Monday, October 22, 2007

Depressing News about SF Magazine Sales

Maybe the magazine is dying. I like the computer, but I like magazines a lot. I must, since I subscribe to so many. The depressing news is here.

Link via Boing Boing.

14 comments:

jj solari said...

Not surprising. Who the hell can read? We're graduating crack dealers. All they have to know is what Andrew Jackson looks like.

Todd Mason said...

Yes and no. We were discussing this on FictionMags, and some of this is strictly out of Ellis's sphincter (the dominance of online magazines in producing award-winners, for example). The circulations are dropping, but magazines remain viable for now, as Gardner Dozois keeps reminding us in his BEST SF OF THE YEAR annual front matter...but subbing is always recommended. (I give gift subs.) Ellis has a problem with the magazines that seems to color his perceptions, as witness his recent endorsement of Jonathan Lethem's groan about how ugly the fiction magazines are, a half-truth at best...REALMS OF FANTASY for some reason usually coughs up a "commercial" cover that belies the often beautiful interior, but the other magazines lean to relatively handsome covers, albeit with occasional clunkers (unless, like Kurt Vonnegut with pulps, one dislikes the texture of the paper that F&SF and the Penny Press/"Dell" magazines use). Furthermore, a number of the bigger "little" magazines are gaining ciculations that are rising up to meet those of the strictly-commercial fiction magazines, and little/semipro press in fantastic and crime fiction seem to be getting pretty good big box store distribution, if bad circulation elsewhere (as are nearly all magazines that don't have some clout with the ever more picayune distributors)...note MURDALAND's relatively good availability, and CRIMEWAVE's a year or so back...infrequency doesn't help much, but such magazines as TIN HOUSE and ZOETROPE ALL-STORY, and older littles such as KENYON REVIEW and PLOUGHSHARES are getting some space on the Killer B newsstands (and at least some of those seem to be turning a profit, however slim, as well, or at least soldiering on at not too bad a loss), as are such magazines as WEIRD TALES and APEX. Stephen King, while flacking for his volume of BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, is taking care to push all sorts of fiction magazines while doing so, particularly in public-radio interviews (LEONARD LOPATE on WNYC, the syndicated WBUR-based HERE AND NOW). But, yes, they can use all the help one can offer...

Bill Crider said...

I'm a strange bird, no question, but I happen to like the texture of the paper used by F&SF and EQMM. I was glad to see that at least F&SF seemed to be holding its own. I've talked with Janet Hutchings about the circulation of EQMM and AHMM. I know they're both suffering declines, but I hope they'll be around for a long time.

Todd Mason said...

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2007/10/18/segments/87292

http://www.here-now.org/shows/2007/10/20071019_5.asp

Penny Press's multitude of puzzle and astrology magazines does tend to get their fiction titles into some places that others don't get to, such as the Wegman's supermarket I patronize. I suspect they might be the last titles standing in the (puzzle-mag-tall) digest format that aren't littles.

But, you know, people still like magazines, and the fiction magazines have been supposedly on their last legs since the 1950s. It's a long slow passage so far!

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for the links, Todd. They remind me that I'm currently reading some pretty fair short stories in Joe Hill's collection.

Todd Mason said...

And, apropos of little, FRESH AIR's evening repeat just played a bit of Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box"...I like the handsomeness of the ZOETROPE ALL-STORY and REALMS OF FANTASY design (aside from those bad covers I mentioned on the latter), but have little problem with the "feel" or look of F&SF and the Penny Press magazines...Dozois keeps reassuring us that such are dirt-cheap to produce. TIN HOUSE intentionally reminds us of 1970s elementary reading textbooks...not sure I fully endorse that.

Bill Crider said...

Having been in elementary school long before the '70s, I'd never notice. But I'm sure the students from that era would.

Todd Mason said...

It was a slight refinement of where they were going in the Fifties and Sixties, with more white space and attention to graphic design (as a kid, I used to collect reading texts). Contrast, say, a 1960s SATEVEPOST with today's HARPER'S for a similar evolution.

After George Plimpton's death, the PARIS REVIEW board decided they wanted PR to more closely resember the likes of TIN HOUSE or the redesigned KENYON REVIEW, and I definitely don't approve of that (particularly since it meant cutting the amount of fiction). The old PARIS REVIEW resembled a fatter F&SF on better paper.

Todd Mason said...

And, sorry, I'll get off this after this, but I see I blamed Ellis above for one of Doctorow's pseudofacts, that of of the webzine award-dominance. At least among the "old-line" "big-name" awards such as the Hugo and Nebula.

And in case anyone's actually wondering, the magazine is ANALOG because its focus has always been to hew as closely to analogous to future reality as it could get. Desired focus, anyway. Not always its achievement, no. Ben Bova livelied it up some, though.

Bill Crider said...

I'm guessing they want the magazine to be called DIGITAL.

TM said...

Yes, which helps sum the depth and wit of the critique.

Todd Mason said...

Writing of MURDALAND, I've just picked up #2, which is a bit slimmer than #1. Also, I've broken down and bought another ROSEBUD...I think the William Stafford reprint might've been the clincher, among all the other familiar names on the cover.

Bill Crider said...

Glad to hear MURDALAND #2 is available. I'll have to get a copy.

kaolin fire said...

Soldiering on isn't quite "succeeding", and "stemming the losses" ... I really hope something better can be done.

Apex Digest reports an "estimated" circulation for Issue 10 as roughly 3000, putting them nicely ahead of Interzone... but they're in the middle of a fund drive (raffle), even still.

As an aside, it's amusing how easily Ellis's sphincter and Doctorow's could be confused. ;) [[ just had to say that... ]]

GUD Magazine is trying to enter the conversation with the life and times of a startup magazine. We're about to birth our third issue (at 2 x year), and we're trying to consider any reasonable (or potentially reasonable) way to boost circulation / word of mouth / support for our contributors / etc. :)