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!