a lot of people knew about the plagiarism but another excuse was that CC was more popular and the original author so it didn't matter if it was credited or not.

As someone who's been in the Harry Potter fandom for a while now, I thought I would add some additional information.

Cassandra Cla(i)re, through her official Twitter, is still rather infamous online, mostly due to her tendency towards starting or causing drama. She's done everything from using her followers as "Flying Monkeys", as r/raisedbynarcississts would term them, to attack anyone and everyone online she doesn't like - including her critics - while, at the same time, Cassie claimed to be "against cyberbullying". Likewise, she later upset The Mortal Instruments fans by vocally criticizing the Shadowhunters TV show for diverging from her original books.

One of Cassie Claire's long-time friends and supporters, and who was also involved with the whole Draco trilogy drama, is Holly Black. It is generally believed that Holly Black, who had more experience and connections in the YA book industry, helped Cassie to get a book deal in the first place for The Mortal Instruments...supposedly, through the Draco Trilogy. How, I am unsure, because I've never heard of a literary agent taking a fanfiction that seriously, but that's what allegedly happened. Holly Black is still a YA author. (This is based on Avocado's original allegations.)

According to Cassie Cla(i)re herself, the "Draco in Leather Pants" trope started "as a joke" in one of the mailing lists, albeit one that was "adults only" (i.e. "XXX material"), in the early 2000's. The joke being that, at the time - late 90's / early 2000's - leather pants were generally regarded as "sexy / badass / in vogue" (i.e. The Matrix, Underworld, etc...). Seeing as how J.K. Rowling did not support any "adult" (i.e. X-rated) Harry Potter fanfiction at this time, and her agent said not to post any such "adult" fanfiction, it was basically a secret mailing list - or, at least, hidden from Rowling's eyes online. Cassie included the trope in the Draco Trilogy, she claims, "as an in-joke or reference / homage" to this "adult" Harry Potter mailing list.

I'm waaaay late to this post, but just for posterity since I wandered across this discussion, the mailing list she's referring to was HP4GU or Harry Potter for Grown-Ups. It wasn't so much for xxx-rated stuff, though - there was a ton of in-depth analysis and discussion that went on there. It was sort of the precursor to and then rang alongside the communities that sprang up on Livejournal and Fiction Alley for the HP fandom. I mean there was a ton of smut and generally crude discussion but HP4GU was a lot more than that so I'd feel bad if I didn't defend it. :)

more about laptopgate

1) it was before the era of gofundme. nowadays everyone is posting and retweeting each others' financial emergencies but back then it wasn't a thing.

2) it was before E.L. James and patreon. back then people were afraid that attempts to monetize fanworks would result in a flurry of copyright lawsuits that would destroy fandom as a whole. it was a real concern especially since anne rice actually did threaten to do that which resulted in fanfiction.net banning and deleting all vampire chronicles fanfiction. AO3, which was founded by that generation of fans, still bans patreon links.

3) because of these circumstances it was suspected that laptopgate was a roundabout way for CC to monetize her heavily plagiarized fanfiction, a taboo on top of a taboo

4) a fan commented on the initial post that they only have a low two-digits amount of money in the bank ($20?) but they still gave $5 because they're such a big fan to which CC replied with a curt 'thanks'. lmao

Yeah I think the legal precarity of fanworks is largely forgotten about, but this was also the era of people literally going to jail over illegal downloads. It was scary! The fear that making fanwork about copyrighted material could land you in serious hot water was very real. Authors generally did not embrace fanfiction etc at the time.

Slash was accepted and written long before Harry Potter came out. It was a thing even before the internet existed. I'm pretty sure the first fandom to be slashed was the original Star Trek. Since there was no internet yet, people shared their fic in amateur magazines called fanzines. This was back in the 70s.

As far as slashfic on the internet, I first got into fandom reading X-Files slash fic. This was in 1998/1999. At the time, Mulder/Krycek (M/K) was huge. Only slightly less popular were Mulder/Skinner (M/Sk) and Skinner/Krycek (Sk/K). (The lowercase 'k' kept anyone from mixing up Skinner and Scully.)

We had our own BNFs, too, although they weren't toxic like the HP BNFs could be. torch wrote what was perhaps the best X-Files fic out there. Even M/S (Mulder/Scully) fans were converted after reading her story 'Ghosts.' It was beautifully written, and is still one of the best pieces of fanfic I've ever read.

X-Files was far from the first or only fandom that was slashed. There were slash fics for any show you could think of, even back in 1998 when I was first getting into fandom in general. There were archives with more slashfic than you could read in a lifetime just for X-Files alone. Just for the M/K pairing. And that was only one fandom.

Two stories:

I was friends with Cassandra Claire/Clare's roommate at the time that Order of the Phoenix was released. We had a big gathering that weekend to read the book at roommate and CC's apartment. CC had a friend over who quietly and individually told us all to not look at CC or talk to her unless spoken to. At one point I sat down on a couch that she was sitting behind and I was told I was too close. My back was to her.

No exaggeration: she walked around the first HP convention with group of bodyguards (obsessive fans) circling her. At the same convention, she walked into (was ushered into) a panel already in progress and people were asked to move tables if she didn't feel comfortable with you sitting close. She had her own table. The randomly picked people were at other tables but just happened to be near. Her friends took the seats vacated by the people tossed.

I was on the peripheral of the HP "inner circle" in the early/mid 2000s. I created artwork for the first convention (Nimbus) and was asked to create the art for the second. I worked on it for a few weeks and went through alterations and proofs with the top staff of the con. When the art was announced and released to the fandom, a BNFs name was credited my name was nowhere to be found. I actually said something about it in the con art forums and i was promptly removed. I lost friendships with people who literally told me it was acceptable because another BNFs name was now credited and I should be flattered (?!) and that I shouldn't make waves.

Yeah. The HP fandom was pure insanity and filled with horrible people back then. I have so many stories.

Man, early to mid 2000s HP fandom was a wild ride. I was a kid and fledgling unsupervised internet user, and it was my first experience with the delicious absurdity of fandom/online drama. I distinctly remember being a member of a number of different snark livejournal communities, even though snark isn’t really my thing personally. Plus daily visits to fandomwank!

The Draco trilogy was also really instrumental I think in shaping the fandom perception of Draco as a character- prior to it, you didn’t see all that much “ooh, Draco is a sexy bad boy who’s just misunderstood.” After and still to this day it’s essentially his general fanfic, fandom (depending on who you ask) characterization.

One thing I didn’t see mentioned in this thread yet is that once the first Mortal Instruments book was published, HP fandom combed through it and, of course, found something interesting: CC had in a few places straight up plagiarized her own fanfics, lifting sentences or even paragraphs from the Draco trilogy word for word and swapping character names. I can’t remember the specifics but it was pretty remarkable.

Weirded me out HARD first time I saw "Cassandra Clare" on a book, I tell you. I don't give a crap if she decides to write about incest or any other uncomfortable topic, but I care a lot about plagiarism and bullying. I'm kinda salty over how a fan like her was able to do so well for herself.

Oh man, I remember that drama on FF.net back in the day, I had a binder full of HP fanfiction I printed out and obsessed over her first story. Then I saw some Pratchett lines in her work and was like ... Hang on a sec... (I was just getting into Discworld books at the time)

Fuck me, I had no idea they were the same person as Cassandra Claire. I'm ashamed to say I read The Mortal Instruments a couple of years ago and really enjoyed them, I had been out of the habit of reading for years and they helped me get back into it again. Oh boy. What a shitty person. Welp not touching her stuff again.

First off, the Cassandra Clare thing is always so wild to me. Whenever I see her books I'm always amazed she's so popular and then I have to remind myself that the fandom stuff isn't really that well known outside of the internet or fandoms.

Second, BNFs are always sooo interesting to me. There's always a few in each fandom and they end up dominating the whole fandom, which is annoying, mostly because there's nothing you can do or say, everyone is devoted to them and thinks they're amazing no matter what.

I lived this back in the days of Fiction Alley and Live Journal. Some of the authors on the receiving end of Cassie Claire's rage purged their journals to avoid her drama and some great work in this fandom was lost.

Wow. I was never really part of the harry potter fandom and this makes me glad of it! Teen me would've been eaten alive.

Also, Ms. Clare doesn't sound like the nicest of people.

fantastic write-up! this is particularly interesting to me as a library employee, I had no idea there was such an interesting past behind those giant books that are such a pain to shelve in order

References

  1. ^ one of these websites was FictionAlley
  2. ^ See 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