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.]

1 comment:

Andrew Porter said...

I have sent the link for this to various people, including Publishers Weekly, Writer Beware, and various other news blogs and editors.