In the middle of 2020, I posted some data about the history of international submissions at Clarkesworld. Now, with 2020 behind us, I decided I to fill in the rest of the year’s data and see if anything changed.
Before I go any further, I’m often asked why I care about this subject. Quite simply, I believe that to get the best stories, you have to cast a wide net. Since science fiction is global, I think the net should be too. No country, region, or language has a monopoly on great science fiction. Unfortunately, the history of the field works against my goal. For various reasons–which could be a post in itself–a large percentage of writers around the world don’t feel welcome. I’ve said it before, the number one question I’m asked by authors from other parts of the world is whether or not they are allowed to send me a story. Sure, I can reach the ones that ask, but the others take more work. These posts, and the data behind them, help me track the holes in the net and any monitor any progress (or lack of) made over the years.
These efforts do not determine or shape what we will accept. They influence what we can accept. They create opportunities for us to discover something we might have otherwise missed out on. On principle, we do not solicit stories. Every story in the slush pile is given the same opportunity. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve accomplished previously, or where you are from.
Let’s start with the first graph:
Even with a half-year of extra data, we didn’t see much more than a 0.5 variation in the data from mid-year to full-year. The trends observed in the first half of the year held. This was a pleasant surprise. On a monthly level, 2020 didn’t follow any of the regular patterns. It was clear that the pandemic was having an impact, but in the aggregate, the ups and downs balanced out. As the year closed, we inched (by seven stories) past our previous annual record for total submissions. While it’s been fairly typical for our submissions volume to increase from year-to-year, we did experience a significant decrease when we stopped considering horror stories. That gap has now been filled and we are back to averaging 1100 submissions per month.
The orange line in the above graph represents submissions from the US. As we’ve managed to encourage submissions other countries that percentage has steadily dropped, often around a percent each year. In 2020, however, we saw a change that was nearly double that of the largest shift we’ve experienced in the past. Percentages don’t tell the whole story though. Submissions from the US grew by several hundred in 2020. Looking at these numbers, it helps to keep in mind that the US only represents around 4.25% of the global population.
It’s easier to read the graph when you pull the US out. Due to their weight, the UK, Canada, Australia, and India have been broken out and their own lines. It’s worth noting that India and Australia are now running within 15 stories of one another. Trends for both suggest that India will pass Australia soon.
“Other” is not my favorite way of representing things, but it helps demonstrate how significant the remaining countries are in aggregate. The top ten in “other” are Nigeria, Germany, Brazil, Netherlands, New Zealand, Ireland, Japan, South Africa, Philippines, and Italy. Of those, Nigeria has shown the most significant growth in recent years and has started moving away from the pack. At their current rate, they’ll be broken out from “other” next year.
Side note: There are some interesting country-level trends involving the genres we’re receiving. I’ve done some preliminary work on this and hope to find the time to complete it. As our publication stats would indicate, we do publish some genres more than others, so understanding these trends could be quite helpful.
This was the only chart with a significant change over mid-year. I would have been surprised if we didn’t see an increase, but to have surpass 2019’s high is a pleasant surprise and another positive metric for the year.
The work continues.