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Tinkering, FF Sparks (Madgirl)

[Writing] Yet Another Venue Gone...

For my fellow writer-sorts who haven't yet heard... Amazing Stories, the venerable magazine founded by Hugo Gernsback in 1926, has finally folded. (Again. After having been revived under a new publisher a while ago.)

Amazing was the first magazine devoted to science fiction, and the letters column is often credited with launching science fiction fandom.

Is the short fiction market really that ailing? :/
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Possible causes?

Oh, dear. They didn't buy another story from Howard Waldrop, did they?
Yup, it sure is. Damn. Amazing Stories was always my favorite mag, but virtually impossible to find, and subscriptions were always wonky. If I had a choice between Amazing or a new book, I always got Amazing, because I figured that I could always get the book some other time.

Once, long..long ago, I came across a trove of them at a used book store and bought every copy. But finds like that were always extremely rare.

In all honesty, the short fiction business needs to reexamine itself and work towards a new model for bringing in income.

I've always been impressed with Baen Book's Webscriptions service. (http://www.webscriptions.net) - For $15 bucks a month, you get six books in electronic format. What's there? Depends on what they put up. Classics, new publications, etc. Want to read that book before it even makes it near a printer? Check out the ARC service - Advanced Reader Copies - raw texts prior to final proof reading that start at $15 each and go down as publication dates come closer. But yes, you can read that book FIRST.

Why isn't there a similar service for short fiction? Why can't I go to a website, plop in my credit card number and have short fiction delivered to my e-mail on a daily or weekly basis? How come it is so hard to find mailing lists that tell you what's going on from the authors and publishers?

In a world where, contrary to a recent author's roundtable I listened in to, people are reading recreationally more than ever before in history.. Why is it so hard to find something to read?
My question was partly rhetorical.

The problem is that short fiction venues just generally aren't profitable. Given the choice between the latest Robert Jordan tome, or this month's issue of F&SF... most people are going to buy the Jordan book.

Online stuff, people don't want to buy subscriptions to; they're used to getting stuff online for free. And if you do it as a print medium, you have the costs of printing and suchnot... therefore, you run at a loss. And in both cases, if you want people to submit to you, you need to pay them... one local author finally closed down her magazine because of that, just recently.

So unless you are one of the rare magazines that really can break even, or unless you have some other source of funding and are willing to run the magazine as a loss, short fiction venues are decreasing in number. Anthologies are still doing well, admittedly, but that's not quite the same thing.

That said, there IS a similar service to Webscriptions for Short Fiction... sort of. Amazon has a not very well publicized service called Amazon Shorts, where you can buy short stories from various authors for something like $0.90 each.
Dave Howell, who was one of the founding members of Foolscap (www.foolscapcon.org), has a website, www.alexlit.com, that tried for years to sell individual short stories online for small payments.

I loved it, as it brought me to several writers I'd never heard of, and whose work I adored. But I was buying maybe two or three stories a month, for from $0.35 to $.50 for the story. It was depressing to discover I was one of the biggest customers of the site.

These days, I chase down short stories based on things like Nebula and Hugo nominations, and when someone I know tells me to check something out. I know that that isn't terribly helpful to the magazines.

I also suggest looking at Fictionwise.com (thanks to James P Hogan for the tip) which has many of the Nebula nominees available right now.