Tuesday, December 19, 2006


They say the short story market is dying. They're probably right, but there's still time to subscribe to some fairly wonderful magazines. Why should you? Because if you are here you are fans of the science fiction and fantasy genres, and the magazines out there will keep the best and brightest of today's writers front and forward, while keeping you up to date on trends in genre literature and elements of the culture.

I have subscriptions to "Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine", "Realms of Fantasy", "Weird Tales", and "Dark Wisdom". I love all four of them, although I never know when another copy of "Weird Tales" is going to arrive, if ever. By the way, if anyone wants to buy me a magazine subscription, which is a great gift, I still would love "Starlog". Just in case anyone wants to step up....anyone? Okay.

Over the next month I'll be spotlighting all four of these magazines to which I subscribe, and probably a few others. Since we have to start somewhere, let's begin with one of my favorites:


"Dark Wisdom," billing itself as a magazine of dark fiction, is a slick, neatly edited 80 page quarterly, published in full color. Originally, a gaming magazine for "Call of Cthulhu" Role Play Game aficianados, the magazine quickly found its legs and evolved into a serious vehicle for horror. Mixing thought provoking and avante-garde work along with more traditional horror themes, "Wisdom" is currently available in all major book chains in the United States, including Barnes and Noble and Borders. It is also available internationally.

At a time when fiction magazines have been losing readership, "Dark Wisdom" has forged a growing subscriber base and continues to evolve from what was once a small gaming digest. It has featured such writers as Richard A. Lupoff, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and "Babylon 5"'s creator J. Michael Straczynski. In reviewing this fine publication, Ramsey Campbell has written: "Dark Wisdom is a feast of the macabre and fantastic, showcasing both top names and those on their way there."

I have contacted Publisher/Editor William Jones and asked him some questions about his publication:

Q: "Dark Wisdom" describes itself as a magazine of Lovecraftian horror. How would you define that?

A: Initially "Dark Wisdom" used the sub-header "A Magazine of Dark Fiction and Lovecraftian Horror." While the contents are still the same, it is now described simply as "Dark Fiction." I consider Lovecraftian ficion to be cross genre -- SF/Horror/Suspense, but always dark. So I used the term Dark Fiction, which was commonly used prior to that. "Dark Fantasy" was, but I consider that part of "Dark Wisdom's" focus.

Q: Where do you see the magazine headed? You also helm Elder Press, a small press that handles mostly horror. Is there anything new happening with that?

A: "Dark Wisdom" has switched to a color format, which is the last stage in print magazine evolution. I hope the content continues to evolve by blending genres (including the "Lovecraftian"). As for Elder Signs Press (ESP), it continues to expand. There are new imprints, which include Mystery, Thrillers, SF, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and still some Horror. Of course, ESP still looks for multi-genre fiction.

Q: Dark Wisdom has been around for a while, do you ever see yourself putting out a "best of" anthology?

A: I've thought about it. In the market, anthologies tend not to sell well, and "Best of" magazine anthologies are a touch more difficult to sell. This makes such a project a challenge. But as the issues sell out, it would be nice to see some of the fiction collected in print. So: maybe.

Q: A lot of bookstores seem to be cutting back on their horror titles and putting horror in along with fantasy titles. What's happening there? Has horror crested? Is it passe?

A: The 1980s is often called the Golden Age of Horror. The market has decreased, I think, because the focus on "Horror" fiction has become broad. This means publishers and stores tend to sell Horror under different names. I'm not sure Horror has crested, but it might be in transistion. I believe it will always be an important part of fiction, but like the Gothic Romance of the past, it might disfuse into several sub-genres.

Q: What's the most difficult thing you experience about being the editor of a magazine?

A: Time management. As the number of publishers of "dark" short fiction decreases, the number of submissions increases. When another magazine in the same market closes, "Dark Wisdom" sees increased submissions. Trying to give each story an honest reading requires a great investment of time. I also act as the Art Director for the magazine, so after story selection comes the task of deciding the story order in the magazine (so they read smoothly or feel related), the size and style of the artwork, and of course editing. Somewhere in there is responding to submissions as well.

Q: You're located in Michigan. Aren't publishers and editors supposed to be in places like Boston, New York, or LA?

A: It seems that way. However, many of the large printing houses are located in Michigan. I know of publishers in California and New York who use Michigan printers. Likewise, many distribution warehouses are located in this region. This actually gives ESP an advantage in shipping times and costs. But maybe we'll open an L.A. office just to keep up tradition.

Q: If you were going to promote Dark Wisdom, what are one or two things that you would start off promoting about the magazine.

A: I think I have three things. Variety: Fiction, non-fiction, reviews of books, films, and music. Artwork: Like magazines of decades past, Dark Wisdom uses plenty of art to work with the fiction. And this year the magazine was nominated for an International Horror Guild award -- a wonderful remark upon the contributors.

The picture at the top of the posting is "Dark Wisdom"'s most current release, now or soon to be available at the book store. If you wish to know more about "Dark Wisdom" visit its website: http://www.darkwisdom.com/ . You also might enjoy stopping by William Jones' blogspot page at http://williamsramblings.blogspot.com/


mist1 said...

Please don't tell me that the short story market is dying. Goodbye, cruel world.

ShadowFalcon said...

Asimov and Philip K Dick's best works are thier short stories and can you imagine sci-fi without them?

Stewart Sternberg said...

Here's the thing. If we want the short story market to live....we have to do something about it. We have to buy short stories. We have to write them. We have to support the people who do.

Yep...short stories are an important way for people to break into writing. They are critical to honing skills.

I always encourage people to buy magazines. I have subscriptions to several. Dark Wisdom is one of those that suits me because I love dark fiction. I also love The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

DesLily said...

I had a subscription to Starlog for years.. until i couldn't afford it anymore.. I hope you get it Stewart!!

SQT said...

I've never been a huge short story reader, though I often do buy books that are compilations of short stories by my favorite authors.

I have enjoyed writing the flash fiction pieces quite a bit. I wouldn't mind trying my hand at some short stories and trying to sell them. In fact, that would be ideal for me right now since my time is kind of limited. But I also think it would be excellent practice for writing a novel someday.

Asara Dragoness said...

*waiting impatiently for the Realms of Fantasy post* :)
I miss that magazine :(

Crunchy Carpets said...

That is one I didn't know.
My dh was in a group that published a quarterly mag with the members short stories and they had writers meetings and so on....all local..but it was great to see writers supporting each other.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I am something of a magazine freak. At one time I think I had twelve subscription...Currently, besides the four mentioned, I have subscriptions to Foreign Affairs, American Heritage, Armchair General, The Nation, Sci-Fi, Maxim, XBOX Magazine, and Electronic Gaming Magazine, and of course, the Sporting News.

Again, subscriptions are cheaper than buying them at the newsstand (A LOT) and I like giving them for gifts. Besides, it gives my mailman something to do.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A good interview there.

William Jones said...

Mist1 said...
Please don't tell me that the short story market is dying. Goodbye, cruel world.

It seems that there are plenty of short fiction writers, just fewer places that publish -- meaning magazines. There are still many sub-genres that are thriving.

shadowfalcon said...
Asimov and Philip K Dick's best works are thier short stories and can you imagine sci-fi without them?

They and many other authors are the foundation of genre short fiction. However, many bookstores have difficulty selling "literary" magazines (short fiction magazines) of any genre. The reason is because they are not considered entertainment. A good example is mentioned by Stewart: XBOX Magazine, or similar magazines, do not require the same investment of time, and usually give a quicker return (in knowledge or pleasure). Reading short fiction is a bit tougher. The result is bookstores have difficulty moving such magazines.

The answer might rest in online magazines, but if the above concepts of entertainment magazines apply, the problem isn't fixed, it is simply shifted to a new medium.

There seems to be far more short fiction writers than there are readers. I'm not sure how that works. :)

Stewart Sternberg said...

I think many magazines will move online. Although that isn't always the answer. One of my favorite genre mags, CINESCAPE, stopped publishing and went online only to crawl to an eventual death.

And you're right, Mr. Jones, the quick reads are good time killers, quick fixes. Still, when I'm ready to read and make the time to do so, I turn to one of the literary magazines.

What to do about short fiction. That's a difficult topic to chew on. Of course, it's probably part of a larger discussion which is the decline in reading and literature as a whole.