The idea for this post had its genesis in my happy discovery of Torque Control’s Short Story Club, mentioned by Yet There Are Statues, Matt Hilliard’s intelligent, articulate blog of reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Torque Control is the blog of the editorial staff of Vector, the journal of the British Science Fiction Association, and it has a lively, thoughtful, active following of writers and sci-fi enthusiasts who engage in respectfully pointed discussions. It’s a pity that the site design is barely adequate; I discern a limited WordPress theme that is not being used to full advantage. On the other side of the pond we have the glitzier Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association, but unfortunately, for the purposes of this article, there I did not find links to free and inexpensive online writing, although I did find an interesting link to online fantasy and science fiction writing workshops at Odyssey.
The Torque Control Short Story Club selections link to a glorious plethora of online sci-fi and fantasy journals, and for the benefit of our readers here, I’d like to share these discoveries and more. Please add links in the comments to recommend additional resources, or comment on these selections.
Tor, as you may know, is a preeminent publisher of fantasy fiction with mass-market appeal. Online they offer carefully chosen short stories and excerpts by popular authors. Tor is smart: there are many ways you can read these stories, including online, printing, PDF, or downloading for your mobile or e-reader device. Click on the [?] for more details under the left-side Download link. Not every story is available in an audio format, however. Discussions are generally lightweight, of the “I like it!” variety. It’s not clear to me that stories are offered on a scheduled basis, but no worries, you can stay current by subscribing to the RSS feed for stories.
Founded by author and publisher Neil Clarke (unrelated to Arthur C. Clarke as far as I know, but surely benefiting by the association), Clarkesworld Magazine has been published monthly since 2006, through Wyrm Publishing. It publishes science fiction and fantasy, and received a 2010 Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. (Semiprozine? Is that an anti-depressant?) Quoting from their About page: “Each issue contains at least two pieces of original fiction from new and established authors.” They offer free audio podcasts and e-reader issues at $2.99, via the Wyrm Publishing bookstore. You can read some stories online.
Lightspeed publishes science fiction in a monthly issue that is available in various e-reader formats for $2.99. Some stories are also available online and in audio format. Lightspeed’s goal is to present work from both new and well known authors. Lightspeed is edited by John Joseph Adams, editor of anthologies, and of Fantasy Magazine (see below.)
Futurismic serves a broad interest in exploring the effects of science and technology on the present and future, and publishes relevant speculative fiction once a month. Disappointingly, there are no alternate download formats, and not even a print media stylesheet, so you’re entirely dependent on your own devices should you wish to separate yourself from the blue glowing screen.
Bonus: A huge, wondrous blogroll of links to online fiction in the right column.
“From modern mythcraft to magic surrealism”. The publisher and editors are connected with Lightspeed and Clarkesworld magazines. It’s a small world. Fiction is published weekly online, with no alternate formats available. There is no print stylesheet, so once again, you’re on your own if you like to take your reading with you. Instapaper to the rescue? Besides fiction there are essays, reviews of fantasy-oriented books and film, and interviews with authors. There are also downloadable mp3 podcast fiction recordings but the most recent file dates from May 10, 2010. I found this website a bit rough to navigate, and the absence of an articulated introduction seemed an illiterate oversight to me. Please… no unicorns. Can we just not have pictures of unicorns on a fantasy website?
Books” (remind me please, why do we have categories?) but you can ferret out these posts by looking at the ones whose subject line starts with “TOC:…”
TOC: ‘The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five’
TOC: ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2011 Edition’
Asimov’s is one of the most venerable and well recognized science fiction magazine that is still in existence, publishing the best known authors. Looking at recent covers, it seems that they aren’t interested in breaking new ground in sci-fi illustration. The website, too, is a yawn, which is a peculiar choice for science fiction; neither is it well designed, as some pages force the user to use the browser “back” button to return to the navigation schema. Smartly, they do provide download and subscription options, including the standard $2.99 per issue subscription in various e-reader format. Individual issues cost $3.49. The print subscription costs slightly more. Asimov’s is published ten times a year. Unfortunately, there are only story teasers online; you’ll have to pay to read to the end.
There are no free online short stories from the venerable F&SF, but there are many options for alternate format downloads from e-reader bookstores at $7 for each bi-monthly issue. There is a link to Audible, but I could only find some old “Best of F&SF” yearbook anthologies, and no recent issues.
Final plug for InstapaperAs you browse the web, have you had the experience of coming across an interesting longer article or story that you didn’t have time to read just then? If you have a mobile e-reader compatible device, or if you simply want to collect such content for later reading, you might want to look at instapaper.com. Instapaper is a free web service that collects articles you select by clicking a “Read Later” button, installed by dragging to your browser’s toolbar. It’s a super way to collect and convert HTML web content for your reading convenience. You can have content delivered wirelessly to your device at intervals, if appropriate, or you can print content, or simply refer to your bookmarked links. If you like the service, the developers would welcome a small donation.
In ConclusionSurviving online through the grace of donations is difficult. To increase their web presence, some of these magazines could take advantage of the prevalence of portable digital devices by publishing for e-readers, and by offering podcasts on services like ITunes. I think that reasonably priced monthly issues at $2.99, or smaller issues at $0.99, is a good plan for online magazines. I’ve bought some for my Kindle 3. One hurdle for online publishing is the technical debt incurred by investing time and money in website design. Sure enough, a year or two goes by, and if the site owner hasn’t planned for sufficient maintenance and development, the site falls behind in its technical ability to deliver content in the way that users need it.
I’d like to hear your feedback on these sites. Are there other speculative fiction online websites that should be on this list?
[This article was originally published on Dreams & Speculation]