Over the last few years I have noticed a trend of publishers closing for unsolicited submissions or reducing the time for unsolicited submissions to open windows. Recent examples include: Gollancz who were open all the time has recently closed its open submissions window; and Tor.com will now not take any unsolicited short stories.
In the ‘good old days’ the would be novelists would get help to hone their novels from the publishers. Then it was help from the agents. Now it’s help from beta readers if you can find a good one i.e. who offers insights to where you could improve novel.
In short it is getting harder for the new writers to find their way into print and to make a living out of writing. The result is that the fewer opportunities that are left get more swamped with submissions, which in turn means those opportunities then can’t cope with the workload and close to submissions. I am now seeing more anthologies that are invite only anthologies i.e. writers are invited to submit stories.
I also have a suspicion that those magazines currently in print are looking for the big names to attract buyers. Those will be the ones that have a track record in the genre. They after all want to sell copies. This squeezes out the new writers.
The only route these days seems to be self-publishing and hope that your novel / story picks up some sort of buzz. And the only way I can see that happening is if you pick a subject that the publishers have missed out on their lists, like Andy Weir did with The Martian.
What about the competition route? They are very few and far between as well. There’s the Writers of the Future and the James White award for new writers. There may be others that are far less less high profile, but that’s about it.
Given all this negativity, why do so many people want to write science fiction?
I know in my case, it was because I had run out of science fiction books that I was interested in reading. So I had to write my own.
I’m not interested in books with magic. To me, it’s a cop out for doing things that science does not allow you to do.
I’m not interested in books that are effectively about games, any type of games including survival games in dystopias and politics of space operas. To me, they give me the ‘So what?’ feeling.
I’m not interested in the nostalgic retro-looking stories that hark back to the ‘golden days of science fiction’. To me they are just rewording of what I’ve seen before, even if it’s beautifully reworded!
To me, the vast majority of science fiction these days is inward or backward looking. Regrettably, for commercial reasons it will remain so.
So what am I interested in? Imaginative thinking with new ideas and themes. And that’s what I will continue writing.
And believe me, there are others, albeit a minority, who can and do write such science fiction. One day, things will change…