Then things exploded. Stories by others associated with the press, either having "worked" for (I put worked in quotation marks, because payment was not something they often did) or volunteered with them, and other authors expression concerns about behaviour and non-payment. Some of it was truly sickening; verbal and emotional abuse that I found extraordinarily triggering. I watched unfold over last Thursday and Friday with my jaw hanging open, my heart in my stomach, and my mind whirling.
I knew ChiZine a little. Not well. But a little. Or I thought I did. They always seems like interesting folks. Their humour was on the snarky side, which I tend to appreciate, though it was never, in my hearing at least, cruel. In fact, the only thing I can remember of our interactions was some light teasing of Derek Kunsken, actually. This is not to say that I don't believe the victims of their malice. I absolutely do. I think, at this point, given all the stories and all their similarities, you'd have to be willful ignorant to not. It's just a way, I suppose, of me trying to explain my shock when the accusations dropped.
It's a shock that has deepened upon learning of all the financial fraud that may have taken place; including fraud against Canadian arts grants. If you want a fairly good summary of it all, with outside links to other resources, I highly recommend this post by High Fever Books. Start at the bottom and work up through each update. It just gets worse and worse.
Despite all I've personally experienced, and all I see in the world around me, I'm surprised I can still be shocked by this. I guess there are enough wonderful folks around me that it keeps me believing that people are fundamentally good.
In any case, the shock was real, probably exacerbated by the triggering effect it had, and it's taken me the better part of the weekend to really get to grips with it all.
My heart is broken, not because one of Canada's brightest success stories is likely a fraud (that doesn't break my heart, it makes me angry), but, more importantly, for all the people impacted by this sordid mess. How many careers has this ended? My heart breaks for all the authors who put their trust in this publisher, and were burnt by it. For those poor souls who poured countless hours of unpaid work into the publisher, only to be eviscerated by them. For those people who are now too scarred to write, to submit, to tell the stories that so desperately need to be told, who cannot edit or format without even staring at words on a page like they're triggers.... I can't imagine how devastated I would be to be one of those authors, how it might have beaten me down so badly that I would never, ever seek publication again. Being caught in this mess might have ended me.
Hell, I'm not even published by them and this whole thing wrecked me for a weekend.
Here is what I would ask of anyone who is feeling betrayed by ChiZine: The authors are not responsible for the behaviour of their publisher. In fact, many authors are so appalled at the news coming out of this that's they've asked for their rights back, or sought to otherwise nullify their contracts (to ChiZine's credit, they've been quite good about reverting rights and nullifying contracts). This has made me feel a little better. It takes courage to stand up for what's right, to take a moral position and stick to if, even if it jeopardises your career. I'm so proud of those authors, and want to hug each and every one of them. It can't have been an easy decision. I'll say nothing of those who are more upset about ChiZine's predicament than the lives and health of the authors, artists, publicists, editors and formatters they've so callously fucked over.
So, try as hard as you can to not hurt the authors further. They're already hurting. If you can, find a way to support them. They'll need it.
Honestly, I had submitted to ChiZine a few years ago, hoping to be included in what was to the outside eye a powerfully rising star in the Canadian speculative fiction scene. They rejected me. A simple form rejection. At the time I was quite bummed about it. Now, I think they're might be someone out there looking out for me. Whomever or whatever it is is not granting me giant successes, but it does seem to be steering me away from sparkling chests of treasure, which later turn out to be mimics after all.
I have never been so relieved to have been rejected by a publisher in my life.
Lastly, I want to make special mention of my own small press, Renaissance Press. They have been wonderful to work with, and I couldn't be more proud to be included in their family. I don't sell very many books, so while the royalties will not be buying me a house, I've not ever had to worry about non-payment. I've always been kept in the loop when things are affecting timelines. I've felt looked after and valued by them, not just as an author, but as a person. Nathan, one of the press' founders, said to me, "your people are your business card.
I don't understand why you wouldn't look after them." He's right, you know.
So, thank you, Renaissance Press, for being kind, honest and inclusive. Thank you for the email you sent checking in on us to make sure we were alright when the news about ChiZine broke (I was not). I am so grateful to be a part of your little press, and I genuinely look forward to the day when you are as recognisable a household name in publishing as ChiZine was.
To everyone hurting right now, I'm so, so sorry. You don't deserve what happened to you. Sending you much love, and I am available for hugs if you need it. Tea (it fixes everything) and a shoulder to cry on, as well.
All my love.