It’s time to look at the stories in my forty-nine ranked magazines by genre. First, let’s see if editors prefer one genre over another. I removed magazines which were only science fiction or only fantasy, and came up with the following breakdown:
|Genre||# of stories||% of stories|
|No Discernible Genre||17||5.8%|
My genre assignments are simplistic. If a story mentions spaceships, robots, or other planets, it’s science fiction. Stories get into the next three categories by adding a fantastic element to today’s world (usually urban fantasy or horror), having technology that is medieval or earlier, or being somewhere in-between (steampunk and most historical fiction). Two types of stories fall under “no discernible genre”: stories in the pulpier magazines about detectives and such that were intentionally non-SFF, and stories where I couldn’t spot any SFF element (like a story about a married couple eating borsch), but which claimed to be magical realism or slipstream or something.
I’m surprised to see science fiction ranked number one, as at least one major magazine claims they don’t get enough sci-fi submissions relative to fantasy. I’m also surprised that medieval-or-earlier tech isn’t represented more, given the recent popularity of “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones”, and the enduring popularity of Conan with the pulp crowd.
Let’s see how the genres stacked up in terms of entertainment value:
|Genre||Avg Stars (5 max)||# of stories||Avg Wordcount|
These results are nearly the opposite of what I would have expected. I consider myself primarily a science-fiction fan, doing some recent reading in urban fantasy because I’ve found some talented authors there. I’m also partial to concise stories. Apparently I’ve ignored all of my preferences, and, despite not being fond of steampunk, rated the steampunk-heavy, most-verbose category the highest.
This data dares to conflict with my preconceived opinions! If I were a true scientist, I’d throw out data points as “anomalies”, or maybe invent new statistical techniques, until the data got back into line. As I’m no longer working in the biological or environmental sciences, I’ve instead had to devote some thought to my results. I think there are three parts to the answer of why I didn’t rate my favorite genre the highest.
#1) This is something I ran across while writing an upcoming gender breakdown post. I won’t go into it much here, but it boils down to: much of what’s masquerading as science fiction isn’t what I’d consider science fiction.
#2) I gave science fiction lower scores because I like science fiction the best. No, I’m not babbling nonsense when I say that. I’ve read a lot more science fiction than fantasy, so I may see elements in sci-fi stories that make me say “ho hum, seen it a thousand times”, while similarly-overused elements in fantasy stories aren’t worn out to me.
#3) I can pick apart the science in sci-fi. If an author gets some aspect of the science really wrong (or even a little bit wrong, if it’s in one of my fields of expertise), I’m going to think about that instead of the story, and my star rating is going to be lower. I can’t pick apart a fantasy story like that. If the author says that throwing flour into the air while screaming Latin words will make a glass-golem melt, I just have to say “OK”.
I have more to say about SFF genres, but it’s not directly related to my magazine quest data, so I’ll stop here for now and save it for a future post.
Leave a comment below, and let me know if you mostly read in one genre, or if you like to mix things up.