When I first started to be active in fandom, the first fandom I really found myself falling in love with was Harry Potter. It was the first time I started seeing a lot of stories just like the ones in my head, where I continued scenes, or made whole new ones. It introduced me to the concept of OTPS, and various other fanfiction terminology. It drove my creativity in my mid-teens.
One of the things I loved was the Draco Trilogy. I eagerly awaited the updates. In fact, my friend and I actually would take turns checking to see if it was updated. It was novel length, and I started reading towards the end of the second book.
Then I got slammed with the truth. Around the time I graduated high school, it came out that Cassandra Claire (since changed to Clare to avoid the association), the author of the series, had taken almost whole chunks out of other people’s published works. She didn’t credit, and when the issue was brought up didn’t add a credit. The one thing I’ve always been taught is to always credit when it’s not yours, be it fanfiction, an academic paper or some kind of artwork. You always credit what you use that isn’t yours.
I was stunned to find out my favorite fanfiction author at the time was doing this. The evidence seemed pretty damning (still does) and it was liking finding out your role model fell from grace. Suddenly you had to reexamine what you liked about what she wrote, and was it really hers or someone else’s? There was a loss of trust in the author. I imagine this was similar to when people found out that Milli Vanilli didn’t actually sing their songs. I was sad, I was disappointed. I felt betrayed myself. I felt angry.
Every time I see her name in news articles or pass her books in the bookstore, or see an ad for her future television series based on her books I get that feeling again. That broken trust followed past the time I stopped reading her fanfiction. I would debate reading her books, but the inability to trust that what I was reading was really her creation made me decide not to each and every time. I felt like if I purchased her book I would be giving her incentive to plagiarize again. That If I got the book from a lending service like a library or e-book trade I would be part of a statistic that would help her books get more popular and thus more fans would be swept in and be let down.
Lately she’s been in the news again. For plagiarizing. Again. Also accused of not taking requests that she correct these mistakes seriously. Again. While I don’t know how much of a case the author suing her has, It’s not hard to believe what she says, because Cassandra Clare did it before. It makes me incredibly sad that apparently Cassandra may never have learned her lesson when it came to not reusing someone else’s work, even in homage, without proper credit.
I think as a result of this I have a greater appreciation around the rules of plagiarism. And the respect you should give someone who has managed to create a world you can find pleasure in out of their own imagination.
Please credit/source anything you put into your works you didn’t create yourself. If you forget and someone points it out to you, rectify the mistake. Crediting is not hard, and although everyone is capable of mistakes sometimes, it’s also not hard to fix. Crediting also shows respect for your fellow creators.
I wanted to write this post because I felt the need to explain why Clare’s popularity and success as a professional writer bothers me, and why I often mention her when I bring up the ethics of fanfiction. I have had some people tell me it was so long ago I should just get over it, but sometimes when a work is so influential on your life, the effects linger.
For more information/essays about Cassandra Clare (Claire):
The Cassandra Clare Plagerism Debacle (Fanlore.org)
Fandom Guide to Mortal Instruments – Daily Dot (It includes a history of her plagiarism and why she changed her name).
You can find most of these links as well as many more by googling “Cassandra Claire” or “Cassandra Clare Plagiarist”.