I’m a fan of Warren Ellis: his comics, his novels, his blogging. The guy is a genre entertainment machine. But he frustrates me with his misunderstanding of the state of SF/F/Horror short fiction zines.
Here he is ruminating about the failed rebirth of NEW WORLDS:
“NEW WORLDS was never a nostalgic enterprise. But, perhaps, publishing a speculative fiction magazine is. I had drinks with an editor in publishing last night who remains apoplectic that sf magazines stubbornly refuse to meet the future, change tack, publicise or advertise. We laughed about still not knowing how many copies INTERZONE sells per issue, and how few people seem to know it’s still going.”
There is a booming industry of SF zines that have done just that. They as a whole have met the future, have changed tack, have publicized, and have advertised. Obviously, I feel that Apex Magazine has done a fine job navigating the digital wave and the onset of Kindle madness. We’re not the only ones. Lightspeed Magazine, Clarkesworld Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tor.com, and Daily Science Fiction are others, to name a few. All these zines have been around for years and consistently publish high quality, award-winning SF/F short fiction. And for every failed experiment like New Worlds, there are new pro zines like Uncanny Magazine and Buzzy Mag.
I presume that Warren Ellis is lamenting that none of the zines have the brand recognition, importance, and reach that the magazines of yore held. If so, I agree, that is lamentable. But this has been true for decades and is not a recent phenomenon. And I would argue that thanks to the eBook age, short fiction holds more relevancy now than it has in many years. The number of high quality eZines (and the continued existence of Asimov’s/Analog/F&SF/Interzone) I think bears out my assertion.
Apex Magazine had 17,895 visitors during the month of September. Our top short story has been read almost 24,000 times (and gets approximately 1000 new reads a month…and the story is always available, and will accumulate reads). Site traffic has increased 50% from last year. Yes, these numbers are a far cry from the grand old days, but they’re nothing to scoff at. And I would guess that Clarkesworld and Tor.com (and likely others) has traffic double (at least) what Apex has.
These numbers weren’t accomplished by sitting on our collective butts doing nothing (here I’m speaking for all the publishers/editors of the zines mentioned earlier). We’ve met the future. We are the future.
Jason Sanford says this about contemporary zines…
But the successful magazines of our genre — wow, they are of an entirely different level of creation. Successful genre magazines don’t merely publish stories. Instead, they cultivate authors and readers. They build movements and styles. They stand astride the genre and chart our genre into new and unpredictable directions.
So, to Mr. Ellis, I proffer this link in the humblest of fashion: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/collections/apex-magazine-all/products/apex-magazine-subscription
Plug into the future that you’re missing, Mr. Ellis! If Apex doesn’t suit your tastes, there are lots of other options to try!