OMEC Returns!

Are you ready for six months of incisive, multi-media discussion? The OMEC is back and coming to an internet near you. The theme for this cycle is “vulnerability” and we’ve got six discussion leaders lined up and ready to guide us through all of the theme, craft, and mechanics talk you can stand. Check out the schedule below for the dates, leaders, and the works we will be examining.

 

Illustration, Rhea Ewing: April 13 - May 10

Podcasts, Christian Kelley-Madera: May 11 - June 14

Film/TV, TJ Berry: June 15 - July 12

Comics, Christopher Eric: July 13 - August 9

Prose, Edward A. Hall : August 10 - September 13

  • TBD

Games, N. Theodoridou: September 14 - October 11

  • TAKE by Katherine Morayati

 

Don’t feel like you have to wait to start on the OMEC fun. The discussion thread is up and ready for your thoughts, progress reports, and chat.

 


Inside the News

Publishing News for March 2020

The world changed quickly because of COVID-19.

People are scared. People are worried. People are losing their jobs. People are sick and dying. People don’t know what the future will bring.

But people are also pulling together and helping one another. People are social distancing but keeping each other in their lives. And this is true both for the larger world and the genre world.

Artists and authors are trying to help each other, as with the Society of Authors launching an emergency fund for writers. People are also creating websites such as COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resources, which features info on emergency funding and much more. Others are fundraising to help, such as with Ijeoma Oluo creating the Seattle Artist Relief Fund Amid COVID-19.

For many authors and writers, especially those who support themselves by freelancing, the economic fallout from COVID-19 is frightening. A lot of freelance work is being stopped or put on hold by businesses. In addition, books tours are being cancelled, as are other places where authors promote their work such as conventions. (Locus Magazine is keeping an updated listing of all genre convention cancellations and delays.)

But people are adapting the best they can. The 2020 Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in SF/F Writing was presented virtually, with Rona Wang reading her winning story through Zoom. Many authors are also taking their in-person visits virtual, such as with N.K. Jemisin’s upcoming April 3rd appearance at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

SFWA is also partnering with r/Fantasy to “host their 1st ever virtual con with AMAs, giveaways, & more. Slots are available for April and May.” (For info on how to participate, go here.)

Others are also setting up virtual conventions, with Everywhere Book Fest for kidlit authors, books, and readers being among the first.

I wish I knew how all this would turn out. I wish I could say that people wouldn’t be hurt and devastated in the coming months. But I can’t do that.

What I can say is that during times like these people help each other. As we’re already seeing.

Thinkerbeat Just Ain’t Thinking Right

Thinkerbeat Reader is the submission system and community supporting Unreal and Unfit magazines. However, it turned out the editor behind these sites, Daniel Scott White, had been posting online the names and rankings of many of the magazines’ rejected authors.

Other issues have also been raised about the magazines, including Thinkerbeat Reader requiring a membership fee after the first three months (meaning authors may have to eventually pay to submit).

Many, many people called out the editor and magazines for doing this such as Benjamin Kinney in a very good post on his website. And some authors published or reprinted in the magazines, including Yoon Ha Lee, said they wouldn’t have published there if they’d known what the magazines were doing.

In response to this criticism, you’d think an editor would simply say “my bad,” apologize, and fix the issues. If White had done this the genre would likely have been pretty forgiving.

Instead, White doubled down, telling authors who complained that he was “being disruptive, sure, but that's what it takes to displace other magazines on the way up.” The editor also emailed some accepted authors and said “There's an angry mob on Twitter that is threatening to ban me at the SFWA” and proclaimed the magazines might “put a 'banned by the SFWA' sticker on my next cover. Should be our best selling one yet.”

As an FYI, SFWA doesn’t ban magazines and doesn’t even have the power to contemplate doing so.

For more on the responses from these magazines, see this thread by Diabolical Plots (who runs the respected Submission Grinder website).

Thinkerbeat eventually stopped publishing the ranking and title of stories but they still name rejected authors. Yet there is (note my sarcasm) good news because now the rejection earns you a "Thinkerbeat Award!" The site even urges rejected authors to put the award icon on their websites and social media pages. Sigh.

Other news and info

This thread by Marianne Kirby on how stories must have some hope in them, and how the “big narratives getting pushed on us by corporations are mostly about prolonging agony,” really touched a nerve with me. A must read.


Publishing News for January 2020

One of the great aspects of science fiction and fantasy is how so many people pay it forward and nurture the genre’s next generation of writers.

A prime example of this was award-winning author Vonda N. McIntyre, who sadly passed away in 2019. It has now been revealed that McIntyre “left her literary assets to Clarion West, expressing her wish that ‘the organization manage her literary copyrights in perpetuity.’ She also left a bequest of $387,129 to the program, the largest single financial gift in the organization’s history.”

In addition to winning the Nebula Award for her ground-breaking novel The Moon and the Sun, McIntyre helped rescue Clarion West in the 1980s when the workshop almost had to close.

I never met McIntyre in person but I spoke with her online a number of times and both loved and was inspired by her stories. When I mentioned to her my love for The Moon and the Sun she was kind enough to mail me an autographed copy.

She was always helping others and now, with this bequeath, she’ll help influence new generations of writers.

What a wonderful legacy.

#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines

For the last few months I’ve been working on #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines, a detailed look at science fiction and fantasy magazine publishing in this day and age. This report includes interviews with the editors and publishers of nine major SF/F magazines and includes a good bit of information and behind the scenes details which writers may find useful.

This report is available here and can also be downloaded in the following formats:

An Author’s Guide to Understanding BookScan

If you’re an author or aim to be one, you need to understand a strange force which can affect your writing career: Nielsen BookScan. BookScan tracks the sales of print books in the United States, relying on voluntary reporting of sales numbers by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.

Why does BookScan matter to authors? Because publishers and agents use these numbers to determinate your future potential as an author. If an author tries to land a new agent or publisher, the first thing these people will do is check that author’s BookScan numbers. Low reported sales numbers definitely hurt an author’s career.

Read more about why BookScan matters to authors.

Other News and Info


The Contests Have Closed: The Hunger and the Table

Hey, guess what? We did it! That’s a close on the submission window for Dream Foundry’s first art and writing contests. We had almost 400 submissions total, and our teams are selecting our fabulous finalists. This has been a great experience so far, and I’m looking forward to the results when they arrive.

While we wait, I want to share about why we ran this version of the contests this year. Although we announced the contest as a stretch goal for our Kickstarter, we didn’t wind up funding at that level. We ran the contests anyway. There are many reasons for that, but I’m going to focus on the one I think matters most.

Last November, when the leadership committee met to assess our progress and success so far and establish our goals and plans for 2019, one thing was clear: we were doing well. At that point we’d announced a vision with timelines and goals, we’d done all the hoop-jumping and logistical organizing required to be firmly and formally established, and we were about to launch our first program. About being the key word there. We’d done a lot, all of it important and necessary, but none of it was what we were for. And yet, we were rich in support, well wishes, and people volunteering their time and energy. We’d raised enough money to start strong, mostly because people were hungry for the dreams we were promising.

We looked at the numbers. And the offers. And the plans. There was an opportunity there. That hunger we were seeing? We let it inspire us to be ambitious, and that ambition has been rewarded. Three hundred and ninety-three submissions to a brand new contest from a fairly new organization. That, on its own, is a success. But that’s such a small part of what we’ve seen while we’ve done this.

First, there’s William Ledbetter, who, when asked, dove right in to not only share his experience with writing contest logistics and design, but to spearhead this effort. Then Sara Felix, who just as generously answered when Bill asked her to handle the art side. By the same turn, Rachel Quinlan and Charles Coleman Finlay stepped up when asked to judge. Lisa Rodgers didn’t even wait to be asked, and I’m hoping she enjoys being a judge because otherwise she might think twice before having lunch with me again. Our slush readers? Some volunteered for the job before Dream Foundry had a name or a timeline. That eagerness and enthusiasm, backed by commitment and action, is all over the industry. We jumped on it.

In the process, we found a different hunger.

“Is there an age limit?” youth asked, hungry in a world where there’s a shortage of opportunities for them to be taken seriously as professionals, or potential professionals, and not as children. Adults asked too, people who’ve been busy with lives and work or with careers that delayed their pursuit of their craft beyond the point where anybody says “beginner” and pictures them.

No. No age limit. Come to our table.

“Are there entry fees?” asked people who are used to an ecosystem that feeds on them, at best concentrating resources from many of them to a few, and at worst by actively picking their pockets.

No. No entry fees. Have a snack while you wait.

“Is there a prompt or a theme you have to follow?” asked those who’ve been taught that to pursue their own vision first they have to pay dues to somebody else’s.

No.

We had extra fliers, so I took them around to all the libraries where I am in Chicago. Libraries are great places, full of programs and opportunities to learn and read and practice. Chances to study and discuss. They’re good places to find beginners of all sorts, but especially the arts. It was a small adventure, a tiny side quest in life that would spread the word and let me pop into pockets of community and imagination I wouldn’t necessarily wander into otherwise. What did I find?

Hunger.

By and large, librarians care deeply about their patrons. They have a unique relationship to their needs and hopes, a special opportunity to influence the people they encounter in their professional lives for the better. They respond with a palpable enthusiasm when somebody shows up with fliers and says, “I work with an organization that’s running two contests for beginners. It’s free to enter, and there’s a cash prize. I’d like to make sure people know about it, if that’s okay?”

“No age limit, you said? Can I have two of those?”

Yes.

“Is it okay if they’ve never done anything like this before?”

Oh definitely, yes.

“Would it be all right to tell that art group that meets here about this?”

Yes. Here, take some bookmarks, too.

When I explain Dream Foundry to people, I present it like this: You know the old adage about the best way to build a movie theater? The one that says you find a good spot for a popcorn stand, then put up the marquee? The contest is our marquee. It’s the thing that lets people know we’re there, gets them excited, and prompts them to come in. The real value in us, though, is the popcorn. That’s the everything else. The community. The support. The content and discussions and model of who we are, what we should do, and what we can expect from our colleagues, peers, and ourselves. We’re the popcorn.

Because it feeds that hunger.

There will be finalists, and that will be fun. Then winners, and that will be exciting. It matters. It’s important. But it’s also the capstone on something that is already succeeding in its mission. Three hundred and ninety-three people showed up to our door.

Welcome. Come in. We’ve got room at the table and we’re serving dinner soon. There’s something for everyone, and a ton of popcorn.


Inside the News

Publishing News for September 2019

Market Analysis of DreamForge Magazine

DreamForge Magazine is a new science fiction and fantasy magazine which seeks “Positive stories demonstrating the triumph of the human spirit and the power of hope and humane values in overcoming the most daunting challenges.” 

In my most recent Genre Grapevine column, I wrote a market analysis of the magazine, focusing on the magazine's positive aspects for writers (pays 6 to 8 cents/word, has good contracts, publishes a nice print and e-book edition) while also raising concerns about other aspects of the magazine (possible connections with the Writers of the Future contest, editor publishes his own stories in magazine, and the tone of feedback in rejection letters).

Editor Scot Noel was nice enough to respond to all these points. In addition he discussed the magazine's very specific guidelines, including what he means by looking for stories about "the rule of law and liberty under the law.”

To read Noel’s response, go here.

Rights Grab by Canada's Largest SF/F Publisher

I've long been a fan of Hades Publications, the largest Canadian science fiction and fantasy publisher. In particular, I’ve read a number of books from their EDGE imprint along with many editions of the annual Tesseract anthology of Canadian SF/F.

However, after seeing a new contract from Hades Publications, I question why any author would publish with them.

The contract is for the anthology Fantastic Trains: An Anthology of Phantasmagorical Engines and Rail Riders, edited by Neil Enock, and was mailed to authors within the last few months. The contract asks for the “exclusive right to reproduce and/or publish (in book or other form, including electronic form, including audio form, including print on demand form)” the short stories contained in the anthology.

Note the norm for most short fiction magazine and anthology contracts is first English language serial rights throughout the World, or nonexclusive rights, or a combination of these.

Payment from Hades for giving up exclusive rights to your original short story? As the original guidelines state, only $50 to $150.

Now I understand some large, high-paying short fiction anthologies ask for exclusive rights. But when they do they usually only ask for exclusivity for a specific period of time. The author is then free to sell reprints of the story elsewhere. But the EDGE contract lists no end-date for this exclusive rights grab.

In addition, exclusive rights is not what this anthology’s submission guidelines originally asked for. As the Web Archive of the guidelines states, “Rights: for original fiction, first World English publication, with a two-month exclusive from publication date; for all, non-exclusive anthology rights; all other rights remain with the author.”

Which is far from what the new contract states.

But the exclusive rights issue may not be the worst thing in the EDGE contract. As EDGE publisher Brian Hades stated in the contract email sent to authors, “For the last year I've been working towards an agreement that will allow us to present our author's Works to an agency that will explore various options to develop, produce, promote and license derivative and conceptual properties based on the author's Work.”

Basically, Hades is talking about a derivative rights grab, allowing his press the rights to (per the contract) “film, live-action and animated motion pictures, television, live-action and animated television productions, video, radio, cinema, stage, games, animation, toys, merchandise, mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR), Virtual reality (VR), graphic novels, comic books, theme parks, casual gaming, console gaming, trading card, board, and physical games, live events, and all other uses of the Work.”

In return for giving all this up, authors would receive 50% of net receipts received by the publisher.

On a good note, this derivatives grab is contained in an addendum to the contract and Hades says authors don’t have to sign the addendum. But it still doesn’t belong in a contract for a short story anthology.

Authors should be very careful about signing EDGE’s new contract with these terms. 

Update on Dreamspinner Press

The financial hole that is Dreamspinner Press continues to deepen, as previously reported in this column. The publisher still hasn’t paid many authors and is now promising to “catch up” on what is owned.

Here’s the letter they sent to authors the other day, which implies that Dreamspinner owes $100,000 is unpaid royalties to authors. I mean, if they don’t owe at least that much why would the give an example of how they’d repay that amount? For more, see this Sept. 4 letter Dreamspinner also sent to authors.

Important to note that in a tweet on Sept. 6 author TJ Klune revealed he is owed $27,448 in royalties by Dreamspinner.

Weird Tales Update

The first issue of the new Weird Tales has been released and features an impressive author list, including Victor LaValle (one of my favorite authors), Josh Malerman, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lisa Morton, Tori Eldridge and Jonathan Maberry. As previously reported in this column, the new Weird Tales aims to be aligned with Ann VanderMeer’s editorial vision when she ran the magazine from 2007 to 2012. Based on the authors and impressive production values, it appears they are doing just this.

In a recent Facebook post James Aquilone confirmed that he’s the magazine’s new managing editor while announcing Jonathan Maberry as the executive editor — which is err, slightly weird, since Maberry has one of his stories in the first issue, which isn’t common practice for magazine editors. But I suspect many readers will give them a pass for this because Mayberry’s name may draw people to the magazine.

That said, the issue is pricey, costing “$12.99, plus $4.99 shipping and handling within the USA.” I’ve yet to see any word on how the magazine is handling distribution or if it will be available in e-editions.

Other News and Info


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.


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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.


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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


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