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Sci Fiction

Entry updated 4 September 2023. Tagged: Publication.


US Online Magazine or, perhaps more accurately, the fiction section of the Sci Fi Channel (see Television) website and not a separate magazine in its own right. Sci Fiction was edited by Ellen Datlow and featured a new story each week, plus sometimes an additional reprint story. It ran from 19 May 2000 to 28 December 2005.

Datlow's track record as fiction editor at Omni was already an assurance of good quality fiction, running the full range of speculative fiction rather than solely science fiction. Additionally Datlow had the experience of two previous online sites, Omni Online and Event Horizon, making her the most experienced magazine editor in what was still, in 2000, new and relatively untested territory. Datlow had an impressive budget, paying twenty cents a word, which meant that she could attract the major talents in the field: with her own intuitive skill for selecting state of the art fiction, Sci Fiction had everything going for it. The results were impressive. In its first few weeks, two stories would go on to win the Nebula award, "The Cure for Everything" (22 June 2000) by Severna Park and "Goddesses" (5 July 2000) by Linda Nagata, both of which look at the relationship between commercial undertakings and Third World communities. It continued in this form: Andy Duncan's "The Pottawatomie Giant" (1 November 2000) won a World Fantasy Award in 2001, Lucius Shepard's "Over Yonder" (2 January 2002) won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, Karen Joy Fowler's "What I Didn't See" (10 July 2002) won the short story Nebula, whilst the novelette Nebula went to "The Empire of Ice Cream" (26 February 2003) by Jeffrey Ford. Ellen Datlow won the Hugo award as best professional editor in 2002 and 2005, and the Sci Fiction website also won the Hugo in 2005. This was a significant haul for a span of five years, and for a site that only ran one new story a week. Datlow's skills as an editor were beyond doubt, but what Sci Fiction achieved was to give credibility to online publishing. Datlow herself wrote in Digital Domains (anth 2010), which reprinted nine stories from Sci Fiction, "If there was still any doubt that online venues could produce outstanding fiction, Sci Fiction demolished them for good." The site published major fiction by all the leading writers and in fact there was barely a weekly story that did not make it either on to an awards list or the Locus Award final vote.

Unfortunately decided to close down Sci Fiction because that part of its website was not generating enough income. So, even though Sci Fiction had achieved for Online Magazines what John W Campbell Jr's Astounding had achieved for Pulp sf sixty years before, the bottom line still came first. Sci Fiction had not solved the problem of how to make online magazines profitable. [MA]

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