This isn’t any breaking news, just something I’ve been ruminating about lately. Back in November, Dell magazines announced that their four fiction magazines would be going to a bimonthly schedule. Those magazines, in case you’re unaware, are Analog, Asimov’s, Ellery Queen, and Alfred Hitchcock.
Up until a few years ago I picked them up on the newsstand since I didn’t like how the USPS tended to tear things up. (I learned this because F&SF wasn’t always available on the newsstand, so I had and still have a print subscription. My copy came today, partially accordianized.) When digital subscriptions became available, I switched over. (Shelf space had a lot to do with it as well.)
Now, instead of ten issues per year, two of them double, the magazines will have six 208 page double issues. The current schedule already contained two double issues. I can remember when Analog published thirteen issues a year, two of them double issues IIRC. But then I’m a dinosaur. Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s, has said this will allow them to add 16 pages more than their current double issues as well as holding subscription prices steady. I suspect cost more than anything is behind this move.
F&SF went to this format some years ago. Same reasons. One the one hand, I’m hoping to read more short fiction this year, and maybe having a new issue show up on my ereader every other month will help me keep from getting behind. Otherwise I may end up letting my subscriptions lapse. I can’t justify paying for them if I’m not going to be reading them. I’m including the electronic magazines in this statement as well. (I may let some lapse simply because I’m not interested in their contents, but that’s a different post.)
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the role of short fiction in the current science fiction and fantasy field. I’m afraid we’re heading in the direction of the mystery field. Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock are the only two mystery short fiction magazine markets left in the US, as least that I know of. Those are pretty tough markets to crack. According to ralan.com, AHMM has a year’s response time.
It’s not much easier to get into Analog or Asimov’s. Ditto for the online magazines, which to me seem to publish many of the same authors over and over.
There was a discussion across several venues the other day, and I’m not sure where it started, maybe email, maybe Twitter, about writing novels rather than short fiction. The general consensus was that short fiction wasn’t economically feasible right now.
While I recognize that this is the case, I’m not entirely happy with it. I grew up reading short stories, and I still tend to prefer them to novels. For one reason, I can usually finish one in one or two sittings, depending on whether I sit down with the intent to read or am reading while waiting in line or for my son to get out of school, etc. Novels have been a lot harder to finish lately.
I believe short fiction is the lifeblood of any field, be it mystery, science fiction, fantasy, or horror. And while I don’t entirely buy the line that short fiction allows writers to learn their craft before moving on to novels, because the two forms are very different in their execution, they are a good way for many people to break into the field.
Anthologies still seem to be fairly healthy, but many of those are harder to get into than periodicals. And since Martin H. Greenberg passed away, I don’t see nearly as many anthologies as I used to.
Where am I going with this? I’m not entirely sure. Like I said in my opening sentence, I’ve been ruminating on this lately. There are a number of periodicals, mostly online, that pay a pittance, and some of them have some good fiction. They’re hardly worth the time. Dean Wesley Smith advises new writers to try the markets that pay pro rates. If your work is rejected, then publish it yourself. It’s hard to argue with that.
On the other hand, I think my fiction, what little I’ve been able to write lately, is at the stage where it needs a good editorial eye. Would I be better served long-term by submitting to some of these markets and getting feedback if my work makes the grade? I dunno. I do know that the field is undergoing some changes, and if I want to develop a writing career, even if it’s only on the side, I need to be prepared to change with it.
What do you folks think?