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Sean Wallace
Posted on Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 05:54 pm:   

In recent years (the last five, perhaps), I've seen quite a lot of new zines explode on the scene—and actually stick around for much longer than I might have expected. Even Locus has a category in its Year's End summary, the Miniscule Press (which I would personally approach as a bit offensive), in which it refers to such zines as Flytrap, Lady Churchill's, and many more.

The question is: what other magazines are there of interest, of similar fashion?
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des
Posted on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 02:18 am:   

'Nemonymous', Sean. des
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 05:58 am:   

I do have the first two issues, I think, in my collection, for "Nemonymous," though I think I passed up on the third. If I remember properly it had a blank cover, which really didn't fit the rest in the series. I assume that was the final design, being all white?
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des
Posted on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 06:35 am:   

It was the 4th one that had a startling blank cover (it has to be seen to be appreciated).
The 5th cover is currently under consideration on the Nemonymous discussion forum. Thanks for your interest, Sean.
des
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 09:14 am:   

I actually saw it somewhere and skipped purchasing it for that reason. I did pretty much the same for most of Spectrum, until Paul begin issuing them with rather stunning covers later in its run. I like 'em pretty . . . pretty . . . purty things . . .
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Mikal Trimm
Posted on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 02:58 pm:   

Chris Rowe's SAY... series rides the same sort of vibe as Flytrap and LCRW. I think Electric Velocipede would fit in as well. And, of course, the larger antho series' Leviathan and Polyphony.

(I've been in SAY..., Flytrap, and Polyphony, so I can at least assume some sort of editorial like-mindedness...;p )
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Will Ludwigsen
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 09:32 am:   

Talebones is an amazing magazine: great fiction, great presentation, and an aversion to buying my fiction that should maintain its quality. ;)
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 09:37 am:   

On Spec, when I can find copies of it, impresses me quite a bit, though I'd like to see a new issue come out soon . . .
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T Andrews
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 10:08 am:   

Sean Wallace: On Spec is a great magazine and has been around forever. A wonderful Canadian gem.
Regarding Nemonymous, I enjoyed all four, personally. Purty on the inside, too!
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JV
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 11:28 am:   

Um, beggin' your pardon, but Leviathan (and Poly) doesn't fit in at all with the small press model Sean's talking about. Lev pays more, is in a more permanent format, and puts a premium on usual and cool cover art (which the zines can't because of format and materials limitations). As for contents, I'd argue the zines are still mining a somewhat different area than Lev, although there is overlap.

Album Zutique would be more along the lines of a small press zine, with a slight upgrade in production values.

JeffV
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JV
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 11:30 am:   

Also, I think EV, the Rowe series, etc., are publishing really cool stuff. I think Talebones and On Spec are much more conservative and thus less interesting--to me. For their audience, they're fine. But if you want the cross-genre stuff in its most refined form, you go to the anthologies, certain websites, and to the mags like LCRW, etc.
JeffV
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des
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 11:47 am:   

...in a more permanent format

*********

I still have many of the mags etc. from the eighties and early nineties.
des
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JV
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 11:56 am:   

PS - Which isn't to say F&SF/Asimov's/etc. don't publish cool cross-genre stories, just that that isn't their reason for being.

Des--It's a personal bias, I guess. Books offer more permanence to my mind. A hardcover Lev4 is going to simply last longer. I mean, I suppose I could immerse both Lev4 and Realms of Fantasy in acid and see which decomposes more quickly.
JV
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Forrest
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 05:18 pm:   

I've tried it. Lev 4 does, indeed, last longer in an acid bath. My hands, however . . . well, I won't be writing anymore now . . . I'm typing this with my tongue. :-(

I agree with Jeff. Plus, much of the cross-genre stuff is being published in "mainstream" literary reviews and such, some of which are "small press" (economically speaking),while others are not.
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Mikal Trimm
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 09:06 pm:   

Jeff--

Sorry, I tried to separate Leviathan and Polyphony as different creatures from the others, but my tongue doesn't type as well as Forrest's...;p

Still, there does seem to be, not a shift of focus in specfic, necessarily (because god knows we don't want to get into that discussion here), but at least an upsurge in a certain type of small-press venue -- which seem to get quite a bit of positive critical notice -- that tends toward the more, adventurous? lit-bent? genre-straddling? stories.

What I find interesting is how many of these ventures are run by writers. Very good writers, I might add.

Is there (and I'm throwing this question out, not endorsing it) a trend among certain writers (or groups thereof, think Ratbastards) to make their own venues and print the type stories they enjoy, simply because they're not seeing enough of it in the pro mags?

Was that last paragraph cluttered enough with asides, do you think?

And, Jeff, don't I still owe you a drink? ;p
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 09:53 pm:   

I'd think I agree with you, Mikal. The pro mags certainly aren't publishing this material, which may be a sign of their conservatism, which is then leading to people blazing their own trails. I'm all for more of it!

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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 08:53 am:   

Sean,
I have to disagree with you there.
I publish plenty of cross-genre stories and so does Gordon.

Now, I will mostly avoid mainstream stories (as will Gordon) but I've occasionally slipped a few in during my years as a short story editor.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 09:16 am:   

In fact, I'll go further. I read all the boutique magazines mentioned above and others-- and they're basically just mixing genres and throwing in some mainstream. Some of the stories they publish are good. Others not as good. Very few break any kind of new ground in form or content. But overall, if you read all those magazines all the time only a few of the stories stand out. This is not to put them down but to put things in perspective. They aren't doing anything that hasn't been done before. It's always a positive to create more markets for good writers. More markets encourage more writers to continue to write short fiction.

And to perhaps muddy the waters, Carol Emshwiller's more literary, non-sf work was published in genre anthologies over the years. Richard Matheson's and Charles Beaumont's mainstream stories were published in Playboy and Esquire and The Saturday Evening Post when it existed.
The New Yorker publishes work by writers no considered genre but who write genre stories at times (Saunders,Millhauser,Murakami for example).
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 09:53 am:   

I don't usually see, just off-the-top-of-my-head: Jeff VanderMeer, Jay Lake, Theodora Goss, Alan DeNiro, Holly Phillips, and many more in the pro magazines (some occasionally show up in Realms of Fantasy which I buy at the store). This is not just a complaint on my part, as it was mentioned and discussed extensively by Matthew Cheney on his journal last year.

Having said that I don't mind particularly seeing stories by any of these authors in the small press projects, if that's where they can get published, because the alternative is not being published at all.
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 09:54 am:   

Boutique magazines, Ellen? :-)
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 09:56 am:   

And why not, Sean? Is it that their fiction is being rejected? Maybe. Or maybe they're just not sending their stories to the pro magazines. I have maybe seen 2-3 submissions from Jeff, none that I can recall from Dora, a couple from Alan, none that I recall from Holly over the years. Only Jay has been sending me work on a fairly regular basis, and I've liked stories that he's published elsewhere (and not sent to me) better than those he's submitted to me.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 09:59 am:   

Also, you're misunderstanding me. I think the boutique magazines are terrific and I sometimes suggest to writers whose submission I've turned down, send that submission to one of those magazines. The good thing about the little magazines is that they've created another market--I'm only sorry they pay nothing or so little.

(yes, I call them "boutique" magazines, a term I didn't coin but that I think fits them perfectly).
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 10:12 am:   

As an editor, I've nagged particular writers whose work I admire to send me stories. Sometimes they do. Sometimes I buy them. But it sometimes takes years to get an even semi-regular flow of stories from a terrific writer. I first read Kelly Link's work while at OMNI and I turned a few stories down but continued to beg her to send me more stories. She finally sent two that I snatched up immediately (not for OMNI as I was no longer there, for Event Horizon): "The Specialist's Hat" and "The Girl Detective."

Carol Emshwiller sent me stories early on in my tenure at OMNI and they were mainstream. I didn't feel I could publish them. But she was persistent and by 1987 I was publishing her regularly there (and bought four stories by her over the next few years). A writer's work changes over time. An editor's taste changes over time, too.

I continue to push those who don't write enough short stories to write more and --send them to ME ME ME! (no names, but you know who you are). And I still go after the writers whose work I see and like.

I've the advantage of reading more widely than most editors because of personal taste (I've always been interested in the weird), because OMNI paid real money so I was able to go after mainstream writers (although OMNI could sometimes be a negative in dealing with writers) like Joyce Carol Oates, William Burroughs, T. Coraghessan Boye, and others.

And because for the past 18 years I've been co-editing YBFH so have to be aware of venues outside of the confining box of "genre" fiction.

Sorry, didn't mean to go on for so long.
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JV
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 10:26 am:   

Early on, I sent Ellen tons of stuff at Omni. Some of it, frankly, sucked, and some of it didn't fit Omni's brief. Since she's gone online I've had to overcome my natural aversion to submitting original fiction to non-hardcopy venues (which I'm over now). But now the problem is I'm writing very little short fiction and a lot of it gets snatched up by specific anthology venues. So Ellen's right--she's seen maybe 3 or 4 stories from me in the last few years. She didn't get a look at "Three Days" or "Secret Life," for example. I've decided to become more systematic in my approach with the short fiction I do have, so she will be seeing just about everything first from now on. Which doesn't guarantee anything. It's very *wrong* to assume an editor is not open to surreal or cross-genre work just because they're not taking *your* work.

With F&SF. Well, Gordon's rejected everything from "Transformation of Martin Lake", which won the World Fantasy Award to "The Cage," which was reprinted in Stephen Jones' year's best, to the title story of my short story collection, and everything inbetween, so I've submitted very little to him in the last 18 months because it seems like my work is not to his taste. Does that mean he's not friendly to cross-genre work? Hell no.

My point above was that the focus for Ellen's website and Gordon's magazine is broader than cross-genre. Therefore, both publish more traditional work as well. If you don't like traditional work, then you may or may not subscribe to F&SF and pick out those stories or authors you like.

I like Ellen's "boutique" magazine description. I think they're great breeding grounds for new things. Sadly, I have to admit I have mostly skimmed the mags because I have very little time to read short fiction.

JeffV
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 07:28 pm:   

"And why not, Sean? Is it that their fiction is being rejected? Maybe. Or maybe they're just not sending their stories to the pro magazines. I have maybe seen 2-3 submissions from Jeff, none that I can recall from Dora, a couple from Alan, none that I recall from Holly over the years. Only Jay has been sending me work on a fairly regular basis, and I've liked stories that he's published elsewhere (and not sent to me) better than those he's submitted to me."

Um, yeah. A couple of possible causes for newer writers not submitting as much to the pro markets, which I think is the case:

We tend to be in the middle of things like going to school, getting married, having children. We're not established enough in writing careers to have lots of writing time; we're still supporting those careers by other means. So sometimes it's harder to submit at all. This certainly isn't true for someone like Jay Lake, who's amazingly productive, but I know several writers for whom it is.

It's easy to second-guess your story and say, "This is so strange that I won't even try to send it to Pro Editor, because he or she will never take it." So you send it to a market that seems more receptive to that sort of story. I'm definitely guilty of this. And if you do get rejected at Pro Magazine (and of course many of us do, that's the way it goes), you're less likely to send another story there, if you know that story could easily be placed elsewhere.

(Though I must say that Ellen has always struck me as being very open to all sorts of stories. And Realms of Fantasy feels particularly open to new writers. At least, it's published many wonderful writers, like Tim Pratt and Chris Barzak, whom I haven't seen often in other Pro Magazines.)

Also, as I think Jeff mentioned, after a while you do get solicited for various things, and it's easy to simply send stories where they are asked for, and where you know they're more likely to be accepted.

Sorry, this is a probably incoherent account of how one writer thinks about submissions. It's not as simple as "Send it to the highest-paying market." (Thought I should point out, too, that both Strange Horizons and Polyphony pay very well!)
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Theodora Goss
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 07:34 pm:   

Sorry, are we considering Strange Horizons as a pro market or not? It is, based on circulation and pay, but people tend not to talk about it that way, I'm not sure why.

SH publishes many interesting new writers.

(And I have to agree with whoever said that some of the other pro markets--though not SciFiction--feel more conservative, not necessarily in terms of subject matter of stories but stylistically.
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 08:45 pm:   

I'd consider Strange Horizons a pro market.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 09:20 pm:   

As I've been reading through this thread, the comments of one veteran editor keep ringing in my head---he said to me, "Of course Analog is selling better than any other magazine: it's the least risky."

I bring up that comment, I guess, to defend against the charge of a conservative attitude in F&SF. I don't particularly like that word, "conservative," but I'll be the first to say that I've got to balance the artistic side of things with the commercial side. For every reader who appreciates the challenge that a story like John McDaid's "Keyboard Variations" offers, there are two or three readers who favor less challenging work like Ron Goulart's lighter fare.

Which is one reason why I'm happy to second Sean's sentiment when he says "I'm all for it!" to the writers blazing their own trails. I think the zine explosion of the last couple of years is very good for the field and I do my best to keep up with all the various magazines and anthologies, but I feel like someone needs to inject a note of commerciality into the discussion. Considering there are two threads running on the board now about declining circulation in the digests, it might be worth remembering that experimental fiction ("experimental" is another word like "conservative" that I don't particularly like, but I can't think of a better term right now; "riskier"? "less traditional"?) isn't necessarily commercial.

At the '97 World Fantasy Con, Graham Joyce and Jonathan Lethem did a panel that was on something like "Angst in Literature" or "Plumbing the Depths of Your Characters" or something like that. And there were about eight people in the audience, so Graham brought the panelists down from the dais and moved everyone into a circle, panelists and audience members alike. And it was a good discussion. In the next room, Terry Pratchett was talking about Humor in Fantasy or somesuch, and periodically one of Graham's excellent observations would be interrupted by the sound of scores of people laughing at one of Terry's comments next door. And Jonathan and I agreed, "Isn't this the way it always is? Here we've got the serious group having a great discussion for a handful of people, and there they've got hundreds of people laughing it up over the lighter fluff."
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Forrest
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 05:46 am:   

The question I have, Gordon, is whether readership is declining because of the more-frequent appearance of non-traditional work or because readers are tired of traditional work? I'm not in a position to make a judgement call - most of the work I edit and write is of the non-traditional (or, at least less-traditional) variety, nor do I watch readership numbers closely. What's your take on it, or is there enough data to get a good read on the situation?

In the mainstream world, I'm guessing (this is a hunch, with a little bit of knowledge about these trends, at least among certain circles) that the non-traditional works are gaining ground, that many readers are tired of the traditional story, the "19th Century" story, as I've heard it called.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 06:19 am:   

Forrest---

I wish I could tell for certain---it would make my job much easier. But the people we really need to ask are the ones who let their subscriptions lapse and don't renew, and they're hard to canvass.

Generally speaking, the feedback I get tends to say "More science fiction" more than anything else.
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jeff ford
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 07:28 am:   

I think this dichotomy between traditional and non-traditional stories is a bogus one. Besides having my stories appear in a wide variety of fiction venues, from big magazines to independent ones, I also read a myriad of different types of these publications. To me, the bottom line for good fiction isn’t whether it’s “traditional” or “non-traditional,” but just whether it’s a good story, well told. Sometimes in the telling, the story demands a greater degree of structural, linguistic, and stylistic idiosyncrasy from the writer. All well and good, there still has to be a great story in there to interest me. I want intellectual and emotional impact. There are a number of writers who achieve this. One who comes immediately to mind is Stepan Chapman. What one might think of as the “non-traditional” story telling method in his work, doesn’t strike me that way at all. It just seems to me that that’s the way Stepan tells a story, and he’s usually got a good story to tell. The way he tells it is part of the enchantment of it. On the same hand, I see a lot of “non-traditional” stories that seem to me to be trumped up pyrotechnical bullshit to mask the fact that the writer really doesn’t have a story to tell. And so, instead of getting the impact of a good story, it’s more like a walk through some wonky piece of architecture – interesting sometimes, but not ultimately fulfilling. I’ve written some of these myself. On the other hand, there are an equal amount, if not more, of pretty beat “traditional” stories as well. And I’ve written some of these bowls of oatmeal too. There always have been. But then there are those stories, though “traditionally” structured, that exhibit such an idiosyncratic vision, such craftsmanship, and have such an impact, that they will never get old. I just read “The Fall of the House of Usher” the other day with my students. Although it’s definitely 19th century, they dug it. I dug it too, for about the 50th time. I think that the only thing that can really make a story new and different is the depth to which a writer feels it and envisions it in the writing. Because a story has a beginning, middle and an end doesn’t mean that within that deceptively at home structure there are not new and/or brilliant things going on. Of the good examples of both types, I’ve read quite a few in F&SF, a magazine I read regularly, as well as on Sci Fiction and Strange Horizons, in Lady Churchill’s, Asimov’s, Say…Leviathan, Polyphony, Alchemy, etc. At least from a writer’s point of view, someone open to always learning about the art, I would think “traditional” versus “non-traditional” is a fool’s game. I look for the gold where I can find it. Writers come along all the time who re-invigorate old structures and styles. Forget that “traditional” versus “non-traditional” nonsense. That’s for dilettantes.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 07:57 am:   

What Jeff said, says it for me. About Chapman, about everything.

I'll go a bit further. There's nothing more tiresome than a Kelly Link imitation story. What Kelly does, what others have done that follow the tradition she follows, is extraordinarily artful, because it's so difficult. I think there may be a general feeling out there that it's easy to write like KL, because I see so many people attempting it, but it's not easy and imitations of her work fall flatter than post Godzilla Tokyo.

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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 08:57 am:   

Jeff & Lucius---

Well, there go the chances of my hiring either of you to edit F&SF.

But seriously, I think you two are writers who do a great job of bridging the gap. In fact, I almost mentioned "The Fantasy Writer's Assistant" as an example of something that fits on both sides.

However, if you think that Richard Calder's books (to take an example I know pretty well) are going to sell as well as Rob Sawyer's, then I've got a reality check for you in the form of sales figures.

I think what's going on here is that you two are expressing---perfectly, I might add---a writerly viewpoint on things. And from a writerly perspective, I think you're right, Jeff, when you call it a mug's game if you try to decide, "Should I make my story traditional or non-traditional?"

But there's a reader's perspective that doesn't get much play here on this board---most of the people who post here are writers, and most of the people who possess what I'm calling a reader's perspective aren't likely to bother going to this message board. What they are likely to do, however, is send me a letter complaining that we run too many reviews of books they're never gonna read anyway, so why can't I just drop the reviews and run more stories? Or send me a letter like the one last week that said, "How come there weren't any spaceships in the last issue?"

Maybe you're just responding to the terms "traditional" and "non-traditional." I don't know what the right words to use here are---that's why I used the McDaid as an example. It's an ambitious, daring, challenging work that uses the Goldberg Variations as a template. I love the story, but I also know that there are readers who are going to read two pages of it, say "What the fuck?", and put it aside. And it's my job to balance the magazine so that those readers keep reading F&SF instead of putting it aside in favor of another Star Trek novel.
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jeff ford
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 09:17 am:   

Gordon: No argument there. I understand the situation and the way you were using the terms. I wasn't lobbying for either kind of fiction in the magazine, all I was saying was that I'd seen an eclectic mix of good stories in varying styles, etc. The McDaid was really great, but I've seen "adventure" stories by Rod Garcia in F&SF that I've liked just as much, for different reasons. I realize that you are juggling a lot of different interests in creating each issue, but overall there's good quality for the buck. And I'm not just saying that. As you know, I have a subscription. If I was bored by what I saw, I wouldn't renew it. I'm wondering if what you are saying is that most readers don't share my sensibilities or they do. And one other thing, I haven't seen a fucking raygun in there in months. What'dya say? Come on.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 09:40 am:   

Gordon,

I'm just reacting to what I see and that's a lot of stuff that striving so hard to be non-traditonal, it becomes, as Jeff put it, a wonky piece of architecture. I appreciate "non-traditional writing," which is really a misnomer, but in workshops and elsewhere I see so much that has had all the soul tortured out of it. I've got no problem with a good story told that way or with a mag that incorpoates all kinds of fiction. My comment is directed toward new writers more than anything. I think a lot of them are twisting their work into unnatural shapes, whereas McDaid's story is reliant upon its structure; it needed to be told that way.
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Scott William Carter
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 10:11 am:   

Speaking of non-writer readers, it's one of the reasons I use my wife as my first reader, and why I place so much trust in her judgement. She's a fast, astute, and varied reader, and when she comes to one of my manuscripts, she doesn't bring any writerly baggage. Either it affects her on an emotional level or it doesn't, and if it doesn't, it's probably shite. She certainly doesn't say "Wow, you've got a non-traditional one here, way to go."

As a newer write myself, that's one of the things that's helped prevent me from getting caught up in the writing while losing sight of the story . . .


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Tim Pratt
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 12:13 pm:   

When Heather Shaw and I started Flytrap, we didn't have a manifesto or any desire to shake things up, particularly. We knew there were good stories out there going unpublished, and we knew we enjoyed editing and the physical process of putting together a magazine, doing layout, getting artwork, etc. We're just looking for good stories, and especially in the first two issues we had specific writers in mind that we wanted to showcase and work with. We don't publish as much "experimental" work as LCRW or Electric Velocipede, though we do have a willingness to publish non-genre work. We look for good stories by good writers. That's about it.
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Tim Pratt
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 12:20 pm:   

As for my own submitting patterns, I mostly submit to the pro magazines first, unless I wrote a story in response to a particular invitation to an anthology or magazine. I've been submitting to F&SF and Sci Fiction for years (they've seen almost every story I've written), without success, but I'm not particularly discouraged. Realms of Fantasy rejected me consistently for ages, but then something clicked, and Shawna has bought five of the last seven stories I've sent her. Eventually I'll write something that Gordon or Ellen like, and they'll buy it. Or they won't, and I'm only out the cost of a few stamps. I used to obsess about breaking into specific magazines -- particularly F&SF, which we always had at home when I was growing up -- but I'm a bit more relaxed these days. A good story will probably find a home and a readership somewhere. And if it doesn't, no big deal -- it's just one story. I'll write others.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 12:36 pm:   

Tim, that's the perfect attitude for submitting and I'm sure that one of these days I will indeed buy something from you.
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Yoon Ha Lee
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 05:58 am:   

I send stories to any paying markets where I think they might have a chance. Even a remote one; I've had a couple very pleasant surprises that way.

And I think Tim is right. Of course I may love a particular story I've written. (It feels weird admitting I like some of my stories more than others, like favoring one of your spawn over another in public. Eek.) Of course I may want to find it a good home. And I keep trying new venues because, heck, I love abusing the USPS. But if it seems hopeless and I decide to retire a story? I'm with Tim Pratt. Wrote it; learned from it; can write more where it came from (although usually when I think I'm doing *that* it turns into something entirely differrent; writing is endlessly weird and entertaining). Maybe the next one will strike some editor's fancy. Maybe the next one won't. There are always more stories. And the more stories I write, the more I get to abuse the USPS!

I figure if all else fails and I gnash my teeth over a particular story not receiving editor-love, I'll hand-calligraph the darn thing and draw little pictures in the margins and run off photocopies at the library and torment my long-suffering friends with them, and that'll satisfy the urge. Ink, paper, a few cents, and amusement value. (Um. I'm not suggesting this be a universal route for writers. I'm just saying I could probably entertain myself with an ugly-duck story this way.)
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Matt Cheney
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 08:38 am:   

I just posted a link over to this discussion, one which I'm sure will get me accused of waffling, but there are so many factors at play in what gets published and what doesn't that I can't help but feel on a bit of a see-saw whenever thinking about this whole subject.

It's true, as Sean says, that somewhere I wondered publicly why people like Dora Goss and Alan DeNiro etc. etc. weren't appearing in the major magazines (while at the same time I've applauded the loyalty places like F&SF have had toward such writers as Mary Rickert and Paolo Bacigalupi). Then I spent some time reading the Asimov's and F&SF message boards. I almost sent roses to every editor I could think of! For every reader like me damning from one side, there are two readers calling for more stories like the ones they read when they were 12 and life was perfect.

In some ways, the tension between various tastes is providing a real wealth of short fiction, though. For all the griping back and forth one way or another, the fact remains that it's a pretty exciting time to be reading. I'm making my way through 150 stories nominated for the Fountain Award right now, and it's just breathtaking how much good fiction was published last year.
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minz
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 09:51 am:   

I feel like I've just read a good Readercon panel. Lots of interesting things have been said.

Just to comment on the topic's subject:
We are indeed in a wonderful time of zine publishing, the biggest thanks owed to Gavin & Kelly, not just for the wonderful Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, but for inspiring others to take the leap into zine publishing. Other personal favs include (but certainly not limited to)
Electric Velocipede
Say...
Trunk Stories
Rapid Transit
Flytrap

To take the next logical step, and speak of small press in general (and to reiterate something I've been saying for nearly three years now—the next ICFA will be the third anniversary of my first public declaration): We are in the Golden Age of Small Press, people. Wallow in it and enjoy yourselves. This is in terms of zines, collections, anthologies and novels. There’s lots of interesting, weird stuff. There’s wonderful classic stuff. And it’s being brought to life and/or sustained thanks to the tireless efforts of folks all across this great land. I won’t even begin to list all the great small press publishers out there (the NS Board full list of topics has many of them), but kudos to you all, and heartfelt thanks.

Part of the reason is that the big houses have the same kind of concerns that GVG has iterated so well, i.e. it’s a fine balance between publishing enough popcorn fiction to help pay for the finer, quirkier vintages that won’t appeal to as many folks. It can be a very difficult balancing act. But you do have folks like China Mieville, Graham Joyce, Jonathan Carroll and Gene Wolfe to name a few, who are fairly successful by most measures. Certainly, they’ll never sell the number of copies as a Robert Jordan, but that doesn’t matter. It’s about trying to reach whatever readers might enjoy your fiction, regardless of the size of the audience.

I don’t think a major house could focus its line on fiction from the edge—there simply isn’t enough horsepower to make it work financially (I grimly point to RH folding Anchor and Vintage into one tp line as an example from mainstream publishing—a consolidation that bothers me no end). You have to pick your spots and publish only that which you truly believe can sell. On the other hand, that’s what’s creating the gap in which small press can flourish. This means not only a wider variety of potential publishers, but a wider variety of editorial vision—which means a writer has yet another shot to reach some kind of market. This is a good thing. Ten years ago, your options were more limited. (Of course, the downside to all this diversification means there’s much greater competition for the consumer’s dollar—I think mags suffer from the sheer volume of competition for the entertainment dollar more than anything else.)

Enough rambling. Lunchtime’s over.
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des
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 10:34 am:   

If the New Cross-Genre is an important goal, one has to explore the best means of attaining this, without humps appearing in the road...
des
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Eric Marin
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 11:44 am:   

I began my speculative fiction and poetry webzine, Lone Star Stories, a little over a year ago in order to publish good stories and poems, whether “traditional” or “experimental,” that might not otherwise find homes. I had no experience with publishing in print or online, but I’m a fairly resourceful fellow and open to suggestions. As a result, and despite the fact that I pay very little for work, I've had the pleasure of publishing some nifty pieces by established and new authors alike. I’ve even received positive feedback from readers, which, I understand, is quite rare for a small online venue.

All that aside, Lone Star Stories is a non-commercial venture, and, as such, is limited only by my personal finances and preferences. If readers don’t like the work I publish, they don’t come back to the webzine’s site. If readers love what they find there, they return for more. Either way, I’m unaffected financially (although I would, of course, love to have a large and loyal readership for my own sense of satisfaction and for the benefit of the authors I publish). For print magazines that rely on subscriptions and advertising to survive, the question seems to be one of marketing: What kind of market exists for “traditional” genre work and what kind for “non-traditional” work? What sort of research has been conducted along these lines, if any? If nothing has been done to explore these market issues due to financial and time constraints, perhaps some sort of joint project could be undertaken.

Oh, and if I’m rehashing prior discussions, I apologize.


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Torger Vedeler
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 12:20 pm:   

I gained a new appreciation for the small magazines recently when I submitted a short piece to Not One Of Us. The response time was amazing-- I literally heard back within a few days, and John Benson was happy to work with me on some unusual font issues the story required. This is a level of personalized attention that lessor-known writers like me can only dream of, and it's pretty well guaranteed that Not One Of Us is going to get the first look at a lot of my work in the near future, as well as any positive press I can give them.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 01:12 pm:   

Torqer,
Most magazine editors to whom you sold a story would likely give you the same attention. Working with the author is what editors do. This is not unusual.
The only unusual aspect is that John was able to respond so quickly. I assume he's buying the story. If not, then yes, it's more unusual for an editor to work with a writer who they are not publishing.
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Torger Vedeler
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 01:33 pm:   

Ellen-- thank you. It's good to hear, and encouraging as well to know that my positive experience is the norm, since I am rather new at publishing fiction. John did indeed accept the story. As I get more work submitted and become more acquainted with the process, hopefully some of my newcomer's rust will shake off.
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Alan DeNiro
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 04:56 pm:   

I don't think any writer is entitled to have a particular editor like (or want to publish) a particular story. So no worries. There are many different types of interlocking audiences out there that a writer can connect with, and for different reasons. Sometimes I think that the SF-zines just happen to inhabit the genre architecture but are, in their way, a different field altogether. But other times I don't think that's the case. It's hard to say. But I think it has to do with not only different types of stories, but different ideas of what fiction should be, and do, in the first place. And how does this relate to fandom? (I'm not saying that pejoratively.) But I notice that in the Hugo voting for best "fanzine." What is a fanzine? Two (or many more) very different ideas. But like others have mentioned, this tension can create really cool opportunities to write in, against and around different genre structures--hopefully with passion.

For Rabid Transit, we deliberately started out with our own work, stories that we each in our own way felt was a little (or a lot) "off." And what would happen if you put them in one place? I think it's broadened out from there, though. We were all humbled with some of the work we received for the last two chapbooks, which could have found a home in many a place.

Don't have too much else to add for now that already hasn't been covered.
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des
Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 11:52 pm:   

A lot of the above concerns and goals (and I get boring on this subject, I know), are attained if the stories are published initially without by-line or pre-emptive artwork.
A name is a genre in itself.
Des
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Richard Parks
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 06:51 am:   

Just to add another murmur to the conversation, I'm old enough to remember zines like SHAYOL and BEYOND THE FIELDS WE KNOW, UNEARTH... Literary trends come and go, but for presentation and editorial judgment I'd put those zines up against just about anything being published in the small press right now. The main problem with such lavish venues was that they were terribly expensive to produce, never had the economies of scale to make money, and never lasted more than a year or so, once the editor/publisher's patience and spare funds were exhausted.

In the seventies and eighties at first glance a fiction magazine like _Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet_ would be dismissed as a common crudzine, and odds are the dismissor would be right. There were exceptions but not many. Now and against all wisdom a saddle-stapled fanzine has become a showcase, and Gavin and Kelly's example has clearly inspired others to emulate it. What sets LCRW and those that have followed it apart isn't, imo, cutting edge or trendiness or cross-genre or any of the normal buzzwords. It's simply a keen editorial judgment combined with a sustainable, if not elegant, presentation. They proved that, if the content is of high enough quality, both the writers and the readers will get on board. I've had two stories in LCRW, both were sent to LCRW before anyone else had seen them, and I'm as proud of those sales as any I've made for a lot more money. Money is important but the bottom line is respect -- most writers who are serious about what they do can be quite picky about where their work appears. Personally, I'll trunk a story before I'll send it to a market I don't respect. There was a time when anything remotely resembling LCRW wouldn't even be in the running. That's a long way from true now.

We may or may not be in a "golden age" of small press; time will tell on that. But this is definitely an interesting trend.
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Minz
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 07:00 am:   

Well said, Richard.
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des
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 07:23 am:   

I think good content should be combined with the best possible production qualities. But if there is a choice, yes good content obviously prevails.

I think everything is Small Press, except mass market books. And personality/character (in presentation and story choice) that naturally stems from the proprietor(s) is the benchmark of each Small Press publication, or should be.
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Richard Parks
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 07:29 am:   

Thanks, though I need to amend my statement about the stories going to LCRW first -- after checking my records I see my memory tricked me and those stories went to one other editor first. I don't mind being wrong but I try not to lie. The point, as they say, still stands. :-)
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John Scalzi
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 10:08 am:   

I'm planning to send out some short story work this year, and I'll tell why it's rather more likely that I'll submit to small press venues as opposed to some of the larger markets. It's simple: because smaller venues accept electronic submissions and larger ones don't.

To be fair, I understand why. Several years ago I ran a humor area on America Online and I bought about 20 humor pieces a month -- and told my writers to submit through snail mail. The reason: The price of postage acted as a first-line bozo filter, protecting me from every half-assed, dashed-off thought. And it worked; I still had a slush pile, but it wasn't anywhere the size it would have been if I had let people have an e-mail box into which they could send material.

Be that as it may, on this side of the millennial dividing line, all my professional work is handled electronically, both in my creative and corporate sphere. It's more flexible and quicker to use and send electronic files. I don't even *own* a printer anymore, and haven't for more than a year. By and large I haven't missed it, either personally or professionally. It only becomes a problem if I want to submit work to, say, F&SF or Asimov's or SciFiction.

I don't begrudge these their submission guidelines -- they have them for a reason, just as I had my reasons for not accepting electronic submissions when I was an editor. It simply means that when it comes time to send stuff out, they won't be on my list. That being the case, I am deeply pleased we live in an era with a thriving "small press" scene, because many of them *do* accept electronic submissions. When I schlep my wares, I expect my first stop will be Strange Horizons, and then after I'm rejected there I'll go on to other places.

I do wonder as time goes on how feasible it will be not to accept electronic submissions. I accept that I'm almost certainly an outlier -- the vast majority of writers hoping to be published are not as lazy as I when it comes to shopping their work -- but at the same time I think the current and emerging generation of writers is likely to be more comfortable doing business electronically; I do think it's a matter of time.

I hope so -- I'd like to see those markets that don't accept electronic submissions today become available to me eventually. In the meantime, I'll be a Small Press Zine short story writer.
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des
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 10:19 am:   

John, not only will email story submissions prevail eventually throughout the short story print-market but - I personally hope - the ability now given by the email system for editors to consider *anonymous* email submissions up to and beyond the stage of final acceptance or rejection will also eventually prevail.

des
http://www.weirdmonger.com
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 10:44 am:   

"I'm old enough to remember zines like SHAYOL and BEYOND THE FIELDS WE KNOW, UNEARTH... "

Dating oneself by the zines you remember... In most circles, I have to figure out how old people are by asking about the earliest commercials they remember.

I had my very first actual sale (involving actual money) in Shayol 1 (which had just changed its name from Chacal). Boy that was a beautiful magazine. The illo for my story was a Tim Kirk original, which I still regret not having bought from him at the time (being a penniless teenager).

Memories make me feel old.
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Mark
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 11:12 am:   

I'm a reader. And I plan to not renew my F&SF subscription: often I think I don't like an issue because there's not enough genre stuff I liked from the good old days--but as I read all these entries I realize that its just that there's not many satisfying stories in the magazine. It's hard to really say why this is...so you end up wishing for stuff that satisfied you in the past. Maybe the editors are over thinking what the readers should like or buying too many throw-away stories by authors with a little name recognition, or maybe a hundred other reasons. I want to like a magazine named Fantasy and Science Fiction, but I don't, there's very few satistying stories, whole issues go by without me caring at all.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 11:43 am:   

MarcL
Wow! I thought that "Hiss of Dragons" with Benford was your first published story. I didn't know you had one before.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 12:15 pm:   

"Spawn of the Ruins" was in Shayol...a semiprozine, but I think they actually paid me a little cash. I actually sold three stories shortly after that, all at the same time, although "A Hiss of Dragon" was the first into print. My first real sale to a pro market was "Tissue" for Ramsey Campbell's NEW TERRORS; I got the acceptance letter for that the same week I got the news from Greg Benford about the Omni story. And right around that time, Reg Bretnor bought something called "Babe at Arms" aka "Rattleground" for THE FUTURE AT WAR. Jim Baen later rejected the story from the collection, but Bretnor had already paid me for it. So Hiss was the highest profile, but pretty much tied for first place. This all happened like my first week of college.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 12:20 pm:   

Mark,

If I go back into the archives of F&SF, I can find issue upon issue full of stuff that did not excite me. I distinctly recall wading through tedious issues in the mid 70s, to the point where my best friend and I did a whole parody issue (in comic book form) where the stories were composed entirely of things like people sitting on their front porches in rocking chairs.

There was also glorious stuff in there, and Ferman was doing a great job, and it was still my favorite of the available magazines...but I don't think there's ever been a period in F&SF's (or any magazine's) history where every issue is crammed with classics for months and years on end.

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Charlie Finlay
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 12:35 pm:   

Mark,

As someone who's had maybe a dozen stories in F&SF over the past few years, I'm sorry to hear you feel that way.

I'm a reader too. In the past year, F&SF published James Stoddard's "The Battle of York" and Bradley Denton's "Sergeant Chip," two stories that were so satisfying for me that I'm glad I had a subscription just so I didn't miss them.

Sure, not every issue rises to that level for me. But over the course of a year, I get at least a subscription price's worth of good fiction that I couldn't find anywhere else.
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mcduck
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 01:00 pm:   

Here's a strange perspective:

I used to subscribe to F&SF (maybe 10 years ago), but I found that I had trouble fitting it into my reading schedule. I usually have about 8 or 10 novels going simultaneously, and I will read a couple chapters of each as it rotates through the cycle. This is certainly a byproduct of the atypical reading habits I developed in my younger days (when I would buy a dozen or more comic books each month, each of which gave me 23 pages of story at a time). Anyway, if I put a magazine into my reading pile, then I only ended up reading one or two stories during each rotation through the pile.

I regularly found myself unable to finish F&SF each month before the next issue arrived. They were starting to pile up, unread. I have since opted for magazines like Weird Tales and HPL, simply because I can always manage to work my way through them before the next issues arrive.

I told you it was a strange perspective. I have opted for choosing magazines based on quantity (or its lack) over quality (although I am very pleased with Wildside's magazines so far).

-> Ray.

P.S. "The views, opinions, and judgments expressed in this message are solely those of the author. The message content has not been reviewed or approved by Thomson or its affiliates."
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 01:02 pm:   

On the walls of my office I have a selection of covers from Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, featuring such titles as "Trail of the Astrogar" by Henry Hasse, "The Monster from Mars" by Alexander Blade, "Starship from Sirius" by Rog Phillips, "Return of Sinbad" ("War Between Giant Rocs and Space Ships!") by Chester Geier, and "War of the Giant Apes" ("Mars Invades the Earth by Mind Control!") also by Alexander Blade.

I'm trying to imagine the Golden Age cover that would have accompanied "Footnotes."



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gabe
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 05:21 pm:   

Le livre n'est pas une guerre.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2005 - 04:37 am:   

Mark---

If F&SF doesn't do it for you, let your subscription lapse. My first priority as editor is to produce an entertaining magazine and if it's not working for you on that level, what's the point?
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Charlie Finlay
Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2005 - 06:13 am:   

Ray, you may not have such atypical reading habits. I've heard very similar things from other readers over the past couple years.

MarcL, okay, that's a fair call. I am guilty as charged and have done my own small postmodern part to bring about the death of digests and kill popular, or pulpular, short fiction. On the other hand, I think the covers for "The Political Officer" and "A Democracy of Trolls" would fit into any Golden Age Gallery just fine, as might have covers for some of my other stories featuring various giant man-killing guard toads, asteroid-dwelling mattress-sized cockroaches, sabre-tooth tigers and wooly mammoths, sorcerous vampire butterflies, and bloodhound imps. But heck, I might be mistaken.
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mcduck
Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2005 - 06:40 am:   

The last novel I can remember reading straight through from beginning to end was when I re-read James P. Hogan's "Inherit the Stars" about a year ago. (I was travelling and ended up stuck in an airport for about 6 hours.) Before that, I think I read Darrell Schweizer's "Mask of the Sorcerer" in one pass, because it was so compelling in its dream-like style.

In general, however, I prefer reading novels as if they were being serialized over a few weeks.

-> Ray.
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MarcL
Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2005 - 07:51 am:   

"Footnotes" was a super-cool story! Whatever doesn't kill the digests makes them stronger!
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2005 - 10:37 am:   

I greatly enjoy reading F&SF. I like Asimov's a lot, too, and Analog considerably less. Realms is good, too. The major reason I don't subscribe is pure economics. I haven't found a job in a little over a year and have zero money. The only reason I'm probably still alive is that my father has a great number of 20 year old buckets of wheat in his food storage that he lets me ransack. When I get a little on my feet financially and have any money to spend on leisure activities, a subscription to F&SF followed by one to Asimov's will be my first purchases. I just hope that these magazines will still be around by the time I get on my feet. :-(
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Mark
Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2005 - 10:59 am:   

Gordon and others,

I should have added that the problem might only be a difference in tastes. Also part of the point I was clumsily trying to make is that I had previously thought it was a matter of type of story that was driving my interest level, but by reading this long discussion I sort of came to the conclusion that I was rationalizing my general lack of satisfaction into a simple answer, that there is actually a more complex dynamanic that makes none of the current newstand magazines satisfying:satisfying enough to keep subscribing.
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Mark
Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2005 - 11:09 am:   

And that dynamic might have something to do with the attempt to devide up stories into types that Jeffery Ford was refering to. (I think I'll always pick the mag up off the newstand if I see he has a story therein, without worrying about what type of story it is.)
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Douglas Lain
Posted on Saturday, March 05, 2005 - 05:55 pm:   

It strikes me that all short story magazines are boutique magazines, and that the digests are not particularly different from the 'zines.

I work for the Oregon Symphony and, while our hall seats 5000, we do not delude ourselves into thinking that the music performed there is broadly popular. The conductor and marketing department try, however, to create a schedule that has as broad an appeal as possible, mostly featuring Baroque, Romantic, and Classical music and scorning works written after the turn of the last century.

There is another classical venue in town, a small ensemble called Third Angle, that often features the works of 20th century composers such as Charles Ives or Steve Reich. However they play at Lewis and Clark for much smaller audiences.

The point is that while it's easy to distinguish one organization from the other neither the Symphony nor Third Angle attempts to reach a mass audience. Neither group consistently sells out concerts, and neither are self supporting financially.

I wonder if genre short stories are doomed to, or have already succumbed to, the same fate.
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, March 07, 2005 - 09:48 am:   

The current meme of "The Long Tail" would suggest that this is the normal state of things, and not at all a bad thing. Most of what I love is not popular. The worst part about that, for me, is that it's also not readily accessible. This is also a problem for its creators, since if you can't find the books/movies/etc. that you like on the shelves of the local stores, then you can't buy them and support the artist in a financial way.

Genre short stories aren't any worse off than genre movies, except that you never see short stories breaking out of their packages and spreading like wildfire. I guess it's the nature of short stories in this day and age.

If "Napoleon Dynamite" were a short story that appeared in a genre magazine, it might get picked up by a few anthologies and that would be the end of it. Every now and then a quirky movie or piece of music do end up breaking out and spreading till they're everywhere. But...stories?

It'd be cool to think about how that might happen. What would it take?
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Richard Parks
Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 07:45 am:   

There has got to be a way to get rid of this bloody spambot. Registering users, proper logins, whatever. I've stopped reading half the topics because it's all spambot all the time.
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 01:12 pm:   

It's easy enough to delete. It's just time-consuming, though . . .
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Richard Parks
Posted on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 02:05 pm:   

Better still if the messages could be stopped from posting at all, but the board would probably have to go to registered users and no anonymous logins to make that happen. Which, so far as I'm concerned, wouldn't be a bad thing.

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