So, another round of short story club is complete. For reference, here are the links to the various stories and discussions:
- “The Things” by Peter Watts [discussion]
- “Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra” by Vandana Singh [discussion]
- “A Serpent in the Gears” by Margaret Ronald [discussion]
- “Elegy for a Young Elk” by Hannu Rajaniemi [discussion]
- “Second Journey of the Magus” by Ian R MacLeod [discussion]
- “The Red Bride” by Samantha Henderson [discussion]
- “Miguel and the Viatura” by Eric Gregory [discussion]
- “No Time Like the Present” by Carol Emshwiller [discussion]
- “The Cage” by AM Dellamonica [discussion]
- “My Father’s Singularity” by Brenda Cooper [discussion]
- “The Heart of a Mouse” by KJ Bishop [discussion]
- “Stereogram of the Gray Fort, in the Days of Her Glory” by Paul M Berger [discussion]
- “Throwing Stones” by Mishell Baker [discussion]
As previously mentioned, I’d now like to open the floor for a more general discussion. There are two topics here. The major one is the stories themselves — which ones you liked, which you didn’t, what patterns or trends you spotted. And the minor one is about the logistics of the club — too many stories? Too few? Too similar? All feedback welcome.
36 thoughts on “Short Story Club Post-Mortem”
My thoughts are here. Short version: I really liked two stories, really disliked one, and found the rest pretty “meh.” Which is about the same as the typical Hugo ballot, really.
I enjoyed participating, and if you do it again, I would probably join in again.
If I had to pick one, it’d be The Red Bride. The more I read and thought about it, the more it seemed to open up with new layers. I also very much enjoyed “My Father’s Singularity”, which for all its (fairly minor) faults had real heart, something I genuinely appreciate in SF.
I didn’t think any were especially bad, but I found “The Cage” somewhat of a chore, and could think of nothing either positive or interestingly negative to say about “Stereogram &etc”.
I didn’t spot any trends or movements, although I am proud to have contributed “Gap Year SF” to the quiver of sneery critical put downs available.
I haven’t been the most devoted correspondent, I am sorry to say, but life is kinda upsy downsy. Fortnightly might be easier for me to manage than weekly, but lets face it I am a lazy bastard and if the world operated to my timetable it would still be the sixteenth century or so.
I’m pretty much in agreement with Chad. I do think it could do with being a bit shorter though because, for me at least, fatigue was kicking in. Just ten stories, perhaps?
A tally of scores reveals:
4 A (= All right)
4 M (= Meh)
5 B (= Bah)
As to the structure of future clubs: I agree we should do the next one slightly shorter, 8 or 10 installments. Also, I am with the fortnightly group, but I think that a single story is rarely going to be enough to generate that much discussion. There are several things one could do to complicate the discussion, all of which might be interesting. We could do two stories each fortnight, chosen to reflect upon one another, we could do a critical theme for the discussion, or we could link the story to an ongoing discussion in the broader fan-o-sphere. I am sure that there are a number of other contours that we could add to make it more interesting, as well.
I’ll also reup my offer of hosting if the vector folks would like us to take it elsewhere, once Niall is no longer their editor.
I had thought to use this as an opportunity to discuss the current magazine landscape in terms of editorial direction, but mostly came to the same conclusions across the board at every turn (although to greater degrees some places than others), which is that the current environment isn’t really optimized to produce stories that I think are interesting. I’d love for this to change, but honestly am not willing at this point to put up the money to buy stories that are more to my liking and publish them (nor am I aware of any workable business models for short fiction, at least at the level I’d like to pay). That said, the in my opinion the quality of the stories more or less tracks what the editors are willing to pay. Until someone can work out a model wherein they can regularly pay novel-or-better rates for stories, we’re not going to see a new flowering of short fiction anytime soon, and shorts will continue to be a way-station for new novelists, a side outlet for ideas that wouldn’t play at longer lengths, and a home for misfits who just can’t or don’t like to work at the longer lengths. Where the money comes from, though, I have no idea.
“Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra” M
“The Red Bride” B
“No Time Like the Present” B
“Stereogram of the Gray Fort, in the Days of Her Glory” M
“Elegy for a Young Elk” A
“Second Journey of the Magus” A
“The Heart of a Mouse” A
“Miguel and the Viatura” B
“The Cage” A
“Throwing Stones” M
“A Serpent in the Gears” B
“My Father’s Singularity” B
“The Things” M
I’ve enjoyed the discussions here very much. Every time, I’ve gained some new insight into the stories.
One problem I see with the selections is that they tend to come mainly from too-similar venues, publishing much the same sort of fantasy – often from the same set of authors.
I enjoyed the SSC very much too. Thank you.
As a suggestion for future selections, maybe you could consider stories from The Pedestal Magazine. It’s online, they pay pro rates for their fiction, but I never see their stories reviewed on Locus or in the usual places, so it could be interesting to discuss some of their stories, for variation.
Chad, Martin: Yes, I think ten stories is probably about right.
Patrick: I’m certainly going to be on the look-out for opportunities to use that term. :-)
Evan: I’m not sure where it happens next; if Shana and Martin don’t want to host it here, some sort of standalone blog might be worthwhile. And there could perhaps be an award-season run as well as an autumn run. Just thinking out loud, really.
Lois: Which other venues would you suggest? Bearing in mind the preferability of their being online. I’ll have a look at rreugen’s suggestion, and since this round of the club started up the World sf blog and Internova have both started publishing fiction online, so they might be options.
(And for what it’s worth, my favourites: Henderson, MacLeod, Bishop, Singh.)
Redstone SF is a new onine zine that sticks strictly to science fiction. Some of their stuff is OK.
I only read the stories
“The Things” by Peter Watts
“Second Journey of the Magus” by Ian R MacLeod
“The Red Bride” by Samantha Henderson
“Miguel and the Viatura” by Eric Gregory
“No Time Like the Present” by Carol Emshwiller
“My Father’s Singularity” by Brenda Cooper
“The Heart of a Mouse” by KJ Bishop
“Throwing Stones” by Mishell Baker
I didn’t comment on “The Things” or “Second Journey of the Magus” because I came to them too late and so I only skimmed rather than read them in depth.
The stand out story for me was “The Red Bride” as the author seemed to be genuinely trying something different, mostly successfully. I didn’t necessarily like “The Heart of a Mouse” but admired the guts of KJ Baker for writing such a bizarre story. I don’t think she had the mindset to carry it off successfully, though. From my skim read of “Second Journey of the Magus” I thought it was an interesting idea not executed in the best way – lots of exposition but not much plot, from what I remember. “The Things” I thought dull and nearly unreadable. I can’t even remember if I read it all the way through. Most of the others were generally fine but rather unsatisfying in some way that I find hard to define. Perhaps it’s the tone of voice of them. Of them all, the Red Bride and The Heart of a Mouse had a more interesting feel to them, a tone that I didn’t find completely po-faced.
Now that I think about it some more, the main thing that gets me about a lot of the stories I read, or what I remember of them, is that there was little life, in the sense of sparkle, or wit to them. Now that Jack Vance has retired we’ve got Matthew Hughes, Gene Wolfe with his very subtle, more intellectual and allusive wit, and that’s about it. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place, and I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading the magazines, but I want to know where the SF versions of Evelyn Waugh and Alan Bennett are, people who can make me laugh with a bizarre or unexpected but completely accurate description of the world. There’s Terry Pratchett, of course, but he’s a novel rather than short story writer.
There’s probably some leakage from my feelings about the short genre fiction market in general that’s contaminating my impressions of the stories here, but I think a lot of my dissatisfaction is down to what Jeff Vandermeer discussed in his essay The Triumph of Competence – the dominance of “centrist fiction that simply drowns in competence”. http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2007/10/16/the-triumph-of-competence/
I think my feelings can best be summarised as “Too many ‘Heroes’, not enough ‘Misfits'”.
– Thank you Niall for organizing the club, and everyone for participating. It’s fascinating to see how other people react to stories, and the discussions we have on topics like agency and POV that emerge organically while talking about the stories are just as valuable to me as the discussion of those stories themselves.
– Ten stories sounds about right to me, for next time. I’d also suggest balancing the reading order by not just genre and venue, but also length and POV. We seemed to hit a run of long, first-person stories there at the end.
– The awards shortlist story clubs have several advantages: fewer stories, and the in-built discussion topic of whether a given story deserves to win the award–the drama of competition. With the run of stories we had, I suppose the best we can ask is, do you think any of these stories deserves to appear in a year’s best volume? Or would you nominate any of these stories for an award? I see from its cover that Strahan’s next year’s best will include at least the Watts story.
– A caveat to all this: we’ve been considering these stories in isolation, and they should be able to withstand such consideration. But in nearly all cases these stories were selected for publication as one among a group, one story in a magazine issue of two or more stories. And part of the job of an editor is to choose stories that complement each other, that shore up each other’s weak areas: a story that doesn’t do X may read as less of a problem if it is immediately followed by a story all about X. This sort of thing is understood when reviewing anthologies; that a review that focuses only on the individual stories, and not at all on how they interact together, is missing something important. This isn’t to say that what we’ve been doing here isn’t valuable and worthy–one way of identifying the great stories is seeing how well they succeed without accompanying context–just that we should be aware that with the stories we’ve read, too, it’s only part of the picture. If anything, I think what we’re doing here is probably more useful to writers–and reviewers–than it is to readers. For readers, I don’t think surrounding context is ever enough to propel a “blah” story into a great story, but it might, to use Evan’s rankings, be enough to color whether a story is read as “blah” or “meh.”
– I find that the stories have qualities of being “good” and of being “memorable,” and that these are not always the same. Of the stories we read last year, for example, I was a bit “meh” on the Daniel Abraham at the time, but now I find it and the Swirsky to be the only stories that remain solidly in my memory. With this run of stories, I quite liked the Singh at the time, but it has not proven especially memorable for me–its details are already fuzzy.
– In that regard it is interesting to consider the impact of these discussions on how we think about the stories. The most memorable story for me from this session of the club has been the MacLeod: but I wonder, is that because of the story itself, or because of the vigorous discussion we had around it? Would I find it as memorable if I read it by myself, without taking part in the club?
– As for trends…well, there is the much-remarked upon fantasization of SF–SF stories that read rather like fantasy. The Singh, the Rajaniemi, the Henderson, the Bishop…the Gregory has its zombies and vampires, and even the Berger is set in the future and makes some SFnal arguments amidst its elves.
– Another trend was that there was very little in the way of formal experimentation with prose, structure, voice, or POV. Alas.
– Also: inconclusive conclusions. Double alas. And you know, I like open-endedness, slingshots, etc. But like POV, open endings are tools to be used to engage the reader in certain ways, to recruit them to certain sides or make them wonder certain questions. Whereas in many cases here, the inconclusiveness seemed to show either indecisiveness, or an awareness that following things through to their natural conclusion would spoil the effect of the story as told. But since readers will follow things through on their own….
– Other trends: the absence/failure of the traditional nuclear family; the idea of children as rallying point; the near-universal depiction of middle- and upper-class protagonists; the clarity of the genre markers–the absence of anything, excepting maybe in the Bishop and the end of the Singh, that felt at all slipstreamy.
– A number of stories seemed very expected to me, encapsulated by their summary–and I don’t even read that much short fiction. Perhaps related to this: I remember a quote from Gene Wolfe to the effect that only the shortest of short stories can get by with a single idea, that most good short stories need at least two. The Watts story has two (the idea of The Thing from the perspective of the monster, a group-mind, used to present the idea of fitness based on genetic diversity); the Signh, MacLeod, and Bishop have maybe one and a half…and the rest make do with only one idea, which may explain why they so often felt underdeveloped.
– Regarding what Evan and Chad wrote about the markets for short SF&F…people talk about the decline of the short fiction market, but there’s more being published at pro rates each year than most readers could ever read. Personally, I wonder if the situation might improve in terms of quality if there were fewer markets, that paid substantially more. In fact, I can only wonder if the recent uptick in popularity of original anthologies, themed and unthemed, which pay better than magazines and trade on established names, has indeed forced some of the magazines into more of a minor league role–a training ground for newer writers and a dumping ground for the less impressive efforts of established writers. (Relatedly, I also wonder about the increasing linkages between publishers and editors of both books and journals. Does someone like John Joseph Adams ever say “this story isn’t the best fit for the anthology you submitted it to, but I’d buy it for Lightspeed Magazine?” Did any stories that couldn’t be fit into Jonathan Strahan’s various original anthologies make it into the Strahan-edited issue of Subterranean Magazine?) And yet, the fact that there are so many venues willing to pay for these stories so frequently means that I’m not sure the writers are getting much training, either. The stories we read here were all well-intentioned, at least decently written at the sentence level, and they pretty much all had something to say worth saying–nearly all seemed to bear at least one element that was heartfelt. They were also frequently muted, underdeveloped, and overlong. That speaks to me of lack of training; and also of a market with venues that value a certain kind of story over a certain quality of story. It’s not surprising that the venues that I find to have the most consistent quality of stories are those that have the least limits on the types of stories (genre, subgenre, setting, POV, etc.) that they publish.
I think that many anthologies have some of their stories online, for promotion purposes (JJ Adams has stories up on his website, and I recently read a story from the Vance tribute anthology on the Tor site), so some of these stories could be picked for discussion along regular webzine stories.
Matt says – and he’s speaking of the markets as well as the selection from them read here – that he notes that absence of anything slipstreamy. What I notice is the shortage of stuff that’s really genre-y. Hard SF. Space opera. True secondary-world fantasy.
The other side of the fantasization of science fiction is the mundanization of fantasy. Increasingly, we see undifferentiated spec-fic, and it all tends to look kind of alike.
I’ve just finished reading the gigantic comment thread on that JV post.
Christ, that was depressing.
Lois: I notice that in novels as well. There doesn’t seem to be a core SF being published anywhere these days. There is a fair amount of secondary world stuff, but most of it seems, at least to me, to be more or less by the numbers Cook/Erikson war fantasy.
This time around, I felt I generally had little to say. It seemed like most of the stories didn’t have enough substance, uniqueness, or even sheer peeve-provocation to generate much enthusiastic discussion. I liked a fair number of the stories, but even so I felt I had little to add to their discussions.
I liked Evan’s suggestion of grouped discussions – discussing several stories which relate to each other (or contrast with each other). That way, we could have conversations about a theme, or a subgenre, or an editor, or an ezine… I think those might be more lively threads.
I enjoyed the club quite a bit and hope to see more iterations of it in the future. If I could change anything, I’d make sure the stories are better. I have no idea how to do that. I don’t even know if the issue lies in discovery of the good stories or if they flat out aren’t being published. Previously I assumed I had an idiosyncratic definition of what a good story is, one more limited than most, but comments here and elsewhere by Martin, Matt D, Sean, and Evan (I love how his top rating is a bored-sounding “All right”) make me feel in better company on the general point, even if we sometimes disagree on precisely which stories are best.
Personally, I wonder if the situation might improve in terms of quality if there were fewer markets, that paid substantially more.
It probably would, but realistically in this era we should expect publishing venues to increase (since the cost of publishing continues to fall). We can’t rely on a shortage of bookstore shelf space to do filtering for us any more; we need something better. Don’t ask me what that is.
That said, in its day Sci-Fiction paid unusually high rates and I believe Tor.com does today. I’m not sure what if any effect they’ve had on quality.
In fact, I can only wonder if the recent uptick in popularity of original anthologies, themed and unthemed, which pay better than magazines and trade on established names, has indeed forced some of the magazines into more of a minor league role–a training ground for newer writers and a dumping ground for the less impressive efforts of established writers.
I take it for granted the magazines are a minor league for novels. Are the original anthologies really that successful? From their proliferation I assume they are making money, but how do their sales stack up against novels? I could be wrong but I feel like most casual fans don’t read short stories in any form (magazine, online, or anthology) and just read novels.
Ultimately more money paid for short stories would mean better stories, but what’s the cause and effect here? I’m told by genre historians that the collapse of circulation among the magazines was caused by changes in the distribution business, not by a drop in demand. Yet there doesn’t seem to be a lot of pent-up demand for short stories, unless I’m wrong about sales of those anthologies.
David Brin in Earth predicted that in the future time would be more valuable and attention spans would be shorter, so one of his characters made a living editing 20th century movies like Terminator into shorter, abridged versions for impatient audiences. Leaving aside the question of whether that idea made sense for movies, we often hear fretting that people are too busy with TV, movies, blogs, Youtube, etc. to read. Surely the short story is the most competitive form of fiction in this time-sensitive era? But not only was Brin’s prediction wrong for movies, it seems that pretty much every genre has transitioned into novels and only novels. In SF at least, novels are usually longer than they were in previous generations, and in fantasy the multibook series mean stories are longer than ever. So what’s going on?
My guess is that the short story is actually a worse competitor to TV and movies because it offers no more depth in a less immersive medium. We’ve all seen how short stories can be easily adapted into a TV episode or movie whereas novels simply don’t fit. If this is true than short stories may be doomed to being a niche product.
I’ve wondered a bit if the problem with the quality isn’t that the freely available online venues are a sort of second-tier market, and that the more polished and refined stories are going to Asimov’s or F&SF, and are behind paywalls. I don’t know enough about the short fiction side of SF publishing to say if that’s realistic, or outdated prejudice regarding publishing formats.
The evidence for it would be that many of the stories had fairly significant flaws, or felt like just a prologue to a longer work. Arguing against that would be that I’ve felt the same way about a number of stories that made the Hugo ballot, too.
I think it might be interesting to do another round when the Hugo/Nebula nominations come out, though, and discuss the stories that are actually nominated. Those have ostensibly been selected as the best of what’s out there, and they’re usually made available online once the nominees are announced. That might be a good comparison sample.
Chad wonders: “I’ve wondered a bit if the problem with the quality isn’t that the freely available online venues are a sort of second-tier market, and that the more polished and refined stories are going to Asimov’s or F&SF”
I think the opposite is the case. The digests are stuck in their worn old ruts, offering the same names over and over. You can find some good stuff there, but it’s packed in with a lot of filler.
Matt H: I think that my top rating was just ‘all right’ because I didn’t like any of the stories here with any great passion. If there had been something I found exciting, I would have made up another that had a bit more enthusiasm. Also I laughed quite a lot at that.
I think that the novel/short story thing has a lot to do with changes in the cost of production on the writer side. It’s now possible to produce a moderately thick novel in the time that it would have taken to do a multi-draft 15k-word short story, so there’s rarely any reason to do the shorter work as the novel is always going to pay better, if accepted. Of course the shorter stuff is quicker too, but not quicker enough to make the very low rates paid worth it.
My understanding is that anthos are popular because they’re profitable for publishers. Mostly they’re reprints, so you’re paying sub-magazine word-rates, and the editor does most of the work for you. I think that authors appreciate the extra money, but I don’t think that it adds up to much.
Your notion of everything drifting towards novel length is interesting. I’ll have to give that some more thought. I do think that the production side stuff is part of it, though. On longer books, what I hear is that is what booksellers wanted, so books got fatter. I think that the trend has reached its peak, though, and there is starting to be some pushback, again from the sellers, that books have gotten too big, but that’s all third-hand.
Chad: I definitely like the idea of doing another round when the award nominations come out.
Lois: I know where you’re coming from there. I stopped buying F&SF this year after what seemed like the fifth book in a row with an Albert Cowdrey story in it. They definitely usually have the best stories that get published, I agree, but if they only published those, it feels like they’d only get out two issues a year, tops.
If I could change anything, I’d make sure the stories are better. I have no idea how to do that.
Indeed, although that’s where the quality of short fiction reviewing–along with the fact of different tastes–comes into play. Pretty much all the stories we read came highly recommended by at least one reviewing venue, I think.
Is there any great value in assembling a list of stories in advance–did anybody “read ahead” more than a story or two? I wonder if pre-assembling the list of stories we discuss doesn’t foreclose potentially interesting possibilities that get published during the club’s run.
“I’ve wondered a bit if the problem with the quality isn’t that the freely available online venues are a sort of second-tier market, and that the more polished and refined stories are going to Asimov’s or F&SF, and are behind paywalls.”
Why would any professional send his work first to markets that pay less AND have less readers? I don’t understand exactly why the print magazines mentioned are a first-tier market; they pay less and have fewer readers than web magazines like tor.com or Clarkesworld. (I have no knowledge of actual numbers re: readers; but people in my fandom seem to read and discuss about the online magazines, while the print ones are ignored)
Is there another reason besides the job money and the availability of content that makes the mentioned print magazines more attractive to writers?
Is there any great value in assembling a list of stories in advance–did anybody “read ahead” more than a story or two? I wonder if pre-assembling the list of stories we discuss doesn’t foreclose potentially interesting possibilities that get published during the club’s run.
Well, we could do something pretty simple – have every member suggest a story or two that he or she have read themselves. I think everybody here will be interested in finding stories – or hunting them down – that look likely to have an interesting discussion in them.
I actually once had the interesting idea of slush-reading the internet – compiling lots and lots of first-pages, and coming back only to the ones I found intriguing. I don’t read many short stories online outside the club, but maybe for the next round, I’d hunt some down that way :)
Of the stories we read last year, for example, I was a bit “meh” on the Daniel Abraham at the time, but now I find it and the Swirsky to be the only stories that remain solidly in my memory.
Although I think those are the two stories that had the longest comment threads, last year, which would help them stick in the mind.
I’ve wondered a bit if the problem with the quality isn’t that the freely available online venues are a sort of second-tier market, and that the more polished and refined stories are going to Asimov’s or F&SF, and are behind paywalls.
I don’t believe this is true. I think we just have very high standards. :-)
I don’t understand exactly why the print magazines mentioned are a first-tier market; they pay less and have fewer readers than web magazines like tor.com or Clarkesworld
I’d be a bit sceptical about “have fewer readers”; I think chatter about online magazines can be deceptive. The print magazines still have a substantial audience. Another factor to consider is that Asimov’s publishes longer stories than online venues will, and there are three or four times as many slots in a given issue as there are in a given issue of Clarkesworld.
have every member suggest a story or two that he or she have read themselves
Well, we did actually do that, to an extent, this time around.
I don’t understand exactly why the print magazines mentioned are a first-tier market
Stories in Asimov’s and (before it cut back on the number of stories it published each year) F&SF seem to do much better in the genre awards than online venues. Maybe the stories are better, maybe they have more readers, or maybe the readers they have are more likely to vote. Whatever the reason, since a lot of authors write short stories for the recognition and not the money, venues with more award nominations are going to have higher prestige.
Niall’s point about Asimov’s publishing longer stories is also a good one. I find 5K words to be just brutally short, but that’s what a lot of online venues prefer. I’m sure they have good reasons for their preference (costs less, less opposition to reading it on a screen I’d assume) but I personally find longer stories to be more effective.
Subterranean Online publishes a lot of longer works. Baen’s Universe did, while it was running.
I’m not as negative as many people here about the quality of the online fiction these days, but I also think that for the purpose of discussion, an interestingly flawed story is better than a perfect one.
Well, we could do something pretty simple – have every member suggest a story or two that he or she have read themselves.
As Niall wrote, there was an opportunity to do that. What I was wondering was, does all that need to be done up-front? Or could we do it week-by-week? That would give us the opportunity to say things mid-stream like, hey, Catherynne Valente is now editing Apex and she’s doing a special issue on some current topic, let’s see if it’s any good; or the World SF blog is now featuring fiction, how does it compare to the international fiction being published in other venues; etc.
rreugen: “Why would any professional send his work first to markets that pay less AND have less readers? I don’t understand exactly why the print magazines mentioned are a first-tier market; they pay less and have fewer readers than web magazines like tor.com or Clarkesworld. (I have no knowledge of actual numbers re: readers; but people in my fandom seem to read and discuss about the online magazines, while the print ones are ignored)”
Rates of payment, and readership, aren’t the only factors that might determine why a story gets submitted to market X and not market Y, though. Professional relationships with editors, affection for certain magazines, friendships, continuity with past sales, all play into the equation.
Thank you for the clarifications.
Well, it seems I thought it wrong. I imagined that an online venue is more important for a writer (as long as it pays professional rates) because:
1. The story is accessible to more people, all over the world; I know that print magazines can be ordered and shipped internationally too (because I did receive my mags even in Piatra-Neamt Romania with no problems) but I thought that … I don’t know, simply that with the Internet more people can read the stories, from all over the world, and there had to be more than 10k people with Internet access and interested in fantastic short-stories in the whole world…
2. The stories in a webzine don’t go away when the next issue is released, they can still be read just as easily as the newer ones. So, again, I imagined that this longer exposure brings more readers in time than a story printed in a paper mag could get.
I guess I misjudged things because I live in a different part of the world, where a story published in Asimov or F&SF simply doesn’t exist for most readers, while one published in a webzine does.
I’m sorry if my previous reply seemed too aggressive towards print magazines; that wasn’t my intention.
There’s the issue of gatekeepers. If an editor and magazine have long established good reputations, then that magazine has more credibility with readers and writers. There’s something to having an established (yuk) brand.
The web is ephemeral. Over the years I’ve seen so many online zines appear and disappear very quickly that I’m never quite sure what’s what or what’s worth reading. As I don’t like reading on a screen there has to be an incentive (such as this short story club) to get me to bother.
Then there’s the issue of worth. I know that if I see something that’s free on the web, my initial tendency is to believe it’s worthless unless I have good reason to think otherwise. I imagine a lot of other people feel the same way. This is where we come back to gatekeepers who can give me an indicator on the worth of something.
There’s also the issue of reader investment. If I have to make an effort to get a book – go to a shop, make a trip to the library – then I tend to value it more than if I see it on the web and read it there and then. There’s something about the real world interaction that makes me more committed.
Finally, don’t forget the conversation here is being conducted between a self-selecting group of people who are happy to follow the online trends in fiction and to get into the habit of searching for and reading works online. Not everyone in the world does any of this or even wants to.
Although most of the above comments come from this particular reader’s perspective, I think it’s probable that many other people such as writers unconsciously feel the same way.
With the run of stories we had, I suppose the best we can ask is, do you think any of these stories deserves to appear in a year’s best volume? Or would you nominate any of these stories for an award? I see from its cover that Strahan’s next year’s best will include at least the Watts story.
…and I see that the TOC from Rich Horton’s Year’s Best has now been posted, and it includes “Stereogram of the Gray Fort, in the Days of Her Glory” by Paul M. Berger, “No Time Like the Present” by Carol Emshwiller, and “The Red Bride” by Samantha Henderson, as well as the Watts story again.
Matt, you beat me to it: but here’s Strahan’s TOC, including the Rajaniemi and Watts stories.
As the person who brought up the second-tier market thing, I’ll say that I based it largely on the fact that the awards ballots continue to be dominated by stories from traditional print markets. For whatever reason, the people who vote for the Hugos still seem to primarily vote for stuff from print magazines, not online magazines.
I don’t usually read the anthologies– for hard-to-define reasons, I tend to prefer reading novels over short fiction– but I was sufficiently annoyed by the quality of some of last year’s Hugo nominees that I did read a couple of the Year’s Best anthologies (Hartwell/Cramer and Dozois, I believe), but I never got around to writing them up. I should probably look back at them and see if I can remember enough about the stories to be able to comment without having to read the damn things again.