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, I checked, and every issue from the year 2015 is available now. (The original article on 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.
- 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,, 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!

Galaktika Magazine: Statement from Istvan Burger

Istvan Burger, publisher of Metropolis Media and Galaktika Magazine, has issued a statement regarding the reports of massive theft of translated work over the past decade.

Mandiner Magazine has a brief summary and the full statement in Hungarian here:

It seems that Burger is offering to compensate authors effected by the theft and admits that the foreign acquisitions have been mishandled and they "did not act with due diligence, caution, or even speed." 

It is unclear whether they are intending to compensate ALL authors effected or only those who appeared in the 2015 issues.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Galaktika Magazine: More Bad Behavior

While emailing with Bence Pintér earlier in the week, he mentioned reports that the Hungarian authors were not being paid for their work on Galaktika either. He also highlighted the theft of a translation of Robert Bloch's "The Shambler From the Stars" which had been reprinted without the translator's consent. (It was one of many pieces that were available to read for free on the web. More about that shortly.) 

This opened up a broader problem. By this point I was certain that the English-language stories were primarily being published without the consent or compensation of the original authors. (I have been able to confirm that work published as early as 2008 was done so without author knowledge or consent. Pintér spoke with an author whose work was published in 2006 without their consent. The full extent of the ongoing piracy is still uncertain.)

Tracking down the translators who were working for Galaktika during 2015 was a little more difficult than contacting the authors involved; all I had were the names in the bibliography and Google. The first few I tried didn't turn up anything immediately useful, but with a little more digging I was able to reach two of the translators who worked with Galaktika in 2015. 

The first (who had translated nine stories over the course of the year) said simply that they were not responsible for the rights involved in the stories. They would receive a request from the publisher (likely Attila Németh - the fiction editor at Galaktika) to translate a specific story, and would return the work once they were done.   

This was a pattern that was confirmed by the second editor. They had worked as a free lance translator for Galaktika for roughly two years and during that time they translated four short stories and two short novels - Close to Critical by Hal Clement (Astounding May, Jun, Jul 1958) and Back to the Future by George Gipe (Berkley, 1985). All of those translations (except for "Back to the Future") were given to them by Attila Németh. 

They said they approached Galaktika for work in 2013. They had already done a couple of translations of Terry Pratchett (with permission from Colin Smythe for the rights) and sent in a letter to ask about possible work. What happened next was eerily familiar. 

 They said: "After a month (in October 2013) they had sent me an answer with a tryout - the short story by Jack London. I translated it, sent it back after about two weeks, and then silence. In January 2014 I accidentally stumbled upon my name in a book published by Metropolis Media - a short story collection by Jack London. So they actually published my text, but they didn't really care enough to tell me. I had to phone them and ask them for a payment which they provided in the form of some books, because I wasn't yet a freelancer at the time."

It was a situation that did not change much even as they worked for them more regularly. " Attila Németh would send me a file without too much explanation and with no deadline, I would translate it, send it back to him, and they would publish it sooner or later.* After they edited the text, he would tell me - after I've bothered him for 3 or 4 times - how much they will pay to me, I would then give them my invoice, and if I was lucky, they would pay a month later, but only if I've phoned them after the payment was due. It happened twice that they only paid after I bothered them for two months."

(The asterisk indicates a note at the end of their email that said: "The only time they didn't do it this way was when I started working on Back to the Future: I actually asked them if they have a translator for it, and in reply they simply sent me the text." [ETA: They asked me to clarify that they did not ask them to translate this work. It was given to them as the others were.])

The files, they discovered, were simply taken from stories posted online. When they noticed errors in the text they were given and did a search via Google, they found the identical text online.

They told me the effort involved to get paid for their work simply became too much and they stopped working for Galaktika. (They also became aware, after the fact, that Polenth Blake's short story - "Never the Same" (Strange Horizons Sep 8 2014) - had been taken without her permission because they contacted her about the translation.)

Another Hungarian author I spoke with said they had sold work to Galaktika in 2006 for which they had received pro-rates, but had since stopped working with the magazine due to (among other things) other authors they knew personally not being paid for their work. They said their feeling was that Hungarian authors and translators had a better chance of being paid because they could always go to the Galaktika offices to demand what was owed.

But the translator I spoke with said they had heard of other translators and Hungarian authors who had never been paid - a fact which was such common knowledge that when they told their friends about the work their first question was "And do they pay you?" They recounted calling István Burger "who was really cocky, like it was by his grace that I was allowed to work for them, because apparently it's him who sends everyone their money. So after Back to the Future I had enough."

It would seem that Galaktika's bad behavior is not limited to the theft and piracy of English-language stories, but a deliberate and continuous pattern of behavior where they attempt to profit off the work of others while making as little compensation as possible to the authors and translators providing the material for the magazine.

The translator concluded by referring to themself as a pawn and also added " I'm so sorry about what happened to these writers, and I'm even sorrier that I worked with them." 

[My original post on the theft of short stories is here.]