The Interwebs have had their knickers in knots for the past few weeks over allegations Nic Pizzolatto plagiarized Thomas Ligotti for Rust Cohle’s dialog in the HBO series True Detective. Jon Padgett, founder of the Thomas Ligotti Online website, certainly thinks so, as he said to Mike Davis in The Lovecraft eZine:
“It is a fact that (in that crucial, character-defining scene) almost every one of Rust’s infamous lines is either taken word for word or is a paraphrase of Ligotti’s distinctive prose and ideas from The Conspiracy Against the Human Race.”
Padgett also cites what he calls “ample evidence” that is “unmistakably evident,” providing eight comments by character Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), along with examples from Ligotti’s work. (You can read the entire article at the link above. I’m going to cherry-pick a little, in the interest of space.)
COHLE: We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate fromitself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law.
Ligotti: “We know that nature has veered into the supernatural by fabricating a creature that cannot and should not exist by natural law, and yet does.” (Emphasis in original.)
COHLE: So my daughter, she spared me from the sin of being a father.
Ligotti: “…non-coital existence… the surest path to redemption for the sin of being congregants of this world.”
Padgett goes on to say, “Are we truly expected to believe that all of the above is pure coincidence?”
No, not at all. It’s also not plagiarism.
In the second example, by Padgett’s reasoning, anyone who uses the phrase “the sin of being” is a plagiarist. We start looking at examples that small for plagiarists, no one is safe.
I once had two detectives eat lunch in a Chinese joint named Lee Ho Fuk’s. I got the name from Warren Zevon’s song, “Werewolves of London.” Is that plagiarism? No. it’s what I call an Easter Egg, something people who get the joke will smile at, and those who don’t haven’t missed anything. The restaurant has to be named something.
Ligotti is clearly a major influence on Pizzolatto’s work. No one disputes that. To be fair, he could have cut all of this off at the pass by writing a few lines of dialog before Rust Cohle says a nihilistic word to Marty Hart:
Cohle: You ever hear of a writer named Thomas Ligotti, Marty?
Cohle: Well, he says…
From there you can do about what you want.
The Lovecraft article created a furor I think is dying down a little. (I admit I’m late to the party again, but I have other things to do. Just be happy I’m not a fireman.) With all the bits and bytes that have been consumed, one thing seems more evident now than ever before: fantasy/sci-fi/horror fans are the most thin-skinned and self-important assholes of the reading world.