It is sad to see an institution like SF Signal close, but that is what they have decided to do. The reason? The owners feel that they can no longer support it with the time it needs and the choice was to either let it dwindle or close it. They chose the latter to keep its good reputation. They are now working to keep the site as a record on the internet.
This is not the first time that I have seen volunteer work to promote and make science fiction better come to an abrupt end. And the pattern has been consistently the same. A head of steam is built up, demanding more and more time and effort from the people involved. It gets too much for them and they just have to give up.
To me this pattern is endemic of ‘too few hands, too much work to be done’. There is always this that needs to be done or that to be sorted. People are struggling to make whatever they are trying to do work.
I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all these people who make science fiction in their own time and using their own resources.
There are knock on effects…
- The money-producing end of the science fiction establishment relies on the volunteer sector to promote their goods and help put on events that they appear at. To them, financially speaking, it can be a freebie. I know some among them sponsor events etc, but not all. These establishments will have less opportunity to take leverage from these volunteer services.
- There will be less opportunity for the ordinary science fictioneer (I know this is an oxymoron, but don’t let it stop you form reading the rest of this post) to participate and interact with the science fiction network. They will lose out on not only the benefits of the volunteer sector, but also it benefits. The worlds of the science fictioneer will become smaller. This could end up turning into a nasty vicious circle of the science fiction community becoming ever smaller.
The heady days when there were a good many respected sites for reviews are now, with SF Signal’s demise, well and truly over. We are into the humdrum days of reviews – a part of life that we really don’t take notice of – kind of all part of the background noise.
Added to this is the high profile reboot films like Star Trek that are doing the rounds and the big publishers sticking to tried and tested science fiction formulas. It gives an aura of nostalgia in science fiction. It’s a has been genre, not a bright star on the horizon in world of literature.
This reservationist stance (OK, I like to make up words) makes it very difficult to break into the market with something radically new to say.
Yes I have a few such stories that have done the rounds and have now officially retired them. But I am not going to published them on this website as free reads either. I could argue that if a publisher is not interested in publishing them, why should reader be interested in reading them? But that is a crass argument to have. No, the real reason is they won’t get the publicity I feel they deserve. So like SF Signal it is an all or nothing situation for these stories – not an in between mash-up.
But here’s the thing… all these unpublished ideas and consequences means that the science fiction universes I’m writing about now are much richer, more wonderful and a delight to work with. In a sense I’m leaving my readership behind on my exploration of the universes.
I suspect there are others like me. Those that need to earn money from their science fiction seem to be forced into the mould the publishers set for them. Others, like me, write about what they want for themselves, not really anticipating their work will ever see print. But we do so in the hope that the science fiction community will one day turn away from its inward looking spiral to reach out to more people. I don’t see that day happening within the next few years, though. Maybe in five, ten years time? Who knows?