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Asimov's Science Fiction

Entry updated 22 March 2022. Tagged: Publication.


US SF Magazine which began as Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in Spring 1977 but was retitled Asimov's Science Fiction from November 1992. Quarterly from Spring 1977, bimonthly from January/February 1978, monthly from January 1979, four-weekly from January 1981; it dropped to 11 issues per year in 1996 with a combined October/November double issue; ten issues a year from 2004 with a further combined April/May double issue; and six double issues a year from 2017. Published by Davis Publications, New York until September 1992, and Dell Magazines from October 1992, which became a division of Crosstown Publications from September 1996. Edited by George H Scithers Spring 1977-February 1982, Kathleen Moloney March 1982-December 1982, Shawna McCarthy January 1983-mid-December 1985, Gardner Dozois January 1986-December 2004, Sheila Williams January 2005 to date. Published in Digest format until May 1998, it shifted to a slightly larger digest format (8.25 x 5.25 in; 210 x 135 mm) to allow greater visibility on the newsstands. A further change was made in December 2008 to an even larger digest format, close to review size (8.5 x 5.75 in; 217 x 148 mm) again with the hope of increased visibility. A more significant change, however, was the growth of the ebook edition, which first became available in January 2000 and which now accounts for a significant proportion of all sales, figures which are not reflected in the annual statement of circulation which the magazine publishes.

Isaac Asimov was named as "Editorial Director" of this sf magazine, which was titled to take advantage of his popularity and to fit in with the publisher's other periodicals, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (see Ellery Queen; Alfred Hitchcock); the first three issues featured his photograph on the cover, and he contributed a great many chatty editorial articles. Asimov's was commercially successful – at least relative to other sf magazines – from the outset, though its contents under Scithers's editorship were on the whole light and undemanding with perhaps a little too much delight in puns and jokes. Nevertheless, Scithers won the Hugo award for Best Professional Editor in both 1978 and 1980, and he was very good at discovering new writers. Those who either sold their first stories to Scithers or developed their career under his watch include John M Ford, Nancy Kress, Barry Longyear, Richard S McEnroe, Al Sarrantonio, Somtow Sucharitkul (see S P Somtow), Sharon Webb and William F Wu; both Longyear and Sucharitkul went on to win the John W Campbell Award in successive years for best new sf writer. The magazine, through Asimov's reputation and persona, sought to attract new readers, many of whom were young teenagers, whose parents had bought subscriptions for them. As a result the magazine created an image that was both safe and inoffensive, causing most established writers to see it as a juvenile magazine. This image was further encouraged by the short-lived companion Asimov's SF Adventure Magazine. The serialization of Frederik Pohl's "Like Unto the Locust" (December 1979-January 1980), part of his forthcoming novel The Cool War (fixup 1981), complete with strong language, caused an outrage amongst those readers who had become accustomed to sf that appealed to the young, and as a consequence both Asimov and Scithers had to apologize. Asimov's had an image that had proved popular with readers and had provided the magazine with a healthy circulation – it had exceeded Analog's in its first year. But it was an image that would also be restricting over time and would not allow the magazine to grow.

After Scithers departed, Kathleen Moloney was appointed editor, much to everyone's surprise, including hers. She remained less than a year and during that period Shawna McCarthy was promoted to Senior Editor and soon took over from Moloney. McCarthy wanted to run more mature stories and checked with readers over what they did and didn't want. The general response was that readers were adult enough to judge for themselves, but nevertheless there was a furious reaction to the publication of "Her Furry Face" (mid-December 1983) by Leigh Kennedy which dealt with a human's relationship with an orang-utang of superior Intelligence. Asimov supported McCarthy through the furore that followed and whilst she remained determined to push the barriers at Asimov's, she recognized there were limits. Nevertheless she won the Hugo award as Best Professional Editor in 1984, and it was clear that generally most readers approved of her attempts to publish more mature fiction, evident in the works she ran by Greg Bear, Michael Bishop, David Brin, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, Dan Simmons, Norman Spinrad and Connie Willis, many of which also won Awards and are recognized for their significance in the overall development of sf during the 1980s. 1983 also saw Asimov's circulation peak at 105,000, chiefly due to a major increase in subscribers.

McCarthy's role was crucial in moving Asimov's away from its juvenile image and establishing it with a voice of its own. This allowed Gardner Dozois to develop its reputation further and under his editorial guidance Asimov's became the most important magazine of its generation: the 1990s equivalent of Astounding in the 1940s and Galaxy in the 1950s. The sheer volume of mature and quality material that he published during his twenty years as editor, as may be partly judged from the number of award winners listed below, is just one of the factors that not only made Asimov's the leading sf magazine, but also stimulated the sf field to rebuild and regenerate itself after the identity crises it had gone through in the 1960s and 1970s. Dozois did not do this alone, but he established a responsive market which provided writers with the opportunity to be creative. This freedom, previously the reserve primarily of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction meant that writers associated with that magazine began to appear more regularly in Asimov's, mostly noticeably Lucius Shepard and James Tiptree Jr. Furthermore writers one might usually associate with Analog (which had become a companion to Asimov's in 1980), such as Ben Bova, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Geoffrey A Landis and Allen Steele, were also selling regularly to Asimov's, meaning that the magazine was presenting some of the best writers from the two closest rivals as well as showcasing its own very strong voice with the best of the new generation of writers, such as Orson Scott Card, Karen Joy Fowler, James Patrick Kelly, Nancy Kress, Pat Murphy, Kim Stanley Robinson, Bruce Sterling, Michael Swanwick, and the best of the old: Gregory Benford, Avram Davidson, Harlan Ellison, Frederik Pohl, Robert Silverberg and, of course, Asimov himself. Dozois won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor for all but two years from 1988 to 2004. This density of award-winning is without precedent in sf-magazine publishing, and says much for Dozois's editorial discernment and skill.

Despite its status in the sf field, in the wider world Asimov's could still be seen as a magazine for younger readers, as evidenced by an over-sensationalized incident in February 2004 when a parent complained that a child, via a school fundraising drive, was able to order a magazine with strong adult content. Asimov's had made a major contribution to the development of science fiction during the 1980s and 1990s but the world beyond still had a stereotypical image of what constituted a SF Magazine.

Sheila Williams, who succeeded Dozois as editor in January 2005 had been with the magazine, initially as assistant editor to McCarthy, since June 1982. She thus brought a wealth of experience to the role as well as a feeling of continuity and consistency, and the magazine has retained its high standards, and still wins a significant share of awards, despite increasing competition from Online Magazines. Williams won her first personal Hugo award as editor (short form) in 2011 and again in 2012.

From the first issue Asimov's has carried editorial and other nonfiction features. The standard book review column, "On Books", was originally run by Charles N Brown followed by Baird Searles (from May 1979) and then Paul Di Filippo (from July 1994) alternating with Peter Heck, with occasional longer critical essays by Norman Spinrad, since July 1983. Martin S Gardner contributed a series of ingenious mathematical puzzles set in an sf context from the first issue until November 1986. Matthew J Costello's "Gaming" on Role Playing Games ran from May 1986 to June 1990, retitled "Neat Stuff" from April 1989. James Patrick Kelly has run his column "On the Net" since August 1998, but most remarkable of all is Robert Silverberg's "Reflections". This began as "Opinion" in the July 1978 issue of Galileo, switched to Amazing Stories in May 1981, where it was retitled "Reflections" from September 1986 and then moved to Asimov's in July 1994 where it has appeared regularly ever since.

In common with all newsstand magazines, Asimov's has seen a decline in circulation over the last few decades. From its peak of 105,000 in 1982/3 both newsstand sales and subscriptions have steadily fallen, with occasional momentary recoveries. By the end of Dozois's editorship in 2004/5, it was down to just under 30,000 and has continued to decline, although since 2000 there has been an increase in ebook sales. It is currently too early to tell whether this new outlet will be the salvation of the old-guard sf magazines.

There have been many anthologies derived from issues of Asimov's by the editors (see under their entries for details). There have been several non-English language editions of the magazine. In order of their appearance the first was in Italy which had several attempts with La Rivista di Isaac Asimov from Mondadori, Milan, for eleven issues, Spring 1978 to November 1980; then from SIAD Edizione, Milan, with sixteen issues from September 1981 to February 1983; then from Telemaco in Bologna, a further six issues from January to September 1993; and finally from Phoenix Enterprise in Bologna, fifteen issues from May 1994 to July 1995. Israel's version was called Cosmos which ran for just six issues in 1979, whilst in Japan it was SF Hoseki which was twelve issues from August 1979 to June 1981. Like Italy, Spain had several attempts. Asimov's Revista Ciencia Ficcion ran for 12 issues from December 1979 to March 1981; then Isaac Asimov – Revista de Ciencia Ficcion saw 14 issues from February 1986 to April 1987 and more recently Asimov's Ciencia Ficcion saw 21 issues from October 2003 to November/December 2005. The longest running edition was Brazil's Isaac Asimov Magazine with 25 issues from June 1990 to January 1993. Poland had ten issues of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine from December 1991 to November 1992. The Czech edition was called simply Asimov's with 15 issues from August 1996 to October 1997, whereas the Greek Asimov's Science Fiction saw only three issues from October to December 1997. In Germany the translations have been issued as a regular anthology series since 1978, rather than as a magazine. The fact that Asimov's seems to be less successful outside of the English-speaking world raises questions about the exportability of cutting-edge modern sf. [MA/PN]


  • George H Scithers, Spring 1977 to 15 February 1982
  • Kathleen Moloney, 15 March to mid-December 1982
  • Shawna McCarthy, January 1983 to mid-December 1985
  • Gardner Dozois, January 1986 to December 2004
  • Sheila Williams, January 2005 to current

Awards for fiction

  • January/February 1978: John Varley, "The Barbie Murders" – novelette Locus Award
  • September 1979: Barry B Longyear, "Enemy Mine" – novella Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award
  • 13 April 1981: Roger Zelazny, "Unicorn Variation" – novelette Hugo
  • 15 February 1982: Connie Willis, "Fire Watch" – novelette Hugo and Nebula
  • July 1982: Connie Willis, "A Letter from the Clearys" – short story Nebula
  • February 1983: Greg Bear, "Hardfought" – novella Nebula
  • August 1983: Gardner Dozois, "The Peacemaker" – short story Nebula
  • mid-December 1983: Octavia E Butler, "Speech Sounds" – short story Hugo
  • May 1984: John Varley, "PRESS ENTER _" – novella Hugo, Nebula and Locus
  • June 1984: Octavia E Butler, "Bloodchild" – novelette Hugo, Nebula and Locus
  • January 1985: Frederik Pohl, "Fermi and Frost" – short story Hugo
  • July 1985: Roger Zelazny, "24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai" – novella Hugo
  • November 1985: George R R Martin, "Portraits of His Children" – novelette Nebula
  • April 1986: Lucius Shepard, "R&R" – novella Nebula and Locus
  • July 1986: Robert Silverberg, "Gilgamesh in the Outback" – novella Hugo
  • October 1986: Kate Wilhelm, "The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky" – novelette Nebula
  • mid-December 1986: Isaac Asimov, "Robot Dreams" – short story Locus
  • March 1987: Orson Scott Card, "Eye for Eye" – novella Hugo
  • April 1987: Pat Murphy, "Rachel in Love" – novelette Nebula and Locus
  • May 1987: Pat Cadigan, "Angel" – short story Locus
  • July 1987: Lawrence Watt-Evans, "Why I Left Harry's All-Night Hamburgers" – short story Hugo
  • August 1987: Kim Stanley Robinson, "The Blind Geometer" – novella Nebula
  • September 1987: Robert Silverberg, "The Secret Sharer" – novella Locus
  • July 1988: Connie Willis, "The Last of the Winnebagos" – novella Hugo and Nebula
  • September 1988: Lucius Shepard, "The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter" – novella Locus
  • October 1988: Geoffrey A Landis, "Ripples in the Dirac Sea" – short story Nebula
  • mid-December 1988: Harlan Ellison, "The Function of Dream Sleep" – novelette Locus
  • June 1989: Robert Silverberg, "Enter a Soldier, Later: Enter Another" – novelette Hugo
  • July 1989: Suzy McKee Charnas, "Boobs" – short story Hugo
  • September 1989: Lucius Shepard, "The Father of Stones" – novella Locus
  • November 1989: Orson Scott Card, "Dogwalker" – novelette Locus
  • April 1990: Joe Haldeman, The Hemingway Hoax (1990) – novella Hugo and Nebula
  • July 1990: Mike Resnick, "The Manamouki" – novelette Hugo
  • August 1990: Terry Bisson, "Bears Discover Fire" – short story Hugo, Nebula and Locus
  • November 1990: Kim Stanley Robinson, "A Short Sharp Shock" – novella Locus
  • mid-December 1990-January 1991: Michael Swanwick, Stations of the Tide (1991) – novel Nebula
  • April 1991: Nancy Kress, "Beggars in Spain" – novella Hugo and Nebula
  • September 1991: Kristine Kathryn Rusch, "The Gallery of His Dreams" – novella Locus
  • October 1991: Geoffrey A Landis, "A Walk in the Sun" – short story Hugo
  • April 1992: Connie Willis, "Even the Queen" – short story Hugo, Nebula and Locus
  • July 1992: Lucius Shepard, "Barnacle Bill the Spacer" – novella Hugo and Locus
  • October 1992: Pamela Sargent, "Danny Goes to Mars" – novelette Nebula and Locus
  • December 1992: Janet Kagan, "The Nutcracker Coup" – novelette Hugo
  • March 1993: Connie Willis, "Death on the Nile" – short story Hugo
  • September 1993: Connie Willis, "Close Encounter" – short story Locus
  • November 1994: Ursula K Le Guin, "Forgiveness Day" – novella Locus
  • November 1994: Joe Haldeman, "None So Blind" – short story Hugo and Locus
  • December 1994: Esther M Friesner, "Death and the Librarian" – short story Nebula
  • April 1995: Mike Resnick, "When the Old Gods Die" – novelette Locus
  • June 1995: James Patrick Kelly, "Think Like a Dinosaur" – novelette Hugo
  • October 1995: Allen Steele, "The Death of Captain Future" – novella Hugo
  • April 1996: Connie Willis, "The Soul Selects Her Own Society: Invasion and Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson's Poems: A Wellsian Perspective" – short story Hugo
  • July 1996: George R R Martin, "Blood of the Dragon" – novella Hugo
  • August 1996: Ursula K Le Guin, "Mountain Ways" – novelette Locus
  • October/November 1996: Bruce Sterling, "Bicycle Repairman" – novelette Hugo
  • October/November 1996: Nancy Kress, "The Flowers of Aulit Prison" – novelette Nebula
  • May 1997: Bill Johnson, "We Will Drink a Fish Together ..." – novelette Hugo
  • June 1997: James Patrick Kelly, "Itsy Bitsy Spider" – short story Locus
  • October/November 1997: Allen Steele, "Where Angels Fear to Tread" – novella Hugo and Locus
  • December 1997: Mike Resnick, "The 43 Antarean Dynasties" – short story Hugo
  • December 1997: Connie Willis, "Newsletter" – novelette Locus
  • February 1998: Greg Egan, "The Planck Drive" – novelette Locus
  • February 1998: Michael Swanwick, "The Very Pulse of the Machine" – short story Hugo
  • August 1998: Greg Egan, "Oceanic" – novella Hugo and Locus
  • October/November 1998: Bruce Sterling, "Talkamakan" – novelette Hugo and Locus
  • June 1999: James Patrick Kelly, "1016 to 1" – novelette Hugo
  • July 1999: Michael Swanwick, "Scherzo with Dinosaur" – short story Hugo
  • October/November 1999: Connie Willis, "The Winds of Marble Arch" – novella Hugo
  • January 2000: Kristine Kathryn Rusch, "Millenium Babies" – novelette Hugo
  • August 2000: Lucius Shepard, "Radiant Green Star" – novella Locus
  • October/November 2001: Michael Swanwick, "The Dog Said Bow-Wow" – short story Hugo
  • March 2002: Ursula K Le Guin, "The Wild Girls" – novelette Locus
  • April 2003: Michael Swanwick, "Legions in Time" – novelette Hugo
  • October/November 2003: Walter Jon Williams, "The Green Leopard Plague" – novella Nebula
  • February 2004: Mike Resnick, "Travels With My Cats" – short story Hugo
  • January 2005: Connie Willis, "Inside Job" – novella Hugo
  • March 2005: David D Levine, "Tk'tk'tk" – short story Hugo
  • July 2006: Ian McDonald, "The Djinn's Wife" – novelette Hugo
  • October/November 2006: Robert Reed, "A Billion Eves" – novella Hugo
  • April/May 2007: Karen Joy Fowler, "Always" – short story Nebula
  • April/May 2007: Michael Swanwick, "A Small Room in Koboldtown" – short story Locus
  • June 2007: Elizabeth Bear, "Tideline" – short story Hugo
  • July 2007: Nancy Kress, "Fountain of Age" – novella Nebula
  • December 2007: Connie Willis, "All Seated on the Ground" – novella Hugo
  • March 2008: Elizabeth Bear, "Shoggoths in Bloom" – novelette Hugo
  • October/November 2008: Nancy Kress, "The Erdmann Nexus" – novella Hugo
  • January 2009: Will McIntosh, "Bridesicle" – short story Hugo
  • June 2010: Allen M Steele, "The Emperor of Mars" – novelette Hugo
  • September 2010: Mary Robinette Kowal, "For Want of a Nail" – short story Hugo
  • October/November 2011: Kij Johnson, "The Man Who Bridged the Mist" – novella Hugo and Nebula
  • February 2013: Vylar Kaftan, "The Weight of the Sunrise" – novella Nebula
  • June 2015: Sarah Pinsker, "Our Lady of the Open Road" – novelette Nebula


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