Tomorrow: Speculative Fiction

Tagged: Publication

US letter-size Semiprozine, published by Pulphouse Publishing, Eugene, Oregon for the first issue, dated January 1993 (launched in September 1992) but thereafter acquired by the editor, Algis Budrys, who published it under the Unifont Company, Evanston, Illinois for the rest of its run which was, as a print magazine, until February 1997, a total of 24 issues. It then went online from April 1997 until August 1999, a further sixteen issues.

Budrys had resigned in 1991 from the L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future programme, and his position as co-ordinating judge of the Writers of the Future Contest (though he continued to serve as an advisor) and his experience both as a judge and a writer boded well for the magazine. When Budrys acquired it he promptly increased the number of pages from 68 to 82, but otherwise the magazine retained its original look, very similar to Pulphouse: A Weekly Magazine (see Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine), with attractive covers but a generally bland interior on newsprint. Apart from a nine-part series by Budrys himself, "Writing" (January 1993-August 1994, missing June 1994) and Budrys's editorial, the magazine was entirely fiction, including the occasional new story by Budrys under one or other alias. Although Budrys's pay rate was on the low-side of professional (around 4¢ a word) he was able to attract many major names, but also encouraged new writers – his editorial in issue #3 (July 1993) was about the distinction between professional and amateur and how this should not affect the quality of the fiction. As a consequence contributors such as Harlan Ellison, Geoffrey A Landis, Ursula K Le Guin, Robert Reed, Norman Spinrad, Elisabeth Vonarburg and Gene Wolfe appeared alongside a number of newer writers like M Shayne Bell, Mike Christie, Stoney Compton, Eliot Fintushel, Donna McMahon, Pete Manison, Michael H Payne and Brooks Peck. Even long-time British fan Terry Jeeves appeared with a neat twist on Faster Than Light travel, "The Einstein Instant" (November 1996). There were also some surprise resurrections such as Charles L Fontenay and Charles E Fritch, neither of whom had contributed to magazines for many years, although neither was about to set the world on fire. Despite Budrys's claim that professional and amateur could sit side by side, the magazine was at times very uneven, unbalanced between very good stories – often the longer ones – and too many short-short ones. Some readers felt the fiction lacked distinctive voices in the sense of many of them being low key.

Stand-out fiction included Vampire Junkies (August 1993; 1994 chap) by Norman Spinrad, "Almost Forever" (October 1993) and its sequel "Forever" (December 1993) by William Barton, "Bicyclefish Island" (April 1994) by Daniel P Dern, "Bande Ohne Ende" (June 1994) by Elisabeth Vonarburg, "Into a Sunless Sea" (October 1994) by R Gárcia y Robertson and the serials Dance to the Sun (February-August 1994; 1997), a psychic Superman story by Australian William Esrac, and the Nifft the Lean adventure The Mines of Behemoth (June-October 1996; 1997) by Michael Shea. Ursula K Le Guin's Hainish episode "Another Story" (August 1994) had already appeared in her A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (coll 1994).

Budrys printed some 5000 copies of each issue but sales were only about half that, and he experienced problems with his distributors. The increased cost of paper and mailing charges forced him to put the cover price up to $5.00 in April 1996 and sales dipped accordingly. At the end of 1996 Budrys decided to drop the print edition entirely and switch to producing an Online Magazine, helped by Scott Frey and Kandis Elliot. There were the inevitable hitches but the bimonthly schedule did not suffer and the magazine went online in April 1997. Budrys retained the emphasis on short fiction, increasing the word rate to five cents, so that it was now a true Prozine, and introduced more features such as book reviews (by Bruce Canwell) and a letter column, plus a science and opinion column by Thomas A Easton. Budrys granted readers free access for the first three issues before charging a fee, and initially access was in excess of 5000, so he felt confident that with the reduced online costs the magazine would be profitable. However, once the site became subscription-only, sales dropped dramatically. Budrys nevertheless persevered, and continued to issue the magazine on a bimonthly status. Nothing of the website remains and detailed contents data have been lost. It published the first part of what became Sheila Finch's novel Birds (2004) as "The Falcon and the Falconer" (March/April 1997), and also several stories by Michael H Payne including the full serialization of his novel Blood Jaguar (December 1997-June 1998; 1998). Budrys grew very dissatisfied with the low subscriber interest in the magazine and eventually dropped it altogether after the July/August 1999 issue, maintaining the site for another year but posting only his own fiction.

Tomorrow was always a readable magazine, but was rather less satisfying than one might have expected from Budrys: an uneven mix of the superior with the sufficient. [MA/PN]

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