Buzz Worthy News: 50 Shades of Plagiarism February 23, 2015

23 February, 2015 Buzz Worthy News 33 comments

BWN-bee_600wBuzz has moved back to Mondays, ready to corrupt your soul and get your week started right!

Welcome to Buzz Worthy News where the stories are awesome and not at all well-written. Need your YA industry news? Never fear, Kate is here to give it all to you. Just, ya know, not in any kinda sophisticated sense or nothing.

In this week’s Buzz Worthy News, controversies have dominated the week: John Green accidentally plagiarized, Jonathon Franzen managed to insult YA readers and the working class in one paragraph, more Dr. Seuss books are headed our way and more!

Buzz Worthy News is Cuddlebuggery’s weekly news post bringing you all the best information about the book and blogging world, particularly for the venn diagram of people who overlap between the two. For new releases and cover reveals of all the best Young Adult fiction, check out our Tuesday post: Hot New Titles.


John Green Plagiarized. World Forgave Him.

Well, we all knew the blood of a hundred bookworms (or whatever JG has been sacrificing under the light of a full moon to gain such amazing success) couldn’t last forever.  Maybe it’s finally time for him to break out that Eye of Newt again.

In what seemed to be a solid mea culpa post last week, Green admitted that a quote commonly attributed to him, and indeed SOLD AS A POSTER AT HIS OWN WEBSTORE, was actually the work of a young lady on Tumblr.  The quote in question (copyright Melody Truong, obvs.):

Melody Truong Quote

Apparently this was supposedly in the book Paper Towns, but nope.  Not.

Here is from the original Reddit Post:

Her Tumblr is and was fairly popular, and a lot of people thought it was a John Green quote, as she did a lot of art based on John Green quotes. However, it was not, and you can search through all of the man’s books, and you will never find that quote. However, it has gotten so blown out of proportion that an artist on John Green’s website, DFTBA, has made a poster of it[1] as a quote from his book.

I’m wondering if there’s anything that can be done about this. The Tumblr user is a good friend of mine and she was always pretty upset about this mistake, but now that it’s official, she’d like to do something about it. Is there a copyright issue here? Can anything be done?

Obviously we can’t just email them and tell them to take down the poster, I don’t think they’d ever listen to something like that.

And here is John Green’s sheepish reply:

Hi! John Green here.

I am a bit embarrassed to learn that I did not write this, but not entirely surprised, since whenever I’ve seen the quote attributed to me, I’ve always thought, “Where is that quote in Paper Towns anyway? I don’t remember writing it.” But then again, the book is seven years old, and there’s a lot in it that I don’t remember writing.

I think the best way forward is to make sure that your friend splits the royalties for the poster with Risa (the artist)–usually writers and artists split the royalties in these situations. We can apply it retroactively pretty easily.

There are so many fascinating bits of info to this story, but I’m gonna just bullet point them for you here:

  1. John doesn’t remember his own words from his own book.  Which is a head-scratcher, but not as hilarious as the fact that George R. R. Martin has TO GO ASK HIS FANS to tell him if he wrote a certain character’s eyes as blue or green.  It seems like a common author problem, actually.
  2. John had to pirate a copy of his own eBook.  You would think the publisher would be able to give him a copy of his own book in e-format.
  3. John found out about the misappropriation from FREAKING REDDIT.  Reddit, righter of wrongs for the world.
  4. Young Melody tried for several years to get ahold of John, which begs the question… why wasn’t this addressed until now?

Yes, in true John Green fashion, the video is very self-deprecating and highly amusing, but in contrast to that (and despite the fact that Melody is getting back pay and current royalties), her comments on Reddit are downright heartbreaking.

Hello. I am said girl. I tried contacting DFTBA when the poster came out but I guess the email got lost or was just never replied to. I attempted to reach them through tumblr as well, but I had no luck and there was a slim chance that anyone from the company would see anyway since the tagging system of Tumblr is a clusterfuck of posts from everyone. I gave up for a long time until my friend heard about my situation and posted it on /r/copyright[1] . He then told me a few hours later that John replied and then the rest was settled.

It was extremely frustrating for me since I was very young when it was posted and no one ever took me seriously due to my age. I was always dismissed and was relentlessly sent hate, which made speaking out a lot more difficult than it could have been.

After I contacted John, I moved over to another blog since the hate mail was not letting up and was actually getting worse. People seemed so adamant that this was DEFINITELY John’s work and that it was impossible that the line wasn’t in the book. It got to the point where I was getting harassed not only through my Tumblr inbox but through my other social media platforms as well. I know I’m going to just come off as an overly sensitive teenage girl~ but I’ve had a rough couple of years full of depression and therapy and having to see such negativity was never going to do me any good. So I decided it was time for a fresh start anyway

And here is the vid.

What’s really interesting is how not only does he manage to give a non-apology (did he actually say he was sorry?) that has been accepted so easily by the media and fans (seriously, just check out the tone in the media’s headlines), but he also ends his video by placing the blame on the internet. Of course it’s the internet’s fault for misattributing that quote to him. Check out Bibliodaze’s post on why this is problematic.

Source and Reddit Post

Even MORE 50 Shades Dramz

After the giant linkfest that was last week’s BWN, I was hoping to put FSoG behind us and pretend that it doesn’t exist, but it seems like the universe just would not cooperate.

In the fun way Twitter has of singling people out and throwing opinions at them, a user called James out on some of the more problematic aspects of her story in the most in your face manner possible:

And because she is super rich and powerful and took FIVE WHOLE SECONDS to research the person who tweeted at her, James decided to just ignore the whole thing and our story was then over.  Oh wait, she did the EXACT OPPOSITE of that?  How surprising.

And because she is the absolute PICTURE of maturity, this is what the gif link was:


While I’m sure it would be upsetting to have your book being compared to rape, the best course of action would have been to let the reader have her commentary without throwing violent gifs at her.


Jonathan Franzen Says More Ridiculous Stuff

Not satisfied with airing his super brave opinions on Oprah’s Book Club (and how it’s for the womens), Jonathon Franzen has decided to make known his important and valid opinions about YA lit.

Franzen spoke with Butler University as part of a visiting writers program, where he took part in a Q&A, a reading, and an interview with an MFA candidate. It was in that interview that the MFA student Susan Lerner brought up Ruth Graham’s piece on adults reading young adult novels.

When asked about the Graham’s opinion on people who read YA, Franzen limited himself only to the condescending, “It’s their loss, not mine,” but when pressed, unleashed a whole slew of nonsensical ideas about what YA is.

Most of what people read, if you go to the bookshelf in the airport convenience store and look at what’s there, even if it doesn’t have a YA on the spine, is YA in its moral simplicity. People don’t want moral complexity. Moral complexity is a luxury. You might be forced to read it in school, but a lot of people have hard lives. They come home at the end of the day, they feel they’ve been jerked around by the world yet again for another day. The last thing they want to do is read Alice Munro, who is always pointing toward the possibility that you’re not the heroic figure you think of yourself as, that you might be the very dubious figure that other people think of you as. That’s the last thing you’d want if you’ve had a hard day. You want to be told good people are good, bad people are bad, and love conquers all. And love is more important than money. You know, all these schmaltzy tropes. That’s exactly what you want if you’re having a hard life. Who am I to tell people that they need to have their noses rubbed in moral complexity?

Wow, so he basically managed to insult YA lit AND working class people all in one quote. SMH.  If only this was even remotely an interesting opinion.


Book News

New Dr. Seuss Book

Since publishers never seem to waste a chance to make money off of dead authors, the news that there will be at least one more Dr. Seuss Book (maybe 3) should come as no surprise.

Random House Children’s Books said the manuscript of “What Pet Should I Get?” was initially found in Mr. Geisel’s home in La Jolla, Calif., in a box with assorted text and sketches soon after he died in 1991 by his widow Audrey Geisel.

Ms. Geisel rediscovered the box while she was cleaning out his office in 2013 with Claudia Prescott, described as Mr. Geisel’s “longtime secretary and friend.” Ms. Geisel then contacted Random House by phone, said Ms. Marcus.

The rediscovered box included the full text and illustrations for “What Pet Should I Get?” together with enough material for two other books.


Everyone Wants JLo’s Book

Bad news for viewers of the new Jennifer Lopez movie, The Boy Next Door, who saw the beautiful first edition of The Illiad and wanted a copy for themselves.  Everyone else wants it, too.  While some have speculated that it isn’t real (due its impossibility to track down on the interwebs), LA Times has done the dirty work for us:

The Times reached Annie Brandt, the propmaster for “The Boy Next Door,” who assures us that the book is real. “It is in fact an actual copy of the Illiad and not a fabricated prop,” she said in an email.

The book is an 1884 edition of “The Iliad,” translated by Alexander Pope. So while it’s not anywhere near the 10th century, it does have some cachet — Pope is a well-known poet — and it is a genuinely handsome edition.

So pretty is it, that it is actually the most searched for item on since the “film” opened in January.  Unfortunately, though it is nowhere near a “first edition,” it is still a pretty rare find and will be tough to put your bookworm hands on.


Game of Thrones Bomb

In what is probably the most devastating thing to HBO GOT fans since they watched “The Red Wedding” episode, George let slip that there might be some major differences between the screen and the page.  Said Martin:

People are going to die who don’t die in the books, so even the book readers will be unhappy. So everybody better be on their toes. David and D.B. (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss co-creators of ‘Game Of Thrones) are even bloodier than I am.

Even more disturbing? The show might finish before the books do! Martin again:

Not really certain yet. This is the fifth season, the sixth season HBO picked up last year. We will have a 7th, 8th or 9th, no one knows. They only renew one or two seasons at a time. After we do season 6, maybe we’ll get a renewal for 7th and 8th. That all depends, Television is a very changeable medium.

Yeah, it’s the hottest show on TV now, but will it be the hottest show on TV two years from now? Hot shows come and go and television changes, and I’ve lived through that before. I certainly hope that we get to tell the entire story. Because whatever happens with the show I’m going to finish the books, it will be seven books. But each of these books are 1500 pages long and they each have enough material in them for several seasons. I have two more books, the one I’m writing right now, ‘The Winds Of Winter,’ and after that the last book, ‘The Dream of Spring,’ so those will be the two final books. But we’re talking 3000 pages of material. How many seasons that translates too? That’s up to D.B. And David.

No, no no no.  On the up side, there might be more book sales, because people will want to know how it ends.  *sigh*


Interesting Links

Twitter Parody of YA Dystopia

$300m Rare Books Donated To Princeton

Twitter Fiction Festival

Kate Copeseeley

Kate Copeseeley

Buzz Worthy News Correspondent
Kate Copeseeley is the Buzz Worthy News Correspondent, occasional reviewer, and a bonafide bookslut®. She can be found haunting Goodreads, writing The 100 fanfic, and neglecting everything else in favor of burying her nose in a book. Visit her on Goodreads.
Kate Copeseeley

Latest posts by Kate Copeseeley (see all)

33 Responses to “Buzz Worthy News: 50 Shades of Plagiarism February 23, 2015”

  1. Ilex

    The John Green thing seems completely bizarre to me. It doesn’t bother me that he doesn’t remember every sentence he’s ever written — I don’t, either; who can? It’s that if if you’re going to make extra money off a sentence this way, shouldn’t you fact-check it first? Surely he’s got minions who would do that for him? “People said I wrote it, so I thought I did” sounds incredibly feeble to me. I’m really surprised that his empire seems to be run this carelessly.

    And now to flee before he eye-of-newts me!! 🙂

  2. Michelle @ In Libris Veritas

    It bothers me that John basically just assumed he wrote it because it was on the internet. I mean it’s your book, if you can’t remember the details go look it up BEFORE you start making stuff to sell.
    Also E.L. James is one of the most immature authors I’ve ever seen. Though her reaction is not surprising anymore. It seems like whenever she runs into a difference of opinion she just refuses to handle it.
    Michelle @ In Libris Veritas recently posted…Review: Dead Spots by Rhiannon FraterMy Profile

    • Kate Copeseeley

      I haven’t a lot of social media stuff involving James, but I was that impressed by this example of her online media presence. She should just hire a publicist to rep her public stuff if she can’t control herself.

    • Kate Copeseeley

      The problem is, no one ever (rarely) reports authors behaving well. I guess they don’t consider it news. Personally, I’d love to report on it. 🙂 (and did, when James Patterson was like donating millions to indie bookstores and stuff)
      (and ps, I know a TON of authors that are super classy individuals, including myself. haha)

  3. Brigid

    Well, I certainly don’t forgive green for his actions, but it is pretty common to not remember something you wrote; especially considering how many edits authors go through. That is just so sad that she was being honest and all she got in return was cyber-bullying. I mean, based on what she’s saying, people were clogging her email/other social media platforms with nothing but hate. That is cyber-bullying. Man oh man, she deserved a way better apology.

    Gee. It’s so surprising how mature she is. I mean after all….she did have those very mature fights with the director. I mean she’s just such a class act. Top notch james. Look how much we fucking respect your abusive book, which I keep as a doormat for when I walk inside my apartment. Toodles!
    Brigid recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday: Anne & Henry by Dawn IusMy Profile

  4. Catherine

    First of all, thank you for linking to Bibliodaze. 🙂

    Second, there’s a lot of confusion about the whole John Green/Melody Truong thing (and don’t get me started about how outlets are starting to not even mention Truong by name, just simply as a “thirteen year old Nerdfighter” or “fan” – just an extension of John Green) and stuff even I quite can’t figure out.

    – Truong will now be getting 30% of the profits. In DFTBA products, the artist gets 60% (which is what is now being divided between Truong and the typographer) and DFTBA gets the remaining 40%. Prior to all of this, was the 60% split between Green (as “author”) and the typographer, or was the typographer getting it all (and is now getting half)?

    – If Green was getting the 30% and is now paying that back to Truong, how much (if any) of that remaining 40% was also his? Does that mean that he still will be profiting off the sale of someone else’s work without their consent even after “paying back the royalties”?

    – The thing is, the poster is an item made and sold under the idea that these were Green’s words. But as we know, they weren’t. It’s an item that, because it should have been made with the consent of and credit to the initial writer, without that consent it should not exist. Yes, Truong is getting some money and fame now, but without this she also would not have had to ensure waves of harassment that forced her to change social media IDs and exacerbated her depression.

    – Didn’t Green write a screenplay for Paper Towns a few years back, after the quote took off? If you wrote a very loved quote wouldn’t you want to make sure it was in the script? And in the right place?

    – I have seen at least one person write about how they re-read Paper Towns and didn’t seem to read that quote. But they thought “well, it must be in there” because John Green wouldn’t claim it as his own if it weren’t, right?

    – Misattribution and plagiarism are two different things. People saying John Green said a thing he didn’t is the former; Green claiming he said it is the latter. (This is a general thing that is annoying me. Know words!)

    – There is a time to talk about the issue of credit and misattribution in the internet age. That time is not using it to reframe/deflect the issue of your plagiarising a girl who then suffered years of harassment for it. Give it a week, then separate video.

    – Where are the words “I’m sorry” in this non-apology?

    – Why does Green get to be called a hero for doing the absolute bare minimum? (Or less than that, if you include an actual apology in there)

    – And lastly, where is that Mean Girls “I just have a lot of feelings” gif? I need it right now.
    Catherine recently posted…Review: “The Gargoyle” by Andrew DavidsonMy Profile

    • Kate Copeseeley

      I can honestly say that yours is the longest, best, and most thorough comment I’ve ever gotten on a Buzz post and I loved every bit of it!
      And I loved your original article, too.

    • Steph Sinclair

      “don’t get me started about how outlets are starting to not even mention Truong by name, just simply as a “thirteen year old Nerdfighter” or “fan” – just an extension of John Green”

      This annoys me so much! All the focus is on him and how much of a stand up guy he is. It’s not really telling all of the story… HER story and what she went through to even get HIS ATTENTION. Ugh. Just very disappointed.

      “Didn’t Green write a screenplay for Paper Towns a few years back, after the quote took off? If you wrote a very loved quote wouldn’t you want to make sure it was in the script? And in the right place?”

      That is an interesting point. I wonder if that was used in the script. I bet it’s not now! >.< "Where are the words “I’m sorry” in this non-apology?" They don't exist. And I was very surprised that he used this moment to teach the internet a lesson about misattribution.

  5. Kari

    I don’t know how to feel about this John Green situation. Honestly, I’m an unpublished writer, but I’ll admit, I don’t remember all of the lines I’ve written over the years. If someone quoted me and it was in the “same vein” or voice as something I would write and the book was written 7 years ago, I can’t say I’d 100% remember.
    Also, EL James? Just when I thought it could get any worse! I mean the gif is over the line but I’m actually more surprised by her “#Ignorant”. Like whoa… the tweet might not be the nicest but to respond with that when someone says they were a victim of abuse just feels really insensitive to me.
    Kari recently posted…Oscars 2015 RecapMy Profile

  6. Cristina

    It’s a sticky situation with regards to John Green and I’m disappointed the way he went about it. And like you said, John Green is very self deprecating in the video. I think the worse part is that is he’s endorsing pirating. *scratches head* I just don’t get it. I get you can’t remember everything but do some research, ask your assistant to double and triple check.

    And as far as E.L. James goes…I read the books, they were a fluffy and a drawn out series. Nothing to write home about. But amen to writing a mediocre series that sold millions AAAAAAAAAAAAAAND you managed to get a movie deal out of it. While I don’t think there’s anything that resembles rape in any of the books between Ana and Christian, obviously this follower felt otherwise. Let vent and scream. Rise above and for the love of sisterhood everywhere, rise above it. *smh* Disappointing.

    Just disappointing all-around.
    Cristina recently posted…Parasol Protectorate Series (#1 – #5) by Gail CarrigerMy Profile

  7. Natalie M.

    I can’t believe GoT is going to diverge from the books. One of the reasons I love it is due to its FAITHFULNESS to source material. And I was planning on watching it if The Winds of Winter doesn’t come out in time either. I’ll see a character, then find out he/she doesn’t actually die. ALTERNATE UNIVERSES IN MY HEAD.

  8. Kanika Kalra

    Christ! How did I not know about the John Green quote fiasco? I’ve been living under a freakin’ rock or something. Anyway. First, Truong didn’t get the credit she deserved. On top of that, she had to suffer cyber bullying and aggravated depression because she ASKED FOR HER RIGHTS. That’s horrible. It definitely deserves a better response from John Green than this worthless excuse for an apology. I’m disappointed, to say the least.

    And woohoo, E. L. James! Real smooth. Because when people criticize your work, THAT is how you respond. With violent gifs, and insulting hash-tags. Especially if that person is a victim of abuse. What a long way it goes to show the level of maturity your brain has achieved!

    As for the GoT news, *sigh*. Why am I not surprised? They have /already/ had loads of deviations from the books in the TV adaptation. Seeing as how death is a recurring theme in this story, it’s not surprising that they are making changes in that, too.

    Lastly, thanks, Kate, for this really well written and informative post! Buzz Worthy News is my favourite thing about this blog. 🙂

  9. Stella

    Franzen’s quotes around the Oprah book club made my blood boil. Ug, so annoyed that I read his stupid book now! Funnily enough, my boyfriend and I both read it and I liked it far more than my bf did. So much for ‘reaching for a male audience’. Dick.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge