I think the argument of “I won’t read online because it hurts my eyes” is rapidly falling to the wayside, just as it must have been when they introduced papyrus and all those stone tablet guys balked.
Michael Ray, editor of Redstone Science Fiction, seems to agree. Redstone is an online journal and the benefits of avoiding the costs of printing and inventory seem to be paying off—they can actually afford to pay their writers a professional rate. Not many literary journals these days can attempt to do the same.
So we asked Michael a few questions about how he managed to pull it off:
What inspired you to create this online magazine and to go completely digital?
Redstone Science Fiction grew from my experiences as an aspiring science fiction writer. John Scalzi started a controversy when he wrote that science fiction writers should insist on being paid a professional rate for their work and should only submit to publishers who legitimately pay them. Many writers responded that there were only a limited number of pro markets for short science fiction and that there were substantially more quality stories than there were slots in which to publish them. Sounded like supply waiting for demand. My soon-to-be fellow editors loved my idea of starting an online magazine, so we followed SFWA guidelines for a pro market and established Redstone SF.
We built Redstone Science Fiction to be a legitimate publishing and business entity, and we wanted to have complete responsibility and control over all aspects of the process. It made the most sense creatively and financially to establish RSF as an online magazine. I built the website and established an online presence, and Paul Clemmons, our publisher, created a legitimate business entity. We wanted to be made-by-hand, but not fly-by-night.
You’ve just released your eighth issue. What have been your biggest challenges and surprises up to this point as an online publisher?
At first, we were worried that no one would know that we existed. We worried that we would not get many quality submissions, despite our belief that the stories were out there. Thanks to market lists, like Duotrope and Ralan’s, and social media, like Facebook and Twitter, we were able to get the word out. In addition, people in the speculative fiction community have been so supportive of us, much more than we could have imagined. When we finally opened, we were actually flooded with submissions, and many of them were of high quality. Because we want to be fiscally responsible, we have a limit to the number of words we will buy and publish each month. This has led us to have to turn down stories that we might have liked to buy, but it has allowed us to acquire quality work.
What distinguishes Redstone from other online science-fiction mags?
We are determined to publish science fiction. Many slots in the short science fiction marketplace are actually filled with fantasy and horror stories. We love these as readers. However, as editors of Redstone we want stories of change that is brought on by technological, societal, or environmental factors, and we want to see how people might adapt to that change. If that’s the sort of story you want to read, we’re your magazine.
With the publishing industry in such turmoil, what do you think the future holds for writers of science fiction?
Science fiction writers should be uniquely positioned to adapt to a changing marketplace. We are supposed to be looking at the future and imagining how it might be. We should be continuously examining and trying online venues, e-books, podcasts, and different digital platforms and adapt to the change. Complaining about how things ought to be is a losing game. Taking part in the change, adapting, and using it to your advantage is the smart play.
What are your plans for the future? Do you envision producing a print version of your magazine or a book app somewhere down the road?
Redstone Science Fiction is an online magazine first. We also produce PDF and an EPUB versions of each issue, because these are the most widely accessible digital formats. We are working the process with Amazon and Apple to become part of their proprietary delivery systems as well, if it makes sense for us. We expect to begin producing audio versions of our fiction this year as well. We also expect to create a print/e-book anthology of our stories. As much as we embrace technology, one cannot ignore that people love to hold books in their hands. I certainly do—they are weighing down my house.
Do you accept submissions from writers, and what should they expect when working with you?
We announce when we will be open to submissions through market sites and social media. We will open again February 1st through 7th. Our guidelines are at redstonesciencefiction.com/guidelines/.
We respond quickly, and try not to hold a story longer than two months. We strive to send personal responses for acceptances or rejections. Once we accept a story, we offer a standard market contract. We pay a professional rate for fiction, and we pay on time. We keep our authors apprised of what we are doing. We promote our authors’ work online and we nominate them for anthologies and awards. We want to do a good job and we want to publish good stories, so send some our way.