Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2015

[Note: This is a 2015 list. For the most recent list, see here.]

Last year, 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 numbers of awards and "best of" placements in the previous ten years. Since some people have found the list interesting, I decided to update this year, dropping the oldest data and replacing them with fresh data from this summer's awards/best-of season.

Last year's post expresses various methodological caveats, which still apply. This year's method, in brief, was to count one point every time a magazine had a story nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, or World Fantasy Award; one point for every "best of" choice in the Dozois, Strahan, and Horton anthologies; and half a point for every Locus recommendation at novelette or short story length, over the past ten years.

I take the list down to magazines with 1.5 points. I am not including anthologies or standalones, although anthologies account for about half of the award nominations and "best of" choices. Horror is not included except as it incidentally appears according to the criteria above. I welcome corrections.


1. Asimov's (262 points)
2. Fantasy & Science Fiction (209.5)
3. Subterranean (82) (ran 2007-2014)
4. Clarkesworld (78) (started 2006)
5. (77.5) (started 2008)
6. Strange Horizons (51)
7. Analog (50.5)
8. Interzone (47.5)
9. Lightspeed (44.5) (started 2010)
10. SciFiction (26) (ceased 2005)
11. Fantasy Magazine (24) (merged into Lightspeed, 2012)
12. Postscripts (19) (ceased 2014)
13. Realms of Fantasy (16.5) (ceased 2011)
14. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (15) (started 2008)
15. Jim Baen's Universe (14.5) (ran 2006-2010)
16. Apex (13)
17. Electric Velocipede (7) (ceased 2013)
18. Intergalactic Medicine Show (6)
19. Black Static (5.5) (started 2007)
19. Helix SF (5.5) (ran 2006-2008)
21. The New Yorker (5)
22. Cosmos (4.5)
22. Tin House (4.5)
24. Flurb (4) (ran 2006-2012)
24. Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (4)
26. Black Gate (3.5)
26. McSweeney's (3.5)
28. Conjunctions (3)
28. GigaNotoSaurus (3) (started 2010)
30. Lone Star Stories (2.5) (ceased 2009)
31. Aeon Speculative Fiction (2) (ceased 2008)
31. Futurismic (2) (ceased 2010)
31. Harper's (2)
31. Weird Tales (2) (off and on throughout period)
36. Cemetery Dance (1.5)
36. Daily Science Fiction (1.5) (started 2010)
36. Nature (1.5)
36. On Spec (1.5)
36. Terraform (1.5) (started 2014)


(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.) Although Asimov's and F&SF dominate the list, recently things have equalized among the top several. The past three years is approximately a tie among the top four:

1. (50.5)
2. Asimov's (50)
3. Clarkesworld (44.5)
4. F&SF (41)
and the ratio between the #1 and the #10 is about 4:1 in the past three years, as opposed to 10:1 in the ten-year data:
5. Lightspeed (26.5)
6. Subterranean (23)
7. Analog (19.5)
8. Strange Horizons (14)
9. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (13.5)
10. Interzone (12)

(3.) Another aspect of the venue-broadening trend 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 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, are also now regularly podcasting their stories.)

(4.) A few new magazines have drawn recommendations this year from the notoriously difficult-to-please Lois Tilton, who is the reviewer for short fiction at Locus Online. All three are pretty cool, and I'm hoping to see one or more of them qualify for next year's updated list:

Unlikely Story (started 2011 as Journal of Unlikely Entomology, new format 2013)
The Dark (started 2013)
Uncanny (started 2014)

(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. is a regularly updated list of markets, divided into categories based on pay rate.

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


anotherpanacea said...

Are you including Puppy nominees? Are you including nominees who withdrew to prevent association with the Puppies?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

For now I'm ignoring the Puppies thing, since it didn't have a detectable effect on the results, except perhaps a small boost to Analog. I'm just going by the official lists published on the Hugos website. The withdrawn authors are not included on the website, and thus their work does not affect this list, which I assume would be their preference.

If a similar thing happens next year, I'll give it more thought at that time!

James said...

Great list!

Unknown said...

Great list! Introduced in a Chinese SF/F forum:

How about normalize the scores by dividing points by the number of stories published?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks, Unknown. I wish I could read Chinese better!

In my experience with academic journal rankings, dividing by total publications generates rankings that specialists find unintuitive. The reason, I suspect, is this: People's perceptions of prominence or quality are mostly driven by their memory of the most visible or prominent publications in any magazine, rather than driven by their sense of the prominence or quality of the *average* publication. When people think of, or whatever, they think about's most memorable and/or acclaimed stories, and that's mainly what drives perceptions of the prestige or quality of the venue. At least, that's my guess.

It might be interesting, anyway, to try dividing by total stories published and see what it does to the numbers. If it were easy, I would. But it would actually be quite a pain, since it would require going through years' of Tables of Contents for all these venues. Given that my guess is that it wouldn't improve the rankings' accuracy as a measure of perceived mainstream prestige, I'm disinclined to do it. But if someone else wanted to, that would be awesome!

sanfeng said...

Prof. Schwitzgebel, thanks for your answer. I agree with you on the intuitiveness of average ranking. But one problem of current algorithm is that magazines who ran less than 10 years (e.g. SciFiction has only one year in the 10-yr time span) are greatly disadvantaged. At least, the ranking should take into account how long the magazines ran, i.e., dividing points by the number of years the magazine ran within the 10-year time span.

sanfeng said...

BTW, congratulations on your new story published in a top-ranking high-impact-factor magazine!

sanfeng said...

I divide the original points by the number of years the magazine ran between 2005 and 2014. See following for the ranking and PPYs (points per year):

1. Asimov's (26.2)
2. SciFiction (26)
3. Fantasy & Science Fiction (20.95)
4. (11.07)
5. Subterranean (10.25)
6. Lightspeed (8.9)
7. Clarkesworld (8.67)
8. Strange Horizons (5.1)
9. Analog (5.05)
10. Interzone (4.75)
11. Fantasy Magazine (3.43)
12. Jim Baen's Universe (2.9)
13. Realms of Fantasy (2.36)
14. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (2.14)
15. Postscripts (1.9)
16. Helix SF (1.83)
17. Apex (1.3)
18. Electric Velocipede (0.78)
19. Black Static (0.69)
20. Intergalactic Medicine Show (0.6)

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Neat! Thanks, sanfeng! That really captures how prominent SciFiction was during its brief life.

sanfeng said...

Sadly, SciFiction will disappear on next year's list.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

A slow fadeaway rather than a sudden disappearance is one reason my primary analysis doesn't divide by number of years on the list.

Also, suppose I said I had a story forthcoming in SciFiction. People would say, what, it has been revived? Who's the editor? The name would lend it some credit, but it would need to re-establish itself in the eyes of the mainstream SF community. Reputations rise and fade slowly, and consistency over time means a lot.

sanfeng said...

I have a more lengthy article in Chinese posted here:

The title can be translated as: Impact Factor Ranking of Science Fiction Magazines: How did a philosophical professor create a rank list of "The Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2015"?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Cool -- thanks for spreading this around, sanfeng!