Neil Clarke on The Sad Truth About Short Fiction Reviews

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 108-smallNeil Clarke, founder and Editor-in-Chief of the award winning Clarkesworld magazine, has some pretty harsh words on the utility of short fiction reviews in our industry.

The sad truth about short fiction reviews is that the overwhelming majority of them have little-to-no impact on readership. After monitoring the incoming traffic for the online version of this magazine for nine years, I can say that the typical review has a statistically insignificant impact on the readership of a story or issue. The only notable exception to this has been reviews on high traffic sites, like io9 or, that focus specifically on a single story. As the number of stories in a review increases, there’s a dramatic drop-off in story readership.

“Oh, but that’s not the purpose of a review.” Yes, reviews have many purposes and sometimes their impact on readership can be secondary. For example, a good review in Locus may indicate good chances at being on their recommended reading list. That might have an influence on other award nominations as well. If a story happens to make one of those ballots, it definitely has an impact, but that’s a very small percentage of the stories reviewed in a year.

Shouldn’t reviews of good stories have the effect of encouraging people to read the story?

With all due respect, I think Neil is missing the essential point of short fiction reviews. I bought and published short fiction for over a decade, and one thing I learned was, with a handful of exceptions, nobody writes short fiction for the money. They write to reach an audience, and because they have something to say. Short story writers, in a very real sense, are paid with the acclaim they receive.

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Fantasy Scroll Magazine 8 Now Available

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy Scroll Magazine Issue 8-smallThe eighth issue of the online-only Fantasy Scroll Magazine, cover dated August 2015, is now available.

There’s lots of news from Fantasy Scroll this month — starting with their big Year One anthology, Dragons, Droids and Doom, which contains every story from their first year, including tales by Ken Liu, Piers Anthony, Rachel Pollack, Hank Quense, William Meikle, Cat Rambo, and Mike Resnick. It is edited by Iulian Ionescu and Frederick Doot, and will be available in trade paperback and digital format in November.

In his editorial, Iulian Ionescu provides his usual sneak peek of the contents of issue #8. Here’s a snippet:

Here we come to the rescue with another packed issue, filled with monsters, aliens, knights, spaceships, and dragons. We start strong with Tony Peak’s “The Light Comes,” a story of struggle in a world where a strange disease takes lives regardless of age. This is Tony’s second appearance in FSM and we’re really glad to see him back.

“Minor Disasters” by Elise R. Hopkins reminds us of the fragile world we live in and how everything can turn to dust in the blink of an eye. Kate O’Connor’s “White Horse” is next, following the life of a soldier and his encounters with a magical white steed.

Next is “ReMemories” by Nancy Waldman, a moving story about a future where humankind can record, store, and manipulate the mind’s memories. Alexander Volkmar’s story, “Gunman on the Wall” reminds us of the constant need to believe that things are better on the other side.

Here’s the complete table of contents.

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August 2015 Nightmare Magazine Now on Sale

Monday, August 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Nightmare Magazine August 2015-smallThe August issue of the online magazine Nightmare is now available.

Fiction this month includes original short stories from Nathaniel Lee and Megan Arkenberg, and reprints from Steve Rasnic Tem and Molly Tanzer:

Original Stories

Where It Lives” by Nathaniel Lee
And This is the Song It Sings” by Megan Arkenberg


The Men and Women of Rivendale” by Steve Rasnic Tem (from Night Visions 1, 1984)
Qi Sport” by Molly Tanzer (from Schemers, 2013)

The non-fiction this issue includes the latest installment in their long-running horror column, “The H Word” (“Following the Symptoms”), plus author spotlights, a showcase on cover artist Carlos Villa, an editorial, and a feature interview with Clive Barker.

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Future Treasures: Dragons, Droids and Doom, Year One, edited by Iulian Ionescu and Frederick Doot

Sunday, August 30th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Dragons Droids and Doom-smallFantasy Scroll Magazine is one of the great success stories of genre crowdfunding. It was launched with a successful Kickstarter campaign in April 2014, in which it raised enough to fund itself for a full year (four issues). All four issues were released on time, as promised, and since then it’s been operating nicely under its own steam. This year it upgraded to bimonthly, attracting top talent like Robert Reed, Sarah Avery, Pauline J. Alama, Beth Cato, and many more, and the magazine continues to prosper.

Fantasy Scroll has supported itself by selling merchandise and launching a mobile app — and through a Starlight Patrol of enthusiastic backers and supporters at Patreon who help keep the magazine going. Best of all, they’ve announced a new line of anthologies, the first of which, Dragons, Droids and Doom, contains all 51 short stories published in their first year. Here’s editor Iulian Ionescu:

It’s with great pleasure that I introduce you to Dragons, Droids and Doom, Year One, the very first anthology from Fantasy Scroll Magazine. It contains all stories published in the year 2014, and what a cool bunch of stories! There are 51 stories from 49 authors, including names you’ll recognize, such as Mike Resnick, Ken Liu, Piers Anthony, and Cat Rambo. You will also find stories from up-and-coming authors and some from first-time published authors. All in all, I believe it’s a great mix of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and paranormal short stories that will appeal to a wide audience.

We last covered Fantasy Scroll Magazine with issue 7.

Dragons, Droids and Doom, Year One will be published in early November, 2015. It is $14.95 in trade paperback, and $5.99 for the ebook. The cover is by Mondolithic Studios. Read more — including the introduction by Mike Resnick, and two sample stories — at the website, and see the massive table of contents here.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 180 Now Available

Saturday, August 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 180-smallBeneath Ceaseless Skies #180 has new stories by Alec Austin and Jason Fischer.

Fire Rises” by Alec Austin
Li chuckled too, considering how to kill her.

Defy the Grey Kings” by Jason Fischer
Elephants are quick, even draped in chain and iron, but you are quicker by a whisker.

Issue 180 was published on August 20, 2015. Read it online completely free here.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is edited by Scott H. Andrews and published twice a month by Firkin Press. Issues are available completely free online; you can also get a free e-mail or RSS subscription.

Firkin Press also sells a Kindle/e-Reader subscription, which includes automatic delivery to your Kindle or other device. A 12-month subscription comes with 26 issues and costs only $13.99. Single issues are available on Kindle and at Weightless Books for 99 cents. Subscribe here.

The magazine supports itself though subscriptions, and also by selling anthologies, including the annual Best of BCS volumes and occasional themed books such as the steampunk anthology Ceaseless Steam. The anthologies each contain 15-18 stories and cost only $2.99-$3.99.

The cover art this issue is “Kodran Migrant Fleet” by Tyler Edlin. We last covered Beneath Ceaseless Skies with issue 179.

Our mid-August Fantasy Magazine Rack is here. See all of our recent fantasy magazine coverage here.

Apex Magazine #75 Now on Sale

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Apex Magazine Issue 75-smallLast month Charlotte Ashley reviewed the Hugo Award short stories nominees in her short fiction column; this month she tackles the novelettes. Long before the awards were announced, she had no trouble picking the winner — the only one not nominated by the Rabid Puppies: “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra

The plot holes in this piece are gaping. The story is ushered along by bad decisions made by people who should know better, all culminating in an excuse to showcase Cadet Asgari’s mediocre problem-solving skills using standard military scifi technology. Big-thinking, innovative science fiction this was not.

“Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner

“Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner (Analog, Sept/Oct. 2014) suffers from many of the same weaknesses of the Vajra piece… the result is a jumbled assortment of vaguely related incidents. Characters are introduced and disposed of once they have fed Carl information (Grace, Corrine, Robyn, Danica,) but the clues they supply don’t add up to much more than an introduction. There’s a conspiracy. So what? The story fails to demonstrate the consequences of any of its events.

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Heuvelt’s story is the only one on this list that is Hugo-caliber. While I’m disappointed that it hasn’t any real competition in this slate, I could vote for it without reservations.

Read the compete article online here.

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September 2015 Asimov’s Science Fiction Now on Sale

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction September 2015-smallAsimov’s Science Fiction has a spiffy new website this month, with loads of new content — including issue and individual story summaries, a vintage cover gallery (cool!), and lots more. You should check it out. Here’s what they say about the latest issue:

Brenda Cooper’s lead story in our September 2015 issue looks at the lines we draw between ethics and scientific research. A deadly clash between forces making last ditch efforts to preserve life as we know it and renegades involved in potentially dangerous, but possibly life saving, experimentation will ultimately determine what will be the “Biology at the End of the World”!

Distinguished author Jim Grimsley returns to Asimov’s with a terrifying depiction of “The God Year”; Nebula Award winner Vylar Kaftan exposes us to an arctic chill on “The Last Hunt”; Sean Monaghan’s “The Molenstraat Music Festival” paints a far future of exquisite invention that hasn’t lost touch with the beauty of art; Jason Sanford’s “Duller’s Peace” imagines a far less happy future where even thoughts are under government surveillance; new to Asimov’s, author Sam J. Miller looks at lives upended by drastic climate change in “Calved”; and Peter Wood lightens our mood as he chronicles the story of a single mother and her young son out “Searching for Commander Parsec.”

And there’s more… Robert Silverberg’s Reflections hands us the key to “The Sixth Palace!”; Paul Di Filippo’s On Books investigates the short form, with a look at collections by Robert Silverberg and Delia Sherman, as well as a new Dozois/Martin anthology; plus we have an array of poetry and other features you’re sure to enjoy.

The only things missing are a cover credit, and a convenient link to last issue’s contents… which I’m sure is there somewhere, I’m just damned if I can find it. Also, every single TOC link in our past Asimov’s SF coverage is now defunct, which is annoying.

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Clarkesworld 107 Now on Sale

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 107-smallMark Cole’s article in the latest issue of Clarkesworld is on a topic near and dear to us old-time SF fans: the influence (for good and ill) of the legendary John W. Campbell.

In September of 1959, Jason Howley walked into the Golden Casino in Reno, Nevada, carrying a small, black, plastic box. Within a matter of minutes, he’d won over three hundred thousand dollars. When the device was opened up by investigators, they found nothing in it but a plastic lens, two silver contacts, white paint, and a series of diagrams drawn in black ink.

Regular readers of Astounding Science Fiction recognized it immediately when they read “David Gordon” (Randall Garrett)’s story, “…Or Your Money Back” : it was a version of the Hieronymus Machine, a “psionic amplifier” promoted by Astounding’s editor, John W. Campbell…

One thing more than anything else ushered psychic powers into the mainstream of SF: the influence of one of the genre’s greatest editors, in the pages of one of the most distinguished SF magazines of the Golden Age.

The influence of John W. Campbell and his work in Astounding.

Read Cole’s article “Fans Are Slans”: A Study in Campbellian Influence for the complete story.

Issue #107 of Clarkesworld has six stories — four new, and two reprints — from Martin L. Shoemaker, J.B. Park, Han Song, Emily Devenport, Peter M. Ball, and Neal Asher

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August 2015 Lightspeed Magazine Now on Sale

Friday, August 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Lightspeed August 2015-smallThis month Lightspeed has original fantasy from Sam J. Miller and Genevieve Valentine, and fantasy reprints by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Ursula Pflug, plus science fiction by Chen Qiufan, Sarah Pinsker, Vandana Singh and Vylar Kaftan. Plus their usual assortment of author and artist spotlights, book reviews, and a feature interview with author Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day, The Buried Giant).

Here’s the complete fiction contents of the August issue.


To See Pedro Infante” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (from Love and Other Poisons, 2014)
Given the Advantage of the Blade” by Genevieve Valentine
Python” by Ursula Pflug (from Album Zutique, No. 1, 2003)
“Ghosts of Home” by Sam J. Miller (available on 8/25)

Science Fiction

The Smog Society” by Chen Qiufan. Translated by Ken Liu.
Life-pod” by Vandana Singh (from Foundation, #100 Summer 2007)
And We Were Left Darkling” by Sarah Pinsker
“Civilization” by Vylar Kaftan (from Glorifying Terrorism, February 2007; available on 8/25)

Readers of the eBook version also get a reprint of the novella “Equinoctial” by John Varley, along with excerpts from the recent novels Zero World by Jason M. Hough and Finches of Mars by Brian W. Aldiss.

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Fantastic, June 1965: A Retro-Review

Thursday, August 20th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

fantastic June 1965-smallAt last I return to an issue of Fantastic from the Cele Lalli era. Indeed, this is the very last issue of the Cele Lalli era.

The June issues of Amazing and Fantastic were the last published by Ziff-Davis. They were sold to Sol Cohen’s Ultimate Publishing, and resumed appearing as bimonthlies with the August Amazing and then the September Fantastic.

At this time they began publishing mostly reprints, drawing on the huge library of stories published originally in Amazing and Fantastic, for which they had, legally, unlimited reprint rights. (Eventually Cohen was forced or shamed into paying a small fee.)

Perhaps because this is the last issue before the transfer to new ownership, there are no features: no interior art, no book review, no editorial, nothing. The cover is by Gray Morrow, never a favorite of mine, illustrating Roger Zelazny’s “Thelinde’s Song.”

Click the image at left for a bigger version.

I don’t like it much – the color is a muddy red, and the menaced virgin on the altar isn’t very attractive. (Shallow of me, I know, but there you are!)

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