On May 11, the finalists for the 2015 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF of 2014 were announced by The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. This year’s list includes two stories from F&SF, “In Her Eyes” by Seth Chambers (Jan/Feb 2014) and “The Lightness of the Movement” by Pat MacEwan (Mar/Apr 2014).
Both “In Her Eyes” by Seth Chambers and “The Lightness of the Movement” by Pat MacEwan were also named 2014 James Tiptree Jr. Awards Honors stories.
The annual award honors short fiction in the spirit of Theodore Sturgeon, who was closely identified with the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Sturgeon is famous for his novel More Than Human, his book reviews, and the episodes he wrote for the original Star Trek series. But he is best known for the more than 200 stories he wrote.
Sturgeon’s frequently reprinted story “The Hurkle is a Happy Beast” was published in Fall 1949 in the first issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and then selected for inclusion in The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1950. With its second issue, the new periodical changed its name to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Sturgeon published more than a dozen stories in F&SF between the first issue and 1983, including 1960 Hugo finalist “The Man Who Lost the Sea,” 1963 Hugo finalist for novella “When You Care, When You Love,” and 1969 Nebula finalist “The Man Who Learned Loving.”
The Sturgeon Memorial Award is selected by a jury that consists of Elizabeth Bear, Andy Duncan, James Gunn, Kij Johnson, and Nöel Sturgeon, Trustee of the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Estate. A complete list of this year’s finalists may be found at http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/sturgeon-finalists.htm. The awards will be presented during the Campbell Conference on Friday, June 12, as part of the Campbell Conference held annually at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
“The Fisher Queen” is also a finalist for this year’s Nebula Award for short story, which will be announced in Chicago in June.
The Shirley Jackson Awards are given in recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. They’re voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics.
Shirley Jackson was a contributor to F&SF in the 1950s with her stories “One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts” (January 1955), “The Missing Girl” (December 1957), and “The Omen” (March 1958). Jackson, who lived from 1916 to 1965, wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and is famous for her story “The Lottery.” Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of genre and literary fiction.
The 2014 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on Sunday, July 12, 2016, at Readercon 26, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Burlington, Massachusetts. The complete ballot with all the nominees can be found at: http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/2015/05/07/2014-shirley-jackson-awards-nominees-announced/
A few months ago, I was at a retirement party for a newspaper editor and the subject of publishing material online for free came up. “Who ever thought it was a good idea to give away your main product for free?” asked one veteran journalist. “I remember when I was at Time and we looked at it. One of the smartest people I know said, ‘If you start giving it away, no one’s going to pay for it.’”
That comment has been echoing in my head a lot lately. At Readercon, a veteran editor told me, “Even with PayPal, I think it’s going to get harder and harder to get anyone to pay for anything online. There’s just too much out there for free.”
On August 3, John Scalzi posted in his blog (http://scalzi.com/whatever/?p=1231) that his story “After the Coup” published at www.tor.com has already gotten 49,566 hits, which is close to the combined circulations for Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF. When I pointed out that he was comparing the number of paying customers with the number of people who took a freebie, he replied, ‘Well, on my end, I’m comparing eyeballs to eyeballs.’”
Here at F&SF, we’re open to experimentation and for the past year or so, we’ve been publishing one reprint a month on our Website. Last month, the free story was “The Political Officer” by Charles Coleman Finlay. A few days ago, someone posted on our message board (http://nightshadebooks.com/discus/messages/378/12233.html?1219150161) that he wanted to read that story. I explained that it was no longer on our Website but he could buy a copy of that back issue from us or from Fictionwise.
As I did so, I realized that I was putting a reader in a position where he had to decide if he would pay for something he could have had for free just a few days earlier . . . which doesn’t strike me as a good position. I know that I don’t like being asked to make such a choice.
So I started to wonder: has short fiction been devalued by the fact that so many places offer it for free online nowadays?
I was thinking of this question in terms of contrast with trilogies. The format of a trilogy has been around for a long time, but I think it’s accurate to say that in the 1970s and ‘80s, book publishers (especially the team of Lester and Judy-Lynn del Rey) trained readers to expect fantasy fiction to come in series formats, particularly in sets of three. For instance, Stephen Donaldson’s original Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were one book—the del Reys split it into three volumes and published the trilogy to great success. Nowadays, it’s noteworthy when someone published a fantasy novel and nothing indicates that the book is the start of a series.
I look at trilogies and the form appears to me to be thriving. But I don’t see many publishers giving away the books for free. By contrast, I see publishers posting short fiction for free in many places, but I don’t see many of those publishers reaping rewards for their efforts. I think short fiction giveaways have been good for individual authors, but are they working for publishers?
Also, I realized that I’ve done something extremely stupid. I’ve run an experiment without trying to measure the results. Sure, we’ve looked at the number of hits our online stories and columns get, and we’ve done one or two other things to measure the effects of our online publications, but we’ve never done a survey.
So I’m posting now to ask for feedback on a few things:
- When you read a story online that you like, do you feel inclined to support the publisher of the piece?
- Have you ever subscribed to a print magazine on account of a story you read on their site?
- Most magazine publishers post their Hugo- and Nebula-nominated stories online for free. If F&SF started charging the cost of an issue to read these stories, would you do so?
- Do you think the prevalence of free short fiction online has made you less inclined to pay for short fiction?
Please note that I’m trying to keep the discussion just to fiction (not articles).
If you would care to do so, I’d be grateful if you’d include your age with your post. No need to get specific—I just want to know if you’re in your teens or if you’re in your eighties.
And finally, please be aware that I plan to convert this post into an editorial for the print magazine, so don’t post anything here that you wouldn’t want me to reprint. If you’d like to comment but don’t want to do so in public, you can use the Contact Us form on our Website (here: http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/contact.htm). Write “DNQ” on your email if you don’t want to be quoted.
Thanks for your feedback.
Congrats to David Moles, whose story from F&SF, "Finisterra" (Dec. 2007), has won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, which is given annually to the best science fiction short story, novelette or novella of the year. It was presented this weekend at the 2008 Campbell Conference in Lawrence, Kansas. (Note: "Finisterra" actually tied with "Tidelines" by Elizabeth Bear, so technically both won.) Other F&SF stories tied for second place: between "Memorare" by Gene Wolfe (Apr. 2007) and "The Master Miller’s Tale" by Ian R. MacLeod (May 2007).
F&SF has been named a finalist for the International Horror Guild Awards in the best periodical category. Congratulations to us!
Congratulations too, to our authors who are also on the ballot.
- Laird Barron, for his short story collection The Imago Sequence
- "The Bone Man" by Fredric S. Durbin (December 2007)
- "The Great White Bed" by Don Webb (May 2007)