Final Staff

Editor-in-Chief:
Stacey Janssen

Managing Editor:
Dave Noonan

Editors

  • Mishell Baker
  • Bluejack
  • Amy Goldschlager
  • Emily Lupton
  • R. K. MacPherson
  • Scott James Magner
  • Robin Shantz

Copy Editors

  • Sarah L. Edwards
  • Yoon Ha Lee
  • Sherry D. Ramsey
  • Rena Saimoto
  • Paula Stiles

Editors-at-Large

  • Marti McKenna
  • Bridget McKenna

Publicity

  • Geb Brown

Publisher: Bluejack

January, 2010 : Editorial:

Penultima Fermata

The decision has been made. The announcements have been sent.

IROSF will suspend publication after the February issue.

If this were a storefront, the only work remaining would be the sad, lonely task of selling the last of the goods that the distributors wouldn't offer refunds for. Packing up the office. Emptying out the halls.

Plenty of people around these United States have been doing a lot of that. I'm glad that's not really the situation here.

First of all, we have the great joy of publishing two more outstanding issues (this one included). Believe me, we aim to go out with a bang, not a whimper, not a firesale.

It's true that the proximal cause of our suspension is financial, but there's a lot more to it than that, and to share with readers both old and new the fullness of this decision, I'd like to go back a few years.

It was 2003. I had been writing full-time for about a year. I had a couple of novels in the trunk, about a score of short stories wandering from market to market. I wasn't entirely happy with my work, and considerably less happy with the success of the work. A number of factors came together to inspire The Internet Review of Science Fiction, and at least one of them was good old procrastination! I had spent the prior eight years as a professional programmer developing back-end software for Internet applications such as Amazon.com. Software engineering was not only a rewarding activity, it was something I was demonstrably good at.

By way of studying the short story form, I had taken up reviewing the major magazines. Contemporary readers may not recall this, but before Lois stepped up to be our short fiction reviewer, yours truly did the job. That had already had a burgeoning life on a personal web site. Another pet project had been a short fiction market database that was miles better than the others out there. Slowly, a grand master plan began to come together. Something that would combine my passion for the genre with my skill at software development as well as explore some ideas about Internet publishing.

IROSF was the first major step in that master plan, and it was the last.

I found myself no longer in the luxurious position of not having a steady income. Writing wasn't paying any bills. (I think I did underwrite a beer with one story, and a dinner with a second.) IROSF had never been intended to pay bills (remember, it was the first step in a master plan). IROSF also turned out to be quite a bit of work.

I did the first few issues entirely by myself. I concocted a number of fictional editors, including one John Frost, to help me out and make the whole enterprise seem a little more professional, but it turned out that they didn't make the workload any lighter. Fortunately, before long some amazing volunteers did show up, and I will never forget those first intrepid volunteers, one of whom is with us to this day! (Yoon Ha, you know who you are.) Joy Ralph, Travitt Hamilton, Carey McGee and Yoon Ha Lee were the first real team to take IROSF to the next level.

Many other volunteers came and went over the years, culminating in our most amazing, Stacey Janssen, without whom IROSF would have perished many, many issues ago. I continue to expect great and wonderful things of Stacey in the future. But even with volunteers, each issue took a lot of work, and volunteers turn out to be real people, with other things going on in their lives.Which pretty much brings us to the present day. The money ran out a while ago, and we've been scraping along as best we can. The master plan has gone no further than a slowly developing gleam in my eye. Writing has been a slow and largely unproductive hobby for a few years now.

I want to be clear that it's not just about the money. I continue to believe that with the right energy behind fund drives, advertising, and perhaps some further experiments with subscription models and/or donation mechanisms, IROSF could potentially break even this year. Stacey and I talked about these options in depth, and on some days got ourselves psyched up to try it.

But here's the thing. If Paul Allen (noted Science Fiction enthusiast and my current (albeit at a certain great remove) employer) were to hand me a couple of hundred grand and tell me to turn IROSF into a business, I would decline. Or rather, I would pitch him the master plan. Because IROSF by itself has been a wonderful experience, and, from all the positive feedback over the years, I think it has been a worthwhile gift to the science fiction and fantasy community. But it's not a business model, and will always be, at best, a labor of love.

No, the empty coffers are just an excuse. A really good excuse to go back to the original mission and see if we can't do something a little more significant. Something that changes the way publishing itself works.

We know that digital distribution is changing the way people buy their reading material. We know that the music industry, the film industry, and the television industry are all in deep experimentation, struggling--in some cases with, in most cases against--the changing times. Journalism is completely on the rocks. Publishers, distributors, and booksellers are all in the same boat, and the past six years have taught me a thing or two about the struggles that face even a very small, distributed publishing team.

My conclusion is that now is the time for that old master plan, now thoroughly updated and juiced with new possibilities that didn't exist back in 2003. I can't hold down a job, continue to improve the IROSF experience, and undertake new experiments in publishing.

So that's the deal.

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has been a tremendous experience for myself, and for many of the other editors, and even if we never bring it back into print (a possibility I do not rule out), I think it will be remembered by more than a few readers.

Thank you, readers!

Thank you, editors!

And as for what the future will bring... stay tuned, and stay in touch.


Oh, the title of this editorial? Yes, that's actually a bit of an aside. One time, years ago, I was visiting a friend in Rome. My instructions were to take a bus to "Penultima Fermata." I didn't speak Italian, and had always sort of thought that "penultimate" was something even cooler than "ultimate." I was expecting the bus to pull up before some grand and ancient ruin, or perhaps a suave european luxury resort. But actually it was a nondescript stop in the suburbs. It was the next to the last stop.

I actually think this next-to-last issue is a pretty sharp one, and I expect the ultima fermata to be downright outstanding, but I just couldn't get away from the title. We'll see if Stacey lets it through...


Copyright © 2010, Bluejack. All Rights Reserved.

About Bluejack

Bluejack resides in Seattle. In addition to publishing the Internet Review of Science Fiction, he herds cats for an Internet startup, designs and develops distributed software applications, and dabbles in a broad range of less useful endeavors.

COMMENTS!

Jan 13, 04:29 by IROSF

Comment Below!
Jan 13, 05:18 by Deborah Layne
Sorry to see IROSF come to an end, but it sounds like a good move for you.

Best of luck with the master plan!
Jan 13, 05:53 by Mahesh Raj Mohan
I echo Deborah. That's pretty funny about "John Frost," by the way. You probably don't remember, but after I sold you the interview with the Night Shade guys, I inquired about his health, because you said he had "stepped down for personal and health reasons." lol. Well met, sir, and good fortune on your masterplans!
Jan 13, 06:00 by Walt Gottesman
Thank you for the noble endeavor that IROSF has been, noble because so freely given. The reviews are the essence of this publication and my favorite section, a way to "take the pulse" of the current state of short SF. May all your efforts return to each of you on the staff in the form of more and more inspiration for your work, whatever form it may take. Onward!
Jan 13, 12:10 by Christina Francine
Sorry to find IROSF is ending, but I totally understand why you must move on. A thank you to you and to the other staffers for all the work in making IROSF a fantastic read. I have enjoyed each issue. Thank you too for publishing an interview I'd sent also.

Best to you!
Jan 13, 13:17 by Andreas Flögel
Many thanks for the hard work on IROSF. I enjoyed every issue.
Please let us know how your masterplan evolves in the future.

One question: Will the archives of IROSF remain online?

Best wishes!
Jan 13, 14:30 by Dirk van den Boom
I'm sorry to hear that, as I have contributed to IROSF in the past. But things have to progress and I look forward to see your old master plan unravel, so keep me posted. Nothing is forever. So let's look out for the new things.
Jan 13, 14:45 by Katie Howenstine
Good luck in all things big and small! I've love IROSF, so thanks!
Jan 13, 14:46 by Bluejack
Thanks for all the notes.

Yes, the archives will remain on. I figure for the next year I'll keep everything as is, although on a cheaper server, and after that probably migrate the archived articles to static files on some kind of free-hosting service.

Things do depend a little bit on how some of the other plans turn out.
Jan 13, 15:16 by Lezlie Kinyon
I will miss IROSF. I wish you great success in the master plan. Writing has become, I fear, a "passionate hobby" for a great many in our times...
Jan 13, 15:22 by Todd Treichel
This will be a loss, but I thank you what you've given us over the years, and I wish you the best with the next stage of the Master Plan.
Jan 13, 15:51 by Philip Kaldon
I didn't quite get in on the beginning, but I've been an IROSF subscriber since July 2004. Learned about it from the extended contacts family I'd just joined after the 2004 Clarion workshop. IROSF has been an excellent resource every month, with insightful articles and reviews of the SF/F scene. I have a pair of IROSF hats from Cafe Press and have worn them at the cons I go to and have tried to otherwise spread the word.

It's been a good run and I will sorely miss IROSF come March 2010. Good luck to all and Thank You.

Dr. Phil
Jan 13, 15:57 by Lucius Sorrentino
Alas. Hope the master plan entails less workload and more financial reward. Many thanks for having endeavored to bring thoughtful, interesting writing to the internet.
Jan 13, 19:43 by Ursula Pflug
I'm sorry to see you go. I've enjoyed all of it, reading IROSF, writing for IROSF. I know that amazing things are in store for you, and perhaps for us, your loyal readers and/or writers, too.
Jan 13, 22:50 by Scott Sandridge
Bummer. *sniff, sniff*

Here's hoping your master plan becomes a rip-roaring success. :)
Jan 14, 01:53 by George Nozicka
Good luck and thanks for all your work on IROSF; I'll surely miss it.
George
Jan 14, 02:53 by Janine Stinson
Awwww, man! Where am I gonna read the same kind of stuff that IROSF published?!? (mutters) Best wishes all the same, to Bluejack and all the folks who worked for IROSF. Thanks for accepting and publishing some of my writings (a really *big* thanks -- those were major confidence boosters). I look forward to finding out what The Great Plan will present, too. Blue skies!
Jan 14, 16:06 by D. Nicklin-Dunbar
Dang. Now I have to find somewhere else to post my incoherent rants! Best of luck with your Master Plan and thanks for all of the great work you have done on this excellent venue.
Jan 14, 22:43 by Constance Ash
So much hard, productive work by you and the others.

Many thanks.

Best of fortune in all your futures.

Love, C.
Jan 16, 16:11 by Robert
I appear to have tuned in just in time to see it dissolved. I'm sorry to see IROSF go because it clearly enjoyed a good reputation. So my question is, could the reigns not be handed over to some other group to carry on its good name and momentum?I can see why giving up one's child for adoption would be traumatic, but its got to be better than taking it into the backyard and shooting it.
Jan 16, 18:05 by Bluejack
There have been a few conversations over the years that might fall under the "Mergers and Aqcuisitions" categories, but -- at least for the next year or so -- my preference is to keep things dormant and see how the world evolves around it.

Any publisher knows that putting together a magazine, even an online magazine, is hard work. Maintaining the quality that IROSF has been able to deliver, and the consistency that we've enjoyed under Stacey's watch, all as a money-losing proposition is not something that most professional operations would be keen to take on. People with less experience might be quite enthusiastic, but (and I say this as one who knows), they just don't know what they're in for, and I would hate to hand the reigns over & have it just peter away.

The big unsolved question is whether a publication like IROSF can (A) pay authors what they deserve, and (B) at the very least break even as a volunteer operation.

If we can find a way to solve that question, then IROSF and other mainstays of the genre can not only survive, but hopefully prosper.
Jan 16, 23:05 by Normand D. Paquin
DEAR BLUEJACK - Many thanks to you and to John Frost, as well as to your other colleagues, real and fictional, for IROSF, an outstanding achievement. I hope that the "archives" of IROSF will remain available on internet for all SF students and fans to enjoy in the future.

Normand D. Paquin
"Arts & Culture" Popular Education Program
Quebec Eastern Townships, Canada
January 16 2010
Jan 16, 23:58 by Bluejack
Yes, no worries about the archives! They will remain available.
Feb 10, 04:21 by Ryder W. Miller
Thank you as well. Sorry I was not able to take this fascinating ride all the way to the end. Thanks anyway.

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