I missed a week due to travelling India, but I’ll be posting more in general in the future to make up for that.
Last night, I received a disappointment, and over the past 12 hours it’s led me to something of a paradigm shift.
Science Fiction Short Story magazines. They aren’t many of them left. And they’re important. They form the traditional gateway into the industry. They’re still in many ways used as the gatekeepers of quality. And they know exactly what they want, and they aren’t expanding.
Like much of the publishing industry, they are in a state of chaos that borders on existential crisis, and like much of the world around us today, no one has any idea what the hell to replace them with and how that’s going to work – me included, but I’m going to have to find a solution whether I like it or not.
Today’s case study: Abyss and Apex
Now plenty of these magazines have short submission windows. Veeeeeery short submission windows. As in, they’re basically trying to make it as difficult as possible to submit to them. They do this to filter out the lightweights, and I accept that. It takes a careful degree of planning to successfully meet their submission window. And so that brings us to last night, my phone calendar informing me that Abyss and Apex has opened.
Their schedule looks like this:
first week of November 2016CANCELLED
- First week of February 2017 FLASH ONLY
- first week of May 2017
- first week of August 2017
I’m sure you can see the problems here immediately.
After the August 2016 submission, I waited patiently for November. It was cancelled. Ok, these things happen. I set my patient wait for February 2017. A six month wait, not exactly minor, but sadly not atypical for this sort of business. And now, I learn that February 2017 has abruptly been closed to all but Flash fiction. I will not be able to submit my work to this. My carefully co-ordinated wait has been for nothing.
I don’t think Abyss and Apex are doing this through any fault or laziness of their own. I think they just have too many damn stories, and not enough sales or funds to justify publishing more. Indeed, that’s just a wider symptom of the industry as a whole. Abyss and Apex was always one of my top choices, their published work matches my style very closely and I’m a big fan of their work. It’s been suggested before that if the short story magazine market is dying, why would I frantically be trying to join such a sinking ship?
Part of me wonders if my current approach stems from some degree of nostalgia for the traditional publishing processes, or anxiety over the alternative routes to acceptance.
But I think this is a turning point for me. I’ve long been falling out of favor with searching for magazine formats for my short stories, and moving closer to the concept of releasing anthologies of my own. Of course, getting an anthology published as an unknown author is still another set of tough challenges, but it’s starting to look more feasible that keeping the fiction magazine industry alive on artificial life support.
My short stories are great, and I have no doubt they will one day have a life of their own somewhere, some year in the future. But I think I would be surprised now if it happens in an old school magazine, like our classic SF ancestors before us…
On to a new and dizzying unknown future, friends! Good luck out there