By the time you read this, the Hugo Award rules defining
the categories of fanzine and semiprozine (and, by implication,
prozine) may well have changed. After two years of fairly
contentious discussion, there is a recommendation being put
forth at the business meeting of the Worldcon in Reno (under
two weeks from when I write) that will probably pass in some
form. It is our sincere hope that our loyal readers will continue
to nominate us in the coming years.
This issue begins our 24th year of publication and during
that time a number of astonishing changes have taken place in
the sf field. Arguably the most amazing, but not to us the most
thrilling, is the disappearance of awards devoted specifically
to science fiction, along with the gradually accelerating
redefinition of sf as primarily a film and television phenomenon
that is also published in books, too. The last purely science
fiction award left in the U.S. is the Philip K. Dick Award—all
the rest are for horror, or fantasy, or sf including horror and
fantasy. This is the world of 1988, when we first appeared,
turned nearly upside down. In that world, there was a series of
awards for fantasy and horror, most of them obscure except for
the World Fantasy Award, and a sizable number of science fiction
awards that occasionally had fantasy works nominated and win.
It is not occasionally but regularly now. Ten years before that, in
1978, there were no horror awards, and only the WFA and the
British Fantasy Awards covering all works of speculative fiction
outside of science fiction. I speak as a founder of the WFA: we
had to consider two years of published work in 1975 to have a
sufficient repository of fiction to make up a full ballot, and still
only found three novels to nominate.
The other astonishment is the extent to which the
electronic media has made consumers out of writers in the last
few years. We like and respect the small press, but it is not the
small press we are talking about. The number of titles offered
for sale (we do not use the word “published” except for books—
including ebooks—processed through the various filters of a
publisher and offered for sale with the support of marketing—
as opposed to no marketing—to the entire constellation of
distribution, not merely one channel) has radically increased
to half the total of all books published in a year, fiction and
This is a very old game, preying on the desires of
unpublished writers for the external validation of publication—
preying on the identity as a writer that is conferred by a
physical or electronic book with your name on it. In this new
world, anyone can pay to be published and loudly maintain
equality with writers who were paid to license their works for
publication—if you include printed in one or more copies by
a professional printer that offers publishing services for pay, or
converted to an electronic platform and listed on the Internet.
We receive daily communications now from hired publicists
or directly from writers requesting review attention, which we
decline (and a very few we accept) because nearly all of these
works have been neither edited nor proofread. The writers pay,
in hope of making a profit on sales—and some do. The best
thing we can say about it is that not all of the books are bad. It
is not a service to readers that we see, but servicing of people
who write and want to be called writers.
I will continue to discuss changes in future editorials.
Meanwhile, our calls for more volunteer labor have fallen on
deaf ears in this last year, and attrition has reduced our staff.
It is getting harder to produce issues up to our high standards.
Also, it is getting harder to retain subscribers in this hard
economy. We have not raised our cover price in years, but with
this issue it goes up to $5.00. We edit and print about 22,000
words of content per issue, and actually sell very few individual
issues, but do need small increments of gain in income to
continue. In January we will increase our subscription rate,
again for the first time in a number of years. And we really
want to move our old back issues out of paid storage, so for
two months or so, starting now, we will give subscribers twenty
to fifty back issues from our first decade for a dollar each, our
choice. After that we will gradually recycle most of the leftovers.
If you have only been subscribing since 1998 and missed that
fertile decade, this is your chance to score.
—David G. Hartwell
A PDF copy of the NYRSF issue in which this article first appeared is available for purchase at Weightless Books.