About a week ago, publisher Michael Wills came forth about fledgling quarterly Digital Science Fiction‘s uncertain future. The anthology series was conceived as an ebook-focused, professional venue for all-new science fiction stories. After its too-ambitious attempt at publishing a volume of ten original stories per month failed, Wills announced that Digital would change its publishing schedule to quarterly, allowing for better marketing efforts and a more sustainable production model.
But unfortunately, even that’s proven difficult. Despite its focus on ebooks, Amazon keeping print copies of the anthologies in their regular stock, and each of the books’ Amazon.com #1 bestseller status in the SF anthology category, sales alone haven’t been quite enough to maintain the expense of quarterly production, following the fourth volume, in which you can my first professional publication, “In the Arms of Lachiga.”
Naturally, I have an enormous love for this small publishing endeavor. They pay SFWA-standard professional rates, they hire professional editors, illustrators, and designers to work with authors and to format the books with gorgeous covers, interior design, et cetera. It’s a labor of love with an unwavering respect for its contributors and the basics of sustainable business practices. It is the kind of project that can, that should survive — but which doesn’t always make it through such turbulent economic times as these.
Short fiction has long suffered marginalization, ostensibly due to a growing mainstream preference for novels over single-sitting escapes into the realm of imagination. The digital age, though, and the rise of numerous award-winning online magazines like Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons tells us that the short story won’t go quietly into the night. So perhaps it’s simply that quarterly anthologies aren’t yet a dominant vehicle for getting stories to readers — perhaps the diversified methods of delivery we see at places like Daily Science Fiction (individual stories in your email inbox, archives free to read online, and monthly anthologies for e-readers) and Lightspeed (stories and articles trickled online one-by-one weekly, with whole issues available for e-readers with ebook exclusives like a monthly novella reprint, etc.) are the way of the future. My instinct is that maybe it is.
Meantime, it will long be a juggling act of producing quality fiction, duly compensating contributors, editors, and designers, and following the trends of how readers prefer to consume their fiction.
Oh, and one other thing: People have to keep buying the books.
So, y’know, if you’re so inclined . . . please consider buying one or two of Digital Science Fiction‘s books. In their pages you’ll find original stories by the likes of Eric James Stone, Annie Bellet, Ken Liu, Martin L. Shoemaker, Ed Greenwood, Kenneth Schneyer, David Tallerman, Kyle Aisteach, Cassandra Rose Clarke, and myself.
If folks don’t support them, they will simply die. That’s just how the market works. And, frankly, the market for short fiction doesn’t deserve to shrink any more than it already has in the past few years. As a token of my appreciation, please enjoy this excerpt from my story “In the Arms of Lachiga,” a post-cyberpunk piece written a year and a half ago, inspired in part by some research I did on False Memory Syndrome for a paper I wrote on Margaret Atwood’s haunting short story “Death by Landscape”:
Two figures emerged from the shadows, and I knew the night was far from over.
Moonlight filtering in through the skylights of my apartment glinted off the ruby monocles secured to their masks. No doubt, by now, their sonar lenses had revealed to them my concealed Xing-Barron .45, a felony, as well as the amount of high-end tech scattered throughout my trashed living room. My implant would tell them everything they needed to know, right down to my blood type and server number. An endless stream of sensitive information with which to identify and blackmail me.
I froze, arms raised in surrender. There were only two of them, but two would be more than enough.
They’d trailed me here, I knew, all the way from the old city. Why else would they have suspected me? Shadowplay didn’t perform door-to-door audits. It was no game.
“I’m a mod,” I said. It came out as a harsh, quavering whisper.
As if my job mattered to them. I was screwed. They had me for possession, for one—not to mention the countless illegal apps on my drives, should they choose to search them.
“We know what you are,” the one closest to me said. A hand reached out through the dimness and seized my throat.
Choking amid silence, I fought to pry the gloved fingers loose.
The agent tightened his grasp and then hurled me onto the couch. I resisted the urge to reach for my pistol, knowing I had little chance of success. I’d be dead before my finger even twitched.
The second operative, a woman, came at my flank. She held me down with an outstretched arm, and rammed a hypodermic injector into my shoulder.
The neurotoxin struck me like a bolt of white-hot lightning, and though my body tried to shiver at the flood of tingling sensations that swept through my muscles, I remained completely still. Paralyzed.
“Dax Marquand?” the male agent asked. He came closer, presumably to get a better look at my face; the camera lens on his mask would relay my image back to HQ for verification. And then they could either bring me to justice—if such a thing existed—or dispose of me, wiping clean every trace.