new pleasures in reading

I’ve said before that I’ve never been a regular subscriber to any magazines — “regular” in the sense of keeping up my subscription for more than a year. (I might have done for Paradox, but they folded.) That’s changed a bit lately, though. First via podcasting: a good deal of my short fiction consumption now comes in via my ears, as I listen to Podcastle (for fantasy) and Escape Pod (for SF), and I strongly suspect the addition of a narrator’s voice has led me to enjoy stories I might have skipped past on the page. Second, as I’ve mentioned before, Beneath Ceaseless Skies has turned out sit squarely in the middle of What I Like when it comes to fantasy, with the result that I’ve become a regular reader.

As a result, I’m discovering heretofore unknown pleasures, that come when you’re a dedicated follower of a particular magazine. It’s like the reverse of Cheers: rather than everybody knowing my name, I know theirs. Certain authors, whose work sits squarely in the middle of What The Editors Like, keep showing up, and so BCS becomes (among other things) “the place that brings me Aliette de Bodard’s stuff.” Since I very much like her work, I bounce a bit in glee when I see a new piece show up there. Sometimes it goes even further, not just an author but an author’s series: Escape Pod has Jeffrey R. DeRego’s Union Dues superhero stories, and BCS has so far published two of Richard Parks’ Heian-period Japanese fantasies, featuring the duo of Yamada and Kenji, the reprobate priest, with a third one on the way. Carried too far, this sort of thing can make a magazine stale — you get the feeling they only ever publish the same dozen people, over and over, and the assurance of a sale makes those dozen lazy in their work — but so far it’s been a source of familiarity and satisfaction for me.

Since I started this by talking about subscriptions, I should mention that both the podcasts and BCS are supported via donations; if you want to toss a few bucks their way, to help ensure they keep putting these stories out, the relevant places to do so are: Podcastle (right-hand sidebar), Escape Pod (ditto), and BCS. (I noted when catching up on stories this weekend that BCS has also added itself to the Kindle Store, in addition to the pdf, mobi, and epub formats of before, if you’re an e-reader type.)

Let’s close with a question: for those of you who are dedicated subscribers to one or more short story sources (print, web, or audio), are there particular authors or story series that are, for you, part of the appeal of that magazine? Conversely, are there any who show up a lot that you skip over automatically, because you know from past experience that they just aren’t your kind of thing?

0 Responses to “new pleasures in reading”

  1. sartorias

    I love Black Gate, and always look forward to stories by certain people.

    • Marie Brennan

      I think it’s the irregularity of their publishing schedule that keeps them from staying on my radar enough for me to subscribe. But they’re another one that might be fairly reliably My Kind of Thing; I can enjoy a good urban fantasy or slipstream story, but secondary worlds are where my heart truly lies. 🙂

  2. Anonymous

    I don’t subscribe to any print magazines, but I subscribe to a whole bunch of online ones (in the sense that they’re in my RSS reader and I read them every time they come out): Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Flash Fiction Online, Fantasy Magazine, Everyday Weirdness, and Brain Harvest. Each of them offers a different niche:

    Clarkesworld offers awesome cover art and stories that tend towards the weird. Favorite repeat authors include Catherynne Valente and Yoon Ha Lee.

    Strange Horizons offers mostly character-driven stories in a huge variety of genres. So diverse that I rarely notice repeat authors.

    BCS has what you’ve already mentioned, plus Marie Brennan who you mysteriously left out :). I’m actually not a big fan of the Richard Parks stories, though.

    Everyday Weirdness offers one weird flash piece every day. As might be expected from a publication with 365 slots to fill every year, the quality varies quite a bit, but there’s a lot of gems, too.

    • Marie Brennan

      I also subscribe to Clarkesworld’s podcast; they’re one where I think I often enjoy them more by ear than by eye, though even then, they’re hit or miss with me. Somewhat like Strange Horizons: I check them out on a regular basis, but it isn’t uncommon for me to read a screen or two of the story and then drop it, because it isn’t quite what I’m after. (For a while I bounced particularly hard, because they published a whole sequence of stories that sounded like Kelly Link-lite, and while Kelly Link is fine, I’m not always in the mood for her particular cup of tea.)

      Richard Parks appeals to me because Japanese history is one of my fields of interest. I wouldn’t say his actual plots are outstanding, but they’re good enough to class as neutral or better with me, and in the meantime I just love spending time in the setting.

      I might check out Everyday Weirdness; flash can be wildly variable in its effect on me, but hey, it would add all of two minutes to my morning RSS trawl, right?

      BCS has what you’ve already mentioned, plus Marie Brennan who you mysteriously left out

      Oh, I read all her stuff on a magazine called C:. 🙂

  3. xahra99

    I subscribe to all of the Escape Artists podcast” including Pseudopod. Of those I can remember from the top of my head, Jeffrey R DeRego, Mike Resnick, and NK Jemison all stand out. I recently bought NK Jemison’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms because I liked all of her podcast stories. And I’d buy anything written by Daniel Abraham on the basis of The Cambist and Lord Iron.
    I don’t really get on with Cory Doctorow’s stories (Other People’s Money was one of the few I couldn’t finish, and I love his tech blog Boing Boing) Maybe because he seems more concerned with ideas than chracter.
    And I thought Twa Corbies was excellent:)

    • Marie Brennan

      My sole reason for not subscribing to Pseudopod is that my hit rate with horror is fairly low. Inasmuch as I need a fix for that genre, I get it from the occasional horror-tinged pieces on EP and PC.

      I couldn’t finish “Other People’s Money,” either. The idea was just not interesting to me, and if memory serves correctly the reader’s accent was a nightmare to sort through. Or maybe there were sound quality issues? Whatever it was, I spent more time trying to understand the narration than enjoying it.

      And I thought Twa Corbies was excellent:)


      • xahra99

        I don’t listen to Pseudopod as much as the other two podcasts, but I’ve found that when I like a story there I REALLY like it. Two of my favourites are ‘Jihad Over Innsmouth’ by Edward Morris, ‘Land of Reeds’ by Patrick Samphire and ‘That Old Black Magic’ by John R. Platt. All three more fantasy than horror, I’d say, but there used to be a fair amount of crossover between some of the older Pseudopod episodes, and Escape Pod itself.

        Good audio quality in the podcasts is definitely a plus. Accents work well for some of the readings-I don’t think ‘Fiddler of Bayou Teche’, for example, would have worked half as well in book form for me as it did as a podcast-but you’re right, the audio was pretty dire for the Doctorow story.

        Anyway, I’m babbling. Nice work.

        • Marie Brennan

          I probably would have enjoyed “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” perfectly well in print, but that’s definitely a case of the reader’s voice adding value. Anything that’s so firmly embedded in a particular setting, I think, can gain by having the voice reflect that setting: a twang for a fantasy western, a snooty RP accent for some upper-class British story, etc.

  4. ken_schneyer

    I’m addicted to both Escape Pod and Podcastle, and donate to both. I also enjoy a healthy dose of Drabblecast. I started listening to the Clarkesworld and BCS podcasts recently; CW is impressive (Matt Kressel’s “The History Within Us” knocked the wind out of me). I thought some of the BCS audio (like Erin Cashier’s “The Alchemist’s Feather”) is astonishing, but BCS also seems to have an unusually high number of stories with lame endings, which surprised me.

    As for particular authors, recently I’m drawn to anything that publishes Tina Connolly, Eugie Foster, or, well, you. BCS drew my attention originally because of Tina. Interzone originally got my attention because of Greg Egan, back in the day.

    • Marie Brennan

      There have been relatively few BCS stories where the ending actively let me down, but also relatively few where it actively blew me away. Mostly what I love about the work there is the variety of settings: that’s my second doorway into story, after character, and often the one that hooks me in a short format.

  5. cloudshaper2k

    Well, I have subscriptions to Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF and RoF. I read the first three cover to cover (I might skim the book review articles, but I read all the stories). I focus my attentions on the fiction in RoF, after skimming the folklore article to decide if I want to read it in full. There’s a definite appeal to seeing a familiar name in the ToC – I’ve been known to squee over new Barry Longyear stories and the occasional serial is always a treat for me. There have been stories I didn’t enjoy (and recommended my wife skip when she’s looking for short fiction to read), but thus far the ones I haven’t liked are few and far between.

    Where on-line magazines are concerned . . . I find I have trouble focusing on them. Maybe if I had an e-reader. But when I’m on the computer, there’s a part of me that feels guilty if I’m not doing something writing related. (Been feeling very guilty lately as I’ve been in a writing slump.)

    • Marie Brennan

      None of the Big Mags have ever hit my sweet spot consistently enough for me to keep a subscription up. Individual stories or even issues sometimes knock my socks off, but not often enough for me to fork over my money. And that’s part of the appeal of an online, donation-driven market: I don’t feel like I’ve wasted pre-spent money if I skip over a story.

      Then again, I spend a LOT of computer time doing things that aren’t writing. 🙂

  6. steffenwulf

    Generally I prefer not to see the same names over and over again, though I do like when the editor has a particular tastes that appeals to me–Escape Pod hits it just about right.

    But in general, the ones who appear so frequently tend to show their prolific nature in the low quality of their stories. They churn them out like an assembly line, each one not appreciably different from the last. The fault in these cases is not the author who’s just trying to make a living, but the editor who lets turds like this slide under his radar simply because his audience knows the Name. I’d rather see a good story from a newbie than a crap story from a well known name. I have one particular author/editor combo in mind here, but I think I’ll keep that to myself so as not to start a flame war.

    That being said, it is possible for a frequently returning author to also have great stories. Tim Pratt is a great example of this, the worst of his stories are above average and the best are fantastic. Yoon Ha Lee consistently produces good quality stories as well.

    • Marie Brennan

      I don’t necessarily correlate frequency and quality; there are Big Name Authors (often big from novel-writing) who turn out one short story a year that doesn’t really impress me, versus people who churn out a story a week and do some really amazing work. Not every one is a success, mind you — but they throw so much spaghetti at the wall that a pretty large amount ends up sticking.

      Any way you slice it, nobody’s making a living doing short fiction, not any more. But yeah, I do get annoyed when I think an editor chose a mediocre story from a BNA — consciously or unconsciously — because they know having that name on the cover will help generate interest in the magazine. I understand why; after all, this is a business, however tiny and dysfunctional it may be. But it doesn’t make me think well of that person’s editorial taste.

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