Archive for the ‘SF/F’ Category

At Capclave this Weekend

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

This weekend I will be at Capclave, the local D.C.-area SF/F con.

The co-Guest of Honor this year is bestselling writer Carrie Vaughn, a fellow Odyssey grad.  I’ve heard her writing lectures in podcasts (they’re very insightful), but I’ve never met her in person.

The con again this year has lots of cool literary SF/F programming.  I will be on several panels, again this year:

Friday 8:00 pm:
Short Fiction: Where is the new good short fiction found now?

Saturday 11:00 am:
Small Press Publishing: Running a publishing company, publishing a magazine or semi-prozine.

Saturday 1:00 pm:
When Characters Threaten to Take Over

Alas, no reading this year, for some reason–I did ask for one.

I will probably swing by the hotel bar Friday after my panel, at 9PM.  I’m not sure how long I’ll be around Saturday, and I probably won’t be there Sunday.  If you see me, feel free to grab a snazzy BCS flyer and say hello.

Farewell, New Weird

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Weird Tales magazine has been sold, according to Editor Ann VanderMeer, to a new Publisher/Editor, Marvin Kaye, who intends to edit the magazine himself.  Ms. VanderMeer’s editorship will end with the next issue, #359, which Mr. Kaye plans to publish next February.

I for one will be sorry to see Ms. VanderMeer go. Her editorial vision took WT in a less pulp, more literary and character-centered direction. She published several pieces by veteran writers that I enjoyed, including a new Elric novella by Michael Moorcock.  And she also published many new and neo-pro writers, as she proudly mentions in her farewell editorial, including Rachel Swirsky, Jonathan Wood, Amanda Downum, and N.K. Jemisin.

The former and the latter have gone on to earn Finalists for major awards.  Jonathan Wood has authored two of my favorite stories so far in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Amanda Downum has published a dark, secondary-world fantasy trilogy.

Ms. VanderMeer also bought my first genre sale, “Excision” in WT #347. (That same issue included the Jonathan Wood and Amanda Downum pieces.  Downum’s story is one of the top ten stories I’ve read in the last decade–a creepy yet heart-rending tale of emotional loss and attempted redemption.)  And Ann was delightful to me in person at Capclave last year.

Best of luck to Mr. Kaye with his new plans for the magazine, and I’m certain that Ms. VanderMeer’s editorial vision will continue in her future projects.  But I’m sad to see the new slant that she brought to WT five years ago end.

Weird Tales #347

Don’t Make a Mess of the Whole Semipro Zine Category?

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Word comes from semiprozine.org that there is yet another idiotic proposal to redefine the Semiprozine Hugo category (and the Fanzine one), this time to exclude audio podcasts or any other non-text format.

I don’t quite understand the print purists’ furor over new media, such as audio.  But I’m shocked at the ancillary effect that their revision, which was rejected by the Semiprozine revision committee, would have.  They want to cross out the stipulation of “non-professional”, which would effectively put all magazines into the Semiprozine category.

Yes, Asmiov’s, Analog, and F&SF would all become semipro zines.

I am boggled that anyone could think that for example F&SF, which currently has an exclusive business arrangement with one of the largest corporations in the world (Amazon), is on equivalent footing with magazines like Strange Horizons, which is a charity that has to beg for donations every year.

But this incessant Hugo politics seems to get more mind-boggling with each iteration.  The idiotic minority proposal I blogged about a few days ago would exclude every zine that had been nominated in the past four years; this one would include nearly all magazines in the field.

I hope cooler heads will prevail.  For the good of the entire field.

Don’t Penalize Non-Pro Zines for Pro-Level Respect

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

The committee to revise the Semiprozine category in the Hugo Awards has made their proposal, along with several minority recommendations by single members of the committee.  (Followers of this issue may remember that the Semiprozine Hugo was slated to be abolished two years ago, but a grassroots campaign led by editor and publisher Neil Clarke prevented that.)

At the core of this issue is how to define the difference between a “pro” zine and a “semipro” zine, since the former are not eligible in this category.

The committee’s recommended criteria offer a good distinction.  If a magazine provides a quarter of the income of any staff member, or is owned by a company that provides a quarter of the income of any person, it would be a pro zine. That makes perfect sense.  Lightspeed and Weird Tales,  for example, are both owned by publishing companies with full-time employees, and those magazines clearly have a different footing than Clarkesworld or Space and Time or my magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

But the minority proposal by Ben Yalow, a thirty-year fan, that any magazine that pays a pro rate for its fiction must be a pro zine, is ludicrous.  Other editors and publishers have pointed out the absurdity that such a criterion would make every zine that has been nominated in the Semiprozine category in the last four years no longer fit in that category.

The main flaw with his idea is its fundamental misunderstanding of why some non-pro zines, like my magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, pay a pro rate for fiction.

We do it out of respect.  Respect for authors, in an era when it’s all but impossible to make a living writing short fiction.  Respect for fans; the readers who still crave great short stories.  Respect for established writers doing great work in that form and upcoming writers using it to develop their voice. Respect for a form of fiction that has a proud tradition in our genre; that we know is in financial decline but we love it so much we do it regardless.

We pro-paying, non-pro zines feel this respect so deeply that we prioritize paying a pro rate above all other financial considerations. Look at any number of non-pro zines who have volunteer staffs–paying their authors a pro rate and their staff members nothing, for working sometimes over twenty hours a week. Look at the ones who have spartan websites or plain cover art–again, prioritizing the fiction above all else. Look at the ones, like BCS, who are 501c3 non-profit organizations, approved by the IRS as charities, because paying a pro rate for their fiction is such a priority that those zines know they will never, ever make a dime in profit.

Mr. Yalow seems to think it’s an arbitrary decision for these non-pro zines to use their money to pay pro rate rather than to pay their staffs.  He could not be more wrong.  Imagine giving an avid reader $100 to spend in the dealer’s room at a con.  Sure, it’s theoretically possible they could spend it on steampunk goggles or chainmail t-shirts.  But, as any avid reader can attest, their love for fiction means that the only actual outcome would be them walking out of the dealer’s room with $100 of books.  If not more.

This committee proposal and discussion comes at a crucial time.  WorldCon is this weekend, and Hugo business is conducted at the con.

If you will be at WorldCon and this issue is important to you (it should be, if you have ever sold a story to a semipro zine), go to the Preliminary Business Meeting at 10AM on Thursday morning.  Go there, and make your voice heard.  (EDIT: Kevin Standlee, in this comment, provided detailed information on the business schedule.  Thank you!)

With pro-paying, non-pro zines forming the majority of the pro-rate fiction markets these days, and publishing more fiction and a wider variety of it than the pro zines, it would be a sad day if the most prestigious awards in our genre were changed to no longer recognize this vibrant and crucial area of our field.