Friday, April 16, 2004

Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery

My goal, since doing my first Trek-related web page back in 1995, has been to try to offer something that isn't already being done by a dozen other people. (And to focus on content, not style, which should be really obvious to anyone looking at the site.) And even back in 1995 there were sites listing the Pocket Star Trek novels. So my first page was just a book review of Mission to Horatius, which at the time was all but forgotten. (Pocket reprinted it in 1999.) The next stage was something I called Star Trek: The Forgotten Books, which was going to cover the stuff not covered on Pocket's website. Not just stuff from other publishers, but also the early Pocket Trek books that have disappeared from Pocket's institutional memory, like William Rotsler's short story collections.

As I was working on that stuff, I was also using the Internet and other online information sources to find books I'd missed. Books in Print, Amazon, the Library of Congress, whatever might be useful. I kept a Word document with cut and pasted info on a number of books I didn't have, including scheduled or announced but not yet published books. As time went by I was surprised to realize how many of those books never appeared. That, of course, led to the next two sections of the website, and possibly the most popular: the God Thing page and the Lost Books page.

The Forgotten Books became the Complete Starfleet Library, and I've tried to keep that uniquely helpful by including as many rare and unauthorized books as I can track down, without crossing the line into fanzine material. That way lies madness.

To get to the point at last: I still regularly search through the web every so often looking for new tidbits of information for the various sections of the site. I try to cite sources wherever I can, and I'm always glad to find new information. I've managed to get information for the Hal Schuster publications page from some of the people who wrote for him. I might never have done the God Thing page if I hadn't had a chance to chat with Michael Jan Friedman at a con.

So yesterday I found something that looked promising. Too promising. It was the table of contents of a printed fan club zine from a couple years ago. Among the articles listed were articles on The God Thing and Unpublished Star Trek Books. Okay, my spider sense did start tingling then, but I didn't want to jump to conclusions. So I emailed the owner of the website, mentioned my sites, and asked whether the articles might have had any useful information that would help me improve my pages. She responded quickly that it appeared one of her members had submitted my material under his or her name, posibly rewritten somewhat, and offered to run a credit for me in the next issue. Since she's been helpful, open, and cooperative I don't want to embarrass her by naming the group involved.

I do wonder, though, what the plagiarist was thinking. If anyone who read the material in the fanzine wanted to find out more, a google search would be the obvious next step, and that would lead pretty quickly to my site, and it would be pretty obvious what had happened.

The moral of the story: the Internet makes it easy to plagiarize, but it also makes it easy to catch plagiarists.

(Now playing: Opal, "Empty Box Blues," Early Recordings.)


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