Funding short fiction

Funding short fiction has never been more important, and three major outlets have recently launched Kickstarters to keep the lights on in 2025

Funding short fiction
Photo by Joshua Brown on Unsplash

For its entire history, short stories have been a huge part of the modern science fiction genre. With magazines such as Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction arriving in the 1920s and 1930s, the genre's been sustained by the likes of print magazines such as Galaxy Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Omni, and Asimov's Science Fiction, and given new life with their online counterparts like Clarkesworld, Lightspeed Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Uncanny Magazine. I'd argue that these publications have helped to keep the genre alive by providing a path for new authors and plenty of new ideas and stories over the decades, even as we've seen the rise of blockbuster movies, streaming shows, and franchises that have taken over popular culture.

The history of science fiction and fantasy is one of transitions, and these publications have long been subjected to the whims of market forces. The collapse of the magazine distribution infrastructure in the late 1950s forced tons of genre magazines out of business on the eve of the New Wave movement, and the rise of the internet brought about new opportunities for enterprising editors to try and figure out how to distribute short fiction in new ways.

It's also been a tough environment. Alex Shvartsman shut down Future Science Fiction last year because of burnout, while Brian White closed Fireside Fiction in 2022 after controversies and time commitments. It's not all doom and gloom, however: in 2021, Julian Yap and Fran Wilde launched Sunday Morning Transport, which is still running on Substack.

But there are still challenges to running these publications. Authors and artists need to be paid for their work. One of the bigger challenges recently was Amazon's decision to stop selling magazine subscriptions via its Kindle newsstand. The move was a huge blow to publications like Clarkesworld, which editor Neil Clarke noted had been their biggest source of revenue: "for the first time in Clarkesworld’s history, we moved from stability to growth." Compounding the problem was that Clarke had no way to contact his 1800 subscribers, and said that "closing [the subscriptions] will be felt by more than just those directly affected. I’ve called this a “call your parents” moment for short fiction readers. If you love short fiction and the magazines that publish them–whether or not they were in Amazon–make sure you support them by subscribing if you want to see them find stability and the ability to become all they are meant to be."

They've been clawing back those subscribers little by little: as of this week, they're 232 away from their original subscriber numbers. It's great to see, but it's also a year's blow, and it's a good reminder for readers to remain engaged with the publications from which they get their stories: to subscribe and support them, because in the long run, that helps to keep those outlets alive to continue to tell stories. (Here's where you can subscribe to Clarkesworld.)

I've been thinking about this this week because it seems like it's pledge drive season for the SF/F short fiction industry as a whole: three major publishers are running Kickstarter campaigns to fund their upcoming years, and I figured it was worth highlighting them:

Apex Magazine 2025

Apex Magazine, part of Apex Book Company (which published my anthology War Stories years ago) is currently running a Kickstarter for its 2025 season, aiming to raise $15,000. The outlet ran a campaign back in 2022, to build up its reserves and become sustainable on subscriptions and Patreon supporters. "unfortunately, the reality is we’re falling short. Between the heat death of social media, various fires in publishing, and the fact that crowdsourcing through platforms such as Kickstarter garner much more attention than calls to subscribe, we have to move back to a system that has worked for us in the past."

Hitting that $15,000 mark will fund three issues of the magazine in 2025, with additional stretch goals unlocking additional issues. A pledge of $27 will get you a year's subscription. As of right now, it's raised just over $2k, with 29 days to go.

Strange Horizons 2025

Strange Horizons is one of the older online genre magazines, and has been using Kickstarter as an annual subscription drive platform for the past couple of years. They're aiming to raise $13,500 for 2025, and fortunately, have crossed the finish line with just shy of $15,000 currently raised. They've got five days to go in their campaign. If they hit their stretch goals, they'll be producing a special issue on Afro-Surrealist SF, guest-edited by Yvette Lisa Ndlovu, a special issue on Ageing and SFF, and additional pay raises for artists and additional stories.

Uncanny Magazine Year 11: This One Goes to ELEVEN!

Originally funded via Kickstarter back in 2014, Uncanny has used the platform as its annual fundraising source ever since. This year's campaign just launched, and they're looking to raise $30,000 for 2025 (they're currently just shy of $22,000 raised), which will fund six issues with 5-6 stories each, and provide funding for their staff and hosting. $35 will make you a subscriber. I've also donated a copy of Cosplay: A History as one of the perks for $100-level sustainer tier.

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Image: Andrew Liptak

It's a story that every genre magazine has had to contend with: reaching subscribers and being able to pay their creators and staff a good wage. These types of magazines have long been an entry point for the creators of tomorrow: curious kids and teenagers who pick up a brightly colored magazine and get drawn into the stories and worlds they published that issue. Some of those readers have gone on to become the next generation of storytellers.

I make it a point to pick up the latest issue of Asimov's whenever I stop by my local Barnes & Noble, and I've always thought that these magazines are outstanding collections of some of the most interesting stories you'll find, and I'll challenge you to head out to any of the online publications and pick out a story or two to read over your lunch break today. (Tell me what you find in the comments!)