On a Quest

I’m setting off on a quest.  I won’t be sailing after the Golden Fleece, or throwing jewelry into a volcano. Instead, I’m searching for a science fiction / fantasy magazine worthy of my subscription dollars.

I haven’t read a magazine in quite a while. For many years, my reading time was entirely devoted to scientific papers; enjoyable stories had to be consumed in audiobook format while commuting. Later, I didn’t want the additional clutter of physical magazines, and when Kindle editions came out, the subscription policies weren’t entirely clear.

Now, I’m ready to brave the choppy waters of unclear disclaimers and misleading reviews. My method isn’t scientific; I’m haphazardly choosing a fairly recent issue of each magazine and reading its short stories (I don’t plan to evaluate the non-fiction content, at least for now). I’ll write a couple of sentences for each story, describing the genre/topic and letting you know my general impression. I may describe exceptionally good (or bad) stories in more detail.

I’ve identified twelve magazines to review. While I expect my task will be easier than the Twelve Labors of Hercules, it’s possible I will fail. For a magazine to win my subscription dollars, it will have to defeat not only the other magazines, but also the anthologies and individually-published short stories available on Amazon. I may send myself on a side quest, searching out additional anthologies for my “Bookends” posts.

To avoid monotony on the blog, I’ll mix in other reviews and articles. This will cause my quest to last for several months (assuming no Greek gods interfere).

If you subscribe to, or occasionally read, a science fiction or fantasy magazine, please let me know in the comments section.

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27 comments

  1. I am very interested in this myself. I bought Hitchcock’s, Ellery Queen, and Heavy Metal to take camping. I’d go another few issues of Heavy Metal. Hitchcock didn’t do anything for me (too mundane). I didn’t get to Queen yet.

    1. I don’t think Heavy Metal does much in electronic format, but if I’m wrong, maybe I’ll add it. Let us know if you enjoy EQ.

  2. Fantasy Scroll Magazine is awesome! I’m on their staff as a slush reader and can tell you the submissions go through a tough filter so only the good ones make it to the page: fantasyscrollmag.com The mags are available for individual purchase on Amazon.

    1. I’ve already picked up a copy of Fantasy Scroll to include in the quest. I hope I don’t tear a story apart that you passed through!

      1. Nice! I think you’ll enjoy it, but either way, differing opinion keeps it interesting. Win-Win;)

  3. Not a physical magazine, but I regularly read, and love, Strange Horizons (http://www.strangehorizons.com/). Publishes one SFF short story and one SFF poem each week – I don’t read the poetry, but the stories are usually fantastic.

    1. Perhaps I’ll include web-only publications after I’ve finished this first round. Maybe I’ll look into the options for sending web pages to Kindles. I don’t want to spend more time at the computer than I already do.

  4. Gimme a couple more months, I’ll have something to knock your socks off. We have 3 eyed barbarians fighting two headed talking wolves, a sentient gorilla with a ray gun, time travelling air pirates, nearly naked neptunian witches, a fire-bending Earl of Leicester, hand to hand combat with shoggoths, a new take on John Carter and more!

  5. With the disclaimer that, while I have piles of magazines about, I don’t always read them for … well, substantial periods of time.

    So this is going to be my take on the three I subscribe:

    Analog — At its best, Analog achieves the highest form of sf: hard science speculation with the human consequences (politics, culture, and the personal). But, well, it does always perform at the best levels. And I miss its old reviewer, Tom Easton. Excellent non-fiction.

    Asimov’s — They get some of my favorites — Baxter, Kress, McAuley, Spinrad (and they publish his critical essays) — but a lot of it doesn’t do much for me. I like their lit-crit and reviews.

    Galaxy’s Edge — Editor Resnick avails himself, as a partial reprint magazine, of some good material from the past, and I’ve liked his new stuff. (Wait …. I don’t actually subscribe to this. But I’m going to.) And I’ve taken a liking to the cranky Malzberg columns and the interviews. Gregory Benford’s column is on a wide variety of stuff.

    Obviously, I’m much more of a sf than fantasy guy. I like my Cthulhu stuff, but, somehow, I’ve never found time for Lovecraft e-Zine, but I’ve liked the issues I’ve looked at. (And, of course, Innsmouth Free Press stopped as a magazine awhile ago and is now just a book publisher/blog.)

    1. I’ve picked up copies of the 3 sci-fi mags you mentioned. It will be interesting to see if my single-issue perceptions mesh with your longer experience.

  6. I subscribe to Uncanny Magazine (http://www.uncannymagazine.com). It’s very new – this Nov/Dec will start only its seconds year. I have a reviewed a couple issues on my blog, but it a science fictions and fantasy with gorgeous prose; one issue every two months; usually has at least 5 short stories, 4 essays, and 3 or 4 poems, and then 2 interviews.

    A nice bonus though is it does come with a podcast. I don’t listen to it, but it has a couple of the short stories and poems narrated on there, along with the interviews. And I believe (like I said, I don’t listen to the podcast) it has some extra interviews or conversations that aren’t annotated for the issue.

    1. I hadn’t included Uncanny in my 12. Looks like I’ll have to make it a baker’s dozen.

  7. I wish you luck, brave reader. May I also suggest you check out the Nonlocal SF Magazine? http://nonlocalscifi.com/magazine/

    1. I have an issue on my Kindle. I’ll add it to the quest.

  8. I don’t really read magazines regularly. I’ll sometimes pick up Asimov’s or Fantasy and Science FictionAnalog just doesn’t seem to be on the shelves around here — although not every month. I insist on at least one story looking interesting, and at minimum one story being written by a woman, before buying.

    1. Some of the magazines don’t really give you a blurb or anything to entice you into reading.

      I haven’t paid much attention to the authors’ genders. Maybe at the end, I’ll count up the stories I really loved (and hated) and see if there’s any gender difference. Of course, I’ll just be guessing at their genders based on their first names.

      1. There are many pitfalls to using apparent gender as a litmus test, yes. The most obvious is that first names aren’t an infallible guide, even when they are given, even when they’re not androgynous in modern-US cultural convention.

        But, blast it, science fiction is such a swamp of genderfails these days. The genre should be open and inviting to women (and to persons with more complex gender situations), as writers, as readers, and as fans.

        I can affect very little of this. But I can set the rule that if a magazine is not open to having women obviously in its pages, then I need not open its pages.

  9. I don’t subscribe but I’ve enjoyed individual issues of Asimov’s (have kept a few favorite issues since the 1980s). Also enjoy Lightspeed, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Tor, and Strange Horizons — what’s available online without subscription.

    1. I’ll be them out, although the online-only offerings might be in a later iteration of the quest.

  10. I applaud your very bold quest. I haven’t read a science fiction magazine in a while either. Even with the good ones, the quality seemed a bit inconsistent.

    1. My sample size is a bit small, just one issue, which typically includes 4-8 stories. If I find one or more mags I like, I could review another issue or two to make sure the quality was consistently high. If I really hate a mag, I don’t imagine I’d want to grab a second issue to verify my results.

  11. […] quest isn’t off to an auspicious start. I’ve spent eight weeks in London, trying to get into […]

  12. […] first full post in my magazine quest used a number of cultural references, mostly British. I realized that everyone might not be familiar […]

  13. […] this point, both Australian magazines are on track to make round two of my magazine quest. Come on, America, the Australians are kicking our butts! If you’re an American magazine […]

  14. […] given Cirsova a higher average score than many of the others in my magazine quest, but I’m not ending the quest just yet. I’ll certainly buy Cirsova’s second issue […]

  15. […] you’ve been following this blog lately, you know about my original magazine quest. I’m reading at least one issue from 24 (up from the original 12) different science-fiction […]

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