Friday, May 05, 2006

Alloyed (and plagiarized) entertainment

In his comment on my previous post on the plagiarism scandal surrounding How Opal Mehta got kissed, got wild, and got a life, Patrix asked:

Will this Kaavya incident expose the inner workings of the publishing industry? I hope it does; seems to be lot in there.

I too hoped it would, and was on the look out for more info. My curiosity was piqued when it was revealed that 17th Street Productions, the 'packaging' company now owned by Alloy Entertainment, was involved in the 'production' of Opal.

I found two great articles in Slate from a week ago. The first one, by John Barlow, recounts his own experience with 17th Street Productions when he was hired to 'produce' a novel with the help of a committee.

[Just] how do you write a novel by committee? Answer: with a great deal of pleasure. We would gather on the phone, me in Europe, they in New York, and chew the fat for hours about development, character, plot digressions, key moments. ... I imagined this was how prime-time TV gets written: lots of witty, divergent opinions slowly converging on a highly predictable and uninspiring concept. Still, planning a crazy fantasy kids' novel with a bunch of smart people is fun. It really is a whole lot of fun. During these calls I would make notes, then type them up, edit and expand them, and mail them back. Some time later I'd get responses from New York, agreeing with some things but disagreeing with others, often things that the boys had themselves suggested.

The process was a form of reiterative madness in which only I felt mad; unlike me, these people were involved in many similar projects simultaneously. Can you imagine trying to develop plots for a dozen novels at once? ...

The second article, by Ann Hulbert, is more about the specifics of the packaging of Opal.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Thanks for digging in. I am not surprised that in the age of putting best-seller status above everything else, this was imminent. I hope the readers have access to information to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  2. Abi said...

    Patrix: I am not sure about 'separating the wheat ...". These packaged books sound more and more like TV serials, which are developed in a collaborative effort involving quite a few people. So, some of it may actually be good. However, we can certainly question the ethics of a publication that features one person as the author while it was actually written by a committee. Who should really 'own' the work?

    I am sure there will be more about this issue in the days to come.