Piracy etc…

If it isn’t hard enough these days attempting to scrape a living as a freelance writer – and a freelance writer of fiction, which is even harder – you have various obstacles in your path. One of many are the websites which offer your work for free, or sometimes at a minimal charge. These sites have scanned your books and stories and offer them for download.

I saw one site which vaunted that it was providing the reading public with a ‘service that all book-lovers will love!’. Which claim is, of course, rubbish. These sites are run by opportunistic pirates. They are stealing authors’ works – novels and stories it has taken us weeks and months and sometimes years to create. Far from offering a service, they are depriving writers of income. As a book lover, the reading public should avoid these sites.

The other obstacle to a freelance writer earning a crust is publishers who steal your work.

I’ve been fortunate, on the whole, in only having had a few short stories and one book stolen in this way.

Galaktika, a Hungarian SF magazine, was infamous for ripping off foreign authors (and Hungarian authors, too, presumably). Twenty years ago it came to my notice that my short story “The Time-Lapsed Man” had appeared in translation in Galaktika 163, April 1994. I’d not been contacted by the editor, one Kuczka Peter, for permission to translate the tale, and of course I wasn’t paid for it. I managed to track down a copy of the magazine and found that I was in good company: the contents list included the likes of Aldiss, Ballard, Brunner, Bayley, Clarke and Watson. I wrote to the editor, asking for recompense, and heard nothing.

So it goes.

In 2000, the indefatigable Molly Brown emailed me to ask if I knew that the Japanese magazine ‘S-F’ run by Hayakawa Publishing had published two of my stories: a collaboration with Stephen Baxter “The Spacetime Pit”, and “The Time-Lapsed Man”, in issues number 471 (September 1995) and 499 (January 1998) respectively. Molly had had a tale printed without payment – and sure enough the powers that be at Hayakawa had neglected to pay me (and, as it happens, a host of other foreign authors).

Molly had a lawyer friend who kindly drafted a form letter, demanding payment and interest from the company. I sent the letter to the address supplied, expecting to hear nothing back. Imagine my surprise when I not only received a letter expressing consternation and apologies at ‘this unfortunate oversight’, but full payment for the published stories, plus a numbers of years’ interest.

All’s well that ends well.

It wasn’t such a happy ending with the only book stolen from me. Back in 1998 I signed a contract with the French publisher Henri Dhellemmes, who ran DLM Editions in Montpellier, for a short story collection entitled Odyssées aveugles. It duly came out in a neat paperback edition – but the payment for the book (only four hundred pounds – but money I’d rather be in my bank account than Henri’s) never appeared. I emailed the fellow, of course, but he deigned not to reply.

I’ve since had a couple of holidays in or around Montpelier, and I really should pop in and see him.

Failing that, Henri, if you ever read this – have the decency to cough up.


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