So yesterday I posted about some problems with Penumbra Ezine–namely, that although their guidelines say they pay five cents a word, until recently they published one “Rising Talent” story on their website a month–and those Rising Talent stories were unpaid. What’s more, there was no indication that those stories would be unpaid anywhere on their website. Writers “honored” with the Rising Talent designation discovered it when they opened their acceptance email.

This morning I had an email in my inbox from Celina Summers, editor of Penumbra. The email is kind of baffling–it says I’ve wrongly accused Penumbra of being a non-paying market when in fact they have paid at least five cents a word for every story they’ve published! Oh, and also the Rising Talent authors all totally knew they weren’t getting paid for their stories before they signed the contract.

Yeah. I don’t know either. You’d think the contradiction here would be obvious. And pretty much the whole email was like that, refuting things I hadn’t actually said, and then attempting to refute things I actually had said by basically confirming the facts I’d posted. The whole thing was either astonishingly disingenuous or astonishingly foolish.

It has also come to my attention, from a different source, that I am “an out and out lone wolf” with an “agenda at Penumbra.” And apparently just pointing out the plain fact that Rising Talent stories were not paid for, and that this fact was not apparent on the website but rather something writers discovered when they were granted this dubious honor, means I’m part of a “crusade to force [Penumbra and/or its parent company Musa] to close.”

First things first. I kinda like “out and out lone wolf.” Granted, it’s not as awesome as Gamma Rabbit, and doesn’t really even touch the gibbering incoherence of THE….Sodomite, but, you know, you take what you can get. And that “out and out” does add a pleasant touch of weirdness, so.

It’s also a trifle tin-eared. I mean, the image of the lone wolf is kind of romantic. I could totally see it being a superhero identity.

My only “agenda at Penumbra” (really?) is to inform writers. The best outcome of this, from my angle, would be for Ms Summers to begin to actually run Penumbra as the professional magazine she claims she wants it to be. This would include being completely honest and up front about pay rates, continuing to pay all authors (instead of, as with the extremely badly conceived “Rising Talent” business, paying most authors but not paying the one a month that should just be grateful to have their story posted on the website), and responding to all authors in a professional, non abusive way.

If Penumbra can’t be run on those terms, then yes, it should close. But note, Penumbra closing is not actually a goal of mine. Informing writers is my goal.

In her email Ms Summers claimed that my “accusation” could destroy Penumbra. I am flattered she thinks the Out and Out Lone Wolf holds so much power. I’ll say here what I told her– the only thing that could destroy Penumbra would be Penumbra itself. My pointing out a problem did not cause that problem, and my having said nothing, or retracting my (entirely factual) blog post would not solve that problem. Penumbra’s future is all on her.

I’d like to note, by the way, that Ms Summers offered to let me see Penumbra’s books and learn all about their finances and how they run things behind scenes. How this was supposed to prove to me that really the whole Rising Talent thing was fine and dandy, and the truly appalling emails I’d seen from her to at least one writer were totally and completely all right, I have no idea. I refused, because really that was irrelevant to the problems I was talking about, and to be honest the invitation just convinced me that either Ms Summers truly has no idea what the actual problem is, or else she thinks I’m stupid. Neither one speaks well of her.

I’m done blogging about this, because I’ve done what I wanted–gotten the information out there. Y’all can do what you want with it. I’d be more than happy to see Penumbra straighten up and fly right and go on to Ezine Greatness. If not, it’ll be because of their own actions, not one writer’s blog post.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an overpowering urge to go outside and out and out howl at the moon.

3 thoughts on “Penumbra

  1. Bryn Kildow says:

    At least you’re an “out and out lone wolf” and not a “stealth lone wolf”. The latter are horrible, horrible things–canid ninjas, if you will. *shudders*

    Thank you for two very thoughtful and thought-provoking blogs on this. I certainly hope they’re able to turn things around; another SFWA-qualifying market would be a grand thing. Straightening out what or whoever is causing nasty emails to be sent out would be an additional grand thing.

  2. A
    Abra says:

    From their website: “Please Note: As of July 2013, Penumbra is no longer selecting a Rising Talent author from submitted stories.” I hadn’t seen anything about this before today, but a quiet policy change is better than none.

    1. Ann says:

      I agree. I’m glad to see this. I’d have been just as glad to see Rising Talent still chosen, but paid the same as other stories, either would be good.

      Here’s hoping for continued positive things. I genuinely would prefer that ezines succeed, and would be happiest seeing Penumbra do well.

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