Ansible 158 Supplement
Alleged Plagiarism Supplement
The full text of Chet Williamson's Ansible 158 communication, including his examples of curiously similar passages in his 1989 story and the one Ann Melrose has recently been submitting.
Chet Williamson wrote:
A woman named Ann Melrose sent a story titled 'The Audition' to Ellen Datlow as a submission to Scifi.Com. Melrose identified herself in her cover letter as a writer whose work had appeared in Isaac Asimov's SF and Twilight Zone magazines. Ellen immediately recognized the story as a rewrite of a story I had sold to Ellen in the late 80s, 'To Feel Another's Woe,' which was published in her 1989 anthology, Blood Is Not Enough. Melrose had reduced the story from 5700 words to 3200 words, and changed it from first person to third person. The entire submission retained my plot, characters, action, and dialogue, scene by scene.
The plot of an actress who steals emotions from her lovers is identical, although now they audition for Cats instead of A Streetcar Named Desire, and as for specific parallels, one counts them by the hundreds. Just a few:
(Williamson: when the girl walks into the audition area:)
'Forget it,' he said. 'She'd eat you alive.'
'I wish. Who is she?'
'Name's Sheila Remarque.'
'Shitty stage name.'
'She was born with it, so she says. Me, I believe her. Nobody'd pick that.'
'She any good?'
Kevin smiled, a bit less broadly than his usually mobile face allowed. 'Let's just say that I've got twenty bucks that says she'll get whatever part she's after.'
'Forget it. She'd eat you alive.'
Tom sighed, savoring the images running through his head. 'I wish. Who is she?'
'Name's Jennifer DuBois. Her real name, or so she claims.'
Tom watched her leaning against the wall, memorizing every detail. 'Is she any good?'
His thin lips drew tight in more of a grimace than a smile. 'Let's just say that I've got twenty bucks that she'll get any part she wants – even Rum Tum Tugger.'
Melrose apparently took 'DuBois' from the fact that in my story the girl is trying out for the role of Blanche DuBois. And note that she accidentally left out the words 'that says' in the last line.
The story continues, with identical and near-identical lines, paragraph after paragraph. The first climax occurs when my protagonist talks with one of the woman's ex-lovers, who says that she has destroyed his career because he can no longer show emotion. After many drinks, the protagonist notices the man shows no sign of being influenced by them:
'But...you're not...showing any signs...'
'Yes. That's right,' he said in a clear, steady, sober voice. 'That's right.'
He crossed his forearms on the table, lowered his head onto them, and wept. The sobs were loud, prolonged, shaking his whole body.
'There!' I cried, staggering to my feet. 'There, see? See? You're crying, you're crying! See?'
He raised his head and looked at me, still weeping, still weeping, with not one tear to be seen.
'But you're not...not drunk...'
'That's right.' He forced a smile and leaned forward on crossed arms. He laid his head on the table and wept. The sobs were long and prolonged, shaking his whole body.
'There!' Tom staggered to his feet, gripping the table for balance. 'You're crying!'
He raised his head and looked at me, still weeping.
Note that in the last line, Melrose actually forgot she was changing the story to third person and copied my original first-person line by mistake.
Finally, at the end, when the narrator confronts the girl with the truth and tells her that he wants her to teach him how to do what she does...
'Teach me,' I said, as gently as I knew how. 'I'd be no threat to you, no competition for roles. In fact, you may need me, need a man who can equal you on stage. Because there aren't any now. You can take what you want from me as long as you can teach me how to get it back again.
'Please. Teach me.'
When she looked up at me, her face was wet with tears. I kissed them away, neither knowing nor caring whose they were.
'Teach me,' he said, taking her hands gently into his. 'I won't be a threat to you, no competition for roles. You'll need a man who can equal you on stage. You can take what you want from me as long as you teach me how to get it back. Please. Teach me.'
She raised her head and he tenderly pushed back the mass of hair from her porcelain features. Her face was wet with tears. Tom kissed them away, not knowing or caring whose they were.
Ellen sent a letter to Melrose, telling her that she recognized the source and accusing her of copyright infringement. Melrose responded in an e-mail also sent to me, in which she denied the charge and stated that she was 'totally unaware' of the original story and the anthology, but that she would withdraw it from submission to other markets. Since the original story has been reprinted several times, it is possible that she had not read it in Blood Is Not Enough, but instead read it in one of the later anthologies in which it appeared.
[These reprint appearances were in Best New Horror ed. Ramsey Campbell & Stephen Jones, Robinson, 1990; Giant Book of Best New Horror ed. Campbell & Jones; Girls' Night Out ed. Dziemianowicz, Weinberg, & Greenberg, Barnes & Noble, 1997; and Streets of Blood ed. Lawrence Schimel & Martin H. Greenberg, Cumberland House, 1998.]
My attorney sent Melrose a letter demanding that she cease and desist any efforts to submit 'The Audition' to any editor or publisher in any media, and asking for the names of the other markets to which the story was submitted in order that we can confirm withdrawal from those markets. So far we've received no reply from Melrose. If you could help to disseminate this information, perhaps any editors who've received this plagiary in the past could inform me that it's been rejected or withdrawn, and that if any receive it in the future, they can be alerted to treat it as the plagiary it is.
Ann Melrose replied
... in DarkEcho (which ran Chet Williamson's comments) on 31 August:
As a subscriber and regular reader of Dark Echo, I was surprised and shocked to see my name spread throughout Chet Williamson's article in last week's issue. I had hoped that this problem could have been solved in a private manner, but apparently this is not the case. Since I have many friends among the subscribers to DE, I want to address this in a public manner, which is not in accordance with my attorney's wishes.
Three years ago, I wrote a short story called, 'The Audition,' after seeing a performance of Cats. I submitted the story for a free critique in conjunction with a workshop and to my surprise the editor was interested, but it needed work. After several revisions, he decided the story didn't meet his needs and rejected it. After that it saw a couple of other markets and rejections before I sent it off to Ms. Datlow in May.
Mr. Williamson presented some of the facts in the first part of his article. Ms. Datlow did send me a letter in which she cited several striking similarities between the two stories. I immediately sent her a letter detailing the history of 'The Audition' and also requested information as to where I could obtain a copy of her book or a copy of Mr. Williamson's story. To date, I have not been granted my request. Instead, I received a letter from Mr. Williamson's attorneys belaboring their accusations and denouncing my credibility.
Prior to the receipt of Ms. Datlow's first correspondence, I had never heard of her anthology or even knew of Mr. Williamson's existence. I have searched diligently for a copy of her book or his story with no success. For my own satisfaction, I would like to compare the stories and check out the similarities.
For the record, Mr. Williamson has my email address since I carbon-copied the letter I sent to Ms. Datlow to him. If he had emailed me a request for the list of editors, I would have gladly complied.