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Comment on osewalrus: The War of SF?

osewlarus has an interesting post up called The War on SF?, in which he comments on recent discussions about whether or not science fiction is dying. Personally, I think he misrepresents my position as laid out in my posts Thoughts on the End of SCI FICTION and the Status of the Short Fiction Market, Who Mourns for SCI FICTION?, and Short Science Fiction and Communities of Writers. He claims that I said that "hard" science fiction was dying, and that's not what I said at all.

I said that SF short fiction markets which support an editorial staff with money to live on are dying, and that's a rather different assertion. Science fiction is thriving in many other media, such as the novel, the television show and the movie, but the short story is becoming more of a "boutique" item in the field. Writers were never (or only rarely) able to make a living writing short stories, but editors generally managed to carve careers out for themselves by publishing them. That's becoming less of a true proposition.

Anyway, if my original posts were vague enough to be interpreted incorrectly, I hope I've made my position more clear now. And despite osewlarus's conflation of my position with two other other positions, his post is still very much worth reading if you're interested in the future of science fiction in general.


I agree with you, though I don't write enough short sf to really keep track of markets. There's no doubt that for decades now (at least) that it hasn't been possible to make anything but a subsistence living from selling short fiction in the genre. The math just doesn't support it: when a 5000 word short story nets a writer, say, $150 to $300 except in a few rare markets, that writer needs to sell over a 100 stories a year just to stay above the pverty level. Even assuming a writer can produce that kind of output and sell every last one of the stories, it's doubtful there are enough markets out there to buy the work.

It's rather like being a musician: I'm in my mid-fiftes and still play occasionally. Thirty years ago, the bars and clubs around here would pay a band $300 or so a night, enough that we could play four nights a weeks and put $200 or a little more in each of our pockets -- and I managed to live on that for a time, until Denise and I decided we'd like to live in our own house and have cars that actually ran on a regular basis. Today, there are fewer bars and clubs that use live music, and they still pay $300 a night. Sometimes less.

I have to admit that I hadn't considered your other 'canary in the coal mine,' but it could well be an indicator, too. The markets were there is a editor receiving a living wage from his/her efforts certainly look to be shrinking in recent years. Ellen Datlow is the latest casualty.


Indeed. RevolutionSF has a higher readership than Fantasy & Science Fiction (if you're going by circulation figures), but I don't draw a salary and we pay contributors in "all the prestige you can eat." The modest revenue from the site merely pays the bills, if that, with nary a cent left over. Sites like Strange Horizons and Infinite Matrix which do pay depend on fund raising drives to stay solvent. Nobody's yet figured out how to make the economics of online publishing *really* work--Fictionwise is sort-of successful, but it's a small scale niche--while at the same time the traditional print markets haven't yet figured out how to adjust to the changing fiscal reality.

The so-called "death of short fiction" has baffled me. With so much more demand on people's time, commutes and whatnot, I'd think short fiction would be a natural for quick snatches of reading time on the bus or train. But no, people instead go for big fat novels rather than anthos or zines. What's up with that?

-Jayme Lynn Blaschke
How many people actually commute via bus or train? I imagine it's a lot less than go by car.

As for their reading tastes, from what I understand many people would rather invest their reading time into a longer work than many shorter ones. They want to dive into a fictional world and spend many pages enjoying it.
Which, really, is a good argument against the "People nowadays have short attention spans" idea.

But I read both novels and anthologies, so I'm just weird that way.
One thing I really like about LJ and other such sites is that they seem to be effective, in the slow but steady way, of helping bring readership to magazines like Revolution. It's always been hard to pick out the good online magazines from the bad when you're just looking at a list of names and don't have time to peruse every single one, but word of mouth spreads quickly around these here parts. As I recall, it was someone's recommendation here that led me to find Revolution.

I apologize

As I did on my blog, I apologize for misrepresenting your position.

Re: I apologize

Apology accepted. Hope I wasn't too snarky. :-)

December 2016

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