Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On-Line and Off

Yesterday a curious anthology arrived in my mailbox. It includes my story "First Rites," as well as fiction by Peter Beagle, Cory Doctorow, and eleven others. What makes this anthology curious is that it consists of stories that first appeared on the Internet and now are being re-offered in print to reach a wider audience. The anthology is UNPLUGGED: THE WEB'S BEST SCI-FI AND FANTASY 2008, and is presumably the first of a yearly series.

We are constantly being told -- and I have done some of the telling -- that the Internet may be the new venue of choice for science fiction. An anthology like this shows that we're not there yet. As editor Rich Horton points out in his introduction, "There is the weight of history. Magazines...are still the first place many readers go to find what they expect to be the best stories." And still the first place many authors send their best work, on the grounds that print still has the widest exposure for awards nominations. Would I have seen any of these stories (except my own) if they had appeared only on the Internet? Probably not. And what I consider one of the best stories I ever wrote, "Laws of Survival," appeared on Jim Baen's Universe and then sort of disappeared after that.

Horton discusses some of the reasons for this in his excellent introduction, including the fact that no one has yet figured out how to make a consistent profit from on-line fiction. No matter how good the stories.

And while I'm discussing good stories -- the December 21 issue of TIME magazine lists its picks for the best books of the year. Among the ten fiction choices is Paolo Bacigalupi's THE WINDUP GIRL. Way to go, Paolo!


TheOFloinn said...

A second point is that in the public mind, anyone can post anything anywhere. So putting a story up on the web smacks a bit of self-publishing, even when it is not.

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Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

Myself ... I hate reading fiction on-screen. I have a Sony Reader, and I'd read the online short stories on that, if there were some easy way for me to get fiction from online sources and onto that machine without having to muck about with different bits of software. Tor.com get that right with their downloadable story files, and if the rest of the online fiction communities did the same, I might be inclined to read their stuff.

John Joseph Adams new project Lightspeed sounds like a step in the right direction. You can read the fiction online, or pay to download it.

Lou said...

I read your "Laws of Survival" yesterday after reading this post. I have to say I enjoyed it a lot. I can see why you are so proud of it.

Unknown said...

Sometimes we get weary. Sick of looking at the keyboard.

Still gotta do it, though.

No escape.Petter Joe