Did B. Mitchell Cator Appropriate the Work of Others? Let’s Give the Original Authors a Read!

Friends, the Internet moves at the speed of light.  (Well, the speed of electrons.)  The Internet also offers us access to a dizzying range of the expressions of human creativity.  If a work is online, it can be found in seconds with a quick search.  This is great for lovers of the written word…not so much for those who apparently choose to appropriate the work of others as their own.

It has just been brought to my attention that a writer by the name of B. Mitchell Cator seems to have published the work of others in a number of literary journals under his own byline.  Unfortunately, I have never attended law school, so I shall leave accusations to others.  Here’s an example of the similarities that some folks have spotted.

Jessica N. Coles published this on September 6, 2011:

cator2

Then Mr. Cator posted this on his site on May 23, 2016:

cator1

The discovery of this and many other similarities seems to represent extremely inconvenient timing for Mr. Cator, who is releasing a novel this very week.  The novel received a Kirkus Review and everything!  At the moment of this writing, sleuths are working to figure out if that novel is also forged from the work of others.  As a guy who tries to live in a constant state of empathy, it’s my fervent hope that Mr. Cator has a very good explanation and that all is right with the world and that we all respect each other as artists and colleagues.

So here’s the most important thing:

Those whose work seems to have been appropriated deserve the credit for the work they created.  The work was good enough to find a home in a lit journal once…and then twice.  And then three times, as Mr. Cator self-published a collection of some of these stories.  Those beautiful sleuths have already combed Probably So.  As Helen R. Broom reported, the e-book has already been removed from Amazon.

Amazon user J. Harvey was kind enough to post a list of the original works to the marketplace page for Probably So.  Here are links to the original iterations of the stories the stories and articles that have been questioned so that you may enjoy the works under their true parentage.

 


“An American Girl” is actually “The Barge” by Joseph Young, originally published in Hobart (one of my favorites!)

The proprietor of sunnyoutside press tweeted a side-by-side comparison of a page of Mr. Cator’s e-book (left) alongside Mr. Young’s piece (right):

sunnyoutside

“The Penance of Angelo Carrera” is actually “Seven Things About Leroy” by Jessica Myers-Schecter in Pindledyboz

“The Last Leaf of Terrence Dewberry” is actually “The Last Leaf” by Vadim Bystritski in Frigg Magazine

“The Short and Sweet of Savannah” is actually “Coke and Oreos” by Chris Lenton in Verbsap

“An Ode to Airports” is actually “This Is Why We Love Airports” by Heidi Priebe in Thought Catalog

“Claire’s Paper Airplanes” is actually “Why Tanya’s Paper Airplanes Are Better Than Geoffrey’s Paper Airplanes” by Thom Veratti in Pindeldyboz

“Virgil Marvin’s Work of Invisible Literature” is actually “Milo Hennessy’s Work With Invisible Literature” by John W. Sexton in Verbsap

“X-Mas – 1972” is actually “I Can’t Talk About Butter Because Margarine Is All I Know” by C. R. Park in Smokelong

“The Bottom of Confused” is actually “Far Enough South” by Al Billings in Absinthe Literary Review

“Swallowed by the Sea” is actually “Slashing at the Nets” by Townsend Walker in Easy Street

“A Future Memory of Walking Upside Down” is actually “Walking Upside Down” by John Ravenscroft in Storycove

Mr. Ravenscroft was kind enough to send me a screenshot of Mr. Cator’s web site as it appeared before Mr. Cator took it down:

Ripoff

“Something Happened Here” is actually “The End of Blogging” by Mitch Joel on Six Pixels of Separation

“Savannah’s Approach to 30” is actually “Unconvincing” by Stacy May Fowles in Absinthe Literary Review

“Digital Loss” is actually “Blogging Ourselves to Live” by Stephanie Georgopulos at human parts

Ms. Georgopulos sent me this image of the overlap between the two:

steph

“But is it Literature” is actually “At What Point Does a Novel Become Literature?” by Anna Green in Mental Floss

“Mourning Doves” is actually “Odd Harvest” by Darryl Scroggins in Amarillo Bay

“Claudette Before Deke” is actually “12 Things I Need From You” by Kenn Tonorio in Thought Catalog 

This one is particularly interesting because Mr. Cator says it is the backstory of his novel and was cut from the manuscript.  Hat tip to Twitter’s Apostrophe Abuse for this visual comparison:

cator2

“How to Bury a Cat” is actually “How to Bury a Cat” by Ryan Havely in Opium Magazine

“Algebra of Alcohol” is actually “The Mathematics of Melancholy” by Allison Gruber in Pindledyboz


 

Remember, friends.  It’s true that Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal.  (That’s what my whole site is about!)  But we must steal in the appropriate ways.

 

 

POSTSCRIPT:

Even if we’re all unpleasant at times, most people are decent at heart.

Camille Griep, the editor of Easy Street, is surely one of those decent people.  Whatever happened was not the fault of Easy Street in any way, but she posted a beautiful statement to the site.

The editor of Moonglasses also made a preliminary statement:

The editor of the Harpoon Review also chimed in:

I am trying in all ways in life to have empathy, so I have used different words to describe the situation.  I will say that plagiarism, if that is what happened here, angers literary people so much because our works are dear to us.  They are our creations and, one hopes, will outlive us.  In fact, the very word plagiarism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, originates in the:

classical Latin plagiārius person who abducts the child or slave of another, kidnapper, seducer, also a literary thief (Martial 1. 52. 9)

At the moment, I am hoping that a novel I have written will work out and it certainly feels like the fruit of my labor and the characters like my children.

 

ADDENDUM:

A gent by the name of Ira Lightman (@ilightman) is going through Mr. Cator’s novel and Karen Jones (@Karjon) is reporting his findings.  Here are the relevant tweets.  Why not check out the work in its original form?

 

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12 Comments

  • Ana also contacted Gravel about the story titled “How To Bury A Cat” that we published and credited to Cator being published in Opium by Ryan Havely. Many of us in the literary magazine world have been duped, and we already posted an apology on Facebook and contacted Ryan about our terrible error.

    • Diane, thanks for pointing this one out. I have added it to the list. I don’t think anyone blames you or any other editor. We all do this because we love stories and we want to share them with others.

      • I wasn’t mad at Gravel. I’m extremely angry with Cator, though, and I’ve been using all my power (which, I admit, is limited) to inform every contest, magazine, author who reviewed his work, etc., that he’s a fraud.

        I’m just glad it was caught. I’ve contacted all the places I found selling his work, as well. (Well, not HIS work…) Barnes and Noble doesn’t seem to care. Amazon is taking action.

  • Excellent summary of the situation. Thanks for writing this. Mr Cator has removed his version of my story from his website, but I have a screenshot of it if you’d like to compare.

  • The novel, too, appears to be self-published — “Anchor Hudson LLP” seems only to have published it, and Kirkus Indie is a paid program for self-published and small press writers.

    • Ah, I didn’t know Kirkus Indie was a paid program. I contacted them by phone, and sent their representative the links that Ira compiled. Hoping they take action.

  • Despair is the word I use when I hear of stories like this one. How desperate to get published was this person? I’m desperate to get published but hopefully never this desperate. That being said, I think living in the era of fanfic and mashups may have warped a generation of writers into believing that ideas from someone else’s brain are fair game to appropriate for their own ends, especially if such ideas appear on the internet. But that’s speculation on my part.

    • Fanfiction is a transformative work. Writers throughout history have created new stories using popular existing characters and settings, and some of them are famous and beloved. I highly recommend this article: http://geekandsundry.com/6-great-works-of-literature-that-are-actually-fanfiction/

      The key is that those are new works that significantly transform or comment on the original, with a full disclosure that the fanfic author is not the owner of the existing work. Mr. Cator copy-and-pasted the actual creative labor of other writers and passed it off as his own original creation; it’s closer to uploading an episode of Star Trek to YouTube and claiming to have filmed it yourself.

  • Ripping off writers who’ve been published by literary magazines is the ultimate literary crime. Not only are you fucking over up-and-coming or new authors, many of whom have yet to see a dime from their publications, but you’re trying to send the message that their words are worth even less than nothing by stealing their hard work and pawning it off as your own.

    Who do these plagiarists think they’re fooling, in an age when EVERYTHING can be instantly Googled to find the true author?

    I have these words for B. Mitchell Cator: You are a thief and a liar, and I hope a class-action lawsuit takes you for everything you’re worth, and then buries you in the grave you’ve dug for yourself.

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