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.