Please help me identify these horror stories (an AskMe with a twist).
August 16, 2007 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Help me identify these horror stories! Sounds like an everyday AskMe post, right? It's not. There's a twist here...

Look, I don't want to come right out and make any accusations yet, but I think there's something shady going on with someone who's been submitting to my site. Suffice it to say that some of the stories he's submitted have looked familiar.

I've stripped two of his submissions of the author's name and title, and posted them on a hidden page on my site here. If you read a lot of horror, please go there and read the stories as he sent them to me, and tell me if you've ever seen them before, whether online or in a book. I'm really concerned about this. Thank you.
posted by Faint of Butt to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The first one is an abbreviated version of Wm F Nolan's 'Death Call' (found in Google books - "Len had been dead for a month when the phone rang.")
posted by cobaltnine at 10:05 AM on August 16, 2007

I second the familiar feeling, though I can't place the stories.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:14 AM on August 16, 2007

The other one is online at '' and has a date of 2003 on it.

Voodoo Moon.

Link to the Nolan story: Death Call in a collection.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:16 AM on August 16, 2007

Response by poster: Damn. I had hoped things wouldn't turn out this way.

Thank you, cobaltnine. The Nolan story is the smoking gun. I have a plagiarist on my hands.

Now I have a follow-up question: What do I do? I've already taken every story submitted by this guy off my site, and removed every reference to him. He's been flushed down the memory hole. But should I make a bigger deal out of this? Should I name names, either here or on my own site? What's the best way to save my own face?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:44 AM on August 16, 2007

You've done everything you should do to address the issue of plagiarism. You've identified the individual responsible and deleted all the stories he's submitted to your website. Presumably you've banned him from ever posting or submitting a story to your website ever again.

You could post a note to the site mentioning that a case of plagiarism came up with a poster on your site, and remind all your loyal submitters of the rules governing plagiarism on your website (i.e. you're banned if you attemt it and get caught). Naming names is unprofessional and unnecessary, in my opinion.

But this is just me and my $0.02.
posted by LN at 11:01 AM on August 16, 2007

Email the guy who submitted the stories, showing him the matches above and informing him that you have pulled his contributions from the site. Tell him that unless he can show you verifiable proof that the stories were indeed written by him, his contributions will remain off your site and further submissions from him will not be accepted.

The point in doing the above is a) giving the guy a chance to come clean b) and learn something from the experience as well as c) CYA in the vanishingly small chance that he is Wm. F. Nolan in disguise.

On your site, write an (hopefully scathing) article for your news section saying how you recently came to discover some submissions were not originals, how you have removed them from your site, your personal feelings about plagiarism and plagerists and pointing out that in the end, whomever succumbs to the temptation to steal another's words will be caught out. Do not name names. The best way to save face is to confront the issue and inform your readers while sending a message to your submitters that this behavior will not be tolerated.
posted by jamaro at 11:02 AM on August 16, 2007

To save face, I'd do two things. One, do what jamaro and LN suggest regarding a post to your site. Two? Go to the bookstore and buy a book from the author(s) who were plagiarized. Then scan those receipts, put up a second post showing that you've bought their book, feel better now that you're putting money in their pockets, and encourage your readers to do the same (that is, to support the art they love with their wallets).
posted by peacecorn at 11:03 AM on August 16, 2007

You should publicly apologize on your site for being the inadvertent accessory to theft. Expose him.
posted by happyturtle at 11:03 AM on August 16, 2007

I'd just contact him privately for the moment. From the guy's prose, he looks to be far from professional, so there's nothing to be gained by drumming him out of a hobby.

You could offer tips and constructive advice if you're feeling generous. If he likes to write but is at a loss for story ideas, encourage him to write some "retellings" of some easily identified stories (The Tell-Tale Heart set in a cyberpunky far future, etc.) and post those with all due disclaimers. If he's writing for fun/attention, he can still get all that plus some good practice at the feat of the masters!

Witness, for example, my own half-started poor attempt at a Conan story.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:03 AM on August 16, 2007

How long has he been submitting? And how much play have you given the stories? If he's just one of many, I think the less said, the better. If you had showcased his stories, you might just add a short note in a sidebar about some material having been wrongfully submitted, with a "No Plagiarism Please" sort of reminder.

Plenty of people won't even have noticed the omission; you don't want to call attention to it at this point. In general, the more fuss you make, the more egg there appears to be on your face.
posted by GrammarMoses at 11:03 AM on August 16, 2007

The main responsibility I think you have is to let your visitors know why the stories were removed, what the original works are (especially if they've been popular) and what your policy is on plagiarism (stories will be removed, credit given to original author, etc.) Also I'd make it clear that you want other readers of your site to tell you if they come across things that they think may have been plagiarized.
posted by zackola at 11:04 AM on August 16, 2007

Best answer: For the site:

"We at Microhorror are sorry to report that we recently received/accepted/published (x #) stories containing or consisting of text from (Name of Stories, Name of Stories,) by (Legitimate Author, and Legitimate Author.)

After outside confirmation that the stories in question were not the work of the submitting author, we removed all of his/her work from the site, and banned him/her from all future submissions. We do not and will never tolerate plagiarism in our publication.

We offer our apologies to (Legitimate Author, Legitimate Author,) and to our readers. Microhorror is dedicated to bringing you the best in original short horror fiction, and we hope we can continue to earn your trust as a site that values both audience and author, and respects our artists' creativity and originality."

And for the author:

"After investigation and outside confirmation, we've determined that the work (Title Submitted) is substantially identical to the previously published work (Actual Title) by (Actual Author) on (Such Date) in (Said Publication.) As such, we've removed this piece, and all other pieces submitted by you, from the site. Further submissions will be returned unread.


posted by headspace at 11:21 AM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Actually, ignore me. Headspace's approach is spot on.
posted by GrammarMoses at 11:30 AM on August 16, 2007

Age makes a difference to me. I would deal with a 14 year old plagiarist (write a harsh letter with a life lesson) differently than a 24 year old plagiarist. (Post his name forever on your submission page as an example of plagiarist.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:47 AM on August 16, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. I've come clean with a public announcement, but have concealed the plagiarist's name. headspace, that was downright elegant, and I admit to being very tempted to steal some of your turns of phrase, but I didn't. Anyway, I think the crisis is over, although I'd be glad to hear others' thoughts or stories of similar occurrences.

Today has not been fun for this poor old ethical editor. Thank you all again.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:05 PM on August 16, 2007

I'm sorry you had to deal with it, FoB. And just for ref, if I write it out as a suggestion, you're more than welcome to use it wholesale.
posted by headspace at 4:09 PM on August 16, 2007

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