Fiction Magazines Worth Reading: 2010
It's been just over a year since I posted about the fiction magazines I felt were still worth reading, and already two magazines I liked (Farrogo's Wainscot and the not-mentioned-but-should-have-been Lone Star Stories) have gone out of business. Since then, I've also read a lot more widely, discovering new venues. Given that these things may continue to happen, it seemed appropriate enough to turn the list into a yearly outing. There's a glut of completely unreadable fiction magazines out there (with the "literary" magazines tending toward tepid boredom and the genre magazines tending toward uninspired hack-work), and the world sorely needs someone to sort through them and pick out the ones that are actually worth paying attention to.
Also, if your looking for places to place your own fiction and poetry, there's no better resource than Duotrope Digest, which has a great search feature as well as submission tracking, favorites and other features.
Note: If you publish a fiction magazine that you would like considered for this list please email email@example.com. If your magazine is not available for free online, please include an electronic review copy.
The marker "2" indicates this is the second year the magazine has made the list.
The marker "*" indicates this magazine is most highly recommended.
Bills itself as: a collaborative project designed to present readers with a new piece of short science and speculative ‘flash’ fiction each day.
They published me, so perhaps I'm biased, but 365 Tomorrows still delivers small doses of speculative fiction every day, and even when those doses aren't particularly good, they're still entertaining (and short). At they're best, though, they're brilliant and checking as part of a daily routine (or RSS feed read through) is fun.
Apex magazine just became really interesting, because they hired as their new fiction editor Cathryn Valente, a remarkably talented fiction writer in her own right. It's more than obvious that the fiction editor makes or breaks a magazine, and so I eagerly await what the Valente-helmed Apex will come out with on August 2nd.
Available free online as well as ebook-formatted versions through Smashwords (epub and others) and the Kindle store. Also includes stories in audio format.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies *
Bills itself as: "Literary adventure fantasy": stories with a secondary-world setting and some traditional or classic fantasy feel, but written with a literary flair.
Mixing literary and genre sensibilities is what I like best, and that plus the fact that BCS is an online magazine that pays the unusually high rate of 5 cents a word (SFWA calls this a "professional" rate, though that remains pretty laughable) means this is attracting some real talent. I especially liked, from the most recent issue, The Circus of King Minos' Masque. I'm also encouraged by their offering epub and PDF downloads of their stories for us ebook reader owners, something I think all fiction magazines should do. Some stories are also available in audio format. Like Electric Literature (below) they seem to just be doing things right.
Bills itself as: A monthly science fiction and fantasy magazine first published in October 2006. Each issue contains at least two pieces of original fiction from new and established authors.
Neil Clarke's magazine is still a pretty reliable place to find quality science fiction and fantasy.
Includes fiction in audio format.
Bills itself as: Innovative fiction, poetry, criticism, drama, art and interviews by both emerging and established writers. For over two decades, Conjunctions' contribution to the literary community has been to provide a forum for the now over 1000 writers and artists whose work challenges accepted forms and modes of expression, experiments with language and thought, and is fully realized art.
Generally publishes interesting work, often unusual and experimental, in many genres and formats including short plays.
Electric Literature *
Bills itself as: Electric Literature’s mission is to use new media and innovative distribution to return the short story to a place of prominence in popular culture. We are a quarterly anthology of five top-notch short stories, delivered in every viable medium.
I've written about Electric Literature before and how they seem to be doing everything right, and not just because they have the infinite wisdom to advertise on this site. But don't think I'm saying this for the clams, Electric Literature is the real deal, a magazine doing online and print-on-demand issues to keep down costs, paying contributors real money, and putting out five star fiction every single issue. They're also doing lots of interesting things with video.
Okay, I admit they published Rick Moody who I don't like, and even did some Twitter thing with him that I didn't really follow, but caused some kind of bruhaha. But they've also published Jim Shephard, who I adore, and Colson Whitehead and Aimee Bender and other truly magnificent writers delivering truly magnificent stories. So go buy an issue!
Electric Velocipede 2
Published by John Klima, who also put together the excellent Logorrhea anthology (see my review in the New Haven Review). Consistently good Slipstream-type work, with writers like Jeffery Ford, Jeff VanderMeer and Hal Duncan.
Bills itself as: Everyday Weirdness collects weird works—prose & poetry, artwork & illustration, and a variety of other media—and strives to publish them 7 days a week for your enjoyment.
With a similar model to 365 Tomorrows, Everyday Weirdness publishes daily flash fiction, as well as poetry, comics, artwork, audio and animation, none of which is designed to take more than 5 minutes to experience. Truly interesting, and a publication that takes full advantage of the many media that can be delivered via the web.
Fantasy Magazine 2
Bills itelf as: Fantasy Magazine is an online weekly magazine of all forms of fantasy fiction. High fantasy, contemporary and urban tales, surrealism, magical realism, science fantasy, and folktales can all be found in our pages.
Reliably good fantasy under 5,000 words.
A Fly in Amber 2
The stories tend to be more plot-oriented, which probably has something to do with its embrace of high-school-age writers. Still, always readable, always fun. Makes me wish there were more specifically young-adult-oriented fiction magazines (and why aren't there? With the success of Harry Potter and Twilight, you'd think someone would figure out that young adults read).
Note: Last year I reported that this magazine was edited by Shelley Jackson, the novelist. It turns out that it is actually edited by Shelly Jackson, the non-fiction and academic writer.
GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator
Bills itself as: Fiction, information, poetry, art. The best of the best. We can print the quality that we do because our business model is built for artists and consumers, not for ourselves.
There were a number of really excellent stories in the review copy of this magazine that was sent to me (issue 5)— odd, uncomfortable stories in a variety of different genres (sf, crime, realism) and poetry, comics and a play as well (including reprints of the Internet-beloved Babbage and Lovelace comics). My favorite was "Nature's Children," which is as interesting an exploration of humans-encountering-an-alien-they-cannot-comprehend story as you're likely to find. Granted not all if it was stellar; the humorous play wore on a little long, and there was a story called "The Tiger Man" that started as a meditation on introversion and personality disorder but dissolved into a polyamorous, furry sex fantasy (gah!). But all in all, this is a good magazine and worth reading.
Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet 2 *
Bills itself as: The fiction we publish most of tends toward but is not limited to the speculative. This does not mean only quietly desperate stories. We will consider items that fall out with regular categories.
In the past, I've called Kelly Link perhaps the best short story writer working today. The 'zine she edits with her husband, Gavin J. Grant, is still one of the best places to find short fiction, and is available in print and electronic (epub) formats.
McSweeney's Quarterly 2
Dave Eggers literary juggernaut just keeps on rolling. Often silly, sometimes too clever and cute for its own good but always interesting and different, McSweeney's is still a welcome alternative to the big literary magazines. Also, the website is often very funny.
One Story 2 *
Bills itself as: A literary magazine that contains, simply, one story. Approximately every three weeks, subscribers are sent One Story in the mail. This story will be an amazing read. Each issue is artfully designed, lightweight, easy to carry, and ready to entertain on buses, in bed, in subways, in cars, in the park, in the bath, in the waiting rooms of doctors, on the couch in the afternoon or on line at the supermarket.
I've talked a lot about One Story. I even interviewed the people who make it. It's still the best print format around, and it's gaining nothing but cred with the success of it's editor-in-chief, Hanna Tinti's, novel The Good Thief. Another example of a good writer making for a good editor.
A Public Space 2
Bills itself as: An independent magazine of literature and culture. Founded in 2006, the magazine is a forum for new ideas and new conversations, and each issue brings together a wide range of global voices to tell the stories of the twenty-first century.
Has published great stories by people like Kelly Link and William Vollman.
Strange Horizons 2
Bills itself as: A weekly web-based magazine of and about speculative fiction. The term "speculative fiction" refers to what is more commonly known as "sci-fi," but which properly embraces science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, slipstream, and a host of sub-genres.
Weird Tales 2 *
Bills itself as: The place where two storytelling concepts meet: speculative and alternative. In 1923, when the magazine was originally founded, those two ideas amounted to the same thing. Weird Tales was launched to showcase writers trying to publish stories so bizarre and far out, no one else would publish them — stories of unearthly dimensions and dark possibilities, gothic seductresses and cosmic monstrosities. Today, Weird Tales carries that mission forward into the 21st century, finding the most talented new writers, artists, and creators whose visions are too incredible to fit within the comfortable little boxes of everyday experience.
Edited by Ann VanderMeer, who along with her husband Jeff has also edited some of the best anthologies in recent memory, including The New Weird, Best American Fantasy 1 & 2, and others. This is a constant source of wonderful, bizarre stories and one of my favorite fiction magazines.