That’s the bell signalling the end of round one of my magazine quest.  I initially thought I’d only review twelve SFF magazines, but that number ballooned to forty-nine.  I decided forty-nine was an appropriate stopping point, as my search for great stories has been like that of the 49ers who searched for gold in the wilderness, and mostly ended up broke.

I considered adding a magazine, to do one in honor of each of the 50 US states.  But then Puerto Rico was giving me that “what about me?” look, and I was like “if I do a magazine for you, then Guam’s going to want one.  Then what, American Samoa?  The Panama Canal Zone?  Washington DC?  There’s no way I’m reading a magazine for Washington DC.  That’s it, forty-nine is the final number.”

I ultimately did pick up nine additional magazines, just in case I was missing out on something.  I read the first story from each, giving them one chance to impress me and gain entry to the contest.  None made the cut, but they did bring the total number of round one stories up to a nice 365.

There are plenty of additional SFF magazines/websites/podcasts out there, so I could keep going, but my side quest contributed heavily to this stopping point.   The vast majority of my side quest readings were so dull and pointless that I considered throwing in the towel and giving up on reading fiction, forever.

Later this week, I’ll post my rankings of the magazines from best to worst.  I gave each short story a rating from 5-star to 1-star (although I got wishy-washy and allowed myself half-stars as well).  I didn’t just average each magazine’s ratings, though.  I decided to weight the scores by the length of the story, based on the idea that a 16,000-word 1-star story is four times as bad as a 4,000-word 1-star story.  I’m not sure whether a good story should be weighted more for being longer, but I wanted to keep the math consistent.

I subtracted three from the star rating of each story, then multiplied it by the story’s wordcount.  So, a three-star story contributed nothing to a magazine’s score, while one and two-star stories actually subtracted from it.  Just to prove that I used to be a scientist, I made up some unnecessary jargon, calling these story scores Longstars.  I summed up the Longstars for each magazine, and to further prove that I used to be a scientist, I called this the magazine’s Total Enjoyment Index.

Then, I noticed a flaw in my system.  A magazine with a five-star story and two three-star stories would get the same TEI as a magazine with a five-star story and sixteen three-star stories.  I needed to punish the second magazine for wasting my time.  So, I divided the Total Enjoyment Index by the total wordcount of the magazine, calling this new metric Return on Length (how much total enjoyment I received per word I read).

As the Summer Olympics were on TV while I was developing my ranking system (yes, it was that long ago), I decided to give the magazines rankings from 10 (best) to 1 (worst).  I took the difference between the highest RoL and the lowest, and divided it into ten bands.  So, when I give a magazine a “10”, it doesn’t mean I think it’s perfect, and when I give a magazine a “1”, it doesn’t mean I think it has no value (OK, I’m not sure about that second one), that’s just where the numbers fell.

My next post will be the magazine rankings, from best to worst.  Later, I’ll do some further analysis of my data, looking at scores by genre, by author’s nationality, by author’s gender, and by a few other weird things I’ve thought up.

Once that’s done, I’ll review second and third issues of the top-scoring magazines.  I will again write intro stories for these reviews.  I’ve already come up with a time-travel story that I think is pretty cool, a story based on the six-million-dollar man, and another episode of The Four Apes.

Ultimately, I’ll combine the first, second, and third round scores, which may cause the rankings of the top magazines to shift.  Sticking with the modern-Olympics theme, I’ll then award the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals to the top three magazines.


  1. Boy, is that complicated! And I’m a mathematician (to add up to your very own scientist’s view)
    Nevertheless, I’m very looking forward to your final ranking. And particularly to the gold, silver and bronze medals in many moons to come.

    My magazine quest is much less sophisticated. I simply look into other authors’ bibliographies – particularly those I like – and make a list of all posible markets. Maybe I should go for something more structured like your magazine quest.
    All the best for 2018 🙂

    1. To misquote John Paul Jones, “I have not yet begun to complicate things!”

      I have a feeling that the initial ranks will shuffle quite a bit before the medals are awarded.

      Your magazine search method may turn out to be more efficient than mine.

  2. “(how much total enjoyment I received per word I read).”

    Now THAT is true dedication! I salute you for it…

    1. This did take some dedication, but I’m determined to carry on with rounds 2 and 3.

  3. Looking forward to the rankings, and the return of the apes.

    1. I’ll put the rankings out Tuesday or Wednesday, but the apes probably won’t make a comeback until February or March.

  4. This has peer-review written all over it.

    1. I’ll have to put a stop to that!

  5. […] my last post, I explained why I’ve cut off my first round of magazine reviews at 49, and described my […]

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