Thursday, October 8, 2009

Angel Zapata, Private Eye

Angel sat in his office, the only illumination in the room coming from the green-shaded lamp sitting on his desk. It was dark outside, nearly midnight, and the rain was coming down in icy sheets that threatened to go on until morning. It had been raining for hours and was showing no signs of stopping or slowing down.

On nights like this, in the grimy old city, the only people who’d brave the cold and damp were the downtrodden, the hopeless, the victims. Only they, and perhaps the shifty-eyed dirtbags they needed protection from, would leave the comfort of their homes or offices to make their way through the darkened streets.

Angel sighed and reached into a desk drawer for a bottle of whiskey. It was going to be a slow night. He could tell. The world outside, save for the pattering of rain on the sidewalk, was eerily quiet.

Suddenly he heard footsteps outside his office door. They were soft and quick. A woman’s shoes, it seemed.

The door burst open and a dame walked in. Her hair was soaking wet, her makeup running, and she had a horrified look on her face. As she spotted him sitting at his desk, she walked across the room to stand in front of him. “You... You’re Angel Zapata, right?”

“That I am, madam.”

“I need your help. Please. There’s nobody else I can go to.”

“What do you need help with, lady? Husband straying? Been framed for something? Someone been viciously murdered?”

She shook her head. “No, nothing like that.”

“Well, what is it, then?”

“I need you to catch a thief.”

“What kind of thief are we talking about?”

“A plaigarist.”

“The worst kind. Damn dirty scumbags, all of them. You got a name for me?”

“Ridyard,” she said. “Richard Ridyard.”

“Give a bit of time, lady, and I’ll find the dirtball thief for you. Don’t you worry about anything.” As she thanked him and turned to leave, Angel Zapata, private detective, reached into his drawer for his gun and a cigar.

He reached again for the bottle, as well. It was going to be a long night.


That was actually a lot of fun to write. I should do old-timey detective stories more often!

Anyway, here’s what’s been going on recently. Apparently the horror community has a bit of an issue with plagiarism. It’s not so much a problem of people stealing off of each other but one man ripping off a ton of people and passing their work as his all over the small-press and horror e-zine community.

His byline is Richard Ridyard, though that very well may not be his legal name.

Angel Zapata is a real person, an awesome guy and a great writer. We’ve been published by a few small presses together, which is why this whole thing hit so close to home for me.

Angel realized a few days ago that one of his pieces had been ripped off (you can read details of the whole sordid affair here) and did what any enraged writer would do - He tracked the jackass’s shady dealings all over the Internet and exposed every one of them, contacting every editor, publisher and author involved that he could find. There are quite a few, unfortunately.

Would you believe this Ridyard character ripped off little-knowns and STEPHEN KING as well?

He pulled a fast one on a lot of publishers, including ones who’ve been kind enough to accept my work. He hit Flashes in the Dark, MicroHorror and quite a few others, all good people who provide outlets for new and under published writers. He tried (and occasionally succeeded) snowing other publishers I know from horror fiction message boards.

I’m probably the last horror writer to blog about this. Honestly, it feels like the rest of the Internet is way ahead of me on this, but I really felt the need to both do my part in spreading the word (to the few people who may not have caught wind of this yet) and to voice my opinion and frustrations.

Most of us make very little money doing what we do. We write for a variety of reasons, but mostly we write because it’s something we can’t ignore. It’s a passion, a driving force, an obsession. We do it often because to not write would make us feel miserable and incomplete. We don’t do it for wealth or fame, but because it’s in our blood and we can’t not do it.

Imagine the complete pain and anger you would feel if you were to discover someone took a piece of your work, stripped your name from it and claimed it as their own. Imagine if this person were so good at doing what they did that they managed to impress publishers with it. Imagine going to a website or print publication you respected and enjoyed reading and seeing your own work there with a different byline.

Just the thought of it makes me a little nauseous.

I’m glad this didn’t go unnoticed. Thank you, Angel, for shining your angry spotlight on this very disgusting act of theft. You’ve saved a lot of writers and publishers quite a bit of misery. It was a lot of work you went through to so thoroughly root out the thief, and we appreciate everything you’ve done for us.

You can read Angel’s follow-up here as well.


Angel Zapata said...'d you know I kept whiskey in my desk drawer?


This was truly a surprise. I've always wanted to play a detective, so the fantasy is now complete (and very well-written to boot).

More importantly, thank you for doing your part to address plagiarism in our small community.

Don't know if you know, but one of his stories managed to see the light of day over on Powder Burn Flash yesterday. Aldo has since been informed by many concerned writers and he's removed it.

If anything, this entire situation has alerted writers on all levels that our words, our babies as Erin Cole so adequately put it, need to be guarded against these word predators. There will be more.

We need to prepare ourselves, because sadly, you're right. It's "going to be a long night."

Rhys-Lain-Austurias said...

Thieve, thieves, thieves....

Better late than never, Jessica.
-Licorice Lain

Jessica Brown said...

He's still doing it, even with all of the negative attention? I was unaware that he was continuing with this stupid charade. That's even more disturbing, I think, than the initial shock of the whole situation.

Here's my question to you now, Angel. What do we do if the guy simply changes his nom de plume and keeps up with what he's doing? It would be incredibly easy, seeing as all you need is a fake name and a Gmail address to create an online identity these days.

Should I be googling every piece of fiction I've ever sold, from now until the end of time?

By the way, has the man in question gotten back to you directly yet?