Friday, December 31, 2010

Safety Check: The Antidote for Accidental Plagiarism

My last blog post for 2010.... As for 2011? Bring it on!

I was scanning my Facebook news feed last week, on Tuesday, December 21, when I happened upon a post by Nicola Griffith; her blog appears to be linked to her FB account, so when she publishes a new blog post it also posts to FB. The blog post is entitled "Accidental plagiarism: a terrifyingly narrow escape." The idea of "accidental plagiarism" totally intrigued me, so I clicked on the link; Nicola began her blog post with the following:

Last week I wrote a funeral scene that pleased me enormously. Wrenching, raw, powerful. Wow, I thought, I nailed that! I kept coming back to two images I'd used, one in dialogue, "mothers are such wingless things," the other in description, "lullaby, with elegy blowing through it." I couldn't stop thinking about them. I kept pulling up the paragraph and re-reading. I couldn't let it go. (This is not normal behaviour for me, FYI. I love beautiful prose, but I don't generally fall in love with my own. I'm a believer in prose serving story and character, not standing out from it.) Gradually, I grew unsettled. Then suspicious. These images didn't feel quite right. Good, yes; evocative, absolutely; perfect for the period, no doubt. But not right.

I tried to trace their origins back through that labyrinthine machine I call my writing mind, and the trail petered out.

After much worry and soul-searching, Nicola finally gave in and keyed those two wonderful text images into Google, and discovered that she had taken the words verbatim from a poem. She goes on to say:

I've never believed those sad sack writers who, when pilloried for plagiarism, wail, "It was accidental!" But now it's happened to me. Well, almost; I caught it long before publication.

But it feels like a very narrow escape.

This has always been a huge fear of mine, but from an editorial perspective, and I said as much in a comment to Nicola's FB post:

As an editor, one of my fears is that I will allow a book or story to get past me, one in which the author has knowingly plagiarized content with which I'm not familiar, but yet the content is just well-known enough that others will catch it -- too late!

As I've said previously (and probably on numerous occasions), I haven't read everything, certainly very little poetry (though I have read Ginsberg's "Howl," and the like, in a past life), so plagiarized content sneaking past me is always a possibility. Though the author is inevitably responsible for the content of his/her manuscript, allowing plagiarized content to see print certainly won't help my reputation as an editor.

Anyhow, my comment on Facebook led to some further comments from, among others, Kit Reed, Lee-Anne Phillips, Geoffrey A. Landis, and Ian Watson, as follows:

Kit Reed google is your friend in every event. Not the title, but type in a string and you'll probably find out who did what.

Lee-Anne Phillips The truly memorable phrases are probably the ones to watch out for, the words so wonderful you wish you'd written them. "Joe stepped into the bar and took a look around. The usual seedy characters were there..." is commonplace. Who'd bother to lift it? Who'd care? "There is a tide in the affairs of men," on the other hand...

Geoffrey A. Landis Frightening indeed. My mind is full of bits and pieces of things I've read, and half-remembered images and words; I just have to hope that my memory is so bad that I couldn't actually lift something in a complete enough form for it to be plagiarism.

Ian Watson Actually, I anticipated this problem in Interzone ("How To Be a Fictionaut: Safety Check", April 1996) :-) but I don't suppose I can add the complete 5 pages as a Facebook comment... Oh what the deuce, let's see what happens!

Monday, December 27, 2010

DI Chen Finally Turns 5 Redux

In my December 1 blog post, "DI Chen Finally Turns 5," I presented Reece Notley's cover art for the ebook editions of novel The Iron Khan by Liz Williams, and published by Morrigan Books. If you've been anticipating the fifth Detective Inspector Chen novel, and ebooks are your media of preference, you can purchase the Kindle edition directly through, and all other ebook formats (epub, LRF, PDF, and mobi, too, as well as others) from Smashwords.

The Iron Khan print editionBut if you prefer the smell of real paper, the feel of a real book in your hands (as opposed to cold metal, plastic, and glass), then your wait for the print editions of The Iron Khan will soon be over. So I'm taking this opportunity to showcase the new cover art (sans the typography) by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law for the print editions. On Ms. Law's website, you can click on the "Detail closeups" link, allowing you to take in all of the amazing details of this artwork. The art features one of the story's main characters, Raksha (recently reanimated!), flying atop her elegantly plumed blue crane, with the floating city of Agarta in the distance. If you are a fan of the DI Chen series and a collector of art as well -- or just a collector of art -- you can purchase an 8.5 x 11-inch print for only $15.00; or, if you just happen to have an extra $1,500.00 available, you can snag the original art itself, 12 x 17 inches, pen and ink. I'm simply amazed that the artist can work all this detail into only 204 square inches.

The Iron Khan print editions will be published in two states: a trade paperback edition and a limited hardcover edition. The trade edition will be available through Amazon; the limited hardcover edition will only be available (so I am told) through Mysterious Galaxy. I have purchased books from Mysterious Galaxy (probably the most recent was a first edition/first printing of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan); the store takes great pride in the quality of their books, as well as the quality of their packing and shipping. So should you purchase The Iron Khan from them you will have nothing to worry about.

And then we all get to anxiously await book six (the final volume?) in the DI Chen series: Morningstar, which should be available in late 2011. [Liz, if you're reading this, I hope you are furiously writing because I need to find out what impact Inari's child has on the world of Singapore Three.]

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Writing with Style (Sheets, That Is)

In my December 19 blog post I mentioned that I had completed my review and copyedit of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five, edited by Jonathan Strahan, forthcoming from Night Shade Books in March 2011. One of the stories included in this volume is Theodora Goss's "Fair Ladies," which was originally published in the August 2010 issue of Apex Magazine.

As both a reader and an editor, I read a lot of genre fiction -- primarily short fiction -- but no matter how much I read (and, unfortunately, I read quite slowly), I still can't be expected to read everything. There are many authors whom I have not read at all; and of those I have read, there are seemingly an infinite number of worlds and realms that they have written about that I am not familiar with. Now, if I were editing a series of novels, it would be in the best interest of the author and the publisher to have me work on book one, and then continue through the entire series; I would thus be able to help ensure consistency with characters and characterization, place/environment, events, word usage, etc. throughout the series.1 But short fiction is entirely different: even related stories are published in different venues -- various online and print magazines and anthologies. Since each of these are edited by someone different, none of the editors can be expected to be intimately familiar with every world/realm about which the authors write. Nor should they be. Each story needs to stand on its own because each story will be read by different people depending on the venue in which it is published. Each magazine has its own set of readers, though of course there may be some overlap. Some readers may read only free online 'zines. Others may not read magazines of any sort, but may focus on original anthologies from specific publishers, or by specific editors.

Nick Gevers and I accepted Jay Lake's story "Permanent Fatal Errors"2 for our anthology Is Anybody Out There? (Daw Books, June 2010). This story is part of Jay's Sunspin cycle of stories; in Jay's December 19 blog post, he lists the six stories (so far) that make up this cycle, five of which have been sold, to five different venues (though two of those venues are published by Subterranean Press). My co-editor Nick Gevers was more familiar with Jay's Sunspin cycle than I was, but the story still had to work for me -- and be unique and intriguing and, of course, well written -- without any knowledge of prior stories or the series itself.

Which brings me back to Theodora Goss's story "Fair Ladies," set in her fictional world of Sylvania. It's a wonderful story that stands on its own quite nicely; but no editor, or reader, is going to have the background knowledge -- environment, religion(s), history, culture, etc. -- of Sylvania that Dora has, since this is her world. As a copyeditor, I have to do the best job with the content that I have in front of me, following the rules of grammar, punctuation, etc. while trying not to affect story content or the author's intent, or even the story's rhythm.

In "Fair Ladies," Dora uses the monetary unit "kroner." The word only appears twice, in two separate sentences on consecutive pages. (Actually, the word appears three times, but the first doesn't count, because it's used as a proper name, the Café Kroner.):

"That's Friedrich, the painter," said Karl. "I've never seen him talk to anyone since I started coming here four years ago. I'll bet you four kroners that she's a film actress from Germany."

The party had lasted long past midnight. The Crown Prince himself had been there. The guest list had also included the Prime Minister; General Schrader; the countess of the feathered hat, this time in a tiara; the painter Friedrich; the French ambassador, Anita Dak, the principal dancer from the Ballet Russes, which was staging Copélia in Karelstad; a professor of mathematics in a shabby coat, invited because he had just been inducted into the National Academy; young men in the government who talked about the situation in Germany between dances; young men in finance who talked about whether the kroner was going up or down, seeming not to care which as long as they were buying or selling at the right times; mothers dragging girls who danced with the young men, awkwardly aware of their newly upswept hair and bare shoulders, then went back to giggling in corners of the ballroom.

In the first sentence, we have the plural form "four kroners," and in the second sentence the singular form "the kroner." I knew the word "kroner," but looked it up in a list of world currencies to confirm: I found the currency "krone" (Danish and Norwegian) on the list, as well as "krona" (Swedish) and "króna" (Icelandic). The plural form of "krone" is "kroner." So, by definition, "kroner" is plural and no ending "s" is necessary. I marked the ending "s" for deletion in the first example in Dora's story; I see now that I should have marked for deletion the ending "r" in "kroner" in the second example, for the singular form, but I didn't. This would have been consistent with world currency. Unfortunately, I don't recall what my thinking was three weeks ago in this one example. Regardless, I eventually completed the project and submitted my copyedits to Night Shade Books. All was well and good. That is, until the following status appeared on Dora's Facebook page on Friday, December 17:

Does fantasy writing create particular problems for a copyeditor? For example, I just corrected a copyeditor on a detail about imaginary currency...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pat Cadigan's Story Is Again One of the Best

I am once again pleased to announce that Pat Cadigan's short story, "The Taste of Night," originally published in my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? (with Nick Gevers, from Daw Books, June 2010), will be included in Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection, forthcoming in July 2011 from St. Martin's/Griffin. The Dozois volume is available for preorder, but it's still too early in the publishing process and thus no cover art is as yet available.

"The Taste of Night" (along with five other stories from IAOT?) has previously been posted on this blog in its entirety. The following link will take you to the main IAOT? page, from which you can access all six stories as well as additional details on the anthology. If, however, you just wish to read Pat Cadigan's story at this time, you can click here: "The Taste of Night."

I do hope you'll take the time to read this wonderful story, if you haven't already done so.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Belated November Links & Things

This is my monthly wrap-up of November's Links & Things; you can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern. Note, however, that not all of my tweeted links make it into these month-end posts, but the links that do typically contain more detail than Twitter allows, and often I include personal comments (as if that's important to you).

This post is a bit tardy as I have had two deadline projects over the past few weeks:

My November 9 post was on the sale, yet again, of Realms of Fantasy magazine to new publisher Damnation Books. The December 2010 issue had originally been made available online as a free download, since it was to have been the magazine's final issue. Now that the zine has been obtained by Damnation Books, the December issue has gone to press and should soon be shipping to subscribers. If you purchase RoF at stores/newsstands, please look for the December issue. As to my own deadline, on December 1, I completed work on the files for the February 2011 issue -- 10 nonfiction articles and 5 short stories – and submitted the formatted and copyedited files to editor Doug Cohen. So RoF will continue to be published on schedule, and subscribers/readers will not miss a single issue.

Regarding my second deadline, I completed my review and copyedit of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five, edited by Jonathan Strahan, and forthcoming from Night Shade Books in March 2011. This volume five is a monster: 536 pages and a nearly 250,000 words; to say the least, I was pleased when I finally finished this project and shipped it off on Tuesday to Night Shade's office. There are some very fine stories in this anthology; I think my three favorites are "The Sultan of the Clouds" by Geoffrey A. Landis, "Alone" by Robert Reed, and "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen's Window" by Rachel Swirsky. (I'm recusing myself from commenting on Pad Cadigan's "The Taste of Night" since it was selected from my own co-edited original anthology Is Anybody Out There?)

One final thing before I get into November's links: As I stated in my November 23 post, I will be editing an anthology tentatively titled Alien Contact, to be published by Night Shade Books in November 2011. I'm now reading stories for this anthology; since this is a "reprint" anthology, all stories must have been previously published. If you have a recommendation for a killer, not-to-be-missed alien contact story, please check my database of stories first; the database was initially sorted by author's first name, but new entries have been added to the bottom of the list. If you do not find your recommended story on the list, please add it to the database. An input form has been provided in the November 23 blog post, which you must use to enter the story information. The deadline for recommending stories is December 15, after which I will delete the input form in that blog post.

Now, on to November's Links:
  • Erin Underwood interviews Kim Richards Gilchrist, the CEO of Damnation Books, the new owner of Realms of Fantasy magazine. When asked: "What do you see as the greatest benefit that Damnation Books has to offer Realms of Fantasy magazine, its readers, and its contributors?" Kim responds: "There is a little cross over with genres between both Eternal Press and Damnation Books with Realms of Fantasy. In fact we took out ads twice in 2010 for our books in the magazine. The common elements mean some of our promotion points and distribution are the same and others are ways for both the magazine and books to expand...."
  • There was much discussion and hoo-ha on the web this past month regarding the theft of content that appeared in Cook's Source magazine. The subject made it to NPR,, The Guardian,, and more. The web's response to this theft/plagiarism literally brought about the demise of the magazine. For the source of this controversy, you'll need to read the original LJ post that started it all, from the plagiarized author, Monica. I don't know how many Comments there are to this post, since they aren't numbered, but they fill 23 blog pages! I'm not going to elaborate any further here, but if you haven't heard about this as yet (and if not, where have you been this past month?), just search online for "cook's source copyright" and that should keep you busy for a while. Bottom line: Content on the internet is NOT FREE, unless the author so states it is. Always ask for permission to reprint anything.
  • Tachyon Publications has recently published The Search for Philip K. Dick, a combination memoir/autobiography, and biography of PKD, written by one of his ex-wives, Anne R. Dick. The book was originally published by an obscure small press in the '90s, and then self-published by Ms. Dick earlier this year. The Tachyon edition has been fully edited and fact-checked making it the preferred edition. "Philip K. Dick's Masterpiece Years," an article that appeared in the November 22 New York Times, focuses on Anne R. Dick and her years with PKD, and includes additional details on this new edition of the book. From the article: "After the breakup of their marriage, Ms. Dick said she endured seeing herself reflected in several evil-wife characters in his later novels. Yet when he died in 1982, after a series of strokes, 'everything changed,' she said...."
  • Ever wonder about common prefixes and suffixes in our English language? (Go ahead, admit it, you do wonder... it's okay, honest, you don't have to feel ashamed.) Here is a quick chart of English Language Roots; but it's just a small portion of the searchable 2,000 word root database on For example, "belli" means "war" and is used to form the words "rebellion," "belligerent," "casus belli," and "bellicose." (via @ebrenner)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Detective Inspector Chen Finally Turns 5

The Iron KhanAfter too long a delay, and a great deal of anticipation, Liz Williams's The Iron Khan, the fifth Detective Inspector Chen novel, has been published -- in ebook formats only, so far -- by Morrigan Books.

The Iron Khan was originally to have been published by Night Shade Books, as they had published the previous four Detective Inspector Chen novels: Snake Agent, The Demon and the City, Precious Dragon, and The Shadow Pavilion. Liz delivered the manuscript for Khan to me on October 26, 2008. By mid-November I was emailing Liz with questions and suggestions, and this back and forth between us carried over into 2009. By the time I approved the final book layout of The Iron Khan on November 11, 2009, Liz and I had worked through nearly 75 emails, which is actually a low number of emails compared to some of the other books I have worked on.

I believe there was a delay (or two), but the book was scheduled for publication in March 2010. As fans and readers of Liz Williams's work know, that date came -- and went. In April, Liz expressed some frustration on her LiveJournal with the status of the Chen series, then some behind-the-scenes action took place, and the rights to the Detective Inspector Chen series were eventually returned to the author.

Fast forward to August 20, 2010: Morrigan Books posted the following announcement, which I have condensed a bit:
Morrigan Books can now announce that it is to continue the successful series of Detective Inspector Chen novels, written by Philip K. Dick Award nominee Liz Williams....

Iron Khan is due for release this December and Morningstar will be published in 2011. The covers for both books are to be designed by award-winning artist Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

We are extremely excited by Liz Williams' choice to continue the series with Morrigan Books, and see this as a confirmation of the high standard we are setting in the independent press industry.

Though Stephanie Pui-Mun Law will be designing the covers for the print versions of each new book, the cover pictured above -- designed by Reece Notley -- is for the ebook editions only, which have just been released. The Kindle edition can now be purchased directly through; all other ebook editions (epub, LRF, PDF, and mobi, too, as well as other formats) are available from Smashwords.

Morrigan tells me that the print editions -- a trade edition as well as a limited hardcover edition -- of The Iron Khan will be announced soon. I also know that ebook editions of the first four Chen novels are also in process from Morrigan. And lastly, Liz is hard at work (don't tell her that I told you this!) on the next, the sixth, Chen novel, Morningstar.  After working with Liz on the first five Chen novels over the past five years, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to work with Liz on book six as well. Keeping fingers crossed. As I commented myself on Liz's LJ post back in April: "Working on these 5 Chen books, well, it's like Chen, Inari, Zhu Irzh, Jhai, Mhara, and Robin have become extended family!"

* * * * *

Update: December 27 blog post on the cover art for the print editions of The Iron Khan.

* * * * *

For those waiting for my monthly wrap-up, November's Links & Things, my apologies as there will be a bit of a delay yet. I'm under a hard deadline to complete my review and copyedit of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five, edited by Jonathan Strahan, for Night Shade Books. And since this volume is nearly 250,000 words (oy!), I'll need some time to complete this project. Cheers.

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