Tag Archives: genre fiction

Awards season

Well, I’m back from Eastercon, and – as is traditional at this time of year – the genre fiction awards cycle is gearing up, with results and nominations and longlists flying in every which direction.

At Eastercon itself, China Mieville took the BSFA Best Novel award while the inimitable Ian Watson and Roberto Quaglia took the Short Fiction gong, and we got to hear the Hugo nominations announced to the world; last week saw the Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist announced, and the Philip K Dick Award has just been called for Bitter Angels by C L Anderson – the latter being both a book and author of whom I am completely unaware.

If nothing else, the genre scene’s ability (and will) to debate the merits of the the work produced within it (and, in some cases, beyond it) shows little sign of going away… and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the very best thing about all these awards. I’m much less bothered by who wins than I am by the discussions they generate about the winners, the losers and the utterly overlooked.

But I was thinking perhaps I should start some sort of Futurismic annual-awards-type-of-thing, if only because our reader demographic here is skewed rather more away from regular fandom (if there can be said to be any such thing) than many other genre webzines. What do you think? Suggestions for categories and nominees more than welcome – pipe up in the comments. 🙂

Unplugged: the Web’s Best SF/F anthology now available!

Unplugged: The Web's Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy 2008Almost exactly a year ago I had the pleasure of announcing that a story originally published here at FuturismicJason Stoddard’s “Willpower”, to be precise – had been selected by Rich Horton for reprinting in his inaugural Unplugged: The Web’s Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy anthology.

And now I have the pleasure of announcing that copies of said anthology are now available from Wyrm Publishing (the people who bring you the excellent Clarkesworld online magazine, and much more); US$14.95 nets you fourteen stories from newcomers and luminaries of the genre fiction scene alike, which strikes me as pretty decent value… not to mention a great way to support the writers who contribute to online publications just like this one.

A recent Publisher’s Weekly review of Unplugged suggested that “[a]fter reading this 14-story compilation, online publishing naysayers may rethink their position.” I suspect we have a way to go before that happens, but anthologies like this are certain to help things along… not to mention reminding us web publishers that we’re doing something worthwhile!

So why not go buy a copy of Unplugged, and show some support for the writers (and publishers) who’ve provided you with great stories that you could read for free?

Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls – affordable e-anthology from Book View Cafe

Regular readers will be aware of my interest in new and experimental publishing models for niche authors… and with that in mind I’m very pleased to be able to pass on news of a new digital-only anthology from the Book View Cafe collective. So, with no further ado, here’s the skinny:

Book View Café, the Internet’s only professional author cooperative, announces the creation of Book View Press. Book View Press will expand the Café authors’ mission of bringing the best online fiction to the readers by bringing new work ready-to-read on the most popular ebook devices, including the Amazon Kindle, the Sony eReader and a variety of cell phones.

This group of award-winning and best-selling authors is launching their new press with its first science fiction anthology: ROCKET BOY AND THE GEEK GIRLS, a collection of rare reprints, hard-to-find favorites and bold new tales by some of SF’s finest authors including Vonda N. McIntyre, Katharine Kerr, Judith Tarr, P.R. Frost, Pati Nagle, Amy Sterling Casil, and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff.

Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls is available at  http://bit.ly/rgr4K for the Kindle version and http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/BVC-eBookstore/ for other formats including pdf, mobi, prc, lit, lrf, epub.

To celebrate the launch of Rocket Boy, BVC is holding a TwitterFic contest. For details visit the contest page: http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/News/BVC-Twitter-Fic-Contest-8-Celebrating-Book-View

For  more info contact: media.relations@bookviewcafe.com

“Fasten your seatbelts and brace your tentacles.  These all-star tales of epic wonder from the genre’s masters will sizzle through your mind like a spaceship on re-entry burn.”  –Dave Williams, author of The Burning Sky

Sounds like an interesting project, no? So go take a look, spread the word, maybe buy yourself a copy.

Ashok Banker wants to disassemble science fiction publishing

The last year or so has been punctuated by debates on the inherent racism and sexism of genre fiction publishing, but if you thought there had been some strong opinions stated boldly before now, you should really go check out the exclusive interview with Ashok Banker at the World SF News blog.

Banker is a hugely popular and prolific writer in his home country of India, but is virtually unheard of in the West… and he doesn’t pull any punches in his assessment of the Stateside publishing industry:

I won’t mince words here: SFF publishing in the US today is the Klu Klux Klan of the publishing world. It’s anachronistically misrepresentational in its racial mix, religious mix, cultural mix. The few exceptions to the rule only prove the endemic, systemic and deeply bred bias in the field. There are even editors who claim to champion ‘coloured’ writing, by publishing anthologies that segregate non-white non-Judeo/Christian non-American authors of speculative fiction from their ‘mainstream’ genre counterparts.


For decades SFF has been accusing mainstream literary critics, readers and authors of being snobbish and denying them their due. In fact, it’s the other way around: SFF’s pathetic cries of outrage and refusal to change with the times are proof of SFF’s own snobbishness and bias. SFF is dead and rotting. Long may it stay dead! We who love the elements that make great SFF don’t need the label so Klansmen can recognize work by other Klansmen. We don’t care if our milk was drawn by brown hands, black, or white. We just want our milk!

I think the Klan metaphor is perhaps a little strong (not to mention calculated to offend), but the man has a very valid point. The easy (and lazy) response would be to call him out for jealousy, but given that Banker points out that his earnings are far higher than most US or UK writers of genre fiction, that doesn’t really hold a lot of water. Banker doesn’t need the SFF industry; the question is, does it need him?

The wider business of publishing in general doesn’t escape Banker’s ire, either:

In four words: Publish less, publish better. If publishers and editors are so obsessed with commercial viability, then why are they so out of touch with what readers are looking for? Why are publishers so surprised when the next it new sensation comes along and upsets their apple cart? Why can’t they accept and understand that readers and authors decide what sells, not editors and publishers. Why are racial, cultural, religious backgrounds relevant when signing an author? Why not just good books, period? Why not just good books that readers respond well to and want to read? Get the fuck out of your offices and get down to the streets and live. Fire your marketing departments. Hire bloggers on per-hit pay-basis. Look at frontrunners like Cory Doctorow. Think about the Long Tail. Explore free publishing as a marketing model. Get bullish on ebooks, drop the prices and tighten your belts. Reduce print runs on the big sellers, reduce your risk and stop flooding the stores with ‘product’. Tell Dan Brown to go get a life. Stop letting James Patterson use the Warner jet and chopper. Spend money on authors, not on the business of publishing and the fairyland of PR. Let readers decide what should be published and what shouldn’t – put work for free out there online and let them vote. Then, once you know what they’ve picked, go in and edit it well, package it well, do your stuff. But remember that you’re a meat-packer, you don’t build the cow, you don’t eat it. You just pack it. So pack it well, or get packing.

There’s quite a few chewy home truths in that little screed… I get the feeling this particular interview will be a hot topic for a little while.

What do you think about Banker’s assertions of endemic racism in SFF publishing, or about the state of publishing in general? Drop in a comment below – but keep it polite, OK? In line with the Futurismic comments policy, any racist or ad hominem rants will be removed, so play nice.

Niche mag publishing model #271: World of Warcraft, The Magazine

Still looking for new niche magazine publishing strategies? I sure am – and here’s one that doesn’t revolve around free web content. Indeed, someone’s starting a high quality print magazine on a subscription model. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you World Of Warcraft: The Magazine. Take it away, Ars Technica:

Clearly, there is much to be skeptical about, but the team behind the magazine makes a strong case for a publication of this type. Here’s the scoop on how they plan to sidestep the issues of traditional magazine publishing and still make a profit.

“This won’t be driven by advertising; it’s based on a print-on-demand format. We will launch the subscription website on Friday, monitoring who is subscribing in what language, and print that many copies exactly,” John Gower, International Director of FuturePlus, told Ars. “This will be environmentally friendly—no waste.” This print on demand format allows them to keep publishing costs as low as possible, and releasing magazines to subscribers only—no newsstand—will make sure no copies get thrown away.

“I’m not sure gamers were walking into Waldenbooks to find the newest information anyway,” Dan Amrich, the magazine’s editor in chief, said. So how will the quarterly magazine be advertised? The magazine will launch at Blizzcon, with people being able to subscribe for $39.95, £29.95, or €34.95. That may seem high for four issues a year, but the team is promising a high-quality, large format magazine with heavy paper stock, a glossy cover, and 148 pages an issue… and no ads. “We want this to be a nice surprise when people get it in the post, like unwrapping a Christmas present every quarter.”

Now, the advantage WoW:TM has here over a more general magazine is a ready-made niche interest base of considerable size to pitch to, plus direct access to the information and content that that niche is going to want. But they’re also treating the readers with respect by removing the crappy ads that seem to fill more than half of most game or tech mags, and aiming for a quality physical product that you’re going to want to keep; I’m assuming the content will lean towards stuff that isn’t too time-sensitive. Furthermore, they save on the dreaded pulping margin by going with print-on-demand, keeping their overheads low.

So, I see two takeaways here for the genre fiction scene in particular. First of all, is this a potential model for the genre fiction print magazine surviving? We’ve talked POD in genre before, but I don’t remember it being combined with the no-ads idea. A magazine that makes the effort to be an artefact, a thing of beauty – I’m thinking more Interzone than Asimov’s on the aesthetic front, here – while also delivering 100% great content for a reasonable price… well, in some respects this isn’t that different a model to the existing one, at least in some cases. If WoW:TM succeeds, what will that say about the viability of genre magazines? Is the death of print simply a question of costs not scaling?

Secondly, and maybe more pertinently: World Of Warcraft: The Magazine strikes me as a damn good market for fantasy writers to pitch stories to.