Sunday, November 10, 2019

This Mess With ChiZine

My novel Napier's Bones was published a number of years ago by ChiZine. It sold well, and I saw a decent amount of money from it, for a small press. Like lots of other authors, apparently, I often had to go digging for that money, and I did bring it up with two other authors over time. Once in person at a convention, and that was greeted with a shrug, a "Whaddaya gonna do?" The second time was via email, and I was told they were having the same problem.

But I would push, and get a response, and eventually see the money. Or at least some of the money. But every time a promise was made, that promise was broken, and I would have to push again.

I realize now I should have yanked the book. I had considered doing so a couple of times, but in both instances money arrived and I let the thought fade away.

I live a different life than a lot of other authors. I work a full-time blue collar job, my wife has an excellent academic career, and we have two adult sons, one we just finished putting through university, the other in his 3rd year. We are not wealthy, but we do just fine, thank you. Starving artist I ain't.

I also spent two or three years seriously considering giving up on this writing biz altogether. Frustration, not just with ChiZine but also with certain other people and groups had conspired to leave me exhausted and disinterested. Time spent as the Canadian Regional Director and then publicity director for SFWA and newsletter editor and then president of SF Canada soured me on groups and groupthink, I stopped attending conventions, dropped a whole shitload of Facebook friends and contacts (many of them have sought me out afterward, and that's just fine).

All this is to explain I had no contact with the "whisper network," did not even know such a network existed.

I need to tell you something else. Before we each got married to our respective spouses, many years ago, Sandra from ChiZine and I had a brief romantic relationship, although mostly long distance. It didn't end badly, it just... ended. My view of this may therefore be considered by some to be skewed, and that's fair.

So I'm not going to badmouth people for things I did not witness, and I'm not going to share stories about anything I did experience, because I don't think they are important to this situation. I will note however that there are many editors and publishers and authors who fall into the category of asshole, and if that was all this was there really wouldn't be anything there.

But it isn't, and aside from my own issues, I believe the people who have come forward. And it breaks my damn heart to see people I knew and liked back in the day having been put through so much.

I also frustrates me - not, I should note, to the level of being pissed off, since we all deal with these traumas in our own way - that I didn't know. That none of these people ever thought to mention any of this to me, or that they were afraid if they did so I would sell them out.

As if the years I spent working hard for them and their rights meant nothing.

But those days were long years ago, and maybe everyone forgot what I once did. Hell, sometimes I forget, it's been so long. And if I knew it was happening to me, then probably I should have opened my eyes and assumed it was happening to others.

What's done is done, though. I've asked for and received an accounting of the year's royalties, but the immediate response I got was followed by silence when I pointed out a possible discrepancy. I will give it a few more days before deciding what the next step will be.

One more thing: A certain review site came on Twitter and blasted CZP and the complicit authors (and really, I have no idea how many there might be, because I really still am out of touch) but worded it thus: "Chizine seems to be rife with shady practices, and vile authors..."

I called them out on this, suggesting this sounded like they were happy to lump all CZP authors in with this group, and was told I was "nit picking a badly worded phrase" and I should "excuse the phrasing."

Oh, and that they had "never even heard of" me.

Here's the thing. I had never heard of them, either, but that wasn't important. This is a big tent, unruly and bursting at the seams but always growing larger nonetheless, and we're not going to know everybody. But unless someone has done wrong by you or your compatriots, there is no need to shit on them.

So for those few people who lived the tweets this review site wrote in response to me, I will remember. It's not a threat, nothing with meat on it, just self-preservation. If I ever do attend a con again and we find ourselves in the same space I will just walk away, cause no scene, just ghost. Because life is too short, you know?

Late addendum: Here's a link that helps explain much of what has gone on.

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