MisterSF.com: Letters from Susan Kirkland to B.A.R. and Mister SF: << Back

July 7, 2006
CC: Bay Area Reporter, Hank Donat

To the Editor:

I laughed out loud at Mr. Van Buskirk's lame attempt to blame his plagiarism on "a computer glitch that deletes quotation marks." Even a lowly trade publisher like mine requires authors to proof and sign the galley's before their work goes to press; this is a legality that protects both the author and publisher. I laughed so hard, I broke into "a million little pieces" (pun intended).

Mr. Hank Donat should be publicly thanked by authors and artists everywhere. Most of us prefer to concentrate on our work and avoid trouble that steals precious time away from our work, so it is a hard decision to put up a fight. Mr. Donat stood his ground and refused to tolerate someone appropriating his thoughts, ideas and words verbatim without proper credit. There is nothing more irritating than a non-creative person deciding they deserve some of the limelight; but have nothing internal worth shining that light on.

Though his victory seems small for the amount of perpetual grief he must endure while the book is out, I hope he will persist and demand the culprit attach big stickers to the cover stating: "Select Passages nicked from MisterSF.com." At least that way, he will net some well-deserved publicity.

Far too many artists and writers take the path of least resistance and this only perpetuates the old adage "All good men must do for evil to succeed is . . . nothing."

Susan Kirkland
author of Start and Run a Creative Services Business read excerpts from the book (click on the book icon) at www.sdkirkland.com


September 14, 2006
CC: Zak Szymanski (B.A.R.), Hank Donat, Susan Stryker

Dear Mr. Szymanski,

Regarding your article, "Friends set up defense fund for author" (Pub 9/14/2006) I do not know Mr. Donat or Mr. Van Buskirk, and I am not in your community; but I am part of the writing community. Even if your coworker Will Shank coauthored the work in question, as a writer, you cannot condone plagiarism. I guarantee you will change your point of view when your work product is misappropriated under someone else's name. Then you will understand that $7500 is barely compensatory for Donat's time in court, much less punitive relief for Van Buskirk' plagiarism.

I take exception to you and your publication characterizing what Mr. Van Buskirk did as a "mistake." If these errors in accreditation were caused by his editors, the publisher would have stepped up and admitted it, and subsequently fired the editors if for no other reason than to display care and concern for their body of authors. As every author knows, part of the editing process is to verify authenticity and source; not to delete attributions and credits.

What makes Mr. Van Buskirk's behavior particularly reprehensible is not only his theft of ideas and research, but his assumption of Mister SF's style and persona. As long as you continue to support Mr. Van Buskirk' euphemistic, happy-go-lucky attitude about his very serious breach of professional conduct, you are perpetuating his rationalization. You know what they say; denial is more than just a river in Egypt. Van Buskirk must accept responsibility for breaking the rules, and his community should help him, not enable him to slink out of it. When wrongdoers don't do the right thing after the fact, the court makes them pay. And an erratum is hardly admitting plagiarism, for heaven's sake. It's like saying here's a band-aid for that leg you lost in the war. It's just a cut.

While I applaud your efforts to assist Van Buskirk with his legal bills, I question the necessity of perpetuating the myth that his plagiarism was accidental and completely unintentional. This may slather a thick layer of sweetness over the story, but anyone associated with publishing will see through it immediately and question your ethics and credibility. Additionally, you should concern yourself with the continuing damage to Mr. Donat, who appears to be an innocent victim in all of this, living out the adage that no good deed goes unpunished. I say kudos to Mr. Donat for following through.

Ms. Stryker is way out in left field with her quip that "in the world of writing and publishing, it is common to collaborate and use cut-and-paste methods in editing," Few authors will collaborate without correct credit or proper sourcing. Even more shocking, she says, "Van Buskirk did something everybody does in that environment," which is a gross generalization implicating some very sensitive writers who abhor plagiarism. I take exception to this "everybody does it" attitude. Mr. Van Buskirk may be a well loved and respected member of your community, but he is still a plagiarist in the world of writing. In fact, we are still chuckling about the "computer program that removes credit" which he mentioned in an earlier piece in the B.A.R.

You do yourself and your community a disservice with this kind of nonsense. I hope you will stick to the facts in the future and remind your community leaders to do the same. Thank you for your time.

Susan Kirkland
author of Start and Run a Creative Services Business read excerpts from the book (click on the book icon) at www.sdkirkland.com

Copyright 2006 Hank Donat
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