Subsidiarity: Where responsibility begins

Some simple equations:

Subsidiarity + Solidarity = Democracy

Subsidiarity – Solidarity = Tyranny

It really is that stark and that simple. The good news — at least for those of us who don't favor tyranny — is that these two things are not easily separable. Subsidiarity clarifies solidarity, but it cannot exist apart from it. And solidarity without the focus provided by subsidiarity is too amorphous and overwhelming to provide useful guidance.

Both principles share the same premise: Everyone is responsible for everyone else. You are your brother's keeper and your sister's keeper and everyone, everywhere, is your brother and sister. No exceptions. No exclusions. No excuses. Moral obligation and mutual responsibility is universal and boundless.

I realize that some of my fellow evangelicals can be put off by the Catholic terminology here, but for those evangelicals seeking a more explicitly biblical basis for this universal and boundless responsibility, let me just point to our favorite Bible verse, John 3:16. "For God so loved the world." The word "world" there is cosmos — meaning the whole thing entire (boomdeyada, boomdeyada).

So this is the starting point, the foundation. Everything else that solidarity and subsidiarity means builds upon this. I am responsible for you and you are responsible for me and we both, you and I, are responsible for everyone else, without exception, just as everyone else, without exception, is responsible for you and for me and for one another.

I warned you that this might sound amorphous and overwhelming, and so it does, which is why the principle of subsidiarity builds on this foundation to clarify the matter of priority.

Priority, but not limits. There are no limits. Subsidiarity tells us where to start. It does not tell us where to stop. Or that we can stop, ever. It won't allow us to stop. The purpose of subsidiarity is to help each of us determine where our own particular responsibilities begin, but it does not tell us where those responsibilities end because they never do.

Subsidiarity is an expression of solidarity, not an exemption from it.

Those who would treat it as such an exemption imagine that diminishing solidarity somehow enhances freedom. They're wrong about that. It works the other way 'round. We'll explore why later, but here I just want to make this one point as clearly and forcefully as I can: Subsidiarity tells us where our responsibilities begin, not where they end.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lists4 cjmr

    Wondering how many other people are hitting refresh every time they walk by their computer in the hopes of finding a TF Monday.

  • Mary Kaye

    I would not be surprised if involvement in a church that does community service is a predictor for (genuine) increase in charitable giving (not just increase in amount given to the church). Being in an environment where people are doing charity increases the chance that you’ll do it yourself, and also brings built-in opportunities to do it. The question is whether this is an effect of religious community specifically or of charitable community in general.
    One could investigate membership in, and donations through, non-religious service organizations such as the Lions Club. If religious belief leads to greater charitable giving, one might expect religious Lions to give more to charity than non-religious ones. If the key variable is belonging to a charity-giving organization, there would presumably be no difference.
    I know that I gave more to charity when I was a member of CUUPs and through them of the local Unitarian church than I do now, because I felt some obligation toward the church for use of their space, and also because there were easily available giving opportunities constantly at hand. There hasn’t been any change in what religion I practice, but I’m no longer spending time every week in an environment replete with giving opportunities.
    In any case, if theists were found to be more giving than atheists, it strikes me that the only moral response would be to encourage the founding of service organizations open to, and attractive to, atheists. The Lions Club looks to have done a good job, at least as far as their web page (which doesn’t appear to mention religion anywhere) can show. (My personal acquaintance with them is through a Christian relative, but I don’t think he’s the type who would tolerate preaching disguised as giving.) However, I know of at least a few service organizations which reject non-Christians; hardly the way to encourage giving from such individuals.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a59e39f5970c Jeff

    [[I must admit that I like it when everyone has a different, individual icon.]]
    I think I’ll have to make up a few of the abstract icons, and use them in a circulating basis as my Facebook Profile Pic. (Or would that be too annoying without enough silly to compensate?)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ministerformagic Pius Thicknesse

    I might have to make mine the Mandelbrot Set. :P

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy_who agrees books do furnish a room

    @CU5012: I thought Catholics accepted evolution?
    They certainly do if you think the Pope and other major Vatican figures are Catholic. They don’t say you have to believe it they just say that it has much scientific support and does nothing to undermine faith.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ianmitchell45 truth is life

    I must admit that I like it when everyone has a different, individual icon. It makes it easier for me to determine who’s saying what. I know that I should do that with names, but they don’t show at the start of the post, and they don’t work the same way in my brain. Though if I ever meet Jason, I am sure I will be shocked that he does not look like the yodelling guy.

    Yeah, I feel that way too. I suppose we’re “visual” people in that visual/verbal/kinesthetic thing you hear about.

  • Donalbain

    Or maybe we just have a hard time distinguishing who is who in a site where icons can change arbitrarily AND there’s a nutcase running around impersonating other users.
    You know, either one fits in this case.

  • Ryan F

    In any case, if theists were found to be more giving than atheists, it strikes me that the only moral response would be to encourage the founding of service organizations open to, and attractive to, atheists.
    But I don’t think that will be as much fun as taking statistics at face value, wagging a finger at all the atheists, and going around declaring that the only moral people are the ones who share your religion!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/truthislife truth is life

    Or maybe we just have a hard time distinguishing who is who in a site where icons can change arbitrarily AND there’s a nutcase running around impersonating other users.
    You know, either one fits in this case.

    I guess, but I feel the same way in other places. It’s not as strong where the “avatars” aren’t human, but I do definitely associate pictures with people in a rather deep sense I don’t quite with names.

  • http://city-of-ladies.blogspot.com Rebecca

    I must admit that I like it when everyone has a different, individual icon. It makes it easier for me to determine who’s saying what. I know that I should do that with names, but they don’t show at the start of the post, and they don’t work the same way in my brain. Though if I ever meet Jason, I am sure I will be shocked that he does not look like the yodelling guy.
    /
    I guess, but I feel the same way in other places. It’s not as strong where the “avatars” aren’t human, but I do definitely associate pictures with people in a rather deep sense I don’t quite with names.
    Same. I know I’ve said this before, but I would be thrown off if there was not something somehow green about real-life Will or something indefinably blue about real-life Lee.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/cityofladiesblogspotcom Rebecca

    Noooo, TypePad signed me out. :(

  • http://profile.typepad.com/hagsrus hagsrus

    testing

  • http://profile.typepad.com/glendanowakowski Glenda

    Testing

  • Brandi

    Has there been an IP ban yet for the troll/spammer?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lana9842 Nenya

    Testing, with an icon I drew myself lo these four years ago or more; if anybody here posts at Shejidan too they’ll know who I am there. :-)
    Ooh–TF Mondays! *scurries off to read*

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Am I the only one who doesn’t bother finishing books like that? If the writing is generic in the first one or two chapters and the plot isn’t really engaging, why keep going? Why reward bad craftsmanship?
    I don’t bother with a book if I don’t like it within a couple of pages; basically the style either holds my attention or it doesn’t.

    One thing that leaves a bad taste was/is her habit of siccing her Internet lawyer friend Heidi on anyone who criticized her problems with attributions*.
    ‘Siccing’ as in threatening to sue, or as in saying ‘Heidi, could you explain this for me?’ Because I don’t see a problem with the latter; it would just be handing the explanation over to someone who could make it properly.
    Besides, it sounds like she had hundreds of people on her back; I can sympathise with wanting someone on your side in that situation.

    No, the publisher wouldn’t have been directly involved in her flogging her books etc, but there’s suspicion in the fandom that one factor in her getting a book contract was the possibility that sales would be easier to obtain as she already had a proven fan base.
    A suspicion in fandom, sure, but how many of the fans actually have experience of the publishing world? Rumours aren’t always founded on sound knowledge. While I can’t speak for every editor, in my experience (and I’ve worked in several editorial departments) fan fiction success means very little to most editors.
    Among other things, editing a book is committing yourself to possibly months of work with it. If you don’t like it in itself, that’s visiting a miserable time on yourself. Plus, if you don’t think it’s good in itself, you don’t expect to be able to convince booksellers. And how many fans are we talking about here? Because the profit margin in publishing is very slim: to be a significant enough market to influence an editor, we’d have to be talking tens of thousands at least. Did she really have that many?
    Maybe I’m wrong, but I would allow for the possibility that that’s fandom overestimating its influence on publishers there.

    Withdrawing fanfics is common practice among fanficcers who become published, so in and of itself it’s not wrong, but she had an excellent opportunity to raise interest in her books by doing so, and she would not have done it that way unless she had good reason to believe her fans would buy her books. But hey, that’s capitalism for ya. Make your money with what you do.
    I really don’t get the logic here. If she did want to raise interest in her books in fandom, she could equally have left her stuff up by way of advertising herself; plenty of people put up free stuff by way of tasters. And I can think of another reason why you’d take stuff down that has nothing to do with money: fan fiction occupies a very doubtful area legally, and largely depends on authors turning a blind eye. I suspect, and she may well also have suspected, that authors are much more willing to turn a blind eye to amateurs noodling about for their own amusement than to professionals; certainly I’d take more notice of a professional author noodling my copyright than I would an amateur. And on the flip side, being a professional author myself puts on me, I feel, an obligation to respect the copyright of others, because if it’s my living, I have to abide by its standards. (It’s one reason why, if I’m commenting on how Left Behind could have been better, I don’t write it out in the form of fiction: I feel it would be unprofessional. That, and I’m no good at writing other people’s characters, but professionalism is a big part of it.) So it’s perfectly possible she took the stuff down on a code-of-conduct basis rather than financial.
    Besides, people in fandom wouldn’t be the only people who’d buy her books. The publishers would be promoting it to the general public; even if nobody in fandom bought her books, that still leaves enough people to make a successful career.
    But even if money did enter into her calculations, so what? It enters into my calculations about what I do in public too. Whether your job will pay you is something most people think about. Doesn’t make you a bloated plutocrat who’s exploiting the workers or anything; it just makes you someone who’s put a lot of work into something that’s become a financial asset, and wants to handle the asset wisely so that you can use it to pay your bills. What’s wrong with wanting your books to sell well?
    And what does any of that have to do with plagiarism? Those are I-don’t-like-her arguments. Which is fair enough, but they don’t answer the question I asked, which was ‘How is it plagiarism if you attribute?’

  • Joel Johnson

    Blargh, I never had a chance to come back to this thread after I made my post ><;; I've been quite sick, which has made sitting at the computer for long spells not easy.
    Anyway, just in case I got misunderstood on the whole 'necessary selfishness' thing, or anything else I was saying, hopefully this will clarify (I don't doubt the intelligence of folks here; I doubt my ability to explain what I'm trying to clearly ) -
    The point I was trying to make, is that you have to leave room for yourself. You can’t completely subsume yourself in the needs of others, because as noble as it may seem to do so, it destroys you as certainly as total selfishness will. That, I think is the defense against an unlimited obligation – the obligation exists; but you recognize too that you’re a limited human being, and accept that even if you’re called to be everything to everyone* – you simply can’t do it. It’s not possible, and so beating yourself up for being unable to do the impossible isn’t the logical way to handle it. (Then again I’m one to talk about logic and beating myself up lol; oi…)
    The purpose of having an unlimited obligation then might seem a little odd; but I think the key there is so that ultimately the burden comes down in proper proportion to one’s own responsibility. Wealthier and more powerful people have commensurately more responsibility than a homeless person, because the homeless person can, at best, affect a handful of other people – the wealthy and powerful can affect larger and larger groups as you go up the scale. If you give someone a minimum obligation to meet, then for a lot of people they will simply meet that limited obligation and leave it at that. There may even be some pride and arrogance about “Well now I’ve done my part” – even though what’s been done is so far below capacity as to be next to nothing. That is, doing the least because it’s easiest.
    Course on the other end, and a reason why taxes are good, is that this model does require voluntary participation – while everyone might be under said obligation, if there’s nothing actively forcing the issue then a lot of people (self included of course) just don’t do much of anything; or don’t even know where to start at all.
    So I guess to sum up the somewhat convoluted thought I was attempting to put out there was:
    A) We all have a duty to everyone, and they have a duty to us. This duty is not finite, except as regard’s B)
    B) We can only do as much as we have the capacity to do, and we have to save at least some of our energy for ourselves. After all we have a duty to ourselves as well.
    C) Responsibility increases as capacity to help increases.
    D) No one can help everyone, no matter how powerful. (Excepting perhaps omnipotent beings, but that’s of course unlimited capacity to help, and thus unlimited responsibility too.)
    *and I’m not convinced that’s entirely the way it’s meant even.
    —-
    So yeah >.< hopefully that's a bit clearer as to what I was getting at. If not, uhm… ignore my ramblings and chock it up to being sick out of my gourd?

  • Xavier

    Colorlessblue: you’re totally right that the religious right is getting more visible in Brazil and that they’re falling in line with the USian religious right, and the satanic panic about Temer is ridiculous, but I think part of the reason abortion is becoming an issue is not related to them. Abortion was never an issue in Brazilian politics because everybody always just shrugged it off as bad, no discussion needed. But the current administration started the discussion when Temporão (Health Minister, y’all) started talks of decriminalizing abortion, and Dilma is current administration’s candidate. Plus, less directly than the decriminalizing thing, it was during the current admin. that all the big debates about developping an official national Bioethics happened, bringing out the fight around stem cells research and defining when life begins. And then there’s the way that judges started allowing abortions for anaencephalic fetuses, even though it’s not in the law yet, that incensed the religious right all over again.
    So, in a way, I’m really glad people are at least talking about it. I think it shows progress. And with compulsory vote, we don’t have the problem that USA has that, if you bring up that a candidate is pro-choice, the antis will go out to vote in mobs because they’re more motivated. Everybody is going to vote anyway. (except for me, I’m justifying absence. I was almost excited to take a trip when I heard that Dilma was pro-choice, but she had to spoil it all by denying it summarily.)

    Hmmm…after some consideration, I think you are right. I’d add that everyone shrugged it off as bad but kept doing it without repercussions anyways. But you are entirely correct.
    (this post should have a different icon, since I’m back at my hometown.)

  • Hawker Hurricane

    i’ll pray for you draco_malfoy, hapax, pious_thicknesse
    Posted by: E Carshall
    ———————-
    “I’ll pray for you” is how some Christians say “F**k You!”

  • http://profile.typepad.com/hapaxnom hapax

    Kit Whitfield, I think you underestimate how HUGE CC’s following was among fan-fiction readers. “Tens of thousands” probably isn’t out of line. And they weren’t just reading her fics — she was definitely a Big Name Fan, with an enormous online “presence.”
    And I know you have more experience with publishing than most of us here, but I have been told by any number of authors (particularly in the sf / fantasy genres, MOST especially in the young adult market) that their publishers lean very hard on them indeed, in quite explicit terms, to establish that kind of online presence” — in crude terms, how many people follow your blog, friend you on FB, (nowadays subscribe to your Twitter, I suppose) etc. — even at the expense of writing.
    Maybe all those authors are exagerrating, but it’s a remarkably consistent complaint, by both new and established writers.
    More specifically:
    but they don’t answer the question I asked, which was ‘How is it plagiarism if you attribute?’
    The thing about the CC swipes that people found particularly grating, I think, is that she tried to have it both ways.
    That is, her fics were absolutely rife with allusions and outright quotes — all unattributed — from television shows, movies, and all sorts of fiction, both popular and obscure.
    This isn’t unusual among fanfic (or, heckopete, profic) and wasn’t any secret — it became quite a game among her readers to spot and correctly attribute all the quotes. AT WHICH POINT she would acknowledge her sources; but she continued to take credit for clever wordplay and tropes up and until the sources were spotted.
    When it became clear that her swiping went beyond such “tributes”, but involved wholesale lifting of passages, descriptions, conversations from another work, she first denied it; then misattributed it; then excused it (she claimed that she used to copy passages from books she liked into her notebooks when she was younger, and mistakenly thought it was her own writing), then when the original author basically said “Well, I’m not going to sue you over it”, trumpeted that as “permission” — all the while using her “internet lawyer friend” quite overtly as a threat against those who dared suggest there was something dodgy about her behavior.
    Her actions were probably not legally actionable — as you say, fanfic already exists in a dodgy zone — but left a very bad taste behind them for many people, particularly because she never then or later exhibited the slightest degree of comprehension about how her behavior was questionable.
    And her later published works — I’m going by reviews here, since as I say, I won’t read her — seem to show that same mindset. She may have given up swiping other’s exact wording, but seems to have never abandoned the practice of “borrowing” characters, plotlines, tropes, and giving them a superficial scrub and claiming them for her own.
    All of this, mind you, is one reader’s opinion.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Of course, I don’t have any way to verify that THIS is me (who? I become dizzy at trying to conceptualize the “authenticity” of a pseudonymous identity that began as a linquistic joke yawping “I am a unique individual!” at the uncaring screen), either.
    I don’t know about anyone else, but that sentence verified it for me. :-)
    As to the how does one keep from despairing about not being able to do enough: my personal answer comes from this line of Fred’s, Priority, but not limits. And my top priority has to be my responsibility to myself. If I give myself into homelessness, or take on more than I can handle (such as the adoptive parents in someone’s previous post), it doesn’t do anyone any good. It’s the speck/plank thing. You can’t help your brother if you need help yourself. Yes, there’s a line to walk between one’s responsibility to one’s self and being too selfish, but it’s another case of either extreme not being good.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/rajexplorer Raj

    Colorlessblue: *has a crush*
    @Colorlessblue: XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

  • http://profile.typepad.com/willwildman Will Wildman

    I would be thrown off if there was not something somehow green about real-life Will

    You may judge for yourself, but this picture should not disappoint, between the green shirt and the odd lighting.

    If I give myself into homelessness, or take on more than I can handle (such as the adoptive parents in someone’s previous post), it doesn’t do anyone any good.

    This is a good point as far as disarming the notion that people should give away to the point of their own homelessness for the sake of those less fortunate, but many people have a wide margin between their current standard of living and what they could subsist on. Is there a logical process that leads to it being acceptable for me to save up and buy my own house, rather than rent, while others lack any form of housing whatsoever? The same can apply to almost anything, and it’s a tenacious problem for anyone who doesn’t want to make the shift to asceticism.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    And I know you have more experience with publishing than most of us here, but I have been told by any number of authors (particularly in the sf / fantasy genres, MOST especially in the young adult market) that their publishers lean very hard on them indeed, in quite explicit terms, to establish that kind of online presence” — in crude terms, how many people follow your blog, friend you on FB, (nowadays subscribe to your Twitter, I suppose) etc. — even at the expense of writing.
    Maybe all those authors are exagerrating, but it’s a remarkably consistent complaint, by both new and established writers.

    Yes, but there’s a difference between blogs, facebook, Twitter and so on and fan fiction: all of the former are general-public stuff, whereas fan fiction is a niche interest. A niche interest with a lot of people interested, undoubtedly, but with a lot of other people who’ll go ‘Huh? What’s this odd stuff?’ – which is to say, one that stands to put off potential readers as well as interest them. Which isn’t the most effective strategy.
    Fan fiction by its nature is dependent on the works of another writer. As a writer, you’re far more likely to be encouraged to carve out an independent profile. You wouldn’t necessarily be told to stop writing fan fiction by an editor – I mean, if I were editing someone I’d advise caution and probably consult the legal department, but that’s legal reasons rather than publicity ones – but an ‘online presence’ means one that’ll pop up as soon as somebody Googles your name and will attract the casual surfer. Fan fiction won’t do that.

    she claimed that she used to copy passages from books she liked into her notebooks when she was younger, and mistakenly thought it was her own writing
    Hm. That’s an excuse I’ve heard before. I won’t name names, but I remember picking up an autobiography in a bookshop – a misery memoir – and realising that it lifted sentences and paragraphs verbatim from at least four different authors that I could spot. I went to the lengths of buying it, photocopying pages and the equivalent pages in the original books and sending them with highlights to the publishers; they wrote to say they’d look into it, and some time later I saw that I wasn’t the only person who’d spotted it. The writer’s spokespeople basically said the same thing: X is a big reader and lifted passages unconsciously, having forgotten who wrote what.
    Gotta say I’m sceptical. To lift passages that precisely you need to have a pretty precise memory. I’m a big reader with a pretty precise memory, as witness the fact I could spot verbatim sentences at a glance, and I’m reasonably sure I’ve never done that, because if I can remember the sentences, I can remember that they’re by somebody else.
    A notebook may be a different matter, of course, and I can see confusion over who wrote what once, maybe twice. Lots of times seems like, let’s say, considerable fuzzy-headedness.
    Mind you, I don’t get why you’d put in quotes at all. If you admire a particular turn of phrase, it’s not that impossible to imitate it without lifting it wholesale, and that way the worst someone can call you is derivative. Plus, if you’re writing stuff based on works of JK Rowling, putting in quotes from Joss Whedon or whoever is bound to jar because they’re such different stylists. But maybe things are different in fandom.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/ Ross

    If you admire a particular turn of phrase, it’s not that impossible to imitate it without lifting it wholesale, and that way the worst someone can call you is derivative. Plus, if you’re writing stuff based on works of JK Rowling, putting in quotes from Joss Whedon or whoever is bound to jar because they’re such different stylists.

    There is an episode of the fan-series “Star Trek: Hidden Frontier” which lifts about 60% of its dialogue directly from the West Wing episode “And It’s Surely to Their Credit”.
    It’s freaking weird.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/hagsrus hagsrus

    An interesting case:
    http://tinyurl.com/2bfjvyq
    Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen plagiarized The Rosemary Tree by Elizabeth Goudge in her novel Cranes’ Morning, and committed suicide after it was revealed.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lorik922 Lori

    Gotta say I’m sceptical. To lift passages that precisely you need to have a pretty precise memory.

    So true. I know very few people whose memory is that good, especially without any specific effort made to memorize. Beyond that, to think that passages by multiple authors were all written by you, you’d have to have basically no ability to recognize voice since it would involve being unable to tell the authors apart. Worse, you’d have to have no clear idea what you sound like. I don’t see how anyone can simultaneously claim to be a writer and to be unable to differentiate their own work from that of others.
    I have a good friend who included something that I said in the quote file for the rotating sig line on his email*. One day an email he sent to me got signed with my quote. He & I then had the following conversation:

    Me: I said that?
    Him: Yeah.
    Me: Huh. I have absolutely no memory of saying that.
    Him: You did, I swear.
    Me: Oh, I believe you. It sounds exactly like me.

    .

    *I have zero presence on the net under my full name. To this day if you Google my full name that quote is literally the only thing that comes up.

  • Mary Kaye

    The last paragraph of Sean Stewart’s _Clouds End_ is the last paragraph of _The Return of the King_ with, if I recall correctly, one name change.
    I thought the effect was stunning, and could not have been done with a paraphrase. I also thought that an in-line attribution would have been very jarring in a novel, especially this particular novel (and would not have gone well with the name change).
    In pre-Twentieth Century literature it is totally common to weave unattributed quotes from famous authors into your story. It’s a grace note, a way to add richness to your work by connecting it with its predecessors.
    I am concerned that this particular literary technique is rapidly becoming impossible in publishable fiction because our culture regards it as plagiarism. I don’t think that Stewart did Tolkien, or his estate, any harm. I think it would be sad if he had had to rewrite the ending to get rid of the deliberate connection with Tolkien.
    I will be unhappy if “spot the quote” notes in fiction end up only in quasi-legal fanfic. It reminds me of the way in which legitimate concerns about child porn have made non-pornographic representations of lightly clothed or naked children more and more problematic. I see why it happens, but damn, it’s a loss of valid atistic expression, plus it seems to add unnecessarily to the stress of modern life if one’s always required to worry whether one’s snapshot of the baby might be mistaken for porn–or if one’s elegant quotation of an Old Master might be mistaken for plagiarism.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lorik922 Lori

    I am concerned that this particular literary technique is rapidly becoming impossible in publishable fiction because our culture regards it as plagiarism.

    I don’t know anyone who would consider it plagiarism as long as it’s made clear somewhere in the book that it’s a quote, not original writing. It doesn’t have to be an in-line attribution, which is often jarring in a novel. Including it in the author’s note or the acknowledgments would be fine.
    Weaving in unattributed quotes from famous authors as an homage made sense when it could fairly be assumed that one’s readers had all read the source material and would recognize it. That’s simply not true now, both because there are so many more books published and because there’s little to no agreement on what books “educated” people should have read and be able to recognize. Regardless of intent, the effect of unattributed quotes ends up being that a lot of people will think you wrote something that is actually someone else’s work. That’s a problem even if it doesn’t cost the original author in monetary terms.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/hapaxnom hapax

    Weaving in unattributed quotes from famous authors as an homage made sense when it could fairly be assumed that one’s readers had all read the source material and would recognize it.
    It can also be done, and done well, if the quote is completely in character and serves the plot. Megan Whalen Turner performs subtle and lovely tributes to Diana Wynne Jones and Rosemary Sutcliff in this way; Steven Brust tosses in a couple such Easter Eggs as well.
    But it should be sparing, and should provide an added level of pleasure, not be the point of the narrative.

  • Jeff

    [[It reminds me of the way in which legitimate concerns about child porn have made non-pornographic representations of lightly clothed or naked children more and more problematic.]]
    I happened to watch the start of an episode of Law and Order: Sadistic Voyeur Unit. Someone dropped of a set of photos and a memory chip and they showed two of the photos — a boy of about 7 to 10 (I’m lousy with ages) standing by himself in a bare room. He was wearing boxers, and appeared full-on and to the side, both with his hands to his side. I suspected abuse (they would look at the photos and see scarring or the like), but the head of the unit went directly to “kiddie porn”. This despite the fact that there was NOTHING even remotely sexual about the photos!
    Then I remembered why I stopped watching this pile of crap.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/susansw1 Susan Wilbanks

    My prayers for you and your friend, Jason.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/susansw1 Susan Wilbanks

    My previous post should’ve been posted in the TF thread. I wasn’t signed in from this computer, had to do so to post…and somehow it dumped me in this thread instead of the one I was in when I clicked the sign-in button.
    ::is confused. does not like being confused::

  • http://profile.typepad.com/cityofladiesblogspotcom Rebecca

    I happened to watch the start of an episode of Law and Order: Sadistic Voyeur Unit. Someone dropped of a set of photos and a memory chip and they showed two of the photos — a boy of about 7 to 10 (I’m lousy with ages) standing by himself in a bare room. He was wearing boxers, and appeared full-on and to the side, both with his hands to his side. I suspected abuse (they would look at the photos and see scarring or the like), but the head of the unit went directly to “kiddie porn”. This despite the fact that there was NOTHING even remotely sexual about the photos!
    Then I remembered why I stopped watching this pile of crap.

    Unrelated to your point, which is valid, but this is actually the only episode of SVU I have seen.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    I know very few people whose memory is that good, especially without any specific effort made to memorize. Beyond that, to think that passages by multiple authors were all written by you, you’d have to have basically no ability to recognize voice since it would involve being unable to tell the authors apart. Worse, you’d have to have no clear idea what you sound like. I don’t see how anyone can simultaneously claim to be a writer and to be unable to differentiate their own work from that of others.
    Well, I can remember a lot of stuff without a specific effort; I reread for pleasure, I often linger over sentences I like, and it only takes two or three repetitions to get something well-written stuck in my memory, so it can happen. And if someone’s a writer it’s a bit more likely, as they’ll have a verbal sort of mind, same way composers often have a better memory for music. But I agree, it’s long odds.
    And yeah, the voice thing. Maybe there are examples to contradict me – I haven’t read Cassandra Claire, for instance – but I kind of incline to the view that if you can’t tell one passage from another, you probably aren’t a very good writer, because you don’t have a very sensitive ear.
    The closest contradictory example I can think of is the poet Hugh MacDiarmid, who reworked some prose by Glyn Jones into poetic form, and who was a good writer. (And with good taste, too; the passage he lifted from Jones is beautiful.) So it can happen – and MacDiarmid made the same claim: photographic memory, forgot who wrote what. But MacDiarmid was a practitioner of found poetry to begin with, perhaps we might see it as a use of ‘found’ technique that occasionally strayed a bit too far.
    Using found stuff does put you at risk of doing that, so I suppose it’s possible that a writer who deliberately references quotes all over the place as part of their technique might sometimes lose track of some of their sources, and it might also create a bit more confusion over voice because, as it were, stuff that doesn’t sound like them does sound like them. And if you experiment with different styles, a la ‘The Waste Land’, that might also cloud the issue. But then again, if you’re going to use that technique, you really ought to be aware of the possibility and keep proper notes about what you lifted from where, if only for your own reference.
    I also wonder what the point of lifting quotes is in a work of fan fiction, because it doesn’t seem to add to the work’s internal qualities – I mean, if you’re trying to invoke cultural echoes because it adds to the meaning of your text, that’s one thing, but just playing hunt-the-quote seems to push the reader out of the story rather than add to its texture. But I guess that’s a taste thing.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/hawkerhurricane Hawker Hurricane

    There is an episode of the fan-series “Star Trek: Hidden Frontier” which lifts about 60% of its dialogue directly from the West Wing episode “And It’s Surely to Their Credit”.
    It’s freaking weird.
    Posted by: Ross
    ————————
    I read a professionally done comic book where the hero was a blatant rip off of Thor*, the villian was ripped off from Loki* except they were the Egyptian Gods Horus and Set, and the dialogue was straight from Jesus Christ Superstar.
    When I pointed this out to the owner, he took offense… until I played the album for him and he could *hear* the lines from Ciaphas and the High Priests matching the comic book dialogue almost word for word (replace “Jesus” with “Horus” and it’s a 100% match. The evil high priest of Set was even named “Ciaphas”!)
    *Marvel Comics version, not the real one.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ministerformagic Pius Thicknesse

    I also wonder what the point of lifting quotes is in a work of fan fiction, because it doesn’t seem to add to the work’s internal qualities – I mean, if you’re trying to invoke cultural echoes because it adds to the meaning of your text, that’s one thing, but just playing hunt-the-quote seems to push the reader out of the story rather than add to its texture. But I guess that’s a taste thing.

    Incidentally, what hapax said? I fully agree so you may take it as read that what she said I would have said eventually.
    Now as to the quote from you, I will say that in Cassandra Cia(i)re’s case, it definitely jars. I’ve read the detailed Bad Penny report and you can see where she’s just shoved in quotes from any old fandom without bothering to decide if the context is even appropriate.
    The most memorable one to me is where she basically makes Draco into Spike, and has him saying things like he’ll yank out someone’s ribcage and wear it as a hat. (O.o)
    There is a tradition in the HP fandom of using some lines and quotes from the original texts as anchors for alternate-universe fanfics but authors routinely state they are taking quotes from the books when they do this (Or, for that matter, even some canon-based fanfics that need to reference scenes or sentences from the original books).
    Trying to mash in stuff willy-nilly from other fandoms decontextualizes the words and characterization and often just doesn’t work. For example, could you really see a vain, racist, malingering, spiteful jerk like Draco Malfoy suddenly becoming the suave wordsmith of Draco in Leather Pants fame? (WARNING WARNING WARNING TV TROPES LINK DO NOT CLICK UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED)
    Yet in that fan fic, Cla(i)re puts words in Draco’s mouth that couldn’t possibly have come from him in canon. There’s a ridiculously lifted line about the first time a razor cuts your skin, or something bizarre like that, as another example.

  • renniejoy

    D&D alignments, comic book characters, and motivational posters: From The Slushpile

  • Bryan Feir

    @renniejoy:
    When I saw ‘From The Slushpile’, the first thing I thought of was Slushkiller from Making Light.
    The heirarchy of slushpile manuscripts from an editor’s point of view is something that I think all aspiring authors should read.

  • renniejoy

    Cool! Thanks, Bryan Feir!
    Another post to bookmark. :)

  • Ryan F

    Hah, reminds me of an alignment chart I saw featuring 9 versions of Batman, but since I’m not terribly familiar with Batman comic history, the set you linked to made more sense to me.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/racu1952 Racu1952

    Good morning…quite literally. As you might be able to tell, I’m a new here *looks suitably lost and nervous* Let me just say you all are quite addicting. Fred is amazing, and you, the fredbots, are delightful. (Well, with the exception of one or two trolls, apparently). I know I’m quite behind, given 8 years of catching up to do and if I continue to read all of the comments, it’ll be 2025 before I’m all done. I think I’ve learned when to tell when the convo has been hijacked by a secondary, or even tertiary subject and devolves into publishing, or Dr Who, or the like.
    Just a couple ideas about the actual post ;)
    I might have missed something, and perhaps Fred goes into this a bit more somewhere else, but the basic idea of subsidiarity is the function of government is it not? And solidarity is social cohesion, reliance upon one another–perhaps even familial-type bonds among unrelated peoples. Yet almost immediately, the ideas of socialism, charity and–while no one I think actually said it–welfare systems cropped up. I don’t see subsidiarity or solidarity as necessarily being about charity or welfare. Socialistic, possibly, in the sense that we would all look out for each other. But subsidiarity, the way I read it, says we need government structures only to the level beyond which would be redundant. If something can be handled at say, the city level, a higher-level governmental organization is not required. Solidarity, is the cohesive force that makes subsidiarity possible.
    The entire notion of subsidiarity falls apart without the almost tribal nature of solidarity. Without the bond of solidarity, subsidiarity would degrade into nothing more than a forced system, which would need more and more bureaucracy to make it enforceable.
    The thought that just occurred to me is that Fred is right when he writes “ Subsidiarity – Solidarity = Tyranny.” Absolutely, see above paragraph. However, I’m not so sure the other equation is as cut and dried. It seems more to me that Subsidiarity + Solidarity would equal a pure, or direct Democracy, and also Utopia; and as we all know; Utopia is unobtainable.
    Oh, cynic me.
    Couple of other notes.
    Pius Thicknesse: There are people who have helped me more than I can possibly repay in my own life as well. I can only hope to be as good as them when it comes my turn to help someone else.
    That’s what I’d call karma….what goes around comes around. I’m no kind of saint, but I try to help people when I can (except the whole begging thing, we won’t go there), and I don’t expect any thanks or reward, or anything else. There have been people who have been kind to me and down the line that energy will return to me.
    Interesting thought, somewhere in the Ba’hai writings, it’s said that even if you think you are doing good whilst doing a good deed, it goes for naught. A good deed has to be completely unconscious, part of your nature, just as turn-out is to the dancer, or keeping heels-down is to an equestrian. You just do it, you don’t think about it.
    Henning Makholm: If it’s selfishness, then it’s very ill-informed selfishness. I don’t have children, but I want the schools to work nonetheless, because the kids coming out of those schools will be running our society as the echelons ahead of them start dying off, and if they’re not prepared properly to do that, we’ll all suffer in the ensuing collapse.
    Absolutely…if you want to play on their selfishness, remind them that those little kids are going to be making decisions about our healthcare, Social Security, where we live, whether we can drive, travel, etc. in about 20 or 30 years. Dunno about you all, but I want that bunch of snot-nosed spawn to have the best education possible! Also, I’ve seen several studies that show education is the number one deterrent against crime. In my (not so) humble opinion, education should be the first priority of any nation.
    Anyway, I’ve spent hours on the comments on this post alone tonight…and my cats were not amused. Dinner at midnight!! Really?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ministerformagic Pius Thicknesse

    Welcome, Racu1952. Please do not kill us with sheep; we have sophisticated anti-wool radar. ;)
    Seriously, it’s good to see such a nice and thoughtful opening post. Would that the troll-types think to use their brains as well! :-P

  • http://profile.typepad.com/racu1952 Racu1952

    Well, if we have trolls, we must have sheep…er..wait, that was goats, wasn’t it? Never mind. I only crochet acrylic…it’s all I can afford, so no sheep. You’re safe.
    And thank you!


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