I have now effectively resigned from the British Interplanetary Society owing to a disagreement over my paper "Custom Planets or Move Over Slartibartfast" (text-only version here), which they initially commissioned but subsequently failed to publish.

The paper was originally presented, by request, as a lecture to the BIS/CEMS Symposium "Bringing Worlds To Life" at Birkbeck College, London, in 1993. Along with the other contributors, I was then supplied with a transcript of my lecture and asked to write it up for publication by BIS in the Conference Proceedings (as a Special Issue of the Journal). With some reluctance (since editing the verbatim lecture transcripts was clearly going to be a hideous task), I agreed. The job proved even more of chore than I anticipated and took months to complete. But, since I'd already given my word, complete it I did.

Unfortunately, not every contributor was so dedicated; some were tardy in submission and some failed to submit their papers at all. Instead of continuing with the publication of the rest, and without even informing the contributors, BIS apparently decided to drop the whole thing.

Some time later, BIS was running short of papers for the Journal (I for one had not submitted anything new, since I was still waiting for the Conference Proceedings to appear and wished to be able to reference "Custom Planets" in papers on How to Heat a Planet, How to Cool a Planet, and Terraforming Venus Very Quickly, which consequently never got written). BIS decided to resurrect the Conference papers and wrote asking for my permission to publish in an ordinary edition of JBIS. After I wrote back granting permission, they sent out a further form for me to sign transferring copyright, which, with some amendments and reservations, I also agreed to. Months later, I received a curt note telling me that my paper had been rejected. Remember, they were the ones who had originally commissioned and accepted it! I wrote back, pointing this out and insisting they fulfill their obligation to publish. The bitch of a secretary then wrote back an insulting note denying they'd ever commissioned it at all! After that they simply refused to answer my letters, even when I suggested that it might now be more suitable for publication in Spaceflight. I'm inclined to doubt whether the new editor got a chance to see it at all; I suspect the so-called executive secretary simply refused to pass it on.

I felt I had little option but to cancel my subscription direct debit, and cut the Society out of my Will (in which it was previously down for a very large bequest).

BIS still has the original typescript and illustrations, and won't publish them, pay for them or send them back. The text-only copy was scanned and ocr'd for me by Richard Taylor.

Paul Birch, 1st July 2001.

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