So, a new publication called Aftermath is having a short story (1500–5000 words) contest. The winner will receive $1000 USD. Sounds good, right? Well, it’s garbage, actually. Because while the top three share in the $1400 prize money, the rest may still be considered for publication for the – wait for it – “usual fee” of $25. Yes, you read that right.
Basically, the contest is a way to find enough stories to get the magazine off the ground and going for a while, and at a rate of $0.0166 to $0.005 cents per word. If you don’t believe me, here it is in their own words:
Here we had planned to publish works of contemporary writers who meet our high standards and, especially, deal with the issues that we consider most relevant. So far we have not been able to find any, but we hope our contest will change that.
Ironically, on their website they lament the fact that quality writing has become “unnaturally rare among modern authors,” that there are no masterpieces being written today, and that “the decline [of great writing] is spectacular.” And they wonder why. They write:
What caused it? Perhaps great writers are just not born anymore. It’s possible. Anyone who understands evolution will realize that humanity has been going in the wrong direction for a long time. That could easily explain such regression. Or perhaps great writers are still being born but remain unknown. That’s also possible. Many forces in modern society favor mediocrity. Most are controversial, so we won’t go into those just yet, but they offer hope that somewhere out there, hidden from view yet laboring in obscurity, great writers still exist. Finding them is what this magazine is all about and if we cannot find them, we will not publish anything at all and quietly go away.
Please, Aftermath, just go away now. The reason for the decline in quality writing is that writers cannot earn a living on $0.0166 to $0.005 cents per word when, less than two decades ago, they got anywhere from $.25 to $1.00 per word. (And many of the greatest writers also had patrons who kept the writer fed while the masterpiece was being written. James Joyce, for example, was sponsored by the heiress Harriet Shaw Weaver, who later also paid for the self-publishing of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses when Joyce could not find a publisher for them.)
And to add insult to injury, Aftermath also links to illegal copies of short stories of writers past, to, you know, just “show the kind of writing we are looking for.” There is “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, for which Aftermath is “seeking rights to publish this masterpiece. Meanwhile it can be read here.” Here is linked to a scanned copy from a book that is unacknowledged, hidden in the index of another website, sdfo.org. (“Flowers for Algernon” is still available for sale in several anthologies of science fiction, any one of which could have been linked to instead.)
The site’s owners are also seeking the rights to publish Ray Bradbury’s “The Last Night of the World,” and in the meantime you can read the linked PDF, which has been typed out by someone named www.ajarnjohn.com and posted to mrsslibrary.com, a site registered with Launchpad.com Inc. with the ownership masked.
And that is another reason why authors cannot earn a living in today’s world: digital piracy.
If after all this you are still considering submitting to these people (this person?), note that the site’s owners paid to have their names masked by the registrar (also Launchpad.com Inc.), there is no contact information anywhere on the site (there is only a link to an email address, email@example.com, if the submission form doesn’t work), terms and conditions of submission and rights usage are vague, and the only named personnel is the editor-in-chief, Jan Bee Landman, who I suspect is Aftermath‘s owner.
Yes, Aftermath, it IS the end of the world. For writers.