This year is a big one: a big anniversary, a big target, and a potentially big change to the way we do things. (At last, there will be Strange Horizons ebooks!)
But anniversary first. This month marks Strange Horizons' fifteenth anniversary. The magazine launched at Chicon 2000, that year's Worldcon. Looking back at Mary Anne Mohanraj's launch editorial, the vision was already clear:
And in addition to those female characters who started creeping in a fe decades ago and now are everywhere, I'm starting to notice some who are (startlingly) not white. That's rather nice, I have to say. The genre is starting to actually reflect the world I live in. The field is growing and expanding and shifting and changing, and it's an exciting time to be part of it.
We started this magazine because we want to help with that change. We wanted to create a place to showcase some of those new writers, to bring them to the attention of a new international audience—and also to share with you our deep enjoyment of some wonderful established authors.
A decade and a half later, the field is still growing and expanding and shifting and changing (because when is it not?), and I'd like to think that SH has played its part in moving things forward. We've published early stories (or in some cases, the first story) by, among others, Charlie Jane Anders, Christopher Barzak, N.K. Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, Nnedi Okorafor, and Vandana Singh. We continue to publish new and emerging writers—we're showcasing two of them, Yukimi Ogawa and Roshani Chokshi, in this fund drive, about which more below. And we've done it all, thanks to you, while remaining an ad-free, pro-rate, not-for-profit magazine.
We've also changed lives! Tim Pratt, a regular contributor of stories in the magazine's early years, spotted that it was SH's anniversary and blogged about it:
I haven't published there in a while, largely because I almost never send out stories on spec anymore, but I wouldn't have my career without it.
Also, and rather more importantly, I wouldn't have the life I have without it, because Strange Horizons led directly to my meeting my wife Heather Shaw. She worked for SH, and the magazine held an event for Nalo Hopkinson at Heather's house in Oakland way back in 2001 ...
It's also one of the most long-running and dependably fantastic publications on the internet, and has helped launch the careers of more amazing writers than I can count. It's been around so long I think people take it for granted. Well, don't. Take a minute to think about how fantastic they are, and if you haven't read much there, be delighted: you have 15 years of archives to explore.
(On a lesser anniversary note, this year also marks a decade of my own involvement with the magazine: in September 2005 I was handed the reins of the reviews department by Susan Marie Groppi; Graham Sleight's piece on the first season of new Who was the first I edited. As it happens, like Tim, I also met my partner through the magazine! To be clear, I'm not promising that if you are part of the SH community you'll definitely meet the love of your life, I'm just saying that on the available evidence it's not going to hurt your chances of doing so.)
So that's why 2015 is a particularly notable fund drive for us. What about that big target that I mentioned?
Over the last few years, we've successfully raised more in the fund drive, to improve the magazine. In 2012, you gave us enough to increase payment for reviews and poetry, and to launch our fiction podcast. In 2013, we added commissioned artwork for one story each month. And last year, thanks in part to a one-year grant from SF3, we increased our pay for art, and increased our annual wordcount for fiction.
When you factor all that in, our target for this year is $18,000.
That's not so bad, in some ways. If everyone who donated last year gave us $30 this year, we'd be there. But it's the most money we've ever asked you for.
What will we do with the money? Strange Horizons is still an all-volunteer outfit, so all of your donation (less a small amount for running costs) goes to our contributors. We'll be able to publish around 30 more stories, 12 with original artwork, all with an audio version; weekly poetry and reviews; plus essays, interviews, and columns. We'll do all of that in pursuit of the mission Mary Anne set out fifteen years ago: to help make SF a more global and inclusive tradition, showcasing writers from diverse backgrounds and with diverse concerns.
OK, but what else will we give you?
As usual, we have a prize draw for all fund drive donors—even $1 gets you into the draw, which includes such delights as new books by Zen Cho, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Jo Walton, magazine subscriptions, manuscript critiques, anthologies and more. We'll be announcing more prizes each week.
Also as usual, we have a bonus fund drive issue, which will be published as we hit certain funding milestones. We've got stories we can't wait to publish by Roshani Chokshi, Yukimi Ogawa and Kelly Link; poetry by Shweta Narayan, Rose Lemberg, Jane Yolen and others, interviews with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Johanna Sinisalo, and much more.
And as a fifteenth anniversary special, we are preparing a "Best of Strange Horizons" ebook, including some of our favourite stories from the magazine, by writers such as Elizabeth Bear, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ken Liu, and Carmen Maria Machado—along with a selection of poems, and a history of the magazine. This will be sent to everyone who donates at least $10!
And—last but not least—we have a new incentive, which is the third big thing that I mentioned.
I am occasionally asked why we run the fund drive ourselves, rather than going to Kickstarter or Indiegogo or somewhere similar. The answer is primarily that it works: it's a familiar routine, we think it's a trusted approach, and you've always come through for us.
But this year, we have taken the step of setting up a Patreon page. My impression is that Patreon is still not quite as well-known as Kickstarter, but the basic set-up is that instead of supporting a single project, you opt-in to provide ongoing support. It's a subscription, but a subscription dependent on us continuing to publish the magazine; if we don't publish, you don't pay.
Like a Kickstarter, a Patreon has rewards—and this is where the ebooks I mentioned at the start come in. Everyone who supports via Patreon at the lowest level will get entry into the prize draw, will receive the fifteenth anniversary ebook, and will see their donations count towards the release of bonus content. But support at the next level up—just $0.75 per issue—and we'll also send you a monthly ebook of everything that's appeared in Strange Horizons. It's the first time we've had ebooks available, and the only way we're making them available right now.
All of that and—if you're in the U.S., at least—your donations to Strange Horizons are tax-deductible. So please do consider donating this year! We want to keep building SH for many more years yet.