11 Comments

I'm with you on ghostwriting. In nonfiction, it makes sense that somebody might have valuable expertise to share, but writing is not part of that expertise, so they hire someone to help them out. But why not credit that person?

And in fiction, it just seems totally wrong. If someone is more of an ideas or structure person and struggles with prose, they can find a writing partner, collaborate, and share the credit.

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There's also the question (and, potentially, the dodge) of pastiche.

A couple of yeras ago, I read a historical fiction book by a new author (who I will not name here) that instantly became an all-time favorite. The author put out a new book - also historical fiction - last year that I recently started reading.

Curious about the author's chosen subject, I started doing some research. It did not take me long to realize that entire pages and paragraphs of this author's new book had been lifted verbatim from other - pretty readily available - sources.

Was this accidental or intentional? I don't know. But I confess I felt a little let down.

On the one hand, there's no denying that the author has arranged and woven these lifted passages into something more than what they were originally. The author, in a sense, pasted together a kind of literary collage to communicate new ideas.

On the other hand, I remember, back when I was a film student, a professor of mine talking about the cinematic technique known as "pastiche" (for those unfamiliar, the practice of borrowing visual motifs, compositions and techniques from other films and filmmakers).

"What's the difference between that and stealing?" one of the students asked.

The professor explained that many film theorists and critics could write pages on that important distinction, but that when you clear away the bullshit, there really isn't one.

I still haven't finished the book.

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Really enjoyed this, like others, LOLd to the masturbation comment.

The topic of self-plagiarism is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I prepare to package previously written articles for book publication. The Gladwell references is a good take.

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Yeah, self-plagiarism is a misnomer (even in the cases where it's wrong). I wouldn't use the term self-plagiarism when the self-copying is permissible, but the term is too entrenched to abandon it completely. We're not going to stop using the word peanut because it's not a nut.

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Maybe we have a superlative ego as writers. What about Shakespeare, or Cervantes? The value of the "new" is also changing along the centuries. In music there are just seven notes to combine, and for sure that if you write any 'new' melody, someone else have previously imagined it. Culture, language, meanings, are unavoidable inherited pastiches. Let's pay attention to the final result in any work and its value, and not to the golden crown for the sacraliced 'author'. When the AI could generate a brilliant solution for a problem copying other authors' ideas, would we diminish it? Or if a program generates a masterpiece novel, would we send the book to the bin because the sentences are stolen from other books? I think we are developing a sort of copyrighting paranoia in an era of hyperinformation. Copying and sharing (ok, stealing too) is how human thrived, adding little improvements every time.

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This discussion of plagiarism reminds me of Tom Lehrer's Lobachevsky:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQHaGhC7C2E

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Ghostwriting is strange and I’m glad you touched it. Open is so well written. One of the best sports autobiographies. And here lies the problem - is it? Or is the ghostwriter basically a journalist?

And why do publishers not incentivize honesty and integrity by pushing for a cover where it says written with X ghostwriter? The quick answer is money. I think a bigger answer is people want to be deceived among other motivations. Curious as to others thoughts.

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>If you masturbate when you’re not in the mood

Sorry, but I LOLed at this

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