The magazine has been the vehicle for Science Fiction and Fantasy since the inception of the genre. Weird Tales, Amazing Stories and other magazines from the early 20th century allowed us to start thinking of Science Fiction and Fantasy as its own genre.
Where are we at today with the SF/F magazine? How has the magazine format kept up with the internets, the e-book revolution, and the impatience for digital download?
(this turned out to be a long post, thus the cut. I elected to not include banners and the like.)
Digital content comes four ways. There is the audio podcast, the PDF version, the web-browser format, and the ebook edition (I mean, specifically formatted for ePub or mobi). If there is a digital edition, most noted in this post are available through Weightless Books, which is a thank god this guy is doing this and making it work alternative to ConglomA’Zon. Many of the digital magazines offer a discussion forum, blog style, inviting comments. This is certainly something that is not available in paper.
Print has taken a hard punch with the decline of paper subscriptions, to the point that several magazines have keeled over. However, there’s nothing like getting a paper copy in the mailbox, and I for one am willing to pay a lot more for a paper subscription. Also, there are still people out there in SF/F fandom for whom digital is not an option.
Some of these offer content online for free. There’s lots of discussion about making content free. In retrospect, it seems to have been a successful risk, not only for those magazines who pioneered that model in the first place but also bolstering the whole concept, making it a more viable thing for everyone. I’m emphatic about paying people for the art and culture they bring to me, so if I like it, I choose to pay for it even if I don’t have to.
(Note: as per Darkcargo norms, I actually subscribe to these or have given them money of my own free will. These notes below were not commissioned, and nothing free was given to me in exchange. They attracted my attention by dint of their cover art, contents, or whatever.)
So, can you even get a print edition these days, I mean, something printed on paper and goes through the mail and you have to go to the mail box to pick it up?
There are at least three. If there are more (these are the ones of which I am aware), please let me know and we’ll do a Part II post later.
Tales of the Talisman is edited and managed by David Lee Summers out of the Southwest. This is a quarterly, large-format, black-and-white with glossy color cover. He features art and fiction. I can testify, this does come in the mail, and is perfectly appropriate for spilling sugary cereal milk all over it. Talisman is actually totally traditional and their material is not available digitally or online, thus not available without a subscription–which is perfectly A-OK with me. $24.00/yr.
Mythic Delirium is a Science Fiction Poetry magazine headed up by Mike Allen out of SW Virginia. This is a half-size little magazine that is crafted around a theme unique to each issue, and with a color cover. The concept of why poetry is important to Science Fiction is beyond the scope of this post, but trust me, it’s a cool magazine to get in the mail. A lot of the poets featured in Mythic Delirium write the cutting-edge fantasy and science fiction which we are all chomping at the bit to find more of. If not for the poetry, it’s definitely worth a subscription just to keep abreast of author names to watch for in fiction…and to get A Cool Thing in the mail. Content is available digitally, but not without a subscription. $9 for 2 issues per year for paper.
BullSpec is out of North Carolina, and we get to see editor Samuel Montgonery-Blinn out and about at the conventions we attend (there’s a photo of him on DarkCargo sporting a Munchkin hat I made). He focuses on fiction and poetry in the NC region. The contents are not available without at subscription–AGAIN, I heartily approve of this model–and a subscription costs $7 digital and $15 print.
Apex Magazine is a digital format, monthly magazine offering fiction and essays, and a phenomenal piece of art on the cover. I cannot find a print subscription, but the digital is available through Weightless books, Amazon and Apex itself. Fun stuff? They’re having a subscription drive right now and are offering cool prizes for your subscription or renewal. I won a cool necklace–nyah-nyah. Apex publishes a paper omnibus editions of their magazine, and they also publish books of fiction novels and anthologies under Apex Books Company. I really wish they did a print run, and if Apex is out there reading this, I would pay $60 for a year’s subscription print copy. $17.95/yr, 12 issues.
Strange Horizons is weekly, offering one or two fiction pieces, one to three non-fiction articles, and a M-W-F review. (They pay reviewers, by the way, all you book-blogger readers—you might be interested in submitting a review?) They’re doing a fund drive right now, also offering prizes and rewards and all. The subscription is free, they’re just asking for money right now. I’m way into ad-free material and gave them $40. Their stuff is on their website, and makes for a great between-work-crises reading break.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ cover art always makes me cry, and to be honest, I don’t always get to the word-contents because I’m stuck on the cover. I would love posters of these covers. I’ve seen paper copies at conventions, but I don’t see a subscription now on their website. A boon for you Audio-Peeps, they have a podcast which is a reading of one of the stories in the current edition. All of their material is offered free all the time on their website, and a subscription costs $13.99/yr. My subscription means that it shows up on my iPad and I don’t have to fuck around with finding the website and all that totally labor-intensive back-breaking work.
Crossed Genres. If you’ve heard of Crossed Genres and it wasn’t from me, it’s probably because they had a FANTABULOUS Kickstarter campaign, exceeding their goal by thousands of dollars. Crossed Genres I like a lot (what am I saying? I like all of these magazines a lot). They do a theme every issue, and purchase gorgeous art. I got a neat print of a Julie Dillon piece with my Kickstarter subscription. Plus they do this Science in my Fiction column that Sarah Goslee writes for, which is a journalistic article on the science behind science fiction. They have started printing books, SF/F novels or anthologies. Important to me, they go out of their way to find and publish works from the LGBT community. It looks like their stuff is free to read, right now. I cannot find their deep, deep archives—they’ve been active for years (much longer than the two issues now which show on their “archives” tab).
Oh yeah! And Clarkesworld! Snort! I need a t-shirt that just says “I subscribe to a lot of SF/F Magazines”. Along with Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld is kinda the Big Daddy of SF ‘zines. Meh… maybe that’s not a valid perception. In my mind, all of these magazines carry equal quality, weight and value. Anyways, Clarkesworld offers their content for free on their webpage. They offer the gorgeous cover art that would surely look swank in my mailbox. *ahem* They have an audio component, fiction and non-fiction. A subscription costs $10.
Escape Pod is 1/3 of the Escape Artists fiction podcast group, which also includes PodCastle –fantasy, and PseudoPod –horror. These are weekly audio recordings of fiction. These guys I like a lot. Their content is free, they offer several different ways to get their fiction onto your electronic device and they pay their authors. They ask for a donation.
And that’s my round up. This isn’t all that’s out there. There’s still Locus, Lightspeed, StarShipSofa, others. Is the magazine format dead and gone without print? not by a long shot. Is there still an audience for print magazines? definitely. Goodness’ sake! I’m having trouble keeping up with my current subscriptions.
Putting this article cost me 3 hours from my precious reading time, so please click on at least one link, OK? (guilt bomb—heh-he!)
This is what a digital subscription looks like: