Apr 30 2010 3:10pm

Asimov’s Science Fiction Accepting Electronic Submissions

Today, in an exclusive interview over at SF Signal, Sheila Williams talks about her reasons for moving Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine to an online submission system. This is the same system (designed by Neil Clarke) used by Clarkesworld Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, and Electric Velocipede. Williams main thought behind using the online system is:

[T]o be more organized and to process work more quickly. I’m happy that authors will now get a response indicating that their story has been received. I’m very glad that I will now have an easily accessible record of when stories were submitted and when and what the response was. I don’t know if this organization will actually decrease our response time because I expect that the number of submissions will go up, but I expect it to simplify some aspects of my work.

This is the first of the big three science fiction magazines (the other two being The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction & Fact) to accept electronic submissions. I’ll be interested to see what impact it has on the magazine’s table of contents as I suspect Williams will see a lot more submissions from non-US writers and from newer writers. As Williams notes, the volume of submissions will go up, but I know that having everything in a self-contained system sped up our response time despite an increase in volume.

Neil Clarke initially designed the system for use with Clarkesworld Magazine, and it’s taken off from there. In his own words:

I never expected it to take on a life of its own. If you told me that it would eventually be used by Asimov’s, I would have laughed at you.

I know that I had concerns about Asimov’s when Gardner Dozois left, but Williams has more than ably taken the reins. It helps that she’s been at the magazine for almost thirty years. Earlier this month, Sean Wallace from Prime Books pointed that in the past five years, stories from Asimov’s have received 27 nominations for Hugo Awards with a total of nine wins (out of 15 maximum). Impressive to say the least. This year, Williams is on the ballot for Best Editor, Short Form, and like Wallace, I certainly think she’s worth your vote.

John Klima is the editor of the Hugo Award winning Electric Velocipede.

Nick Eden
1. NickPheas
What? They've moved into the late twentieth century? It would never have occurred to me that this wasn't the norm.
Pam K
2. PamK
I'm not sure what is more embarassing for science fiction: that it's the year 2010, and one of the "big three science fiction magazines" is just now accepting electronic submissions, or that the other two (by implication) still don't.

I mean, really.

(By comparison, I was submitting manuscripts electronically to academic journals a decade ago.)
Jer Brown
3. designguybrown
I know very little about story submissions, being an artist of a different stripe, but it would be interesting to see how the Table of Contents for these vaunted periodicals would change if all submissions were Anonymous and had to be included as such. Identities wouldn't be known until acceptances had been announced. Which of course brings up the age-old debate: is it a name or a good story that attracts and keeps readers (not that these are mutually exclusive, but...)
John Klima
4. john_klima
@1 It should be the norm. In some ways it's too bad that this is big news in the field.

@2 You are correct that the other two don't, and one of them shares an office with Asimov's!

@3 That could be interesting, but I doubt it would ever happen. Nemonynous does exactly that. They don't have the profile of the "big three" sf magazines, however.
5. Django
What difference does it make how they accept submissions?

Anyone who has submitted to this market knows that 7,499 times out of 7,500, they only accept submissions from established writers who are members of the SFWA or have attended the Clarion Writer's Workshop. All this recent advancement means to writers who are not members of the SFWA or have not attended the Clarion Writer's Workshop is that their pieces will be rejected faster.

Wesley Parish
6. Aladdin_Sane
I wonder if anything has changed though, about a piece of news I read some time ago, that publishing houses weren't too keen on accepting stuff that had previously seen the light on day on the Web?

I mean, I regularly read stuff - Charles Dickens, Lev Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoeyevsky, Michael Moorcock, Phillip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, etc - that first saw the light of day published in a magazine ... and was then revised and often rewritten before being submitted for publication as a book.

I would think that publishing oneself via the Web is a good way to get feedback, and iron out the problems in one's writing ... evidently not.

So tell me, is writing something that is then published on the Web, now that people see blogging, for example, as citizen journalism, a good way to make sure you never get anything published? Are we there yet?
7. Django

I think so. Free online fiction may make a writer's work easy to obtain (for the writer's family, friends, and online cohorts), but like many other things which are easy to obtain, it seems common, and is perceived to lack value, not only by publishers, but by readers (who are not the writer's family, friends, or online cohorts) as well. But perhaps most importantly for a publisher, free fiction lacks the mystique of exclusivity.

Is posting work online a good way to make sure you never get anything published? Probably. Because if we are not there yet, we are very close.

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