Fiction Magazines Worth Reading
Not so long ago, I despaired at the idea of finding a place to publish my own fiction. Like many aspiring writers, I flipped through Writer's Market and sent stuff out to the supposed top of the short story food chain, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, etc., with predictable results (that is, rejection). But then why should I have been surprised? I didn't generally like the stories published in those magazines (they are usually, shall we say, boring). Even if I was writing the best possible stories I could in the style I liked (and I definitely wasn't) I probably wouldn't have been published in those venues. With this in mind, I set out to find short story publications that I could actually read regularly and enjoy. This is the list I've come up with (so far) in alphabetical order, though I more than welcome recommendations:
A Fly in Amber
Edited by Shelley Jackson, who is an excellent writer in her own right. 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.
A Public Space
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.
Bills itself as: "Clarkesworld is 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."
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."
Published the New Wave Fabulists issue, and generally publishes interesting work.
Published by John Klima, who also put together the excellent Logorrhea anthology. Consistently good Slipstream-type work, with writers like Jeffery Ford, Jeff VanderMeer and Hal Duncan.
Bills itself 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."
Consistently better fantasy work than rival (and more well known) print publications like Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine or Asimov's. Everything I could want in a fantasy magazine.
Bills itself as: "A quarterly journal of the literary weird in fiction, poetry, and experimental wordforms."
Treads the boundaries between mainstream and genre. Weird and excellent.
Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet
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."
Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant's little fiction zine is still one best places to find fiction, and it's only $5 and it's available online at Fictionwise.
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.
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, new novel The Good Thief.
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."
One of the best of the self-described speculative fiction magazines around, also published a longtime column by Matt Cheney, he of my recent conversations on speculative fiction.
Published a "fantastic women" issue with writers like Aimee Bender and Miranda July. Has also published excellent work by Kelly Link and others.
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."
Since Ann VanderMeer assumed editorship of this formerly floundering magazine, Weird Tales has become a constant source of wonderful, bizarre stories. A really great magazine.
Again, this represents only my own investigations and I'm more than open to suggestions. In my experience these are the best places publishing fiction (in English at least) right now.
That all said, if anything I'm even more skeptical about the format of print literary magazines than I used to be. I still think they're too long and too expensive. Especially with the rise of iPhone/iPod Touch apps like Instapaper (which lets you save webpages for reading offline), and the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle, online-only makes more and more sense for publishing in general, and the usually profitless publishing of short fiction in particular. As a writer, I'm much more likely to want my work in an online magazine where it can be read by anyone with an Internet connection than in a print magazine where it'll be read by a handful of subscribers and whoever happens to stumble across one at a Barnes and Nobles, even if the print magazines have more "clout." Tin House, McSweeney's Quarterly, A Public Space, Conjunctions, Weird Tales and even my beloved One Story would do well to start putting all their fiction (and poetry) online now. (Lady Churchill's method of putting issues for sale on Fictionwise.com I think is a good angle for those who don't want to go the free route.) Frankly, remaining in print at this point and time is just foolish.