SF Coverage in Transition: SF Signal Shuts Down, io9 Makes Move

Thursday , 12, May 2016 21 Comments
Chicago Falcon

Science Fiction is not always about fashion. At least not good fashion.

After covering nearly the last decade and a half of science fiction publications, movies and events, SF Signal is shuttering its doors.

From John DeNardo and JP Frantz, founders of SF Signal:

When we started SF Signal in 2003, it was because we loved speculative fiction. Having a blog allowed us to share that love with other fans. We never dreamed it would have grown like it has. In these past 12 years and 10 months, we’ve shared our love of genre, we’ve provided a forum for other fans to come on board as contributors to also share their genre love, we gave authors a place to tell us about the exciting new worlds they’re creating, and I like to think we’ve made a ton of new friends. We even picked up a few Hugo Awards along the way. It’s been quite a ride.

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But all good things come to an end.

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It was a very hard decision to make, but we have decided to close down SF Signal.

Fairly straightforward. In a somewhat more reflective transition, a founding editor of io9 – Charlie Jane Anders – is also giving up the helm after eight years:

This is my last day at io9, because I need to spend some serious quality time working on my next novel, without any distractions. But I’m not going anywhere. Because after more than eight years at this site, I know more than ever that science fiction and fantasy are the air I breathe, the clothes I wear, the music I listen to and the source of all my most enriching relationships. That means that I’ll always be a part of the conversations here at io9, and anyplace else that people want to talk about our shared dreams of the future.

Things do come to an end, of course, but I think the contrast of both perspectives is interesting: SF Signal covered all sorts of media, but was heavily book-centered. io9 is far more multi-phasic, going so far as to describe “science fiction” as clothing and the source of enriching relationships, and asserting that “[s]cience fiction that panders to hardcore fans instead of being accessible to everyone will probably fail.”

And while both transitions appear to be nothing more than naturally-occurring coincidences, I think there may be another transition going on right now worth noting:

the Marketplace.

One of the things we try to do at Castalia House is identify the specific needs of the various specific audiences who read this blog. This is why 80% of our audience is going to skip over a detailed introduction to the physics of space combat. That is by design, because that seemingly tedious attention to detail is what the other 20% who do read it will be passionate about.

So, maybe we are taking the opposite approach and admitting that science fiction is not for everyone.

It’s for you.

And maybe we will be proven wrong; that catering to the hardcore of science fiction, fantasy, philosophy (and the closely related and too-long-overlooked Western genre) is really a losing game. Maybe we should be like the others and make sure that 100% of our posts and articles are 100% accessible by 100% of the readers.

On the other hand, the others are wrapping things up.

And we are just getting started.

Please do me a favor and let me know in the comments what your specific interests are in fiction, particularly Science Fiction, Fantasy and Westerns. Thanks!

 

21 Comments
  • Alex says:

    I’ve become particularly interested in Short Fiction that can be quickly adapted to be run as a One Page Dungeon with no more than a couple of stat-blocks. The simple formula of an obvious goal potentially with inobvious qualities set in an interesting location with a couple exciting obstacles is a winning one.

  • Rob says:

    I stopped reading SFSignal when MindMeld became all SJW all day.

    I stopped reading Io9 when I got tired of hearing about global warming.

    You’re branching out into westerns? Does anyone on staff actually like westerns? Have there been many new westerns to like lately? Seems hard to write about something you haven’t much interest in.

    Some weird west might be nice.

    • Daniel says:

      Yes, Castalia House will be publishing Westerns, and incidentally I happen to enjoy Westerns, esp. Max Brand.

  • Andrew says:

    I’ve been a fan of science fiction since I was a kid. Though, it was always TV or movies that I loved. It wasn’t until recently that I started to read science fiction along with fantasy. I especially like books that include elements of space travel. Speculative works in philosophy, post-humanism, and (pro) religion like God, Robot really interest me. I would like to see more of that.

    I haven’t read westerns. I like the genre in TV and movies. I am now reading through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. It has western elements in it that has given me a taste to see what else is out there. How about a mixture of science fiction and western to ease the transition?

    • Daniel says:

      Weird Western is its own subgenre and is a lot of fun. Frankly, John Carter of Mars has elements of Weird Western, as does Indiana Jones. But Cowboys and Aliens or Jonah Hex or Wild Wild West are also expressions of it.

    • Alex says:

      You should check out some of the 40s short fiction set on Mars; lots of saloons, gunfights and robber barons, and the Martians are Indians.

      I’m not familiar enough with it to say it with certainty, but Weird Western strikes me as homage to the SF stuff was contemporary with and drawing from classic western. Heck, I know I’ve seen a handful of cowboy books by ERB. I get the feeling that a lot of “Weird Western” would be to Western what the Jeffrey Combs Lovecraft flicks are to Lovecraft; an interest tribute enjoyable in its own right but something very different. So, it depends on what you’re looking for, I guess. I’d be interested to know if there were any contemporary attempts at doing a straight-faced space-ghetti western. Once Upon a Time On Mars, or something.

  • Daniel says:

    Wow! That is REALLY specific. Excellent.

    Oddly enough, I have an old unpublished story right here called Donjonkrawl about a peaceful monk accused of murder tossed into a catacomb with a goblin as punishment. I believe I may have even mapped the dungeon out before I wrote it.

    So…up with specificity!

    • Alex says:

      That sounds pretty neat!

      I’m actually planning on adding that to my submission criteria for 2017 as a suggestion. A lot of the Appendix N short fiction I’ve been reading lately (particularly the Cugel and the Fafhrd & Gray Mouser shorts) fits this bill. While it’s not universally the case, the best pieces that have come across my desk have been the ones that I could easily run as one-shot adventures.

  • Blume says:

    Something I haven’t seen much of here is urban fantasy. I don’t mean paranormal romance but more stories like pale realm of shades.

  • Hooc Ott says:

    More…

    Also get Jeffro to elaborate on the bomb shells he is so apt to drop, like this one:

    “it does not merely explain just why it is that a Keep on the Borderlands would be facing so much trouble and why it is that trolls regenerate”

    Also what, if anything, was missed between 1978 and 2009ish?

    Certainly something got through the gauntlet of truefans, publishing cartels and secret Hugo slates during those years.

    Maybe that is what Appendix X is for. I don’t know.

    • Daniel says:

      If you haven’t read the Guardians of the Flame Trilogy, that’s a 1980s fantasy definitely worthy of Appendix N company.

      • Hooc Ott says:

        Funny enough I read the first four books of that series as a kid.

        But to be honest I am referring to the other direction. Those books are products of how D&D changed fantasy ie they are about collage kids who become their role playing characters. What i meant was the works like those Jeffro described before D&D.

        https://jeffro.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/appendix-n-survey-complete/

        “Our concept of “Tolkienesque” fantasy has little to do with Tolkien’s actual work. Likewise, the “Lovecraftian” stories and games of today have little to do with what Lovecraft actually wrote. Our concepts of swords and sorcery have had the “weird” elements removed from them for the most part. Next to the giants of the thirties, just about everything looks tamed and watered down.
        Entire genres have been all but eliminated. The majority of the Appendix N list falls under either planetary romance, science fantasy, or weird fiction. Most people’s readings of AD&D and OD&D are done without a familiarity of these genres.
        Science fiction and fantasy were much more related up through the seventies. Several Appendix N authors did top notch work in both genres. Some did work that could be classified as neither.
        It used to be normal for science fiction and fantasy fans to read books that were published between 1910 and 1977. There was a sense of canon in the seventies that has since been obliterated.”

        That kind of stuff that are not “Tolkienesque” copies of copies or are wholly original or follow from a different historical literary path or are among the “lost genres”.

        I guess I am wondering if any of the “weird” got through. Not stuff that can necessarily be used in RPG campaigns.

        • cirsova says:

          Maybe Adrian Cole? He got started during the New Wave era, but comes from the ERB tradition; I can’t speak for much of his work, as I’ve only had a chance to read his debut trilogy, but I like that while he brings in some of the New Wave Weird, his stuff isn’t about deconstructing Heroic Fantasy but celebrating it.

          He’s absolutely on my list of authors to be on the look out for and picking up anything I come across.

  • Styled Telemark says:

    FIREFLY is basically weird western tales.

    I thought Chuck Anders was heading over to the Big Tingley Rocket at Tor.

  • Max Allan Collins has been novelizing some Mickey Spillane Western screenplays. They were written for John Wayne’s production company, but it went under before the first one got made.

    The Legend of Caleb York is excellent.

    I’m also good with weird westerns. But, if you’re going with Jonah Hex, the movie is the wrong version. The straight western, weird western, and space western versions are all good, and work well.

  • Daniel says:

    Huh. I did not know there even was a Jonah Hex movie. I was thinking of the comic.

  • Eric Ashley says:

    Time travel

    Singularity (good ones, not flab)LFire Upon the Deep

    Christian SF and Fantasy….I really would like to have a whole slew of Christian SF and Fantasy. I like books that help me grow and understand the Christian life and world while at the same time being awesome stories.

    Alternate Dimensions…Multiverser, Old Verses New, Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen

    LitRPG….D. Rus who is published by Magic Dome is Russian and very good.

    • cirsova says:

      I liked the Singreale trilogy as a kid. I don’t knoe if it aged well, but I remember enjoying it a lot after I picked it up after quitting half-way through the Shannara trilogy.

  • Jill says:

    I like that weird nexus between noir, western, sci fi, and fantasy. I just finished editing a book that brings all those elements together in a beautiful way, which is both utterly bizarre and believable. When I read strict sci fi, however, I’m looking for ideas and philosophy.

  • I’m more on the SF than the fantasy side of things. I want competence porn–people succeeding that things that should be done. Men fighting for Good, even if they’re not good men. People who feel real, who I could meet in various places, not just on a college campus. Stories that introduce interesting questions, even if they don’t have good answers. Stories that affirm the rationality of the universe (cf. ESR’s deep norms of SF).

  • Scholar-at-Arms says:

    I enjoy hard SF, particularly “space empire” SF, by which I mean in the vein of Anderson’s Polesotechnic League or Piper’s interlinked Terran Empire stories.

    Swords & Sorcery in the REH mode.

    Planetary Romance in the ERB mode.

    I enjoy Westerns, but more on screen than on print. “Weird Western” I have a little experience with and would like to see more of.

    RPGs, particularly in the style of AD&D or Traveller; I might be able to enjoy a Western or Urban Fantasy RPG but have never been able to give one a fair try. I love the articles here talking about what made D&D what it was; as a sometime-DM I’m keenly interested in distilling that essence.

    Tabletop games: more historical wargames or strategy games than Euro-games, though I enjoy those too. What I’d really like to find is a fantasy wargame in the vein of Chainmail’s Fantasy Supplement, which I’ve read of but never seen.

    I enjoy noir and would enjoy seeing some Noir or noir-ish Urban Fantasy developed at Castalia House. Pale Realms of Shade was a great example of the latter.

    Hope that gives the gist of why I’m interested in this site.

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