Clarkesworld Turns Ten – Part Four – The Beginning

I’m sure I’ve written about the birth of Clarkesworld before, but I can’t remember when or where. Over the course of ten years, details can become fuzzy, so I hope I have this right.

Clarkesworld was born in the aftermath of the closure of Sci Fiction, the SciFi channel’s online magazine edited by Ellen Datlow. It wasn’t the first–or even one of the earliest–but it was well-respected, which made it unique for its time. It’s loss prompted people to be worried and dismissive of the future of online magazines.

At the time, I was running an online bookstore, Clarkesworld Books, that featured a wide array of science fiction magazines. Working with the editors of some of those magazines, I started posting sample content on our website as a promotional tool. One of those editors was Sean Wallace at Fantasy Magazine.

During the Meet the Pros party at the 2006 Readercon, Sean and I fell into a conversation about that experiment, the death of Sci Fiction, and why the casualty rate for online magazines was so high. As the night wore on, we tried to come up with a plan that would allow one of these publications to survive. By the end of the night, we had convinced ourselves that we could do it. By the end of the weekend, we had the magazine fully staffed.

The original plan was to attach the magazine to the bookstore. It would feature one established author–someone we could promote books for and sell through the bookstore–and someone earlier in their career. From the beginning, it was important to us that new voices be a part of this. At the end of the first year, we’d publish an anthology and sales from that would make up the lion’s share of our income. The rest could be considered a marketing expense and there were always donations…

A lot of people were willing to provide advice. The most common thoughts were “don’t do it” and “it will be dead in a year.” A certain level of stubbornness, foolishness, and passion are required to enter this field and I was already over the edge. I doubt that anything said–unless it was from Lisa–would have deterred me at that point. There were a number of things that did help though, including the advice that I tell people to this day: “know how much you are willing to lose and don’t cross that line.”

About a year later, family matters dictated that I close the bookstore. The magazine, however, would become part of a publishing company I planned to launch in place of the bookstore. Again, lots of good advice from those in the know. Much of it similar and a lot more of it useful. The first book from Wyrm Publishing was Realms 1: The First Year of Clarkesworld. That book pushed us over into the black for our first year.

[Side note: The first two volumes of our anthologies were titled Realms largely because I never really liked the Clarkesworld name. The bookstore inherited it out of laziness from the family domain it started on and the magazine inherited it from the bookstore. I was never comfortable with my name being there front and center. I’ve since come to accept and embrace the name of the magazine for what it is. When the first two volumes go out of print, they will be reissued under the Clarkesworld name.]

The issues from our first year were nothing more than two stories–under four thousand words each–and a cover. Why so small? It’s all our budget permitted and what I felt comfortable producing. We started our second year by adding non-fiction and ended by adding podcasts, a slow growth that continues today. The learning curve during those first couple of years was steep at times and not without difficulty. The learning process continues, but that was the opening chapter that enabled us to find our stride/voice and set course for where we are today.

Clarkesworld Turns Ten – Part Three – The Podcast

As I’ve mentioned before, for our first year, each issue of Clarkesworld was just two stories and a cover. We launched the non-fiction in our second year and the podcast later at issue 21. That means this month we are also celebrating one hundred months of podcasting.

As an editor, I feel some personal responsibility to see to it that our stories are seen by as many people as possible. Knowing that there was a significant audience for audio fiction that didn’t necessarily have reading time–or liked reading online–I started looking into the possibility of adding a podcast to Clarkesworld. Sometimes the universe conspires to put the right person in your path. In this case, it was Mary Robinette Kowal, an accomplished narrator, who had just sold us “Clockwork Chickadee.” She agreed to narrate it for us and a very bare-bones Clarkesworld podcast was born.

For the next few months, Mary and Cat Rambo provided us with a single narration per issue. When neither was available for our January 2009 issue, Mary suggested that I reach out to Kate Baker. I hadn’t heard any of Kate’s narrations before, but Mary’s recommendation was sufficient for me. After a few emails went back-and-forth–Kate likes to tell the story about how she almost priced herself out of that first narration–Kate agreed to narrate “Celadon” by Desirina Boskovich.

I had Kate record a few more stories for us throughout 2009 and was consistently impressed with the quality of her work. When we finally crossed paths that year at the Montreal Worldcon, we chatted for a while. I’m pretty sure that this is where I invited Kate to join our staff as the–we didn’t know what to call the position then–podcast director. Clarkesworld lost the Hugo Award to Weird Tales that weekend, but we gained an incredibly valuable addition to the team. Best hire I’ve ever made.

Under Kate’s leadership, the podcast continued to grow and improve. While I understood the technology, podcasting was never an area of expertise for me and I made several rookie mistakes. Kate knew what it took to have a professional show and quickly placed us on the right track. Over the next few years, the audience grew steadily, the number of shows increased, and Kate became known as “the voice of Clarkesworld.

If you’ve never listened, give it a try sometime. You can listen right from our website or…

  • To have each episode sent to you via iTunes or email, visit this page.
  • If you use Stitcher, you can find us here.
  • Listening via Google Play? Subscribe here.

WSFA Small Press Award 2016

This weekend, the WSFA Small Press Award winner was announced at Capclave. We had three stories on the ballot (“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer, “The Empress in all Her Glory” by Robert Reed, and “Today I am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker) and a long history of other finalists since this award first launched. On several occasions, it has been joked that we are the Susan Lucci of this Award… many nominations, but never a win.

Sadly, Naomi, Robert, and Martin were not able to attend. I have a small stack of unread acceptance speeches from our prior finalists, but nothing in hand from this year’s crew. Naturally, this was realized just before dinner that evening–the award ceremony was to follow–, so I came up with a quick emergency plan.

When they announced that “Today I am Paul” won, I made my way to the stage, briefly stopping to thwack a friend (I believe he started the Susan Lucci reference). When I reached the stage, I said something along the lines of:

“So, I’ve been told that we’re the Susan Lucci of this award, so at dinner, I decide to see what she had to say when she finally won her Emmy and it works, so…”

I then read a slightly reworded version of the first paragraph of her acceptance speech and then went on to say that in all seriousness, thank you. I know that Martin would have liked to have been there, but the cost of travel being what it was, etc. Instead he was at a convention more local to him that weekend. I mentioned that I knew the story was very personal to Martin and that this award would mean a great deal to him. I forget what else I said, as is typical to these moments.

At one point, the crowd mentioned I should call him, but I didn’t have his number, so we took pictures instead. The audience cheered while I took their picture, then had me capture shots of the screen and, for some reason, the ceiling. I then retreated to the sidelines to try to reach Martin by email and Twitter. The actual award showed up later, so I took pictures of that and his certificate as well. After I noticed he surfaced on Facebook, I posted photos to his wall for all to see.

audience

I couldn’t be happier for Martin. Aside from publishing it in Clarkesworld, I made it the lead story in the first volume of Best Science Fiction of the Year. It’s an amazing tale and as I mentioned, a personal–and very moving–one to boot. If you ever have the chance to hear him read it, do so.

By the way, later Martin asked if I started the speech with “Today I am Martin.” That’s why he’s the writer and I am not. Wish I had thought of that one!

Here’s a photo of the actual award. They give one to the publisher and one to the author–which I think is a really nice gesture on their part–so I’ll have one on my shelf too. I’ll be sending Martin his when the post office reopens tomorrow.

smallpress

Thank you WSFA!

Clarkesworld Turns Ten – Part two

Monthly October 2016 October 2006
Readers: 39000 online, 3000 digital, 10000 audio 3000 online
Submissions: 1200, open all year 250, open most months
Original Stories: 5-6 2
Reprint Stories: 2 none
Non-Fiction: 4 none

Clarkesworld Turns Ten – Part One

I have a hard time believing that this month’s issue of Clarkesworld marks our 10th anniversary. When I started publishing this back in 2006, I never would have guessed the path it would set me on. Aside from decades of reading and enjoying short fiction, I came into this field with no experience and at a time where online magazines had very little credibility. Those early years were a struggle in some ways and a joy in others. Times have changed–and so has Clarkesworld–but I’ve never regretted a moment of it.

I have so many people to thank for this and it’s important I start there. First I’d like to single out Sean Wallace and Kate Baker. They’ve been with me longer than any others and I’ll never find better friends or colleagues.

Thanks also go to:

  • Former editors: Nick Mamatas, Ekaterina Sedia, Cheryl Morgan, and Jason Heller
  • Current and past slush readers: Sean Markey, Paul Abbamondi, Daniel Robichaud, Nayad Monroe, Justin Howe, Halsted M. Bernard, Rebecca Adams Wright, Jamie Lackey, Jason Strawsburg, Cynthia Bermudez, Aimee Picchi, Leslianne Wilder, John Emery DeLong, Carolyn O’Connor, Fabio Fernandes, Jessica Silbaugh-Cowdin, Chris Urie, and Terra LeMay
  • Interviewers (some who’ve done few, some who’ve done many): Jeff VanderMeer, Tobias S. Buckell, Jeremy L.C. Jones, Jason B. Jones, Jason S. Ridler, Neddal Ayal, Nayad A. Monroe, Peter Hodges, Ben Fry, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Jason Heller, Ken Liu, Chris Urie, and Nick Stember
  • Guest Narrators: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cat Rambo, Mike Allen, Shaun Farrell, Mur Lafferty, Catherynne M. Valente, James Patrick Kelly, Alastair Stuart, Marguerite Kenner, and Dan Kelly
  • Authors: Far too many to mention, look here
  • Artists: Same, best to see their work here

(If I’ve missed someone, please let me know. Ten years is a long time and a lot of names to keep track of.)

A big final thank you goes to our subscribers, listeners, and readers. Your support, whether for ten years or the last ten minutes, is appreciated.

Clarkesworld wouldn’t have made it this far this without you.