I’m a writer. One might debate how well I perform this craft. Or not. Almost everyone who has read my books has told me they liked them greatly. I say this not in boastful arrogance, but just to say that I do it to the best of my ability, I take it seriously, and I take pride in making it as good as my ability will allow. I’ve written millions of words. A lot of them on this website. If you peruse back through the archives, you will see I have over 450 columns attributed to my name. And most of them are 800 words or more. Not just some quick paragraph about nonsense. Why do I say all this? I don’t know. I think I’m just trying to justify the title I used in the first sentence of my column.
But I don’t need to. Not really. The word writer speaks nothing of the personality of the writing. It doesn’t lend itself to any superlatives or adjectives describing the talent of the human being who takes the title. It only expresses that he or she has set out to perform a task, an effort that takes at least a fair amount of talent or skill, and has thus taken the label.
I am a writer. And to a writer, the greatest insult – the greatest crime – is when someone steals your work. Be it through plagiarism (the theft of your words verbatim) or just theft of an idea, theft of this kind is the rape of the literary world. When someone steals your words or ideas, you feel like you’ve been raped.
Several years ago, I ran into a guy at a bar. You may remember reading about it here on this site. He said he was a writer, and happened to have a copy of his book with him. Said he worked for a publisher. After a couple of calls and emails, I met with this company, called Hobbe’s End Publishing. A small company in North Texas. Jason Gillespie, the owner and primary writer, who writes under the pen name Vincent Hobbes, offered me a contract to publish my first novel. Again, this is no news. I wrote about it here several times.
Anyway, after several months of waiting and slow correspondence, these guys started acting very childish and immature. It was obscenely unprofessional, and I decided, therefore, not to publish with them. Well, during the course of our meetings, they had read a short story of mine called The Time To Read Bookstore. They liked it. I wrote it in the form of an essay. Jason told me to make it a story, and they would consider it for publication in an upcoming collection of similar shorts. That is, he wanted me to rewrite it to take the form of a normal story rather than an essay.
Well, after parting ways with them, I never heard from them again. Until recently.
If you look at the comments section on this column you’ll see where Vincent Hobbes actually came to my site and bragged in my comments section about stealing my idea for a story. He linked to the free download on Amazon. As I won’t be a trafficker for his trash on my site, I removed the link. But I published the comment. His IP address is part of the database now.
I downloaded the short story and read it in about ten minutes. It wasn’t very good, of course. None of their stuff is. He has several friends though who presumably create fake Goodreads and Amazon profiles and pump his stuff full of five-star reviews for him. And he also removes any reviews he finds unfavorable. Flavio bought his book back in late 2007 I think it was, and read it in a day or two. He left Hobbes a very lengthy review on the Amazon page, telling him word for word what he thought was wrong with it. He was just honest. A completely honest review. And of course, Hobbes removed it in short order. That review was packed full of some of the best advice this guy will ever get, from a guy who has written a bunch of books, and has attended workshops, and – let’s not forget – won second place in the Cross-Time Science Fiction short story contest for a story he wrote. He’s published. Not by his own company, either. But it cut too deeply, and Hobbes removed it.
So, I found the stolen short story Hobbes wrote on Goodreads and gave him an honest review. I also mentioned how I thought it was pretty tacky to steal someone’s idea and then come brag about it on that guy’s public forum. His story is different enough to escape plagiarism and perhaps even copyright infringement. But the idea that you go into a bookstore and buy “time” to read a book… Yeah. That was my idea. You can click here to see my review of his book. I’m sure he’ll undoubtedly try to have the review removed. And you can probably expect to see a whole bunch of phony negative reviews of my books on Goodreads in the coming days. Jason will retaliate. Which is fine.
But let’s just remember, Jason “Vincent Hobbes” Gillespie: you wanted my book before. You wanted to publish it. I still have the contract you wrote up for it. I still have the terrible artwork your art guy designed for Resurrecting Mars. I have all of it. People like you don’t belong in this business. You write bad fiction and cry when someone calls you out on it – then steal from the people who entrusted you as a publisher with their work. There are, regretfully, few words that describe the level of hideousness that hangs over your name.
This is my first column about the incident. But I’m just getting started.