June 16, 2014

Is sci-fi short fiction getting a boost from digital platforms?


©design36 / Via Shutterstock

©design36 / Via Shutterstock

Damien Walter writes for the Guardian that short stories in science fiction are enjoying something of a golden age thanks to new means of consuming, promoting, and funding publication of these stories.

Walter points out that it was, at one time, magazines where short sci-fi fiction found an audience—publications like Amazing Stories and Asimov’s Science Fiction, many of which have gone under in the past decade or so. With the traditional magazines disappearing, web zines have started to take up the slack.

Among the outlets that Walter lauds for their efforts to keep short sci-fi alive are Lightspeed, an online magazine publishing a combination of established writers and new voices; Strange Horizons, which he describes as publishing “some of the very best critical non-fiction writing about SF to be found online or off;” and Tor.com, the “reigning champion of science-fiction magazines.”

Beyond online publication of the stories that have been integral to the sci-fi tradition for decades, aficionados are (understandably) taking to other relatively new media. Podcasts have taken off to such an extent that they have their own awards, the Parsecs — with sixteen categories that include performances of speculative fiction, news/commentary podcasts, parody shows, video performances, and more.

Walter credits the resilience of sci-fi to its devoted audience, which gives it a built-in online presence, and makes crowd-funding all the easier. Even a new magazine such as Fireside was able to exceed its Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 to fund its third year of publication.

Science fiction really does have, more than any other genre, the perfect audience to embrace new digital platforms; it won’t be surprising if we start seeing even more interactive elements to let readers share their reading experiences immediately.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.