Magazines

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A term usually applied to periodicals, with the implication that they appear in the form of individual issues at regular or irregular periods, most commonly monthly, as distinct from books which, unless part of a series, are usually one-off publications. However, Anthologies, especially Original Anthologies, can also appear at intervals, though rarely monthly; and though some anthology series, such as Destinies, have presented themselves as magazines in the form of a pocketbook anthology, there are several features, apart from frequency, that distinguish a magazine from an anthology. Magazines tend to incorporate other editorial and reader features, such as book reviews and letter columns, and can more effectively run serials and story series. Some magazines will have a strong editorial presence and encourage reader involvement which can, over time, give a magazine a definable personality, usually lacking from most anthologies which will rarely run for long enough to develop a persona. Magazines usually encourage subscribers and will purchase serial rights from authors, whereas anthologies will acquire anthology rights and are not usually available by subscription. At times magazines have been able to acquire certain postal privileges, though these have been eroded in recent years adding to the cost of subscriptions and distribution and contributing to the fall in circulation of all magazines.

Some magazines have passed through both forms, such as New Worlds and Weird Tales, which adopted an anthology format for part of their run. In reverse Star Science Fiction began as an anthology series and briefly became a magazine. Some, such as the Avon Fantasy Reader, were intended as an anthology by their editor and publisher, but were adopted by readers as a magazine. Magazines must therefore not only look like a magazine, but they must act and feel like one as well. This approach, which worked adequately for Print Magazines has been challenged by many Online Magazines, several of which now present their fiction initially online, but then publish in print-form an annual or occasional anthology of all of their fiction. As a consequence magazines and anthologies have a continuing and perhaps increasingly necessary symbiotic relationship.

Magazines have a different status, depending on whether they are professional, amateur or somewhere in between, usually called semi-professional (see Semiprozine), the latter a category recognized only within the fields of science fiction and fantasy. This division arose with the creation of Awards for best magazine or editor when it became necessary to sub-divide them to make a more level playing field. The general distinction is that a professional magazine must pay above a minimum word rate (currently 5 cents a word), have a certain level of paid circulation (currently over 10,000 copies) and support one or more members of staff. At the other extreme, Amateur Magazines or Fanzines are invariably produced as hobbies, do not pay contributors (other than in copies of the magazine) and have a small circulation. Those with a higher level of circulation and who may pay contributors at less than the professional rates are regarded as Semiprozines. These are also known as "little" magazines outside of the SF world, or may be produced by specialist Small Presses and thus called small-press magazines. There is a further distinction between amateur magazines and fanzines. Whilst both are ostensibly the same, fanzines tend to be produced for fun, on an as-and-when basis, and are usually filled by editorial comments, letters of comment ("locs") and a random array of material, not all of a serious nature. These fanzines may be produced by an individual or as part of an organized fandom or club and rarely run fiction other than fan fiction (see Fandom). There are more serious amateur magazines which are determined efforts to replicate professional magazines even if finances lack the ability to pay contributors or have high print runs. This type of amateur magazine usually concentrates on fiction and has grown exponentially with the emergence of online magazines. In fact most Online Magazines and many non-English language sf magazines are amateur (that is non-paying) as distinct from fan-based. They must also be distinguished from Academic Journals, which also rarely pay contributors, and rarely run fiction, but are composed of critical studies and analysis. See Prozine, Semiprozine, Amateur Magazine, Fanzine and Academic Journals for further detail.

Several terms have come into common usage to describe the size and format of a magazine, although they are not generally accepted outside of the science fiction world, nor are they necessarily consistent within science fiction. In some instances, as with Pulp and Slick, the description relates to the quality of the paper, not to the size, whilst Digest used to relate to the nature of the content. As a consequence these designations need to be further qualified as "large slick" or "standard pulp", which require further clarification. The following provides the basic size details as used within this encyclopedia. The magazine height is given first.

  • Tabloid, the regular compact size of many newspapers, measuring 16.9 x 11 in (430 x 280 mm) and printed on newsprint paper. Pages are usually loose and rarely stapled. This size was adopted by Aboriginal for its first three issues and by Vertex in its final stages.
  • Letter Size, also called "Large flat" or, erroneously, Bedsheet, measuring 11.75 x 8 in (298 x 216 mm), and thus the approximate equivalent of Quarto or A4. This size also applies to large pulp or large slick. Issues are usually saddle-stapled but can be perfect bound. The latter gives a stiff spine which can display the title and date. This was the size adopted by most slick magazines after the First World War and by many technical and scientific magazines, hence was the size of Gernsback's Science and Invention and the original size of Amazing Stories.
  • Standard is the size adopted by most magazines in the mid-nineteenth century through to the mid-twentieth, and was adopted by most pulp magazine publishers. It measures roughly 10 x 7 in (about 254 x 178 mm), and these may also be saddle-stapled but are usually perfect bound. The first standard sized SF Magazine was Astounding.
  • Digest, the format made popular by the Reader's Digest, which began in 1922, though it had been used by some magazines earlier. The dimensions are roughly 7.5 x 5 in (190 x 130 mm) but can vary by much as an inch (24.5 mm) in height either way, hence references to "large digest" or "small digest". These may be saddle-stapled but are usually perfect bound. Astounding adopted the digest format in November 1943, but it was several years before others followed suit.
  • Review, the format used by many academic journals and slightly larger than digest, measuring roughly 8.5 x 6 in (215 x 150 mm), which is close to A5 size. These are almost always perfect bound. It is the form used by Extrapolation, Foundation and Science Fiction Studies.
  • Pocketbook, the size adopted for most paperbacks prior to the emergence of the "trade paperback". Dimensions are roughly 7 x 4.25 in (180 x 110 mm). The trade paperback form has been used by some magazines, mostly print-on-demand, and measures 7.75 x 5 in (195 x 125 mm). In both cases these are always perfect bound.
  • Vestpocket size has been used on rare occasions, measuring roughly 4 x 2.75 in (100 x 70 mm) or less. They can be perfect bound but are usually saddle-stapled.

There are always some variances to these formats dependent upon the printing presses and trimming, and significant variances are noted by "large" or "small" or "intermediate". See Pulp, Slick, Bedsheet and Digest for further detail.

For a general survey of sf magazines (and some fantasy magazines that occasionally published sf stories), see SF Magazines, and also the individual entries for the approximately 500 professional sf magazines and Semiprozines we discuss in detail – the complete list of titles is given under Print Magazines for those which were primarily print based and Online Magazines for those which are primarily web based. For amateur sf periodical publications see Amateur Magazines and Fanzines; for a discussion of pulp magazines generally, and a listing of all the pulp entries not listed under the SF Magazines rubric, including the hero/villain pulps, see Pulp magazine, which also discusses the relationship between the pulps and their competitors, the Slicks. [MA/PN]

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