Speculative Fiction Resources

An eclectic guide to speculative fiction resources on the Web. I don't pretend that this is complete or comprehensive. My criteria are simple: both the website and the underlying print source (if any) must be (IMHO) worthwhile; I'm not necessarily condemning a publication, publisher, author, or resource that is not listed here.
Last Update: 15 June 2003
Short-Form Publishers Long-Form (Book) Publishers Organizations Selected Author Sites

The Crown Jewels

These six sites are absolutely essential to serious readers and writers of speculative fiction. I strongly recommend regular viewing. In alphabetical order:
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction a source of original material • my comments
Fictionwise a source of reprint and original material • my comments
Locus a source of news and reviews • my comments
SciFiction a source of original material and reprint • my comments
SFFNet a source of other sources • my comments
Speculations a source of writing-related material • my comments

Short-Form Publishers

Exemplary  —  Updated with retail appearance for all aspects of the site, with significant updates between issues
Satisfactory  —  Updated within one week of retail appearance for virtually all aspects of the site
Marginal  —  Updated within one month of retail appearance for all aspects of the site
Misleading  —  More than one issue out of date for significant aspects of the site
Print  —  Web presence does not include significant content drawn from the publication. Includes electronic publishers that do not use web-readable content (for example, publish only on CDs)
Print/Net  —  Primarily a print publication, but the web presence does include significant content drawn from the publication
E-book  —  Electronic publications intended for off-line reading; may be distributed on disk or in any of several file formats
Net  —  Content is through web or email presence only

Publication Published  
Analog Monthly
Marginal
Print/Net. The fiction published is very "safe" science fiction. Once upon a time, the cutting edge was at Astounding/Analog. The last few years at Analog have seen an accelerating retreat toward 1947ish material and disturbing signs of political bias unrelated to the quality of the underlying material. Based upon the material published in the last two years, Analog has slipped out of the top tier of markets for short speculative fiction, which now consists of Asimov's, F&SF, Interzone, SciFiction, and the Starlight anthologies. There remain a few good stories; but the majority of the material is, on balance, no better than that in some of the established "semi-pro" magazines like Absolute Magnitude—which is not intended as a criticism of Absolute Magnitude. Circulation: 42,000 (claimed, although not consistent with USPS figures)
Ansible Monthly
Satisfactory
Print/Net. Where It's At in British fandom. Often a source of wry commentary on speculative fiction. Beware the warm bitter. Not afraid to gore a few sacred cows.
Asimov's Science Fiction Monthly
Satisfactory
Print/Net. Probably the most influential speculative fiction periodical. The stories are always technically well-written, in a narrow sense. All experimentation has been in the ideas, not the presentation—and that's not necessarily bad. Of late, there has been a more "experimental" piece about five or six times a year, which is an encouraging sign. Circulation: 32,000
Black Gate Quarterly
Marginal
Print/Net. Has attempted to create a big splash and, unfortunately, reflects a great deal of ignorance about just why most print publications fail. It's certainly true that the established publications screw up a lot; however, they tend to screw up in relatively inexpensive ways, not by spending all production money and effort on the cover. The content, based on the stated editorial policies, has considerable risk of becoming stagnant within three or four issues, but the magazine deserves a chance to learn from its mistakes. Unfortunately, failure to meet the stated production schedule is seriously impacting credibility. Circulation: unknown
Century Semidecadal
Misleading
Print. Once back from the dead, but associate editor Jenna Felice's untimely death seems to have (understandably) set things back. Century's credibility continues to suffer from its seemingly random publication schedule; this also harms the table of contents. I will not update this entry until either two issues appear or the calendar reads 2003 (at which time I must assume it's dead). Circulation: unknown, and estimates are as reliable as campaign promises.
Chiaroscuro Irregular Net. Primarily a "dark fantasy" outlet. Highly inconsistent, but has published some professional-quality material. Schedule has been somewhat more predictable of late; so, unfortunately, has the material.
DNA Publications Various
Misleading
Print. The publisher of Absolute Magnitude, Dreams of Decadence, Fantastic Stories, Weird Tales, and Science Fiction Chronicle Production quality has uniformly improved, most notably at SFC; design (cover and interior) still needs extensive work, albeit no more than the rest of the field. DNA is starting to show administrative professionalism and the corrollary of improved material.
Eggplant Literary Productions Quarterly/
Bimonthly
Print/E-book. Jackhammer is no more for a variety of reasons, but Eggplant does continue to publish in two niches normally shunned by commercial publishers. Spellbound is a quarterly print fantasy magazine aimed at a 4th–10th-grade audience, and has been published continuously for three years. Jintsu is a line of e-books with a couple of twists: each e-book is of novelette or novella length (although these include a couple of single-author themed collections of short stories), and the works actually get edited before publication. N.B. I am professionally affiliated with Eggplant.
Emerald City Monthly Net. A literate fanzine, if perhaps at times too accepting of the status quo. Unlike most fanzines, knows how to use the f*(&*))^!g spellchecker before posting. The reviews are often interesting, but succumb to British boosterism at times.
 Gem    [The Magazine of] Fantasy & Science Fiction Monthly
Exemplary
Print/Net. Last of the pulp-sized pulps. Publishes the widest variety of fiction of any major print magazine, whether measured by technique, by concept, by author's experience level, or by willingness to laugh at itself (see the March 2000 issue). Fastest editor in the East—GVG's "form rejections" are more professional, more personalized, and more timely than personal rejections from many publications. Still needs a great deal of work to improve physical quality, but there has been no visible administrative lapse under Gordon's ownership, which is a remarkable achievement itself. Circulation: 24,000
 Gem    Fictionwise n/a
Exemplary
E-book. The clear top choice for reprint electronic speculative fiction. Many top authors—not just the bestsellers, but Greg Bear, Harlan Ellison, and other multiple award winners—have provided material, which is treated and paid as professional. Although there's no original work here, reprints tend to be materials that have stood the test of time. Prospective publishers (whether electronic or otherwise) could do far worse than study the approach taken by Fictionwise.
Infinity Plus Monthly Net/E-book. British source, including both fiction and nonfiction. The fiction (all reprints) is reasonably solid, and improving; the nonfiction, particularly reviews, has generally deteriorated since mid–1999, including increased incidence of failure to perform basic fact-checking. A significant proportion of the reprinted fiction first appeared in Interzone.
Interzone Monthly
Satisfactory
Print. British speculative fiction magazine of eclectic taste. Issue after issue, has the highest literary quality of the professional-rates periodicals. Now that Crank! is gone, Century is its only consistent competitor for the archly experimental story among professional-rates magazines. Yes, some of the experiments are failures, but that's how science works: we often learn more from failed experiments than from successes, and good experiments (such as Michaelson-Morley) tend only to disprove the status quo, not themselves advance anything.
 Gem    Locus Online Monthly
Exemplary
Print/Net. "The Newspaper of Speculative Fiction." Updated frequently during each month, this site could be the only web "news" source you need for print non-tie-in speculative fiction. The reviews, however, are rapidly deteriorating. Three of the reviewers consistently make an effort to provide a lucid evaluation of what they've read; the others (at least, those who've had attributed reviews up to September 2001) are become little more than sycophants, afraid to provide a negative evaluation and unable to justify one when they do. Sadly, this is a positive feedback cycle, and I expect further deterioration. Production quality has generally improved of late, although it's still highly inconsistent. Despite all of these problems, still the best choice online, and a reasonable choice in print. Circulation: 7,000 (reported, although actual readership is substantially higher)
The New York Review of Science Fiction Monthly
Marginal
Print. Technically a semiprozine, the criticism is usually of professional quality (although from a very limited, revisionist, and polemical perspective). Production quality is appalling, but that's not the point. Ironically, this "New York" review is hosted by the University of Vermont.
Preditors and Editors Weekly Net. A "resource center" rather than a magazine, this is one of the best places to watch for publishing-industry scams. Until recently, hosted by (but independent of) SFWA, but organizational politics demanded a change.
Science Fiction Weekly Weekly Net. A news-and-trivia site with an interesting, more-up-to-date electronic update at Sci-Fi Wire. Both Weekly and Wire are very TV-oriented (DOH!! they're owned by the SciFi channel). The strongest and weakest features are the reviews. The once-a-month column by John Clute is always at least thought-provoking. The more-regular staff reviews are at best coherent, but usually quite superficial and often unedited. The letters column is often good for some unintentional laughs, usually at the expense of the letter-writers. There seems little editorial coherence to the reviews.
 Gem    SciFiction Biweekly Net. Ellen Datlow has finally touched down here after the demise of Event Horizon. This time, though, she has both a built-in readership (the ezine is affiliated with SciFi.com) and the financial backing to purchase a broader base of material. The site design is quite inconsiderate of the visually impaired and anyone using a dialup connection, but the original fiction is on balance equivalent to Asimov's, F&SF, and Interzone. The only reason for looking at the reprints here is that viewing them is free; the material at Fictionwise is generally better and always easier to read.
SFSite Semimonthly Net. A formerly evolving, dual-purpose site. The original content is mostly book reviews from a variety of points of view and steadily deteriorating quality and coherence. The design could show more sensitivity to the visually impaired, but the variety and number of reviews actually posted on the web is unmatched. SFSite's cliquishness and refusal to print significant negative reviews have proven both irritating and obfuscating. At least three of the regular reviewers should have their literary licenses revoked for repeated objective errors. The site is showing a danger of evolving a "type" of review that spans the stable of reviewers, which is not a good thing, and an increasing hostility to work that pushes the traditional boundaries of speculative fiction, which is definitely not a good thing.
 Gem    Speculations Bimonthly
Exemplary
Net. The Rumor Mill is the liveliest (and most professional) discussion forum/bulletin board for writers on the Internet. Speculations is the best value among all writing periodicals—and I don't get a commission for saying so. Disclosure: I have published material in Speculations, and I'm an all-too-regular denizen of The Rumor Mill.
Strange Horizons Weekly
Satisfactory
Net. I'm afraid that my previous hope that "the very worst of the 'college literary rag' selections seem to have tapered off" has proven premature. The last several stories have, I'm afraid, epitomized that problem. That's not to say that everything that has ever appeared in a college literary rag is bad; it is to say that it's all of a type, and that type is not conducive to high-quality work, but instead to writers and poets who aspire to be writers and poets, rather than to actually write. The nonfiction, however, is showing some significant improvement. The individual essays need to be longer to cover their subjects, but the breadth of issues attempted is a pleasant change from the usual tunnel vision in nonfiction in speculative fiction magazines (whether fanzine or established professional). Although the schedule is cited as "weekly," "four times a month" seems more accurate; otherwise, timeliness is exemplary. Production standards could still use some serious reconsideration.
Talebones Irregular
Satisfactory
Print. Virtually the only consistent source of literate horror, although the stories are horribly uneven (pun intended). The "horror" pieces that tend to make it into the other publications that accept horror either simply do not match the standard of the non-horror pieces in said publication or descend into the subliterate gorefest marketed as "horror" by the New York marketing dorks who don't actually read what they're selling. Certainly the only broad print horror source worth reading (as opposed to specialist—Dreams of Decadence—or electronic—Chiaroscuro).
Tangent Irregular
Misleading
Print/Net. Aside from Locus, this is almost the only place you'll find reviews of short speculative fiction (even if the reviews tend to be even more opposed to literary values). Unfortunately, the quality of the reviews has become very uneven over the last few years, severely limiting its value as a screen for limited magazine budgets. The quality of the reviews has slipped steadily, while the polemic and personal animosity has increased. The relaunch in Spring 2001 improved the site design, but did nothing with its fundamental weaknesses in substance.
Writers of the Future Annual/
Quarterly
Marginal
Print. Annual book, filled with quarterly entries. One of the best-paying markets for short speculative fiction, but has some unstated editorial biases that appear wholly unrelated to the parent organization's sponsorship by L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology, and tend to make each volume quite monotonous. The annual volumes often have a single gem out of 15 to 18 stories, which is almost always merely the genesis of a novel. The SF "establishment" (and there is one) doesn't like the publication or the contest, although some of its favorites, including perhaps the majority of theme anthologies published since the late 1980s, are of roughly equal quality. Of late, too many stories seem to be following Algis Budrys's deeply flawed seven-point plot formula.

 

Long-Form (Book) Publishers

This table is alphabetical by the first imprint (publisher's marketing "brand") for a given publishing conglomerate. Publication numbers exclude reprints and reissues.

Imprint Parent 2001
titles
 
Ace
Roc
Penguin-Putnam
(Pearson)
135 While Ace and Roc have separate editorial staffs, they are fairly tightly integrated into Penguin-Putnam's operations. DAW (see below) is more independent, although becoming less so. Although Ace probably has greater name recognition, Roc is publishing a greater variety of material and fewer absolute stinkers (at least among the non-tie-in works).
Baen Publishing indy 36 Unfortunately, not noted for artwork that is relevant to the book, and production values are distressingly inconsistent. Very long lead times on submissions. Has moved to North Carolina to get away from the New York morass (and prices); the chances of any of the savings being passed on to authors are slightly worse than the probability that W will appoint me to the Supreme Court to fill the next vacancy. Has a selection of e-books for free or a nominal fee as "advertising;" since these are the authors' choices, though, from a publisher notorious for providing practically no publicity or marketing support, they do not advance the "e-books from any source lead to bigger print sales" argument. N.B. This is an archly conservative press in its political values; don't expect to find much that explores, say, the fundamental value of dissent.
DAW Books [Penguin Putnam] 35 More open to new writers than most. Although DAW is not formally a subsidiary of Penguin Putnam, all public contacts (including the website, the cheapskates!) are routed through Penguin-Putnam arteries. Production values are poor for hardbacks, but actually reasonable for paperbacks. Artwork, however, has deteriorated significantly since late 1999, and production is down sharply.
Del Rey Books
Bantam Spectra
Bertelsmann
(Random House)
99 Del Rey is The Home of Fantasy Series, while Bantam is The Home of Media Tie-Ins; I'd be quite surprised if more than 40% of the "originals" published by Bertelsmann in 2001 were neither. Recent books show little sign of editorial input, indicating that the conglomerate is overextending its editorial staff. Various and sundry business practices are getting less author-friendly all the time.
Eos
Morrow
HarperCollins
Newscorp [Rupert Murdoch]
70 Productivity is down considerably—50% since 1998—and Murdoch's usual arrogant neofascisti shenanigans are driving off staff members (see, e.g., Locus, Feb. 2001 at 13), or at least one can infer such. For the present, Eos is still the best bet to avoid utter dreck, but I am unsure how long the conscientious staff will tolerate the corporate environment—or vice versa.
Golden Gryphon indy 7 A new house devoted to high-school speculative fiction, with a mix of reprints and new work. My fear is that this is another Bluejay Books waiting to happen. The offerings thus far have been an incredibly mixed bag, which speaks to a goal of a diverse product line. N.B. Although Golden Gryphon is less than three miles from me, we have no affiliation.
Harcourt Reed Elsevier 8 Highly literary, virtually all hardbacks. Several leading authors fled HarperCollins for HarBrace during and after the cancellation scandal, including Ursula LeGuin. Website is virtually useless for trade books (including fiction).
Meisha Merlin indy 17 Physical production values of late have left a lot to be desired, particularly in bindings and cover designs. Thus far, seems very adventure-oriented and prone to acquiring works based upon uncritical acceptance of author reputations.
NESFA indy 6 NESFA's "originals" are original anthologies and collections of long-out-of-print works and the occasional custom edition of a novella. Most of these are welcome returns to availability, although every year there seems to be one author better left out of print.
Pocket Simon & Schuster
Viacom
138 A major source of media fiction due to the Star Trektm franchise. The website is one of the most annoyingly difficult to navigate that I've ever encountered.
N.B. Recent contracts offered have been grossly unfair to authors. Negotiation is rather like buying a used car—it doesn't matter what the editor says, he/she must "get the manager's approval" for even tiny changes to the boilerplate.
Tor Books
St. Martin's Press
von Holtzbrinck 96 Highest proportion of originals of the Big Five. An excellent publisher, if one avoids the series dreck (Robert Jordan being the most obvious example), and somewhat more willing to take risks than most. Tor is no longer subsidiary to St. Martin's in the von Holtzbrinck heirarchy. The few books under the St. Martin's imprint every year are ordinarily notable for careful editing.
Warner Aspect AOL Time Warner 37 Virtually all crap; the quality of most of the material, from both content and production perspectives, is barely above semiprofessional. Actively hostile to unagented writers and, unfortunately, to anything that is not clearly derivative. Output has been shrinking steadily for the last several years, and has become steadily closer to generic. N.B. In my mundane identity, I am counsel of record in major litigation against its corporate parent.
Wildside Press indy 22
?
Primarily a reprint house for out-of-print books, mainly using contracted POD services. Production values have improved of late; however, nobody is buying POD materials for production values, and Betancourt is dedicated to bringing underappreciated work back into print and giving it life. Has begun carving a niche by producing story collections from lesser-known authors. The figure for number of publications is an estimate for first-time-in-print works; Wildside put out at least 120 reprints of various kinds last year.
Wizards of the Coast Hasbro 32 Almost entirely RPG tie-ins of little physical or literary merit. WotC has succeeded in one thing that I thought impossible: standards are even lower now than five years ago, when WotC digested TSR, and have continued to deteriorate.
White Wolf indy 21 Specialty, largely RPG tie-ins. However, the Borealis line has brought out some important multivolume works, including Jim Gunn's The Road to Science Fiction and Harlan Ellison's Edgeworks, with excellent production values. (Note: Ellison has changed publishers for the rest of the Edgeworks series.)

Disorganizations, etc.

The On-line Books Page This is the best starting point for free, public-domain documents. Everything from Shakespeare to L. Frank Baum to James Branch Cabell to William Morris; constantly growing. If it's old, and out of print, look here first!
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) The SFWA has finally moved into the 20th century—at the dawn of the 21st—by admitting that publications outside North America are valid, professional markets for speculative fiction. Writer Beware, maintained by Victoria Strauss, is a no-nonsense resource that every writer should check at least quarterly for news of scams that target writers.
 Gem    SFF Net Originally a fan organization, this is an important website for speculative fiction, it's practically a continuous on-line convention. Available resources include author websites and newsgroups, general newsgroups, hosted IRC chats, and more. Lots of midlist and breaking-in pros, with a scattering of fans and established pros.
TorCon 3 The 61st World Science Fiction Convention will be held in Toronto over the (US) Labor Day weekend of 2003. In 2004, WorldCon moves to Boston. In 2005, WorldCon goes overseas to Glasgow; NASFIC has not yet been awarded.
MIT Science Fiction Library If you can't quite remember the exact title, or author, this is the place to start. A great place to start before journeying to used bookstores, etc.
The Science Fiction Book Club® Useful if you're just starting to build a library of newly published books, but not all that useful for much that's more than a year or two old. Backlist? What backlist? The best values are "omnibus editions" that squeeze two to four books into a single purchase, often for less than buying mass-market paperbacks. The editorial taste is horribly inconsistent, although one can guarantee that any non-tie-ie bestseller (and even most of them) will be included.
Science Fiction, Utopian, and Fantasy Fiction list Home Page Affiliated with the Modern Language Association, from which I resigned in disgust some years back. Unfortunately, the list appears to be essentially dead now.
Science Fiction Research Association The "old line" academic organization in speculative fiction.
International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts A broader academic organization in speculative fiction, but one with a peculiarly biased agenda.
Science Fiction Studies Homepage for the academic journal.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Scholarship Bibliography Quite a useful index—speculative fiction's equivalent of the MLA Bibliography.
Society for Utopian Studies All the comforts of determining just how many philosopher-kings fit on the head of an academic (a large number, approaching infinity asymptotically with the nearness of a tenure decision).

Selected Author Sites

Not-A-Webring These are the "writer's journals" of a set of emerging professional and serious "amateur" speculative fiction writers. And we're not a WebRing. Really. Just trust me.
Tippi Blevins Tippi is primarily a horror writer who hasn't abandoned horror's roots in fantasy and gothic, but manages to avoid being just derivative.
Orson Scott Card Card's work is far more challenging and ambitious than would seem apparent from the comments on the bulletin boards at his site. The writers' fora are worthwhile for beginning writers, but persistent writers with a decent education will outgrow them quickly (Card himself does not participate). Card's ongoing question-and-answer session, however, is definitely worth a visit, although updates haven't been very regular. One can also participate in one of about 30 small critique groups through the site, but they're too small for long-term viability. Although Card's recent work (with one exception) has not been up to the standards he set earlier in his career, he's certainly still worth listening to.
Charles de Lint De lint is one of the leading practitioners of "urban fantasy." His stories and novels revolve around strong characters and a unique, enchanting blend of Celtic, Native American, and invented folklore.
Lisa Goldstein Goldstein is sort of a sideways speculative fiction writer. Her work is much closer to magical realism in sensibility than anything ordinarily published in the so-called "genre magazines"—which is intended as a compliment. Quirky NBA winner (and there are only three other active speculative fiction writers who can make that claim).
Ursula K. Le Guin A giant of American letters who just happens to write speculative fiction. I'd love to have a portfolio of just her "failures" as my own work. Quite possibly the most influential feminist who has never been accused by anyone in his or her right mind of disdain (or worse) for those of us saddled with a Y chromosome.
Vonda N. McIntyre McIntyre is one of the most accessible of the early '70s feminists still writing, both personally and in print (those free bookplates she offers on her site are nice, and personalized). She puts full effort into all of her writing, including media tie-ins. She is also one of the most senior SFWA-recognized distinguished writers, as measured by the amount of time over which she has been winning Nebulas.
James Morrow In the broadest sense, Morrow is not a speculative fiction writer at all. He is instead a satirist who happens to use the trope of speculative fiction as the immediate context of his satire. He does it very well, too. Frankly, the only reason he doesn't have a better reputation with practitioners of High Literature is that his books are marketed as speculative fiction—which itself deserves some satire, hopefully better written than L.P. Hartley.
Mary Doria Russell While Russell's published output thus far is exactly two novels, they're very fine indeed. Her self-deprecating sense of humor serves the site very well.
Lisa Silverthorne Lisa is a fantasist. At first glance, she's just another member of the MZBFM group, but her material (and website) reflect considerably more thought than the usual gender-reversed sword-and-sorcery offerings.
Kristine Smith Another relatively new pro (Code of Conduct; Rules of Conflict) with a different voice and perspective. Although she cites LeCarre as an influence, her work is a lot more realistic—even though it's science fiction. At the same time, the series is developing into one of the most interesting speculations on future biomedical science of the last decade or so, and potentially raises disturbing questions about what it means to be "human." Winner of the John W. Campbell award (best new writier) for 2001.
Victoria Strauss Strauss wrote several well-received, but essentially unmarketed, YA fantasy novels some time back. Her recent adult work shows substantial depth. Her site provides sound advice for writers on using websites for self-promotion. She is also the filekeeper for SFWA's Writer Beware, one of the main anti-scam resources for writers.
Terri Windling Warning: graphic-intensive, as it should be (also known as the Endicott Studio). Showcases both art and nonfiction (commentary) from one of the leading nonmagazine editors in the field. The art is beautiful—it's "art," not "web graphics." If it was at higher resolution, I'd cheerfully make posters for my office with it.

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