Teen Remixes The Works Of Others Into Best Selling Novel… And Critics Love It
from the collaborative-writing dept
Here’s a story that will get traditionalists up in arms about “stealing” and “laziness,” but they’ll all be missing the point. We’ve see for decades how remix culture works in music. The ability to take the works of someone else, mix them up with others, change them around and create something new and powerful, is a wonderful expression of culture, that shows how artistic culture is often about shared experiences and sharing works of art. But what about in the literary world?
There has been some exploration of this concept in the past, such as when author Jonathan Lethem wrote a very eloquent defense of plagiarism that was entirely plagiarized. Separately, we’ve discussed how many (especially younger people) who have grown up on things like Wikipedia often point out that they don’t view it as plagiarism so much as collaborative writing. And they have a point (even if there’s one patent lawyer in particular who links back to that article every few weeks to mock Techdirt). There will always be those who don’t recognize how this is, in fact, collaboration and does create new and unique pieces of artwork and culture — but they’re the same sorts of people who have decried every new artform from the Waltz (“The indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced… we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion”) to romance novels and plays (“The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge”) to comic books (“All child drug addicts, and all children drawn into the narcotics traffic as messengers, with whom we have had contact, were inveterate comic-book readers This kind of thing is not good mental nourishment for children!”).
But the good news is that this form of collaborative creation is gaining a bit of acceptance. Duane alerts us to the story of a 17-year-old German woman whose critically acclaimed book has been found to have large chunks plagiarized from other sources. A few years back, when a similar situation arose in the US, the author Kaavya Viswanathan, was shunned — even if some of us thought that was ridiculous and unfair. In this case, however, the author, Helene Hegemann, readily admits that she was “remixing” other works into her book — and the critics still love it. Her book was nominated for the $20,000 prize of the Leipzig Book Fair even though the judges already knew about the plagiarism.
And, really, what’s the problem here? Some might claim that it’s unfair to the original authors whose work she used — but the author of the largest segments, named Airen, is getting a ton of attention for Airen’s own book, which received little actual attention when originally published. In fact, Amazon now notes that “customers who bought” Hegemann’s book also ended up buying Airen’s book. In the same way that remixes and mashups often drive people to buy the original music, it seems like remixed/mashedup books can do the same. It may be a big cultural leap for those who think there is “a way things must be done,” but it seems that the younger generation has other ideas.