Inside the News

Industry News, July 2019

Video Games

Steam/Ubuntu

Steam plans to drop support for Ubuntu, according to Pierre-Loup Griffais, which may impact many PC gamers who prefer Linux.

Publishing News for July 2019 by Jason Sanford

Mercedes Lackey’s Fantasy Quarterly Magazine

The recent Origins Game Fair saw the announcement of the pending launch of Mercedes Lackey’s Fantasy Quarterly Magazine, a brand-new genre digest magazine. The magazine will publish its first issue in late 2019 and, as the name indicates, will be quarterly. 

Lackey will be the editor with Jennifer Brozek and John Helfers serving as associate editors. There will be a Kickstarter for the magazine next month, but the Kickstarter is planned as a one-time deal to launch the magazine (meaning no repeated fundraising requests). The magazine will be pro-paying and will accept all genres of fantasy from epic/traditional/low to UF/horror/apocalyptic to steampunk and science fantasy. 

Unless I’m mistaken, this is the first launch of a new digest-sized genre magazine since the original print edition of Apex Magazine was launched in 2005. And with Apex and InterGalactic Medicine Show closing this year, I’m sure authors will appreciate another market for their stories.

I aim to publish an interview with the editors of the magazine in the near future.

True Fan Fandom Fail

Last month heard the return of the plaintive whine of “We’re the only true genre fans!” It started when Ulrika O’Brien wrote a rambling and angry essay in the fanzine Beam about John Scalzi “breaking the Hugos” and allowed in all the not-true-fans (you can read the fanzine here, but be aware it’s a PDF download). 

Scalzi shrugged it off, but others in the genre responded with various riffs on WTF? Kameron Hurley wrote an excellent thread where she notes "this obsession with John Scalzi as this prime example of all that's changing in SFF" is weird. She then makes a much-needed point that "I won't lie, when they write about this period in SFF fifty years from now and only talk about John Scalzi and not, like, NK Jemisin, Ann Leckie, Mary Robinette Kowal and like Nnedi Okorafor I'm gonna be super pissed. And that's not even touching on the next gen of superstars.”

For a deep dive into all this, check out File770’s coverage. And Jim Hines has a great summary of who is and isn’t a genre fan.

As an interesting side-note, Stephen M. Stirling tried saying Worldcon attendees are declining so who cares about the Hugos. But Rogers Cadenhead responded by pointing out that "There were 45,090 attendees over the last 10 years, an average of 4,509 that compares well to any other era of the past 50 years.”

More Financial Problems for Dreamspinner Press

As covered in an earlier column, Dreamspinner Press sent out a letter on May 8 which stated “Dreamspinner Press is not in overall financial crisis or in any danger of closing.” Obviously it's never a good thing when a publisher says those words.

The press has now released a new letter which states “We acknowledge Dreamspinner Press’s cash-flow challenge in finishing payments for 1Q2019 royalties and pending contractor invoices is causing a great deal of concern in the community. We’re continuing to make payments every day, albeit at a slower rate than we’d estimated.”

The letter linked above provides more details. 

RJ Scott takes Dreamspinner to task for all this, adding that authors are being "asked to waive monies owed in exchange for rights back to their work" and much more. As Scott states, “Everyone’s experience of DSP will be different depending on 1) the income you generate for them 2) if you are staff 3) whether you got a lawyer/agent involved.”

Despite all these problems Dreamspinner Press is still holding an open submission call. Authors should consider the publisher's current situation carefully before submitting.

Wattpad and Short Stories

One of my Patreon backers asked about posting short stories on Wattpad, which is an online community, platform and app for people to read and publish stories. I personally love Wattpad, and obviously I’m not the only one because Wattpad has billions of reads across countless stories and a number of authors who’ve used Wattpad to hit it big.

However, the authors who get the most readers on Wattpad tend me be writers of longer-form stories and novels. These works can be serialized on Wattpad, bringing readers back to these authors’ stories over and over. If I’m wrong please correct me, but I’ve yet to see any short stories gain major attention through Wattpad, as opposed to the success of a number of novels and longer serialized stories.

In some ways this is to be expected — after all, we see a similar dynamic in traditional publishing and self-publishing, where novel-length fiction is far more successful than short stories. 

This doesn’t mean it’s not worth publishing short stories on Wattpad. However, understand that publishing a short story there likely means you won’t reach as many readers as with novels and other types of longer-format stories. In addition, it means you can’t republish the story in short story markets where you might find more readers. This includes most genre magazines, almost all of which require first-publication rights. 

Other News and Info

TV & Movies

Disney and Georgia Legislation

Disney continues to express concerns about the new legislation enacted in Georgia, releasing a statement to Deadline that if Georgia’s heartbeat bill holds, the company may have to “reconsider” future productions in the state. What’s most interesting about this to me is that the company’s response, and the response of the other media giants, seem to stem from concerns and petitions by the “creatives” and “talent” that the companies work with. Aside from the possible political and economic ramifications, I have to wonder if this interactions may show a new way forward for those working in television/movies in terms of leveraging themselves to promote industry change.

Comics

Awards

The 2019 Eisner Award winners were announced at San Diego Comic-Con. The Eisner Awards, named for comics creator and graphic novelists Will Eisner, celebrate the works of artists and writers in a dozen categories. I know I’ll be checking out the web comics in particular. 


Inside the News

Industry News, June 2019

Jason Sanford's publishing news will return in July, but for now we hope you'll enjoy this shortened edition of the news from around the speculative arts community.

Video Game News

FromSoftware Announces New Game in Partnership with George R. R. Martin

As reported in The Verge, the makers of Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, FromSoftware announced at E3 that they have teamed up with George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series , in making a new game titled Elden Ring, which will be published by Bandai Namco and available on Xbox One and PC. No release date has been announced at this time, but a teaser trailer from E3 is available, and has been raising a lot of speculation.

You Can't Catch Them All

NintendoLife reports that, based on information revealed by a game developer during a recent Nintendo livestream, it will not be possible for players to acquire a full set of all available Pokémon in their new game, Pokémon Sword And Shield. The game will feature a completely new set of Pokémon as well as some old fan favorites, but only monsters from the Galar Pokédex can be ported over into the new game via the new cloud service that will allow transfer of monsters from previous games.

Video Game Fashion

Kitfox Games' Victoria Tran discussed fashion in video games -- and how it could be improved -- in a 2019 Game Developers Conference talk now available on Gamasutra.

New and Upcoming

Continuing the long-running Zelda series, Gamasutra reports that Nintendo is working on a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The trailer revealed a darker direction and more open world that should be an interesting departure from what fans have come to expect from the series.

Meanwhile, according to io9, a Dark Crystal video game will be coming to Nintendo Switch, intended to tie-in with the upcoming Netflix TV series that will release on August 30. The title of the game, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics, reveals that rather than being an open-world concept, this title will be borrowing heavily from the style of Final Fantasy Tactics.

TV & Movie News

An Animated Pratchett Possibility, and a Petition Faux Pas

Following on the success of Amazon's Good Omens miniseries, showrun by Pratchett's coauthor Neil Gaiman, Variety reports that The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is now set to be the first of Terry Pratchett's novels to become an animated feature film.

In other Pratchett-related news, apparently a number of conservative Christians were upset by Good Omens. So upset, in fact, that, according to The Guardian, they addressed a petition to cancel the series to Netflix, which had nothing to do with its production or distribution. This author can only think that such a mix-up would have delighted Terry Pratchett just as it has visibly amused Neil Gaiman on Twitter.

More Nostalgia Fear is on the Way

You might have thought that the upcoming third season of Stranger Things was the most terrifying bit of nostalgia headed your way, but there's more where that came from! Per Deadline, Nickelodeon has announced the cast for their upcoming limited series reboot of Are You Afraid of the Dark? which scared the pants off many 90s kids back during its first iteration. This time, the stories that torment the Midnight Society will be coming to life in their world over three episodes, so we anticipate even more terror than before.

Dune: Sisterhood is Coming to TV, and Dune Back to Theaters

According to Hollywood Reporter, Denis Villeneuve will direct the pilot for an upcoming female-focused take on the Dune universe, based on Frank Herbert's novel, as well as writing and producing the new take on the main novel that is slated to premiere 2020. The TV series will be released on WarnerMedia's upcoming but as-yet-unnamed streaming service, and will follow the machinations of the Bene Gesserit through the complicated politics of the Imperium.

More Streaming Horror Strangeness

In a new quirk on streaming, Variety reports that Stephen Spielberg is writing a horror series for Quibi that viewers will only be able to watch when their phone detects that it's dark outside. "A clock will appear on phones, ticking down until sun sets in wherever that user is, until it’s completely gone. Then the clock starts ticking again to when the sun comes back up — and the show will disappear until the next night." Spielberg has reportedly written five or six of the "chapters," as Quibi refers to its shorter episodes, so far.

We Just Can't Have Nice Things

As reported in io9 and on producer Ben Edlund's Twitter, the comedic superhero adventures of The Tick are once again without a home or hope for immediate continuation. As Edlund said on June 14, "We will look for other opportunities to continue this story with this cast, but the current series must I'm afraid come to its end."


We want to hear from you! Let us know what you think about the news of the month on the forum post for this blog entry.


Inside the News

Industry News, May 2019

Video Game News

Final Fantasy VII Trailer

As announced on The Verge, the
remake of Square Enix’s beloved Final Fantasy VII finally has a trailer
! It’s
only one minute long, and mostly cinematics, but there’s a little bit of
gameplay as well, and reportedly some improvements on detail compared to the bits
seen back in 2015 when we last saw a few hints of this remake. Alas, there’s
still no release date attached to the game, but Sony has promised more
information in June, probably in time for E3
(which will be June 11-13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center).

Cytus on Switch

If you’re a fan of Rayark’s 2012 game Cytus, or of rhythm games in general, you’ll be happy to know that this
stylish game is now out on the Nintendo Switch as Cytus Alpha
. 200 songs are included in the price, including a
few that weren’t released with the original, and this version now includes the
option to play with buttons instead of the touchscreen.

Publishing News by Jason Sanford

Return of Weird Tales

According to
Usman Malik
, an announcement was made at Stokercon 2019 that the classic
magazine Weird Tales will resume publishing in July with Jonathan Maberry as one of the
editors. As most of the genre knows, the magazine had a resurgence under Ann
VanderMeer from 2007 to 2012, winning Weird Tales the magazine’s first-ever
Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. 

However, following the decision to remove VanderMeer as
editor in place of Marvin Kaye, and Kaye’s
decision to run an excerpt of the controversial book Save the Pearls
(with
Kaye even declaring that the novel was "thoroughly
non-racist
" when it wasn’t), Weird Tales soon folded.

Malik mentions some of this history in his post and
says the relaunched magazine will be more aligned with VanderMeer’s vision
.
He adds the magazine is “actively looking
for and recruiting writers with similar aesthetics, talent, and background.

The first
issue will evidently feature fiction
by Victor LaValle, Josh Malerman, and
Lisa Morton and be released on July 15.

The Dark Contract Changes

Sean Wallace announced that The Dark has dropped two clauses
from the magazine’s author contract because “they never made much sense.” The
dropped clauses are as follows:

  • The Author grants Publisher the right to use the
    Author’s name, image, likeness, and biographical material for all advertising,
    promotion and other exploitation of the Work. Upon request, the Author shall
    provide the Publisher with a photograph of the Author and appropriate
    biographical material for such use.
  • The Author will indemnify the Publisher against
    any loss, injury, or damage finally sustained (including any legal costs or
    expenses and any compensation costs and disbursements paid by the Publisher)
    occasioned to the Publisher in connection with or in consequence or any breach
    of this warranty and which the Publisher is not able to recover under its
    insurance policies.

I like these changes, which benefit the author. I wish more
magazines and publishers would follow The Dark's lead.

Publishing Shorts

  • Marc Gascoigne, the former publisher and founder
    of Angry Robot, is launching a novel publishing line for Asmodee Games called Aconyte Books. Complete
    info on the people involved here
    and submission guidelines here.
  • Jason Sizemore announces that while Apex Books
    will continue, Apex
    Magazine is going on indefinite hiatus
    . Jason is a wonderful person and,
    after suffering health issues in recent months, says he needs to “take time to
    exercise, take some time for my health, do more things for fun, enjoy having my
    kids around before they leave for college in a few years. I need time to read
    more books!” Apex Magazine began in 2005 as a print digest and recently
    published Rebecca Roanhorse’s "Welcome
    to your Authentic Indian Experience™
    " which won the genre triple crown
    of Hugo, Nebula and Sturgeon Awards.
  • Tom Doherty Associates to launch
    Nightfire, a new horror imprint
    . Agent DongWon Song likes this development,
    adding "It's
    time for a wave of new voices to shake up the genre. Send me your stories.
    "
  • Trend
    watch:
    I'm seeing a number of western SF authors writing stories
    commissioned by the Chinese government’s Future Affairs Administration (FAA).
    For example, the novelette "The Memory Artist" by Ian R. MacLeod in
    the current May/June 2019 Asimov's Science Fiction has a note saying it was
    originally published in Chinese by the FAA and was inspired by the FFA-hosted
    "Technology and the Good Future" SF workshop which MacLeod attended.
    The FAA
    is also a sponsor of the science fiction magazine Future SF
    , edited by Alex
    Shvartsman. Future SF launched this year
    and has already published a number of original stories in English by both
    western and Chinese authors.
  • Publisher Steven Saus emailed authors that his
    small press Alliteration Ink will be
    shutting down over the course of 2019. Saus says the press will continue to pay
    royalties but is unable to provide author copies from this point on. To help
    authors receive copies Saus said he set all Alliteration Ink books on Amazon at
    the lowest possible price so authors can receive the books without paying
    shipping. He added that once book sales are complete, all rights will revert to
    the authors.
  • Dreamspinner Press sent
    out a letter dated May 8 which reads
    “Dreamspinner Press is not in overall
    financial crisis or in any danger of closing. What we are is working through a
    temporary crunch in month-to-month cash flow as we wait for more than two years
    of financial investment and thousands of hours of effort to yield steady
    results. Dreamspinner’s balance sheet is healthy; our assets outweigh any
    debts.” Never a good sign when a press has to say they aren’t in danger of
    closing, but it is encouraging that Dreamspinner is being so open about their
    troubles. In addition, Dreamspinner is still
    soliciting submissions as of May 10
    . I suggest people read
    the entire letter
    because it provides a fascinating look inside the
    business processes and issues facing small genre publishers.
  • According to emails sent out by Wyrd Magazine, they have closed
    submissions for the near future because of "an unhappy period of illness
    and family tragedy." The magazine added their intention is to relaunch
    soon.
  • Writers are being contacted
    by a book promoter claiming to represent a literary agency
    . Beware.
  • Fascinating article
    about Arcadia Publishing
    , which releases almost 500 local history titles a
    year. “Last year, two publishing heavyweights, Michael Lynton, the former CEO
    of Penguin, and Steinberger, the former CEO of Perseus Books, along with a group
    of investors they organized, bought the press along with its 14,000-title
    backlist. And this week, Walter Isaacson, the best-selling biographer, is
    joining them as an editor-at-large and senior adviser. He is the first big-name
    author to get involved with Arcadia, but that won’t change its small-town
    focus.” 
  • Voting for the Hugo Awards and Worldcon site
    selection
    is now open and closes on July 31. You must be a member of the
    Dublin Worldcon to take part. As a bonus, your ballot gives you access to the
    Hugo Voter Packet, which contains 8.5 gigabytes of stories, books, art,
    podcasts, graphic novels, and so much more. Kudos to Dublin 2019 for pulling
    together such a great Hugo Voter Packet. I really like how you can download
    directly from the ballot under each Hugo category.
  • The 2018 Stoker
    Award winners have been announced
    .

TV & Movies News

Sonic the Hedgehog is Coming to
the Big Screen… and Looking a Bit Rough

The first trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie was
released on April 30, and neither
fan nor critical reaction were great
. Specifically, a lot of fan chatter
disapproved of Sonic’s look, which included some weirdly human teeth, although,
as usual with the internet and fandom, there was enough
complaint to go around about a lot of things
(I’m sorry, I’m not going to
link to specific tweets – if you’re interested, you can dig through the tag
yourself). There were also fan
redesigns
, which may or may not have been an improvement.

So the director, Jeff Fowler, announced that the character
would be redesigned. Problem solved, right? Of course not, because that would
mean sending the VFX team into more work, which, given recent discussion about
the bad conditions that game developers and VFX designers work under in
general, was also not a popular move. Io9 has
a great piece talking with some industry professionals about what this redesign
will most likely mean for the team
, which will be interesting to anyone who
is curious about how this field works, and what will most likely result for the
movie.

The Next Star Wars Movie Will
Come from the Game of Thrones Showrunners

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, whose final season of Game of Thrones is currently airing, are
confirmed as heading the next movie in Disney’s Star Wars franchise
. The jump won’t be immediate, though –
right now statements from the company indicate that there will be a three-year
gap between The Rise of Skywalker and
the next film, as yet untitled.

Disney Takes Over Hulu

Moving from the big screen to the small one, as of
May 14 Disney has finalized their takeover of streaming service Hulu
, purchasing
it from Comcast for at least $5.8 billion. As noted at the link, Disney will
also be releasing their own streaming platform, called Disney+, later this
year, so it’s unclear right now how, or if, these two will compete with each
other, or how the division of content will be arranged.

Comics News

Stan Lee’s Former Manager Charged with Elder Abuse

As reported by Reuters, the former manager of the comic books legend, who died late last year, has been charged with 5 counts of elder abuse against Lee, including false imprisonment, fraud, and forgery. A warrant has been issued for arrest of the manager, named Keya Morgan, who had previously been served with a restraining order after Lee’s family accused him of abuse.


We want to hear from you! Let us know what you think about the news of the month on the forum post for this blog entry.


Inside the News

Industry News, April 2019

Video Game News

Can Some Video Games Help with Depression?

As more and more people around the world face issues of
depression and anxiety, some video game developers are designing
games that help players cope with these issues
through the medium of play.

Beware the Labyrinth

A
player in the open world Fallout 76
has created a labyrinth into which he lures other players
, particularly new
and low-level players who are presumably unsuspecting and unable to fight back
against the dangerous beast that walks the maze.

Where Anthem Went Wrong

Kotaku examines where
BioWare’s Anthem went wrong
,
starting with trademarking issues that necessitated a different title than
planned and going on to the lowest Metacritic score since the studio opened.

Do Game Developers Need to Unionize?

In the wake of huge layoffs at major studios like Blizzard
and EA, a New York Times opinion
piece examines
the argument for unionization in the video game industry as a way to prevent
exploitation of workers
.

Is Elder Scrolls Blades the
Future of Gaming?

In the old days of video games, the player bought the game
and then could play it without worrying about further transactions unless the
cartridge or disk was lost or broken, or their system went down. Today, not so
much. This piece in Forbes asks whether
the endless transactions the author sees in Elder
Scrolls Blades are really where AAA
gaming is headed
, and what that would mean.

Awards News

Hugo Finalists Announced

The finalists
for the 2019 Hugo awards have been announced
, including the 1944
retrospective awards, many fan favorites in various categories, and to the
surprise of many, one volunteer-created-and-run fanfiction archive is up for Best
Related Work.

In Memoriam

Vonda N. McIntyre

The Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of Dreamsnake, The Moon and the Sun, and dozens of other books and short stories
died on April 1, 2019, at the age of seventy. Locus magazine and the New
York Times
, among many others, posted obituaries that are well worth
reading.

Gene Wolfe

Author and SFWA Grand Master Gene Wolfe died on April 14,
2019, leaving behind over thirty novels, including a series that, over its run,
won British Science Fiction, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Locus, Nebula, and
Campbell Memorial Awards. Obituaries posted by Tor.com and the Guardian,
among many others, are well worth a read.

TV and Movies News

Who Knew Francis Ford Coppola Wanted to Make Sci-Fi?

Not this writer! But apparently it’s true—according
to Deadline
the renowned director has had an idea in mind since the ’80s
for a movie called Megalopolis about
an architect who wants to remake New York into a utopia, and he’s now eyeing a
cast that might include Jude Law. Will it be, like he wants, as epic as Apocalypse Now? Only time will tell.

Marvel Rumored to Take On a Gay Lead for The Eternals

There’s nothing solid behind this, yet, including casting,
but rumors
reported by Gay Times indicate that
Marvel might make Hercules the first openly gay character in the Marvel
Cinematic Universe
, as well as the lead in The Eternals, slated to come out next year. Gay Times notes that “Marvel has long faced criticism for the lack
of minority representation in its movies, and while it made steps to introduce
diversity with the critically acclaimed Black
Panther
and Captain Marvel, LGBTQ
characters remains non-existent,” so, if true, this would be a huge step in the
right direction.

Netflix Speculation

The rumor mill is just as strong in TV as in movies at the
moment, including word
that Netflix has hired a screenwriter for an Alice in Wonderland / Wizard
of Oz
crossover series
, taking advantage of the fact that both these
properties are in the public domain and have gone a few years (or at least a
couple of years) without being adapted for screens. More solid than rumor,
however, was the
announcement that John Cho (who played Sulu in the recent Star Trek reboot movies) has been cast as Spike Spiegel
in
Netflix’s upcoming live-action adaptation of fan favorite Cowboy Bebop.

Writers Versus Agents in Hollywood Crisis

Negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) recently fell apart, leading the WGA to urge their members to publicly break with the agents who represent them in business negotiations. As Variety reported last week, the heart of the issue is WGA’s assertion that “agents’ reliance on packaging fees paid by production entities, rather than the standard 10% commission on a client’s salary, have skewed their interests and contributed to keeping salaries low for mid- and low-level writers.” Even prominent members of the WGA are sticking with their guild on this matter, though, taking to Twitter with their public statements of support and networking to try to make connections during the traditional hiring season, and making personal arguments for the guild’s decision, as in the case of this guest columnist piece written for Hollywood Reporter by Krista Vernoff of Grey’s Anatomy. Those of us who remember the WGA strike of 2007 (or, further back, of 1988) may rightfully wonder what impact this will have on the shows that appear on our screens in the fall, but this is also an interesting political battle to watch play out all on its own, and a striking move in a world where white-collar unionization seems to be making a strong play for relevance in the artistic sector.


We want to hear from you! Let us know what you think about the news of the month on the forum post for this blog entry.


Inside the News

Industry News, March 2019

Video Game News

Steam Isn’t Sure Whether It Controls Content or Not

As reported by Sprites
+ Dice
, ever since last summer, when a game entitled Active Shooter was put up for sale on Valve’s Steam video game
store, some users have been raising concerns about Steam’s (and thereby
Valve’s) business practices. After pressure from users, Valve eventually pulled
this title, but following that, they posted a new policy on their official blog
announcing that they had decided “that the right approach is to allow
everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal,
or straight up trolling.” While removing any content restrictions (and
therefore responsibility for content) is in some ways a rational response to
the need to police content on a large and public platform, concerns have
recently been raised again by a game titled Rape
Day
, which allows players to “verbally harass, rape, and then murder women”
in the game. A
petition
not to release the game on Steam garnered nearly 8,000 signatures.
As of March 6, Steam
announced on their blog
that they would not be selling the game, explaining
that despite their previous statement that they would “allow everything,” this game
“poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam.”

So what does this mean, both for Steam and for other
platforms like them (Blizzard, Origin, etc.) that sell games including those
they have not themselves produced? What would have happened if there had been a
counter-petition to release the game that garnered the same number of
signatures, or even more? Is having no policy actually a policy? I suspect we
will see more situations similar to this until content-providing platforms
learn that saying “Whatever goes” isn’t actually a workable strategy, and find
places to draw lines that everyone involved can live with, but the process of
getting to that point is going to be a painful one.

Game Devs Share Personal Game Design Rules

Gamasutra points out a
useful thread
where game developers share their personal game design rules,
techniques, and rules of thumb in single tweets.

BAFTA Games Award Nominations            

The BAFTA
Games Award nominations were announced on March 14
, and God of War is leading the nominations,
including in Artistic Achievement, Audio Achievement, three nominations for
Performer, and Best Game. Winners will be announced on Thursday, April 4, 2019,
at a ceremony in London. Watch
online using any of these sources
.

Game Developer Conference

The Annual Game Developer Conference (GDC) is in San
Francisco on March 18–22,
and while this will be nearly finished by the time this news goes live, Gamasutra’s
practical advice on how to attend the conference as a small indie studio looks

like it will be useful at future events.

Dwarf Fortress on Steam

The ASCII-aesthetic colony simulation Dwarf Fortress will be coming to Steam with new graphics, music, and sound, produced by Montreal-based Kitfox Games. Per Polygon’s coverage, “An ASCII-based mode will still be available in this new version, and development of the original game will continue unabated.”

Publishing News by Jason Sanford

Thoughts on the Recent Nebula Award Controversy

I wrote and rewrote
this column multiple times, trying to explain to people what went on several
weeks ago with the Nebula Awards and the 20Booksto50K slate/not-a-slate
controversy. Heck, I was trying to understand the situation myself. But like
building a sandcastle on quicksand, understanding continually shifted as new
facts and viewpoints appeared and disappeared.

Was the slate
truly a slate or merely a recommended reading list gone bad?
Was LMBPN Publishing behind the slate? Was this a
case of traditional authors vs. self-published/indie authors?
An attack on up-and-coming international writers?

So what exactly
happened? Perhaps N. K. Jemisin summed up the controversy best when she said,
"Personally, I think this whole business is the result of a culture clash:
anything-goes indie writers versus a (indie and tradpub) community that at
least thinks of itself as
merit-focused. The anything-goes writers really should've done some field
research before they jumped in and tried to plant a flag on merit-focused
ground; this mess is the result."

Instead of
rehashing everything that went down, I'd like to add a little historical
perspective.

Most SF/F people
know the puppies slated the Hugo Awards a few years ago.
But issues around slates have been going on for decades in different forms.

In 1987, the Church of Scientology supposedly helped L. Ron Hubbard's
novel Black Genesis make the Hugo Award final ballot
. Fans
were outraged. After final voting the novel was ranked below “No Award"
(similar to what happened to the slates nominated by the Rabid Puppies).

What happened
with the puppies in recent years, and the nomination of Hubbard's novel in
1987, were flat-out slates. But there are also more subtle issues with the Hugo
and Nebula Awards, including the reoccurring problem of logrolling, where groups of authors support their friends with nominations
if their friends do the same for them
. This issue was particularly
bad in the genre back in the 1970s and '80s.

Changes to the
Hugo and Nebula Award rules have helped make logrolling less effective, but
there are always rumors it still happens. Thankfully, voters then as now tend
to recognize bad stories which make the final ballot for this reason and rarely
vote for them.

Another subtle
issue with the Nebula Awards is defining what actually counts as campaigning.
In 1982 the novelette "The
Bone Flute
" by Lisa Tuttle won the Nebula Award. Ironically,
this win happened after Tuttle withdrew the story from consideration to protest
the actions of writer George Guthridge, who also had a novelette on the Nebula
final ballot. Guthridge supposedly campaigned for the award by mailing copies
of it to SFWA members along with a cover letter written by F&SF editor Ed
Ferman.

The thinking
back then was that it was unfair to mail copies of a nominated story to all SFWA
members because not all authors could afford the cost to mail their own
nominated stories. Tuttle withdrew her story from consideration to protest this
campaigning, only to later learn her story still won the award.

Back then many
people in SFWA and the genre considered mailing a nominated story to be the
same as campaigning. Today, that norm has changed, with Nebula and Hugo voters
expecting to receive electronic copies of all nominated works.

I think part of
the reason for the explosion of anger and angst over this year's Nebulas is, as
Jemisin said, a culture clash. Perhaps it also indicates that the genre's
cultural norms and expectations around what counts as campaigning for the
genre's awards are evolving, similar to what happened decades before with
"The Bone Flute." 

All that said,
I'm sympathetic to Annie Bellet's anger after what happened to her during
the Hugo Award slate several years ago
. I also appreciate and
respect the statement from Jonathan Brazee, who created the
20Booksto50K recommended reading list
. I believe Brazee's heart was
in the right place with their list even if it had unintended consequences. I'm
glad Annie and Jonathan have worked things out and that others involved in this
also appear to be taking things down a notch. But Annie was still swamped with hate mail and attacks, which is unacceptable.
And many others like Yudhanjaya Wijeratne have also been hurt by
all of this. 

All of this is a
reminder that people in science fiction and fantasy care deeply about our
genre. Even if we disagree and come from different viewpoints and backgrounds
and beliefs, including different avenues and approaches to publishing, our love
of SF/F is still there. You see this in the passion people showed over this
entire Nebula controversy (including the excellent work the writer(s) behind Camestros
Felapton
put into investigating this issue).

Maybe I'm a
naive optimist, but I believe the genre will come out of this controversy
stronger than ever.

Publishing Shorts

Books and Writing News

Open Submissions

Submissions
are now open for the next SFWA Science Fiction StoryBundle
, titled “A
Matter of Time Science Fiction Bundle.” Deadline is March 25, and SFWA
membership is not a requirement for submission or inclusion.

When Science Fiction Comes True

The New York Times
recently ran an essay about reactions
within the sci-fi genre (including the reactions of some authors whose ideas
are regarded as prophetic) when truth seems to imitate fiction
. One author
who expresses a strong opinion within the piece that her work is not prophetic
is Margaret Atwood, whose The Handmaid’s
Tale
, originally published in 1985, is often said now to have presaged many
of the social crises facing today’s population. Atwood is currently working on
a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, the
publication of which The Guardian recently announced will be
marked with a live interview at the National Theatre in London
, to be
broadcast worldwide.

Media Coverage for Authors Still Has a Gender Bias

A recent report details the way male
authors receive more media attention for publications even when they are of
roughly equivalent experience and publishing success.
Profiles and reviews
are also more likely to mention a female author’s age, and female authors have
the sense that outlets treat their work as a hobby rather than a career, or
treat their work as domestic.

In Memoriam                        

Writer and psychiatrist Janet Asimov (born Janet O. Jeppson in 1926) passed away on February 25, 2019. She was a science columnist for the LA Times, and published short fiction in the 1960s under the name J.O. Jeppson. Later, under her married name, she coauthored the YA novel Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot, as well as several other books in the same series,with her husband, Isaac Asimov, who SFWA quotes as saying that “despite the joint byline, Janet Asimov did 90% of the work.”    She continued writing after her husband’s death and also edited a collection of excerpts from his work.

Comics News

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Returns (Again)

Although it’s been twenty years since the TV series ended, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is having a bit
of a nostalgia moment just now, with talk about a potential reboot on TV and,
now, a
new comic from Boom! Studios that offers an updated take on the series
.
According to Olivia Sava at the AV Club, “The emotional core of the series is
still the relationship between Buffy and her friends, but [writer Jordie]
Bellaire, working closely with editor Jeanine Schaefer, has redefined
characters so that they begin with the extra dimensions they gained later in
the series.” For instance, in this new version, Willow starts the series out
with a girlfriend, and adding to Buffy’s tension at home, Buffy’s mom has a
live-in boyfriend. Other fan-favorite characters like Anya, Drusilla, and Spike
are around from the beginning, upping the tension and giving the sense that
this is a perfect version of the series where ideas didn’t have to develop as
much over time.

TV and Movies News

Captain Marvel Shines

As of March 18, Marvel’s new Captain Marvel movie starring Brie Larson had cleared
$760 million at the box office in its first twelve days
, eclipsing the
entire runs of several past comic book movies like Man of Steel and Wonder Woman,
and gaining solid mid-tier monetary returns compared to other movies in the
Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is after an online campaign, as members of some
internet groups bombed movie review sites like Rotten Tomatoes with bad reviews
in an attempt to bury the movie with bad reviews. The New York Times discusses
the changes made by movie review sites like Rotten Tomatoes in response to the
prerelease backlash against Captain
Marvel
, and how this may play out in the future as movie studios
embrace more diversity in their productions.

TV Shorts


We want to hear from you! Let us know what you think about the news of the month on the forum post for this blog entry.


Inside the News

Industry News, February 2019

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.

You May Have Missed:

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.


Inside the News

Industry News, January 2019

TV and Movies

Comic-Related Movies and TV

Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse made comics fans proud on Golden Globes night by breaking
Disney and Pixar’s rarely-broken strangle-hold on the category and swooping
away with Best Animated Picture
.

In other news somewhat related to comics, the
director of Deadpool is teaming up
with the director of Seven to produce
an animated anthology series called Love, Death &
Robots
, comprised of 18 shorts running between 5 and 15 minutes each,
from different filmmakers and directed at adults. The individual shorts will
showcase different styles of animation, and a handful of stills are available at
the above link to give a hint of what they’ll look like.

Netflix Original Series and More

Netflix’s acclaimed sci-fi horror series Stranger Things will return July 4
with a new season focusing on the familiar characters. While the teaser trailer
that’s been released doesn’t offer much in the way of plot hints, it does
suggest that at least some of the action will center around a new Starcourt
Mall arriving in town, and a new character played by Maya Thurman-Hawke, who
will sell ice cream in the food court along with Steve (Joe Keery). Francesca
Reale (Haters Back Off!), Carey Elwes
(The Princess Bride fame) and Jack
Busey (Starship Troopers) will also
appear, and a three-book
prequel series
and behind-the-scenes book are also in the works, if you can’t
get enough of the creepy world of Hawkins.

And in their continuing search for new series, Netflix has ordered an original Shadow and Bone series based on Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows Grishaverse fantasy novels. The series will be run by Eric Heisserer, the writer behind Bird Box, and Shawn Levy, the executive producer of Stranger Things. Netflix is clearly banking on the fact that viewers can’t do without their content – on Monday they made the largest increase to subscription costs since opening the streaming field more than a decade ago, raising prices 13-18%. Whether or not this change will sit well with the audience has yet to be seen, but the stock market certainly approved of the change.

Netflix is clearly banking on the fact that viewers can’t do without their content – on Monday they made the largest increase to subscription costs since opening the streaming field more than a decade ago, raising prices 13-18%. Whether or not this change will sit well with the audience has yet to be seen, but the stock market certainly approved of the change.

TV and Movie Shorts

Publishing News

Short Story Markets

With so many writers focusing on New Year's resolutions around
writing and publishing, I thought I'd mention a bit of good advice for writers
at the start of their careers: Submit to genre short fiction magazines and
markets.

In the interest of disclosure, I give this advice because I love
short fiction. But I've also found short fiction markets to generally be very
open and supportive of new writers.

For example, editor C.C. Finlay recently said that
Fantasy and Science Fiction
"published
63 stories in 2018 (3 novellas, 21 novelets, 39 shorts). 22 (more than a third)
were by writers making their 1st appearance in F&SF. 5 were by writers
making their first pro genre sale." And Finlay added the numbers
from 2017 were almost identical
.

Asimov's Science Fiction is another pro-level SF
magazine which publishes a good number of new writers each year, as does Beneath
Ceaseless Skies
. Both Asimov's
editor Sheila Williams and BCS
editor Scott H. Andrews are known for reading every submission they
receive and for encouraging and publishing works by new writers.

Two other magazines I urge new writers to consider are Interzone
and Black Static. While these
magazines don't pay pro rates, they're known for their high quality stories and
for the attention their authors receive. Editor Andy Cox has an excellent
ability to find stories by new writers in his slush pile. Each year Cox
publishes (by my estimate) a dozen or more new writers who are receiving their
first publication in one of his magazines. 

Genre magazines can also be more open to diverse writers and
stories than traditional publishers. For example, over two-thirds of the
original fiction published by The Dark
last year was written by women and people of color. The Dark, like many other genre magazines, is also open to translations
of genre stories from around the world.

And those are only a few of the genre magazines which actively
seek out stories by new writers. Others worth checking out include Uncanny,
Apex, Clarkesworld
, and Nightmare,
but there are too many to list all of them. 

One reason short fiction markets are so receptive to new writers
is that many writers turn to longer works such as novels as they advance in
their careers. So short fiction magazines have a much larger level of writer
churn than book-length publishers. This means good short fiction editors know
they must continually seek out new writers – which is great news for those
writers.

New Publisher for Space and Time Magazine

Last year Space and Time Magazine said
they would
be closing after 52 years of publication
. However, the magazine
rang in the New Year with the announcement that Angela Yuriko Smith
will
take over as publisher beginning with the next issue (#133), tentatively
scheduled for late spring/early summer 2019. 

Space and Time Magazine was launched in 1966 by
original publisher and editor Gordon Linzner. The magazine faced a potential
shutdown 13 years ago until Hildy Silverman took it over. Now, as the magazine
states, history has repeated itself with another new publisher stepping up to
keep it going.

Beware of Morality Clauses in Author Contracts

Judith Shulevitz offers an
interesting
look at the morality clauses many publishers are trying to insert into their
author contracts
. As an example of these clauses Shulevitz describes the
contract used by Condé Nast
magazines, which states that if in the company’s “sole judgment”  the writer “becomes the subject of public
disrepute, contempt, complaints or scandals,” Condé Nast can terminate the agreement.

As Shulevitz explains, this clause means
“a writer need not have done anything wrong; she need only become scandalous.
In the age of the Twitter mob, that could mean simply writing or saying
something that offends some group of strident tweeters.”

Authors should definitely
beware of these clauses and strongly push back on them.

Publishing Shorts

  • The Flip is a new e-newsletter focused on female leadership in publishing. The first issue goes out January 28. Subscribe here.

Video Game News

Fallout Creators Go to The Outer Worlds

On the heels of significant backlash against Bethesda over the release of Fallout 76, the original creators of Fallout and the developers behind Fallout: New Vegas have announced a new game titled The Outer Worlds. Based on the trailer, the new game would seem to be combining stylistic elements familiar to players of Fallout with a science fiction space setting in a universe where corporations have pushed colonists to the very edges of the universe. No release date has been announced yet, but based on what we’ve seen so far, fans of space RPGs and the Fallout universe will both find something worth looking into here.

Procedural Content Generation

And if you are a game developer, you may want
to read Gamasutra’s piece discussing with a number of developers why
and how to best use procedural content generation
, and how to avoid its misuse.

Gamasutra also offers
a 2018
year in review
with their “top games, devs, events and trends.”

Books and Comic Books News

Kamala Khan Gets a New Creative Team

G. Willow Wilson will be passing the Ms. Marvel torch on to Eisner Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed. Wilson has written the series since Kamala Khan’s debut in 2014, to great popularity and critical acclaim. There’s little doubt that Ms. Marvel will be in good hands, however – in addition to winning the Eisner Award, Ahmed’s Black Bolt series for Marvel was a finalist for the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, and he has recently been writing for Miles Morales: Spider-Man.

SFWA Awards Announced

SFWA has announced William Gibson as their 35th Damon Knight Grand Master for his contributions to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy. The award recognizes “lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy.” In addition, science fiction author and astrophysicist Gregory Benford has been awarded the 2019 Robert A. Heinlein Award, “bestowed for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space.”

Podcasting News

Parsec Awards Respond to Complaint

The Parsec
Awards committee has responded to a complaint
alleging that one of their
2018 winners had “a history of extremely disturbing behavior” with a statement
that the unidentified winner can keep their award and that the committee feels
the 2018 awards were judged in accordance with stated policies and procedures. “It
is the goal of The Parsecs to judge solely on the merit of the content,” the
committee continued, “and not on gender, heritage, religious belief, sexual
orientation, politics, or other factors not in the podcast as presented to the
audience.”

You Might Have Missed

Conventions News

According to Amanda Cherry's Twitter account, Emerald City Comic Con will have a "Consent is Sexy" panel featuring Meg Elison, Jasmine Silvera, Seanan McGuire, Joseph Brassey, Liz Argall, and herself. Emerald City Comic Con features a mix of guests from comics, entertainment, and the literary world, and will be held in Seattle, Washington (USA), on March 14-17.



Inside the News

Industry News, December 2018

Beware of Bad Clauses in Literary Agent Contracts

Recently, a literary agent was criticized online for including this clause in his contract:

"Please note: in the event that the agent sells the work to a publisher who provides no cash advance payment, the author agrees to pay $500 to the Agency in advance of signing the contract - an amount that will be reimbursed through future royalties."

Obviously this clause causes concern because money should flow to the writer, not from the writer to their agent.The clause could also cause a serious conflict of interest for the agent, who might be willing to make a deal not in the author’s best interest because the agent would still be paid by the author.

I tracked down the agent who had included the clause and asked him about it. The agent said he included it because “I have recently sold two books to publishers who do not offer a cash advance but, instead, have slightly higher royalties. The $500 clause simply assures that we are paid for our time and if the book does receive royalties - the author gets paid back in full.”

To the agent’s credit, he decided shortly after we spoke to remove the clause from all his contracts. However, I’ve heard of similar clauses being included on a few occasions in other agency contracts.

Authors should always push back on clauses like this. While publishing is continually changing, with more publishers offering deals that do not carry up-front cash advances, that doesn’t mean authors should pay their agents in such cases. Paying your agent is a slippery slope our genre’s authors do not want to find themselves sliding down.

Pyr Sale

Prometheus Books has sold its two genre imprints, including Pyr, to Start Publishing. Start Publishing is a decade-old press which got its start by licensing Warren Lapine's digital backlist and also by purchasing many of the assets ofNightshade Books when they went under. The company has since grown quickly by purchasing other imprints, a process Start calls "strategic acquisitions."

Some authors are not happy with the deal. One author (who wished to not be named publicly) complained on Facebook about their publishing rights being subject to this secondary sale. However, it appears that there’s nothing authors can do to stop their books from being taken over by Start Publishing.

Beyond how this deal affects authors, I'm curious about Start Publishing's long-term plans. The press appears to be running their business by essentially buying up SF/F works from other publishers, while also releasing a limited number of new books. So far this appears to be working for them, but what their long-term publishing goal is remains to be seen.

What Do the Recent Changes at Tor Mean?

Tor Books has seen a lot of changes this year, with Devi Pillai being named vice president and publisher while Patrick Nielsen Hayden was named vice president and editor-in-chief. In addition, Tor founder Tom Doherty stepped down from his role running the overall company in charge of the publisher.

With Tor being one of the science fiction and fantasy genre's most influential and important book publishers,these changes raise the question: is Tor changing course on what they publish?

In general, the answer appears to be ‘no’. However, it does look like that Tor has reworked how they consider and accept books, with editors having to make more detailed commercial cases for the books they want to accept. Authors should definitely make note of this.

For more details on what all this means and the process by which Tor now considers the books they accept, read this in-depth report.

Book Smugglers Publishing Shifts Focus

In sad news, starting December 31st, Book Smugglers Publishing will shift their business away from selling short stories,novellas, and novels. Run by Thea James and Ana Grilo, Book Smugglers was founded in 2014 and had released a number of highly regarded books over the years. According to the statement released by James and Grilo — who essentially do all the work at Book Smugglers, including reading submissions, editing manuscripts,and publishing and promoting their books — they have decided to focus instead on Book Smuggler’s strengths as a website and as a publisher of short fiction.