August 8th, 2008 | people I know
August 7th, 2008 | podcast
The 4am is a selection composed entirely of music sent to me by artists. If you want your music to be played on The 4am, email your 128kbps-plus mp3 files directly to email@example.com. The 4am is mixed down to 128kbps, is of no set length and is released on no set schedule. If you like the 4am, please tell people.
The podcast feed for The 4am is: http://warrenellis.com/?feed=podcast
14: Cemetery Windchimes
Cheerful Nutjob – “Left To Blame” (3.10)
Kemper Norton – “5 Black Yachts For Jean” (5.39)
Dorian Wood – “The Mutual” (5.13)
Brent Wilcox – “Dream After Anime” (0.59)
“Left To Blame” abstractly reminds me of Galaxie 500 for some reason. And that, frankly, is a good enough reason to play it.
It’s not a 4am without Kemper Norton spilling beer somewhere in the background, and here we have “5 White Yachts For Jean,” his remix of Ice Bird Spiral’s ” Five Black Yachts For Jean”
More old friends: Dorian Wood sent me a live version of his song “The Mutual”, with this note: “Bless your heart for posting my song “Kletka ot Sniag” last time. Thanks to you broadcasting it for thousands, I am performing in Stratford-upon-Avon in September. HUZZAH!”
And a bit of fun at the end from yet another, Brent Wilcox, just to let you know we’re all back. If you’re in Alaska, or otherwise capable of receiving KEUL (88.9 Girdwood AK) or KABN-FM (89.7 Kasilof AK), Brent broadcasts SMOKE AND MIRRORS on Sundays, 7-10pm. He posts the playlists at the link above, and they actually make me want to spend time in Alaska.
Next time: stuff by people you haven’t heard before.
August 7th, 2008 | microlog
August 7th, 2008 | brainjuice
Things happening at my Internet Compound today:
* Anyone making zines? I’d like to see them.
* The "DJs posting their mixes" thread has come back to life.
* The monthly Self Portrait Threads remain curiously popular.
* As does the weekly "What Are You Listening To?" thread.
* Anyone know anything about "Kiki The Demented Girl"?
August 6th, 2008 | microlog
August 6th, 2008 | researchmaterial
And I’m delighted by it, as a toner-stained Eighties kid who still remembers having to bend over staple tines with his thumbs because he didn’t have access to a longarm stapler.
This piece by Nick Currie (better known to many as Momus) introduces me to Analogue Books, an Edinburgh shop that’s selling a line of limited-run, lo-fi photocopied art zines. This, it turns out, is in emulation of a similar project in Switzerland that I was unaware of, Nieves.
I mean, obviously, I know the small press didn’t go away. But I love the idea that people are still getting new noises out of the plain old 12-page zine. Consumer-level photocopying is getting on for being a thirty-year-old technology now. We’ve all got a little conditioned into believing a technology goes away as soon as we stop looking at it. Analogue and Nieves prove, in their own small but significant ways, that print isn’t dead, and neither is DIY.
August 5th, 2008 | brainjuice
Oops. Meant to work this into the previous post. Ha ha. Just pretend it’s there and not here:
Elizabeth Bear said something interesting the other day: that the short fiction space is actually the equivalent to the club scene. It’s going to the underground place where people gather to dance to the new music, the experiments and the different sounds. Short stories as the white labels, dubplates and electronic battle weapons.
(And Bruce Sterling turning up with a laptop at 1am like Roedelius or a demented Bob Moog.)
In a sense, the notion kind of asks for this generation’s NEW WORLDS. Now that was a club scene.
Anyway. Interesting, I thought. Carry on.
August 5th, 2008 | brainjuice
Don’t be daft. Of course print isn’t dead. I make a reasonable living off it. Over in the world of words-and-pictures, I can write 44 pages that do little more than fetishise the English longbow and make a profit. The peculiarities of distributing comics through a firm-sale system — one that is actually open to sf magazines, too, though I don’t doubt the process is difficult for them — have kept the Anglophone medium alive in all its weird breadth for almost thirty years now. Additional distribution systems are of course required, because that market is dependent on new stories opening faster than old stores die, and that’s not a trick that’s yet been pulled off to anyone’s satisfaction. And, you know, I could list a dozen other things wrong with it. And have. But when everyone else is muttering that Print Is Dead, comics continues to quietly move millions of units a month. Last month, I wrote a comic that did in excess of 100,000 copies on firm sale. And while it’s true that some stores may well be stuck with them, the others have created a reorder velocity requiring Marvel to go back to print on the book.
Neal Stephenson wrote a book that was more than 3000 pages long, that had to be released in three volumes and then eight smaller volumes, and they still let him in the door. THE WIRE, possibly the most fascinating and annoying music magazine on the face of the planet (where else would a music reviewer stop in the middle of a piece to start jabbering about fucking Marx?) is still plugging away, and THE BELIEVER (a print magazine about print books, in the 21st Century? Surely madness!) seems to be going from strength to strength. Christ, SONGLINES just passed its fiftieth issue, and I never would have predicted that. British newspaper sales, as a whole, average an annual slip of around 3%, but some quality Sunday papers post continual rises — the Observer gains something like 5% per annum, I think. And, of course, newspapers like The Guardian have embraced the modern hybrid operation, running a very strong website.
All of which is to say: when I run the sf magazine figures, I’m not saying that Print Is Dead. I’m not even saying that No-One Wants Short Fiction. I’m saying, I’m afraid, that something is wrong with those magazines. Not even, necessarily, with the content. That’s entirely subjective. The objective view seems to me to be inescapable: the packaging and marketing just isn’t working. And I think it’s probably too late for them now. So, now, I wait for new entrants to take their place — be they a resurgent print magazine like WEIRD TALES, or an emergent leader from the web space.
And that, most of you will be glad to hear, will probably be my last thought on the topic. (Unless someone pokes me with a sharp stick.) I don’t see myself running these numbers next year, unless something wildly dramatic happens. From here, it looks like Game Over.
August 3rd, 2008 | brainjuice
A few weeks ago, I received the new YEAR’S BEST SF volume as edited by Gardner Dozois. As ever, its indispensable "Summation" preamble contains the best available figures for the annual sales of the major sf magazines. Last year, I copied those sales numbers up here, and accidentally set off a bit of a storm in the sf blogosylum. Dozens of sites and hundreds of people got caught up in talking about the state of sf magazines and the condition of short sf, and what future, if any, they have.
In the aftermath, a few publishers actually sent me their magazines. And, in the interests of fair play, I bought subscriptions to a few.
This next bit, I’ve rewritten a couple of times, and now I’m just going to edit it down to saying that I am not renewing those subscriptions, no matter how much money they expend in sending me letters asking for me to do just that. Everything else I wrote was coarse and unfair, and would excite more weird personal attacks from assistant editors on their Livejournals, oh noes. So let’s have a look at this year’s numbers:
ASIMOV’S: subscriptions down to 14084 from 15117, newsstand sales rose from 3419 to 3497. Not the huge overall circulation losses of previous years, but that’s still a thousand bodies going missing.
ANALOG: subscriptions down to 22972 from 23732, newsstand sales sank from 4597 to 4427. This is victory condition, in the face of posting seven- and eight-percent losses in the previous couple of years.
THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION: subscriptions down to 12831 from 14575, newsstand sales sank from 3691 to 3658.
No numbers available for INTERZONE beyond Dozois’ usual statement that circulation is in "the 2000 to 3000 copy range." Which I’m starting to find faintly absurd, and wish I could see some actual numbers on.
F&SF — whose editor asserted on the web last year that, if if hasn’t been for the hike in US postal charges, it would have been a good year for his magazine — has shed some 11% of its readership year-on-year. ANALOG came off best, though it should be noted that ASIMOV’S has staunched some horrific bleeding, having lost almost a quarter of its audience in 2005.
These are the walking dead.
Cases are always made that in fact these magazines are on strong — or at least survivable — financial ground. Even ignoring the fact that the money they offer for fiction is pitiful, I think that matters less than that they are reaching massively fewer people every year.
One of the reasons we care, of course, is that we associate print magazines with an intelligent curation process overseen by functional salaried adults. That’s why so many people still look askance at the online scene as "not proper magazines." The people who believe that got their wish last month, when one of the editors of HELIX SF had his covers pulled as a bigot with clear psychological issues by a disgruntled writer. It gives credence to the bias, unspoken or otherwise, that a print magazine is a job of work and an online magazine can be thrown up by any drooling lunatic with access to the net and a credit card. A fanzine by any other name.
Regular readers will know that I like sending traffic to the likes of CLARKESWORLD and FARRAGO’S WAINSCOT etc from time to time. Aside from (patchy, beautiful) McSWEENEY’S, these are the places I look to for short fiction now. No real fireworks yet, no real movement, none of them seem to be really cresting the other in terms of profile, but the best work there has been head and shoulders over pretty much anything I read from ASIMOV’S, F&SF or INTERZONE (with one exception in the latter case) over the last several months.
I live in hope that WEIRD TALES is preparing to post truly wonderful year-on-year figures. But, for the four magazines with available numbers (unless some communications failure has hidden a resurgence in INTERZONE numbers from the redoubtable Dozois)… it’s pretty much over.
As was stated over and over last year, any number of things could be done to help these magazines. But, naturally enough, the magazines’ various teams appear not to consider anything to be wrong. They’ll provide what their remaining audience would seem to want, until they all finally die of old age, and then they’ll turn out the lights. And that’ll be it for the short-fiction sf print magazine as we know it.
It’s time now, I think, to turn attention to the online sf magazines. I personally live in hope that, one day, some of them move from net to print, and create a new generation of paper magazines. But, regardless, it’s time to focus on them — on what they do, how they generate revenue, and what their own future is.
One hopes that community will run the pigs out of town before they find themselves having to lay down with them, too.
August 2nd, 2008 | brainjuice
Pick a plan for today:
a) ignore work, make the most of an empty house by sitting around drinking, playing loud music and scratching my balls
b) draw up plans for an Internet Cult which does my bidding and pays me in blood and souls
c) same as above, but pays me in actual cash
d) give up everything, run away from home and indenture myself to a hypnodomme, just for the restfulness of it
e) go to Canada, take a ride on a coach, stab someone sixty times, cut their head off, wank into the stump, laugh, give name of “Joss Whedon” to other passengers, walk off into the night
f) form band that doesn’t exist, release exquisite covers for records that will never be made, beautiful flyers for gigs that were not arranged, mp3 “previews” that are nothing but the voices of young women crooning complete nonsense in Russian
g) audience participation
h) you can still send me tips on interesting stuff etc on degaussing at googlemail dot com.