I’ve talked about this before, in person and on this blog, and I’m absolutely not the first person to say this, but short fiction is incredibly important to the health of the speculative fiction industry. It is where writers get to explore, experiment, and often get their first publication credits. Which in turn makes them more confident about joining and engaging with the community. Essentially short fiction has been the germination place for many of our favorite writers’ careers. Short stories are also available to readers all around the world because most SFF magazines are free to read online, reaching an audience who might not have access to books. It’s where the conversation in genre is happening in real time, because short fiction is published within months, not years, as it for novels. As Kij Johnson once said “the science fiction and fantasy genre is always in conversation with itself.”
Except, even in the best of times, most magazines barely have enough funds to keep running. According to Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine less than 10% of readers subscribe to most online magazines. Scott Andrews of Beneath Ceaseless Skies says <a href="http://<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Percentage of BCS readers in 2022 who supported the zine financially (subscribers & donors & Patreon supporters) was 0.7%. 99.3% did not. (For anyone who'd like to support us, we would be grateful! Here's the BCS Patreon: <a href="https://t.co/f1CkYfEOyp">https://t.co/f1CkYfEOyp</a> )</p>— BCS Online Magazine (@BCSmagazine) <a href="https://twitter.com/BCSmagazine/status/1640377633308286976?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 27, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8">that only 0.7% of readers support the magazine.
These are not the best of times.
A few months ago, Amazon announced that it will be ending it’s Kindle Newsstand Service, and switching to a Spotify-like model of payment. Meaning that publishers will only get a fraction of the income they were once making through the service. Jason Sanford has an excellent and full write up about it here. This doesn’t include the slow, but steady collapse of Twitter, which is how many magazines, writers, and readers talked about and boosted stories they love. Or the influx of AI written stories, which has bogged down editors.
I have been writing short speculative fiction for over ten years now, and have seen several ups and downs in the industry, but this time I’m worried that many beloved venues might close, leaving holes in the industry that will be difficult to fill.
Short fiction is a major component in the foundation of science fiction and fantasy fiction ecosystem and one that desperately needs any support we can give it. So, if you’re able, please consider supporting one or more of these magazines. Listed in no particular order:
- Fantasy Magazine
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies
- Strange Horizons
- Uncanny Magazine
- Nightmare Magazine
- Apex Magazine
- Escape Artists Podcast Family
- Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine
- The Deadlands
Again, if you like my work, please consider buying a subscription or donating a few dollars to one of these publications. Most of them have published my work at some point. More importantly, they have published the work of hundreds of other writers as well.
My short fiction recommendation for the week is Crown Prince by Melissa Mead over at Cast of Wonders. Mead was a prolific short story writer, who like me, had cerebral palsy too. She died far too young in February 2022 and this story has been published posthumously with permission from her family.