November 18th, 2008

Earth from space

The vanishing point of short fiction?

A friend sent me this link to a PBS article about the state of spec fic magazines. The article, titled "Pulp Magazines Struggle to Survive in Wired World," is about the shrinking circulation and gloomy financial picture for short fiction magazines. Writer Simon Owens uses the term "pulps" to refer to Asimov's, Analog, and Fantasy & Science Fiction—not entirely flattering, and not, in my opinion, accurate. Those in the field usually use the term pulps to refer to magazines in the 30's and 40's printed on cheap paper and with lurid covers, not today's more tasteful offerings.

Otherwise, it's an excellent article, with extensive quotes from editors Gordon Van Gelder and Sheila Williams, and web-savvy author John Scalzi. The article at first asks if it's the web that's killing the print magazines, but it seems to conclude that the problem of disappearing readership runs deeper than that. Certainly, the comments that follow the post suggest that many former subscribers are no longer interested in subscribing, no matter what format the stories are offered in. Scalzi calls it the AOL syndrome—focusing only on retaining existing subscribers instead of trying to bring in brand new subscribers. Certainly, the web offers competition. And e-readers offer some hope. Both Asimov's and Analog are offered on the Kindle. Interestingly (considering that Analog is beloved by "hard science fiction" readers), when listed in order of "best selling" on the Kindle, Asimov's is 12th out of 18 and Analog is 17th. So maybe the hard-core geeks don't have Kindles because they're reading fiction on their Blackberries?







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