You've heard, I'm sure of the big storm over the books of Cassie Edwards who allegedly - although there doesn't seem to be much doubt - committed plagiarism. If you haven't heard about it you are probably a member of an obscure tribe on an obscure island in an obscure ocean ... and possibly living in an obscure cave. As I said, there doesn't seem to be too much doubt about it, but I'm not going into all that because, to paraphrase Honest Abe and the Gettysburg Address, it's been discussed far beyond my poor powers to add or detract. Plagiarism is bad. It is theft of someone else's work, their words and their research, their efforts. So it's just wrong. But I think there is a larger issue here that everyone seems to be missing.
Although Ms. Edwards sin seems to include several of her books, it first came to light when someone read a passage in her book Shadow Bear and noticed a discrepancy in the narrative tone. A little sleuthing was done and it turns out that she took whole passages from a story (nonfiction) by nature writer Paul Tolme on the plight of ferrets. Yeah, you read that correctly. Now, Mr. Tolme had every right to be angry over this issue. It was his words, the results of his research, that she took and used as her own. That's bad. But as I said, there is a larger issue here that has yet to be addressed.
As Mr. Tolme himself said, "Wow, that is some bad dialogue. It stands out as clunky and awkward even by the standards of romance novels. " And that, my friends, is the problem. As a result of this tempest millions of people who have never read a romance novel before ... well, okay hundreds ... a lot? Somebody, anyway, somebody who has never read a romance novel before, is going to take a look at Ms. Edwards' book to see what all the noise is about and will assume her work to be an example of the entire genre. In other words, they'll skim a few pages and decide that they were right all along to avoid them.
*Sigh* The genre has come such a very long way towards legitimacy that this kind of bad publicity is almost physically painful. However will we get serious readers of serious books to take it seriously now? We shall have to choose, oh so carefully, a few authors whose books truly do shine as an example of the progress the genre has made and do our utmost to move their names and their books to the forefront. How to accomplish this? Fight fire with fire. We should launch a counter-scandal that will have academia scrambling to research the issue, thus forcing them to read and, hopefully, become fans of romance fiction. It will have to be something big though, something that can top the ferret story and steal the limelight from it.
I can only appeal to big names in romance fiction to put aside their personal concerns and do their duty to their genre. Go forth and sin. And make it a big one, huh? Time's a-wastin' and we need to catch this wave before it moves on.