Editorial - October/November 2006
THE TV SHOW Star Trek is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year, and since it made its debut in the world at large on the same day I did, I thought I'd use the occasion as an excuse to reflect on a few of the things I've learned from running F&SF.
- 1) Don't name a company after a genus of skunk unless you want people to ask why.
- It's a tribute to my father, whose doctoral dissertation was a taxonomic revision of the genus spilogale. Now you know.
- 2) Editing is child's play.
- Really. I became a father in March and Zoe enjoys sitting in the submissions pile. Sometimes she drools on a manuscript and those get published. The ones she spits up on, well…
- 3) Be sure to include all the punctuation when you publish an issue.
People still marvel at copies of the April 2001 issue that were printed without any periods. I remain grateful to the person who dubbed us "the unperiodical."
- 4) Even Jove nods. But readers don't.
- Never ever think you can put one over on the readers.
- 5) Give good value for the money.
- Our cover price goes up with the next issue. The guy wearing the publisher's hat around here (that would be me) was sweating over it until someone took me by the hand and showed me what paperbacks and other magazines are selling for now.
- 6) Almost no one reads the classified ads.
- Either that, or the fake ads we've been inserting for the last two years aren't as funny as I think they are.
- 7) You're never as funny as you think you are.
- I learned that from a classified ad.
- 8) Make sure you have something to appear on every page of every issue.
- Yeah, this one sounds obvious, but it still needs to be said often. And it leads to the next one:
- 9) Hire well.
- Without my sharp-eyed, hard working colleagues, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction would probably deserve a new name: Shambles.
- 10) The world changes fast.
- Three months ago, I tried an experiment in the blogsphere and gave away copies of F&SF to the first fifty people who offered to blog about the issue. Within minutes, the news of the promotion was all over the internet. Within hours, the copies were claimed. And within two weeks, it seemed like the experiment was forgotten.
- 11)…the more they stay the same.
- After editing this magazine for almost ten years (can you believe it?), I go back occasionally and reread issues from the '50s and '60s. I hope we're still on the same basic track we set out on in 1949.
- 12) The work remains.
- Okay, I knew this one before I started running F&SF. But it was driven home again by the recent deaths of John Morressy and Arthur Porges. There are some issues I can't look at without thinking of departed friends like Ron Walotsky and Judy Merril. I like to think that contributors who are no longer with us still help determine the direction the magazine takes.
- 13) This business is fun.
- Sure, there's a lot of hard work involved. But whether it's reading a new story, talking with a subscriber, or getting into a particularly spirited discussion on our message board, I'm reminded of this little lesson every day.