Tag Archives: magazine

Come back, nineties; all is forgiven

Commandante Sterling, commenting on the launch of new R U Sirius-edited pop-transhumanism magazine h+:

(((I’ve never been a big hippiefied ’60s nostalgist, but after all we’ve been through lately, to have the *1990s* back… would that rock, or what?)))

OMG, yes it would.

Anyone who knows me offline will confirm that I’ve been longing for it for about the last seven years – musically, politically and culturally, we need to drag ourselves out of this cocaine-crazed blind-rat rerun of the eighties before it chokes us all with faux-ironic polkadot day-glo and its utter lack of introspection, morals and restraint.

Plus, my haircut[1] will briefly be fashionable again. w00t!

[ 1 – Or, more accurately, lack thereof. ]

Subscription drives alone will not save the short fiction magazines

OK, first off let me make one thing perfectly clear – I do not want to see science fiction and fantasy short story print magazines die off. It is not a thing that would bring me any sort of joy.

Secondly, let me make it clear that Doug Cohen’s suggestion that everyone make a point of subscribing to a short story publication is well-meaning and good-spirited, and that I think anyone who can afford to do so should do exactly that.

(I recommend Interzone, myself, but then I’m biased!)

But I think that subscription drives are a short-term solution that fails to look at the long-term issues.

Where have the readers gone, and why?

Subscription rates are falling; this is undeniable. And the genre needs the short fiction markets to nurture new talent; this is also undeniable.

What we are missing are the cold hard facts. Why are subscriptions to short fiction magazines dropping? Subscription drives are an admirable thing, but until the source of the problem is located, it’s like adding more water to a leaking bucket. We need to find the hole and patch it.

Now, for all I know, the magazine publishers may well be hunting for the leak. I certainly hope so. I know some of them are looking at methods of patching the leak, too, if not already rolling out potential patches and strengthening. This is a good thing.

But what worries me is this; subscription drives may cause an unfounded short-term sense of security. If publishers look at the next twelve months and breathe a sigh of relief, they may not think ahead to the next five years. Beating the wolf away from the door is great, but it would be better to chase him back into the forest.

What should we do to save the short fiction markets?

I don’t have all the answers, sadly. Alhough I have my opinions on futureproofing the genre short fiction scene, which were not universally popular when I announced them, they are only opinions – and they are the opinions of someone who isn’t a publisher of short fiction magazines. In an absence of facts, all I can do is throw theories into the air.

So here’s what I suggest:

Follow Doug Cohen’s advice, and subscribe to a magazine if you can afford to do so.

But while you’re at it, or if you can’t afford to, or even if you don’t want to, get in touch with the magazine publisher and tell them how you feel.

Tell them why you weren’t subbed before, or why you lapsed, or why you’d like to subscribe but can’t (or won’t). Give these people some feedback, and help them find a solid path to a lasting future.

You can’t fix a problem simply by throwing money at it. We need to think smarter than that.

Scalpel Magazine launches, plus more print vs. online debate

Having been out of town on the relevant evening, I’m late to the field in trumpeting the launch of Scalpel Magazine (although I actually mentioned it ages ago, and let the cat somewhat out of the bag in the process). Most of the genre blogosphere appears to have taken the news of a new reviews and criticism outlet fairly positively, notwithstanding Nick Mamatas and friends. There’s some fine content on there, too. I for one hope it will last the course – and not merely because I want another venue to send my own work to, either.

Pat Cadigan’s guest editorial for Scalpel mentions the decline of book reviews in mainstream print media, which is a hot topic at the moment, especially in the US. I’ve found that the Print Is Dead blog has had some wise things to say on the matter. Meanwhile, the UK’s very own Grumpy Old Bookman has added his dime to the jukebox:

“Finally, however, let us remember one simple fact. However erudite the print reviewer may be, and however exquisite his taste and critical judgement, he is handicapped by comparison with the most humble blogger. Our print man cannot link directly to other sources.

This is, I would suggest, a major problem. Twenty years ago, of course, no one could even imagine it. But now it has to be faced.”

That’s about right, I think. I’m not gloating about the declining relevance of print media (in reference to book reviews or anything else), but nor am I willing to shut my eyes on what, to me, is an obvious and irresistable trend. Selah.

Stuff to look at

No substantial blogging from me tonight, I’m afraid; deadlines beckon, and I must heed their imperative call.

So, here’s some stuff for you to read in the meantime:


Jeremiah Tolbert has been looking at genre fiction magazine business models, and has come to a conclusion that I’m inclined to agree with:

“I am not sure that the [paid] subscription model is working very well anymore.” [my insertion]


Meanwhile, E. E. Knight takes the highlighter pens to a classic Rudyard Kipling story to examine the use of action verbs in defining character. Great analytical technique, one that I plan to steal.


And finally there’s a feminist science fiction blog-carnival at ‘Words from the Center, Words from the Edge’ – which I haven’t read yet, but will find the time for over the weekend, circumstance willing. Then again, there looks to be over twenty posts on sf literature alone, plus more on comics, TV and film … I may have to cherry-pick. If you pop over and spot any winners, please let me know.

And now, back to reviewing CD singles by obscure bands that neither you or I have ever heard of …

Locus Awards 2007 – finalists list

They’ve closed the polls, and announced the Locus Award finalists. I’m not going to ‘do a Niall’ on this, because I’m just not widely read enough to be able to do a worthwhile assessment of what should or shouldn’t be in there. But personal feelings? You bet.

Best Science Fiction Novel

Blindsight, Peter Watts (Tor)
Carnival, Elizabeth Bear (Bantam Spectra)
Farthing, Jo Walton (Tor)
Glasshouse, Charles Stross (Orbit; Ace)
Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge (Tor)

Very happy to see Vinge and Watts in there; likewise Stross, though I’ve not read Glasshouse yet. Opinion seems divided on Elizabeth Bear, at least among people I know well enough to talk to about such things, so it’s probably high time I read something of hers, too. I seem to remember people talking about Farthing, but what I heard obviously didn’t lodge in my brain enough to make me interested in learning more.

Best Fantasy Novel

The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross (Golden Gryphon Press; Ace)
The Last Witchfinder, James Morrow (Morrow)
The Privilege of the Sword, Ellen Kushner (Bantam Spectra)
Soldier of Sidon, Gene Wolfe (Tor)
Three Days to Never, Tim Powers (Subterranean Press; Morrow)

I’m not much of a fantasy reader these days (and when I was one, I only ever read RPG tie-in novels), so I’ll decline to comment much on this, except to say that the little of Gene Wolfe’s work I’ve read was excellent, and that describing The Jennifer Morgue as a fantasy novel seems a bit of a cop-out (despite not being personally able to supply an acceptable alternative categorisation).

Best First Novel

Crystal Rain, Tobias S. Buckell (Tor)
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, Gordon Dahlquist (Bantam; Viking UK)
The Green Glass Sea, Ellen Klages (Viking)
The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch (Gollancz; Bantam Spectra)
Temeraire: His Majesty’s Dragon/Throne of Jade/Black Powder, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Voyager); as Temeraire: In the Service of the King (SFBC)

Crystal Rain is the only one of those I’ve read, but I’m more than happy to see it in there. In the spirit of intarweb transparency and so forth, I should mention that Toby is a friend and co-blogger at Futurismic, but I stand by my assertion that I’d still have really enjoyed the book if I’d never heard of him before. Good writing is good writing.

Skimming a few categories, we see not one but two Doctorow shorts in the running – free online availability a factor there, perhaps? Ryman’s Hugo-nominated “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” gets a look-in also; not the sort of thing I usually read, but it moved me to tears when I finished it – which, as Mr. Ryman was most amused to hear, was a rather embarrassing thing to happen – given that I was sat on the last train home from London with a carriage full of drunk football fans at the time.

Very proud to see Interzone in the Best Magazine category (although I believe that, historically, it gets nominated for things all the time but never wins anything). Very interesting to see Strange Horizons in there too – an all electronic no-fee publication, no less.

Best Publisher … how curious that Baen makes the list, but there’s only one piece of Baen-published fiction in the other categories. Is this something to do with the sheer number of books they publish each year? Tor is the inevitable shoo-in, I’m guessing. Good to see Subterranean and Night Shade in there, though; the ‘small’ in small press is starting to be a real oxymoron, which can only be a good thing.

I’m not a great art fan, but I am somewhat shocked to see Stephan Martiniere didn’t make the grade. I think he did almost every cover I really liked in the last year, too – does this mean that I’m secretly a shiny-rocketship skiffy lover? To be fair, Picacio’s a fine artist as well, but while having an identifiable style is all well and good, I’m a little tired of the ‘head/face with stuff coming out of it’ thing.

As for the non-fiction prize, the possibility of that going to anything other than the Tiptree biography seems ludicrous. I’ve not read it myself, but the virtually unanimous acclaim heaped upon it by all and sundry speaks volumes – and I get the feeling that the subject matter is a large part of its appeal, defining it as ‘one of those books that needed to be written’. I hadn’t heard there was a book by Delaney about writing; I may have to hunt that one down through the library system.

There’s my two pence worth. What do you think?