Internet Review of Science Fiction Closing and Some Short Fiction Thoughts

The Internet Review of Science Fiction (IRoSF) has published what likely will be its last issue. Starting in 2004, IRoSF started publishing a mostly monthly online issue of reviews and columns. Each issue could have interviews, con reports, reviews, spotlights on an aspect of the field, and more. While I didn’t always agree with their opinions, I always found the writing to be excellent.

Now, after almost seven years of content, IRoSF is suspending publication. The usual culprits crop up: lack of funds, limited time, the need to stretch one’s self creatively in a different direction, and so on. (the first two are outlined in Bluejack’s penultimate editorial which also gives a nice history of IRoSF for the historically inclined, the last one is interpreted by me)

I, for one, will miss IRoSF and its intelligent writing. I will also miss it for selfish reasons. There are fewer and fewer places that provide reviews of short fiction, and IRoSF was one of the better ones. I don’t know that many new subscribers were coming from IRoSF‘s reviews of Electric Velocipede, but I could tell that the reviews always sent people over to my site to look things over.

With IRoSF suspending publication, it got me thinking about where people find out about short fiction. Maybe people are reading reviews in places like IRoSF, or Locus, Asimov’s, or Tangent, or SF Signal, or SF Site, or SF Revu, or Infinity Plus, or some other place. Perhaps they find stories in a year’s best anthology and seek out the publication from there. If they’re like me, there’s a lot of word of mouth that directs them towards sources of short fiction. It could be that people are just searching for short fiction and then reading one of the excellent magazines online. And, I suspect that many people just wait for either the Nebula or Hugo Awards nominations to get announced and then they read those stories if they are reading any short fiction at all.

However people are finding short fiction, I saw a pair of interesting posts using the Locus Recommended Reading List as a barometer of reading habits. First, Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine (a Hugo and World Fantasy nominee last year) wrote about short stories. In addition to providing a number of facts about the publications the stories came from, Clarke also created a chart showing the trend of recommendations based on delivery medium (i.e., print, online, and books). There is a clear trend of print magazines losing ground as the main source of short stories. To follow up this up and show essentially the same trend, Sean Wallace of Prime Books did the same thing with Locus’ recommended novelettes.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that a year or two of increased magazine recommendations could throw these charts asunder. Also, the Locus list is not necessarily representative of fan reading at large and could be skewed through the tastes of the list’s compilers. Additionally, both Clarke and Wallace work on Clarkesworld Magazine (an online fiction magazine) and Wallace publishes Fantasy Magazine and the forthcoming Lightspeed Magazine, both of which are online, which makes them hardly impartial or unbiased in this matter.

Nonetheless, I think short fiction is eminently suited to online reading and also works very well for electronic readers. I think the online magazines are here to stay and are publishing just as interesting stuff as their print counterparts. Heck, look at the recent Nebula Awards nominations for 2009 and you’ll see a number of online magazines with stories on the ballot. Clarkesworld Magazine has two nominees in short story and has a nominee in the novelette category.

Now they just need to win one.

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


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