Some of the ways I decide where to submit my work.

In response to some comments on a relatively long thread at SF Signal, I tried to answer the question of how I decide where to send my work. People were curious about how people hear about magazines, how magazines gain reputations, and how some semi-pro and token-paying magazines end up being name-checked as respectable or even enviable places to get published in.

Firsts things first. This conversation only applies within the spec community. In other communities, different standards apply.

Now, it’s been proposed that people tend to use three broad categories when figuring out whether a market is worth submitting to:

1) Pay rate.
2) Audience size.
3) Prestige.

This works in a general way, but I think I actually have a slightly different system. There are specific goals I want to accomplish with any story, and specific ways I think of different publication achievements. For instance, if I ever publish in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, I think of that as earning prestige points. In my own mind, in my own world, I would feel like I had gained prestige by publishing there, because it’s such an awesome zine, and the editors rock so many different colored socks.

Some writers have talked about trunking stories that they don’t think are pro material, or about only ever doing their best work. I respect that. I don’t always do it, though. Sometimes I write something silly in an afternoon because I felt like it. I’m not particularly proud of that piece. It’s not particularly good. But it does amuse me, and my goal was to make an editor laugh. Just one. Apparently, it did. Goal for that story accomplished.

So this whole conversation is on slippery footing. Not only will people’s criteria for what they want out of publication change, but also people’s individual evaluation of how good markets are. Further, people may want different things for different stories.

Nevertheless, here are some general thoughts on markets. These are offered for what use they may be to others. They are not intended to be proscriptive. They are only things that I think about places. Take some elements, discard others, ignore the whole thing, whatever you like. But I do think it can be useful to see how other writers think about the business.

Speaking as a writer, I generally will not submit to a publication — no matter the pay rate — if it’s just starting out. In 2005, when I was starting to submit, a magazine called Son & Foe briefly came into existence. It paid 5 cents — sometimes it paid that 5 cents to my friends — and I submitted there. Then it died. The stories it had published did get some readers, but the project never went anywhere much and everyone was disappointed.

Later, I watched this situation play out with other magazines. Sometimes the editor had a daring vision, but clearly no way to pay for it, as he or she somehow seemed to expect that once they started publishing, money would just naturally flow in. These people were often severely undereducated about publishing. As a consequence, once they folded — and they did — many authors were caught with stories that had been published but not paid for, or stories that were in limbo for years, or other problems. This isn’t good for me.

Some people on the long thread asked how new markets were ever going to get writers, then, if everyone followed this policy. Well, my first thought is, as a writer, I don’t care. That’s the editors’ problem. Mine is to make sure I’m well-treated and well-compensated.

But there are ways to do it, I think. One way is to come in with a really strong idea of what you’re doing. If people know you know how publishing works, they might be more inclined to submit to you. Another technique is solicitation. I won’t spontaneously submit to a new market, but if someone asks me — well, I just might, if I have a story around. The most reliable way is just to make sure you publish the best of the stories you receive. If you make consistently good selections, then people will whisper and gossip and pass the magazine around, and your reputation will build to the point where you don’t seem new anymore. My one year rule is an aberration, I think; most people seem to play it by ear.

“Beneath Ceaseless Skies,” edited by Scott H. Andrews, is a great example of a magazine that proved its excellence during its first year by publishing stories that generated a lot of buzz. Andrews displayed competence as a publisher and an editor. I submitted work to him once he got close to being around for a year, and recently appeared there.

Lightspeed is another new magazine with a good plan. Personally, I will sub to them even though they’re new, for two reasons: A) they’re being edited by a well-known, well-respected editor, John Joseph Adams, and B) they’re coming into existence as part of a project from Prime Books, which runs Fantasy Magazine very well. Both factors indicate the magazine will be run with knowledge and competence.

On the other hand, whether or not a magazine is new, a professional pay rate alone is not enough to encourage me to submit somewhere. I will not submit to Flash Fiction Online, even though they pay five cents a word, because of their public, homophobic positions.

There’s at least one more pro-paying magazine that’s on my black list. Emails are rarely responded to, the magazine is rarely spotted in person, and I’ve heard rumors of serious author mistreatment. The only times I interacted with them, they were nice, but it’s not okay for magazines to treat their writers poorly.

Now that I’ve talked about pro magazines, I want to talk about semi-pro and token paying magazines. The factors that determine how I feel about them are slippery and relative. Pretty products help, as does critical attention, excellent editorial input, and the company of stories I like. I’m also affected by what other writers are saying about the magazine and how they feel about having been in it.

People on the other thread asked for examples, so here is an incomplete list of semi-pro and token paying magazines I sometimes submit to and why:

Sybil’s Garage pays little, but is run by Matt Kressel, who knows what he’s doing as an editor (his press, Five Senses, recently produced an anthology that was nominated for won! a WFA award). The magazine itself is gorgeously produced and incorporates beautiful graphic design, courtesy of Kris Dikeman. High quality writers like Cat Rambo and Kathy Sedia have appeared here. The stories are good, though I often find them too static, the weight going more toward prose and mood than to structure.

Shimmer pays little, but is run by an editorial staff whose names are recognizable as people who know what they’re doing. This magazine is distinguished by particularly lovely design, courtesy of Mary Robinette Kowal. As many of the big magazines have mediocre design, it can be a pleasure to appear someplace more lovely, which is why the graphic design of places like Shimmer and Sybil’s factors in. The stories here are well-written, and the ones I’ve read have a disjunctive magical realist flavor like that of non-western magical realism. I find that they emphasize language over structure and satisfying endings.

Electric Velocipede pays little, but it’s a niche market – it publishes experimental and strange fiction. Many places claim to, but EV actually does. Much experimental and strange fiction is labeled such because it fails to accomplish more mainstream goals, rather than because it’s attempting something novel – EV seeks out work that is intentionally and intelligently experimental, reflecting a keen editorial eye. John Klima’s keen editorial eye was critically trained as a publisher in NYC which is also why he seems to have a great grasp of publishing. I don’t like everything he publishes, but it’s all intelligently chosen. When I published here, I received positive reviews and a year’s best reprint; this inclines me to publish there again.

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is also a niche market. I don’t have a grasp on what they publish. This market is run by Kelly Link, whose writing I kind of worship, and her very smart husband, Gavin Grant. It’s kind of like a speculative, more feminine version of McSweeney’s, often supplemented with editorial remarks that are amusing and absurd. I think they pick up stuff that amuses them, which comprises a large range. I haven’t sent here for a long time because they tend to take six months or longer with my subs. I probably won’t send in the foreseeable future for the same reason. But damn, I’d love to be published there.

Ideomancer is the first market I fell in love with because they were publishing someone I really respect – Jeremiah Tolbert. I first came across his work and their magazine in 2003, and I put Ideomancer on my list of places I wanted to sell to when I was ready to start submitting. At the time, their website was top of the line; it’s still pretty good, but not as remarkable. These days, I don’t send to them much, but I can add another reason for liking them – their editor, Leah Bobet, who is smart and has a strong aesthetic (though it’s not quite mine) and their publisher, Marsha Sisolak, who is practical and has kept that thing running in a professional way for quite a long time in e-zine years.

Abyss & Apex – This market came to my attention because of their poetry publication. When I was writing poetry, I often used poems (which I can write in an afternoon, as opposed to stories, which usually take me weeks) to test markets out. If I liked being published somewhere, I’d try them with fiction. I’ve never actually published fiction with A&A, but I do still sub occasionally. Their aesthetic is pretty far from what I write – they seem to prefer stories with happy endings, for instance – but they respond reliably and they’re eminently respectable. Also, I’ve enjoyed talking to their editors, Wendy Delmater and Kelly Green.

Talebones – When I first read this slick magazine, story after story felt whole and satisfying. The production was lovely and the material was good. What else could I ask for? Alas, I could ask that they were still able to keep producing, because this market died earlier this year.

Lone Star Stories – Another market that unfortunately died. I had never sent here until my friend Sarah Prineas sang many praises of Eric Marin’s editing skill. Apparently, he had a talent for taking stories that weren’t quite working and tweaking them so they would. Many great authors – Hal Duncan, for instance – appeared in Lone Star Stories, and authors seemed to love being published there. I did publish one story and one poem with Eric before the magazine closed, and I’m happy for that.

Weird Tales – I used to read this in high school. In addition to its venerable publishing history and the fact that it’s a respected venue (which means many eyes!), its modern revamping makes it look slick, and its new editor, Ann VanderMeer, has excellent taste that moves this magazine in an interesting new direction I like. I want to call it the future of horror, but since I’m not a horror writer, I don’t think I have that right.

Interzone – This formerly pro-paying magazine has been in circulation decline, but despite the fact that there are relatively few copies, it gets into the hands of the people who review work. Not only that, but the magazine is beautiful. When I made my first sale here, I joked that they didn’t need to pay me anything but the full-color illustration by a professional artist that accompanied the piece. My story was read by many people, reviewed many times, and ended up in a year’s best collection.

Futurismic – A niche market, looking for hard-hitting near future SF. This seems to be where the hip kids who are heirs to the cyberpunk movement hang out. Their writers, including names like Chris Nakashima Brown, and lesser known figures who I respect, like Karen Roberts and James Trimarco, make this smaller magazine stand out. Its $100 $200 pay rate isn’t bad for medium-length stories.

Kaleidotrope — I submitted a poem to this small magazine on a whim and discovered I like the editor, Fred Coppersmith. The magazine publishes quirky material and is occasionally uneven, but I like Coppersmith’s aims and he treats me well. Already, the magazine has improved. The first contributor’s copy I received made me wince because of its bad design. These days, it’s still not Sybil’s-Garage-gorgeous, but it looks like a respectable ‘zine. I don’t send my top of the line fiction here, but when I have an appropriate poem, reprint, or piece of short fiction that doesn’t seem elsewhere, I’ll send it Fred’s way. I can see this magazine getting bigger and more successful as time goes on.

Helix – Another dead magazine that provided something you couldn’t get elsewhere, its interest in stories that contained material that would be hard for other magazines for publish. Many phenomenal stories ended up here. Some were controversial, others disgusting, still others both controversial and disgusting. It was well-reviewed and getting attention from editors like Dozois and year’s best anthos, but unfortunately, it was pounded by controversy – although its closure was planned anyway.

Expanded Horizons — I know little about this market, but I love the reason it exists, and it has published some newer writers whose work I think is exciting.

So, anyway, this isn’t a guide to “you should publish here,” obviously, since some of these places are gone. But it is a guide to how I’ve picked which magazines I will submit to as an author, how places gain attention, and what kinds of attention are relevant to me.

Of course, these thoughts and evaluations differ from the way I look at things as a reprint editor. As I said in my original post, as an editor, I evaluate venues based on the material they published that later shows up in my inbox as potential reprints. I start to notice trends, both positive and negative. For instance, as a writer, I’d always thought of RoF as a place I didn’t like much — what I write doesn’t usually overlap with what they publish. As an editor, I discovered that I enjoyed their accessible, diverting, highly structured work, which translates well to podcasts. The flip side of this phenomenon — where some markets publish fiction that is reliably poor — has already been discussed.


  1. says

    Good post. FYI, Futurismic raised its rates to $200 some while ago. I’ve also heard that Patrick Swenson plans to bring Talebones back as an annual print anthology, but I don’t know what the status on that is.

  2. Rachel Swirsky says

    Oh, accuracy… Thanks! Changed.

    I did know about Talebones-as-antho, but it’s still gone in its short form. :(

  3. says

    Very good list and guide. I’ve had a list of possible markets in my head like, forever. It’s only recently that I’ve realized I have to be more organized about everything I do. You’ve inspired me to open a word document right now to list down all the places I want to submit to ;) Also, yes, LCRW remains one of my dream markets, the money isn’t the point, longevity and the publishing team is. I always want to submit to places where I can respect the editorial team in place and I know they know what they’re doing. Doesn’t matter that it takes longer or if I get rejected, the important thing is the bar is set.

  4. says

    Thanks for this informative article, Jeff. It is particularly helpful to me, as I am just starting out with my own zine concept–the Freezine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction. Off with a bang in JULY of this year (with John Shirley’s previously unpublished novella SKY PIRATES), reaching its “terrible twos” in SEPT, deviating wildly into risque underground artwork and story in OCT, and reaching a nice stride of more unknown writers, of which I am very proud, just last NOV. Its a risky proposition to offer zero pay to writers, an experiment that should fizzle out according to the wisdom of the status quo, but I have great confidence in my Freezine’s destiny and things are looking insanely out-of-this-world for 2010 as I have a Top Secret Weapon ready to be unleashed on an all-too unsuspecting populace.

    One of my standards for the Freezine for now is, no ads. The reason for this is because the Freezine IS an ad, in and of itself. The main deal with it can best be boiled down into the following tenets:

    –its a blog technically, a “blogzine” I guess you’d call it
    –no bells and whistles, just writing and art
    –it has a sister-site [the FREE ZINE ZONE] devoted to archiving all the ARTWORK it features
    –the idea being, I want ART perusers to discover the WRITERS; and READERS to discover the ARTISTS
    –I honestly buy into (heh) the concept of KARMA–I could’ve called it the Karmazine–same idea
    –I honestly believe in giving, and wanted to create a venue that offers writers that opportunity
    –I have been possessed by a fleet of nanobots that are controlling my every move and decision

    I am a devoted lover of the lyrical word, obsessive reader, poet, and would-be-author myself; thus far, since the Freezine’s Inception back in April (see 1st post therein), I have launched the beginning of my self-education in editing, publishing, and most important of all–advanced my education in writing itself. If it were to die tomorrow, the 5-month, 3-issue experience has already proven to be invaluable, to me. However, evidence is pouring in now that it won’t perish anytime soon; at least, not next year.

    The Freezine is simply a gift to the world of readers and writers alike. I hope you stay tuned throughout the coming year and watch what surprises I have in store. The Freezine is diametrically opposed to the current grain and direction of the publishing world mainly because its FREE; however, I as a lifelong connoisseur of extreme and experimental writing have respect for, and wish to strengthen, not defy, the publishing industry. The Freezine is my experimental offering towards this end. Where it will take us has yet to be unearthed by its participating practitioners. Stay tuned.

  5. Rachel Swirsky says

    This post was not written by Jeff.

    I would appreciate it if others who wish to use this space for advertising would restrain themselves to a blurb of no more than 100 words. Preferably, let other people advertise for you, rather than promoting yourself.

  6. says

    Hey Rachel,

    Nice post. I didn’t know about Kaleiditrope. I’ll have to check them out.

    It was great meeting you at WFC, even though we caught whatever bug was going around the WT party.


  7. says

    I must promote myself because of the nature of my blogzine’s experiment, which involves the mere free and willing exchange of ideas. It’s simple. Lacking advertisers I find myself in the (sometimes) undignified position of letting people know about it who I feel might have a real interest in it. I’m here to engage the willing on the world wide web.

  8. Shasta Fletcher says

    Ah, Shaun is just enthusiastic. Don’t begrudge him a couple of inches in your browser, so easy to scroll past… ;) Enthusiasm is something precious.

  9. Rachel Swirsky says

    I never have submitted to IGMS. I wasn’t fond of their response times when they started publishing (I don’t know what they are now) and I was unreasonably annoyed by the editor’s comments on people with MFAs (although he later published a sterling story by Cat Rambo who has an MFA :-P).

    I don’t know how I feel about dinging Schubert for OSC’s hatefulness. As far as I know, Schubert has never made a fuss or connected homophobia to the magazine — I mean, I don’t even know his personal politics, although I assume they’re in line with OSC’s. That may be because I’ve never paid any particular attention to IGMS beyond reading an interview when they were starting out.

    I may be more nebulous about this issue than I should be because the chances of me writing something that it would be appropriate to even consider sending to IGMS are so small.

  10. Nick Mamatas says

    Actually, Son & Foe, at least at the beginning, paid ten cents a word. I was pleased to publish a novelette in the first issue, which was later reprinted in Horror: The Best of the Year. $800, a reprint, and a couple of positive lines in reviews of the antho in Locus and Publishers Weekly.

    Doesn’t sound too disappointing to me. Magazines come and magazines go. Heck, in the last year the four major Sf/F mags all saw shakeups in format, publication schedule, and even a shutdown followed by an extremely shaky relaunch.

  11. Rachel Swirsky says

    He’s also the one who freaked people out by giving a kill fee to a previously accepted story, IIRC. Not that kill fees really bug me with fiction. Free money, and a piece to sell again later. Woot.

    *shrug* Maybe I’m too cautious. I like to work with known quantities. Maybe I should reevaluate that.

  12. Nick Mamatas says

    The S&F guy did make some errors, yes. (The abortive attempt to ask for a dollar for fast-track subs was a greater one.) He definitely tried to overedit my story as well. He’s since come along as a fun writer—I acquired a story from him for Clarkesworld.

    Of course, people freak out at all sorts of things. Known quantity F&SF’s online workshop for “newbie” (oh, is there a word I more detest?!) writers, with the possibility of selection for publication by Gardner Dozois, freaked people out too.

    Part of time, people freak because of freaky attempts to monetize slush piles. Sometimes they freak because they don’t know better. People freaked at me when I did Clarkesworld’s non-fiction section the way 99.999% of all magazines do non-fiction: on a non-exclusive query basis. It’s not because that’s freaky, but because they had confused their little corner of the world (science fiction short story publishing) with the whole wide world of it.

  13. Rachel Swirsky says

    I didn’t think the kill fee was an error necessarily. I mean, obviously it was badly handled in terms of PR. But maybe because I’d done some magazine work, I was just like, whatever, it’s a kill fee. That’s perfectly respectable.

    Man, I’d forgotten about the $1 a sub thing. I think I defended that choice and then donated some money to him afterward. I remember his guidelines initially said he wanted to be raped by fiction or something.

    You said, in the other thread, that the best time to get involved with a new publication was before or during their first issue, or during their first few seasons. I hear the before or during their first issue — it does seem like generally they have enough money and time for that! (Although even in the past few years, I’m pretty sure a few first issues have failed to occur.) If you can get solicited, and its a decent rate with potential for being read by Locus, etc, that sounds like a good gig.

    But within the first few seasons still sounds dicey to me. The mags close up suddenly. New editors often seem to overacquire, meaning they have 6 months of material in the first 2 weeks, and then they can’t publish all of it before they disappear, etc etc. Whereas what’s the reward? A slightly higher pay rate sometimes, that’s legitimate. And maybe an easier time through a rocky slush pile, which is vacated by risk-averse humbugs like me, but I don’t know how much I need that at this point.

  14. Nick Mamatas says

    The rewards are the same as anything else. The best-of people try to read everything, and you can mail them published material anyway, if that is the big issue. Awards…well, unless one is publishing with the Big Three anyway, Hugos are hard to come by (even Realms of Fantasy has received few Hugo nods) and the Nebula is an in politic. One can submit published work directly to the World Fantasy jury though.

    In the other thread, I also mentioned a couple of other venues that had come and gone. One story of mine was published in an online zine called Speculon, which latest just long enough to be a SFWA qualifier. One of the people who saw it asked to reprint it in his local print zine, Wide Angle NY, which was distributed for free in Brooklyn and Queens. Got another 5¢ word payday then, within four months of the first. A few years after that when I started practicing my Greek reading skills, I decided to submit it to Ennea and got €0.03/word for it. Same with pubs like Polyphony, which ultimately has few readers despite its acclaim. I’ve resold both my Polyphony stories to podcasts (one to you!) and wouldn’t have either had the paydays or the opportunities had I wondered overmuch about how Polyphony was going to put out its fifth and sixth numbers. Anything is a combination of rewards just happening and the writer helping make them happen (the second editor saw my link to the story on my blog).

    New mags can close up suddenly. So too can old ones. So too can new(ish) ones that seem to have stable footing, such as Baen’s Universe or SciFiction. Anyone who has been writing for a while will end up killing a mag or three on the way.

  15. says

    Rachel thank you for that advice. I also want to extend an apology to you for transgressing any protocol set up here that I was initially unaware of. I didn’t mean to come across as if I were “advertising”… which I technically wasn’t doing–I think I’ve made that clear in my last post. I am simply communicating — attempting to make contact with other humans interested in *reading and/or writing*. I hope you can accept my apology, because I don’t want to be dismissed out of hand in this forum; rather, I want to be accepted as a new face, here. Consider me unlearned in the ways of the publishing world, and that I a willing apprentice. I can already tell I will learn much from just reading your exchanges with Nick. In any case, I’m happy to have discovered Jeff’s blog and I intend to contribute positively and constructively to it, as well as learn as much as I can about the publishing interesting. Thanks for your time.

  16. Rachel Swirsky says

    No worries, Shaun. Welcome!

    My reservation is just that this is kind of a discussion about how writers find markets that are appealing to them by looking at their stats, rather than their PR. I mean, if you were to give us circulation figures, awards, that kind of thing, it would be relevant to the discussion. There are places where people wnat to hear your default pitch, it’s just a bit out of step with what I was trying to accomplish here.

    It’s nothing to worry about, though, these things happen, and aren’t important. It’s great that you’re enthusiastic about your new magazine.

    In case they’re of interest, here are some articles about how to start up a genre magazine —

  17. says

    Ohmigod! lol, I just now realized that YOU wrote the blog above! Boy I really messed things up, huh? Then please allow for my back-peddling so I can rectify this wrecked china shop I just bulled through, clueless.

    1. Thank you Rachel for this informative blog. I thought it was Jeff who wrote it (obviously): my bad.
    2. The Freezine is a) for readers and b) for writers. I’d love it if you joined up as a follower or subscribe to the posts– some of the talent I have lined up to contribute are surely writers you admire; therefore, I just wanted Jeff, you, and everyone to know about it–that’s all. The Freezine is merely practice so that I can warm myself up professionally. It’s merely about passion–the passion of readers as well as writers. Now that I’ve figured out my mistake, I feel embarrassed for blundering in here thinking your blog was Jeff’s, lol. I’m real sorry Rachel, no offense intended and no hard feelings.

  18. says

    Re: Your last post (just caught up!)

    Thanks. I gotcha, and am now acclimated to your subject matter–submitting viable work to a marketplace–obviously the aim of every writer who intends to be published! And thanks for that link–I’ll be sure to look into it.

  19. Rachel Swirsky says

    I’m guest blogging, so this is my post, but many of the other posts on this blog are not mine. And Jeff will be back to take over in two days. :)

  20. jeff vandermeer says

    Not really amusing. I hate it when people don’t read carefully enuf to know who is writing what

    I don’t know why lit mags aren’t part of this discussion. Two of my biggest saled last year were to Conjunctions and Black Clock. They paid 100 bucks each, which isn’t much, but the reputation of both mags is such that it wound up paying huge dividends in other areas over time. Payment isn’t the main reason I sell a story somewhere–there are many other complex factors, some of which Rachel goes into in this excellent post. But I do want to say keep mags that publish some genre but are not genre in mind. And someone elsewhere was attacking Rachel for her posts–what a jerk. This and others she’s done are reasonable and balanced.

    Scalzi also had good points, and I love him to death, but he’s a particular type of writer with a particular viewpoint that to my mind isn’t nuanced enough on this issue. Still, his point re the mag paying one-fifth cent a word is completely right–if you can afford slick production values, paying a decent wage has to be part of the equation. it’s ridiculous and sleazy for it not to be. that doesn’t mean diy nonpaying mags are illegit or even that “pro” mags always or even usually publish the best fiction. They may publish the best *commercial* fiction, which isn’t always the same thing. (one reason why rating a mag’s value by it’s pay rate is a mistake–it can be an indicator but not always: a few high paying markets I will never submit to because I think their fiction largely sucks.)

  21. Nick Mamatas says

    I don’t know why lit mags aren’t part of this discussion.

    I mentioned them, and Rachel linked to it in this very post.

    For the most part though, few people are talking about them (or about crime mags, or anything else) because few people in the conversation know the first thing about them.

  22. Rachel Swirsky says

    Ha. I didn’t realize Freivald was the editor of FFO. If you’re still reading, Jake, are you planning to do anything to court back the authors you’ve alienated by tying homophobia to your magazine? Have you already done something that we may not have heard about to alter your policy?

  23. says

    It’s easy to read words harshly. Please read the following as a sincere attempt to communicate with people whom I respect.

    Honestly, Rachel, I never had any intention of “tying homophobia to my magazine”. Bart asked me to run an ad for something that I couldn’t, in good conscience, support, and when he asked me for an explanation, I gave him one. My private explanation was then made public.

    I don’t really blame him — he saw it as exposing a blight — but I don’t think that explicitly tying any political issue to a magazine is very helpful. Of course, an editor’s worldview colors his tastes and story selections, but generally speaking — in the magazines I read as well as the one I publish — I’d prefer that effect to be more subtle than it was in this case. There is no policy to alter. I already had a two-year run of stories to read, and I would prefer to have them speak for themselves.

    I know that I’m in a minority. My position against contraception puts me well outside of the mainstream, even among those who don’t support gay marriage or extramarital sex. Should cohabiting or contracepting straight couples avoid the magazine? I don’t think so. It’s not what the magazine is about, any more than Harry Potter is about Dumbledore being gay. Do they like the stories? If so, I hope they read them or submit their own; if not, I hope they go their own way, with my blessing.

    Having said that, there are authors who find my opinions repugnant, and don’t want anything to do with me. I doubt there’s anything I can say to court them back. Maybe someday they or I will undergo a profound change of heart, and we’ll come together again. Until then, I wish them well; they’re following their consciences, which is what they ought to do.

    My biggest regret in the whole affair is that people whom I respect think that I don’t respect them. I of course disagree with them on some pretty fundamental issues, but people come to their worldviews in a variety of ways, and I’m not one to judge them on that.

  24. Rachel Swirsky says

    Hi Jake,

    I know it’s pretty painful to deal with all of this. I am attempting to reply in the same spirit, but fundamentally, it’s unlikely that we’re going to agree on this. I also know that you’ve heard the arguments put forth by your opponents before, and it’s unlikely I’m going to say anything new. But I wanted to give you the respect of a reply.

    This is an aside, and perhaps an unworthy one, but I hope that your position is not to make contraception illegal, but only that people who believe as you do should avoid it. (A position I support, by the way; it would be terrible if you and those who believe like you could not do as you prefer with your bodies.) However, it is likely that not having access to birth control pills would hasten my death, and would have hastened my mother’s as well. I understand that any legislation passed against contraception would probably (I hope) provide for conditions like mine, but it seems inevitable that some women wouldn’t be able to get the medicine they need because they face another barrier in an already hoop-filled medical industry. I say this only because I do not feel it is a point often delineated in discussions about contraception, and I will not bore you with other evidence (e.g. the scientific basis for knowing that birth control is not an abortifacient, the fact that access to contraception correlates strongly with increases in women’s standard of living, and so on) with which you are no doubt familiar.

    Now on to the topic which we’re actually discussion — You have said that you do not feel the magazine is linked to the politics, but it seems to me that you are using a narrower definition of “magazine” than I am. A magazine is not only its content — and it’s good that you don’t practice bigotry in selecting your content (I mean that sincerely). But the magazine also consists of its business practices, its relationships in the community and so on.

    If I have understood everything correctly, and it’s quite possible that I have not, then your business practice is that you will accept money from advertisers who promote content about heterosexuality, but not money for content that discusses different sexual orientations (I won’t say homosexuality because homosexuality is not the only thing at stake). That’s a business decision that reflects the priorities of your magazine. It means that when I send stories to you, the money I’m involved in, the business I’m involved in, reflects those priorities.

    I don’t mean to suggest you can’t make choices about who can sponsor you, but I do mean to suggest that you need to understand that those choices have (predictable) consequences, and this is one of them. When your beliefs regulate the magazine’s business practices, then the magazine itself takes on an ideology. In this case, an anti-gay one.

    Now it’s true that I’m not a purist about these things. I’m a feminist, and I do not particularly approve of a lot of the material that ends up in, say, Playboy (I am not speaking primarily of the pictures). But I decided a long time ago that if I ever had the chance to have a story in Playboy, I’d snap it up. The audience volume would make a compromise worthwhile. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the same about your magazine.

    Perhaps you suffered bad luck in having this exposed, where other venues have been luckier in having their policies concealed, but bad luck happens, and I don’t find myself particularly moved by this point.

    And while your statements have been very graceful in what I’ve seen, and I’m sure you’re a great individual, and I bet we could have an interesting conversation at a convention… it’s not easy to believe that you respect gay people. It’s not a respectful attitude that you’ve demonstrated through your actions.

    If I were to block all Christian advertisements from appearing in a venue I controlled, from ones calling for atheists and feminists and Catholics to go to hell (which might be genuinely offensive) to ones suggesting that people consider submitting to a Christian-themed anthology (which isn’t), and when pressed, say that it’s because I don’t believe people should practice Christianity since it’s an insidious, easily misinterpreted delusion, historically used to back evils like eugenics and slavery, and currently being employed to commit genocide in Africa and promote the continued oppression of women… well, it wouldn’t matter how much those things are true in my worldview*, or how much I said I was just “unable” to support Christian advertising, as if it were somehow out of my control. (I would be able. I would simply choose not to.) I think it would be pretty easy to conclude that I don’t respect Christians.

    It would certainly be easy to conclude that my magazine was not a friendly place for Christian authors and readers, even if I sometimes published a story in which a woman went to church.

  25. says

    (I’m hoping that the light HTML tagging I use here works out…)

    Rachel, thank you very much for your civil reply.

    I’m not asking for agreement, since I also see that as unlikely.

    On the contraception exception: Morally, there’s a difference between (a) doing something with the primary intent of producing a bad effect and (b) doing something with the primary intent of producing a good effect, and coping with other bad effects. In the right circumstances, I would support (b) where I wouldn’t support (a), even if we were talking about the same act. In other words, from what I understand of oral contraceptives, I might support my daughter (when she’s old enough) taking them in situations like yours even when I wouldn’t support her taking them just to prevent pregnancy. But don’t worry about her: She’s strong-willed enough to make up her own mind.

    you will accept money from advertisers who promote content about heterosexuality, but not money for content that discusses different sexual orientations

    Roughly. “content that discusses different sexual orientations” is probably not true, because I think that discussion is almost always good. For example, although I’m anti-gay marriage, I think there are a lot of issues to be raised about, e.g., handling discrimination in housing and employment, and people need more civilized forums to discuss that in; otherwise, we’re left with a snarky and unproductive Rush Limbaugh / Rachel Maddow kind of dichotomy.

    That said, there are things I don’t condone and therefore don’t want to provide advertising space on the site. Creationism would be a less-controversial one, I think. Trojan condoms and Playboy Magazine as well. For similar reasons, I wouldn’t allow advertising that was specifically supportive of, say, gay marriage, or single motherhood, or polygamy. The Crossed Genres LGBT issue was in a gray area, since it wasn’t specifically condoning gay marriage, but I thought it was safer not to allow it since so much of the discussion around gay rights today focuses on marriage.

    I don’t mean to suggest you can’t make choices about who can sponsor you, but I do mean to suggest that you need to understand that those choices have (predictable) consequences, and this is one of them.

    Naturally, I knew the likely consequences. I don’t like them. It would have been much easier to accept the ad and avoid them, or to ignore Bart’s request for more information. But I couldn’t avoid them without betraying my conscience. Which leads me to a point you made later: I know I made a choice, and never said otherwise; I said I couldn’t in good conscience support the ad. I chose to obey my conscience and accept the consequences.

    When your beliefs regulate the magazine’s business practices, then the magazine itself takes on an ideology. In this case, an anti-gay one.

    Which is why I asked you about IGMS. I’d bet that you wouldn’t be able to advertise for LGBT submissions on IGMS — the acronym overload itself is overwhelming :) — and it’s a much better-known magazine with a more infamous name attached to it. I was surprised to see my magazine instead of Card’s in your post.

    I decided a long time ago that if I ever had the chance to have a story in Playboy, I’d snap it up.

    I’m not a feminist, but I wouldn’t submit to Playboy. I’m sure they’re gnashing their teeth, reading that.

    bad luck happens, and I don’t find myself particularly moved by this point.

    No sympathy needed, thanks.

    it’s not easy to believe that you respect gay people. It’s not a respectful attitude that you’ve demonstrated through your actions.

    I understand why you feel that way. I nonetheless respect people with whom I disagree very strongly about fundamental issues.

    One example: Some friends of mine — few, fortunately — have a visceral dislike for my willingness to have many children. They think that I’m destroying the Earth, setting up my descendents for ruin, consuming too many resources, etc. I think they’re wrong (for reasons I won’t bother you with), but it’s unlikely that we’re going to change each others’ minds.

    Either we value each other despite our differences, or we don’t remain friends. Everyone has value; if I truly had their perspective and experience, I might even think as they do; so I’d generally prefer to remain friends.

    That, to me, is tolerance in the face of real diversity of opinion. Some people have written that they don’t want my tolerance, and I understand why they say that, but in the face of irreconcilable differences I prefer tolerance to the alternative.

  26. says

    I re-read this this morning, and I said the wrong thing here:

    The Crossed Genres LGBT issue was in a gray area, since it wasn’t specifically condoning gay marriage, but I thought it was safer not to allow it since so much of the discussion around gay rights today focuses on marriage.

    That’s not accurate, so let me correct it. Although it’s painful to say, and more painful for others to hear, I don’t support the normalization of GLBT relationships in our culture. Marriage is only one aspect of that (albeit the one I tend to focus on these days). The Crossed Genres ad still felt like a gray area because you never know what’s going to show up in a spec fic magazine — and I could feel myself looking for rationalizations to avoid the coming s**tstorm — but ultimately I assumed the Crossed Genres issue would be supportive of GLBT relationships in our culture, and I rejected it.

  27. Rachel Swirsky says

    Would you support that refused to run ads for an anthology on “Christian Spirituality and Personal Triumph” because it normalized Christianity in our culture?

  28. says

    There’s a grammatical problem in the first part of the question. What precisely are you asking? Would I support a magazine that refused to run ads of that type?

  29. says

    I’ve decided that must be what you mean.

    All things being equal, I wouldn’t avoid a magazine just because it didn’t accept Christian advertising. Failing to support something isn’t the same thing as attacking it.

    That wouldn’t change if the magazine allowed advertising for atheistic societies, either.

    If the magazine consistently contained content hostile to things I believed in, I might stop reading it. It depends on what I valued in the magazine.

    If I only exposed myself to content that comes from places that actively support all the things I support, I’d be living in a much smaller world.

  30. Rachel Swirsky says

    Sorry, yes, it was what I meant.

    Thank you for taking the time to answer, Jake. I’ll reconsider my position.

  31. Rachel Swirsky says

    They offer something I consider worth compromising for — an enormous platform, which is both an end unto itself (particularly given that most of my fiction challenges anti-feminism), and also a staging ground for further audience reach, since Playboy has (or had at any rate) a reputation of publishing the brightest and the best.

  32. says

    I’ll reconsider my position.

    Thank you for saying so. I’d almost prefer you reconsider your position about Playboy, though; for all their potential benefits to you as a writer, I don’t think they’re friends to women. Although I could see how landing an unambiguously feminist story there could be quite a coup. :)

    Thanks for the dialogue.