Visions of Paradise

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fiction websites.

While print magazines devoted to science fiction are slowly fading away–even the “Big Three” have circulations nearing 20,000 and less–online fiction venues are growing. And while there does not seem to be a successful format for making a profit yet, the online zines have been very successful as far as quality of fiction and average number of hits.

According to Locus’ annual survey, the more popular online zines are averaging between the same 20,000 readers per month on the low end, with as many as 300,000 per month on the high end!

From my perspective, there is currently a “Big Five” of online science fiction websites: started out as a print magazine intended to publicize the Subterranean line of books. Several years ago they transferred the entire zine online, complete with cover, fiction, podcasts and nonfiction. One feature of this zine that makes it somewhat unique among online publishers is that it publishes novellas and novelettes, while most other venues restrict themselves to short stories (which is weird, since space is obviously not a problem online, as it is in print zines). The current quarterly issue has 7 stories, including an audio story by Elizabeth Bear, and other stories by Robert Silverberg, Larry Niven, Mike Resnick, Caitlin R. Kiernan and Jay Lake. is a bi-monthly zine very similar in format to Subterranean, combining fiction, podcasts, and nonfiction. You have the option of browsing by issue contents, or by category (if you wish to only look for fiction they’ve published, for example), which is a convenient feature. Their authors are perhaps not as famous as those of Subterranean, but the quality is equally high. They have had stories by Yoon Ha Lee, N.K. Jemisin, Eric Brown, Robert Reed, and 2 of last year’s short story Hugo nominees. is a bit more confusing to follow since it has no dedicated contents page, but rather links scattered all over their home page for fiction and nonfiction both. Fortunately, fiction is listed across the top and links to a contents page of all fiction published, so it is easy to find. Also, as has become common in this web-centered world, rather than have its issues posted in their entirety (as in Subterranean and Clarkesworld’s models), publishes stories irregularly, so you need to check the site every few days. That being said, they feature a lot of excellent fiction by top writers (including two of last year’s Hugo-nominated novelettes). Scanning down their contents, I see John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman, Kij Johnson, Terry Bisson, Michael Bishop, Eileen Gunn, Bruce McAllister, Robert Charles Wilson, Michael Swanwick, Harry Turtledove and Charles Stross. is a relatively new magazine which posts stories, podcasts and features regularly, a la, but then collects them all as monthly issues. Recent issues have had fiction by Julie E. Czerneda, Cat Rambo, Orson Scott Card, Tanith Lee, Ursula K Le Guin, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Nancy Kress, Robert Silverberg and Stephen King. While the three previous zines were all related to book publishers, and were considered “loss leaders” to attract new readers to their books, this zine seems to be more dependent on attracting income somehow, so while I have enjoyed it so far, I wonder about its long-term future. is perhaps the longest-running online magazine, publishing weekly issues which each generally contain a story, a nonfiction article, and a handful of reviews. Its authors are not as famous as those of Lightspeed and Subterranean, but it is still of an overall high quality. Like Clarkesworld and Lightspeed, you can link to all the fiction published if you wish, where you will find stories by John Kessel, Lavie Tidhar, Carol Emshwiller, Vandana Singh, Theodora Goss, Tim Pratt and Cat Rambo.

There are many other online fiction sites, ranging from Lightspeed’s fantasy companion ( to Abyss & Apex (, Gigantosaurus (, and the ambitious Daily Science Fiction ( which publishes a story per day. But there is only so much reading one person can do, so I pretty much limit myself to the “Big Five” listed above.

If you start visiting the above sites, you may never have to pay to read a piece of short science fiction again. Happy reading!


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