Bewildering Stories Editorial
by Jerry Wright
Yes friends, I really do exist. Sort of. I've been wanting to get back up on my editorial horse, here, but for some reason I just didn't have the energy. I looked up the prerelease of this week's edition, and there was my name, just patiently waiting for me to show up and fill it up with something -- anything! And last week I got a pensive letter from a reader telling me that a biography link wasn't working, and she couldn't see that "XXX" by Jerry Wright. Well, here I am, but it won't be titled XXX.
We keep hearing "SF is dead" or its little sister "SF is dying". IF that's so, it reminds me of those cowboy movies where it took half an hour for the wounded actor to "die". SF is alive and vibrant. There are far more novels being published each year than I have time to read. Sure a lot of stuff is movie or comic tie-in related, but even that can be well written fun stuff. So why do people keep saying "SF is dying" or perhaps "Short SF is dying"? Could it be because the various print media magazines are seeing their publication runs shrinking? Very probably. A magazine that had 60,000 subscribers ten years ago feels it's doing well if it has half that now. So... subscriptions are dropping, and the chance of seeing an SF mag at the magazine rack is getting less and less likely.
And yet... Short fiction is burgeoning. Take a look at US for example. Or Helix or Andromeda Spaceways, Jim Baen's Universe, Orson Scott Card's Medicine Show and the list goes on. For that matter Baen's is paying better money than just about anyone. And people are paying for subscriptions.
Many people are paying (if not necessarily without complaint) for online content. I'd pay for a download of Analog or Asimov's IF IT DIDN'T COST THE SAME AS PAPER! Get with it people! I can't see paying $3.95 for a download of a magazine that I pay $3.95 for the dead tree version. Re-flipping-diculous.
And onward. Writers with a fan base are now bypassing the traditional publishing world, and writing stuff they want to write but that the big boys aren't interested in. The big publishers want to be able to sell a minimum of 50,000 copies of a book. And if they don't do that well, then hey, here's some series garbage that has a built-in audience... And the midlist authors suffer the great die-off. Sure, there are some small publishers willing to take a flyer. But distribution and getting the name of the book out, and all the other fine things selling books are heir too make it hard.
Remember last year (or was it two years ago...) I mentioned the experiment by Lawrence Watt-Evans in regards to his novel The Spriggan's Mirror which his fans really wanted, but TOR wasn't really that interested in because his last Ethshar book just hadn't done that well? He put the first few chapters on line, and said, okay -- if you guys want this book, put your money where your mouth is and subscribe. And for each $200 you get a new chapter. It didn't take long for the book to be totally paid for.
One of the cool things was, the book was there for anyone to read. No one NEEDED to subscribe. Except of course if they wanted the book completed. Oddly, a year after the book is over and done, I understand that subscriptions still occasionally trickle in. So it worked. Well enough that he did it again.
With the publication of The Vondish Ambassador Mr. Watt-Evans has proven that it isn't just a fluke, and one can bypass the mighty publishers, please the fans, and make some money. Not a killer amount, but enough to make it worth while.
So it works for LW-E. Are there others? Aside from Baen's Webscriptions where you can get a number of serialized NEW books each month for a reasonable fee, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller as well as Don Sakers are taking on the challenge.
I got sucked into the Liaden Universe™ by reading the next to last book in the series. It grabbed me hard enough that I chased the rest of the books down and read them all. They were GREAT fun, and wonderful and heartwarming, and just basically cool. The final book of the series ends with a brand new character named Theo showing up and laying a problem before one of the primary characters and then the story faded to black. "Not fair!" we say. "Not fair at all!" "Inquiring minds want to know!"
Well Liaden fans (including Anne McCaffrey) have a tendency to be a bit rabid. And of course, since the primary series is over (Oh yeah?) it would be a hard sell to push this book about this young girl to Ace or whoever because there aren't 100,000 Liaden fans. Yet. So, Lee and Miller looked at the success of Watt-Evans and decided to put out the "Storyteller's Bowl" and see what happens. And so far, the novel is paid up to chapter 36 (I think).
So, go visit Fledgling and dive into the story of Theo Waitley.
And that's some of what I've been wanting to talk to y'all about.
Copyright © 2007 by Jerry Wright
for Bewildering Stories