In my younger and more vulnerable years, I used to subscribe to a number of magazines. Now, however, after two years of subscribing and unsubscribing to a number of magazines via Amazon, I have streamlined my reading experience and have subscriptions to just three great magazines. These are all magazines featuring the very best of current fantasy, science fiction and/or horror. Trust me, these are the good ones.
What's it to you?
Short story magazines are a great way to find new authors. So many writers of tomorrow's great books are now sharpening their craft by writing short stories. And many of today's great novel writers are staying sharp by writing short stories. As an example, I read an awesome story by Felix Gilman in Weird Tales (to which I no longer subscribe). I had never heard of Felix before but was so impressed by his story that I looked him up and saw that he had indeed written a novel, the beautiful steampunk/urban fantasy Thunderer.
So dear, reader, these magazines are a way to discover new authors through short stories, instead of reading whole novels. Like getting a taste of ice cream before you order a whole pint. And they come delivered straight to your Kindle.
Here they are, three short-story magazines I consider essential.
This, for me, is the mothership of the best that is currently being written in the fantasy and science fiction genre. Every now and then, stories will get a little too clever for their own good, but overall the quality is outstanding. The stories in Clarkesworld go on to win Hugos and Nebulas and whatnot. Storytelling that pulls you into another world for a while. It currently has three original stories every issue and two reprints selected by Gardner Dozois, and it comes out once a month. If you like fantasy and science fiction even just a little bit and are not afraid to keep your brain cells on as you read, this is for you. One of my favorite short stories of last year, Gwendolyn Clare's All The Painted Stars, was from Clarkesworld.
2. Apex Magazine
This is a recent discovery for me. The stories here are of the same standard as Clarkesworld, but where Clarkesworld stories tend to be dark and dense and, as I said, a little too clever for their own good sometimes, Apex stories are perhaps more lighthearted (not my much though) and straightforward. Where Clarkesworld stories tend to take place in complete fantasy worlds, Apex stories tend to infuse magic into our own. They are easy to read and always thoroughly enjoyable, and so it is really my go-to magazine to recommend to people who want to give genre short stories a try.
Their submission guidelines have a great quote: "What we want is sheer, unvarnished awesomeness."
3. Nightmare Magazine
This, as the name and cover image imply, is a horror and dark fantasy magazine. The thing is, it's really good. Horror is the step-child of the literary world but the dark darling of the cinema world, and this magazine is a great way to get some good horror. It is a harder magazine to recommend, though, simply due to the subject matter (no lighthearted stories of boys meeting girls). I'm not sure where my attraction to the genre comes from, but Nightmare hits the spot every month.
Plus, they have the best covers.
Honorable mentions: Shimmer Magazine (contemporary fantasy, with the added plus of having a multitude of stories) and Lightspeed (mostly science fiction).
So there you have it, the three magazines I get delivered through the intertubes, straight to my Kindle, every month. However, I really would like to subscribe to a magazine that has less genre focus, so please help me by recommending your favorite short-story magazines in the comments.
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