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It's that time of year again: Strange Horizons' annual fund drive is on! As you know, Bob, Strange Horizons is a weekly online magazine of and about speculative fiction. It's been going for nearly eight years now, staffed entirely by volunteers (including me) but paying professional rates to contributors, and is dependent on donations from its readers to keep going. Check out some of the fiction, columns, poetry, artwork, and of course reviews to see what the site is about, if you don't already know.

This year there's a shiny new SH blog to track the fund drive progress -- for which you can add the RSS feed or livejournal feed. Exciting revelations so far include the fact that this year there aren't just prizes for donating, but prizes for mentioning (and linking to) the fund drive. Each week, one person who's linked to the fund drive will win a special prize; the first prize is a set of Ellen Datlow/Terri Windling-edited fairy tale anthologies. So, go forth and spread the word!
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Chance asked:

Have you ever examined how you stack up with regards to parity on people reviewed and people doing the reviewing?

The second "you" refers to [ profile] sh_reviews. Several people said I should bump my answer up to a separate post, so here it is:

"As of tomorrow [now today], in 2007 Strange Horizons will have published 148 reviews (of 144 different things, due to "two views" pieces and other overlap) by 53 reviewers. Of the reviewers, 29 (55%) are men and 24 (45%) are women. That's where the good news ends. The 29 men account for 92 (62%) of the reviews, while the 24 women account for 54 (38%) of the reviews. Worse, of the 130 reviews of books (88% of all reviews), 93 (72%) are books by men and 37 (28%) are books by women.

I can tell you that this last figure roughly reflects the proportions of books we receive. At the moment, in on my list of books-we-have-that-I-would-in-principle-like-to-get-reviewed-sometime, there are 26 books; 6 (23%) are by women and 20 (77%) are by men. I haven't tried to count to see how this reflects sf publishing in general, though I'd love to know. I also haven't counted to see how SH compares to other reviews venues."

[ profile] jamiam said:

Maybe you could get someone who prefers reading women/authors of color/what-have-you to occasionally shoot you a list of the stuff they'd like to see reviewed? And use that to supplement your own list?

All recommendations are always welcomed. (Several people do, in fact, already send me recommendations, although not on a formal/scheduled basis.) I try to chase up pretty much every book by a woman or author of colour on any given Locus list of forthcoming books; I note that the current list is about 22% such books (38 of 173 -- this is a quick count, so I would expect to be out by a few), and that I've already commissioned (or published) reviews of about a third of them. I also note that I've commissioned about half a dozen reviews of relevant books not on the Locus list, and that these tend to be YA books or books from non-genre publishers.

I would be particularly glad to receive suggestions of authors for "feature weeks", where we publish several reviews of books by the same writer; previous author-focused feature weeks have been for John Crowley, Justina Robson, and James Tiptree Jr. (Not that I'm short of ideas, of course ...) The major criterion is that the author should have a new book coming out on which to hang the week. Preferably their other books should be in print, so that I can get them for reviewers -- although Aegypt isn't all in print, so that's not a fixed rule.

Any other questions?
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I've just realised I mentioned this on [ profile] torque_control but not here: it's fund drive time at Strange Horizons.

What does this mean? See here.
Since its founding in September 2000, Strange Horizons has brought you some of the most exciting and vibrant voices in the genre of speculative fiction. We believe speculative fiction is an important literary genre, and we take pride in our work, and the fact that for many of our diverse and innovative contributors, Strange Horizons is their first sale. We are passionate about publishing cutting edge speculative fiction and art, and hope to be contributing to the genre for many years to come.

To that end, we depend on you, our readers, to keep our magazine going. All of our staff members contribute their time and energy for free, but our contributors do get paid. We are committed to paying professional rates for high-quality fiction, poetry, art, and nonfiction. All we have to do is raise $6000 in this period, which is about one-third of our annual budget. We are hoping that you, Dear Reader, will help us reach that goal.
Everyone who donates (before August 15th) gets entered in the prize draw, which this year includes such fun things as Elizabeth Hand's Generation Loss, Ian McDonald's Brasyl, Ken MacLeod's The Execution Channel, the US editions of M. John Harrison's Light and Nova Swing, subscriptions to Asimov's and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and much more. All the money goes towards paying the contributors: the staff are all volunteers.

[ profile] auros points out that four of the last five winners of the Campbell Award for best new writer (not a Hugo) were published by Strange Horizons before winning the award, and this year the magazine had a story on the Nebula final ballot, and currently has another on the Hugo final ballot.

And of course, I run the reviews department ([ profile] sh_reviews). Reviews in the last month include Adam Roberts on Patrick Rothfuss and JRR Tolkien; Matt Cheney on Generation Loss; reviews of the four books of John Crowley's Aegypt by Abigail Nussbaum, Graham Sleight, Paul Kincaid and John Clute; Colin Greenland on Forrest Aguirre's Swans Over the Moon; Dan Hartland on Scarlett Thomas' The End of Mr Y; plus reviews of books by Ysabeau S. Wilce, Lionel Shriver, Ted Chiang, Brian Aldiss, Jay Lake, Ellen Klages and others. (Coming soon: Adam Roberts' review of Doctor Who's third season, Tim Phipps on Transformers, Gwyneth Jones on Best American Fantasy, Graham Sleight on Spook Country, Martin Lewis on Red Seas Under Red Skies and, as they say, much more.)

So all donations appreciated. And if you like the magazine but can't donate, for whatever reason, there are other ways to support SH, as Jed points out. Thanks.
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A couple of weeks ago, for the second time ever, I got paid for a review. It felt, and still feels, a bit weird.

In part it feels weird because it doesn't seem justified. If sf reviewing were a salaried profession, there are a large number of people I'd put in the queue to be employed before myself. This is, clearly, not false modesty; there are a lot of good reviewers in this field, and to a fairly large extent I often write about books because other people aren't. If I could get anyone I wanted to write about anything I wanted, I doubt I'd personally write very much. (Convenient that I'm a reviews editor, you might say.)

In part it feels weird because, well, I'm just not used to it. This is not an enterprise with a large target audience. Shallow shiny commercial reviews are a possible exception, but I don't have much interest in either writing or reading those. So I've never expected to be paid for anything I write, and (review copies aside) the majority of places I've written reviews for--Foundation, Interzone, Vector, etc--don't pay. Even somewhere like The New York Review of Science Fiction only pays $10 a review.

I can't imagine not wanting to write for any of those places because of their pay rates or lack thereof. NYRSF is arguably the most respected venue for reviews in sf at the moment; getting a review in there means something. It's a similar story with the other three, although other factors come into play, as well. For some of the above, I write reviews because I want to support them, and I think I can do a decent job. For some of them, the editorial guidance they offer is crucial: I want feedback on my reviews; I want to get better. (There are also venues I don't desperately want to write for, despite the fact that they pay, for the converse reasons.) And then there are the reviews I write, as mentioned, just because other people haven't done so. That's the impetus behind blogging, after all, wanting to be part of the discussion.

At this point we come to Strange Horizons. Before last autumn's relaunch, the Strange Horizons reviews department bought and published one in-depth review a week. Since the relaunch, we've been publishing four reviews a week, and paying for as many as we can. We can't afford to pay for them all. The theoretical solution has been to have a cutoff point, with reviews of 500--750 words unpaid, and longer reviews paid. In practice, many people have been generous, and donated longer reviews.

It is, obviously, not an ideal situation. I try to rotate, but there are plenty of people I haven't been able to pay yet. The immediate alternatives are to pay an (even) smaller amount, but pay for every review, or to publish less reviews. Neither of those appeal to me, the first because it would be an empty gesture, and the second because for the reviews department to be what I want it to be, we need to be publishing more than four reviews a month. What I want it to be, of course, is a venue of the type I was discussing above: a place people want to support, a place people receive whuffie for being published in, and a place where people know their reviews will be well-edited. The long-term theory behind Strange Horizons, not just the reviews department, is surely to believe that it can develop a virtuous circle: that putting out good content will increase the audience, which will increase income during fund drives, which will enable the magazine to pay more for more things.

There are various failure points in this plan. An obvious one is if the editorial control sucks, but (equally obviously) I prefer to believe that the editorial control (in all departments) is actually pretty good. Another failure point, though, is that if it turns out that most people who write reviews aren't like me--and guess what? That one might be true. For starters, there are plenty of reviewers who are also writers, who review partly to earn a little bit of extra money, and who therefore won't want to review for Strange Horizons. This is not unreasonable. It would perhaps be possible to dismiss such people as mercenaries who don't really care about reviewing for itself, but given the large number of author-critics that sf has generated and continues to generate, such a reaction would more than likely be unfair.

So there we are: money makes things complicated. Big revelation. I suppose that if I were to really practise what I preach, I would donate anything I earn from reviewing to Strange Horizons, but when I can spend it on (say) this evening's theatre trip instead, I'm not quite that altruistic. It may feel a bit weird but, like everyone else, I'd prefer to be paid than not.
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Having pimped Vector, it's time to pimp the Strange Horizons reviews section ([ profile] sh_reviews). This week so far: Martin Lewis reviews Life on Mars:
This has to be the Doctor Who effect: you wait ages for the BBC to produce a science fiction programme and then two come along at once. As well as Hyperdrive, a Red Dwarf-aping sitcom, they are also currently showing Life On Mars, a genre spin on the format that's the bread and butter of networks the world over: the police procedural. It's safe to say, though, that Doctor Who never contained the phrase "I don't give a tart's furry cup."
More controversially, yesterday Liz Henry reviewed Touched by Venom:
From the snarking frenzy that consumed the blogosphere in the wake of last year's World Fantasy Convention, I expected Janine Cross's first novel, Touched by Venom, to be a badly written, laughable book. Something on the order of Slave Women of Gor, perhaps, or at best, those trashtastic Sharon Green soft-porn books about blood-drinking Amazonian women who ride around on giant lizards and rape men in their spare time. My reaction to the bad reviews went a bit like this: "OMG, sex with dragons, guys with dragon-viagra hardons, probably so bad it's funny, I must read it!"

So I did. To my surprise, I found a thoughtful, enjoyable work of feminist speculative fiction. It is a woman's hero-tale, the story of a survivor; a true dystopian fantasy, and one written with an awareness of non-Western cultures.
Responses to that one so far spotted here, here (Cheryl Morgan, who thinks it's a thoughtful review), and here (Nick Mamatas, who thinks reviews has hit a new low).

Not a Blog

Nov. 9th, 2005 12:03 am
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Today my big accomplishment was that I made ginger cake with chocolate and cinnamon sauce. Now, I'm not saying that's not a respectable thing to do (and it was certainly tasty), but clearly if that's what I'm writing about here then at some point I'm going to have to relinquish any claim on calling this thing a 'blog'.

Maybe putting in a random link will help: Oxford has a Future of Humanity Institute!

Maybe mentioning that I finished Her Smoke Rose Up Forever will count for something. I've even written some words about it, too, although I'm going to hold off posting them until [ profile] immortalradical's had a chance to read it. We all know how much he loves arguing with me.

Maybe I can get away with mentioning that tomorrow's goal is to get at least a draft of the Living Next-Door to the God of Love review I'm doing for Foundation. Maybe I can get a spinoff post out of it.

Obligatory pimpage of Strange Horizons: Among other things, this week Geneva Melzack and Iain Emsley bring you two good reviews of Air by Geoff Ryman.

... no, it's no good. None of those things are actually substitutes for content, are they?
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Strange Horizons is having a good week. Following on from last week's review of In the Palace of Repose, there's an interview with Holly Phillips. Matt Cheney's column tackles that 'all fiction is speculative' idea from an interesting angle, jumping off from Never Let Me Go and (the lack of) 'sf plays'. There's a rather lovely poem, 'The Greening', by Joanne Merriam. I haven't had a chance to read this week's stories, by Beth Adele Long and Jenn Reese, but they're probably as good. And in reviews, today Dan Hartland considers Hidden Camera by Zoran Zivkovic. There are also a couple of reviews of Serenity, by Mahesh Raj Mohan and some other guy, and there'll be reviews of other things later in the week.

(And since you mention it, why yes! It is still fund drive time.)
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Donate via Paypal

About Strange Horizons:
Strange Horizons publishes short fiction, poetry, reviews and articles of interest to the speculative fiction community each week on Monday. Once each month we also publish an art gallery spotlighting a different speculative artist.
This week, for example, there's a charming story by Theodora Goss, 'Pip and the Fairies', Mike Allen's poem 'Strip Search', a critique of Star Wars by Athena Andreadis, reviews of Peeps by Scott Westerfeld and other things, and a column by Christina Socorro Yovovich. Strange Horizons publishes things worth reading every week, and has done for the past five years.

It doesn't take subscriptions; everything is online for you to read for free. Instead,
Financial support for the magazine comes through direct donations (through PayPal or by check), arts grants, corporate sponsorship, and affiliate programs through and Powell's Books.
So every so often, Strange Horizons has a fund drive where they ask their readers to chip in a little. And they happen to be having one all this month.
We're hoping to raise $3000 this month, which is about one-sixth of our annual budget, and we'd love for you, Dear Reader, to help us reach that goal.

Everyone who donates during the fund-drive month (October 1-31) will be entered in a drawing for one of our fabulous fund drive prizes. As always, we're happy to take donations of any amount, but if you donate $25 or more, you can become a Strange Horizons reader-member, which entitles you to a glossy illustrated collectible membership card and a discount on the Strange Horizons annual anthologies. (Different gift packages are available at different donation levels—see our membership page for full details about our membership levels.)
(By-the-by, some of those prizes are pretty darn shiny; Kate Wilhelm's Storyteller, for instance, or a complete, signed set of the Jenny Casey trilogy (Hammered, Scardown and Worldwired) by Elizabeth Bear, this year's winner of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.)

Everyone involved with the magazine is an unpaid volunteer. As mentioned, Strange Horizons has been running like this for five years, and by any measure it's a success. This summer it was nominated for a Hugo, and earlier this year one of its stories was nominated for a Nebula. I'd like to see it continue onwards and upwards, obviously; if you would as well, you can go and give a little bit of money by clicking on the Paypal link above (if you're in the US, there's also a Network for Good donation link, but I don't seem to be able to duplicate that; you can go via the fund drive page instead). And if you do--thanks!

As a reward for reading through all of that, here is a link from which you can get a free uncorrected proof copy of Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead--at least if you're in the UK. It's not clear to me whether this is an expansion of the story of the same name from last year, or a collection of short stories, but either way, it's something to look forward to. (via TAO)
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After a couple of months of behind-the-scenes bustle and preparation, the Strange Horizons reviews department is now back up and running; many thanks to everyone who's helped out along the way. As Susan Marie Groppi says in her editorial:
We're going to be focusing mainly on shorter reviews than we did in the past, but we're going to be running more of them—several a week, posted daily from Monday through Thursday. We encourage you to check in during the week to see what we're up to, but for your added convenience we've also set up an RSS syndication feed for the reviews department. What I'm even more excited about, though, is that we're going to be expanding the scope of the reviews department. Movies, comic books, anime, video games, music, television shows, poetry—if it's out there and it's got some speculative content, we want to be reviewing it here at Strange Horizons.
First up is [ profile] grahamsleight's brilliant review of the recent series of Doctor Who, 'Take Me To The Fantastic Place'. (Seriously: it almost convinced me that the show is worth watching, and that takes some doing.) Later this week there'll be reviews of Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners, Byron de Prorok's Dead Men Do Tell Tales, and Kate Wilhelm's Storyteller, by Geneva Melzack, Justin Howe and Greg Beatty, respectively. And that's just the start. For your reading convenience, the reviews are also syndicated: Atom, or RSS 2.0. The LJ feed you're looking for is [ profile] sh_reviews. So go, read, enjoy, comment, link!

(And if you'd be interested in writing reviews, feel free to get in touch; if certain people reading this don't, I'm liable to start hunting you down and 'convincing you' it's the right thing to do, one by one. Just sayin'.)

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