Canadian publishing… WTF?

Hello My Imaginary friends,

Last Thursday I got an email from our wonderful publisher checking in to make sure everyone was okay after, “a tumultuous week for Canadian speculative fiction writers”.

I’m on parental leave and not as involved online as normal, also I’m kinda isolated from the larger writing community outside of events. I had no idea what was going on.

Holy Expletive did I wish I didn’t know after I read up on it. It made me sick and more than a little angry. Here’s a quick clean description from S. M. Carrière:

It began with accusations of non-payment and verbal attacks levelled against ChiZine Publishing by author Ed Kurtz.

Then things exploded.  Stories by others associated with the press, either having “worked” for (I put worked in quotation marks, because payment was not something they often did) or volunteered with them, and other authors expression concerns about behaviour and non-payment.  Some of it was truly sickening; verbal and emotional abuse that I found extraordinarily triggering. […]

Thoughts on a Bloody Mess – S. M. Carrière

If you really want to learn more you can check out this blog post by High Fever Books. It’s comprehensive and is still updating with information.

I’ve had very little dealings with ChiZine… Mostly the reading series that was run in Ottawa. The reading series in Ottawa was run by some fantastic people and I’m extremely happy that they don’t seem implicated in the terribleness.

When I first met the publishers, I thought they were the rockstars of publishing. They had edgy cool books, snarky attitudes, and a slight punk vibe. I pitched my first novel to them and was shocked that they liked the pitch.

Over the next two years, I periodically emailed about my submission, always getting emails about how busy they were. It was a stark contrast from Renaissance Press that actually published the novel. They apologized for taking too long (less then 3 months) and even walked me through what I should do to improve the novel.

I asked Sandra about the submission in person at the next years’ Can-Con and she replied curtly that, they’d get to it when they had a chance. From that moment on, she and Brett pretty much ignored me. I was on a panel at Limestone Expo and Sandra spent most of the time talking over me and interrupting the other panelists. I mostly tried to avoid them after that. I assumed it was me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and can rub some the wrong way.

I don’t know all the details, but there are a lot of people speaking out about WAY worse things that ChiZine has been involved. It’s seriously disturbing how bad some of the stuff being discussed is.

In case it’s not clear. I believe and support those speaking out.

In times like these, I truly appreciate my publisher. Renaissance isn’t the biggest, nor is it the fastest growing, but damn do they take care of their authors. They have a careful, people-oriented approach to publishing that I greatly appreciate.

I have nothing new to add to the conversation, but I do want to repeat two important messages:

  1. Don’t punish the writers for their publisher.
  2. Don’t assume that everyone involved with ChiZine knew what happened or were involved. There are some genuinely lovely people who were involved with the company that might not have been involved in the horrible behaviour.

Be kind, my friends,

Éric

Quantum Echoes – Word of the Day – Animus

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“Ghosts don’t exist! They just don’t. To believe in ghosts is the domain of children, the religious, and idiots.” I was being harsh and I knew it.

“What if I told you I could help you see them, with an app for your cellphone?” The woman looked completely rational, if a little silly, talking about ghosts in a fairy-tale worthy ball gown.

I adjusted the top of my dress self-consciously; I shouldn’t have worn a strapless dress. I didn’t have anything to keep it up and it was tight enough to make me feel suffocated but not to stay in place. With my clothes back in place, I snorted derisively, “Are you, a scientist, going to tell me you actually believe that the souls of the dead wander the earth? Must be awfully crowded. Is this app going to cost me a dollar and then show me cartoon Caspers in Augmented Reality?”

I’m not sure where my animus was coming from. I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I normally didn’t try arguing with people about it. Maybe it was the golden award for innovation that she held or the fact that she wasn’t just successful but wealthy and ridiculously beautiful. I wanted to be her and be with her all at the same time.

“Tamsym. I’m serious. This is going to change the way we see well…” she waved her perfectly manicured hands around, “everything.”

Sighing and wishing I’d stayed home instead of coming to this stupid gala, I said, “Fine. What’s the app?”

A mad glimmer flashed in her eyes, something better suited to Doctor Frankenstein, and said, “Give me your phone and I’ll install it.” I gave her my work phone and she talked while she did something to it. “I’m not saying they’re souls in the biblical way. I think they’re quantum echoes, a copy of us that is emotionally embedded into the fabric of the universe.”

It sounded like a bunch of technical terms smooshed together, but I wasn’t the award winning physics scientist that she was, I was just a lowly biologist. “What?”

“When something happens that is extremely emotional, it leaves a mark on the physical location. It’s an emotional quantum echo. Like a double exposed photograph.” I should have known something odd was going on. The woman in front of me shouldn’t have remembered a time before digital photography. “The most amazing part is that the echoes aren’t necessarily from the past or our reality.”

Giving me my phone back, she smiled. It was halfway between the smile you give a lover and the smile a cartoon cat gives a cartoon mouse. I looked at my phone and clicked the Quantum Echo app and looked at the screen.

It activated my camera, and as with every other augmented reality app, it showed the world as it is with an overlay of something else. In this case, it showed a ghostly outline of myself and the beautiful woman walking away hand in hand. “Is this a joke?” I asked.

“No.” she continued to smile.

I followed the shadows through the halls of the meeting hall until they walked through a door. I followed into the large closet and gasped at seeing myself in the screen of my phone kiss the other woman. I walked into the closet and heard a small click as the door closed behind me.

The me in the screen turned to look directly at the camera. Her face was twisted in terror with large eyes. She was saying something but the app didn’t show audio. She continued to try and say something and I started to try and read lips. She gave me the finger and pointed behind me. I tried to turn around and see what was behind me, but I never finished the turn…


If you enjoyed this word of the day story, you can find more on our stories page and catch up on this year’s serial story, The Database of the Ageless Kings.

Dear Dragon – The World Today

Hello Dragon,

I hope you’re afraid of monsters under your bed, boogeymen, or (like your grandmother) of Freddy Kruger. It’s not that I want you to be afraid but that I want you to only have fictional things to scare you.

I hope you never feel the fear of going out to a public place, or going to school.

I hope you never fear for your life walking down the street or traveling to other countries.

The world right now is on the cusp of something. I’m not sure what it is yet. Optimistically it’s the movement towards a united and peaceful world. Pessimistically it’s the movement towards another great terrible war or series of wars.

Weekly in the news, we hear about bombings. Sometimes more than one a week. In the UK they just voted to leave the European Union. Some for economic reasons but mostly for racist reasons; and hate crimes have risen to historic highs. In the US, the argument of politics seems to be more about skin colour and genitals than actual policies.

All over the world people are afraid. Afraid for their lives, afraid of others, afraid for our world.

The earth isn’t dying. People will tell you we’re destroying it. They’re wrong, we’re making it uninhabitable for ourselves. Just another thing to fear. Some people deal with that fear by trying to change things, others by ignoring it.

“I would never bring a child into this world, why would you?”

Someone asked me how I could think of bringing children into such a broken world. My answer to them was simply, “Hope.”

You, Baby Dragon, represent hope to me; a hope that you will have a wonderful life that you will see a world free from hate and fear, that you’ll help make that world.

And the truth is it’s not all doom and gloom. The Ozone Layer has started to heal, infant mortality is at its lowest in history, life spans are longer, more people can read, food production is more efficient than ever. Every day we as a species invent, discover, and create something amazing.

 

The world we’re bringing you into isn’t perfect, far from it, but it has hope and that’s worth a lot.

I love you, Baby Dragon!

Your Loving Papa

Writers aren’t their Characters, or their Plots

I read a news story last week and brushed it off as some sort of misunderstanding, prank, or click-bait. Today I saw another one. In short a man in Maryland was detained and forced to have a psychological evaluation, then suspended from teaching English in a grade school. All because he’d published a Science-Fiction book about the worst school shooting in America, he published this book under a pen name in 2010. This was before he was hired.

The police apparently closed down the school and swept it for guns and bombs, they did the same to his house. All despite the fact that he had no police record, had no red flags in his public records free for anyone to check, and didn’t have any firearms registered in his, or his alter ego’s, name.

This is by far the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

I will allow that maybe we don’t have the full story and there’s maybe something that we haven’t heard about yet but I wouldn’t be surprised that this is the whole story.

It reeks of a bad movie plot and is scary for anyone who’s ever written anything violent. It also makes you wonder if the fact that he’s African American has something to do with it. (It’s sad that this article makes a little more sence in a racial context. Really sad.)

The book looks like a bland YA mystery novel with some science fiction aspects thrown in. From what I’ve read it looks a little derivative but that’s still no reason to put a man in jail or the psych ward.

In high school I published several stories in the newspaper that were murder mysteries, written from the point of view of the murderer instead of the investigator. I thought it was clever. The worst that happened was one teacher asking me if I was ok and that she was willing to talk if I needed it. Who knows what would happen to me now.

If a writer is criminally responsible for writing something that makes the authorities worried, we’re about to live in a very bad world.

The idea that someone could be mentally unstable or violent because they wrote about it in fiction isn’t new but that doesn’t me its ok.

Fiction is supposed to be a safe way to explore our feelings and our world. It’s an exploration for both writer and reader. It’s a way to work through difficult themes and emotions. It’s no more a barometer for mental stability than the kind of cereal someone eats.

This kind of overreaction isn’t new. It often seems that in an effort to make everyone feel safe we’re attacking everything that may be dangerous.

It’s not a far jump from, “He wrote a book about school shootings, let’s investigate every part of his life and keep him away from the children,” to “He wrote about a banned subject, let’s throw him in jail for subversion of people.”

And it’s not just the “Man” or police. We live in a world where “SWATTING” is a thing. Sometimes my faith in humanity wavers.

What do you think? Was he violently investigated for being a writer, being African American, or is there something else going on?

Éric