Posts Tagged ‘BCS’

The Lone Tale Paradox?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

This past weekend, the well-respected print ‘zine Talebones announced that they were ceasing publication, with plans to return next year as an anthology. Last week, the equally well-regarded e-zine Lone Star Stories also ceased publication. And last month, the alt-history print ‘zine Paradox too ceased publication, with tentative plans to return as an anthology.

All three of these magazines were on my list of places to send my stories. I’m very sad to see any magazine close, but especially the “mid-level” ones. As a “mid-level” writer who hasn’t yet gotten the higher-profile markets interested in my work, I think the mid-level markets serve a very important role. All three of these magazines had published great fiction from all sorts of writers over their roughly five-year runs, which in these bleak days for short fiction is quite impressive.

I found it interesting that two of these magazines cited as their reasons not the current turbulence in publishing or the economy but rather the time commitment or needing to take a break. All three of these magazines as far as I’m aware were “sole proprietorships”– magazines run exclusively by one person. As is my magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

All of which got me thinking. I’ve certainly learned about the time commitment in running a magazine– the first five months of this year I was working seven days a week every week just to keep up with the magazine, especially the podcasts, and my own writing. Things have eased a bit lately, but only because I’ve set my writing aside for a while. And I still have plenty of other things demanding my attention, including thirty manuscripts to critique this month in addition to BCS slush.

So where might I be after five years of BCS? Or even three? I’m less concerned with where publishing in general and short fiction might be– I’m publishing a different sort of fantasy than anyone else, and I’m happy doing my own thing on the periphery. But maybe that means the state of my sole proprietor is even more important.

So we’ll see. Nothing ever lasts forever, so someday there will inevitably be a post saying that BCS is ceasing publication. But I will do every last thing I can to make it five years at least, if not ten. Hell, I’m booked through the end of this year already!

Free Online Fiction—Good and Bad?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Some interesting comments recently about online short fiction from F&SF editor Gordon Van Gelder and novelist/ famous blogger John Scalzi. As the Publisher of an online magazine myself, I think they’re both missing a few subtlties.

Van Gelder, in an interview on, says:

…essentially publishers are using short fiction as a loss-leader for selling books. Perfectly good marketing, but not perfectly good publishing. could not sustain itself doing that. It has to live off the profits it generates from the sales of Tor books. I couldn’t do that with F&SF.

Strange Horizons gets by… I’m pretty sure they work off donations. … Scifiction… paid great rates, real money behind it. … Unfortunately I think they did more harm than good because it conditioned a lot of people to think that all online fiction should be free.

The great irony, as Van Gelder is aware, is this interview appearing on They are the poster-child for free online short fiction used as a loss-leader to sell books–given away, even though it’s losing the publisher money, to attract attention to those authors’ novels. That’s why every short story I’ve seen on has been by a Tor novel author– isn’t a magazine, they’re just one big web ad for Tor books. (At least they sure look that way to me–see the Comments for an assertion to the contrary.)

But the real reason online fiction has to be free in order to attract wide attention is the universal attitude among online people that content must be free, and that conversely any content that’s not free isn’t worth the hassle of paying for it. This attitude extends to all types of content–sports articles, online gaming, pretty much everything online except porn.

Van Gelder praises the subscription-based business model of Baen’s Universe, but I don’t know a single person among my short fiction colleagues who’s ever bought an issue of Baen’s Universe or IGMS. Yet they read Strange Horizons all the time, and listen to the free audio fiction from Escape Pod (the only SF/F magazine in recent memory successful at expanding the reader-base). The subscription-based model looks nice on paper, but I don’t think it will expand the audience into casual readers when those casual readers aren’t interested in paying.

That’s why the very first decision when I started Beneath Ceaseless Skies was that the content must be 100% free. Trying to draw readers to a new magazine, one with the unique niche of literary adventure fantasy, would’ve been impossible if they had to pay. The only current business model for that is the one Strange Horizons pioneered–a non-profit funded by donations. So that’s what I did. Strange Horizons has gotten by. Hopefully they will continue to, and BCS will too.

Scalzi replies:

Why did I write a story for …because they asked me to write a story, paid me a multiple of what I’d get for the story in most other SF markets (including his), and allowed me to submit my story electronically. …

The problem I have with print people blaming the Internet for their troubles is that …(it) allows them to ignore — and indeed, actively avoid — taking responsibility for their own acts that have contributed and are contributing to their current bad times.

I agree with him on the latter. Many of the most famous SF/F magazines still publish in the B&W format of the 50s, and that isn’t going to attract new readers. I also think they’ve lost some reader interest because of their generalist approach–publishing many different subtypes of SF/F rather than specializing.

But as for the former–where does Scalzi think that much higher pay rate he got for his story came from? How is F&SF, or any online market that likewise doesn’t have Tor Books’ profits from book sales, supposed to match it?

As a writer, I don’t blame him one bit for taking a high offer from the company that happens to publish his novels. But as an online publisher, trying to compete with for great stories even though my magazine already pays pro rate, I worry. If many big publishing houses start publishing original short fiction online at a loss just to promote their books, their huge financial resources may pull the best young novelist authors and their great short fiction away from the online magazines that are trying to draw reader interest and expand the audience.

Which I think would be a sad day. Which is more important for the future of the genre–expanding the reader-base for short fiction or selling a few more novels? Maybe I’m a hopeless short fiction fool, but I know my answer.

BCS and Million Writers Award

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Yesterday I received great news about my magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. storySouth recently named BCS as the runner-up for their Million Writers Award for Best New Online Magazine of 2008, saying that BCS was “already a top online SF/F market.”

In addition, two stories from BCS were named among their Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2008: “The Crystal Stair” by Charles Coleman Finlay & Rae Carson Finlay and “Architectural Constants” by Yoon Ha Lee. These stories and the other hundred or so semi-finalists will be culled down to ten by May 15; then the public will vote top winners.

storySouth is an online literary magazine founded by writer and editor Jason Sanford. They tirelessly champion online literary fiction of all genres, including SF/F. Over fifty magazines were represented in the finalists for Notable Stories, so it’s a great honor to have BCS and these stories recognized among such great venues and work!

Save the Semipro Zine Hugo!

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

In a move that could affect the majority of SF/F short fiction magazines currently operating, there is a motion up for vote at this year’s WorldCon to abolish the Hugo Award category for Semipro Zine.

This Semipro Zine category covers many of the most vibrant magazines publishing today, including Clarkesworld Magazine, Weird Tales (which published my story “Excision” in #347), and Fantasy Magazine. My own magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies also fits this category.

Many great stories have appeared in Semipro Zines since the category was established in the 1980s. These magazines publish far more new writers and experimental fiction than the “pro” zines do. Clarkesworld Magazine and Weird Tales were both nominated for this Hugo this year. I think it would be a shame if we lost this Hugo category as a way to recognize accomplishments made at this vital level of short fiction publishing.

Editor Neil Clarke has started a website to Save the Semipro Zine Hugo. It features listings of Semipro Zines and awards they and their fiction have won. It also explains the WorldCon voting process and how attendees can participate.If you are as concerned about this as I am, please visit his site and learn what you can do to help.