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? 

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