Posts Tagged ‘BCS’

What the Future May Bring

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

With Realms of Fantasy shutting down last week, lots of writer and industry blogs have been speculating yet again what will happen to SF/F magazines, which have been declining steadily for twenty years and now face the same rough economy as everything else. The big wildcard in this for the last ten years has been online publishing. Everyone sees tons of potential in it, but no one knows yet how to make online fiction work as a business.

I’m an amateur musician, so my analogy for online publishing is the situation that digital/online music was in ten years ago. There was no business model because there was no market of paying consumers yet. Then Apple launched the iPod, providing easy and popular hardware for playing mp3 files, and that created a market of people who were willing to pay 99 cents for songs. Apple covered that side of things as well with their iTunes online store, and the combination of widespread hardware and an online store changed music forever.

For magazine publishing, I think if or when e-reader hardware becomes as common among readers as iPods became among music fans, then profitable business models for online magazines will take shape.

The seeds of this model are already out there. I’ve had e-reader fans contact my magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, asking about ebook versions. Unlike web fiction, ebook files a reader can amass, store, and read whenever they like. These e-reader users are willing to pay a couple bucks per issue, even for stuff like BCS that’s available free on the web. There aren’t enough of those consumers yet to make a business model work, but when the hardware becomes more ubiquitous, there will be.

I also think audio fiction will be a significant part of the future. Escape Pod, the SF short fiction podcast, has about 20,000 subscribers, nearly double that for each of the big-three digests. I think most of those people are commuters with iPods, who perhaps wish they had time to read print fiction but don’t, and during their commute they are a captive audience for audio fiction. But unlike music mp3s, podcasts are almost always provided at no charge, so the business model there might have to be advertiser-driven.

One of the roots of the decline of magazines is the declining readership of short fiction–readers just aren’t as interested in short stories as they were thirty years ago. But one of the hidden benefits of ebooks and audio fiction may be that both those formats work very well if not better for short fiction than for novels. So it may be that once these new formats become common, they will attract more readers back to short fiction.

So are we at the nadir of a decline, or are we at the tiny start of a huge renaissance in short fiction that will all be delivered electronically? Or both? Only time will tell. But like a great speculative fiction story, it will be a lot of fun to find out.

The Number Makes It Real

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Yesterday I received my ISSN number from the government for my magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  Of course I’ve been operating for six months already and publishing for three. I’ve gotten reviews in The Internet Review of Science Fiction and Locus, and last week I learned all about nominating for the Hugo Awards. But somehow getting that official label from the FCC made it all seem a bit more real.  Pretty cool.

Empires Fall but Enclaves Rise

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

The Washington Post Book World had two interesting articles last Sunday, both of which taken together show two different data points on the ever-changing landscape of modern commerical publishing.

An essay about the recent funeral of legendary publisher Robert Giroux, of Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, used the retrospective of his long literary career buying such seminal 20th-century works as The Catcher in the Rye to comment on the very different and currently shifting nature of commercial publishing. The essay was more geared toward mainstream literary fiction rather than any specific genre, but its overall mood seems quite reflective of the current times.

And a column by Michael Dirda, noted reviewer of SF/F and a Guest of Honor at Capclave 2008, listed many of the best and brightest among the small presses that have emerged in the last decade. Most of those on his list are SF/F presses like Wildside and Night Shade–I don’t know if that’s because Dirda, with his SF/F reading experience, is more familiar with SF/F small presses or if it’s because there are more small presses in SF/F than in other genres.

The small press movement is very important to me because they publish far more short fiction than the larger publishers–not only anthologies and collections but many magazines–and also because this year I joined their ranks in my own small way by starting a magazine.

It will be fascinating to see where things go from here, especially in the world of short fiction. If Clarkesworld Magazine and its clever publisher Neil Clarke are any indication, audio short fiction may be one of the new frontiers.

Artwork and Podcasts

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I’m still knee-deep in stuff for my magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, including licensing new cover art and finalizing our first audio fiction podcast. It was great at Capclave two weekends ago to see some F/SF editors I had met over the summer at ReaderCon and to meet several more.

Now if I could only find the time to write a bit myself….