Once upon a time, there was a print science fiction magazine called Interzone. It was started with the help of the BSFA and had regular contributions from UK’s Arts Council to keep it going. In return for that financial contribution an acknowledgement appeared in the magazine. But this was a long time ago.
I don’t know if those Arts Council contributions have continued, but I suspect they ceased a long time ago. But without them, Interzone would not have survived in the successful form that it did.
Things have moved on… and now those of us living in England face the prospect of losing £40m per year from available funding because of Brexit. See this link for more information. That means there will be an even greater squeeze of arts activity than before.
Most authors have already been squeezed enough as it is for their writing. The publishers are not paying very much because they are in competition in the market place. Also there is a hellish amount of piracy going on – including yours truly seeing her publications being pirated. Add to that the ten years of austerity that means people have not had much money to spare in their pockets. So the Arts in England losing £40m per year is yet another blow to authors.
In the meantime, I feel the Interzone has gone downhill. I don’t rush to read the stories like I used to. The news snippets are not as interesting. Yes the quality of the artwork has gone up, but so what? I want to read the interesting stories and science fiction news, not stare at pictures. And what’s with changing the page format from story to story business? Do any of the older big magazines (Analog, SF&F and Asimov’s) do this?
Ever since the demise of the Jupiter printed magazine in April 2015, there has been a hole in science fiction print markets for budding science fiction writers. There is of course Kzine is run by Graeme Hurry comes out every 4 months, which accepts the whole range of the speculative genres, and whilst this goes some way to satisfying the need, it is not nearly enough quantity-wise. (There is also Shoreline of Infinity, but that seems to be intermittent at the moment, but is still going.)
Apart from Kzine, up and coming authors have to rely on intermittent print anthologies / publications being published, which means they have spend time watching the internet for opportunities to pop up – an additional work burden for the author. The other aspect with anthologies – their success is dependent on the about of publicity the publisher can garner. Not an easy task with so much advertising for other products vying for the customers’ attention. And the self-publishing route suffers from the same issues of the need for publicity.
In short a miracle is needed for the printed science fiction short story writing community in the UK. I do not have the answer to this conundrum yet. It will take the right group of people to get together to sort this out – much like a group of us ladies got together to prove point in publishing the Distaff anthology – namely a science fiction anthology can be produced with all new science fiction stories written by women. On investigation it turned out to be more than that – it is the only such anthology this century! And that came as surprise to all of us involved in it, which in one sense reinforces my point about the lack of opportunity for up and coming writers.
We can to a certain extent see the embryonic nature of this right group of people coming together as there are clusters of science fiction writers, mini-publishers, enthusiastic publicists and inspirational artists getting together in various parts of the UK. It only takes one group to click together…
To end on perhaps a happier note, here are the first 3 paragraphs of The Martian Wind:
“Feel the wind, Aurora,” Zeke says. “Feel it brush your face and hands, how it ruffles your hair, where it presses your clothes against your body. Think only of the wind.”
Pain in my arms and fingers pleads to let my catapult’s rubber band go. Its bolt, held by interlocking lugs in a semi-open casing at the band’s centre, points half a hair’s breadth above the centre of the target’s ‘x’ to counteract the Martian gravity over its thirty-metre flight. The big unknown is the crosswind: how it will push the bolt sideways, forwards or up; and will it change speed and direction over the distance? So many questions, estimates and calculations that my brain’s a scratchy dust storm of figuring.
“Relax into the shot,” Zeke says. “Take your time.”