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SF MAGAZINES: It’s That Time Of Year Again

Come on. It’s a tradition now, right? Gardner Dozois releases a new YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION containing his Summation of the doings of the year, and I pull out the sf magazine circulation numbers from it and depress everybody. (Cue blog posts beginning "Warren Ellis makes Doom Pronoucements Yet Abloodygain…")

The 2008 sf magazine numbers as per Mr Dozois’ discovery:

ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION drops 2.7% in circulation, to a hair over 17000 copies. In the previous three years, it had dropped 5.2%, 13.6% and 23%. That’s 500 missing readers in 2008.

ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT drops 5.1%, to a hair under 26,000 copies. 1400 missing readers in 2008.

MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION drops 2.7% to 16,044 copies. Again, around 500 missing readers in 2008.

REALMS OF FANTASY is awaiting revival, I believe.

Mr Dozois continues to peg INTERZONE at "2000 to 3000 copies," which is what he says every year, and I would love proper figures on INTERZONE’s circulation. And, in fact, I think it would be a wise thing for INTERZONE to release such, to combat this constant carping that it’s a "semi-professional" magazine.

Notes: all of these must be selling digital copies that aren’t getting factored into the circulation. Some of those missing readers must have been converted into digital customers. Those numbers would tell a tale. No, print is not dead, and neither are periodicals. All the magazines save INTERZONE are in the middle of format and/or frequency shifts.

I said last year that I wouldn’t run these numbers. That said, I expected the last year to show these magazines display no response at all to their numbers. Instead, one went bimonthly and two changed size and cut some content. Neither of which strike me as proportionate responses. I could almost understand a resolute "we ain’t changing nothing. This is what we do and we’re going to sit here until they prise our red pens from our cold dead hands because we’re providing a service for the fans who like it old school." I could respect that. I’m glad they don’t have guns and stockpiled foodstuffs, but you know what I mean. I’m not sure that actions commensurate with cutting bits off themselves and cooking and eating them to stave off starvation is really due the same kind of nod.

The 2009 numbers, which Dozois will publish in the summer of 2010, will show how practical these moves proved to be.

"Sf magazines" is the string to use in the Search box to find all my other reports and thoughts on this topic over the last three years. Some of them started some arguments. Can’t imagine how. I am, as you know, the very soul of joy, and filled with light.

My favourite sf magazine? FLURB, without a doubt. Richard Kadrey, Kek-W, Simon Logan, Rudy Rucker and John Shirley in the same place? Beat that with a stick.

Published in brainjuice


  1. Perhaps these readers are being kidnapped for nefarious experimentation by…someone…

  2. I’m totally out of this loop (never liked the cheap feel of the paper digests), but I wonder if your current research has expanded to cover online magazines that target (hate that word!) the same audience? I also wonder now too if each of these mags has a website and what their hit numbers are vs. their print numbers. Bottom line, I’m wondering if there’s a Tipping Point to be seen here yet for them — a TP that even *they* should be able to see.

  3. I try very hard not to be abrasive in my assessment of the current literary magazine environment. I try to keep a cool head and open mind regarding the much-beloved way of doing things. This often requires I limit my reading of the material currently published. I don’t need this sort of stress on my heart. The discrepancy between Burroughs & Ballard and the current state of SF (to compartmentalize this rant) is vast. It is not intractable, however. It is simply ignored. For these reasons, we see these numbers, and we will continue to see them. Nothing can fix this except a basic change to the genre itself. This will not happen. I am a doomsayer and I know it.

    Show me the vital lifeline of the human race. Otherwise, you are simply the speculative fiction magazine called “Analog”. One cannot reiterate this fact enough in correlation to the topic of the SF nominal mode.

    This is as close as I can come without naming names and specific examples. I post only as a statement of support for Warren, who is playing doomsayer while the rest of us quietly try to repopulate the literati of English Language readership. I’m still at selling one-at-a-time. Yourselves?

  4. I also wonder if this indicates a trend away from short stories? I tend not to read them because, well, they’re short. About the time I’m really into the story, bang!, it’s over. I prefer novels. (Note this personal aversion to shortness doesn’t translate into comics, oddly.)

    On what they see as The Enemy, the Internet, I doubt short stories will be anything except a free sample of a writer’s work. Writers who develop followings can then make some extra money from future compilations (if people will stand for that).

  5. I was under the impression that INTERZONE was classified as a “semi-pro” magazine because of the pay rate they offer, not because of circulation numbers. I think the SFWA calls you ‘semi-pro’ if you don’t consistently offer at least $0.05 US per word.

    I could be wrong about that, though.

  6. Is there time series data for these circulation figures anywhere? I could use the information.

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