Inked Again

Remember the Jane Henderson brew-ha-ha? Sarah at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels got a copy of Melissa Marr’s Ink Exchange, the centre of the controversy, and weighs in with her two-cents’ worth with this and more to say:

One of Henderson’s concerns was whether 12 year old girls ought to read this book. My answer: “Without equivocation: Fuck, yeah.” The story explores themes that will give a young woman entering puberty a buffet of crucial topics to think about, topics that become particularly important because around 12 years old, my hormones hit the highway to Pueblo Loca and I was batshit miserable through most of it. This book is about so many layered and devastating things that affect teenagers, including sex, sexual assault, autonomy, addiction, strength, power, powerlessness, and how easy it is for damaged children to be taken advantage of by those with agendas of their own.

Would it be catty of me to say “Ha! I *told* you so, Ms Henderson!”?
The only “niche” readers around here are those who only read the whole book if it’s written by someone from St Louis.

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No Apology In Sight

While the evidence contrary to Jane Henderson’s claims against Melissa Marr’s books continue to pour in, Ms Henderson has said that she concedes there are so many similar covers, but will continue her fight to refute her opinion that Marr’s work “resembles”, and therefore is a “knock-off” of Laurell K Hamilton’s work, and she has no intention of apologizing for her opinion or her remarks.

Her words:

There ARE more and more monotone/monochrome-ish covers that are blurry-ish, shadow-ish that seem to evoke mystery AND/OR fantasy. When they have women’s body parts or whole women I believe they are also implying that there will be sexual innuendo, women as lust objects and/or women-in-danger aspects. Perhaps, though, this is an overdone trend at this point. It might be getting to the point where the information conveyed by the images has less meaning…

…None of this changes my mind about the impression the cover and topic combination of the Marr book made on ME. I will continue to reiterate that is the COMBINATION of theme, topic and cover aspects and that I still think there is a strong resemblance. For a general reader, I think they might see similarities. For a fantasy specialist or niche reader, they may seem very, very different. The book publishing industry traffics in knock-offs, similar books all the time. This is not really disputable. Harry Potter spawned a lot of knock-offs, even if the magic/wizard story also had a long history before Rowling was born.

Note also that publishers do not send every genre book out for review to mainstream, general interest publications. They obviously think Marr is something special and are giving her book special attention. With extra marketing effort comes extra public scrutiny – a professional writer knows and accepts that.

And here’s the bit about no apology:

Book reviewers and book critics don’t just publicize books, they actually make critical judgments and offer opinions, which is what I was doing in the book blog. I do not believe I have anything to apologize for as I was doing what the newspaper pays me to do.
I have tried as well as I can to explain why I see the new Marr book as suggestive of the Hamilton book. My explanation regarding the combination of monotone cover art and topic and theme has been adequately explained and the quotations have been rendered accurately according to the AP stylebook and what is common practice among professional book critics.

The Cover Debate — Covered [updated – more covers]

Here’s what Jane Henderson is looking for:

What reminds me of Hamilton’s series is the monotone, shadowy picture of a young woman’s body, particularly from behind. Some comments have said that this image is common in young adult literature; I have not seen any, and I have been looking on the web at other young adult fantasy literature. I also receive about 300 books a week in my office and this is the first young adult book that I have noticed that struck me as having a cover similar to the Hamilton series. If someone knows of another book about urban fantasy, faery courts & mortals that sports a monotone image of a young woman, please send me the title.

(cut to shorten post– lots of thumbnail images) Continue reading

Where Does It Go From Here?

(This story starts here with “Laurell K Hamilton Knock-Off for Teens” at StLouisToday.com and then comes here with “Writer calls Melissa Marr a ‘Laurell K Hamilton Knock-Off’“, continues in the comments, and on to another post here “St Louis Writer Writes Back” and continues in the comments, then gets picked up at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels with “Knock-Offs and Knocking It Off Already” and “On Ideas, Repetitiveness and Copyright Infringement“. And then claws come out, the fangs appear and the fur really starts to fly *g*, back at the original post. Then yesterday, Henderson posts “More on young adult fantasy, Hamilton” and “More on fantasy book, part 2” and mucks things up again. I will be keeping up with the discussions and posting the links here at “It’s Not Over Yet: More on Marr/Hamilton“.)

Where does this discussion go from here? How do we sort out this mess? Here are a few suggestions:

1) First, and most importantly, Ms Henderson needs to apologize for her original post. It doesn’t matter what her intention was, it’s how it’s impacted that counts. That is, you can have the best of intentions, but if your actions don’t show it, you’ve mucked up and you need to offer an apology. Several people have pointed out the impact of Ms Henderson’s choices of words– namely this copyright infringement business– and they’re not even the creator of the work in question. An apology should be issued to Ms Marr before any discussions take place.

2) We can have a friendly discussion about book covers, and I have supplied a few YA covers that are similar to Marr’s (but I won’t do the homework for you, Ms Henderson. If you want to talk covers, do the research yourself.)

3) We can have a friendly discussion about copyright infringement, a la the Cassie Edwards affair. (Ms Henderson, if you’d like to do the side-by-side comparison. I’m still waiting for the “evidence” you promised.)

4) We can have a friendly discussion about books that are appropriate for the 16+ crowd, but not for the 15 and under group, if you’d like. (But Ms Henderson, you’re going to have to do the reading. People are going to tell you they read Deenie and Flowers In The Attic at 12. And others are going to wonder why you haven’t mentioned other YA faerie authors: Holly Black, Francesca Lia Block to name two. And still others are going to wonder why you haven’t mentioned many other YA authors who also address issues of sexuality in a teenager’s world. You might want to get reading.)

5) We can have a friendly discussion about sexuality as an appropriate (or not) topic for teen readers (but Ms Henderson, you’re going to have to be clear about whether we’re discussing sexuality or rape. The two are not the same and cannot be equated.)

6) We can have a friendly discussion about an author’s responsibility to readers, but you’d better be prepared for a fight. This is one red hot issue, in part because it borders so closely to censorship.

7) We can talk about the recycling of ideas, the origins of originality. (Ms Henderson, you’d better be prepared to explain why you defended Ms Hamilton when she was said to be copying Anne Rice, but now you accuse another of copying Ms Hamilton.)

If you’d like to discuss some of these issues, and do so with one of the authors in question, please visit Melissa Marr’s journal, or feel free to pick a topic and talk. Just be sure you do your homework, and can support your opinions with facts.

And please, let’s pick one topic at a time.

It’s Not Over Yet: More on Marr/Hamilton [updated]

[updated at the end of this post]

(This story starts here with “Laurell K Hamilton Knock-Off for Teens” at StLouisToday.com and then comes here with “Writer calls Melissa Marr a ‘Laurell K Hamilton Knock-Off’“, continues in the comments, and on to another post here “St Louis Writer Writes Back” and continues in the comments, then gets picked up at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels with “Knock-Offs and Knocking It Off Already” and “On Ideas, Repetitiveness and Copyright Infringement“. And then claws come out, the fangs appear and the fur really starts to fly *g*, back at the original post. Then yesterday, Henderson posts “More on young adult fantasy, Hamilton” and “More on fantasy book, part 2” and mucks things up again.)

I’ve come across a few links, and thought I’d share. There are so many topics coming out of Ms Henderson’s mess that it’s no surprise there are such wide and varied responses.

Also, Melissa Marr is addressing a few of these issues at her LiveJournal, including the issue of Henderson cutting up quotes and taking them out of context from Ink Exchange in her posts yesterday.

Oh, and this is not the first time Ms Henderson has written about “comparisons” and her hometown sweetheart, Laurell K Hamilton. In June of 2006, she did an interview with Hamilton in which they discussed Hamilton being compared to Anne Rice, and the Anita Blake series coming under “parody on the Internet and some criticism over how the series has changed”. The original article is no longer at StLouisToday.com, but there is a short discussion of it at www.mystery-books.com.

Justine Larbalestier addressed “The Non-Infringeability of Plot and/or Ideas” very nicely.

(And from the comments of Ms Larbalestier’s post, and in response to Ms Henderson’s comments there, YA/fantasy author Holly Black makes several very good points, including this “Although you might not feel as though teen books should address sex, I’m not sure why you’re targeting Ink Exchange in particular… In addition, I would point you to some other books for teenagers with faeries and sexual situations: Francesca Lia Block’s I Was a Teenage Fairy (2000) and my Tithe (2002).”)

(Also from the comments, YA author Maureen Johnson sums things up very well, and has many good points with this & more:

“Jane, I think you *did* attempt to talk about this in your own blog, but poorly. You wrote the sentence cited above, “‘‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ but where does flattery end and copyright infringement begin? ” And you called the post: “Laurell K. Hamilton knock-off for teens?”

This is why dozens of people just said, “J’accuse!” Justine pointed out your blog because your comments were exactly the kind that perpetuate confusion about this topic.

From there, then you mostly talked about cover art, and then somewhere in the end threw in a swing about the difference between YA for 12 year olds and YA for 17 year olds.

That’s not starting a discussion. That’s throwing out three completely different, and somewhat half-baked “topics.” If I came out and said, “A bat, a banana, and a stapler. DISCUSS!” . . . you would probably, and rightly, ask . . . why have you just listed a bunch of unconnected things? What are we supposed to talk about?”)

From a trio of YA librarians “Ink Exchange, Laurell K Hamilton, Book Covers & More!

And since I now have an advanced copy of Ink Exchange, you can bet I will have more to say.

Today Ms Henderson posted an explanation from a lawyer about what copyright infringement might be where it pertains to book cover images. Er, sort of. Michael Kahn says “the courts generally ask whether the ordinary observer would find
the images substantially similar”, but refrains from commenting further on what would define “an ordinary observer” and “substantially similar”, and the post is without specific examples. Instead, he talks about how ideas are not covered by copyright, just their specific representation, which is exactly what I said several posts ago.

In fact, I reached the end of the post and scratched my head. Yeah? So? And? I’m not exactly sure what the point is here. This post seems to be reiterating what everyone else has said so far, without supporting an argument. Of any kind. Still no side-by-side comparisons from Ms Henderson.

In the comments to this post, however, Jeaniene Frost has posted links to several book covers that are similarly themed. (I’ll see what I can do to pull them up into a separate post.)

I have to say that if this was an English class and I had to grade Ms Henderson on her ability to create an argument and provide supporting evidence, I’d have to give her an F.

St Louis Writer Writes Back

Jane Henderson, the St Louis writer accusing Melissa Marr of being a “knock-off” of Laurell K Hamilton, posted a comment over at the original article, in response to my reaction here. Here it is for your convenience:

The cover of the teen book is very similar to Hamilton’s covers, and the stories do sound similar. However that applies to many books. In the romance genre, it’s sometimes hard to tell one author from the next.
If you read carefully, you’ll note that I did not make any untoward accusations or accuse the new book’s author of anything illegal. In fact, for many authors, being compared to Hamilton would be a compliment.

Comment by Jane Henderson — January 23rd, 2008 at 3:23 pm

There’s still just so much wrong here.

Before we go any further, let me just preface everything by stating that I am a long-time fan of Hamilton’s (see the blurb about me over in the sidebar) and a recent fan of Marr’s, her book only being out for less than a year. And I’d like to point out that I am at a slight disadvantage, not having read Marr’s Ink Exchange yet.

Dear Ms Henderson,
Let’s start by looking at the covers, shall we?
Hamilton’s:

hamilton_mg_1.jpghamilton_mg_2.jpghamilton_mg_3.jpghamilton_mg_4.jpghamilton_mg_5.jpghamilton_mg_6.jpg

Marr’s:

wicked.jpgmarr_ink.jpg

As anyone can see, Hamilton’s covers (with the exception of a Lick of Frost) feature women in various states of undress. Marr’s feature fully-clothed teens. In fact, the teen is the background on the cover of Wicked Lovely. The covers are not similar. And as the author states in comments here, if her covers are at all comparable, then look at YA authors, Stephenie Meyer and Libba Bray:

meyer.jpgbray.jpg

Next, your suggestion “the stories do sound similar” is without merit. From Amazon (though I have both texts in front of me right now):
Wicked Lovely:

Rule #3: Don’t stare at invisible faeries.

Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty—especially if they learn of her Sight—and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don’t speak to invisible faeries.

Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don’t ever attract their attention.

But it’s too late. Keenan is the Summer King who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost—regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.

Faerie intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr’s stunning 21st century faery tale.

A Kiss of Shadows:

A Kiss of Shadows introduces Merry Gentry, a.k.a. Meredith NicEssus, a faerie princess of the Unseelie Court, where politics is a blood sport. Merry, who’s part sidhe (elvish), part brownie, and part human, never really fit in. She’s short, not skilled in offensive magic, and mortal because of her human blood. These are real liabilities when your family, especially aunt Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, is out to kill you. Merry has been in hiding for three years, living in Los Angeles and working for the Grey Detective Agency, which specializes in “supernatural problems, magical solutions.” A new case sets her against a man who uses forbidden magic to seduce fey women and drain their power. A plan to trap him goes awry and Merry’s cover is blown. Now Andais knows where she is. But things have changed in Andais’s court, and Merry is changing too.

Despite the selkies, brownies, goblins, and ogres in this book, it’s not for children. The fey are “creatures of the senses”–and in the Unseelie court, sex and pain go together. Merry is sexually adventurous and surrounded by gorgeous, powerful males, most of whom want her badly. She’s politically savvy and no coward, though she’s not the warrior Anita is. Hamilton fans and readers of adult fairy tales like Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy will want to give Merry a look.

Merry Gentry is a PI, part sidhe, part brownie, part human. Her story goal is to solve the PI case, but her goal changes when her circumstances change, and her goal then is to survive her cruel aunt. In the meanwhile, she deals with situations that are deadly and/or sexual.

Aislinn is a human girl with the ability to see and hear faeries. Her story goal is to keep from attracting their attention. When her circumstances change, her story goal is then to keep everyone she loves alive, including herself. In the meanwhile, she deals with her relationship and considers losing her virginity.

The stories are not similar. Subject matter, that is, faeries, is the same. But the similarities begin and end there. Hamilton’s work edges on erotica; it was written for adults and is nearly adult-content with a XXX-rating. Marr’s work edges on literary; it was written for teens and is of a PG-13 rating at most.

“However that applies to many books. In the romance genre, it’s sometimes hard to tell one author from the next.”

In the romance genre, yes. However, neither author under discussion is a romance writer. None of the books under discussion are romance. Hamilton’s books are shelved under fiction, though they could be shelved as fantasy or erotica and even edge on crime/mystery, however, they do not fit with the romance genre. They do not fit with paranormal romance, either. Locus called Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series “[a] sexy, tension-charged dark fantasy mystery.” Marr’s books are shelved under fiction and YA, and yes, could be placed in fantasy, however, you’d be hard-pressed to get them into the romance genre. Locus called Marr’s work “young adult fantasy” and a “blend of faery lore, contemporary small-town setting, and frank consideration of sexuality is reminiscent of Holly Black’s Tithe”.

“If you read carefully, you’ll note that I did not make any untoward accusations or accuse the new book’s author of anything illegal. In fact, for many authors, being compared to Hamilton would be a compliment.”

I agree that many authors would consider comparison to Hamilton a compliment– many authors of adult stories would. However, (1) you did not compare Marr’s work with Hamilton’s. You accused her of being a “knock-off” and of “taking a page”. This is not a comparison. This is a suggestion that Marr got her ideas from Hamilton. (2) If you are going to compare authors, please stick to authors of the same genre, same target audience.

And finally, the idea that you did nothing illegal is questionable. You have, by way of comparing adult-content with teen-content, damaged an author’s reputation with potential readers. Slander is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation”. By uttering “imitation”, “copyright infringement”, and “teen pregnancy”, you are making misrepresentations of Marr’s work. (Not to mention you’ve called into question the ability of Harper Teen’s editors to know the difference between a book for adults and a book for teens, and how to market to the two audiences.) How many parents are now going to question allowing their teen daughters to read Marr’s work because of your comments? I’ll concede that parents should pay attention to what their children read, and they should discuss books, but if getting parents to pay attention and have discussions was your intention, you’ve sorely missed the mark. Where I come from, execution and interpretation are what matters; intention doesn’t matter.

If you would like to read Marr’s books and then offer up the question of “But with the sexualization of girls starting so young in all facets of culture, should parents speak up about what they see?”, go ahead. Personally, I would welcome open discussions of Marr’s works. I believe she handles the subject matter with grace and dignity. She’s created characters and worlds that people care about. Her work is well worth discussing. But read the book first. Don’t start by comparing one author’s sexually charged work with another author who has sensitively navigated the issue of sexuality.

Apples and oranges, Ms. Henderson.

Writer calls Melissa Marr a “Laurell K Hamilton knock-off”

A writer for STLtoday.com accuses Melissa Marr of “taking a page” from Laurell K. Hamilton.

Of course the cliche is that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ but where does flattery end and copyright infringement begin? The book’s jacket even looks like the photos on Hamilton’s books.

Another issue: A lot of parents might not think this series should be marketed to 12-year-olds, as it apparently will be. There’s a lot of difference between a 17-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl.

On the other hand, most of the popular series being marketed to teen girls seem to involve beauty, sex and lots of designer purses. Maybe fantasy tattoos and paranormal love interests are no worse. I’m not suggesting that books lead girls down the path to teen pregnancy. But with the sexualization of girls starting so young in all facets of culture, should parents speak up about what they see? Thoughts?

Yeah. I have a few. Thanks for asking.

1) READ Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely. Spot the differences. Here’s a clue: they’re not even close to the same. Hamilton’s faeries are sex-loving, multi-coloured fey. Marr’s faeries are not multi-coloured or sex-loving. They are dangerous, wicked, and power-hungry. Completely different. I don’t know how anyone who’s read Marr’s work could even dare suggested her ideas came from Hamilton’s. Do your homework before even thinking of making accusations.

2) OPEN your eyes to the fact that faeries have been written about since the Middle Ages. Hamilton was not the first to write about faeries living among us. She doesn’t own the rights to all faerie stories. Anyone is free to write about faeries, whether it’s a poem, short story or novel, and have their work published. Do your homework on faeries.

3) Authors have no say in what goes on the cover of their books. This is decided by the marketing and editorial departments. Do your homework on the book publishing business.

4) Accusations of copyright infringement are not buzz words to throw around to get a wider readership. Copyright infringement is taken very seriously in the publishing world, and look, you just accused a huge publishing company of committing a very serious act. Do your homework on copyright infringement.

5) You cannot own an idea. Ideas are nice, but it’s the execution that counts. You can put thirty people in a room and tell them all to write about faeries and they will all write something different. But they are not copying each other, and they are not stealing your idea because you suggested it.

Do your homework.