Final Staff

Stacey Janssen

Managing Editor:
Dave Noonan


  • Mishell Baker
  • Bluejack
  • Amy Goldschlager
  • Emily Lupton
  • R. K. MacPherson
  • Scott James Magner
  • Robin Shantz

Copy Editors

  • Sarah L. Edwards
  • Yoon Ha Lee
  • Sherry D. Ramsey
  • Rena Saimoto
  • Paula Stiles


  • Marti McKenna
  • Bridget McKenna


  • Geb Brown

Publisher: Bluejack

October, 2004 : Editorial:

What's Going On Here?

By now you have probably noticed that we have changed our publication schedule to the last Monday of each month. The 21st is a very nice day on which to publish, but ultimately I decided that it is easier to work around a regular day-of-week schedule when trying to plan each issue. The other benefit is that this will be the October issue, online during most of October! Revolutionary! (Of course, if we followed the example of the print magazines, we'd be calling it the January issue or something. All the ink must make them crazy over there.)

That's not the only change in the works, though. The next biggie to arrive will be our long-announced (and once delayed) introduction of actual subscription fees. "What? Me pay for this?" you say. Well, we have been told that's what everyone will say right before they decide not to re-up their subscription. Everyone points to Strange Horizons as an example of how to break even on the web. Hold a fund-raiser, NPR style.

Thing is, I don't like fund raisers. I don't like them on NPR, and I like them even less on the web.

Perhaps I'm just an old fashioned capitalist, but I think that it is reasonable to ask people to pay for something that has value. Whether or not IROSF has value is debatable, of course, but that's a different issue. On the other hand, I also believe that on the web, information should be free. How to reconcile? Well, now I have a plan. Hear me out, and let me know what you think in our forums:

Beginning on or about December 1st of this year, IROSF will no longer offer free, one-year subscriptions. Those who have subscriptions will not have to pay anything until the subscription terminates. (If you're reading this, that means one year from when you signed up.) Instead we will offer five types of subscriptions!

  1. Trial Period Subscriptions: One time only, anyone who wants to see what IROSF is about can subscribe for two weeks. During that two week time period, the current issue and all archives will be available. As the clever among you will probably already have deduced, if you have easy access to unlimited email addresses, you may be able to keep creating new users and stringing them out indefinitely. We have a few ways to try to prevent this, but we may not bother. If you're willing to work that hard to bypass our other options, it's your karma, pal.
  2. Standard Annual Subscriptions: You like it? You buy it. Only $12 a year (the first year our goal is only to break even. That means the price could go DOWN if enough people are actually subscribers!)
  3. Supporting Annual Subscriptions: You really like it? You think it's super worthwhile, and you want to see us stick around? Yes, you may throw money at us. This is the fund raiser option: you can pay $24 or more, perhaps with several gradations, and you'll be eligible for special monthly prizes during the course of your subscription. Additionally, 2/3 of the amount above the basic $12 will go straight to our profit-sharing pool, which will go to contributing authors. See, you're not just supporting us, you're supporting the authors, editors, academics, and fans who have taken time to write for your edification and pleasure!
  4. One Article Right Now Subscriptions: You see an article you want to read? You need to reference? But you don't want to pay for the magazine, and you've already had a trial period? That's fine. You can read one article per month, either from the current issue or from the archives free of charge. And that's all.
  5. Fan Subscriptions: Readers familiar with the tradition of the fanzines may know that most fanzines are available for "the usual." The usual means: the reader must request the fanzine, and if he or she wants to continue receiving the ‘zine, a Letter of Comment (LoC) should be sent to the zine. An LoC can be praise, excoriation, or dialogue with some previous contribution. Fan Subscriptions at IROSF will be offered free of any monetary charge, upon receipt of one LoC, and will be good for four months. (You've had the free trial with which to get enough sense of IROSF to compose your LoC.) Here's the catch: although we are the Internet Review of Science Fiction, and although we do not accept print submissions, we will only accept LoC by snail mail. We may reproduce letters in whole or in part, reproducing the physical appearance of the letter or simply the text as we see fit.

Eventually, we also hope to introduce institutional subscriptions for libraries, museums, or other organizations, but as these will be IP based rather than username/login based, it's going to take some coding to work that up.

Now, we've been hinting at some other changes for far too long now. Once we get the subscriptions up and running, and some better tools for managing submissions, we plan to work very hard to bring you downloadable formats and perhaps some other, more dynamic features in the early part of next year. After that? Who knows. We'll see if anyone still likes us after all that!

Copyright © 2004, John Frost. All Rights Reserved.

About John Frost

John has spent many years avidly reading science fiction and fantasy: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. In addition to editing The Internet Review of Science Fiction, he teaches computer science.


Sep 27, 21:13 by John Frost
Anything you want to say about the new issue, the editorial, or other changes around the place...

(To read that editorial, click here.)
Sep 27, 22:05 by Jay Swartzfeger

Follow your capitalist inclinations. Like you, fundraisers rub me the wrong way. Worst case, I think the publication is so bad it can't keep its head above water. Best case, the publisher isn't thinking creatively enough to earn a well-deserved $.

As a spec fic writer and fan, I look forward to my monthly IROSF fix. At the very least, I will subscribe to the $12 plan, if not opt for a supporting annual subscription (your prizes gotta be better than the PBS mug, right?).
Sep 28, 03:33 by Abizer Nasir
With the current -$ exchange rate this is sounds like a good deal to me. You might wish to remind your non-US subscribers of how good a deal it is if they get in quick.

You can count on my renewal at least.
Sep 28, 10:22 by Jerry Robinette
I share your dislike of fund-raisers, and I consider the profit-pool idea for your writers innovative and exciting. But I have a nasty little inkling your five-tier access model is going to create an administrative Chernobyl. I hope I'm wrong. In either case, I'll definitely be there at the start, and hope it works out for you!
Sep 28, 10:46 by John Frost
The only thing that really has potential for administrative headaches is the fan subscription. I'll admit, that's a big experiment.

As with any experiment, if it turns out not to work, one can always go back to the drawing board.

Otherwise, it will primarily be a matter of simple user interface and software that handles the subscriptions properly. That could turn into a nightmare if it doesn't work... but we think we can make it work.

In some ways, the profit pool is a little more complicated, but again it's a matter of getting the right algorithm for distributing profits.
Sep 28, 11:53 by Anonymous
Actually, I don't much like fundraisers either, but they're much more in keeping with SH's mission than, say, charging for content would be. (Though you could also look at our fundraisers as an optional-payment subscription model.)

But that's an SH-specific point. The more general issue is that there are very few cases of publications charging money for content online and staying in business. Salon can do it because, by means of regular large cash infusions, they can afford to keep operating at a loss until they reach profitability. The Wall Street Journal does it, but I have no idea why it works for them. The only sf-related online publications I can think of that have been operating on a subscription model are Oceans of the Mind and Tangent Online; I don't know how successful subscriptions have been for either of those publications. ( tried a subscription model, but my understanding (possibly wrong) is that it didn't work out for them.)

That said, I think your multi-tier model sounds pretty cool, and I hope it succeeds. I especially like the one-free-article-per-month option and the very cool LoC option (though of course I'd rather see you allow LoCs, if substantial enough, via email, but I can see why you'd prefer to allow papermail only).

The main issue with subscription models in general, as I see it, is that the content has to be such that readers are interested in paying to read it. There are a wide variety of ways to do that, including but not limited to:

A. Provide information that's so useful people will pay for it; that seems to be how the online version of Consumer Reports works. (No idea how financially successful that's been, though.)

B. Have free teasers that are interesting enough to get people to want to pay to read the rest. More or less the way the New York Times archives work, though there's a legitimate way to bypass that system. I like the fact that you provide the first paragraph or so of each article (plus the one-line blurbs in the ToC) before requiring login.

C. Have content that people know they want to read before they've read it. This basically amounts to having interesting content: pieces by authors who readers want to read, pieces with intriguing subjects and titles.

D. Have a reputation as a publication worth reading, possibly by building up a solid reader base before you start to charge money. Basically what Salon did, and what you're doing. (And I like that you've been upfront from the start about your intent to eventually start charging for subscriptions.)

E. Keep expenses and subscription prices low. (But perhaps subscription prices shouldn't be too low; they have to be high enough to make people think the content is valuable. This is a tricky one; it goes against my intuition, but I've been told often that it's true. Fwiw, I think your subscription price is a good one.)

...There are plenty of other approaches, too, of course. But the main issue, to my way of thinking, is having good enough content that enough people are willing to pay enough money to keep reading it. People are slowly getting used to the idea of paying for some online content, but by and large I think most people still expect everything on the web to be free, so it can be hard to get a large enough number of people to pay for subs. But hard certainly doesn't mean impossible.

Anyway, I'm always happy to see new approaches to being financially successful with online publications, and I hope your approach succeeds.
Sep 28, 11:55 by Jed Hartman
Argh. Sorry about the anonymous posting -- that was me. I logged out in a different window in the middle of writing it, to see how the magazine would look to a non-subscriber.
Sep 28, 13:01 by John Frost
thanks for the very thoughtful and analytic response.

I certainly didn't mean any cut on Strange Horizons -- they are an inspiration to online publications. However, even if I *liked* the fundraising model, I still think it only works for a few venues. If *every* radio station had two fundraisers a year, it would be almost unbearable. If every online science fiction magazine worked by fundraising, it would diminish them all, I think.

Anyway, I'll keep your observations in mind, and we'll see how things go.
Sep 28, 13:45 by Ryder W. Miller
With the proper advertising and numerous links elsewhere we may not need to do fund raising. It also may be worthwhile to have a best of page which is available to everybody in order to attract more readers.
Sep 28, 14:05 by Amy Sisson
OK, just to play devil's advocate....

Here's what I'm paying for now (in no particular order), so that I can both stay abreast of the field and support it:

-Realms of Fantasy

I'm pretty sure I still have active subscriptions to the following at this point, although it's hard to say without digging through boxes of unfiled papers:

-some combination of DNA publications
-New Genre

And although it's not quite the same thing as magazines, I also try to support the small press (although I admit, I get every penny's worth), so I also make a point to buy books from:

-Small Beer Press
-Golden Gryphon
-Wheatland (specifically Polyphony)

(I buy books from the big publishers too, but there's no point going into a list there.)

Also, just to emphasize that I'm not short on stuff to read, I also look at for free:

-Strange Horizons (though I also donate)
-Sci Fiction
-Emerald City
-and several discussion boards relevant to the field.

I'm sure you see where I'm going with this. I've enjoyed IROSF so far, certainly, but can I justify spending even $12 when I'm not rich, I'm already spending hundreds of dollars supporting everything else out there, and I already have far more to read than I can keep up with?

I probably wouldn't be so persnickety about this today except that 1) I've been slightly involved in a discussion on the Night Shade Books boards about the frustrations experienced by DNA subscribers; and 2) I believe there are a lot of aspiring and established writers out there who want everyone to read (or at least pay for) their stuff even though they don't have the time or money to read/buy anyone else's stuff.

I note that your publication has been more than reliable, and of generally high quality, so I'm not trying to align you with the likes of DNA. And I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular regarding the "writers not reading" point -- that's just an opinion I've formed after many years of seeing it happen.

Convince me I would be justified in paying for your publication in light of all this! I'm willing to listen!

Thanks for listening,
Amy Sisson

P.S. I would love a "preview" button on this board.
Sep 28, 14:31 by John Frost

Thanks for the realistic view. I understand where you're coming from, completely.

One thing about being a capitalist at heart: I believe that if we *can't* break even, then either (A) we're doing it wrong, or (B) there's no need for what we're offering. I am perfectly willing to try and try again on the first point, but if, after a couple of years, we can't manage to get our head above water, then -- withough any hard feelings -- I'll conclude that (B) is true.

You point to a number of other venues, some of which are providing similar content to our own. It may very well be true that the market is saturated with quality criticism, journalism, and the like -- and if that's true the market will tell us so.

But that's down the road. For now, we're working on (A) -- figuring out how to get it right. So thanks for your input. We'll get to work on that preview button!
Sep 28, 18:56 by Amy Sisson
JF, thanks for the polite and straightforward response!

I'll be watching this space. Good luck!
Sep 29, 00:54 by Thomas Reeves
Yeah, I only subscribe to FSF, Tangent, & Asimov's. However I'm also doing research reading for my thesis and all. So I have trouble keeping up with those zines, and I'm quite poor. I'm not planning on re-subscribing to Tangent, which was just $5. So I think I'm going to have to pass.

Which is a stupid thing to admit as I intended to submit something to you related to my research on early British SF. Oh well, stupid honesty is kind of my thing at times. Still if I do send you an article, and you like it, can you just take $12 off from the sale:)

More seriously when will my year expire?
Sep 29, 08:22 by Bluejack
As part of author compensation, I know that jf plans on throwing in a year's subscription. Camden, looks like your sub is up on May 3.
Sep 29, 09:29 by John Frost
Bluejack is correct. Authors will not have to pay for a subscription. Authors with a subscription will have their subscription extended to 1 year from the date of publication.

Frankly, what I am most unhappy about with the current and planned future of the magazine is that we still cannot pay professional rates for non-fiction. If we turn out to be wildly successful, the first thing I would do would be to raise the rates to 25 cents per word. Unfortunately, even in my most optimistic daydreams, I don't think we'll be able to do that.
Sep 29, 13:32 by Robert Richardson
This is a very strong issue. Jay's essay alone would probably get me to subscribe.

The main hurdle for me was the "sign-up," not the pay aspect. I would imagine $12 a year is not that big a deal to someone who was willing to fill out a membership form. Of course, it might be the case that I'm exceptionally lazy and wary of sign-up forms... :)
Sep 30, 15:07 by Justine Larbalestier
There are other currencies than those in Europe! The USD is much stronger than many of those currencies like, for example, the Argentinian peso or the NZD.

That aside it sounds like an interesting model. I wish you luck.
Sep 30, 15:16 by Justine Larbalestier
I was referring to the message above from Abizer who wrote:

"With the current -$ exchange rate this is sounds like a good deal to me. You might wish to remind your non-US subscribers of how good a deal it is if they get in quick."

Be nice if you had threaded comments so replies would follow what they're replying to!
Sep 30, 16:18 by John Frost
Actually, we do capture the threaded-ness, but we haven't figured out the UI... you can always quote the original poster.
Oct 1, 07:55 by LP Turner
One of your best qualities is that IROSF may realistically stand for, not Internet, but Independent ROSF. You are not burdened by the politics of big publishers. Your stage voice rings of sincere truth; your outlook is bereft of meddlesome influences and corrupting confusions of loyalty. Your desire is to call it as you see it; you appear to live up to that ideal. Because I seek the refreshment of heart-spoken thoughts, I am drawn to IROSF. Because I enjoy science, I consumed Dario's interview with the noted astronomer. Please stay unconnected to the machinations of the herd. I will gladly pay to support that.
Oct 1, 10:21 by Abizer Nasir
Jazza wrote
There are other currencies than those in Europe!

A good point and one I didn't think of at the time of posting.

And I've often accused my American friends of not thinking outside their own borders - I hate it when I shoot myself in foot.
Oct 1, 15:17 by John Frost
And thinking of other expansions on our acronym, one thing I aspire to is "International" ROSF -- the internet makes it possible for fans, writers, editors, critics, and academics all over the world to connect with each other -- if there is a vehicle for doing so. In all the noise of instant communication, we need the filters to help us find each other. I have been reasonably pleased with our efforts to "globalize" so far, but there's a ways to go still.

And, in terms of "independence" -- well, I'm not sure that the "big publishers" are enforcing quite the hegemony you imply, Paytor, but I am glad you think we stand out. One other element of balance I would like to see is a little more from the voice of conservative sf. Just because I am in Seattle, where statues of Lenin outnumber Republicans 1-0, does not mean IROSF is not open to all political flavors. I know that conservatives in SF have felt somewhat alienated from the publishing mainstream, but if it's intelligent, thoughtful, respectful, and genuinely about SF/F/H (as opposed to merely being a political piece, plenty of venues for that) -- we're open to it.

Oct 3, 17:56 by Paulo Marques

I don't read it much, just an article here and there, i guess it's too serious for me to take a commitment in reading it :)
having said that, i believe you have good quality and will probably pay up, mainly because i'd like to see it suceed.
Good Luck. Nice payment options, hope it works!
Oct 12, 18:19 by Robert Rinne
I am a science fiction fac who doesn't like to spend a fortune on something that risks wasting my time.
I read an awful lot of contemporary pulp that falls well short of the best of the worst science fiction of the golden age and it pisses me off.
I turned, stumbled, tripped and stubbed my toe finding something like IROSF and if a fee of 12$ a year keeps me from spending over a 100$ on bad magazines and horrible novels, that's not capitalism, that's paying for a service.
Mind you, seeing as how I signed up only a few months ago, I'll be taking the next nine months free thankyouverymuch. I'm appreciative of your hard work but twelve bucks is twelve bucks.
But when the time comes to pony up so dough for a good cause and some free schwag, count me in
Oct 14, 16:27 by John Frost
In an ideal world, we'd not only help you avoid the stuff you don't want, but actively help you find some gems you might otherwise miss.

Thanks for the support!

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