Being a non-profit organization can mean a lot of different things. The most common thing that it means, though, is that the organization in question was created for (and continues to exist for) a purpose other than making a profit. At Strange Horizons, our most visible purpose is the production of a high-quality speculative fiction magazine. When you read Strange Horizons, we hope that you enjoy it purely on that basis, and that you don't need to know anything else about our other goals and purposes in order to want to read our magazine.
When we ask you to support us financially, though, we're asking you to be an active part of the Strange Horizons community. To persuade you to do that, it might help if we outline what some of our other goals and purposes are, and how we work to achieve them.
Strange Horizons is committed to helping and encouraging new writers. You might even say that this was our founding goal -- the impetus to create a new magazine grew out of a discussion of how difficult new writers often find it to be published in the major science fiction magazines. There are a limited number of "slots" available, and while it's certainly not impossible for a writer to make her first professional sale to Analog or Fantasy and Science Fiction, it's also not common. We don't explicitly reserve spaces for new writers, but we do make a conscious effort to be welcoming to people who haven't been published before (or haven't been published often), and it's had good results. Even as we've gained recognition in the field and have started to see fiction submissions from some more established writers, we've still managed to publish a higher percentage of stories from previously-unpublished writers than almost any other professional market.
Strange Horizons is committed to increasing gender diversity within speculative fiction publishing. Sure, we're a long way from the boy's-club mentality of Golden Age science fiction, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. According to data collected by Broad Universe, women comprise only twenty-five percent (and often less) of the authors published in the "Big Four" speculative fiction magazines (Asimov's, Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Realms of Fantasy). Speaking as someone who's been a fiction editor here for three years, I find our situation particularly interesting; we don't explicitly gender-balance our table of contents, and we've never once used the author's gender as a factor in deciding whether or not to buy a story. But when we ran the statistics on our fiction, we found that slightly higher than fifty percent of the stories we published in 2003 were by women. (In 2001 and 2002, the percentage was more like thirty-five to forty percent.) I don't think this necessarily indicates that other speculative fiction publications have a gender bias where their contributors are concerned -- it could equally well indicate that we're drawing our contributors from a younger and more gender-balanced generation of writers, or that women are more likely to submit to us for some reason, or any number of other causes -- but I do think it indicates that we're doing something right.
Strange Horizons is committed to diversity in the content of fiction as well as in the author list. We're actively interested in publishing stories that highlight underrepresented cultural and ethnic backgrounds, alternative sexualities and family structures, characters from different segments of both the age and class spectra. This is another thing that we don't explicitly enforce in the fiction department, but it helps that all three of our fiction editors are a little tired of seeing story after story featuring young white men with the disposable income to buy piles of high-tech computer gadgetry. For a genre that's supposed to be the literature of ideas, speculative fiction continues to have trouble transcending traditional conceptions of gender roles and cultural backgrounds. We're trying to change that.
Strange Horizons is committed to increasing the visibility of artists and writers other than just our fiction contributors. One story a month is illustrated with a piece commissioned from an artist in the speculative fiction community, and we also run a monthly art gallery showcasing the works of individual artists. We publish new speculative poetry weekly, making us one of the largest markets for poetry in the genre. Our reviews department actively seeks out reviews of publications in non-standard venues such as e-books and the small presses. Our articles department, in addition to publishing top-notch informational articles, runs regular interviews with talented people in the field.
We're not just trying to produce a good magazine -- we're trying to effect real and important change in the speculative fiction community. If you become a member of the Strange Horizons community, you'll be helping us achieve these goals.
Copyright © 2003 Susan Marie Groppi
Susan Marie Groppi is an Associate Editor at Strange Horizons.
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