This past year was a good year overall for short fiction. And some of the most exciting short fiction was published online with or without the option of subscribing. There were also the usual print venues, both periodicals and anthologies. In this post, I’m going to try to provide an admittedly incomplete overview of the short fiction field in 2012, emphasizing online venues. I didn’t read thoroughly enough in the print periodicals (Asimov’s, Analog, Hitchcock’s, Ellery Queen, or F&SF) to have a feel for them. And there were enough original anthologies that flew past my radar that I’m not even going to try to discuss any of them.
And as for the electronic magazines, with one exception, I’m only going to mention the ones I read at least once this year. I’m not going to discuss individual stories; I don’t have that kind of time. Rather, I’m going to try to give a general idea of what the magazine was like. Links and subcription information (where applicable) will be provided.
The year didn’t start off all that well. The electronic magazine Something Wicked ceased publication. I’m not sure how well known this title was in the States. I’m not certain, but I think it was out of South Aftrica. It started as a print magazine before moving to electronic only. With a focus on science fiction and horror, it published three short stories and one novella plus some nonfiction each issue. I had a subscription and got a few issues before it was canceled. I hated to see it go, because it was different than what was being published here in the States, and I enjoyed what I read.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies was probably the go-to place online for high quality fantasy, with an issue every two weeks. BCS had a great year, publishing their 100th issue. They’re still going strong and required reading for anyone wanting to keep up with the field. Subscription info here.
Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is your next best bet for great adventure fiction, especially if your tastes run to sword and sorcery. It’s also the strongest competition BCS had at the first of the year; with Black Gate publishing fiction once a week, that’s changing. I found the quality of work at HFQ to be on par with BCS and Black Gate. If you aren’t reading this one, you should be. It’s free and updates every three months, just like a quarterly should, not that all publications that call themselves that do.
In October, Black Gate, which had stopped publishing in print format, began posting a new piece of fiction every Sunday. They’ve published a mix of new stories, reprints from the print incarnation, and excerpts from novels. So far the quality has been high, which is what I would expect from BG.
In my opinion, these were the best markets for sword and sorcery and adventure fiction, and are the top venues in the field. They weren’t only markets for S&S, nor were they the only markets for great fiction of a fantastic nature.
Lightspeed is probably the main online source for fantastic fiction. In January, it combined with Fantasy. This is the publication I had the most trouble fitting into my schedule this year, managing to read only one or two stories. Edited by John Joseph Adams, it’s going strong, publishing the top names in both science fiction and fantasy. Subscription info here. I promise I’ll do a better job of reading this one in 2013.
Clarkesworld published some solid science fiction this year, although most of what I read was more literary than than action orieinted. I don’t recall seeing any fantasy, but I wasn’t able to read each issue. Subscription info here.
Apex publishes stuff on the darker side of the fantastic. Lynn Thomas took over as editor from Cathrynne Valente near the beginning of the year. It’s another one I intend to read more of next year. What little I managed to fit in was good stuff. Subscription info here.
Subterranean had another great year. This is a quarterly publication. They went from publishing their content over a period of weeks to putting it all online at once. There is no subscription option like there is for some of the titles listed above, but I wish there were. I’d rather read on an ereader than a screen.
Combine these publications with the traditional print ones, and it’s hard not to conclude the short fiction market is healthy. There were several new publications that started up this year as well.
First there was Swords and Sorcery Magazine, an online-only publication that premiered in February. Publishing two stories per issue, it met its publication schedule, something that new publications don’t always do. It’s not a professional paying market at the moment, although I hope it can achieve that status soon. As a result, the quality of the fiction wasn’t up to what you find in BCS or HFQ. In spite of that, the issues I read were quite readable, and I enjoyed the fiction I found there. It was certainly the most promising debut as far as S&S is concerned. In spite of the fact that it can’t yet pay professional rates, there’s nothing unprofessional about the editorial tone. This is one worth supporting.
Another new publication was Nightmare Magazine. Edited by John Joseph When-Does-the-Man-Sleep? Adams, this magazine was crowdfunded by Kickstarter and has taken off. It’s one of the best, if not the best, publications devoted solely to horror fiction out there. I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve found. Subscription info here.
Another Kickstarter magazine was Fireside. This quarterly hasn’t taken off like Nightmare, and I hope it does. It doesn’t limit itself to any particular genre, which is both a strength and a weakness. A strength because it can publish those cool stories that defy classification, and a weakness because it will probably take a little longer to find its core readership that a genre publication would. Subscription info here.
Another high profile debut, which publishes both fantasy and science fiction, is Eclipse Online. Edited by Jonathan Strahan, it’s a continuation of the critically acclaimed anthology series of the same title. It publishes fiction twice a month and is worth checking out.
In many ways the most anticipated debut, and certainly the most controversial, was the relaunch of Weird Tales with Marvin Kaye as the editor. Kaye wanted to return the magazine to its roots, something that didn’t sit well in certain circles. The first issue was IMO a success. Here’s hoping the best days of the publication are ahead of it. Subscription info here.
In the interest of being balanced, I’m going to mention Shimmer, even though I haven’t read it yet. As part of the reaction to Marvin Kaye replacing Ann Vandermeer as editor of Weird Tales, Mary Robinette Kowal underwrote the magazine so that it can pay professional rates. The idea is that this will attract writers who would have submitted to Vandermeer had she continued to edit WT. In other words, what we have here is a literary smackdown. Like WT, Shimmer is a quarterly publication. I’m going to review this one, probably after the next issue is published. I want to evaluate it on the basis of what it publishes after paying pro rates. Subscription info here.
These weren’t all of the fiction outlets, but with the exception of Shimmer, these were the ones I at least attempted to read. Other major venues included, but weren’t limited to, Tor.com and Strange Horizons. These two are also on the list to read next year.
So anyway, that’s a (very) lopsided look at the electronic world of fantastic fiction in the year 2012. There was a great deal of good stuff published. I’m going to try to do more reading at short lengths in 2013. For one thing, I like short fiction. It fits my time contraints better than doorstopper novels. Also, with my new gig at Amazing Stories (TM), I’m not going to have as much time to read novels for my personal blogs.