Exactly a year ago, I had a story accepted for publication in 'Aoife's Kiss'. I was excited and proud because it was the first story I wrote when I started this journey, and I was happy to see it get a home. The editor at the time, one Tyree Campbell, informed me it would appear in the June 2013 edition. I signed the contract, and waited.
(Trigger Warning for discussion of abuse after the fold)
Sometime after that, I discovered Campbell's press Sam's Dot Publishing, which put out a variety of science fiction, fantasy, and crime thriller magazines, had been bought out by White Cat Publishing. "Okay," I thought. "They have the documentation. I'll hear from them closer to the time once the takeover is done."
And I waited.
Earlier this month, concerned that the June publication date was creeping closer and I hadn't seen any edit proofs or payment, I shot off an email. No reply.
Then yesterday I decided to do some digging, and I was horrified to discover the real story. Upon reading updates on the White Cat Facebook page and a pertinent blog post, I discovered historic charges of child sex abuse had arisen against Tyree Campbell, and his continuing connection to children's magazines and publishing questioned. White Cat did not know of these charges going into the takeover, but a communication breakdown and refusal of access to Sam's Dot emails on Campbell's part put the merger in limbo. Here is the blog post that lays out the problem, with links that discuss the charges (Trigger Warning): "Jane Doe".
What a mess. While I appreciate that White Cat have done everything within their power to distance themselves from Campbell as well as bring fresh air to the discussion about child abuse, the name of Sam's Dot Publishing and Campbell's magazines now come with a moral price. In the last few days, White Cat have been reaching out to contributors such as myself left in limbo by the situation, offering a re-contract of any work for future publication under the White Cat banner, or a return of rights without publication, no hard feelings or strings attached. No matter what the contributor chooses, they will be compensated for their time, which I thought was a good gesture on White Cat's part.
I chose to withdraw my story for two reasons. First, there was no guarantee it would see publication within a year, as there has been no decision what form 'Aoife's Kiss' will take under White Cat, whether it will continue or be merged into a new magazine. My story has already been on ice for a year, and I would like to find it another home. Second, I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea that Campbell had chosen my story, and in light of these historic charges I do not trust his ethics or judgment. I did not want a publication credit to my name by stealth or dodgy means, and would prefer my story be chosen again on its merits by another editor.
Many people might say that an emerging author can't afford to be picky about where their work goes: a sale is a sale, a credit is a credit, money is money. I refuse to accept this, and started out as I intend to continue: there are certain venues and names I will not have my good name or work linked to or published by. I have already been burned ever so slightly by a couple of non-payment venues, but I let them slide because they were only token payments - I know not to recommend them to others, or submit there ever again. While 'Aoife's Kiss' was also a token payment venue, if I'd known of these charges over a year ago I would certainly not have submitted to the magazine.
I hope White Cat can eventually resolve the issue and continue to publish to their satisfaction and standards. I am pleased at the quick response I received from them, and my story has been returned to me to my satisfaction. I am sad to lose a publication credit, but good ethics come first. I will not have my name linked, however tenuous, to any situation that oversees such grievous harm to others.