From time to time it is said that short fiction is a dying form and that publishers just aren’t publishing it any more. To that I say: bollocks! Short fiction has never been healthier and more available than it is now. There are more anthologies than you can shake a stick at, e-book shorts are sold for the device of your choice via assorted retailers, authors post free online fiction on their websites and then there’s the crown jewel of the short fiction world – online magazines.
To the surprise of no-one who knows me, I love online magazines. (Check out the Shiny Stuff section on my other site for links to my favourite stories!) And really, what’s not to love. So long as you have an internet connection and some kind of tech to read on, you have easy access to a vast quantity of free fiction. If you don’t like reading on a computer screen, then you can throw a few quid the magazine’s way and subscribe to get the e-book versions delivered to your preferred reading device, and many magazines do podcast versions of their stories and dead-tree versions as either individual issues or end of year anthologies.
But me, I read on screens. (Laptops, unlimited broadband and wifi – the three best inventions in the universe, I tell you true. Kindles and iPads come a close second.) I slush for Lightspeed, so would, of course, highly recommend anyone taking a shuftie at it. They publish some awesome fantasy and science fiction, along with author interviews (and they’re reopening for subs on 20th June, if you’re that way inclined!) Lightspeed also has a sister magazine – Nightmare – for the horror aficionados, though I’ll confess to not having read much of that as yet. (Bad Jen, no cookie.)
Strange Horizons is another firm favourite and has my highest stories-I-like hit rate of all the magazines I read, and always gives fascinating non-fiction. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is another top one, and is great for thoughtful secondary world fiction, as well as some gorgeous cover artwork. Clarkesworld completes the top tier online magazine roster, and another one with gorgeous cover artwork, however I find them a little bit highbrow at times so can be something of an acquired taste. Always worth a read though.
Crossed Genres can always be counted on for fiction that pushes at the traditional boundaries and has a specific interest for stories about under-represented people. (They also do some cracking anthologies, but anthologies are for another post!) Expanded Horizons is another great magazine pushing for more diversity in the field and publishes some truly breathtaking stuff.
In the department of ‘does what it says on the tin’, there’s Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and Alt Hist, which, no surprise, do heroic fantasy and historical/alternate historical stories, so if that’s your thing, that’s where you want to go. If you like longer short fiction, then may I point you at GigaNotoSaurus for all your novella pleasures. If you prefer much shorter short fiction, than Daily Science Fiction does flash fiction five days a week (and free subscription if you want the stories delivered via email.)
Other fab free online mags include Abyss & Apex, Indian SF, Subterranean Magazine, Apex Magazine, Philippine Genre Stories and Ideomancer, and if you get a taste for any of them, don’t forget to donate a couple of quid to show your appreciation and generally keep them going.
Lastly we have the hybrid online magazines – those that exist in both dead-tree and electronic formats and include, but are not limited to, things like: Albedo One, who sell PDF versions of their magazines, Something Wicked has moved to an annual anthology but back issues are still free on their site, Shimmer has some of their content free online while selling the full issues in print and multiple digital formats, and fans of the TTA Press range of mags can easily buy DRM-free digital copies of Crimewave, Interzone and Black Static from Smashwords.
So, yeah, no-one’s publishing short fiction at all. 😉