News: Pro mags good, semi-pros bad
Monday, November 8, 2010
I thought SF folks and publications (in general) were all in this together, and tried to promote one another to the greater good. Especially when it comes to broadening the awareness of short SF/F as opposed to all the many traditional and high circulation review publications for SF/F novels, to the detriment of the short SF/F low circulation magazines (i.e. the prozines today) Ah, well. Maybe I'm wrong. Again. :)
Although my involvement with the SFF community tends to be peripheral at best, I realised some years ago that, unlike many of the other touted 'communities' out there, it really is a community. In the sense at least of a smallish group of people, most of whom know each other, and who will help each other out both in a crisis and day-to-day. 'Pay it forward' is a common belief. Charitable drives or rallies-round are quickly got together for community members who are in trouble--viz the recent Twitter furore when Cooks Source allegedly used a writer's work without their knowledge.
So, when Dave Truesdale of Tangent Online complains that Tangent is being routinely overlooked by Locus Online, the natural reaction of the SFF community is to agree that we are all in this together, and perhaps something should be done.
Except that Mr Truesdale has recently left something of a sour taste in at least part of the community's mouth, not so much by his declaration that Tangent will no longer review the semi-pro magazines (except for certain, unnamed worthies), but by the reasons he gives.
Taken as a gestalt—the “smallness” and relative unimportance of many of the stories, the tired, lazy thinking on the part of many of the writers (primarily the new), the politically correct element (editorially, and in individual stories), and the fact that while I still love the good short story but I now desire the time to read more of what excites me...I decided to eschew reviewing the less than pro-paying markets to free up my reading time. My time is increasingly valuable. And here's a truth I was reminded of recently: there is (99% of the time) a clear and readily apparent qualitative difference between a professionally crafted story and a semi-professional (or less than semi-professional) story. Never doubt it. I've found, over the years, that while a few semi-pro magazines are quite good, the vast majority of them (and I hate to be so blunt) are akin to reading published slush.
Full article here
Making decisions as to what to review and what to ignore is the undisputed province of the editor, even when such a decision sits badly with the 'all in it together' flag that Mr Truesdale would like us to rally around. Yet it's not unreasonable to wonder if his stated reasons for dumping the semi-pros in a collective bin marked 'published slush' are sound.
We semi-pros are not in it together--it seems--because we're 'politically correct'. What does that hoary old phrase mean in this context? Mr Truesdale's nostalgia for the Golden Age of the pulps may give us some clues. Ah, yes, the good old days when women writing SF had to use their initials or male pseudoynyms, and when Ben Bova could confidently tell a room of women that they had contributed precisely nothing to SFF. Is old-style racism and sexism what's lacking from the semi-pros? Dear, dear.
We semi-pros are not in it together--it seems--because we only publish 'semi-professional stories'--an appellation that must automatically stick to your story once it's published in a semi-pro magazine. We have to wonder why venerable SFF editor Gardner Dozois even bothers to read the semi-pros looking for stories for his Year's Best series, if it's true that any such stories are instantly rendered second-best. We're muddy, we semi-pros, and the mud sticks.
We semi-pros are not in it together--it seems--because we're producing 'published slush'. In response, I can only say that it must be a very long time since Mr Truesdale read any slush.
Did we save the semi-pro Hugo only to be dissed in Tangent? What are your thoughts about the quality of the semi-pros?
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