Welcome to Volume III of the Internet Review of Science Fiction. The traditional thing to do at this stage of the editorial is to wax nostalgic about how when John Frost first came to me with this idea, I had no idea it would ever last this long, or become this successful, etc., etc. You've probably read these slightly self-indulgent reminiscences in various publications, although perhaps some magazines have the good grace to wait until they are five or ten years old or some such maturity.
The fact of the matter is, we're just two years old now, and embarking on a third. The barebones truth is that it's been a struggle so far, and many of our earliest dreams are still unrealized. The Internet Review of Science Fiction is growing, and on many measures (number of readers, number of contributors, growth of subscriptions, uptime, etc.) it is modestly successful.
I still have items on my TODO list from 2004—Mobipocket format, WebTV compatibility, paid subscriptions, etc.—and I've been adding to that list all the way, as have the many other folks who have joined up over the course of time.
In a few years, I hope that I, or possibly someone more qualified than I am, will sit down and write that retrospective. When they do, I expect it will start off something like this:
Volume I was an experiment, or rather, a series of experiments, as four or five people who had absolutely no idea what they were doing cobbled together the first eleven issues.
With founder John Frost bowing out after the first year for health reasons, Volume II repeated the cycle of experimentation, only to culminate in sending another editor-in-chief to the hospital. (Although Joy assures us that it wasn't all our fault.)
But then, back in 2006, Volume III was the turning point for IROSF. It was in that year that the Internet Review of Science Fiction really took off, adding new features, attracting new authors, critics, and thinkers, and finally establishing itself as a truly international forum for serious discussion and analysis of science fiction, fantasy, and horror...
Most of us who love reading the "speculative fiction" genres are blessed with a healthy imagination, and so it's no great effort to imagine exactly what IROSF can be. I've already learned that converting the dream to reality involves a lot of drudgery, and a fair bit of money. There's paperwork of all sorts, there are technical challenges that (as a technologist) fall firmly into the "boring, but it's gotta be done" category, rather than the "Wow, I'm inventing something totally new!" category. Accordingly, I enter into Volume III with some fairly modest ambitions to back up my wild flights of ambition:
- I'd like to publish twelve issues this year.
- We will have to undertake some sort of fund raising this year, whether it's a fund-drive style voluntary contribution thing, or some sort of paid subscription.
- There are several important improvements to the site as it is, including:
- Better forums,
- Better editorial control panels,
- Better submission mechanisms,
- And a bit of a face lift for the look-and-feel of the publication.
That alone is probably an ambitious enough schedule, particularly given an all-volunteer staff, distributed all over the world, all of whom have many other obligations in their lives. However, there's another biggie on the horizon, and that's News.
Most readers of IROSF are probably already familiar with Locus, the most important publication covering the sci-fi & fantasy publishing industry. In addition to reviews, it includes the kind of material that publishing industry magazines all carry: comprehensive lists of new publications from all major publishers; reports of author sales, and deliveries; notable events in the publishing world; and obituaries.
Now, Locus is a professional organization, with a real paid staff. But sites such as Wikipedia and Slashdot have proven that a labor of love, intelligently designed and ambitiously maintained can become just as successful. I don't really expect to be rivaling Locus any time soon, but I'd like to flesh out the monthly issue of IROSF with daily information that is not only smack up-to-date, but also retained in a database for historical interest (e.g. When did J.K. Rowling deliver the last manuscript? How long before it hits the stands?).
You might scoff and say, "Oh, that Bluejack is dreaming again." And you would be right. But believe me when I say that this is the scaled down version of the dream. If I shared the whole thing with you, I'm afraid you might injure yourself laughing, so, purely for your own good, I'll limit things here.
One final note. When a new publication opens into the community, there is always an initial "honeymoon" during which it gets a lot of attention. For IROSF, I think that honeymoon is over. We don't get the same love letters we used to, despite the fact that we are doing a better job now than we ever have before. I am of the opinion that many publications never make it past the honeymoon phase: when the glow of public opinion fades, so does the commitment of the publishers. But here at IROSF I think all the editors remain enthusiastic about what we're doing, and the mere fact that each month generates more readers than the month before indicates that, love letters or no, we're doing something right.