If you like science fiction and fantasy (and indeed you must, or why would you be here?) it seems as if we’re living in a Golden Age of it. (Why, when I was your age, you whippersnapper, we had nothin’ SFnal to read but “that crazy Buck Rogers stuff!” An’ as fer TV an’ movies, we had Cap’n Video an’ Flash Gordon conquerin’ the universe!)
And what the heck is a “whippersnapper” anyway?
In my youth—am I old enough for a second childhood yet? Or do I have to finish this one first?—there was so little genre stuff in the bookstores, magazine racks, and on TV and in movies, that it was possible to read everything that was published in one year, plus watch all the SF/F TV shows and movies.
In fact, we were so starved for SF/F that we’d watch darned near everything that had even a vague connection to the genre. (Which explains in part why the Adam West (R.I.P., Adam!) Batman show was so popular, because let’s face it—the show was pure schlock (intentionally so).
Besides the good genre fiction, there was a fair amount of schlock genre fiction (I’m being intentionally vague, because what I liked may not have been what you liked, and vice versa.) And when genre movies—which generally depend heavily on special effects, whether practical or CGI (these days)—came out, we invested emotionally in even bad movies that had great (for the times) special effects. Silent Running, anybody?
Compared to what movie and TV companies can produce today for special effects, we were barely better than Plan 9 From Outer Space’s hubcaps on strings. Nowadays, if you can imagine it, they can make it look real. (You and I know that it’s all green-screen and computerized 3D, MoCap and so on; but I wonder how many people out there in some of the less educated areas have this sneaking suspicion that it’s all real?)
And the books and online magazines we have today! Back when I started reading SF/F (and I’m by no means the oldest reader thereof!), we had passed the heyday of SF “pulp” magazines, and we had—available at the library, the drugstore, the grocery store and newsstands (which have mostly, alas!, vanished)—Amazing, Astounding/Analog, F&SF, Galaxy, If, and several more “biggies”; then came Asimov’s, Omni (which is on its way to being revived this fall!) and gosh-knows what else.
Those were just the prozines. We have a column or two dedicated to fanzines, so I won’t touch them…but many of those have fallen by the wayside, to be replaced by both free and subscription zines. Figure 1 shows the logo for Daily Science Fiction, which sends me a new SF/F story—some by well-known authors; I believe it’s a market recognized by SFWA as professional—every single weekday!
Of course, like all magazines, the stories vary in quality, but overall, I continue to be impressed by their high quality! Click the link and subscribe, and you too can get your daily dose of SF/F!
Some of the online zines, like The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), are the online versions of the print zines; some, like Polar Borealis (Figure 2), are online only. The “online-only” zines are the ones most likely to be free. As you will see when you click on some of the free links—and these “free” zines are paying markets, I’d like you writer types to notice—“free” doesn’t mean “crappy.”
Full disclosure: I am the proofreader for Polar Borealis, a free online fiction/poetry semiprozine dedicated to Canadian SF/F, so I do have some involvement in the zine, but no editorial control or “say” whatsoever (except for grammar, spelling, and punctuation, ha!) over the content. That part is up to Amazing’s fanzine columnist, R. Graeme Cameron (“The Graeme”), who edits and publishes it. It’s a “semiprozine,” meaning he pays for stories, artwork and poems, but payment is not up to SFWA prozine standards.
Some of the stuff in this issue (#4, cover called “The Enchantress,” ©2017 by Jenni Merrifield) is outstanding; I didn’t see any true duds, but as always, YMMV. (I hope you all know that particular Internet acronym: it’s “Your Mileage May Vary.” A great way to say, “Hey! It’s my opinion, but you’re entitled to yours.”) And some, as in every single magazine ever published, is just “okay.” Graeme publishes Polar Borealis three or four times a year, and it’s put online for you to read free. Unless I’m very much mistaken, it’s also up for an Aurora Award.
Figure 3 shows Clarkesworld issue 131’s cover, “High Priest,” ©2017 by Pascal Blanche. Clarkesworld is published by Neil Clarke, edited by Sean Wallace, and the podcast editor is Kate Baker—and the reprint editor is Gardner Dozois! It’s also free, and is published monthly, and it contains fiction, non-fiction and a podcast. Clarkesworld has won a World Fantasy Award, three Hugo Awards, and a British Fantasy Award. Their fiction has won most major SF/F awards. They are available in just about any e-format you can think of. The current issue has seven stories, an editorial, and a couple of non-fiction articles including a stellar article on promotion and self-promotion by Cat Rambo that every writer, artist and self-publisher should read.
Speaking of low-priced (but not free) SF/F, have you subscribed to Early-Bird Books? Every weekday I get a notification of several books whose prices have been lowered for a day or two—seldom longer than that—for their subscribers. In Thursday’s mailing (‘cause that’s when this is being written) and expiring on Friday (Sorry! My time machine’s not working today. You’ll have to act fast to get hold of the Thursday offerings!), we have Flight from Nevèrÿon, by Samuel R. Delaney; The Book of the Damned by Tanith Lee, a historical thriller by the late Richard Sapir (creator of The Destroyer); and mystery, romance, non-fiction and thrillers by all sorts of people. Not free, but low-priced ebooks of all kinds!
If you want “more, more, you’re still not satisfied,” check out Digital Bookspot. Intended as a way for authors to give away books as promo (self-promotional) items, you can subscribe to their feed and get sent daily freebies and ninety-nine-centers not only in SF/F, but other genres as well!
By the way, this column is not intended to be comprehensive, or a review of the mentioned resources; I just thought you might enjoy some of the online resources for F&SF that I do. This is just the merest taste of what’s out there for your computer, tablet or phone.
Getting away from free or cheap fiction for a bit, there is a free British online magazine for SF/F fans, and “geeks and nerds,” as they bill themselves. It’s called SF Crowsnest, and it’s helmed by Geoff Willmetts. It features news, reviews and other material of interest to “our kind,” and especially, I think, to British fen. (By the way, Geoff is actively seeking book reviewers—especially British ones—and says the perk is that you get free SF books. If you write reviews, drop him a line, why don’t you?) While I enjoy reading Locus for an American slant on SF/F news and reviews, this one gives another view that you might also find appealing.
If you want the short, humourous British view on everything SFnal—especially in the British Isles—you could do a heck of a lot worse than checking out Dave Langford’s Ansible, which is a monthly, Hugo-award-winning fanzine or newszine or genzine (take your pick). In addition to the usual news and convention information for the UK, Dave offers something called “Thog’s Masterclass,” where Thog offers prime examples, drawn from real publications, of some of the purplish prose that our genre has put into print. I find it wildly amusing when it comes into my emailbox.
And I know that many of you are interested in writing SF/F, maybe even professionally, and are probably aware of the almost literally thousands of websites out there that offer free and paid advice to writers. It’s almost impossible to track them all or even rate them in terms of how useful their advice is; so what I do is keep subscriptions to the free ones that have often, or even occasionally, appeared more than just usually helpful to the newer or beginning writer.
One such is Chuck Wendig’s “Terrible Minds” email list. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Chuck’s writing, I urge you to get familiar with it; the last one I bought (in hardcover!) was Invasive, which I enjoyed (somewhat like a Michael Crichton novel, it was). His writing advice is by turns funny, provocative/profane, and informative; usually quite NSFW. But pretty much on point! I recommend it highly.
I could go on and on. There are so many free and paid SF/Fiction sites, likewise free and paid SF/F news and review zines and, as I said, probably thousands of sites offering free and paid writing—and marketing, which is probably nearly as important!—sites. But as you know, I like to leave a little for the reader to discover on his/her/their own. If you care to suggest a site, fiction or otherwise, that my readers might find useful or enjoyable, please drop me a line or leave me a comment. My email is stevefah at hotmail dot com if you want to email me personally.
I won’t put the logo up this time, but I almost forgot: Canadians–please vote for the Aurora Awards—I am up for one (third time lucky?) for this column, but even if you don’t vote for me, please vote! You can only vote until September 2, which gives you less than a month!
I dare you to comment on this column. (Just kidding.) But if you haven’t already commented, how will I know you’re reading this? You can comment here or on my Facebook page (I also put links in several Facebook groups, like SF Fandom, and Canadian Science Fiction). I welcome all comments, pro and con—I usually learn something from even a negative one, so hop on the bus! (So you don’t have to agree with me to post a comment, y’see.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owners, editors, publishers or other columnists. See you next week!