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Infinite Matrix, The

Entry updated 18 February 2021. Tagged: Publication.

US professional cumulative Online Magazine which posted material daily but was archived monthly. It was published by Eileen Gunn and ran, after what could have been its only issue in August 2001, from November 2001 to January 2006, with three additional issues in April 2006, January 2007 and July 2008. Along with Sci Fiction and Strange Horizons, both of which had been running for about a year, The Infinite Matrix became one of the three leading online magazines at the start of the new millennium, establishing a plateau of quality, respectability and achievement to which all others would aspire. Gunn was determined to pay decent word rates and, at the outset, paid 25 cents a word, matching Sci Fiction's; but together with establishing and maintaining the website, this proved costly. The project was initially sponsored by, a software company whose representatives John Quarterman and Peter Salus had conceived the magazine partly as a recruitment strategy for their business. This all suffered when the bubble burst and Gunn found herself announcing in her initial editorial, "Hail and Farewell" (1 August 2001), that this was both the first and last issue. Fortuitously a mystery benefactor donated sufficient funding to sustain the magazine for a few more months, so it returned on 19 November 2001 for the start of what would be a run of just over four years. Throughout that time Gunn had a constant battle to raise money, holding fundraising parties, seeking regular donations from readers and occasionally welcoming bigger donations from others in the business. The magazine was never able to develop sufficient advertising revenue and from December 2001 the word rate dropped to ten cents a word, still a respectable level.

Gunn's vision was for the magazine to be timely and instant with new material appearing every day. To provide that sense of immediacy she commissioned Bruce Sterling to provide a daily blog, "Schism Matrix". At the outset Sterling wrote this weekly and Gunn split it into five daily chunks. The word "blog" had not yet become widely accepted at that stage, and there was no blogging software. Sterling still called it a "weblog" in the first column, but switched to "blog" from November. He continued the column for 93 weeks until August 2003, and from January 2004 Howard Waldrop began his regular blog. Other features that began in that first issue were John Clute's book reviews "Scores" and a series of nanotales (a more suitable term than Flash Fiction) by Richard Kadrey. The magazine's November 2001 revival added "This Week in History", a daily vision of the future by Terry Bisson, and "The Runcible Ansible" by David Langford, a weekly preview of news items scheduled for his regular newsletter Ansible. Another sense of immediacy came from publishing excerpts from forthcoming or recently published novels starting with Pat Cadigan's Dervish Is Digital (2000). Also, on Christmas Day 2001 the website posted John Varley's amusing Dickensian fantasia "A Twistmas Carol". All of these gave the magazine a sense of "now", something which no print magazine other than a daily newspaper could achieve.

The magazine's other main feature was its new short fiction. "Young Vergil and the Wizard" (3 December 2001) by Avram Davidson was a previously unpublished story in Davidson's Vergil Magus series which eventually appeared in print as part of the novel The Scarlet Fig (2005). "Under Hill" (6 May 2002) by Gene Wolfe appeared here six months before its print debut in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (December 2002) as did Ursula K Le Guin's "The Seasons of the Ansarac" (3 June 2002; February 2003 F&SF). Both "I, Robot" (15 February 2005), Cory Doctorow's bleak vision of a totalitarian future, and his "After the Siege" (8 January 2007) went on to win the Locus Award for best novelette and best novella, respectively, without having first appeared elsewhere in print. There were also stories by Neal Barrett Jr, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Rudy Rucker and Robert Sheckley amongst others. There were two stories, "Ocean of Stars" (19 February 2002) and "Spider's Nest" (5 March 2002) by the German Cyberpunk writer, Myra Çakan. And there was a host of other nanotales, including a series by Michael Swanwick "The Sleep of Reason" (1 April 2002-2 October 2003) with stories and thoughts inspired by the artwork of Goya.

The Infinite Matrix was a vibrant magazine and one of the best to appear on the internet. Most of the archives remain intact. [MA]


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