Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2016

In 2014, as a beginning writer of science fiction or speculative fiction, with no idea what magazines were well regarded in the industry, I decided to compile a ranked list of magazines based on awards and "best of" placements in the previous ten years. Since people seemed to find it useful or interesting, last year I updated. Below is my new list for 2016.

Method and Caveats:

(1.) Only magazines are included (online or in print), not anthologies or standalones.

(2.) I gave each magazine one point for each story nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, Eugie, or World Fantasy Award in the past ten years; one point for each story appearance in any of the Dozois, Horton, Strahan, Clarke, or Adams "Year's Best" anthologies; and half a point for each story appearing on in the short story or novelette category of the annual Locus Recommended list.

(3.) I am not attempting to include the horror / dark fantasy genre, except as it appears incidentally on the list.

(4.) Prose only, not poetry.

(5.) I'm not attempting to correct for frequency of publication or length of table of contents.

(6.) I'm also not correcting for a magazine's only having published during part of the ten-year period. Reputations of defunct magazines slowly fade, and sometimes they are restarted. Reputations of new magazines take time to build.

(7.) Lists of this sort do tend to reinforce the prestige hierarchy. I have mixed feelings about that. But since the prestige hierarchy is socially real, I think it's in people's best interest -- especially the best interest of outsiders and newcomers -- if it is common knowledge.

(8.) I take the list down to 1.5 points.

(9.) I welcome corrections.

Results: [corrected Aug 8]

1. Asimov's (253 points)
2. Fantasy & Science Fiction (190.5)
3. Clarkesworld (104.5)
4. Tor.com (96.5) (started 2008)
5. Subterranean (82.5) (ran 2007-2014)
6. Lightspeed (64.5) (started 2010)
7. Strange Horizons (51)
8. Analog (48)
9. Interzone (45.5)
10. Fantasy Magazine (27.5) (merged into Lightspeed 2012, occasional special issues thereafter)
11. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (18.5) (started 2008)
12. Postscripts (16) (ceased 2014)
12. Realms of Fantasy (16) (ceased 2011)
14. Apex (14.5)
14. Jim Baen's Universe (14.5) (ceased 2010)
16. Electric Velocipede (7) (ceased 2013)
16. SciFiction (7) (ceased 2005)
18. The New Yorker (6.5)
18. Nightmare (6.5) (started 2012)
20. Black Static (6) (started 2007)
20. Intergalactic Medicine Show (6)
20. Uncanny (6) (started 2014)
23. Helix SF (5.5) (ran 2006-2008)
24. McSweeney's (4.5)
25. Cosmos (4)
25. Flurb (4) (ran 2006-2012)
27. Black Gate (3.5)
27. Conjunctions (3.5)
27. Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (3.5)
27. Tin House (3.5)
31. GigaNotoSaurus (3) (started 2010)
32. Lone Star Stories (2.5) (ceased 2009)
32. Matter (2.5) (started 2011)
32. Nature (2.5)
32. Shimmer (2.5)
32. Weird Tales (2.5) (off and on throughout period)
37. Aeon Speculative Fiction (2) (ceased 2008)
37. Futurismic (2) (ceased 2010)
37. Harper's (2)
40. Cemetery Dance (1.5)
40. Daily Science Fiction (1.5) (started 2010)
40. Sirenia Digest (1.5)
40. Terraform (1.5) (started 2014)
40. The Dark (1.5) (started 2013)


(1.) The New Yorker, Tin House, McSweeney's, Conjunctions, and Harper's are prominent literary magazines that occasionally publish science fiction or fantasy. Cosmos and Nature are popular and specialists' (respectively) science magazines that publish a little bit of science fiction on the side. The remaining magazines focus on the F/SF genre.

(2.) It's also interesting to consider a three-year window. Here are those results, down to six points:

1. Tor.com (57)
2. Clarkesworld (54.5)
3. Asimov's (54)
4. Lightspeed (37.5)
5. F&SF (35)
6. Subterranean (24)
7. Analog (21.5)
8. Strange Horizons (13)
9. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (12)
10. Interzone (11.5)
11. Apex (8)
12. Nightmare (6)
12. Uncanny (6)

My sense is that recently Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Asimov's, Lightspeed, and F&SF form approximately one peer group; Analog is its own unique thing (with a decades-long reputation as a great place for old-school hard SF); Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Interzone, and Apex form a second peer group; and Nightmare and Uncanny are influential newcomers. (Subterranean is now closed.) The future of Tor.com remains to be seen now that it has closed its slushpile in favor of submissions by invitation only.

(3.) One important thing left out of these numbers is the rise of good podcast venues such as the Escape Artists' podcasts (Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod), Drabblecast, and StarShipSofa. None of these qualify for my list by existing criteria, but podcasting might be the leading edge of a major change in the industry. It's fun to hear a short story podcast while driving or exercising, and people might increasingly obtain their short fiction that way. (Some text-based magazines, like Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Strange Horizons, are also now regularly podcasting their stories.)

(5.) Philosophers interested in science fiction might also want to look at Sci Phi Journal, which publishes both science fiction with philosophical discussion notes and philosophical essays about science fiction.

(6.) Other lists: The SFWA qualifying markets list is a list of "pro" science fiction and fantasy venues based on pay rates and track records of strong circulation. Ralan.com is a regularly updated list of markets, divided into categories based on pay rate.

(7.) The "Sad Puppy" kerfuffle threatens to damage the once-sterling reputation of the Hugos, but the Hugos are a small part of my calculation and the results are pretty much the same either way.

[image source; admittedly, it's not the latest issue!]


Anonymous said...

I'm curious if you've ever read "The Masochistic Playpen" by Brook Ziporyn (UChicago)? It's an interesting work of science fiction by another Zhuangzi scholar/enthusiast. Well worth checking out.

Jean Asselin said...

That's a great enterprise, thank you for doing this.

I note that the Locus Foundation
also lists the Sturgeon and the Tiptree as major short fiction awards.
You might consider factoring in those two.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Jean! Yes, maybe Sturgeon and Tiptree next year. The first year, the project was daunting -- 10 years worth of data, plus figuring out what was a "magazine" vs not, and all their websites and histories; but now that I'm updating annually it's much more manageable, so I've been adding more sources of data.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Anon: Thanks for the suggestion. I admire Ziporyn's work on Zhuangzi, but I didn't know about his fiction!