Tag Archives: short stories

Is short fiction devalued by being available for free?

Gordon Van Gelder – editor-in-chief of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction – has opened up a debate about genre fiction short stories and their online availability. Understandably, as a publisher of a physical ink-on-paper magazine, he’s wondering if the sheer quantity of free fiction online has devalued the form in general:

Here at F&SF, we’re open to experimentation and for the past year or so, we’ve been publishing one reprint a month on our Website. Last month, the free story was “The Political Officer” by Charles Coleman Finlay. A few days ago, someone posted on our message board that he wanted to read that story. I explained that it was no longer on our Website but he could buy a copy of that back issue from us or from Fictionwise.

As I did so, I realized that I was putting a reader in a position where he had to decide if he would pay for something he could have had for free just a few days earlier… which doesn’t strike me as a good position. I know that I don’t like being asked to make such a choice.

So I started to wonder: has short fiction been devalued by the fact that so many places offer it for free online nowadays?

This is a question that interests me too, for obvious reasons. I run Futurismic because I care about getting good writing in front of the eyeballs that enjoy it, and I compile the Friday Free Fiction posts for the same reason.

The answers to Van Gelder’s questions suggest that some people do indeed think short fiction is devalued by there being more of it available for free, but that strikes me as being counter to basic economic theory – surely the good stuff becomes more valuable when there’s lots of rubbish? [Caveat – I am, by no means, an expert in economics.]

Of course, one’s definition of a good story or book is a very personal thing, and doubtless has a lot of connection to the demographic the reader belongs to, so I dare say there’s no definitive answer.

But nonetheless, I’d like to ask Futurismic‘s readers the same question, though with a different angle to it: do you perceive the short fiction we publish as being inferior because you don’t have to pay to read it? And what effect has the availability of free short stories had on your buying habits?

Stage adaptation of stories by Bradbury, Lem, Malzberg and Pronzini at NYC Fringe

 SoftRains

I’ve recently been falling down on my self-appointed task of keeping track of SF-related stage productions for you, but here’s a fresh one: There Will Come Soft Rains, a stage adaptation of several classic science fiction stories by Ray Bradbury, Stanislaw Lem, Barry N. Malzberg, and Bill Pronzini. (Via SF Scope.)

The 90-minute play will be presented as part of the 11th annual New York International Fringe Festival. From the press release:

To bring the stark, powerful imagery of these stories to the stage, director/adaptor Jon Levin (recently singled out by nytheatre.com for his “remarkable” puppet work) uses a combination of bunraku-inspired puppets, object manipulation, dance, live music and a versatile ensemble of performers.

The FringeNY site is more direct:

Stories by Ray Bradbury and others are told with actors, puppets, lightbulbs, bedsheets, live video and an upright bass.

Director/adaptor Levin says,  “There’s something inherently theatrical about a certain kind of science fiction. The stories are a reflection of our world, a way of seeing familiar things in a new light.”

Here’s a review of There Will Come Soft Rains when it was a work in progress at Oberlin College.

There Will Come Soft Rains runs at The New School for Drama Theater (151 Bank Street, between West and Washington Streets, New York, New York) on Friday, August 8 (10 p.m.), Wednesday, August 13 (7:30 p.m.), Sunday, August 17 (4:15 p.m.), Thursday, August 21 (5:15 p.m.) and Saturday, August 23 (7:30 p.m.). Tickets are $15 and are available by calling 866-468-7619 or visiting fringenyc.org.

(Image: There Will Come Soft Rains poster)

[tags]plays, theatre, science fiction, short stories[/tags]

Where are the new fiction markets?

Stacks of books and magazinesAs Futurismic‘s editor, my interest in this question should be obvious; but it’s also of great interest to the aspiring writer in me as well. I write because I want to write but – in common with a lot of other writers – I’d quite like to get paid for my fiction some day. [image by Thomas Hawk]

So who’s going to give me (or other more competent, imaginative and disciplined writers) money for stories? Well, fellow Flash Fictioneer Gareth D Jones tried something new and pitched a story to a magazine that doesn’t usually run short stories, and had it accepted – his second professional-grade sale, in fact. So perhaps the closest new markets are the markets no one has even tried yet.

Another market, already being tentatively explored, is the one that lies on the blurry boundary between fiction writing and sales copy. For example, the car company Lexus recently commissioned a collaboratively written novel focusing on a young couple taking a journey in their new vehicle – the brand of said vehicle should be easy enough for you to guess.

While that story has the queasy taste of naked commerce to it, I think younger writers will be less bothered by it. We live in an ad-saturated world, and most media-consumers have a certain degree of skill at tuning them out. Perhaps the challenge to write branded fiction that doesn’t smack the reader round the face with its brands will develop new stylistic forms and breed a new wave of great writers.

One thing is for certain, though, and that’s the migration of short fiction online. I’m not just saying that because Futurismic does it (although we do), but because it’s the only way to economically sustain the form in a world where the overheads of print media are heading skywards like pulp fiction rocketships.

Perhaps the web will be the richest source of Gareth’s new markets – remember when we mentioned Will Hindmarch selling a story to a games and media community website? I think the style and shape of short fiction will change as a result, too – but isn’t the continual evolution of art what keeps it interesting, both to consume and to create?

Where do you think you’ll be reading (or publishing) your short stories in twenty years time?

Nebula final ballot revealed

This year’s Nebula nominees have been released. The winners will be announced in April after the ceremony in Austin, Texas.

Novels:
Odyssey – McDevitt, Jack (Ace, Nov06)
The Accidental Time Machine – Haldeman, Joe (Ace, Aug07)
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Chabon, Michael (HarperCollins, May07)
The New Moon’s Arms – Hopkinson, Nalo (Warner Books, Feb07)
Ragamuffin – Buckell, Tobias (Tor, Jun07)

Novellas:
“Kiosk” – Sterling, Bruce (F&SF, Jan07)
“Memorare” – Wolfe, Gene (F&SF, Apr07)
“Awakening” – Berman, Judith (Black Gate 10, Spr07)
“Stars Seen Through Stone” – Shepard, Lucius (F&SF, Jul07)
“The Helper and His Hero” – Hughes, Matt (F&SF, Feb07 & Mar07)
“Fountain of Age” – Kress, Nancy (Asimov’s, Jul07)

Novelettes:
“The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” – Sherman, Delia (Coyote Road, Trickster Tales, Viking Juvenile, Jul07)
“Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” – Ryman, Geoff (F&SF, Nov06)
“The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs Of North Park After the Change” – Johnson, Kij (Coyote Road, Trickster Tales, Viking Juvenile, Jul07)
“Safeguard” – Kress, Nancy (Asimov’s, Jan07)
“The Children’s Crusade” – Bailey, Robin Wayne (Heroes in Training, DAW, Sep07)
“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” – Chiang, Ted (F&SF, Sep07)
” Child, Maiden, Mother, Crone” – Bramlett, Terry (Jim Baen’s Universe 7, June 2007)

Short Stories:
“Unique Chicken Goes In Reverse” – Duncan, Andy (Eclipse 1: New Science Fiction And Fantasy, Night Shade Books, Oct07)
“Titanium Mike Saves the Day” – Levine, David D. (F&SF, Apr07)
“Captive Girl” – Pelland, Jennifer (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, Fall06 Issue #2)
“Always” – Fowler, Karen Joy (Asimov’s, apr/may07)
“Pride” – Turzillo, Mary (Fast Forward 1, Pyr, February 2007)
“The Story of Love” – Nazarian, Vera (Salt of the Air, Prime Books, Sep06)

Scripts:
Children of Men – Cuaron, Alfonso & Sexton, Timothy J. and Arata, David and Fergus, Mark & Ostby, Hawk (Universal Studios, Dec06)
The Prestige – Nolan, Christopher and Nolan, Jonathan (Newmarket Films, Oct06 based on the novel by Christopher Priest)
Pan’s Labyrinth – del Toro, Guillermo (Time/Warner, Jan07)
V for Vendetta – Wachowski, Larry & Wachowski, Andy (Warner Films, Mar06 Written by the Wachowski Brothers, based on the graphic novel illustrated by David Lloyd and published by Vertigo/DC Comics)
World Enough and Time – Zicree, Marc Scott and Michael Reaves, Michael (Star Trek: New Voyages, www.startreknewvoyages.com, Aug07)
Blink – Moffat, Steven (Doctor Who, BBC/The Sci-Fi Channel, Sep07)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy:
The True Meaning of Smek Day – Rex, Adam (Hyperion, Oct07)
The Lion Hunter – Wein, Elizabeth (Viking Juvenile, Jun07 (The Mark of Solomon, Book 1))
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Rowling, J. K. (Scholastic Press, Jul07)
The Shadow Speaker – Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi (Jump At The Sun, Sep07)
Into the Wild – Durst, Sarah Beth (Penguin Razorbill, Jun07)
Vintage: A Ghost Story – Berman, Steve (Haworth Positronic Press, Mar07)
Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass- Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog – Wilce, Ysabeau S. (Harcourt, Jan07)[via about 50,000 writers’ livejournals]

Should science fiction short stories be more optimistic?

Make-it-happen-graffiti For obvious reasons, science fiction short stories are much on my mind at the moment. But it’s not just me – a long-standing feature of the science fiction scene, the sheer quantity of debate that the topic of short stories produces on a regular basis is an indicator that those who care about it care enough to speak their mind.

For example, our good friends over at SF Signal have a new iteration of their “Mind Meld” group interview articles in which they quiz various luminaries of the sf short story markets about the purpose of short fiction.

Leaving purpose aside for a moment by treating it as a given, what about tone? Regular readers here at Futurismic will be aware we try to take an optimist/realist attitude with our blogging topics – there’s no point ignoring the problems we face, but nor is there any point in descending into fatalism. It’s not constructive, and it’s not fun to read.

Jason Stoddard, who has had a number of stories published here at Futurismic (as well as numerous other markets), finds himself wishing for a similar attitude in science fiction short stories, and vows to walk the walk:

“I really, really think things will work out. Some of today’s writing is so dark that it makes me want to slit my wrists and slip into a warm tub. It might be technically excellent, and the characters may be fully rendered and real, but man oh man, it’s not what I want to read.

So take a look at the new tagline on this site: Strange and Happy. Consider this my new personal emblem, and a challenge to not only writers everywhere, but to the world in general.”

I’m a sucker for a dark setting – I saw Mad Max 2 at a very impressionable age – but it should be plain from my blogging here that I like to think we can work through the issues facing us. And after reading Stoddard’s post, I realised he has a point – there does seem to a shortage of optimistic science fiction. [Image by solidstate76]

Question is – is it just me and Stoddard and a few others? Or are you hungry for some science fictional optimism as well?