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.

Pixel Scroll 4/5/18 Scrollman Vs. Mr Mxyzpixeltk

(1) SOLO MENU. Bold NEW menu inspired by Solo: A Star Wars Story. Fat, salt, sugar, and Star Wars. What could be better?

(2) USAGE. How many Lego is two? Ann Leckie gives her answer. The thread starts here:

(3) GUGGENHEIM FELLOWS. The Guggenheim Fellows named for 2018 include fiction writer China Miéville, nonfiction writer Roxane Gay, and in Fine Arts, Elizabeth LaPensee, a writer, artist and game creator who earlier won a Tiptree Fellowship.

(4) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. The 34th Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards Gala for  the winners of the Writers and Illustrators of the Future will be held in Los Angeles on Sunday, April 8. Celebrities attending include Nancy Cartwright, Marisol Nichols, Catherine Bell, Jade Pettyjohn, Stanley Clarke and Travis Oates.

(5) NESFA SHORT STORY CONTEST. The New England Science Fiction Association is running the fifth annual NESFA Short Story Contest. The deadline for submissions in July 31.

The purpose of this contest is to encourage amateur and semi-professional writers to reach the next level of proficiency.

Mike Sharrow, the 2018 contest administrator, sent this pitch —

Attention aspiring writers! Do you like to write science fiction or fantasy stories? Are you a new writer, but not sure if you’re ready for the big time? Then you’re just the kind of writer we’re looking for! The New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA for short) is running a writing contest. Prizes include free books, and a grand prize of a free membership to Boskone. More important though is that we offer free critiques of your work. Our goal is to help young & aspiring writers to improve their writing, so you can become our new favorite writer! Check out our website for details.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 5, 1940 One Million B.C. premiered

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch. Steve Vertlieb reminds everyone, “Bloch would have turned one hundred one (101) years of age today.  Wishing one of Horror fiction’s most legendary writers a joyous 101st Birthday in the Heavenly shower stall of The Bates Motel in Heaven.”
  • Born April 5, 1926 – Roger Corman

(8) COMIC SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says this Tom the Dancing Bug is either a loving tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey or scary as hell. Or maybe both.

(9) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present  Livia Llewellyn and  Jon Padgett on Wednesday, April 18, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar in New York.

Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies and two Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collections, Engines of Desire and Furnace. You can find her online at liviallewellyn.com, and on Instagram and Twitter.

Jon Padgett

Jon Padgett is a professional ventriloquist. His first short story collection, The Secret of Ventriloquism, was named the Best Fiction Book of the Year by Rue Morgue Magazine. He has work out or forthcoming in Weird Fiction Review, PseudoPod, Lovecraft eZine, and in the the anthologies A Walk on the Weird SideWound of WoundsPhantasm/Chimera, and For Mortal Things Unsung. Padgett is also a professional voice-over artist with over forty years of theater and twenty-five years of audio narration experience. Cadabra Records will soon be releasing 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism, a story written and narrated by Padgett.

(10) AVOIDING UNPRODUCTIVE GENERALIZATIONS. Annalee Flower Horne suggests this is a subject where it helps to get more specific – jump on the thread here.

(11) GARDEN OF HOLES. Theory said there should be smaller holes around the monster Sgr A*; now there’s confirmation: “Dozen black holes found at galactic center”.

“The galactic centre is so far away from Earth that those bursts are only strong and bright enough to see about once every 100 to 1,000 years,” said Prof Hailey.

Instead, the Columbia University astrophysicist and his colleagues decided to look for the fainter but steadier X-rays emitted when these binaries are in an inactive state.

“Isolated, unmated black holes are just black – they don’t do anything,” said Prof Hailey.

“But when black holes mate with a low mass star, the marriage emits X-ray bursts that are weaker, but consistent and detectable.”

(12) EARWORMS FOR WHALES. Bowheads appear to have more-complex songs than the famous humpbacks: “The whales who love to sing in the dark”.

Over the course of three years, the whales of the Spitsbergen population produced 184 unique song types. The vocalisations were detected 24 hours a day throughout most of the winter each year.

“The alphabet for the bowhead has got thousands of letters as far as we can tell,” Prof Kate Stafford, lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, told BBC News.

“I really think of humpback whale songs as being like classical music. Very ordered. They might last 20 – 30 minutes. An individual [bowhead] song might only be 45 seconds to 2 minutes long, but they’ll repeat that song over and over again,” the University of Washington researcher added.

(13) GIVING MARS HIVES. NASA will throw a little cash at this idea: “NASA Wants To Send A Swarm Of Robot Bees To Mars”.

A Japanese-American team of engineers is working to send a swarm of bee-inspired drones to the Red Planet with new, exploratory funding from NASA. Yes, bees on Mars. The team calls the concept “Marsbees.”

NASA selected the idea as part of its “Innovative Advanced Concepts” program, which annually supports a handful of early concept ideas for space exploration. The team of researchers will explore the possibility of creating a swarm of bees that could explore the Martian surface autonomously, flying from a rover. The rover would act as centralized, mobile beehive, recharging the Marsbees with electricity, downloading all the information they capture, and relaying it to Earth’s tracking stations. They describe the Marsbees as “robotic flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size with cicada-sized wings.” Those oversized wings, in relation to their bodies, compensate for the density of Mars’ atmosphere–which is much thinner than Earth’s.

(14) BLACK PANTHER OVERCOMES ANOTHER BARRIER. According to The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Black Panther’ to Break Saudi Arabia’s 35-Year Cinema Ban”.

Black Panther is set to make some more history.

Marvel’s record-breaking superhero blockbuster — which has already amassed north of $1.2 billion since launching in February — will herald Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited return to the cinema world, becoming the first film to screen to the public in a movie theater in the country since it lifted a 35-year cinema ban.

(15) INCREDIBLES 2. Bravo, Edna is a fresh pitch for Disney/Pixar’s Incredibles 2, which opens in theatres June 15.

Icon. Artist. Legend. Edna Mode is back, dahlings.

 

(16) ROWAN ATKINSON. Universal Pictures followed up yesterday’s teaser with a full-length Johnny English Strikes Back trailer.

[Thanks to JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Steven J. Vertlieb, Matthew Kressel, Jeff Smith, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Murders, Ghosts and Shadows at the KGB Bar

Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker at KGB Reading. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker at KGB Reading. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, December 21 — the first day of winter – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker at its longtime venue, the second-floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The Bar is known for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor, and the Series for the quality of its readers (the Series might justifiably be called Fantastic Fiction and Where to Find It). Readings are always free (though attendees are exhorted to thank the Bar by buying drinks, hard or soft).

Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcomed the crowd (somewhat smaller, likely due to the holidays) and reported on upcoming readings. Next month’s (next year’s) readers:

  • January 18 — Holly Black and Fran Wilde will be reading;
  • February 15 — Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann;
  • March 15 — Nova Ren Suma and Kiini Ibura Salaam;
  • April 19 — Seth Dickinson and Laura Anne Gilman
  • May 17 — Sam J. Miller and E.C. Myers.

(Details are available at http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.)  All dates are the third Wednesday of the month.

Concluding, he introduced the first reader.

Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker, reading here for the first time, is the author of the Nebula Award-winning novelette Our Lady of the Open Road and the Sturgeon Award-winning In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind. Her work has appeared in magazines, anthologies and year’s bests. She is also a talented singer/songwriter (with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming). The story that she read, “Talking to Dead People,” ran in the fall in Fantasy & Science Fiction. Two college roommates start a business in which they recreate models of “murder houses.” One, the narrator, painstakingly builds the miniatures, reproducing both the exterior and the interior furnishings (down to working shutters), while the other – who’s had a longtime fascination with Lizzie Borden (who, for the record, was acquitted of the “whacks” – and, no, their enterprise is called House of Wax, not Whacks) – gives “voice to the voiceless” by programming into an AI box known details of the cases and approximations of the voices of those involved, thereby allowing people to question the victims and the “murderers and monsters.”  The AIs, however, seem to know too much, and one mystery is too close to home (literally) for one of the pair.

After an intermission, the Series’ senior co-host, Ellen Datlow, introduced the evening’s second reader.

livia-llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and best-of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year series, Year’s Best Weird Fiction and The Mammoth Book of Best Erotica. Her first collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors, received two Shirley Jackson Award nominations (for Best Collection and Best Novelette, “Omphalos”). Her story “Furnace” received a 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Best Short Story, and is the title story in her second collection, Furnace. The novella from whose first part she read, The One That Comes Before, appeared in an anthology with a small printing, but is due for republication (in English and Italian). In Obsidia, a city whose magical reality is open to question, suffering excessive heat and humidity, a woman (“she’s kind of a psychopath,” said Llewellyn) wakes in the night and imagines that shadows are impinging (her dishtowels are rearranged). It was beautifully atmospheric and haunting. (Her reading was interrupted by a straggler who wondered what was going on. He didn’t quite redeem himself by calling out when she finished “You rock!”)

Copies of Llewellyn’s books were for sale – as was the anthology Cyber World, which contains a story by Kressel – at the back of the room by the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Prior to the reading, as usual, Datlow whirled through the audience, taking photos. Her photos of the event may be seen on Ellen Datlow’s Flickr page .

Pixel Scroll 12/8/16 Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll

(1) X-WING. Hollywood decorating the neighborhood for the premiere of Rogue One. Robert Kerr’s photo shows a prop now on display curbside near the theater.

photo-by-robert-kerr-resized_20161208_170203-01

Yahoo! Movies ran a series of photos taken while the fighter was being hauled into position.

Star Wars has definitely landed in Hollywood.

Preparations for Saturday’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere have already seen some big road closures on Hollywood Blvd. — and on Tuesday, an X-Wing was spotted in the area where the stars of the film will gather in a few days.

Pictures quickly spread on social media, as apparently keeping an X-Wing secret is even trickier than keeping plans for the Death Star under wraps.

The red-carpet premiere itself also prompted major road closures in Hollywood, with the X-Wing now clogging streets up further. Road closures will last until 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

(2) JAM ON MARS. Will Curiosity need Tommy John surgery? Seeker says “Curiosity’s Mars Drill Is Jammed”.

The Mars rover’s robotic arm-mounted drill appears to have malfunctioned and NASA has instructed the rover to hang tight while they find a solution.

Having your drill break down while you’re millions of miles from the nearest hardware store would be a bummer, but that is exactly what’s happened to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

The rover, which is currently located at the lower slopes of the 3.4-mile-high Mount Sharp (officially known as Aeolis Mons), was supposed to carry out a drilling operation on a geologically interesting location on Dec. 1 when mission controllers got word that Curiosity was unable to complete its commands. Early indications show that the rover detected a fault with the “drill feed” mechanism that lowers the drill piece to the rocky sample and aborted the operation.

(3) AT HOME. The Chicago Reader visited a  popular sf author in her new (since 2012) neighborhood — “Mary Robinette Kowal makes puppets and writes in a 1913 building in the Ukranian Village”.

A fire is roaring in the fireplace and sprays of bright red winterberry adorn a vase on the deco mantel. The scent of hot cider wafts through the air. What Victorian-era storybook scene have I stepped into on this chilly, gray day in late November? It’s the home of Hugo Award–winning author, audiobook narrator, and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, a spacious and stately 1913 apartment in Ukrainian Village that she shares with her winemaker husband, Robert, and their two cats.

 

(4) RETURN OF RUTLAND WEEKEND TV. The Guardian ran this feature in August — “Ex-Python Eric Idle and Brian Cox to take on The Entire Universe for the BBC”. But now the BBC broadcast date is nearing.

Written by Idle, the one-hour show will feature the return of Rutland Weekend Television, the haphazard station depicted in Idle’s sketch show of the same name during the 1970s.

Filmed in front of a live studio audience, The Entire Universe will feature an “explosion of comedy, music and dance” and will air on BBC2.

Davis plays The Big Bang and comedian Fielding is Einstein, while Game of Thrones actor Hannah Waddingham tackles time, and Robin Ince attempts to keep order.

Idle has written songs for the Christmas special, which will be choreographed by Arlene Phillips and combine “fascinating facts about the birth of the universe with larger-than-life comedy characters”.

Cox finds himself in a major musical at Rutland Weekend Television, after thinking he is booked to give a lecture.

The program will be broadcast in Britain on BBC2 on December 26.

(5) DO JAMES DAVIS NICOLL’S HOMEWORK. He’s lining up books to review in 2017, and feels there’s one writer demographic that requires more of his attention:

Don’t often tick the Other/Genderqueer/Non-Binary box in my site’s review gender fields. Can change that. What authors should I consider?

He emailed me the link asking, “Do the F770 people have suggestions?”

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #12. The twelfth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for the four-book Twixt series from Dawn Metcalf.

Today’s auction is for a signed set of all four TWIXT books. But wait – there’s more! Metcalf also has a pile of “own voices” and books she’s offered to donate to a local shelter and/or children’s hospital in your name. The higher the bidding, the more books she’ll donate!

  • $25: Two books
  • $35: Three books
  • $45: Four books
  • $60: Five books
  • $75: Six books

About Book One: INDELIBLE:

Some things are permanent. Indelible. And they cannot be changed back.

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room-right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world-a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep and a life that will never be the same. Now Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one-his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future … and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

Somewhere between reality and myth lies … THE TWIXT!

(7) TINGLE’S SATIRICAL NEWS SITE. Chuck Tingle harpoons the “alt-right” with his most feared weapon – laughter — at a new website, Buttbart. At the bottom of the home page are links for donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Billings Public Library Foundation

READER POLL: What is real?

We asked our readers if reality was a constantly shifting web of cosmic planes, blinking in and out of exhistence depending on our location in spacetime.

YES: %87

NO: %2

K’GULH-TUB KA: %11

(8) GLENN OBIT. Mercury astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn (1921-2016) died December 8 reports SF News Site.

Glenn was the last surviving member of the Mercury 7 astronauts and the first American to orbit the Earth, flying on the third Mercury mission on February 20, 1962 aboard Friendship 7. Following his flight and status as a national hero, Glenn was grounded by President Kennedy and eventually became a Senator from Ohio and ran unsuccessfully for President. The oldest of the Mercury astronauts, he flew a second time in 1998 about the space shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest man to fly in space.

CNN’s obituary recounted the highlights of his 1962 mission:

….Glenn recalled in a Life magazine article a strange phenomenon that occurred during the mission: “There, spread out as far as I could see were literally thousands of tiny luminous objects that glowed in the black sky like fireflies. I was riding slowly through them, and the sensation was like walking backwards through a pasture where someone had waved a wand and made all the fireflies stop right where they were and glow steadily.”

The flight also featured a glitch that contributed to Glenn’s reputation for being cool under fire.

Because of an indicator light showing that the Mercury capsule’s heat shield was partly detached, mission controllers decided to bring Glenn home early and told him not to jettison his aft retro rockets, which allowed him to maneuver the craft in space. Because the retropack was strapped to the heat shield, it was thought it would provide an extra measure of security.

It would later be learned that the heat shield wasn’t damaged, but the fiery re-entry was made more spectacular by the scorching retropack in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Glenn’s first words when he stepped aboard the deck of the USS Noa were, “Boy, that was a real fireball of a ride!”

…More than 20 years after their historic missions, the team was immortalized in the 1983 movie “The Right Stuff.” Glenn — portrayed by Ed Harris — didn’t care much for the film, saying, “I thought it was dramatic enough without Hollywood doing its number on it.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 8, 1953 – Kim Basinger, Batman’s Vicki Vale.
  • Born December 8, 1964 – Teri Hatcher, Lois and Clark’s Lois Lane.

(10) TA-POCKETA-POCKETA

  • Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber

(11) A GRAIL OF A TALE. A dinosaur tail was discovered trapped in amber in Myanmar.

The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur has been found entombed in amber, an unprecedented discovery that has blown away scientists.

Xing Lida, a Chinese paleontologist found the specimen, the size of a dried apricot, at an amber market in northern Myanmar near the Chinese border.

The remarkable piece was destined to end up as a curiosity or piece of jewelry, with Burmese traders believing a plant fragment was trapped inside.

“I realized that the content was a vertebrate, probably theropod, rather than any plant,” Xing told CNN.

“I was not sure that (the trader) really understood how important this specimen was, but he did not raise the price.”

(12) POP CULTURE COINCIDENCE. Reuters reports a “Space oddity as Dr David Bowie treats ‘starman’ Buzz Aldrin in New Zealand hospital”.

In what can only be described as a space oddity, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is being cared for in a New Zealand hospital by Dr David Bowie after being evacuated from the South Pole.

In a truly remarkable coincidence, Aldrin’s doctor shares the name of the late British singer whose greatest hits included songs such as “Starman” and others about space travel that could easily have been penned for the great American astronaut.

(13) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker on December 21 on Wednesday, December 21 at the KGB Bar in New York. Event starts at 7 p.m. Details at the linked post.

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year series, Years Best Weird Fiction, and The Mammoth Book of Best Erotica. Her first collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors received two Shirley Jackson Award nominations, for Best Collection, and for Best Novelette (for “Omphalos”). Her story “Furnace” received a 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Best Short Story. Her second collection, Furnace was published this year.

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the Nebula Award winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road” and the Sturgeon Award winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind.” Her fiction has appeared in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies and year’s bests. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife, dog, and a yard full of sentient vines.

(14) THE WORK THAT STORIES DO. Foz Meadows’ well-written piece “Unempathic Bipeds of Failure: The Relationship Between Stories and Politics” found a home at Black Gate:

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need stories to act as emotional dry-runs for caring about different types of people, because our empathy would already natively extend to everyone. But we don’t live in that world; because if we did, somewhat paradoxically, we’d have less urgent need of its empathy, as its unequivocal presence would make it much harder for us to discriminate in the first place.

Which is precisely why stories matter; why they’ve always mattered, and will continue to matter for as long as our species exists. Stories can teach us the empathy we otherwise lack, or whose development is railroaded by context, and yeah, it’s frustrating to think that another person can’t just look at you, accept what you are, and think, human, different to me in some respects but fundamentally as whole and as worthy of love, protection and basic rights as I am, but you’ve got to understand: we’re a bunch of bipedal mammals with delusions of morality, a concept we invented and which we perpetuate through culture and manners, faith and history and memory – which is to say, through stories, which change as we change (though we don’t always like to admit that part), and in that context, the value of the impossible – of SFF as a genre – is that it gives us those things in imaginary settings, takes us far enough out of the present that we can view them at a more objective remove than real life ever allows, and so get a better handle on them than our immediate biases might otherwise permit…

And so I think about the UKIP supporter who empathized with a fictional refugee [in Dragon Age 2] but voted to dehumanize real ones; about the millions of people who grew up on stories about the evils of Nazism, but now turn a blind eye to swastikas being graffitied in the wake of Trump’s election; of Puppies both Sad and Rabid who contend that the presence of politics in genre is a leftist conspiracy while blatantly pushing what even they call a political agenda; about fake news creators and the Ministry of Truth; about every f***ing dystopian novel whose evocation by name feels simultaneously on the nose and frighteningly apropos right now, because we shouldn’t have to cite The Handmaid’s Tale to explain why Mike Pence and Steve Bannon (to say nothing of Trump’s infamous comments) are collectively terrifying, and yet see above re: unempathic bipeds of failure, forever and always; and yet

(15) ORANGE CONE BY THE ROADSIDE. The discussion of Meadows’ main points, however, was drowned out by the reaction to several lines in her closing:

For the past few years, the Sad and Rabid Puppies – guided by an actual neo-Nazi – have campaigned against what they perceive as the recent politicization of SFF as a genre, as though it’s humanly possible to write a story involving people that doesn’t have a political dimension; as though “political narrative” means “I disagreed with the premise or content, which makes it Wrong” and not “a narrative which contains and was written by people.”

Vox Day reacted in a post titled “Please to remove the libel”:

I have written to John O’Neill, my former editor at Black Gate, asking him to remove this false, malicious, and materially damaging libel directed at me, and by extension, the Sad and Rabid Puppies. As I was a long-time contributor to Black Gate, Mr. O’Neill knows perfectly well that I am neither a neo-Nazi nor a National Socialist, I have never been a neo-Nazi or a National Socialist, I do not belong to, or subscribe to the tenets of, the German National Socialist Workers Party or any subsequent facsimile, and I do not appreciate the libelous attempts of Ms Meadows, to publicly and falsely assert that I am “an actual neo-Nazi”.

Vox Popoli commenters spent the day conspicuously scavenging the web for Meadows’ personal and financial details and lodging their finds as comments on Day’s post. Meadows Twitter stream also has been haunted by people unsuccessfuly trying to intimidate the author by sounding as if there could be ominous consequences.

Day made several updates to his post, one saying a resolution was in process.

UPDATE: As I expected, John was very reasonable about it and the matter is being resolved. Thanks for your support, everyone.

But in the hours since, Meadows’ text has remained unchanged nor has O’Neill added any comment.

(16) INVASION. In a New York Times article “California Today: Booksellers See a Threat in New Law”, the A.C.L.U. has an opinion.

A new law going into effect next month mandates that anyone selling a signed book for more than $5 must vouch for the autograph’s authenticity. That includes, among other things, identifying the previous owner.

“If you visit my bookstore to trade in that copy of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ you picked up at a book signing, I’ll need to take down your name and address and then provide it to whoever happens to buy the book from me,” said Scott Brown, who runs Eureka Books in Eureka.

The law was designed to protect consumers from the booming trade in fake collectibles. But it is written so loosely that some worry it might drag booksellers down.

“I can understand why booksellers are concerned,” said Michael Risher, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Northern California. “The law is an invasion into privacy and should be amended.”

The legislation began with an effort by State Representative Ling Ling Chang to broaden a 1992 law about sports memorabilia. She joined forces with Mark Hamill, the “Star Wars” actor who kept seeing signed posters that were fake. Booksellers say they didn’t realize they were vulnerable until after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure in September.

Ms. Chang, who was unavailable for comment, has published on her Facebook page a statement that both “the letter and spirit of the law” do not apply to booksellers. Her reasoning is that the law is aimed at “dealers,” who are mostly in the business of selling signed collectibles. Since booksellers sell all kinds of books, many of them unsigned, Ms. Chang argues that leaves them off the hook.

But some booksellers worry that is not true….

(17) RATS! New Zealand’s 2017 national sf convention has opened a writing competition.

In our short story competition, you have the opportunity to channel your inner rodent, or world build a mischief of rats… Write us a short story which, in honour of our Ghost of Honour, Orville, includes a reference to a rat.

The competition is held in association with SpecFicNZ, who are generously contributing prizes, and judged by Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire. Get scratching!

We’re also running a drabble competition – 100 words of fiction based around a word you invented. If you’re new to writing, this could be a great place to start.

Find out more at www.lexicon.cons.nz/comps.php. Other competitions will be announced shortly; artists, filkers, and cosplayers, stay tuned.

(18) DEAL US IN. Tor.com’s Natalie Zutter has good news for Cards Against Humanity fans: “Patrick Rothfuss and Cards Against Humanity Release Special Sci-Fi Pack”.

For $5, this pack of 30 cards “poking fun at the Sci-Fi genre” (in Rothfuss’ words) will let you throw down the geekiest cards in your next game of CAH. All proceeds from the first two weeks of sales will go to Worldbuilders, Rothfuss’ nonprofit. What’s more, Rothfuss says, they’ll double that donation before passing it along to Heifer International, the organization that Worldbuilders supports.

Here’s everyone who contributed to the cards!

  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Jim C. Hines
  • Myke Cole
  • Martha Wells
  • Catherynne M. Valente
  • Patrick Rothfuss

[Thanks to JJ, Xtifr, Bonnie McDaniel, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme. (Yes, Bonnie, I held over a few you suggested last year.)]

Caren Gussoff Wins Gulliver Grant

The Speculative Literature Foundation has awarded its 2009 Gulliver Travel Research Grant to author Caren Gussoff. The $800 grant will assist Gussoff in visiting western Washington State to research the setting of her near-future novel The King of Seattle.

Gussoff’s stories have appeared in Abyss & Apex, PodCastle and Fantasy Magazine, and in several Seal Press anthologies. Her novel King of Seattle explores a post-pandemic Puget Sound, in which mental illness is a communicable disease.

Gulliver Travel Research Grants are awarded for use in paying for airfare, lodging, or other expenses related to research for a project of speculative fiction. Applications for the seventh annual Grant will open on July 1, 2010.

The full press release follows the jump.

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