Lianna, host of the Rondo-award winning "horror multimedia" site Fright Bytes, has been taking whole swaths of other peoples' writing and passing it off as her own without any kind of acknowledgement. She's posted numerous articles on FEARnet as a column called "Spiderbaby's Terror Tapes," that have been largely based on other peoples' work.
The July 9, 2013 piece, "'Suspiria' with Barbara Magnolfi," pieced together sections of original writing along with chunks from Critical-Film.com, HighDefDigest.com, and EmpireOnline.com. Here's a visual example of the introduction to Lianne's interview (which is not plagiarized):
Without a doubt, Suspiria is Dario Argento’s best film (some of you may not feel the same, but I stand behind my choice), and one of the most atmospheric and artistic films ever made in the horror genre. It is the first in Argento’s “The Three Mothers” trilogy, which also includes Inferno and The Mother Of Tears. Argento was at the top of his proverbial game when directing both Suspiria and Inferno as they defy everything you've come to expect from horror films. Not only are they brimming with suspense and incredibly stylized violence, they are absolutely beautifully filmed.
Suspiria defines the horror film as a work of visual art. Scenes are lit with bright reds, greens, and blues making them look more like moving paintings than film. It's a masterpiece of visual filmmaking. Suspiria also includes one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time. Goblin, who would score numerous other films for Argento, provide a haunting score and one that uses strange human vocals, the sounds of whispers and gasps to compliment the music. It's an artistic choice that lends itself well to the film. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Suspiria without Goblin’s soundtrack. The 1977 giallo classic is an experiment with lighting, mise-en-scène and sound.
Rightly considered the pièce de résistance of Dario Argento's filmmaking career, the movie is sparse and plain as it follows a young American dancer named Suzy (Jessica Harper) through the stressful demands of a prestigious ballet academy. Over the course of the film, Suzy slowly discovers that the ballet studio is run by a nasty coven of witches.
But it’s the beginning sequence that sets Suspiria apart from all the rest – it starts out late in the night during a raging storm. A young woman runs screaming from the exclusive Frieberg ballet school. We see her hurtling, screaming through the woods, illuminated by lightning. After she arrives at a friend's apartment she peers through a window into the tumult, only for an arm to smash through one window pane and, in a loving, extended shot, suffocate her against the other. While her friend drums hysterically against the locked door the gloved hand repeatedly stabs the girl. In the next shot the stabbing continues, this time in full close up as the fiend winds a rope around the shrieking victims legs. Then, we cut to the friend running into the lobby of the apartment building for help. As she looks up towards a stained glass ceiling, the victim's head crashes through it in a hail of glass shards followed by her body. We cut to the blood-drenched corpse, suspended by the rope dripping blood onto the floor. Finally Argento pans the camera to reveal his next horror: the falling glass has impaled the friend to the ground, crucifix-like, the largest sliver having split her face in half. This is horror beauty at it’s finest!
Yeah, that's pretty blatant.
Rather than 'fess up to what she'd been doing, it's my guess that Lianne is going to throw her intern, Raven Cousens, under the bus. Why do I say that? Lianne announced the arrival of her "new evil henchman" in a post on her website on June 17, 2013. Now, all mentions of Raven have been removed from Lianne's site. So, don't be surprised if Raven is set up as the fall girl.
There's a small problem with the idea of Raven being the culprit in this plagiarism. It's not that Raven would have been ghost-writing (or ghost copy/pasting) pieces that were credited to Lianne. Instead, it's that the chronology doesn't add up. I say that because Lianne was lifting passages from other peoples' works before the announcement of Raven's internship.
On May 6, 2013, Lianne (or someone being credited as Lianne Spiderbaby) posted on FEARnet's "Spiderbaby's Terror Tapes" in the article "'Popcorn' with Jill Schoelen." This time, Moria.co.nz supplied the lion's share of the content for the piece, either directly or via some loose paraphrasing. I'll just highlight the direct stuff and readers can compare the rest.
Maggie (Jill Schoelen), a student at USC film school, is plagued by recurring dreams that feature a terrifying man evoking Satan and other cultish horrors. At school, the film department’s funding has just been cut, but the department head comes up with an idea: holding a festival of old gimmick horror films in a soon-to-be-demolished theatre to raise funds. A film memorabilia expert shows them a film called The Possessor, which features occult sacrifices being conducted by Lanyard Gates, the guru of a film cult in the 1960s. Maggie is startled when the film shows things that appear in her dreams. As the festival begins, a masked madman starts killing off Maggie’s classmates and those closest to her. It also appears as though the killer wants one thing – Maggie. The story is a tad contrived – it is set up to suggest that Lanyard Gates is the killer but it turns out that the killer is someone else who fits into the contorted Lanyard Gates schema. The script does offer a few amusing lines. One student protests that there is more social relevance in one Police Academy film than in all of Ingmar Bergman’s!
The masterminds behind Popcorn were none other than Bob Clark and Alan Ormsby, who worked together on the frighteningly fabulous Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972), Black Christmas (1974) and Dead of Night (1974). However, they both took their names off of Popcorn because of all the controversy surrounding the making of the film. Ormsby wrote the script and used the name Tod Hackett. Although Bob Clark was on set everyday, he decided to be uncredited. It isn’t known why their names were removed, or why Ormsby was fired.
Mark Herrier was the replacement director, and Popcorn was his first feature. Popcorn comes with a great affection for the lost pleasure of attending a movie at the theater, and it even screens old refreshment and snack ads. Popcorn may have been more successful if it were released today – with such heightened nostalgic aspects, the film would have proven to be popular amongst the sequel-loving horror fans today. In particular, Popcorn has affection for the old gimmick films of the 1950s. Many of the gimmicks used in the film – the mosquito harnessed to fly across the theatre; insurance policies and warnings about dying of fright; electric buzzers on the seats; and odors pumped into the theatre are all gimmicks that William Castle used in the 1950s. Popcorn also challenged its audience with self-reflective postmodern sensibilities in away that wasn’t really experimented with until Wes Craven’s Scream.
I would advise St. Martin's Press, the publisher of Lianne's upcoming book, Grindhouse Girls (with an intro penned by Tarantino), to do their due diligence to make sure everything is properly vetted and footnoted.
Lianne Discusses Editing
Want a good dose of irony? Watch this video.
Full disclosure, a lot of the research for this piece was done by several other folks (and verified by me -- you can verify it yourself via cached versions of the pages). I'd hate to be accused of 1) plagiarizing someone else's work or 2) putting my name on an article that someone else wrote. Wouldn't that just be a terrible thing to do?
Stay tuned for updates in this story.
Update 7/13/2013 @16:26:
It's been an interesting morning to say the least. I've gotten a lot of feedback on this post and I appreciate everyone who's had something to say, good or bad. The comments to the post are very interesting and some of them are incredibly enlightening.
The video I posted above has been made private and the post about Raven Summers has been re-instated. Lianne's website went down for a little bit but it seems to be back. Likewise, some of her tweets have been up and then down later on. I thought I saw tweets about her individually apologizing to authors for the things she's cribbed but that seems to be down (and Twitter goes through a lot of hoops to try and disable caching of their stuff.
But, here are a couple of interesting tweets that I screen grabbed (despite being now blocked from following her):
Lianne reached out to me to ask me to take down this post but I told her I wouldn't. I figured that we've all had enough of disappearing posts and that doing so would merely fuel the (f)ire.
Update 7/14/2013 @09:29:
Update 7/16/2013 @15:58:
As noted in the comments below, Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas has retracted his initial assessment of the situation and published a statement about the situation on his blog. This initial statement included assurances that the article Lianne penned for the next issue of VW was plagiarism-free. He has now updated that statement to say that it is not free of pilfered prose.
Unfortunately, new findings have forced me to retract a portion of yesterday's statement. John Charles has notified me that evidence of plagiarism has been found in Lianne Spiderbaby's coverage of EMANUELLE IN AMERICA. John is preparing a statement we will be posting later in the day.
I know of several writers who would do a much better job at writing and being honest in their craft that Tim may want to employ (or re-employ), including a few that Lianne ripped-off. Read more here.
Update 7/17/2013 @19:57:
Traces of Lianne's plagiarism keep disappearing from the web. Today all of the videos of her Rondo award-winning FrightBytes show went private, essentially removing all of the content from the YouTube channel.
Meanwhile, more writers are coming forward about being plagiarized. One of the latest is from Scared Stiff Reviews, another is from author Joe Wawrzyniak whose review of I Dismember Mama on IMDB found its way in part to FEARNet courtesy of Lianne. At some point I imagine that someone more ambitious than me will catalog all of these.
In the meantime, keep tabs on the latest events here or via the forums at Latarnia, Monster Kid Classic Horror Forum and The Mortuary.