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How often do you read fantasy/sci-fi magazines? Recommendations?

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Ned Marcus, Oct 30, 2021.

How often do you read fantasy/sci-fi magazines?

  1. Often

    1 vote(s)
    8.3%
  2. Once or twice a month.

    2 vote(s)
    16.7%
  3. Once in a blue moon.

    3 vote(s)
    25.0%
  4. Never

    6 vote(s)
    50.0%
  5. I don't read short stories.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Inkling

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    I asked a similar question about 15 months ago and only one person answered. Just seeing if anything's changed. I'm interested as a reader and a writer but wanted to ask from a reading point of view (any opinions as a writer are welcome, too). It's possible that fantasy magazines (like fantasy forums) are a very minority interest. It's also possible that most fantasy readers don't like short stories—I understand because I used to be one of them.

    If you do read any, which ones do you read?

    Some I find hard to read, for example, Clarkesworld. Their stories just don't grab me. They seem to value nice prose over everything else—like many of the Nebula and Hugo shortlisted stories IMO.

    I'm subscribed to Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores (I may change this because of how infrequently they publish new stories), and sometimes read Daily Science Fiction (which has a lot of fantasy, too). Occasionally I read others: Dream Forge and Beneath Ceaseless Skies are two I like. Perhaps I'll switch my subscription to one of those.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Stevie

    Stevie Minstrel

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    I took out a subscription to Interzone last year but didn't renew. Most (all!) of the stories in it leaned to or where purely literary, which just leaves me cold. Out of six or so issues, I could only recall one story that I enjoyed reading. Still like a good short story though and maybe need to get back into picking up an anthology now and again.
     
  3. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Inkling

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    Exactly. I like fantasy magazines with adventure or with any kind of exciting and imaginative stories. Some of the old pulp fiction magazines were good. It's still possible to find these types of stories, but I've never found a magazine that specialises in them.
     
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I agree with the general tone here. The "leading" SFF magazines don't just leave me cold; as often as not, they leave my scratching my head. Stories end without an ending. Or they make a point that hardly seems worth making. And they almost never present either an interesting character or an interesting idea. Mostly I shrug and walk away.

    A perhaps related question, does anyone read the free mags? There are several around, and a few have been around for a long time. I confess I intend to read them more frequently than I actually read them.
     
  5. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Inkling

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    I mostly read free magazines (I'm only subscribed to Cosmic Roots). Daily Science Fiction has a huge amount of free to read stories (although they pay authors pro-rate). Quite a few of the bigger magazines have some free stories (the amount varies a lot), although inevitably some are behind a paywall.

    Skip, do you have any recommendations for free magazines?
     
  6. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    I am not sure about the role of short stories these days. It used to be the route into writing years ago - but that was before the digital age and self-publishing. I also think it is pretty well known that the overall popularity of short stories has gradually declined over time.

    Personally, I don't often read short stories. The SFF magazines are mostly Sci-Fi rather than Fantasy anyway (so potentially less interest for me - although I do sometimes like reading good Sci-Fi). But I can't think of too many (if any) that are pure fantasy rather than SF. Many say they are both but often err far more into SF.

    Also a few of the stories I have seen often don't appeal. I get the impression (and this is based on not seeing that many) that the magazines often go for things they think are in vogue / 'clever' - too clever perhaps. The triumph of clever alternative ideas over a good story is my suspicion.

    I suspect that people in the industry might be the main audience for this stuff - agents, editors and publishers on the look out for new talent & aspiring writers. So it may still be a good route into trad publishing.

    But do actual readers really read this stuff? Only a minority of SFF readers are really into it as far as I can tell. Most are more likely to take it or leave it I suspect, based on conversations I've had with readers. Even then I think there are a chunk of readers who'd prefer to go for a short story anthology or buy direct from a self-pub author etc rather than read the magazines.

    My bet is that these days the magazines are mainly an in-industry thing. But I'm happy to be proven wrong on that score.
     
  7. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Inkling

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    The Bookseller reported a boom in the sales of anthologies of short stories only a few years ago. Those are the only figures I've seen.

    That was partly my reason for asking the question. I think that despite the reported boom in anthologies, reading fantasy magazines is a minority activity amongst fantasy fans for some of the reasons we've all made.

    Actually, there are quite a lot of fantasy only magazines (perhaps more than science fiction only) at least from my personal observations.
     
  8. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Inkling

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    At least no one has said they don't read short stories at all. Not yet.
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I don't have recommendations because I don't read any mag with any regularity. This stems in part from not finding stories I liked when I did make a stab at regular reading some few years ago, and in part because I have such a big TBR pile of novels to read--far more books than I have time. So it's also in part a conscious choice.

    I wonder if ebooks are not part of the equation here. First of course was the decline in advertising dollars combined with the rise in production costs that started happening in the 1970s. But I can remember a time when books to read were limited to my local library and to whatever a bookstore or two happened to carry. I could and did read my way through those resources. In that era, magazines provided a steady stream of new material, not of short stories only but also novellas. They scratched the SFF itch until I stumbled across a new book.

    Nowadays, though, there's an unending avalanche of new books. Like, every day. Magazines can't keep up.

    But, as a resource for those curious and, one hopes, as a service to the mags themselves, here's a list from my bookmarks.

    Anotherealm.com
    Apex Magazine – A magazine of science Fiction, fantasy, and horror
    Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy
    Beneath Ceaseless Skies - Literary Adventure Fantasy
    Bewildering Stories home page
    Black Denim Lit
    Bull Spec | Bull Spec is a magazine of speculative fiction—science fiction, fantasy, and some bits around the edges—published quarterly from Durham, NC, US.
    Clarkesworld Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy : Submission Guidelines
    Fantasy and Science Fiction
    Fantasy Scroll Magazine | Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine
    Heroic Fantasy Quarterly - Prose. Poetry. Pulp.
    Lightspeed Magazine | Submissions
    Metaphorosis Magazine – Beautifully made speculative fiction
    Myths Inscribed | an online fantasy magazine
    SQ Mag | International Speculative Fiction eZine
    Strange Horizons Fiction Submission Guidelines

    This list is at least a couple years old, so I won't vouch for every link, nor can I claim the list is complete. So, if you have more, please append! Also, as you may notice, this is a writer's list, so several of the links go to the Submissions page rather than the home page.

    Finally, a shout out to Bewildering Stories, a long-running mag, because they were my first publisher. Even before my first novel. The shout out is because they (all volunteers) actually read my story and critiqued it before accepting the revisions and publishing. It was my very first edit. Both the critique and the eventual publication did wonders for motivating me to press on with the novel. I'll always be grateful to those folks.
     
    Ned Marcus likes this.
  10. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Inkling

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    Thanks for the list. I've heard of about half of them, and I checked out the others. What I found was a little sad but not unexpected.

    Black Denim, Bull Spec, Fantasy Scroll, Myths Inscribed, and SQ Magazine either haven't posted anything in over a year or are permanently closed. It seems to confirm what we've said here. I think it's incredibly tough to successfully run one of these magazines. I found a few new ones though.

    The complete list of fantasy/speculative fiction magazines would be too long, but for anyone interested, here are two good resources. Ralan and The Submission Grinder. The first lists almost a hundred publications, the second well over a hundred.
     
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  11. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    That may be the case. I get the feeling that anthologies may well be a more popular way to consume short form fiction these days than magazines.

    This is a link to an interesting article on the subject. It links the decline in short story popularity with the general decline in paper print magazines but speculates that the digital age may lead to some revival in the fortunes of short stories.

    If I think about short stories / short form fiction I have read recently (past couple of years):

    1) An HP Lovecraft anthology.
    2) A couple of Saki stories (again, from an anthology).

    The average length of Lovecraft's short form fiction being 6,700 words, so his anthology contains a few novelette or even novella length works. The average for Saki story being closer to what we'd consider short story length today. Magazines back in the heyday of the genre seemed to have been happier to publish short form in general (i.e. happy to go with stuff that is more novelette length, or even to serialise Novellas). It seems they were less rigid in saying "we only accept stories between x and y word length" etc. Which is interesting - but I'm not sure what lessons there are there, if any, for today's magazine publishers.

    I believe the latest ABC audit figures from the UK shows a pretty chaotic picture due to Covid (overall sales for consumer magazines of all kinds down but the subscriptions share of the total up - as people weren't able to go to the shops to buy magazines for various periods of time). But I think the general trend for the past few years has been something like a 6% annual decline in magazine readership (for all consumer mags).

    Maybe magazines need a re-think. Maybe they have just become too set in their ways about what they will / will not publish - too many criteria - resulting in too much material being published that's too similar. Frankly, I'm not interested in reading a whole bunch of similar stories about various different characters having various kinds of existential crises in the future (which is the general impression I got of the typical content of one magazine when last I looked a few years ago).

    I did notice under the submission guidelines of one SFF mag (who shall remain nameless), they list a variety of topics they say they are less likely to consider. One of the items on this list was any story that features "talking cats or swords" . I seem to recall Lewis Carol writing about talking cats (of the Cheshire variety) and I seem to recall a talking sword making an appearance in Terry Pratchett's Colour of Magic. (too many criteria - resulting in too much that is too similar...)

    But, then again, maybe it's just that the future of short form lies elsewhere than magazines(?)
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2021
  12. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    I used to work in a magazine publishing business (some years ago & on the non-fiction side). It was a really tough business by the early 2000s and the publishing house really struggled to adapt to digital (as most have done). I would not be surprised to find it's even tougher these days than it was back in 2007, when I was last in that game.
     
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  13. ladyander

    ladyander Scribe

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    I'm really not a fan of short stories. I don't read many at all to be honest. I can't even tell you the last time I've gone out of my way and read a short story. It had probably been several years. Okay, maybe I might read the short-stories at the end of the Tor newsletter, but I rarely read the newsletter. Since I don't write them, I don't focus my attention on them.

    The only time I've ever read a short-story mag was when I was living at home and my sister was subscribed to Ellery Queen, and that was for mystery when I was a mystery reader. And I never really enjoyed that. I have been tempted to pick one up either at a bookstore or running into a digital one, but I skim through their offerings or look at their submission guildlines to get a taste of what they offer and they don't interest me. So why drop the money or pay for a sub for something I'm not going to enjoy. Basically, I'm not the audience for them. I'm not sure who the audience for them is.
     
  14. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Inkling

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    Thanks for the link. I agree with the writer that mobile devices could, in theory, help people read short stories. To me, they seem the ideal length for a commute or long queue at a bank. Whether it happens is something else.

    Very few magazines now accept novelette length, unfortunately. I've always assumed they were trying to save money, but they might be concerned about short attentions spans. I don't even know if this is really true.

    I completely agree about the sameness of stories in many magazines. I keep hoping I might find one that's different. There's also a sameness of stories in the short lists for the Hugo and Nebula awards. These can mostly be read for free by going to their websites.

    Amazon has Amazon Shorts. I'm not sure how successful they are, but I like the idea, of course. I read that in France, train stations planned to install machines that print short stories on demand (for money of course). A nice idea.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I have very fond memories of the Galaxy Reader. And also of collections by Asimov, Clarke, and others. Not much along fantasy lines, though.
     
  16. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Inkling

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    I loved the collections of their short stories. And the artwork was great.
     
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  17. Juan Richardson

    Juan Richardson New Member

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    Thank you so much for sharing.
     
  18. pmmg

    pmmg Istar

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    An old post, but one still worth replying too.

    I hate to say, but I am not a reader. I almost never read for enjoyment, and almost always to learn something. I cannot turn my editor brain off, and so I never see the work as an entertainment form. I have not read a story in a magazine in many years. I used to like the fantasy magazines, but all the ones I would know have closed their doors by now. I still wish Dragon magazine was around, though I do not play RPG's anymore, I liked the world better when it was :)

    I do read books but mostly for something other than enjoyment. I like seeing how others have done things and how it might be useful it me in my own development. I have also read stuff in online magazines if the were short, caught my fancy, or was recommended. I get an email everyday from Daily Science Fiction, and they have published me before. But they are short works.

    I do like to create, and I find if I have an hour of time, I would rather use it creating, than reading someone elses creation.

    I do engage in beta-reading if I think it will be helpful to someone. I am slow, but I try to be thorough. I don't do this very often anymore as it takes a lot of time and energy to do, but I can be persuaded.

    ATM, I am in writing mode. Would not want to interrupt that with another project.
     
  19. Juan Richardson

    Juan Richardson New Member

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    Thank you so much for these recommendations, it's very helpful for me.
     
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