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The release of Science Fiction & Fantasy (SFF) Uncanny Magazine Issue 4(a) excites me a bit, but what gets me going even more: Uncanny Magazine has started a subscription drive that ends May 19, 2015 (you better run and take part! Don't hesitate, just go).
Someone might ask "Why should I subscribe? After all, I can get the content for free by just going to the Website."
This someone has a point. You can read the SFF stories, poems and essays for free. You don't get all of them at their initial release, though. Notice how I put the "(a)" after the "4" when I stated the issue number above? For Web readers consuming for free, they get half the issue one month then have to wait another month for the rest.
I guess that works fine for people on a budget or casual readers. What about for people who like to stay on the cutting edge? Who want to have all the material at hand to enter into those water cooler discussions (how cool would it be if more workplaces had water cooler discussions centered around literary SFF)? And how about those of you who want to avoid spoilers?
A softer argument probably has better footing, though: By subscribing, you're supporting, nurturing and growing talent with unique perspectives and styles. Undeniably, Uncanny has their tent-pole pieces. Nothing wrong with that, in all honesty. Having worked in small insurance businesses over the last thirteen years, I've learned that tent-poles have their place in keeping businesses afloat.
When handled well, tent-poles can help pull up little known and undiscovered talent. Uncanny utilizes this tactic well. They've published Neil Gaiman's poem, "Kissing song", republished Anne Leckie's "The Nalendar" and Jim Hines's essay, "The Politics of Comfort".
They also published Sam Miller's "The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History", which was submitted unsolicited and went through the "slush pile" process.
My favorite story, Hao Jingfang's "Folding Beijing" (translated by Ken Liu) would probably have had a hard time finding a place in other English-language publications. It would have had no problem (it's beautiful and lovely!), if it were submitted in English, that is.
Uncanny goes out of its way to look for amazing non-native-English stories. Look at the new story, "Restore the Heart into Love" by John Chu). It provides a piercing perspective on the relationship with language a young Chinese man has who is also a second generation immigrant to an English-speaking land. Non-English-native-speaker stories definitely provide perspective and innovation that English-as-first-language stories don't.
Unfortunately the the call for submissions has closed since they can't purchase new works. They want to purchase more, but that's all they could budget from their initial Kickstarter financing.
I didn't do the reckoning until now, but after this issue (first half published on the website this month, next half next month), there's only enough material for two more issues! Things get real when you do the math.
Uncanny Magazine has a lot more to offer consumers SFF: supporting content creators. Uncanny has as one of their goals to publish experimental, challenging content. Issue 3 had a lot that challenged me. My belief system didn't feel challenged or anything, but my sense of story structure and grounding in convention felt grasping and without a foothold. I had a hard time getting into it, but I sensed quality that as an aspiring writer, I would like to emulate some day.
New talent, non-English-as-first-language-speaking talent, experimental talent, challenging talent and good talent always need help for exposure. Uncanny Magazine has shown itself as good vehicle to do it. The Publishers/Editors-in-Chief staff, Lynne M Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, and Managing Editor, Michi Trota, all show commitment to curating this type of material.
They also show their commitment to nurturing and exposing this talent to the world by paying professional-grade (if not higher) for content:
Over the last couple years as Michi and I manuevered our way into the professional and fannish SFF world (mostly through her hard work), we have learned a hard lesson. Rarely will fiction writing pay well enough to quit your day job.
I know. It has burst my bubble and dream, too. Seriously: Practically all our writer friends and acquaintences, even the well known and prolific ones, either have day jobs or live the not-as-secure-but-independent-entrepreneurial-freelancing-and, often, multitalent-utilizing lifestyle.
I don't know how they do it. I have trouble doing my daily chores for survival alongside my day job. I'll have to ask them for tips.
Every little that can send more dollars and exposure to good writers helps. In our current state of things, it seems that we want everything for free. I'm not even talking about illegal downloading of pirated material via Torrents or illegal streaming at YouTube or anything.
I'm part of the crowd that takes free legal products for granted. I've got a ton of online stories bookmarked in my Web browser (without the time to read them). I use the free music-streaming services provided by Pandora and Spotify. I download free apps/programs for my computer and smartphone. I accept the ads and loss of privacy by using Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
If it's there, it's free and I want/need it, I'll use it. I'll admit: I'm in on it. I'm part of the Internet Freerider Problem.
There comes a time when, in our current economy, any producer of a product needs to get paid, whether directly or by some other means. If app producers, music streaming services, Facebook, Twitter and so on and so forth decided to all charge a fee or lose access, I wouldn't hold it against them. I may not make the purchase, but I wouldn't hold it against them.
I want to encourage more good, cutting edge writing for me to enjoy. If you're a fan of good SFF writing, too, I bet you want to, also. Uncanny Magazine probably provides one of the best vehicles to invest this kind of encouragement. It curates quality, experimental, challenging and poignant work and pays well. In addition to providing great product for the consumer, it contributes to producers creating MORE quantity of great product for the consumer.
Not to say that other SFF magazines don't do so, in their own way, though, Uncanny, focuses a lot on getting quality voices in its "pages" that other magazines might not give as much of a chance because of too much experimention or challenge.
Don't worry, though, they do provide balance with some fun pieces and others that might not be as extremely challenging. A couple of my favorites in this category:
And if that isn't enough for you, like any good fundraising drive (I know this because I listen to NPR and watch PBS). . .Uncanny Magazine also has other incentives for subscribing by May 19. Quoting from the subscription drive entry, the first incentive:
When we reach a total of 50 new/renewing subscribers we’ll unlock an ebook of Issue One for *every* new/renewing subscriber. Plus, we’ll randomly draw 2 winners for Uncanny swag packs: postcards, a sticker, and a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch!
Find out more of the incentives by going to the Uncanny Magazine announcement then go to the Weightless Books subscription page for Uncanny Magazine. If we're lucky, they might have drawings for more stuff than already listed.
And one more reason to subscribe: Navigation. While reading, your device can bookmark or keep your last read spot active. You can walk away then come back to where you left off. You don't have to do all types of navigating and cursing to find your place again. Darned Webpages making reading the long form difficult!
You want additional good writing in the SFF Library, right? Be a part of making it happen by subscribing to Uncanny Magazine.
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