Shaggy Dog Stories + Literary Magazines = Profit?

There’s some fascinating food-for-thought from the ever-dependable Gwenda. She quotes F&SF editor Gordon Van Gelder on the state of current story-centric magazines:

As I’ve been reading through this thread, the comments of one veteran editor keep ringing in my head—he said to me, “Of course Analog is selling better than any other magazine: it’s the least risky.”

I bring up that comment, I guess, to defend against the charge of a conservative attitude in F&SF. I don’t particularly like that word, “conservative,” but I’ll be the first to say that I’ve got to balance the artistic side of things with the commercial side. For every reader who appreciates the challenge that a story like John McDaid’s “Keyboard Variations” offers, there are two or three readers who favor less challenging work like Ron Goulart’s lighter fare.

Which is one reason why I’m happy to second Sean’s sentiment when he says “I’m all for it!” to the writers blazing their own trails. I think the zine explosion of the last couple of years is very good for the field and I do my best to keep up with all the various magazines and anthologies, but I feel like someone needs to inject a note of commerciality into the discussion. Considering there are two threads running on the board now about declining circulation in the digests, it might be worth remembering that experimental fiction (“experimental” is another word like “conservative” that I don’t particularly like, but I can’t think of a better term right now; “riskier”? “less traditional”?) isn’t necessarily commercial.

There’s much more, of course, at Gwenda’s stomping grounds. But, at the risk of sounding like that assclown Wenclas, it begs the question: When “experimental” is a four-letter word and magazines are inveterately associated with sturdy sales, is it any wonder why today’s fiction remains sadly safe and predictable?

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