As Authors Share More ChiZine Experiences, Others Part Ways with CZP

Additional writers, interns and staffers have opened up about their experiences with ChiZine Publications, the Canadian horror publisher run by Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory. At the same time, there has been some pushback from people in the field, of whom Stephen Jones (editor) may be the best known.

Earlier summaries of CZP news can be found in these posts:

Note: There is considerably more information to read at each link beyond the excerpts quoted here.

Michael Matheson, whose extensive commentary on ChiZine Publications’ finances based on records in their possession was linked previously, and who looked into CZP’s funding from grants by Canadian public sources, told Facebook readers the news is having an impact:

ChiZine WERE one of the Ontario Arts Council Recommender Grants for Writers recommending publishers. They’re off the site.

Which means the OAC PULLED them after the news of what they’ve been doing broke

Beverly Bambury shared more about CZP’s “culture of intimidation and silence.” Thread starts here.

Former CZP intern Feli Law spoke in a Facebook post about low pay and no pay, and the unexpected responsibilities dumped on them, concluding —  

…When I finally left CZP, I quit publishing because I was so bitter over what happened and how toxic it all was. I hated the snobbery of publishers and writers, and it ruined my perception of the publishing world.

My story isn’t even the worst one, but it’s my story.

Jeff VanderMeer found that his assistance in negotiating a ChiZine writer’s contract went for nought, as he detailed on Facebook:

I just learned today about another horror story. I acted as the agent to an agentless writer for their first book, from ChiZine. It was a breathtakingly predatory contract. I deleted all of that language and replaced it with reasonable terms. What happened next I didn’t know in its entirety until today, but basically Brett and Sandra waited until this author was in the room with them and them browbeat, cajoled, and pressured the author to sign the original contract. I don’t blame the author, who thought it was their own big break and had no experience. But I do blame ChiZine for being predatory.

Simon Bestwick asks people not to buy his collection from ChiZine, which they released in August.

As I’ve said elsewhere, my initial instinct when the first stories about ChiZine Publications began to come out was to reserve judgement until I’d heard what all parties had had to say and seen the evidence. I knew people who were close to ChiZine who couldn’t believe that what had been described had happened. I don’t believe in trial-by-mob.

But more and more stories came out, from more and more people. Appalling stories, and often appallingly consistent in the conduct they alleged. Consistent and convincing, not only to me but to those same people who were closer to ChiZine than I.

I’m getting in touch with my agent re reverting the rights to And Cannot Come Again, but this might not be a practicable move at my end as I’ll have to return the advance – which, given my current financial position, is something I can’t really do right now.

In the meantime – and it utterly chokes me to say this of a collection I am so proud of and that has been so beautifully put together – I can only ask people NOT to purchase And Cannot Come Again from ChiZine.

Despite the number and gravity of the experiences people have shared, there has been some backlash and scoffing in social media. Perhaps the most widely-known figure warning off ChiZine critics has been Stephen Jones (editor).

As Laird Barron noted on Facebook:

Stephen Jones (editor) basically excoriated everybody complaining and/or reporting about the Chizine debacle. After 200+ comments he deleted the whole thing.

Some who wrote comments say Jones also blocked everyone who commented.

However, Axel Hassen Taiari preserved screencaps of the Jones post before it was removed, which are presented in a thread that starts here.

Axel Hassen Taiari’s own response includes —

Brian Keene’s reaction was —

Amazing Stories has also changed plans for what was formerly a ChiZine-related readings series. The November 20 reading has moved to Bakka Phoenix Books: “Toronto Readings From Amazing Stories Change of Venue”.

Readings from Amazing Stories, originally scheduled to take place at The Round Venue in Toronto on November 20th in conjunction with The Chiaroscuro Reading Series has been relocated to the Bakka Phoenix bookstore, also in Toronto.

Earlier this week a decision was made to host the event independently from its association with the ChiZine Reading series – Chiaroscuro – given the issues currently involving the small press publisher.  In all sincerity we hope that ChiZine Publications and its authors are able to work through their difficulties and find solutions aceptable to all involved.

… The event, hosted by Ira Nayman, Editor-in-Chief of Amazing Stories, will commence at 5 pm on Wednesday, November 20th, and will feature readings from Jen FrankelPaul Levinson, Shirley Meier, Lena Ng and Liz Westbrook-Trenholm (all of whom have had stories published in Amazing Stories over the past year), as well as musical performances by Kari Maaren and Paul Levinson.

The Chiaroscuro Reading Series — ChiSeries — has been sponsored in part by grants from the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council – Conseil des arts de l’Ontario, ChiZine Publications and donations from attendees. (The series’ publicity webage has been taken down, although its Google cache file can still be viewed, for as long as that remains available).

With the Amazing reading now being hosted independently, a GoFundMe appeal has been launched to raise $700 so Bakka can meet the commitments for the event: “Amazing Stories – Amazing Writers”.

The creators and writers behind AMAZING STORIES have suddenly had to change venues for their thrilling  reading night on Wednesday, November 20th! While Bakka-Phoenix Books is proud to jump in and supply a space and equipment and snacks, we don’t have the budget to pay the authors and musician appearing so we’re asking our AS fans and wider community if you can pitch in. Writers who create, well, amazing stories deserve to be paid!

3 thoughts on “As Authors Share More ChiZine Experiences, Others Part Ways with CZP

  1. Sadly, I’ve seen this narrative play out with a number of small presses before. It usually occurs when a small press decides to try and grow larger too quickly and without enough capital to do it. They get cash crunched, stop paying people and sometimes get incredibly nasty about it. In a number of cases, authors have ended up not being able to get their rights back as the company goes into bankruptcy.

    This one doesn’t look like it’s going to be an easy resolution, but let’s hope all the authors are able to get what they are owed. It’s a shame to lose a small press, but a small press that has become predatory and non-functional isn’t helping anyone.

  2. Stephen Jones comment is the most ridiculous parody of a “completely neutral” text I’ve read – apart from NY Times support to military coups the world over. No wonder he got so much pushback that he had it removed.

    I can’t say that Hexed’s comment about people “being afraid to speak up” comes out better after his screaming rant of “motherfucker”, “shitheel”, “eat a bag of hell”. As if such wording would encourage people to share their view if they had differing experiences. On the other hand, if it had been me or my friends that had been tricked out of money, I can’t say that I would have reacted better.

  3. Here’s a basic useful rule that Silvia Moreno-Garcia pointed out: If five people have great experiences, and five people have abusive ones, this does not mean the scales are balanced and all is well. If Fifty people have decent experiences and five people have abusive ones, it still does not mean the scales are balanced and all is well. That is not how abuse works. Stephen Jones and other apologists would do well to remember that.

    His wild claim that other people piling on with accusations might not even be people who have worked with the publisher is undermined by admitting neither has he.

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