Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

Month: March 2016

Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers

In the last month, I’ve been in Boston, Houston, Orlando, and Brooklyn. Last night, the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers group had me speak as part of their Expert Meetup series. The topic was one I’ve talked about (formally and informally) at all of those stops: the state of the short fiction field. In last night’s talk, I made reference to several data posts and editorials I’ve written in the last year or so. Rather than make people track them all down, I thought it might be a good idea to use this post as an index.

The 2015 Clarkesworld submissions stats I mentioned can be found here.

In April 2015, I did an analysis of the short story titles in our submissions system. This post has some comments and links to the word frequency Wordle and the most frequently used titles post.

In 2015, I ran a open survey for authors to test a theory about my story selection process. It asked authors to provide some basic demographics and the names of up to five authors that were their biggest influences. The survey results and my theory can be found here. I also included demographic information here.

Last September, I published my first Sad Truth editorial. I didn’t mention it last night, but it has bearing on the field as a whole. This one talked about short fiction reviews and how the current system fails us. Details here.

That editorial was followed by the Sad Truth about Short Fiction Magazines. This is the one that is being talked about at Eastercon this weekend and triggered more than a couple of knee-jerk responses over the whole hobby/IRS thing. The piece was inspired by some thoughts I was gathering for my introduction to The Best Science Fiction of the Year. Read here.

A side comment “Maybe we should be talking about how we can make short fiction magazines thrive rather than simply survive.” was on Facebook here and generated a lot of discussion. I plan on expanding on this at some point using some of the things I mentioned last night.

If I forgot something (or you’d like some further detail or different data slice), please leave a comment or email and I’ll add it.

I appear to have inspired a panel

A friend suggested I take a look at the program for Mancunicon (2016 Eastercon) and it appears as though I’m responsible for a panel:

Supporting the Short Stuff
Room 7, 1pm – 2pm
Val Nolan, Ruth EJ Booth, Matthew Hughes, Juliet Kemp, E.G. Cosh
In his editorial for the November 2015 issue of Clarkesworld, Neil Clarke warned that the current boom in SF short fiction may be coming to an end: new markets are appearing continuously, but very few have truly viable business models in the sense of being able to sustain themselves and pay their editors and contributors. At the same time, the growth in markets has been a key factor in the increasing diversity of SF short fiction. So is the current landscape healthy or not? Is it realistic to aspire to full sustainability for today’s magazines, or is limited crowdfunding enough (or even advantageous)? Is a crash coming, and if it is what should we do about it?

It’s a bit of a dramatic interpretation of my editorial, but hey, if it gets people talking about building a sustainable future for short fiction then I’m good with that. As I see it, we have two paths (more likely a combination of the two):

  1. The number of magazines self-corrects downward making the marketplace more sustainable
  2. We market better and bring more people into the community, giving the field a bit of a boost

I’ll add some counter-questions to their list:

  • Is it realistic to expect people to continue publishing when they lose money or go unpaid? Most people seem to agree that authors should be paid? Why is it such a stretch to think that editors/publishers also should be?
  • Why assume that loss of a few markets will decrease diversity? If anything, I’m fairly convinced that diversity leads to point #2 above. The field has to stop looking beyond what the traditional borders. We’re publishing globally and need to start thinking that way.
  • When you “save” a magazine via a campaign or some other initiative, have you corrected the problem or merely delayed the inevitable? Time does not solve a failing business and they seldom change.

In the end, I’m pulling for #2 and consider my editorial (and other things I’ve said on this subject) to be a warning flare. Something has to change.

2015 Clarkesworld Submissions Stats

Every now and then, I dive into the data from the Clarkesworld Magazine submissions system. This time, I’m looking at our 2015 data.

This data includes stories submitted or accepted in 2015. It doesn’t represent all stories published in 2015. (Some stories published in 2015 were submitted or accepted in 2014. Some stories submitted or accept in 2015 were published in 2016.)

This data does not include our Chinese translations. (They are handled through a different process.)

In looking over this data, please keep in mind that these charts represent QUANTITATIVE data which would incorrectly imply that all stories are equal. The process of selecting stories for publication is a QUALITATIVE process reflective of our opinions. If we were to receive more zombie stories than any other kind of story, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that we would be more likely to publish zombie stories. I don’t like zombie stories, so we don’t publish them. Quantity can be misleading in a qualitative process.


The spike in June corresponds with the increase in our upper word count limit to 16,000. A number of writing-for-pay websites capitalized on the announcement and sent hundreds of people our way.


We get fewer submissions on the weekend.


This chart shows the submissions by month in blue and the “near miss” letters by month in red. In 2015, 2.53% of all submissions received our top-tier rejection letter. The monthly average for submissions was just over 1000 and the first two months of 2016 have trended higher.


The red line represents top-tier rejections and the green line represent acceptances. The acceptance rate for 2015 was 0.3%.


In 2015, we received submissions from 109 different countries. In the above chart, the blue bar represents the percentage of total submissions for that country. The green bar indicates the percentage of all acceptances. (Reminder: The Chinese translations are handled by a separate process and not included in these numbers.)

Note: If you feel inclined to proclaim that this data indicates that I have a bias towards international submissions, perhaps you should read this editorial. That said, it pleases me that Clarkesworld has a more global representation of science fiction. There’s a lot of great work written beyond our shores.


This chart breaks out “other” in the prior chart and only includes countries from which we received 10 or more stories. Interestingly, China’s numbers have fallen despite our special translation project. I’m wonder if Chinese authors think that’s their only way in now. (It isn’t.)


In this chart, blue bars represent the percentage of submissions and green indicates the percentage of accepted stories. 2015 was a very strong year for science fiction submissions. I was hesitant to post this graph for fear of discouraging writers in other genres. We want those submissions too.

This last bit of data doesn’t require a chart. The average word count for our 2015 story submissions was 4495. That’s fairly consistent across genres with the exceptions of horror (shorter) and SF/F (longer). Acceptances, however, averaged 5650 words. I expect both of these values to climb slightly in 2016. (More to do with the higher word count limit than a specific preference.)



Clarkesworld Magazine – March 2016


Our March 2016 issue (#114) contains:

  • Original stories by Jack Skillingstead (“Salvage Opportunity”), A.C. Wise (“Seven Cups of Coffee”), Leena Likitalo (“The Governess with a Mechanical Womb”), Kij Johnson (“Coyote Invents the Land of the Dead”),  and Gu Shi (“Chimera”).
  • Reprints by Cecelia Holland (“The King of Norway”) and Karl Bunker (“Gray Wings”).
  • Non-fiction by Mark Cole (The Age of the Excessive Machine: Psychedelic SF, On-Screen and Off), an interview with Charlie Jane Anders, an Another Word column by Genevieve Valentine, and an editorial by Neil Clarke.

Amazon Kindle
Clarkesworld Android App – Google Play
Clarkesworld iPad/iPhone App – iTunes
Weightless EPUB/MOBI

Forever Magazine – March 2016


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