As the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America awards deserving writers with Nebulas this weekend, I was reminded of the incredible variety and vibrancy of short fiction magazines. We are in, right now, an unprecedented age of access when it comes to short stories. You can visit the sites of industry stalwarts like Asimov’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Analog right now and read dozens, if not hundreds of incredible short stories. There are also newer magazines, FIYAH, The Deadlands, and Baffling Magazine, that have quickly solidified their reputations as incredible outlets for both emerging and established writers.
So why aren’t more science fiction and fantasy readers reading short stories? I often find myself recommending SFF magazines to friends who are keen, avid, and voracious readers of science fiction and fantasy. Even fewer than readers are subscribers. A relevant example is that of Lightspeed, which, according to Locus Magazine’s State of Magazines in 2021, had 29,851 average monthly visitors, with 2,209 subscribers overall. Nightmare magazine, from the same report, had 13,651 visitors and only 1,477 ebook subscribers.
I’ve been a short fiction first reader and editor for a couple of magazines, since about 2015. While this doesn’t grant me a lot of access to what’s actually going on behind the scenes, it has given me a massive appreciation for short stories and their authors. Many magazines are run by volunteers, and keeping any magazine running is a labor of love, done in support of the readers, writers, and the future storytellers in the science fiction/fantasy space.
If you, like me, love science fiction and fantasy, I would encourage you to support a few short fiction markets. These magazines are often the proving ground for young writers, and give space for established voices to experiment and explore their own style with more freedom than is typically allowed at a publishing house. Short fiction is vital, exciting, and wonderful, and so much of it is easily accessible via online publication, ebooks, or even in published yearly anthologies.
If you have a favorite short fiction magazine, sound off in the comments! But, just in case, here’s an incomplete list of incredible magazines and markets I have enjoyed over the past few years, not including the zines listed in this article:
- Apparition Lit
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies
- Fusion Fragment
- Luna Station Quarterly
- Strange Horizons (A disclaimer: I am a volunteer First Reader for Strange Horizons)
- Uncanny Magazine
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