Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fragments (The Weird Ones - Chapter 1)

It's always interesting looking back at older projects. Sometimes I just want to burn them, but every now and then, I find something that is interesting, even if it makes me roll my eyes a little.

This one is the beginnings of a novel that I remember had The Lady of the Lake after she left England and went to live in the mountains of Kentucky. I also remember that there was some sort of conflict between various magic-wielding groups that centered around the twins born in the first chapter of the book. And I had just read all of Charles Williams novels. So there is a fair amount of allegorical overtones.

This is just the first chapter. I'll probably type up the others at a later point, just for fun. Always interesting to see where I was pushing on various bits of style and craft at a particular time. This was written about 2006-2007, I think. No dates on it, just a bunch of handwritten pages, so it might be from a little later.


Chapter 1: Birth

The labor was long, drawing on through the hot green afternoon into the soft warm night until, in the mysterious grey hours before dawn, the girls had finally come.

The eldest emerged in a healthy glow, skin all roses and cream beneath the birth fluids, eyes opening bright and blue, fair hair wisping from her head in nearly invisible strands. She looked up at the midwife and chuckled, a bright and innocent sound that immediately dispelled the pain and struggle that had haunted them through the past hours.

With quick, competent hands, the midwife separated her from the umbilical cord and gave her to her daughter to clean and wrap.

The Lady lay on the bed, strength fading after the long night, and the midwife spoke reassuringly.

“One more now. We almost done.”

Ansley stirred, raising her head a little. “One more?”

“She’ll come easy after the first.”

They began again. The midwife singing low and rich, the mother sobbing as she writhed in the grip of the contractions that felt they would tear her in two. But the midwife was right - the second child came quickly.

As the babe came forth, the midwife felt a horror strike her. The child was much smaller than her sister, born too soon to be fat and strong. There was no deformity, to all appearances she was healthy. Just too small, too still, too cold.

Silent, the midwife cut the cord, rubbed tiny hands and feet, opened the small mouth and blew air into her lungs. But there was no response.

“Lady,” she said. And there was such a note of a grief in her voice that she needn’t say any more.

Ansley began to weep, soft and low, a sorrow beyond words.

But the midwife’s daughter looked at the cold, still babe and said, “She is not yet beyond hope.”

The mother and the midwife both knew the infant could yet be saved, but neither had the instinct to do so - tired after the long night.

But the girl was not so old nor so practical as her mother or the babe’s. She knew only, with the clarity which is the constant companion of the very young, that the infant’s life could readily be saved. That knowledge grew in her with such power that when she spoke her voice was older and strange in her mouth, though it was no less certain.

“She is not yet beyond hope.”

The babe’s mother stirred. She was ashamed of her own lack of courage, but that shame could not overwhelm her love and she sparkled with hope that perhaps what she feared to do, this young woman would accomplish.

The midwife looked at her daughter with narrow eyes, wanting to disbelieve this truth and so absolve her own hesitation. But the girl, normally so timid in her mother’s presence, held out her arms with such surety it was as if she had spoken a command.

The woman handed the cold, still babe to the girl and now her doubt was tinged with malice as she allowed herself to hope perhaps her daughter was wrong and nothing could be done. As she surrendered the child to the more innocent girl, she muttered, “The curse will have its way.”

To which she responded lightly, “ The curse will be undone.”

Kneeling, she laid the infant in her lap and lifted the tiny, pale head in her slender, dark hands. Leaning close she spoke gently, but with purpose. “I freely give that which I have for you to take of what you will. For I have been given much.” And she breathed on her.

At that moment the other babe cried out with the same joyful chuckle as before, magnified by recognition of the words I have been given much. Her voice, though small, was clear, and the echoes chimed throughout the house.

Her sister took a breath and opened her eyes, dark and somber. And she too cried out and the whole house trembled with it, the great arches outside ringing in affirmation, for the second voice and its small cry spoke not only of life given, but also grace.

Ansley, lying weak on the bed, felt her spirits life and she allowed herself to hope that her cowardice would not haunt her forever.

Tiana, kneeling on the floor with the babe still in her arms, knew that she would no longer stand in the shadow of her mother.

The midwife, crouched beside the bed, looked at the infants with malice growing in her heart. She did not yet realize she hated them nor would she ever understand why. But in that moment, when her daughter, glowing with justice and mercy, so lightly tossed aside her fear, the midwife began to hate the twins.

Ansley held both her daughters in her arms and fresh tears poured down her cheeks, though these were sweet, not bitter. “My daughters,” she said. “How beautiful you are.”

The twins who were not twins looked at each other - bright blue eyes meeting dark black eyes; rosy fingers reaching lazily toward an ivory fist. The extraordinariness of the moment was lost to them as all such moments are to the very young. Life and grace seem only unusual to those who have lost their innocence. To the newborn girls every moment was simply love and grace.

They expected no less.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Cooling Down - Update 5.6.16

Sorry for the radio silence the past few weeks.

I went to the Steampunk Expo and Gothic Con in Chattanooga, TN back in mid-April, and when I got back, I decided to buckle down and finish up the Epic Not Fantasy Novel. (More formally titled Survivor.)

I'd been working on that book off and on since last year, originally starting it with the thought that it would be a quick little novella and then slowly developing it into something longer, more epic and covering two volumes. Because that's just how I roll.

Survivor has a lot of structural elements of a Fantasy, but at its core its straight SF. In fact, its one of the few things I've written that has nary a whiff of magic about it. Of course, it's set in a post-apocalyptic world where even electricity is a bad word and computer programming is considered a downright dark art. (Which is only natural if one lived in the centuries following a series of wars where sentient Machine had nearly wiped out humanity.)

It's a sprawling little epic with airships and retro-steam tech, sentient gorillas who grudgingly work alongside their smaller, weaker and much less hairy cousins, and an exploration about the self-determining prophecy of fear.

It's also done!

Well, the first draft anyway. I finished up the last scenes this morning, bringing the word count in close to 90k and a manuscript page count of 466. Which makes me very happy. That gives me room still to polish and add in some bits and pieces where I might need without worrying if I have to take out anything that it'll get too small or too big.

I'm also looking forward to getting the edits on Of Lips and Tongue, the first novella in the Touch trilogy coming out from Falstaff Books later this summer.

But before I tackle revisions on Survivor or edits on Of Lips and Tongue I intend to sit down with my brand new copy of Hellboy in Mexico and veg for a bit. I think I might have earned it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Galaktika Magazine: Getting Paid

Just a quick note today.

Polenth Blake is reporting they have been paid by Galaktika Magazine for the publication of their (translated) story, Never the Same.

They say they were offered copies in lieu of payment, then told $20 was the new standard monetary payment, but they requested $50 and were paid accordingly.

Doug Smith had originally listed Galaktika's payment terms as $50-$100 per short story plus contributor copies.

This is good news, as it means the staff at Galaktika are making some effort to make good on the payment their guidelines initially promised. I encourage authors to whose work was stolen to pursue that payment and not opt for copies only. (Remember that Katalin Mund said just last week those magazines are no longer available for purchase, but it has been pointed out that they will continue to sell the physical copies from their office - via the website or in person - for an indefinite period of time. This means they will continue to seek profit from the work that was originally stolen.)

I strongly encourage authors published in the bigger SF/F magazines in the US or England since the early 2000s to check the Galaktika Bibliography and make certain their work is not among those that were stolen. Primary targets were big name magazines that offered some or all of their content for free online at some point following the initial publication (Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Asmiov's, Analog, etc). Other typical targets are folks who were published in slightly older anthologies, that then posted their short stories on their blog at a later date. 

If you have been effected, the contact person is Katalin Mund and she can be reached at mund dot katalin at gmail dot com

[Unsure what all the fuss is about? You can start here - Galaktika Magazine: Theft on a Massive Scale and then read more about it here: Mandiner Article in English, Galaktika Magazine: More Bad Behavior, Galaktika Magazine: By Way of Explanation, Galaktika Magazine: Legacy]

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Galaktika Magazine: Legacy

Several things happened this morning in regard to Galaktika Magazine.

First, Katalin Mund, manager of Galaktika Magazine responded to Cat Rambo's request for further clarification on several points following the initial statement made by Istvan Burger on Friday.

Second, I was contacted by Eric Brown, who told me his story, The Time-lapsed Man (Interzone #24 1988) had been published without his permission in a 1994 issue of Galaktika.     

Third, comments from a Hungarian reader pointed out that back-issues of Galaktika are still available to purchase through the website or in person at their main offices. (More on this in a moment.) 

Mr. Brown's story was stolen during the first iteration of Galaktika - when it was owned by Mora Publishing, and run by Péter Kuczka and Judit Trethon (who have both passed away in recent years). At first I wondered whether to even mention this. 

As Metropolis Media has made clear to Mr. Brown, they do not have any responsibility for the actions of the previous publishing house. And (as Malcolm Cross pointed out in a previous post) Galaktika was originally published in a much different political and economic climate. With the folks involved in the theft of work during the '90s already gone, perhaps there isn't a point in bringing it up. 

But if we are to consider the legacy of Galaktika, we must also consider how the current publisher and staff members acquire their foreign work. That means considering how they intend to address the issue going forward. That is a question they have not addressed.

Mr. Burger and Mr. Nemeth have offered vague explanations that are, quite frankly, not satisfactory given the number of years this theft has occurred. But whether it was ignorance or laziness or just the inclination that if they could get away with it, they would, something has to change drastically going forward.

I would really like to think that the offer to provide compensation for the authors whose work has been stolen indicates the problem has been resolved. Although requiring the individual authors be aware they've been stolen from and making them responsible for seeking payment does not seem a good faith step.

And there is the question that Cat Rambo raised regarding whether authors could or would be able to request their work withdrawn from Galaktika. She referenced a potential online edition (which is seems there is not one), but the response from Katalin Mund was as follows.

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works.
As I mentioned earlier, a comment from a Hungarian reader promptly revealed the misrepresentation of that statement.
 They state it, but this is a flat-out lie. Nearly ALL back issues are available for ordering on the publisher’s webshop, http://galaktikabolt.hu/. I checked, and every issue from the year 2015 is available now. (The original article on mandiner.hu was about the magazine’s 2015 issues.) They're not digital copies, the physical, paper-based issues are still sold.
At the very best, Mund and Galaktika are misrepresenting the situation regarding further sales of the pirated work. And this is key - they are selling that work.

Free piracy sites for novels are not entirely uncommon. And, while they are certainly problematic, they mainly rely on income from ads rather than attempting to sell the [electronic] books that they are providing for download. (There are also some arguments made that those who will grab a book for free from such "collections" are generally not folks who would have purchased it in the first place.)

But Galaktika has been selling the work they've stolen, and using the names of big authors (folks like Tom Hanks and John Scalzi) to draw readers and add legitimacy to their publication. To represent that they will no longer be doing so is misleading at best and tends point to a continuing legacy of excuses and bad behavior.


Galaktika Magazine: Authors Must Seek Compensation

As Cat Rambo has posted on her blog today, Galaktika Magazine has responded to some of her questions regarding compensation to the authors whose work was stolen.

It is important to note that authors whose work has been stolen must contact Galaktika.

We'd like to ask authors to contact us directly to agree on compensation methods. You can give my email address to the members. mund.katalin@gmail.com
- Katalin Mund
They also state that there is no need for work to be withdrawn as the print copies are no longer for sale. But there is no mention made of how they intend to address the chronic theft from this point forward.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Galaktika Magazine: By Way of Explanation

Following the publication of Bence Pintér's article on Galaktika's theft of short fiction during 2015, the publisher, István Burger, and editor, Attila Németh, came under scrutiny from the SF/F community. Their response was interesting. 

Mr. Németh said he had recently been dealing with personal issues and, being somewhat overwhelmed, he had passed the responsibility of seeking permission for foreign reprint rights on to others. He had not realized there was a problem until it was brought to his attention by the Mandiner article. (He also referred to the accusations of theft as "lies" and claimed it was being blown out of proportion by a rival publishing house.) 

Then, on April 8, 2016, István Burger published a statement regarding the allegations made against Galaktika regarding theft of short stories published during 2015. Although he did not issue the statement in English (an interesting choice given that many of those effected by the theft of their work do not read Magyar), several online translation services offer up the following basic points.

1. The Mandiner article brought the unauthorized publication of the translated short stories to the attention of the international community and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA). 

2. Galaktika has tried to publish high quality SF/F from both Hungarian and international authors as part of the long-standing tradition of the magazine. 

3. The staff has not acted with the proper diligence, caution or speed in regard to acquiring foreign rights. 

4. Some sort of compensation is being offered to those affected by the theft of their work, but the specifics are not yet determined.  

Let me pause for a moment and say that the offer of compensation is a step in the right direction. However, neither Mr. Burger or Mr. Németh have addressed the underlying issue. 

This is a chronic and widespread issue of theft. It is not just the stories published in 2015 (of which there are many), but work that was published as far back as 2008. 

If we were to look only at the authors who had a single story published without their permission, like Aliette DeBodard, Polenth Blake, Malcolm Cross, and Lily Yu, we might be able to accept at face value the explanations being offered in defense of Galaktika. (Although it is still important to note their work was published back in 2012.) If we consider that some authors, like Lisa Goldstein and Tanith Lee, had been published by Galaktika before it was rebooted in 2004, we might be able to assume this was just an occasional misunderstanding. (But we should still remember they had not given permission for their work to appear in more recent issues.)

But then there are authors like Elizabeth Bear, who never submitted work to Galaktika, and who had two different stories published without her consent - one in 2008 and one in 2015. Authors like Kij Johnson who had four stories published without her knowledge or consent - in 2009, 2010, 2014, and 2014/2015, respectively. (The last - The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles, Tor.com, 2009 - was published twice.)

This pattern is more than a lack of diligence or caution or speed on the part of the publishing staff at Galaktika. It is not an occasional oversight or misunderstanding of previous contracts. This is habitual theft.

Remember that the vast majority of these authors never submitted their work for consideration, there was no implication of giving their permission for the translation and publication of their stories in Galaktika. Rather, their work was copied from other, paying publications online without any attempt to contact the original publisher, editor or author, and then printed for profit in Galaktika. That is not a mistake, that is theft.

Cat Rambo, current president of SFWA, said she is still trying to obtain a copy of István Burger's statement in English and there are still questions to be answered. (How soon can authors expect to receive payment? Will authors be able to request their work be pulled from Galaktika? Will Galaktika contact all those involved to arrange compensation or will they put the responsibility on the individual to contact them and make a claim?) 

And the question remains, what will Mr. Burger and Mr. Németh do going forward? 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Cover Reveal! Of Lips and Tongue

I'm pleased to announce that my Southern Gothic novella trilogy, Touch, is forthcoming from Falstaff Books.

I've been sitting on this news since the beginning of March, but the time has come to share! My lovely, creepy novellas are going to be out soon. Ish. I can't tell you how excited I am that y'all will be able to get your hands on these books. (I love all my books, but these are especially special to me.)

Today I can give you a look at the cover for the first book, Of Lips and Tongue, and a tiny peek at how it all begins.

"On a hot July day, Mama went cracked, locked my sisters and me in the tool shed, and lit us up like  a Christmas tree.

Addie, being the eldest, tore apart every shelf looking for something to break down or pry open the door, but Mama was cleverer than that; all that was left was the jars of turpentine and cans of old paint and the stacks of paper that were meant for the church fundraiser. Smoke curled in around the edges and every board was lined in shimmering red. I knew, right then, we weren't getting out."

Coming Soon from Falstaff Books!