TV and Movies News

Abuse Allegations and Separating Artists From Their Art

The Atlantic recently featured an article on the number of young men who have accused X-Men director Bryan Singer of sexual assault and examining the history of past allegations that have been swept under the rug in one way or another. On a related note, Constance Grady mused on Vox about whether it’s possible, or even desirable, to separate an artist from their art, specifically in the context of her teenage love for Edward Scissorhands. The question will undoubtedly keep coming back up as the arts and society in general deal with questions surrounding sexual abuse, domestic abuse, and other forms of bad (and often illegal) behavior on the part of artists.

American Gods and Good Omens

Season two of American Gods will premiere March 10! This second season follows a critically-acclaimed first, but also the departure of the two original showrunners, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, and then a third showrunner, Jesse Alexander, who took over after their departure. However, Neil Gaiman, the author of the original book, remains associated with the production, and he and the cast have made positive remarks about the direction of the show in season two.

There had been some discussion at one time of Gaiman himself taking over as a showrunner for American Gods, but he’s been too busy with the television series of Good Omens, which we recently learned will premier May 31 on Amazon Prime. Gaiman cowrote the book Good Omens, a comedic novel aboutan angel, a demon, and the apocalypse, with the late Terry Pratchett. The series will star David Tennant and Michael Sheen, with many others (including Nick Offerman and Benedict Cumberbatch) in smaller roles.

Comics on TV

The popular comic Y: The Last Man, which follows an apocalypse where all men but one were destroyed, is getting a TV series set to premiere on FX in 2020. Aïda Mashaka Croal and Michael Green are attached as showrunners, and Amber Tamblyn, Imogen Poots, Diane Lane, Lashana Lynch, and Barry Keoghan will star.

Movies Shorts

Publishing News

Romantic Plagiarism

This week the plagiarism hashtag #CopyPasteCris burst screaming into the writing world. The controversy started when bestselling romance author Courtney Milan accused Cristiane Serruya of being “a copyright infringer, a plagiarist, and an idiot,” claiming that Serruya stole entire sections from Milan’s novel The Duchess War. As BookRiot reports, Serruya at first denied this before saying it was her ghostwriter who committed plagiarism — evidently the same ghostwriter Serruya hired off Fiverr — but that of course doesn’t change Serruya’s ultimate responsibility.

In response, the Romance Writers of America removed Serruya’s novel from one of their award contests. This resulted in a major case of irony for the RWA because Milan had been forbidden to submit the very novel Serruya had plagiarized to this contest. Still shaking my head over that.

Soon others dug into all of Serruya’s published books, with these amateur investigators reportedly finding that “23 authors & 26 books have been plagiarized.” As Kayleigh Donaldson on Pajiba wrote, this serial plagiarism “exposes something the publishing world and Amazon have struggled to deal with for many years now. Amazon’s algorithm screws over a lot of authors, and it’s ripe for being gamed by click-farms, scammers and straight up thieves. Plagiarism may be easier than ever to uncover but for every scammer revealed, there are dozens more getting away with it because their business plan has become too big to fail and Amazon, who remain the biggest name in self-publishing, won’t clear up the mess.”

And the Publishing Controversies Go On and On

But the Serruya affair isn’t the only publishing controversy of recent weeks. There was also the outrage around new author Amélie Wen Zhao, who canceled her YA novel Blood Heir after a social media storm over accusations of racism and plagiarism. Author Heidi Heilig wrote a post describing what happened, which is an insightful read. And Absolute Write has an excellent look behind the scenes of what happened and describes how some haters and bad actors may have used the controversy for their own ends.

Other recent controversies include that surrounding Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why. After being expelled from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators over accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior, Asher filed suit against the organization. And now it comes out there may have been a “hush-hush agreement” involved to keep all this hidden.

And then there’s Woman in the Window author and editor Dan Mallory, named by Vox as “publishing’s biggest scam artist.” Mallory not only engaged in bad behavior in the publishing industry for decades but was also well paid for it, as described in this excellent New Yorker article.

Problems with Curiosity Quills Press

According to Publisher’s Lunch, Curiosity Quills Press is behind on authors’ royalty payments and temporarily shutting down print operations with the exception of middle grade novels. All authors now have the option to terminate their contracts with “no strings attached.”  Press co-owner Eugene Teplitsky emailed authors and said anyone who wanted rights reverted should contact editor@curiosityquills.com. Authors are also being told they can shop their subrights around. 

Most of the report at Publisher’s Lunch is behind a firewall, so for more info check out this Writers Beware post from 2018.

Authors Guild and Society of Authors take on Internet Archive

The Authors Guild and Society of Authors have filed suit over alleged copyright infringement by the Internet Archive, which has been lending scanned copies of digital books

I’m torn on this issue. While I think the people in the Authors Guild and Society of Authors have their hearts in the right place, I’ve also noticed they have a very restrictive view of copyright issues which is often not in the public interest. For example, for a long time the Authors Guild fought Google’s attempt to make books searchable. If the Authors Guild had won in that case they would have severely hurt the ability of scholars, writers and average people to access information in out of print or hard to find books. 

Their complaint against the Internet Archive strikes me as similar to their losing battle against making books searchable. If these groups win I could easily see their next target being physical libraries which lend e-books, an issue which has been controversial with some publishers

But that said, I also don’t believe the Internet Archive should be lending e-copies of scanned books which are currently being published and are easily available to the public (although it’s not clear if they’re actually doing this).

Instead of filing this lawsuit and maybe creating bad legal precedence, I’d prefer the  Authors Guild and Society of Authors to find a way to work out an agreement with the Internet Archive where everyone benefits. But for now that seems to be off the table.

Publishing News Shorts

Video Game News

The Giant That Eats Studios

Heavy.com has written a fascinating piece on game studios that EA has killed. The list starts with Bullfrog Productions, founded in 1987 and acquired by EA in 1995, and continues up through the end of Visceral Games in October of 2017. If you want to know more about how this giant of games publishing throws their weight around in the industry, this is a good place to start. The author hopes very much that BioWare won’t be their next victim!

Upcoming Consoles

The PlayStation 5 has been announced. There’s no word yet on a release date, or even any solid specs or features, although one rumor is that it will include backward compatibility all the way through the original PlayStation, which would be a hugely popular choice among fans of classic games.

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Books and Authors News

Calls for Submissions

Uncanny Magazine: Disabled People Destroy Fantasy is open for submissions until February 28, 2019, so you still have a week before the deadline!

In Memoriam

Sci-fi author Carol Emshwiller died on February 2, 2019, and Betty Ballantine, longtime editor and cofounder of Ballantine Books and later founder of Rufus Publications, died February 12, 2019.

Throughout a long life of publishing, Carol Emshwiller won the Philip K. Dick Award for The Mount, the World Fantasy Award for her 1991 short story collection The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories, and two Nebula short story awards. The World Fantasy Con presented Emshwiller with a lifetime achievement award in 2005, and according to the above remembrance, Ursula Le Guin said that she had “one of the strongest, most complex, most consistently feminist voices in fiction.”

Betty Ballantine established the American division of Penguin Books with her husband, Ian Ballantine, in 1939, importing British paperback editions to the United States, starting with The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. Paperbacks, selling at just twenty-five cents a book, made books and reading more easily within the reach of the working class at a time when hardcover books sold for around forty-five dollars in today’s money. The two later went on to found Bantam and Ballantine Books together, as well. As an editor, Betty nurtured authors and “sought out the pulp writers of science fiction who were writing for magazines and said she wanted them to write novels, and she would publish them,” according to her nephew in her New York Times obituary. Joanna Russ and Samuel R. Delany are among the authors whose careers she helped to launch.

The Hugos and Worldcon 2019

Worldcon and the Hugos are coming up soon! This year they will be hosted in Dublin, Ireland, on August 15–19. Want to know how Hugo nominations work? Check out this video, where Claire Rousseau explains the whole process. Cat Rambo has put together a roundup of eligibility posts to assist nominators in finding all the eligible works available. You must have joined Worldcon by December 31, 2018, in order to nominate for the 2019 Hugo Awards, and nominations close March 16, 2019.

Nebula Finalists Announced

The 2018 Nebula Finalists were announced on February 20. Awards will be presented during a ceremony on the evening of May 18, 2019. In addition to familiar categories such as novel, short story, novella, and dramatic presentation, a new category has been added for Game Writing this year, with inaugural finalists including Black Mirror‘s “Bandersnatch,” the most recent God of War game, and The Road to Canterbury, an entirely text-based game/choose-your-own-adventure novel by Kate Heartfield.

Podcasting News

Spotify, the streaming music service that has recently moved into streaming podcasts as well, has purchased Gimlet Media and Anchor in an effort to move further into providing podcasts to their audience. Gimlet is well-known for shows like StartUp and Reply All, while Anchor is more of a service provider, claiming to power more than 40 percent of the industry’s new podcasts. What this will mean for the larger landscape of podcasts has yet to be seen, but it definitely indicates that larger companies are seeing the opportunity for money in the medium, which may eventually lead to difficulties for independent artists and providers.

Jason Sanford

Jason Sanford is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award and has published more than a dozen stories in the British SF magazine Interzone, which also devoted a special issue to his fiction. In addition he has published numerous stories in magazines such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and other places, along with appearances in multiple "year's best" anthologies and other collections. His fiction has been translated into nearly a dozen languages including Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, Polish, and Czech. Jason's website is www.jasonsanford.com and he publishes a weekly Genre Grapevine column on his Patreon at www.patreon.com/jasonsanford.

Jen Grogan

Jen Grogan is a writer, editor, web content specialist, and nonprofit administrator based out of Seattle, where she lives with her husband, two loud but adorable cats, and too many books. She’s written for Women Write About Comics and a few other online venues, but has not yet convinced herself to call any of her fiction manuscripts complete. As an editor, she encourages others to do as she says, not as she does. In her free time she enjoys knitting, hiking, calligraphy, leading school tours for the Seattle Art Museum, and traveling to find new places to hike and new museums to visit. You can find her online at jengrogan.com.