First of all, no New Year's resolutions this year, because all the resolutions from 2006 are still valid. Every single one of them. Yeah, 2006 wasn't the most productive year for IROSF. Life definitely threw this editor—and a few others—some curve balls this year.
And yet, we're still here, starting Volume IV off with what I think is a pretty impressive bang!
Instead of the resolutions, then, let me just take a moment to parse the title of this magazine. We call ourselves IROSF, pronounced: Eye-Row-Es-Ef. This stands for the Internet Review of Science Fiction. Sometimes people think it stands for the International RoSF, which is cool with me, too. I love the way the internet crosses borders. I love that even as global consolidation across transnational corporate entities aggregates wealth and power in the hands of a few there's this technology-driven opposing force in which information has become increasingly available to all, communication impeded by no advertising-driven press, and small businesses are as able to compete for a global market as the conglomerates. (For more on this, see Jay and Ruth's The Garden in the Machine.) The Internet is International in every good sense of the word. So: right on!
"Review of" -- clear enough. It's kind of a placeholder word for a category of publication that does more than just reviews, so no surprise here.
"Science Fiction." This is a less accurate placeholder word. In fact, we enthusiastically welcome material at least loosely concerned with any of the so-called "Speculative Fiction" sub-genres. That might have been a more accurate choice of terminology, in fact, except that "Speculative Fiction" is a cumbersome phrase. It doesn't roll off the tongue like Science Fiction does. It has more letters and would make designing the masthead more complicated.
Recently, Terry Pratchett observed that fantasy is "now so mainstream, people don't think of it as fantasy any more. You could say it's disappearing as a genre." (Interviewed at Metro.co.uk, re-reported in David Langford's Ansible 234.) In this month's issue, Scott Lawson discusses the marginalization of science fiction within the academic community, an observation that is repeated often by students of writing in traditional literary MFA programs. What is it with this genre that is at once a ubiquitous part of contemporary culture yet still the pariah that Pratchett recalls from his youth: "Once, fantasy and sci-fi were always at the back of the shop, like a VD clinic—those who needed to knew where to find it." (From the same interview.)
Perhaps, just as the Internet is making arbitrary distinctions of political geography increasingly obsolete, so too are traditional classifications of fiction breaking down. In questions about the health of the genre, it is sometimes observed that few authors are able to make a living by entertaining people with their stories. In these same conversations it is often mentioned that for every genre book published in the 1950's there are hundreds or even thousands being published today. The market has grown, and also been diluted by its own growth. Last month, Cynthia Ward provided a rather awesome bibliography on Paranormal Romance—an enormous quadrant of the genre that many authors and readers had no notion was out there. This genre, it turns out, is even bigger than we think.
But as Pratchett implies, when something gets too large it loses its identity. To those who think of science fiction, or fantasy, or horror, or all three, strictly in identification with the pulps of seventy years ago, the genres might appear stagnant or headed for immediate extinction. (Similar conclusions could be drawn by looking at the circulation numbers for the heirs of those same pulps.) To those who think of the genres specifically in the context of popular culture, they may be dismayed by the generally low quality of material that still receives the highest attention, whether in film, graphic novel, video game, or even good, old-fashioned book form. And even those who experience the disdain of academia must acknowledge that there are specific works and authors that have gained the highest levels of critical acclaim.
In short, science fiction isn't just science fiction any more (if it ever was). The genres have no clearly defined boundaries, except in the minds of pedants who prove nothing except their own lack of connection to reality. The themes, tropes, literary forms, and styles that once defined each of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres have spread throughout the entire range of human creativity.
By way of conclusion, then, when you see IROSF, pronounce it Eye-Row-Es-Ef. When you expand it, you can expand it to the Internet Review of Science Fiction or the International Review of Speculative Fiction or any variation thereof that makes you happy. And when you wonder what the genre is that we cover, wonder on.
Because really, isn't it all about the wonder?