Final Staff

Editor-in-Chief:
Stacey Janssen

Managing Editor:
Dave Noonan

Editors

  • 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

Editors-at-Large

  • Marti McKenna
  • Bridget McKenna

Publicity

  • Geb Brown

Publisher: Bluejack

April/May 2007 : Editorial:

Nebulous Nebulas and Big Dreams

Nebulas

Some months ago, we decided we wanted to try to get comprehensive coverage of award nominees. We missed that almost entirely with the Philip K. Dick award, and we didn't get our Nebula issue out before the actual awarding of the awards, not to mention coming in a couple of reviews short. Let me reassure all readers: the occasional variable publication of IROSF and any shortcomings in content are entirely due to things like day jobs! The response to my recent call for reviewers was overwhelming.

In any case, when it comes to comprehensive coverage, maybe this year's Hugos will be the "third time's a charm" issue.

Of course, there's actually a bit more use in getting the Hugo reviews in ahead of time: Hugos are voted on by members of WorldCon, which is something akin to a public election. The Nebulas undergo a somewhat more nebulous process:

First, the rank and file members of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA, often pronounced Siff-Wah) recommend works they believe to be of merit.

From this process a preliminary ballot is drawn up, consisting of all works receiving 10 or more recommendations.

Secondly, SFWA members use this preliminary ballot to nominate the finalists. The top five vote-getters are automatically promoted to the final ballot. In addition, a jury named by the SFWA president has the option of adding a sixth candidate to the final ballot. Despite the presence of a jury, this is not really a "juried" award— this is the entire extent of the jury's responsibility.

Finally, SFWA members vote again— using the Australian ballot tabulation system— choosing the winner.

(For the details of this process in all their gory glory, see the official rules.)

The problem with a mechanism such as this is that it is unlikely that those voting will have actually read all the candidates. The same problem afflicts the the Hugos. At one WorldCon I overheard a woman at the next table over mention that she voted for the novel that eventually won the Hugo because the author "was a nice guy."

One goal of publishing balanced reviews of all the candidates, therefore, is to give the voting public a little more information than the author's reputation upon which to base a vote.

The Hugos are commonly thought of as a popularity contest; the Nebulas might seem to be a popularity contest among professional writers. Whether or no, the Nebulas have a reputation for conservatism. Not political conservatism so much as narrative traditionalism. You'll find very few experimental novels winning the Nebulas. This year's From the Files of the Time Rangers had to be considered a drastically long shot.

Last Chance For Free Subscriptions?

We've been requiring subscriptions since IROSF opened for readers; but they've always been free. That's gonna to change soon, so get your friends to sign up in the next 30 days or so!

People often shake their heads at our business model. No ads? No subscriptions? Paid authors? How does that work?

Ads, I'm glad to say, wouldn't work in any case. Although we have thousands of readers who peruse tens of thousands of articles every month, those numbers are actually far too low to generate real revenue. Why glad? Cause I don't like 'em. If I could make enough money to break even on ads alone, I would have to do so in order to ensure that everyone who might ever want to read one of our articles could do so without hassle. However, those numbers don't add up in any scenario, and we'll just have to find other ways to ensure everyone can have access to the information they need.

So: with the next issue, we will be rejiggering subscriptions along the following lines.

  1. Academic: The reader may read two current and two archived articles per month, not including the editorial which will always be free. (Why make people pay for this?) There will be no charge for this kind of subscription, which is intended to make articles available to people with a one-time interest or academic specialty free of charge.
  2. Basic: The reader may read all of the current issue and 10 archived articles per month.
  3. Full: The reader has access to all of the current issue and all of the archived articles at all times.
  4. Combined: The reader has a full subscription to IROSF and also a subscription to our sister publication, Æon Speculative Fiction.

These subscription options will be available in 1, 2, and 5 year increments. The actual dollar values are still to be determined.

In conjunction with this, there will be some new features, such as ebook formats for various readers and platforms.

So, what happens to your current subscription? Everyone who has subscribed to date will be grandfathered into full subscriptions lasting to the next anniversary date of their original sign-up. If said anniversary date is less than two months away, it will be given a two month extention.

Whew!

That's almost as complicated as the Nebula rules, eh? Here's hoping it works!

But what if it doesn't?

Look: we're committed to making electronic publishing work. We don't mind losing a bit more money along the way. Our main goal is to get good stuff into the hands of readers. But we can't just throw money away forever.

If it turns out that people just aren't willing to pay for great content, then I guess it will die. If the content isn't actually all that great, then it deserves to die. But either way, we're not going to go down without a fight.

What if you want to donate more to keep it going?

There is absolutely a role for benefactors in this business. We will make it possible for benefactors who believe this is a worthwhile endeavor to donate additional funds to help keep things afloat. While we are still in startup mode, which means volunteer editorships and a money-losing bottom line, said donations will go entirely to keeping the enterprise afloat. There will be a few perks for benefactors.

Once the business becomes profitable, which will include paying editors for their valuable work ensuring the best possible content, donations will be used to fund subscriptions for those in need or new projects said benefactors might wish to see brought to fruition.

What about investors?

We're not aiming for a non-profit status along the lines of Strange Horizons, so the prospect of investing is not entirely absurd. But we're just not set up for it at this time.

Even as I put all this down in type, I realize how it may sound rather ridiculous, perhaps even— to be blunt— grandiose. To that I say: It is always better to dream big and fail than to aim for mediocrity.


Copyright © 2007, Bluejack. All Rights Reserved.

About Bluejack

Bluejack resides in Seattle. In addition to publishing the Internet Review of Science Fiction, he herds cats for an Internet startup, designs and develops distributed software applications, and dabbles in a broad range of less useful endeavors.

COMMENTS!

May 14, 22:16 by IROSF
Thoughts on Nebulas, Subscriptions, and IROSF in general are welcome here.

Bluejack's editorial can be found here.
May 15, 09:45 by Ellen Datlow
Perhaps the novel nominations for the Nebula can be seen as "conservative" but what about in other categories?

You've got M. Rickert's interestingly structured "Journey into the Kingdom," and offhand in the past some nominees and winners:
Magic For Beginners
Flat Diane
Singing my Sister Down
What I didn't See
Cloud Atlas (novel)
The Voluntary State
Perdido Street Station (novel)
Hell is the Absence of God

-that's just a quick look (and only mentioning stories/novels I've read)

So what do YOU mean by conservative? I disagree that the Nebulas have been conservative over the years.
May 15, 11:10 by Bluejack
For my part, I was thinking of novel *winners* over the past 20 years. Although there are exceptions, the winners seem to be fairly unsurprising works by very well-established authors.

I recognize that many of the *nominees* are more intriguing, but I don't know how much of that is a consequence of the Jury's extra pick. (Are the Jury picks announced publically? That would be interesting to see.)

In the short form, I think it is a lot more possible for potential voters to actually read all the candidates, especially as many of the stories are made available for free on the web by authors and publishers hoping to garner the win, so I would not be surprised to learn that there is more diversity in the actual winners in those categories.

My personal *hypothesis* is that when it comes to novel winners, name-recognition and authorial reputation are as or more important than the merits of the nominated works. I don't have any proof, and I don't want to try to force my hypothesis on the data. Unfortunately, I don't really have any way to *measure* the data in a way that would support or refute my hypothesis, but in eyeballing the last 20 years of Nebula novel winners, I only see two titles that strike me as being unexpected; by which I mean in the year in question I did not already think of the author as a Big Name Science Fiction Author. In the 70s and early 80s I see more titles that break that pattern -- but that could be my own ignorance rather than a change in the pattern. In the 70s I was reading golden age classics and epic fantasy; in the 80s I was barely reading in the genre at all, outside of Gene Wolfe and William Gibson (both of whom were novel winners in the early 80s, I observe).

Apparently Greg Beatty believed or heard something similar when he wrote his analysis of the Nebulas, linked in the editorial.

In short: I can't prove my position, and am more than willing to back off it if there is good reason to believe otherwise, but my current operating hypothesis is that Nebula Novel Winners are similar in "popularity contest" dynamics to the Hugo, except with a different sample of voters.
May 15, 19:16 by Ellen Datlow
The jury selection is never announced publically but it can usually be easily figured out because it's generally the one that hasn't gotten enough previous recommendations to make the preliminary ballot.

As I rarely read novels any more (and even fewer sf/f novels) I can't judge any of them as being conservative choices or not. But since you bring up Gibson, that was certainly not a conservative choice. It was his first novel.
May 16, 07:56 by Bluejack
Right; I wouldn't call either the Gibson or the Wolfe books conservative choices at all; but they were both prior to the current 20 year run.

-b
May 25, 19:17 by Alasdair Mackintosh
One thing that might make paid subscriptions more appealing is the option to download the current issue in PDF (or other format) and print it out.

What, dead trees in the internet age?

Well, possibly. I currently subscribe to the New York Review of SF, and for my money I get a neatly presented slice of dead tree once a month (or thereabouts, Post Office permitting). This tends to get read from cover to cover as it's always lying around the house, and when you're looking for something to read over breakfast, or something to grab when you're going on a bus trip, then there it is, ready to go, without being switched on or booted up.

The current web presentation makes for easy browsing (and I like the subdued and tasteful design) but I don't normally read it in the same way as I do a paper magazine. Having the option to easily turn it into one would make a paid subscription slightly more appealing.

Alasdair
May 25, 23:13 by Joe Prisco
Have to agree with mackinto there; real paper is what gets read most in my house (particularly the smallest room in the house, but never mind that).

As for Nebula novels, I'm way behind; I looked up the winners of the last 20 years, and there isn't one I've actually read, though several adorn my shelves. I hereby pronounce myself in arrears until I've at least tried to read them.

Searching online, I see the 2007 Nebula Awards are for works published in 2005, so it appears the SFWA is working towards being almost as far behind as I am. In fact, since many of the winners are works from F&SF, I'm actually ahead there ;-)
May 27, 21:25 by Bluejack
Thanks for the insight, gents. I don't want to get into the business of actually printing and distributing a version, as that rather defeats the business model of a digital publication; however, preparing digital versions that are printer ready is certainly in scope.
Jun 9, 20:51 by Stephen Fritter
Finally I will be able to read IROSF on my Palm T/X. I use it for a good half of my reading. The IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) is getting totally unusable because of the unstoppable pop-ups. I'd rather pay them $24 a year. Have you thought about selling subscriptons through Fictionwise?

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