The hardest Futurismic post I’ve ever had to write

Paul Raven @ 20-10-2010

OK, folks, I have a difficult announcement to make. I’ve just shut off the Futurismic fiction submissions webform, and after two more stories – one in November and one in December – we’re not going to be publishing any more fiction for a while.

First of all, what this doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean the end of Futurismic, which I’ll be continuing to maintain as a journal of futurism, socioeconomic and technopolitical oddities, science fiction and related topics, and which I hope will retain all of its current columnists for the foreseeable future.

It doesn’t mean the permanent end of Futurismic as a fiction venue, either. Indeed, if there were any other options available to Chris and myself at the moment, we probably wouldn’t be taking this one. This has been a difficult decision for both of us… even more so for Chris than for me, as he’s been Futurismic‘s fiction editor since before I even came on board as a naïve (and grammatically challenged) blogger back in 2006. We’re very proud of the work we’ve published here, and we’d very much like to publish more.

But sadly, the economics are unforgiving. As I hinted in my open letter to the hucksters of the Media Mayhem Corporation, the funding for Futurismic‘s fiction purchases have come from my own pocket since we recommenced publishing short stories in March 2008 with Eliot Fintushel’s “UXO, Bomb Dog”. My hope was that, by reinvigorating the fiction section with great new stories, we’d increase traffic and, as a result, increase revenue from advertising. As the Media Mayhem post also suggests, that plan has not come to fruition, to say the least… and thanks to other unplanned changes and upsets in my personal life of late, I simply don’t have the spare money to keep doing it at the moment. As such, and with great regret, Chris and I have agreed it’s time to close the doors for a while.

If you’re thinking “well, there are other ways to make money with Futurismic, surely?”, then you’re probably right; if you’ve been following along with my blogging, you’ll have noticed me keeping a weather eye out for web publishing business models, of which there are a multitude, ranging from the utterly untested to the promising-but-unproven. There are any number of them that I’d love to try out: perhaps we could do a Strange Horizons and go non-profit, asking for donations from loyal readers; perhaps there really is such a thing as a sub-100,000-pageviews ad broker company that isn’t run by duplicitous hucksters, and which would net us the necessary funds to pay for the fiction; perhaps we could run a Kickstarter-type project, sell scarce goods (limited anthologies, maybe?) and community kudos in exchange for financial support. Any or all of these things could work.

But planning and realising them would take time… and when money’s short, time becomes a commodity in and of itself. Running Futurismic just as a blog is time consuming enough, and I’d have given it up long ago were it not for the fact that it provides a psychologically vital part of my intellectual routine, not to mention an outlet for the stuff I think and write about which would never find a home elsewhere. I’ve always accepted that Futurismic would probably never pay me a penny, but I’ve long believed that it could – and it should! – pay its own way, at least as far as rewarding the contributors for their hard work is concerned.

And I hope that one day it will… but the arrival of that day is contingent on me finding more money or more time, or (more realistically) both. Offers of advice and assistance in the interim will be received with great gratitude*, but for now I have to lay the burden down for a while and concentrate on the work that pays my rent; Chris, meanwhile, plans to devote more time to his own fiction writing.

I’m still hugely proud of what we’ve done; all I have to do is click through the fiction archives and look at the excellent stories we’ve published to know that I was doing something worthwhile. And trust me – as soon as I have the resources to spare, Futurismic will return to being the foremost paying venue online for the near-future subgenres of science fiction, with all the vengeance I can muster.

At this point I should take the time to thank everyone who’s helped along the way: our fiction authors, obviously, for submitting their wonderful work to us; our columnists and guest bloggers, who continue to contribute for no reward other than whatever satisfaction it gives them; and the other bloggers and editors and reviewers and fans who’ve linked to us, talked about the stories and made Futurismic a part of the genre machine.

But most of all, I want to thank you, Futurismic‘s readers. Knowing you’re all sat out there waiting for new stories has been one of the big forces that’s kept us buying new fiction, and it’s also the big force that will push me back to buying fiction as soon as I’m able. From myself, from Chris, and from all the authors we’ve published: thanks for reading, and please don’t be strangers. Don’t go calling us a dead venue; we’re just gonna hibernate for a while. :)

And to end on a high note, don’t forget that we’ve got two great stories in the bag to take us up to the end of the year. The first will be up at the start of November, so mark your calendars.

[ * Offers of donations – of which there have been a few – are also very gratefully received, but the legal status of Futurismic as it stands means that we cannot actually accept donations, simply because I have no idea how to legally account for them. However, offers of advice from professionals who know the ins and outs of registering and running non-profits arts organisations (and the tax obligations thereof) will be exploited as fully as their makers will permit. :) ]

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11 Responses to “The hardest Futurismic post I’ve ever had to write”

  1. Jenn Reese says:

    You guys have done an amazing job keeping the fiction section going. You publish stories on time, you pay decent money for them, you pay on time, and you deal with all submissions professionally and quickly. And the stories you do publish are usually fabulous. Just wanted to say job well done, and I look forward to a time when it makes sense to reopen.

  2. C.C. Finlay says:

    What Jenn said. I always appreciated your focus on near future extrapolation. That was a niche that no one else filled as consistently or as well.

    Thanks for all your hard work over the years, for all the great stories you published, and for being absolute pros about everything, including this part.

  3. Deborah says:

    Arggh. I’m gutted.

    But it was a great run, and like you say, never say never.

  4. Tomas L. Martin says:

    Thanks for everything over the years, in creating a unique and satisfying market, and always a pleasure to work with. You will be missed.

    May I suggest the possibility of an anthology of Futurismic stories, in the vein of what Clarkesworld does? not only would it be a worthy way to celebrate the many great stories published here, it might also make a bit of money too, even if it was just an ebook.

  5. Robert Koslover says:

    Oh well. Sure wish this had worked out better. That said, you accomplished quite a bit really, and you should be rightfully proud of your achievement. Besides, it ain’t over yet; I look forward to seeing how Futurismic continues to evolve.

  6. Peter Hollo says:

    Very sorry to hear it.

  7. Julie Gray says:

    :( Just when I was finally getting into all this sf stuff n all! But, I’ve found a personal silver lining in that I can catch up with everyone else by reading all the old stories just as if they were brand new without having to worry that by doing that I’m getting behind on ones that actually are brand new! Don’t be too sad, tis a glitch but glitches eventually unglitch themselves when the time is right!! :-)

  8. Chris East says:

    Thanks for the well wishes, everyone, and the nice comments. Shutting down has been difficult.

    I like your idea, Tomas…been kind of kicking it around for a while now, actually. Maybe once the sting wears off…anything’s possible!

  9. silviamg says:

    Futurismic has always had interesting and unique fiction (I’m not just saying that because I’ve been published here!). It’s a pity, but best of luck and hopefully the fiction will return in the near future.

  10. f.s. says:

    Sorry I’m late to the table on this.

    I know there are all these theories, but I just don’t see a workable revenue model where the product is free to the consumer. They keep on falling over.

    Either you need a corporate daddy to pay the bills, or you need to get the funds for the project from the consumers. It’s awesome that you paid for the stories we’ve all enjoyed, Paul, but you shouldn’t have to. We should be doing that.

    It’s harder to have some sort of subscription model with a blog. And I’m not really business-oriented. But if you came out with some kind of yearly anthology of collected Futurismic stories, maybe with some kind of value-added inclusions like art or essays by the authors, I’d buy that. Probably $12.99 price point or less. (Think ebook, cause I love my Nook.) I’d even pre-order.

    I don’t know how feasible that would be for you guys, or what kind of negotiations that would require with authors over royalties and stuff, or what kind of buy-in you’d need to make it successful, but you guys are a quality fiction venue and that you have to pack it up, even temporarily, makes the web a sadder, sorrier place. (Holy run-on, Batman!)

  11. Tarl Kudrick says:

    The model we use at On The Premises magazine (which pays authors a fairly decent rate though not as much as here) is to link “On The Premises, LLC” to another small business of ours that actually makes money. That small business pays for OTP, with just enough profit left over that we can prove to the IRS that we are in fact, a profit-making business, and not a hobby. (The larger business is a left-over from when I was self-employed in the early 2000′s.)

    I hope Futurismic can return as a paying venue because I’ve got a story I’d love to show you and I admire your magazine. In the meantime, if the editors of Futurismic want details, I’m willing to go into them over e-mail or even the phone.

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