Let’s get something out of the way right now: I love short stories. I’m a big fan of anthologies and magazines. The root of this love for the short format can be found in my adoration for the writing of Harlan Ellison. Even though it’s never going to bring me the kind of money it takes to support a family I fully intend to devote a noticeable chunk of this writing career I’m trying to develop to short fiction. For that reason I’m all for jumping in on crowdfunding projects looking to get new fiction magazines off the ground. At the time of this writing, I’m supporting the Fireside Magazine Issue 2 & Beyond kickstarter and the Nightmare Magazine kickstarter. The way I see it, supporting a new magazine (or an established one for that matter) benefits me and other writers in two ways.
First, I get a magazine to read. I’m always wanting to be reading more; “they” say that the number one thing a writer has to do, other than write, is read. Of course reading novels is great but reading a novel takes a lot more time than a short story. During that time you’re only absorbing lessons from one writer, one book. Reading a magazine lets you check out multiple authors, with different approaches, styles and techniques, and you get to take each story as a whole experience instead of broken up and staggered over time as with a novel.
The second benefit I get (or any writer gets) from supporting a magazine is that they’ll be there later (one would hope) when you have a story you want to sell. Now I don’t mean that supporting a magazine makes it more likely that they’ll publish your work. I doubt that would be true and I hope for the sake of any magazine’s quality that it wasn’t. I’m just talking simple math here. The more magazines (markets) that are out there buying fiction the greater chance you’ll be able to find a home for your work. Simply put: If your are a fiction writer investing in a fiction magazine’s future is an investment in your own future.
Now let’s talk Fireside Magazine. I missed the original kickstarter for Issue #1 but picked it up not long ago from Weightless Books. So what is Fireside? From their current kickstarter:
Fireside is a quarterly magazine of short fiction and comics. We have two goals. One is to publish great storytelling without regard to genre. As I like to quote Neil Gaiman, we want stories make the reader say, “And then what happened?”
Our other goal is to pay writers and artists at a rate that helps them make a living from their creative work.
In issue number one this translated into four short stories, a comic and some art.
Fireside Issue 1 opens with “To the Moon” by Ken Liu. If I had been putting this magazine together with the same stories I’m pretty sure I’d have opened with this one as well. It’s powerful fiction that turns the tables on you more than once, and by that I don’t mean it has any “twists”. With the name and it’s beginning you’d think it was going to be the magazine’ sci-if entry, but it isn’t. The story is about a young lawyer and her refugee status seeking clients, a Chinese man and his daughter. It’s about lies and values and illusions. For my money it’s the strongest story here, it’s the one that’s more than just a good story. I was not familiar with Ken Liu’s work before but I’ll be seeking it out now.
Next up is “Emerald Lakes” by Chuck Wendig. As is probably obvious to anyone who has been checking out this young blog of mine I’m a big fan of Mr. Wendig. I’ve never read Shotgun Gravy, the first novella in his Atlanta Burns series, though. This story is a prequel to that. Despite being part of a larger world the story is self-contained and very easy to get into. The main character, Atlanta Burns, is in the Emerald Lakes facility where they have some pretty simple rules: “Don’t miss therapy. Don’t miss rec time. Go to your room when the first tone plays, lights out by second tone. Oh, and take your pills. Always take your pills.” It’s a nice (ok nice is really not the right word) character piece. Atlanta Burns is a strong young woman facing some terrible situations. She’s not just a protagonist though, she’s something of a hero. When I finished reading I knew that sooner or later I’d be seeking out the full Atlanta Burns experience.
In the middle of the issue we get a break from the short stories for a comic. “Snow Ninjas of the Himalayas”. Written by Adam P. Knave & D.J. Kirkbride, Pencils by Michael Lee Harris, Letters by Frank Cvetkovic. I’m not going to say much about it but I will say this: I wasn’t blown away by this, but it’s good pulpy fun. I mean: SNOW NINJAS. You really can’t go wrong with snow ninjas.
The third story, “Temperance” by Christie Yant, is about a drunk watchmaker who finds himself in a town of very serious teetotalers. There’s more going on in town than just a war on alcohol though. Just who is the mysterious woman? I don’t want to give away any surprises; I’ll just say that this is the first story to get into some speculative fiction territory. I liked it, but honestly didn’t think it was as strong as the other three stories.
Ending the magazine we get a some what spooky near-future piece of SF: “Press Enter to Execute”, by Tobias S. Buckell. Just as I thought Ken Liu’s story was the proper one to start off the magazine (it made a declaration that this would be a magazine with some really great writing and hooked you right off the bat) I think this was the perfect story to end it. For a magazine that was crowdfunded and probably pushed hard in places like Twitter and various blogs it’s kind of cheeky to end with a story of a literal spam assassin whose illegal activities are backed by crowdsourcing. It’s an amusing and scary look at our potential near future. Just who is talking to us from the other side of the computer screen?
So yeah – I liked this magazine. I’m supporting the kickstarter for the next issue and I think I’ll be sticking with it for the foreseeable future. You can get your own copy of Fireside Magazine Issue 1 at Amazon, B&N, Weightless Books or from the magazine’s website. I urge you to check out the kickstarter for issue 2 & beyond as well.