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My Recent Experience With Daily Science Fiction

Update: On March 3rd, they re-issued my story with a blanket apology to the subscribers for the error. In terms of fixing the original mistake, this feels both thorough and sincere. They have still not reached out or responded to me personally. If and when that changes, I will note it here.

Update: On March 21st, Jonathan apologized via email for the mixup. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is now settled.

If you follow Daily Science Fiction, then you probably saw this morning's email that started "Major glitches on the spaceship DSF" and you may be wondering what some of that was about. Well, this is what some of that was about.

So I recently had a story accepted by Daily Science Fiction called Marla Corbet: Living (With The Invaders). (I never got around to a formal announcement, so if you'd like to read it, you can find it here. It's a very silly thing about an ersatz Martha Stewart. And human hair. And alien poop. You'll love it.) It was accepted on February 16th. I got a contract for it on the 23rd which I returned signed on the 24th. Given the way DSF turns stories around, I anticipated publication in April or May with publisher proofs coming to me a few weeks prior. Although, it should be said, the last time I placed a story there, they published it without sending me proofs or even any advanced noticed--which is not ideal, but I can roll with it.

What I definitely did not anticipate was opening an email from DSF on Tuesday the 25th, featuring the story Historical Fiction by Joshua Fagan and scrolling down to find the text of my story there. That's right. My story had been published--and that publication had been blasted out to email--with the wrong title and attribution. It was clearly a clerical mistake of some kind--I assume zero malice--but it was one with some implications around publication dates and payment schedules that would need to be sorted out.

Now, the scuttlebutt I've picked up from my writerly circles is that DSF has been making a lot of mistakes lately. They've published some questionable stories, they published a few stories that didn't have the story content in them. They recently published a story that had been plagiarized from another publisher. None of these is all that damning on their own--humans make mistakes, and they've remedied them usually within the same day. But they've been stacking up, and there's a growing impression among the writers I commiserate with that DSF, beloved though it is, may not be the most stable market anymore. With that in mind, I responded to the same email thread I'd used to return my contract with a note alerting them of the error. I expected to get a quick apology and, if not a fix, at least a game plan for one.

And I heard nothing.

I tried a couple different venues. I @-mentioned them on Twitter (their Twitter account has been dark since July). I sent a message through the contact form on their website. There was traffic about this on their Facebook feed. I also pinged Joshua Fagan on Twitter to see if he'd been in contact with them about it--to no avail. I seriously considered submitting a story through their portal whose content was "We need to talk about that thing that happened and this was the only way I could get your attention." In the end, an acquaintance of mine who corresponds with one of the editors was able to intercede on my behalf. On Saturday the 29th, the story was finally corrected. Marla Corbet: Living (With The Invaders) was up on the home page with the proper title and attribution, and Joshua Fagan's title is up with the right story. This morning they issued a correction that was blasted out to their entire list.

That said... as of this writing--that is, the morning of March 2--I have not gotten a response to any of my communiques. Apart from this morning's email blast, they haven't acknowledged the error, apologized to me, or even reached out to let me know that they fixed it. Aaaaaaaaand... I'm a little irritated about that. I get that people can be swamped with work or just plain burned out--again, zero assumption of malice here. But there is a minimum threshold of professionalism you need to meet if you're going to consider yourself a professional market, and I feel like responding to emails from a person you're in a contract with about a pretty serious issue with the story under contract--especially after you've already taken steps to fix the error--is within that threshold. Even if I hadn't reached out to them first, I would expect that they would contact me as soon as the problem came to their attention.

I'm at a point in my writing career where I can absorb this kind of thing. But if this had happened to someone on their first or second pro sale, can you imagine how devastated they might feel? Or put yourself in Joshua Fagan's shoes. This is his first DSF sale (and for all I know, it might even be his first pro sale) and if he's been getting the same level of attention that I have from the editors, I have to imagine he's upset by this. I would be. Furthermore, would this have gotten addressed at all if I didn't know someone who knew the editor and was willing to be a go-between?

So yeah. I hate this. This sucks. Because Daily Science Fiction holds a very dear place in my heart. I've been subscribed to their email list for years now. They gave me both my first personal rejection (as opposed to a form rejection) and my first professional sale. They're normally very friendly to new authors. They put out a lot of content, and it's all short, which means they are much more open to experimental and offbeat pieces. They once published a short story that was only one character long. They published what I still consider to be the greatest work of short fiction that I've ever read. They have a high tolerance for weirdness, and I love it. For all of these reasons, they have remained one of the first markets I would send a piece of flash fiction, even after they started getting attention for their mistakes rather than their content.

I'm a very easygoing guy, but this last week has left a bad taste in my mouth and made me question whether or not they're a market I want to work with. I'm not writing this just to shit-post on DSF. But I genuinely feel like it would be a disservice to the community to not give an honest accounting of what it felt like to be on the other side of this. So if you're thinking of submitting there... I'm not saying you shouldn't, but keep this in mind before you do.

That's kind of where my head is right now.



Anonymous said…
Out of curiosity, what circles are you referring to? I love this market and often submit there (and have been published by it), so would be good to get a read on how people feel.