Amazing Stories magazine, the oldest SF magazine in the world, stopped publishing in 2005. However, it’s coming back in 2012, and in order to build some publicity, as well as satisfy trademark registration requirements, its publisher is offering a free electronic issue of the magazine to all comers.
Steve Davidson writes that the e-zine will be available for purchase on Amazon and other e-book outlets soon, but if you want a free copy you can send him an e-mail, explaining why you think you deserve a free copy in the body of the message. It is currently available as a PDF, with MOBI and EPUB versions coming soon—and all will be DRM-free.
It’s nice to see such a storied (literally!) name returning from the dead, but all the same I wonder if there’s really a place for a monthly or quarterly short story e-zine in today’s world. Baen, who has more experience with e-publishing than any other publisher in its class, tried it with Jim Baen’s Universe and was unable to make a go of it. Jim Resnick later explained it failed because “we can’t sell an e-zine when so many quality e-zines are available for free.”
On the other hand, an e-zine won’t suffer from the same space limitations as the old paper versions of the ‘zines. As Barry Malzberg, who briefly edited Amazing Stories back in the ‘60s and is on its editorial board today, wrote in Engines of the Night, back then he had to reject far more quality stories than he was able to publish because there just weren’t enough paper pages. E-zines won’t have that problem now. And by focusing on short stories, which can be read in shorter chunks of time than novels, it’s possible the magazines might experience a resurgence now that distraction-prone tablets are one of the public’s main e-reading gadgets of choice.
But are even e-zines still trying to be too much like paper, in that they hew to a standard periodical-bundle-of-stories format? When I mentioned the magazine relaunch to a friend of mine, he wondered whether it might not be a good idea for short story e-magazines to break out of that traditional mold and just push out short stories as they’re ready. I think he might have something there. Folks who quail at getting a bundle of a dozen stories in their laps at once might not get around to reading even one of them—but if they sneak in one at a time, people might not be so intimidated.
Regardless, it will be fun to see if Amazing Stories can make a go of it—and I’ll be interested in reading the first issue. I’ve already emailed in my own request.