Rondon Pleads Not Guilty in Murder Case

Luis Rondon, former King of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, was back in Orange County (NY) court November 8, where his attorneys entered a not guity plea to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, felonies; and misdemeanor weapon possession.

Prosecutors believe that Rondon used a framing hammer to beat 32-year-old Deborah Waldinger to death on October 7. He then traveled to California to attend the Great Western War sponsored by the Kingdom of Caid, a regional chapter of the SCA, and was arrested by Taft (CA) police on October 11 at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area where the event was in progress. He was extradited to New York.

The Middletown (NY) Times-Herald Record reports that Senior Assistant Dictrict Attorney Michael Milza described physical evidence from the case and the medical examiner’s findings at the hearing:

Waldinger left her job in Middletown about 1 a.m. on Oct. 7, her usual time, and at 2:08 a.m. she texted a friend that she was home, also typical, Milza said.

At 1 a.m. on Oct. 7, Milza said, Rondon is on video at WalMart buying items including a white Tyvek-type coverall suit and several bottles of bleach. Two hours later he returned to the store and bought cleaning and first-aid items, Milza said.

Waldinger was due to work on Oct. 7, but failed to show.

Early on Oct. 8, Milza said, Rondon flew to California, leaving his car at Newark International Airport. Rondon went to a medieval history and reenactment event in Taft, Calif. Detectives who tracked him down in California observed a cut on his forehead, which had been visible in the 3 a.m. WalMart video, and cuts on his hands and chest, Milza said.

Rondon was later extradited back to New York.

Milza said police got warrants for Rondon’s cars and home. In the car at the airport, he said, investigators found a number of distinctive-looking black rubber gloves with white interiors in the backseat, and more of the gloves, along with cloth and other items, in a nearby trash can. Some of the items from the can tested positive for the presence of blood, Milza said.

In a second vehicle, he said, police found receipts showing that Rondon’s credit card was used Oct. 1 to buy a 50-gallon bin and a box of large, industrial-type garbage bags. A box matching that description was found next to Waldinger in her apartment, Milza told the judge.

Milza said the medical examiner found “at least 12 blows, and possibly another one or two” had been inflicted on Waldinger.

The prosecutor asked the judge to deny bail. The judge scheduled a December 6 hearing where the defense attorneys can make formal bail arguments, meantime, Rondon remains in custody awaiting trial.

ChiZine Publications Announces Interim Publisher

A “Statement from ChiZine Publications” says Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory have turned over their duties as publishers to new Interim Publisher Christie Harkin. ChiZine’s goal is to “clear all outstanding arrears” by the end of the year, and the statement outlines what internal controls are being added to make that happen. Kasturi and Savory, who remain as owners, say they have taken a short-term personal loan to fund the required payments.

Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory have made the difficult decision to step down, effective immediately, from all publishing-related duties at ChiZine Publications. We know it has been a very hard week for all of ChiZine’s stakeholders. After discussions with key individuals we have decided that the best solution for everyone concerned is for us to step back immediately.

Christie Harkin has taken over as interim Publisher. Ms. Harkin has been involved with  trade publishing for several decades. She will take care of author requests: status of books or contracts, requests to revert rights, author copies, and so on. She can be reached at christie@chizinepub.com. There will be a bookkeeper and accountant handling financial matters. A separate person will be overseeing royalty statements and determining remaining payments owed. Ms. Harkin will be working with the principals to ensure all parties are fully paid amounts that are due.

It is important to us that we clear all outstanding arrears as soon as possible; before the end of 2019 is a goal we feel can be met. Until the next distributor cheque arrives, we have taken a short-term personal loan to bring payments up to date, and to expedite the conclusion of this matter. Fitzhenry & Whiteside will continue to be responsible for distribution and order fulfilment in Canada, with Ingram doing so in the US.

Ms. Harkin’s priority is fulfilling all contractual obligations, including settling contracts with authors whose books are scheduled for release soon. Ideally, CZP’s authors who wish to, can move forward with their work, unencumbered.

Brett Savory & Sandra Kasturi

The ChiZine Publications website bio for Interim Publisher Christie Harkin describes her career to date:

Formerly the children’s publisher and editor at Fitzhenry & Whiteside and James Lorimer & Co., Christie has a history of publishing and editing award-winning novels and picture books, as well as an extensive background as an educator and tutor.

As others have noted, and @dorabadger tweeted in a thread starting here, nothing has been said about the nonfinancial side, the toxic work culture or the complaints of abuse which have been brought forward.

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!

Writers and Staffers Share More Bad Experiences with ChiZine Publications

Following yesterday’s initial wave of allegations about ChiZine Publications, the Canadian horror publisher run by Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory, more authors and publishing professionals have come forward to tell about their own toxic experiences at the hands of CZP, or to confirm what others have already said.

Note that most of the following items are excerpts — in most cases there is substantially more to read at the link.

Michael Patrick Hicks collates the many testimonies already made public in his thorough summary “Controversy Erupts Around ChiZine Publications” at High Fever Books.

In what appears to be a mass exodus from ChiZine Publications following the flood of recent allegations, a number of authors have begun requesting the rights to their works be reverted, effectively ending the publication of their materials through this publisher. I have received word from other authors, who shall remain anonymous, that they are currently seeking the cancellation of their contracts, as well.

Gabino Iglesias analyzes why this went on so long in a lengthy commentary at Horror DNA, “CHIZINE FUCKED UP, BUT THEY’RE THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG”.

… What most people don’t understand about the small press world is that we all more or less know each other. Also, sadly, the small press world is a place in which irregular payments, and sometimes no payments at all, are things that happen way too often. Writers love to see their name on book covers, but sometimes the price the pay to do so with what they consider a good press is not worth the pain that comes attached to it.

…The small press world needs to understand the following (especially those entering it as new writers): publishers need to certain things and not doing those things should immediately make them shut their doors. Here’s what publishers need to do:

  • Edit work to make it better.
  • Give books great covers.
  • Make sure the layout is professional.
  • Support writers.
  • Pay royalties.
  • Try to sell books.
  • Communicate effectively.

If you can’t do one of these, quit being a publisher. It’s that simple. Not paying writers is bullshit. It shouldn’t even be part of the conversation. Also, if you can’t pay for professional editing or covers, you have no business being a publisher.

Michael Matheson offers a look under the hood at CZP in their latest Facebook post.  This excerpt is followed by even more financial information and history:

It’s been interesting to see in conversations around the CZP fallout, in a conversation that has been in many ways about numbers, a lack of the numbers themeslves. And I get why from authors, but for the people defending the press talking about how the amounts weren’t enough for people to be fighting over/blasting the press for, that’s an interesting argument. But I tell you what, let’s flip that argument on its head:

The numbers are not high enough that paying them should have been a problem, if the press’s finances had been in good order, or well handled. How do I know this? Because I know the numbers from the back end. So let’s talk about those, and a little bit of poor financial management as well while we’re on the topic so everyone can understand why this all fell apart so spectacularly (and had been destined to do so from pretty much day one):

When I was working for CZP their general advance rate was $300-$500, scaling up (in rare instances) to $1500 for authors who had been published with them mutiple times. I can think of one instance involving a $3,000 advance to a ChiGraphic title, which had been argued down from the far more the artist (rightly) thought was due for the work. It’s possible they’ve upped those rates in the intervening years, but I doubt it.

Producing 10-15 books a year at those rates is entirely doable if you’re a small press with good budgeting and arts council support (project-based or through block funding). Where CZP screwed themselves was thinking that exploding their production schedule up to 30 books a year across multiple lines was going to explode their sales as well and take them from a small press to a medium-size press. And thus get them better visibility, better chances at getting funding, better audience sales penetration.

But as most publishers will tell you, trying to shore up failing revenue by *expanding* your production schedule in a bid to rapidly build your audience is … not a good idea….

Nicholas Kaufmann tells Facebook readers why he believes what people are saying about CZP.

I believe these stories for two reasons. First, because as a ChiZine author myself I had to actively chase down every royalty statement and payment I received from them in recent years. If I hadn’t, I know I would not have seen a cent, like the many other ChiZine authors who didn’t receive statements or royalties for years. Second, because I witnessed the badmouthing myself, firsthand. At Necon in 2018, I overheard Sandra complain to a new ChiZine author about an older ChiZine author who had dared to ask her where their royalty statements were. To me, the message she was sending the new author was clear: Never ask me about missing statements. Never ask me about the money you’re owed.

This was confusing and disappointing, because I had been friends with Brett and Sandra since the early 2000s. Good friends. I loved them. I was happy to be one of the first ChiZine Publications authors, and I was proud of my novella CHASING THE DRAGON.

Still, I quietly began to warn authors who asked me about working with ChiZine. I told them if they published with ChiZine they were going to have to chase down every cent that was owed them or they would never see it. I listened sympathetically to friends who had not seen a royalty statement or check from ChiZine in 3 years, 5 years, more. But that was the extent of it until what happened with Ed. I suppose I can say now publicly, for the first time, that I was one of the unnamed authors who went with Ed to the HWA Grievance Committee and shared my story with them. The letter Lisa Morton sent ChiZine must have scared them, because suddenly I and other authors got paid right away.

But then the stories came out yesterday. All those stories. I grew confused and disappointed again, but also angry. I could not in good conscience remain a ChiZine author after hearing about the way they treated other writers and their employees. Last night I asked for my rights back for CHASING THE DRAGON, and this morning they agreed to revert them immediately. I

Bracken MacLeod seconded Kaufman’s comments, on Facebook.

Like Nicholas Kaufmann (and others who I won’t name without their permission), I was one of the writers who lined up behind Ed Kurtz when he went to the HWA for payment of back royalties from ChiZine Publications. He was successful and a bunch of us (but I found out later NOT ALL of us), including me, got paid. We received an accounting statement and a check and a promise to make further remissions in the Spring of 2019 (which never came). At that time, I applied a maxim I used to live by as a litigator: when you’ve won, you can stop fighting. I stepped back and returned to my professional life as usual.

That was the wrong thing to do….

When I heard about the lunch conversation where authors who made a fuss about getting paid by their publisher were called “cunts” and “dead wood” (I wasn’t there and only heard about it later) I was aghast and chose at that time to begin to distance myself socially from ChiZine. Instead, I should’ve stood up, for Ed and the rest of us who said we were behind him but didn’t have the same bullseye on our backs.

For that shameful silence, I am truly sorry.

I think it is important to say, first, I have pulled my contribution from The War on Christmas anthology, and second, this morning I asked for my rights to my short story collection, 13 Views of the Suicide Woods, back from ChiZine….

Beverly Bambury said in a note to File 770, “I posted my own story today, which is pretty egregious. It involves marital interference on top of the professional abuse.” See her complete statement on Facebook.

…I loved working with the authors in the CZP fold, the bloggers and reviewers, and the local Toronto-area community. Publicity was the perfect fit for my personality and I seemed to be thriving to all outside observers, but increasingly I was dealing with destabilizing, gaslighting behaviour behind the scenes.

… I forget the date and how it fits into things on the timeline, but my husband and I were having some troubles, as many marriages do, and even though things were bad with Sandra and Brett and me, in a moment of weakness and feeling isolated, I confessed the struggle I was having to Sandra. She can seem so warm when it suits her. She hugged me and comforted me and I thought maybe things might be OK. I feel stupid and pathetic when I remember this now, because I feel I should have known better after everything that transpired.

Not much later, CZP author and very close confidant to Sandra, Michael Rowe, took my husband out to lunch and tried to get him to say bad things about me. My husband says Rowe turned the conversation towards this multiple times. My husband did not let the conversation go that way, naturally. It was very odd. Later I heard from a very trusted source that Sandra, Brett, Michael and others would sit around and talk about what a terrible person I was, and try to plot to destroy my marriage and who they could hook my husband up with — so they could “keep” my husband but get rid of me. They said I was ruining his life.

Sandra shared my pain with others who then used it to betray me and try to further undermine my life. Think about it. They laughed at and enjoyed my pain and plotted to make it worse….

Samantha Mary Beiko worked for ChiZine Publications from 2010-2018 in increasingly responsible positions. Beiko outlines that history, the problems, and why she left in her post on Facebook.

… We spent hours in the car together. I felt the joy in abundance in the community that I felt proud to be a part of. Proud of building. I have often been looked over in my life, but my work with CZP gave me a voice, gave me insight, taught me things I could pass on to other authors, like I became. Brett and Sandra celebrated my successes as if they were proud parents. They sought out opportunities for me. I stayed at their home sometimes for days on end. I got to know their cats. We grieved together over past despairs. We looked to the future and got excited about things. I have such beautiful memories of meals made for me and shared, of baking giant cakes, of oatmeal in the morning with Brett, of going to pick up fresh books from the printer, of extended inside jokes.

They included me in their lives. They called me their daughter. They loved me. I still believe it.

… By the end of 2017, it was apparent this wasn’t sustainable, and I needed to take a step back due to my own author promotion work. Also by this point, I’d about had it with being ‘on call,’ staying up all hours, and devoting my heart and soul into a company where I had no control, little input, and how easily all my planning could be railroaded. At one point, we were 6-12 months ahead of schedule on production. That was all undone when Sandra couldn’t get to looking over the books in a timely fashion. And by this point, authors were asking me about royalties. And I was trying to get them their royalty reports. But it was constantly shoved to the back burner when I brought it up with Sandra. And I couldn’t access them myself. And I was told to tell everyone they’d ‘be coming.’ These reports, like my income, was late. As you’ve likely read elsewhere.

I set hours. I wouldn’t answer emails after 5pm. They didn’t like that. I told them they needed to get things in to me with more than 24hr notice. They didn’t like that either. Soon, when I kept following up to be paid promptly, the narrative became: we are strapped for money Sam. You know we are. Why would you demand this of us? Aren’t we family? Don’t you know that paying you puts a huge strain on us?

Remember that they offered to pay ME a wage. And I accepted it after years of having…no wage.

It came to a head when I simply couldn’t do what I had been doing for 7 years. I watched them eviscerate people’s reputations and realized, no matter what, that was more of an inevitability for me, and that I was fine with it. And by this time, I felt more confident in my skills and credibility so…I no longer cared. I was hurting. It needed to stop. I laid out my grievances in a very detailed email: the late nights. The poor wages. The late payments. How much blood and sweat and lots, AND LOTS of tears, I had put into working for them, and all I really wanted in the end was respect. That yes, they’d given me a lot, but my loyalty needed to be earned, and I no longer felt it was.

Sandra told me that the reason they were ‘going bankrupt’ was because of me. That I was the reason authors, printers, etc., were not being paid on time. Because they were paying me to keep things going.

When I left, this is how they spoke of me in the community. Community members told me this. And honestly? I’m not surprised. I’m sure they said worse…

John Goodrich confirms some of the negative statements that CZP co-publisher Sandra Kasturi allegedly made at NECON in a Facebook post.

…At the NECON 39 Saturday lunch break, I was sitting near Sandra. There were people around me, but I couldn’t name them now. Brett was not there. She said that Chizine would soon be getting rid of their quote deadwood, referring to their underperforming authors, and that the people who were talking about non-payment were all, and I quote again, cunts. No names were mentioned, but I’d heard some of the accusations of non-payment. I don’t remember anyone replying, but I was pretty shocked, and didn’t participate in the conversation myself.

Subsequently, I spoke with a couple of authors who Brett and Sandra had published, including one who had a book published by Chizine ten years ago. I haven’t asked if I can publicly share their stories, so I won’t share their names. But both confirmed that they’d never been paid by Chizine, and had given up on the idea of ever seeing money from them.

I share this story because I do not want to see more people get ripped off. I believe those authors.

NECON, having read about one of the things that happened at their event, have issued “AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM THE NORTHEASTERN WRITERS’ CONFERENCE”.  

Like many in the horror community, we have been shocked and saddened this week by the news centered around ChiZine Publications. While the events that occurred during last year’s Necon seem like just the tip of the iceberg, we feel we have an obligation to address them.

Necon expects all of our Campers, including publishers who attend and vend at our convention, to conduct themselves to the highest standards of professional behavior. We have verified from multiple independent sources that such was not the case at Necon 39. Simply put, it is unacceptable for any Camper to ever feel bullied, shunned, or unwelcome at Necon. As such, we’d like to offer a sincere apology to Ed Kurtz — Ed, we are terribly sorry for what you experienced last summer.

To quote Ed’s statement on the matter, we can all do better. We give you all our word that we’re sure as hell going to try.

More developments:

Authors Break Silence with Complaints About ChiZine Publications

ChiZine Publications, the Canadian horror publisher run by Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory, has been under fire from writers this week for slow payment and nonpayment, accused of bullying and blackballing an author who complained, and in connection with remarks made by some individuals associated with CZP of a sexist and racist nature.

The social media outpouring seems to have been precipitated by the sharing of what passed between author Ed Kurtz and ChiZine Publications. I haven’t sourced the beginnings of this conversation (which may not have been public), but the details appear in CZP’s denial and Kurtz’ rebuttal below. But before turning to them, it’s helpful to look at one of Michael Matheson’s posts.  

Matheson’s comments on Facebook include:

…Just now catching the edges of what happened with Ed Kurtz and CZP. And I can’t even begin to say I’m surprised. Honestly, I’m just glad we’re finally as a field starting to talk about the problems with CZP a little more publicly.

If you’ve never had a problem working with/for them, that’s fantastic, and I know it’s true for a number of people. But having been on the inside of that company for two years (2013-2015, longer if you count time spent working for Chiaroscuro Magazine doing reviews and review management before that), the issues that are coming up around Ed aren’t unusual. These are longstanding issues, spread across CZP’s interactions with writers, editors, interns, publicists, cover artists, agents (some who flat out won’t allow their clients to work with CZP), multiple distributors, several book printers, and they’re not going to get better.

…Long story short, you could not pay me to work with CZP ever again – not least of all because beyond the collected freelance payment of $3,200 for working on 30 books in whatever span it was (which I think was also in the two years I worked directly for them), I never did get paid. Nothing like hearing “Oh we’ll be able to pay you a salary/stipend when we get the Book Fund,” for two years running.

ChiZine Publications has publicly responded to charges about their payments to Ed Kurtz and allegations of mistreatment.

Given the recent discussion on social media about our professional relationship with author Ed Kurtz and other authors, we feel some of the mis-statements that have been made need to be corrected.

In 2018, Ed approached us, asking about monies due him from a Russian translation of his novel. At the time, we told him the monies had not yet been paid to us, and we checked with our foreign rights agent, who confirmed that they had received no monies either. We did not receive the translation rights monies until late April of 2019.

Once we received the translation monies owed, we paid Ed within 48 hours.

Earlier this year, we were approached by the Horror Writers Association to mediate the situation—and we do acknowledge that Ed’s author royalties were late at the time, which we regret, and which situation was corrected promptly. ChiZine Publications remains a small press run by two people, and while we do our best to stay on top of the business, we occasionally fall short. This is not something we take lightly—our author relationships are important to us.

Ed Kurtz’s royalties are currently paid in full. Any other monies he might be due will be paid on his next royalty statement, which will be in spring 2020.

As to an accusation that we, along with other small presses, attempted to blacklist Ed Kurtz, or threaten him in any way—that is categorically untrue, and we deny it. We were proud to publish Ed’s novel and were eager to publish his next one, as per our contract option. But when he wished to withdraw that novel, we respected his wish.

At no time has Ed ever asked for a rights reversal, although of course he is entitled to do so. We are happy to revert his rights if he makes that request.

We are aware that this discussion has brought to light instances of late royalty statements or payments, and we believe it is important to address this with our authors.

Accordingly, over the next four to six weeks we will be reviewing our financials, and reaching out to our authors and/or their representatives, to ensure that royalties are up to date, and promptly address any shortfalls.

If any of our authors have any specific questions—whether regarding royalty statements or any other business-related concerns—please contact us and we will do our best to provide answers in a timely fashion.

Ed Kurtz authorized this rebuttal to be posted on Facebook:

The statement from Chizine neglects a number of salient facts, such as the moment in July 2018, at Necon, when I explained to Brett Savory that my partner was facing a layoff, our cat was ill, we were in severe financial distress, and I had *never* been paid a single cent of royalties in what was at that time almost two years for a moderately successful book. He actually grinned and said, “Things are hard for everyone right now” before walking away. The following morning it was reported to me that Sandra was loudly complaining in the dealer room about me having asked about my royalties, and of course the two of them went on a whirlwind trip around the world a few weeks after that, showing us all that things weren’t so rough for them, after all.

In fact, I’d asked after my royalties several times and was rebuffed or given excuses every single time (usually something wrong with their accounting software or something similar, which I later learned they’d been saying to authors for years). I only went to the HWA after several other frustrated CZP authors (one of whom hadn’t been paid in five years!) strongly encouraged me to do so. I expressed fear of bullying and/or retaliation, and some of these authors promised me they’d have my back (they didn’t). And yes, a lot of us got paid through my efforts, though it is untrue I’m paid in full. I was never paid royalties for the months of my first year of publication, 2016, though CZP continues to claim I was. I just gave up on this.

As for bullying/blackballing? I’d call the half dozen people who refused to acknowledge my existence at Necon 2019 and since then just that. Some of these people I once called friends. They know who they are and they can keep their excuses and apologies to themselves. (Not the ones who blocked me for demanding to get paid, of course. They’ll never make excuses!) This behavior has wrecked my mental health, driven me from the writing community, and killed in me any last vestiges of my desire to continue writing at all, so hurrah for you if that’s the sort of thing that pleases you, I guess. (And sending excuses and apologies through my partner when you have my email and/or phone number is just sad and cowardly.) Of course, I’ve heard from a number of people some of the awful, nasty things CZP say about me and other authors (including calling us “cunts”), so if that’s not bullying, I guess I don’t understand the meaning of the word. (That’s just their sense of humor, I was told by one of the authors who completely failed to stand up for me. I just don’t get it, apparently.)

And again, I had no idea that I would be the only one named on the complaint submitted through the HWA to Chizine. There were more than half a dozen of us, some of whom were happily chumming it up with Brett and Sandra at Necon while avoiding me like the bubonic plague—after getting them paid. Had I known these authors had planned to do this to me, I might never have gone that route. (Also note, I’ve been told a LOT of other Chizine authors were NEVER paid.)

As to all this nonsense handwringing about them being just a small, two-person operation, look—if you can’t pay, you can’t play. Shut down. If you’re doing more than you can handle, do less or shut down. It does NOT MATTER how small you are or what accounting problems you’ve had for ten years running. PAY YOUR AUTHORS. PAY THEM EVERY TIME. PAY THEM ON TIME. And for fuck’s sake, stop lying about every goddamned thing. No one is fooled by you anymore. Chizine has been a “squeaky stair” in the whisper network for a decade about how they mistreat and cheat people. It’s out now. No more whispers. Tell your truths, people. I’ve heard from a LOT of people. Other authors, former employees. It’s all coming out now.

Let this be a public announcement that I demand my rights back for THE RIB FROM WHICH I REMAKE THE WORLD in total. I have sent an email to the same effect and I have been told this morning by ChiZine that this will be granted. I asked for my rights back once before, when CZP asked me about turning the book into a POD affair, and the request was ignored. We’ll see about this time around. Let it also be known that I received an unrequested PayPal payment this afternoon from ChiZine, along with a statement I have yet to review at the time of this writing, which ostensibly covers 2019 to the present day. I was also promised a final payment come February 2020. I do not know if it will ever be re-issued once it goes out of print.

Anyway, they don’t have to worry too much. I’m still gone. I’m still wrecked. My career is still in shambles. They won in that regard, they and their minions. I just want my book back so I don’t have to have any further contact and I’ll stay away from the whole damn scene that’s been so toxic to me and others. And to everyone else, for Christ’s sake: DO BETTER. I know everyone wants to get ahead, but when you stop being a decent human being just for this nonsense? When someone you have the temerity to call a friend tells you they’ve been hurt and wronged, and you go running to the one doing the hurting with your hands open like Oliver fucking Twist? DO BETTER. It’s fucking pathetic the way some of y’all treat each other just to get your name on the cover of a small press book. The whole “Well, gee, I see how awful you and literally dozens of others have been treated, but I’ve known them LONGER!” thing? Do I need to say it again?

DO. BETTER.

Adios.

Michael Matheson also indicates there were deep problems with CZP’s work environment. Thread starts here.

Kerrie Byrne told about some of their experiences working for CZP. Thread starts here.

Today’s conversation has also surfaced complaints of sexism and racism.

Livia Llewellyn’s thread starts here.

Chesya Burke on Facebook recalled a 2013 experience where she was a victim of online racism by ChiZine author Michael Rowe, and detailed the ways in which CZP’s publishers condoned his behavior:

…Even after posting yesterday that writers need to stick together and talk about their experiences in this business, I hesitated writing this post. Not because it isn’t important, but because I know it could be seen as a pile on and it’s not quite a ChiZine ChiZine story. But, I’ve never been one to shut the fuck up out of fear and it won’t start now.

While this story has nothing to do with ChiZine not paying their authors and artists, it certainly supports the growing concern over the atmosphere of fear and control that ChiZine seems to create….

Few people, in all of horror defended me. One of them was an artist friend who called them all out for their racism. He also worked for ChiZine. After this, Brett and Sandra [of ChiZine] began “relaying passive aggressive messages” to my artist friend from Micheal. Eventually, “they defended Micheal saying that he didn’t mean it,” which lets you know that they knew what he’d said was beyond the pale, but the refused to address it. The artist says that ChiZine “became this insular thing about their buddies and pals. Don’t worship their racist friends? You’re not worth it.”

My artist friend, who is a damn fine artist, quit publishing altogether. This left a bad taste in his mouth and because “it’s hard to get work after you’ve severed ties abruptly.”

Let me make it clear, Brett and Sandra are not responsible for Micheal Rowe’s behavior. But I absolutely hold them responsible for harboring an atmosphere that hid and silently condoned racists and white supremacy. I don’t know their ideologies. Their ideologies don’t matter. Their actions when faced with outright, in your face, call-a-black-woman-a-nigger-in-2013 racism, was to support the racists and harm anyone who didn’t fall in line.

Do with this this information, what you want. But I will not hide it. And will repost every single time it’s taken down.

Jeff VanderMeer, after reading these revelations, made a succinct statement:

We do not recommend ChiZine as a publisher or as an employer.

He also said:

Meanwhile, there is concern that the authors will unfairly receive the brunt of the punishment when customers stop buying books from CZP, or reviewers don’t cover their CZP books (as a couple online critics have already announced they will refuse to do in the future). Rio Youers said:

This concern prompted Richard Thomas to remind people about the “Ten Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors This Holiday Season” which he posted last December and could be helpful now.

More people are expected to share their CZP stories in days to come. Among those reaching out to authors for their ChiZine experiences are Jason Sanford, and The Horror Show with Brian Keene.

Note: A follow-up post with more information can be read here.

Spinrad Learns Fate of Asimov’s Column and Responds

Norman Spinrad learned today on Facebook that his recent “On Books” column for Asimov’s had been taken down and then reposted with an introductory statement by Sheila Williams emphasizing that “…Spinrad has been a provocative voice in Asimov’s for thirty years, but his opinions do not represent the magazine…”

He was informed by commenters on a new public Facebook post about his stalled career, “Blackballed? Or Worse Still Not?”.

Spinrad’s reaction was –

The post where these comments appear concludes by saying —

Gordon Dickson wrote that every culture has a blindspot at its center that it doesn’t see until it is too late precisely because it is central.

Is it merely a single engage[d] science fiction writer who is being blackballed? Or in the end is a culture that is blackballing confrontation of what its existential center will surely be blackballing itself?

Asimov’s Reposts Spinrad Column with Statement

Asimov’s has put Norman Spinrad’s “On Books” column back online.

It’s now preceded by this statement from editor Sheila Williams:

We took the Norman Spinrad column down from our website because we heard many concerns from readers. I’m putting it back up now with some thoughts from me. Norman Spinrad has been a provocative voice in Asimov’s for thirty years, but his opinions do not represent the magazine anymore than James Patrick Kelly’s opinions in his On the Net column represent us. However, Norman does appear to speak for us when he writes:

“Compare this with what has been awarded Nebulas by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and what Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 reveals all too clearly as the current state of its membership and the state of their art. The literary inheritors of John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, what this very magazine is trying to maintain in his name, and novels like Red Moon.

Which side are you on?”

This is in no way the editorial position at Asimov’s. I am much more in agreement with the writer, Karen Osborne, who says: “Modern genre writers write everything— SF *and* fantasy. We play with literary forms. We push boundaries, because where we’re going, we don’t need old, restrictive rules of who can & who can’t. I’m going to quote James Joyce when I say that modern SF is HERE COMES EVERYBODY.”

Asimov’s is a magazine that welcomes literary speculative diversity. We are delighted to publish new authors and the innovative and imaginative work that they are producing. We whole-heartedly support SFWA and the provocative new writers who are celebrated by recent Nebula Awards.

Karen Osborn’s Twitter thread was linked by File 770 yesterday. In the meantime, more writers have reacted to the column or the initial decision to remove it.

Adam-Troy Castro launched a discussion on Facebook that has almost 200 comments. John Scalzi, Roby James, Nick Mamatas, Erika Satifka, Alma Alexander, Michael Burstein, Rev. Bob, Jason Sanford, and Beth Meacham are in the mix.

Alex Acks’ thread starts here.

Vernonia Schanoes’ thread starts here.

Aliette de Bodard wrote:

Spinrad Deplatformed

Asimov’s took down Norman Spinrad’s “On Books” column (linked in the October 29 Scroll) and will make an explanation later: (The text is still available at Pastebin.)

Reportedly, one of Spinrad’s posts SFWA’s private forums was also deleted not long ago.

Some who commented on the Spinrad “On Books” column said what they especially objected to are these last lines, coming after extended praise of Campbellian science fiction and a severe critique of the latest SFWA Nebula Anthology:

[Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon] is a science fiction novel for sophisticated adults, a gamble by Kim Stanley Robinson that there are enough of them within the genre to keep such fiction economically viable and writers such as Robinson unashamed to admit membership in SFWA.

Compare this with what has been awarded Nebulas by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and what Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 reveals all too clearly as the current state of its membership and the state of their art. The literary inheritors of John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, what this very magazine is trying to maintain in his name, and novels like Red Moon.

Which side are you on?

Others focused on his comments about China, or what he said about David Levine’s fiction. 

An example of the Twitter conversation is Karen Osborne’s thread, which starts here.

Never Enough Bradbury

Four links for those who love Ray Bradbury.

RAY ON THE RADIO. BBC Radio 4 has started replaying “Ray Bradbury’s Tales of the Bizarre”, first aired in 1995. Episode 1 is “Night Call Collect”. Bradbury himself voices the introduction.

Marooned accidentally on Mars, telephone engineer Barton waits for the rescue rocket and goes on putting up the phone lines. Then one morning – on his 80th birthday – the phone rings.

IN MEMORY YET GREEN TOWN. Sean Anderson’s film “Green Town: A Tribute to Ray Bradbury” glides through the town of Waukegan, where Ray spent his formative years, and which inspired several of his novels, including Dandelion Wine.

CONTINUING IMPACT. Bradbury is an influence, she says: “Author Alice Hoffman tells World War II story in fairy tale form” at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Q: Many of your female characters from previous books have intuitive and magical powers. Was there someone in your life who influenced that belief or idea in you, and do you see it in yourself?

A: I think that more comes from my reading, especially my reading as a child because I was a big reader of fairy tales, folk tales and mythology. And my grandmother told me my first story. She was Russian, and everything she told me seemed like a fairy tale, so I think it comes more from my reading than from my real life.

Q: I read that Ray Bradbury was a big influence on you, too. Is that correct?

A: He was a huge influence, as he was on so many writers and so many people. He was such a great writer. And it’s going to be his 100th birthday. It’s going to be celebrated. And he was just a big fan of the library, and I just feel like you can read him at any time of your life — but I feel like if you read him when you’re 12 or 13, you can really change your life.

ROCKET MAN. In this 2002 article, Michael Chabon told the Washington Post how a Bradbury story changed his way of looking at the world: “Eminent writers, editors and critics choose some favorite works of fantasy and science fiction.”

The most important short story in my life as a writer is Ray Bradbury’s “The Rocket Man.” I read it for the first time when I was 10. I was making my way, with pleasure, through a collection of Bradbury’s stories called R Is for Rocket. I had been an avid reader for about five years, and at first the pleasure I felt was the familiar pleasure I derived from the flights of an author’s fancy, and from the anticipation and surprise of plot. Then I came to “The Rocket Man.” It’s the narrative of the young son of a rocket pilot whose father is to him at once an ordinary, ordinarily absent father, puttering around the house on his days off, and a terrible, mysterious demigod whose kingdom is the stars. The danger of the father’s profession, the imminence and immanence of death, lie upon the family like the dust of stars that the narrator lovingly collects from his father’s flightsuit every time the Rocket Man comes home. During one of the father’s leaves, the family travels to Mexico by car. One evening they stop along a rural road to rest, and in the last light of the day the son notices bright butterflies, dozens of them, trapped and dying in the grille of the car.

I think it was when I got to the butterflies — in that brief, beautiful image comprising life, death and technology — that the hair on the back of my neck began to stand on end. All at once, the pleasure I took in reading was altered irrevocably. Before then I had never noticed, somehow, that stories were made not of ideas or exciting twists of plot but of language. And not merely of pretty words and neat turns of phrase, but of systems of imagery, strategies of metaphor. “The Rocket Man” unfolds to its melancholy conclusion in a series of haunting images of light and darkness, of machinery and biology interlocked, of splendor and fragility. The sense of foreboding is powerful; the imagery becomes a kind of plot of its own, a shadow plot. The end, when it comes, is at once an awful surprise and as inevitable as any Rocket Man, or those who mourn him, could expect. I have never since looked quite the same way at fathers, butterflies, science fiction, language, short stories or the sun.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for these stories.]

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019 ToC Released

Series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Carmen Maria Machado have released their selections for the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019.

From the large number of stories that series editor John Joseph Adams screened for this year’s collection, he picked the 80 best pieces to submit to editor Carmen Maria Machado for a blind reading, so that the prestige of the venues or bylines were not a factor. (The ones Adams designated as notable are shown in a table at the link). Machado then selected 20 for publication (ten science fiction, ten fantasy, highlighted in green on the table.)

The book will be published on October 1, with a cover by Galen Dara.

Here is the Table of Contents with the 20 stories they thought the best.

2019 Table of Contents

FANTASY

  • Variations on a Theme from Turandot by Ada Hoffmann
    from Strange Horizons
  • What Gentle Women Dare by Kelly Robson
    from Uncanny Magazine
  • The Storyteller’s Replacement by N.K. Jemisin
    from How Long ’til Black Future Month?
  • Dead Air by Nino Cipri
    from Nightmare Magazine
  • Pitcher Plant by Adam-Troy Castro
    from Nightmare Magazine
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good by LaShawn M. Wanak
    from FIYAH
  • Godmeat by Martin Cahill
    from Lightspeed Magazine
  • The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark
    from Fireside Magazine
  • Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women by Theodore McCombs
    from Nightmare Magazine
  • Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung by Usman Malik
    from Nightmare Magazine

SCIENCE FICTION

  • The Kite Maker by Brenda Peynado
    from Tor.com
  • What Everyone Knows by Seanan McGuire
    from Kaiju Rising II
  • Poor Unfortunate Fools by Silvia Park
    from The Margins (Transpacific Literary Project)
  • Hard Mary by Sofia Samatar
    from Lightspeed Magazine
  • On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog by Adam Shannon
    from Apex Magazine
  • Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory
    from Tor.com
  • STET by Sarah Gailey
    from Fireside Magazine
  • When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis by Annalee Newitz
    from Future Tense Fiction
  • Skinned by Lesley Nneka Arimah
    from McSweeney’s
  • Through the Flash by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenhyah
    from Friday Black

[Thanks to Eric Wong for the story.]