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

Clarkesworld Magazine Going Social…

Over the last few days, I’ve exchanged a few emails with Erin Hoffman, author of  “An Open Source Speculative Fiction Magazine Model.” In that post she says:

“Modern smaller magazines today are not focusing enough on this community growth. They aren’t growing their online forums, they aren’t giving their subscribers the opportunity to express themselves and connect with each other, they aren’t holding location-based annual events specifically designed to get subscribers connecting and generating their own communities. They aren’t providing social tools or branching into the explosively growing social networking movement.”

Clarkesworld Magazine inherited a forum from my bookstore.  It needs a lot of work and and I’ll be posting about my plans for that later.  What I’d rather focus on today is going social.  Up until two months ago, Clarkesworld was basically anti-social.  There was no room for reader participation except on our failing message board.  When we added non-fiction, I decided that the time had come to allow comments and in the first two months we have a bit of activity.  Something I’m discovering now is that I should be insisting that our non-fiction authors and perhaps even the interviewees, stop in an respond to the conversation.  Talking to a wall, is no better than not being able to talk.

At this point, I haven’t allowed comments on the fiction.  It just doesn’t seem right to me, but I think I’m being old-fashioned.  What do you think?  There is a lot more I can do improve on-site social opportunities.  I can work on adding contests, live author chats, more non-fiction, and even open up the fiction.  With changes to the site and forums, I think we’ll be in good shape, but I think I’m making it sound easier than it is.

Social networking is also marketing.  Clarkesworld has used a Myspace account for marketing for a while now.  It links to the magazine, but I never linked the magazine back to it, so when I was talking with Erin, she was completely unaware that we had a MySpace presence.  I’ve since fixed that.  Anyhow, Erin is very well-informed about social networks and managed to point me towards some services that I didn’t know about.  For example, while I’ve been using Facebook for a while, I didn’t know that they had opened up some business services.

The long and short of this is that Clarkesworld Magazine now has a growing presence on:


and I’m looking into connecting Clarkesworld to Facebook’s new Beacon service.  What this does is give me the option to send  “YOUR NAME just read Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky by Ken Scholes at Clarkesworld Magazine” to your Facebook profile.  (with your permission, of course)  Seems cool and I understand that places like Blockbuster already dove headlong into this feature.  Inspired, I started poking around and found this:

Sharethis allows, from a single button, a visitor to a site to send that page’s link to a variety of social networking sites like Digg, Facebook, and StumbleUpon.  It even has a more traditional  “tell a friend” email option.  It turns out that this is extremely easy to integrate into a site.  You’ll now find that little green icon at the bottom of each story or article in Clarkesworld Magazine.  Now if you find something you know a friend would enjoy, you can send them a link right from our site. Go on, you know you want to try it. 🙂

Very exciting… and I’ve only scratched the surface.


Clarkesworld and Donations


December Clarkesworld Cover


  1. While I think that comments for discussion and response are great on the non-fiction articles, I don’t think that they belong on the fiction.

    • Thanks! I’ve had a few friends trying to convince me that it’s really no different than reviews posted on Amazon, but I’m still on the fence.

  2. I think it’s fantastic a major market like yours is looking into the many things highlighted by the ‘big three/online media’ debate. Whilst many people are ripping apart magazines for not looking to the future, you’re acting ahead of the curve to see what you can do to improve Clarkesworld. That’s a great credit to you.

    I think comments to fiction would be intriguing and possibly a great way to stimulate debate – i know some online fiction sites have forum posts devoted to the stories featured. I think it could be a fantastic idea but you’d have to be very very quick on the moderation button, maybe even vetting comments before they could be posted. And your idea of encouraging the writer to reply to comments is a key part of making this a successful web 2.0 product.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks! I think this is a very exciting time to be publishing an online magazine. There are new opportunities to improve each day and I don’t understand how someone could not want to take advantage of that. I see it as a responsibility.

      I’ve had areas to discuss the fiction in the forums, so I guess I shouldn’t be so hesitant to try them on the site itself. Logically, I know that this shouldn’t be any different than people passing judgment on non-fiction. I’m thinking I need to work my way backwards from guidelines and see if I could live with what I come up with. What I really need to do is ask our authors.

  3. I have mixed feelings about the fiction commentary.


    – I worry it could be abusive if it isn’t moderated aggressively.

    – I wonder if the presence of comments, even after the story, might unduly influence a reader’s experience of the story–that is, changing it fundamentally because of someone ELSE’s perspective. Of course, nobody is forcing anyone to read the comments. Maybe there could just be a link to a separate page of story comments.


    – It would be a great unique hook for the magazine (aside from its content): “Oh, yeah! They’re the ones with the comment sections.”

    – It reminds me of the active old letter columns in the science fiction magazines of yesteryear, a way to build community over a shared reading experience–talking about the same stories.

    – It would spark some interesting discussions.

    Whatever you decide, I think it is cool that Clarkesworld is thinking of new ways to energize the genre magazine.

    • At the end of any piece on our site that allows comments, you’ll find:

      Click here to see the comments (10) or add a new comment

      Initially, I had them just appear at the end, but it was a bit distracting and annoying to those people who like to print stories out. I think this also helps deal with you “influence” problem.

      I do have a question for you though…

      Why would comments on fiction need to be moderated differently than those on non-fiction?

      • You know, that’s a good question. Come to think of it, they probably wouldn’t need to be moderated differently.

        My initial reaction was that I’d be more sensitive to commentary on my fiction because I’m more invested in it and I view it as less…negotiable, I guess. Less open to commentary somehow.

        Thinking about it more, though, any work let into the wild becomes fair game for comments of all sorts–on other message boards, in magazines, on the street. Writers have endured commentary like that for centuries.

        The only difference in your model is that the comments might be easier to find in proximity (linked, anyway) to the story.

  4. Anonymous

    Fiction comments

    “At this point, I haven’t allowed comments on the fiction. It just doesn’t seem right to me, but I think I’m being old-fashioned. What do you think?”: If you don’t allow, comments will go elsewhere! But you can be sure they will be there.

    “moderated aggressively” – guaranteed to take them elsewhere.

    I have no issue with removing abusive comments, but begin removing ones that are critical but to the point, & you are basically seeking pats-on-the-back.

    It might be useful, however, to just keep link to them on story page – you need an explicit click to see them. Because many a time, they tend to have spoilers.


    • Re: Fiction comments

      I tend to agree with you. If it was such that I had to delete critical comments, then what would be the point in allowing them. If I add comments to the fiction, the rules will have to be very clear and not associated with whether or not the person enjoyed the story.

  5. I’d love to see a comments section for the fiction. Granted, there’s always going to be the possibility of someone saying something to make you CRINGE, but the opportunity for people to say, “hey, I liked this!” is a good one to offer. 🙂

    • Thanks! Just one short look at your average Amazon reviews and I know there would be cringing. I guess I need to work on defining my expectations. Reviews, discussion, questions… maybe that’s the real reason I’m on the fence on this issue. With the non-fiction I knew exactly what I was hoping to accomplish by allowing comments.

      • As other people have already mentioned, allowing comments to short stories can have its downfalls. But Strange Horizons does it, I know that. I don’t know how they go about moderating it, if at all, but you could look to them for a template.

        Of course, one thing to remember is that some people go out of their WAY to be jerks on Amazon, because it’s such a huge site and it’s frequented by so many people. I’m not saying stories won’t get bad reviews on Clarkesworld, but for some reason, I’m suspecting the mag attracts a more, erm, mature, readership.

        But this is the internet, and jerks ARE every where…

      • As calico_reaction says, Strange Horizons has a comments section, and in my completely unscientific sampling of the section over the years almost all the comments have been brief and positive – “I really liked this!” Honestly, if you’re looking for good discussion, your problem may too few that say anything substantial, rather than too many that are trollishly critical.

        I’m interested in your ideas in building a “Clarkesworld community” because I think it’s one of the short fiction issues no one is talking about – at least, not anywhere that I’ve noticed. Part of the reason I subscribed to Asimov’s was because of the associated forum (which happens to be down for repairs at the moment), where I could find people to discuss the stories with. It’s too easy for a magazine to just publish the occasional issue that makes a small ripple over at Tangent (or now The Fix) and then disappears without a trace. And I’m much more likely to remember the stories I’ve talked about with people. So, I think that just about anything you can do to encourage that kind of discussion and group interest in Clarkesworld is a good idea.

        • Thanks! I actually spent some time yesterday checking the comments on the Strange Horizons site and you’re right. Not much of substance.

          Building a community is going to take some time and effort. I’ve either run or participated in message boards/forums since 1985 (way back in the days of Bulletin Board Systems), so I have an idea of where to start.

          Asimov’s forum is still down? It must be about a month now. Wow. That’s not good at all.

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