August 11th, 2009

in motion


It's fund drive month at Strange Horizons, so last week I made myself write up a post about how SH is such a wonderful zine and a force for Good in the field and all that.  But a few hours later, I took it down.  I tried, but I just can't stand to do the self-promotion push again.  I realize this is what people do on the internet, but it makes me feel icky.

I think Susan and Jed are similar to me in this: we all suck at hype, and that is probably why Strange Horizons remains a fairly low-profile magazine, despite being, in its own way, a major market.  We care about the stories, about choosing and editing them.  We care about our writers. The PR end of the business, not so much.

Here's the thing: Strange Horizons is donor-supported.  If people donate, our budget gets covered and we can continue to pay our authors professional rates.  The bulk of our donations come in small amounts, a few dollars at a time.  If a lot of people chip in, it will happen.  But most of our readers don't.

I suspect it just doesn't occur to them that it's necessary; people take for granted that content on the internet is free.  Because the Strange Horizons model is unusual: most online magazines are either corporate-backed, or they don't pay their contributors professional rates, or they require paid subscriptions, or they're loss leaders for other sales, or they don't survive for very long.

Strange Horizons is a non-profit labor of love that's been going strong since 2000, which makes it fairly long-lived by SF magazine standards, and positively venerable in internet years.  We put all that great fiction out there free, for the world to share and enjoy.  And every year, we remind our readers to cough up a little cash if they can, to support the magazine's continued existence. Every year, the donations trickle in until we reach our goal.

I surely hope we'll make our budget again this year, because I love Strange Horizons and want it to go on.  But you know what?  I'm tired of asking for money.  Here's what I'd like from you, from any of you out there who read and love the magazine, all of you who are glad it exists:

I'm asking you to think about what Strange Horizons means to you, and write something about that.  Even if it's just a couple of sentences. What do you think makes the magazine special?  Why is it a valuable market in the field?  What stories have you loved reading?  What gets published there that's important to you?  Authors, how has Strange Horizons affected your life? I want to hear your testimonies, personal anecdotes, observations, happy memories.

Post your testimonies where others can read them, or mail them to me if you're feeling shy.  Obviously I'd like you to spread the word and remind everyone about the fund drive, but it's not only that.  I need a reminder, too.  To be honest, I always find the fund drives a little discouraging, because the money trickles in so slowly, and sometimes I think: do people *want* this magazine to continue?  I need to know if all the work that we put in, Jed and Susan and I, and Niall, and all the others, really matters to the community.

It's fund drive time, but I'd prefer to think of this as Strange Horizons Appreciation Week.  Let us hear from you, okay?

[ETA: If you post, or see that someone else has posted, please drop me a line or leave a comment here pointing me to the link, so we'll see it!]