Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2021

image of alien invasion

[updated 10:35 a.m.]

Since 2014, I've compiled an annual ranking of science fiction and fantasy magazines, based on prominent awards nominations and "best of" placements over the previous ten years. Below is my list for 2021. (For all previous lists, see here.)

Method and Caveats:

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

(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 in the short story or novelette category of the annual Locus Recommended list. (In 2021, two of the "year's bests" are based on their tentative Table of Contents.)

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

(8.) I welcome corrections.

(9.) I confess some ambivalence about rankings of this sort. They reinforce the prestige hierarchy, and they compress interesting complexity into a single scale. However, the prestige of a magazine is a socially real phenomenon that deserves to be tracked, especially for the sake of outsiders and newcomers who might not otherwise know what magazines are well regarded by insiders when considering, for example, where to submit.


1. Tor.com (186.5 points) 

2. Clarkesworld (174) 

3. Asimov's (171.5) 

4. Lightspeed (133.5) 

5. Fantasy & Science Fiction (130.5) 

6. Uncanny (93) (started 2014) 

7. Analog (59.5) 

8. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (58) 

9. Subterranean (49) (ceased short fiction 2014) 

10. Strange Horizons (45) 

11. Interzone (30.5) 

12. Nightmare (29.5) 

13. Apex (28) 

14. Fireside (17) 

15. Slate / Future Tense (15.5) 

16. Fantasy Magazine (14) (occasional special issues during the period, fully relaunched in 2020) 

17. The Dark (10.5) (started 2013) 

18t. FIYAH (9.5) (started 2017) 

18t. The New Yorker (9.5) 

20t. Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (7) 

20t. McSweeney's (7) 

22t. Sirenia Digest (6) 

22t. Tin House (6) (ceased short fiction 2019) 

24. Black Static (5.5) 

25t. GigaNotoSaurus (5) 

25t. Shimmer (5) (ceased 2018) 

27t. Conjunctions (4.5) 

27t. Omni (4.5) (briefly relaunched 2017-2018) 

27t. Terraform (4.5) (started 2014) 

30t. Boston Review (4) 

*30t. Wired (4)

*32. Diabolical Plots (3.5) (started 2015)

33t. Electric Velocipede (3) (ceased 2013) 

33t. Kaleidotrope (3) 

33t. B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog (3) (started 2014)

33t. Beloit Fiction Journal (2.5) 

33t. Buzzfeed (2.5) 

33t. Harper's (2.5) 

33t. Matter (2.5) 

33t. Paris Review (2.5) 

33t. Weird Tales (2.5) (off and on throughout the period)

42t. Daily Science Fiction (2) 

42t. Future Science Fiction Digest (2) (started 2018) 

42t. Mothership Zeta (2) (ran 2015-2017) 

*42t. Omenana (2) (started 2014) 

*46t. Anathema (2) (started 2017)

46t. e-flux journal (1.5) 

46t. Flurb (1.5) (ceased 2012) 

46t. Intergalactic Medicine Show (1.5) (ceased 2019) 

46t. MIT Technology Review (1.5) 

46t. New York Times (1.5) 

*46t. Translunar Travelers Lounge (1.5) (started 2019)

[* indicates new to the list this year]



(1.) The New Yorker, McSweeney's, Tin House, Conjunctions, Boston Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Harper's, Matter, and Paris Review are literary magazines that occasionally publish science fiction or fantasy.  Slate and Buzzfeed are popular magazines, and Omni, Wired, and MIT Technology Review are popular science magazines, which publish a bit of science fiction on the side. e-flux is a wide-ranging arts journal. The New York Times is a well-known newspaper that ran a series of "Op-Eds from the Future" from 2019-2020.  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 (59.5)

2. Uncanny (51.5)

3. Clarkesworld (39.5)

4. Lightspeed (38.5)

5. F&SF (32.5)

6. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (21)

7. Asimov's (16.5) 

8. Nightmare (16)

9. Analog (16)

10. Fireside (15)

11. Slate / Future Tense (13)

12. Apex (11.5)

13. Strange Horizons (11)

14. FIYAH (9)

15. The Dark (6)

(3.) For the first time since I started keeping records, Asimov's is not in the top spot.  The trend has been clear for several years, with the classic "big three" print magazines -- Asimov's, F&SF, and Analog -- slowly being displaced in influence by the four leading free online magazines, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Uncanny (all founded 2006-2014).  Presumably, a large part of the explanation is that there are more readers of free online fiction than of paid subscription magazines, which is attractive to authors and probably also helps with voter attention for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

(4.) Left out of these numbers are some terrific podcast venues such as the Escape Artists' podcasts (Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders), Drabblecast, and StarShipSofa. None of these qualify for my list by existing criteria, but podcasts are also important venues.

(5.) 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.

[image source]


Steve L said...

I appreciate this list and the work that went into it! And longitudinal, too! Of course, I have questions. Why not include the nominees for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, one of the best nominee lists for short fiction in my opinion. Also, your list includes UK-based magazines but not UK-based award nominees, such as the British SF Association Awards. Forgive me if you already addressed these issues in prior years.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the comments, Steve!

I can't seem now to reconstruct why I include the Eugie but not the Sturgeon. I made the original decision about the inclusion criteria in 2014 then later added the Eugie when it was new, but I agree that the Sturgeon is more prestigious. I've made a note to re-examine this issue when I update in 2022. I don't think it would make much of a difference in the rankings, since there are so many inputs into the numbers and the Sturgeon's recent selections draw from essentially the same pool of magazines, with the same recent high representation of Tor, Clarkesworld, Uncanny, etc.

The British awards are prestigious, but I exclude them because they are regional. There is no regional / local restriction on magazines because the magazines are the outcome of the procedure, not the input into it. The one exception to the regional rule on inputs is, ambivalently, the Adams Best of, due to (1.) his capacious definition of "American" and (2.) my desire to include more inputs from top editors compared to prize nominations, which are often gamed and logrolled. I'm hoping that maybe Lavie Tidhar's new world Best of, if it becomes annual, can offset the regional bias of the Adams.

Unknown said...

This is the definitive resource for sci-fi writers. May I suggest that instead of only highlighting year-to-year changes in prose, you consider an up- or down-angle (with a number, if a mag moves by more than one slot)? You're wise to give some sway to recency with your three-year window, but this would be a genuinely useful addition. Thank you for all the great work!

Unknown said...

That last comment was from Mitch Berman. (I don't yet have a blogger account.)