Size / / /

There are, in case you hadn't noticed, a lot of people listed on our masthead. Every one of them is a volunteer -- which is partly why there are so many; we aim to spread the load around. And every one of them is essential to keeping Strange Horizons running.

But, clearly, some of the positions are more appealing than others. When we advertise for fiction editors, or first readers, we are inundated. When we advertise for webmasters, as we are doing at the moment, we are ... less inundated.

There are a number of reasons for the disparity. I think that one is, as I say, profile. Another is the interaction of skillset and scarcity. There aren't many fiction editors jobs, in the big scheme of things, volunteer or otherwise. Meanwhile, there are lots of jobs for people with the skills we need in our webmasters, and many of them pay quite well, and -- I would guess -- many of the people in those jobs, not unreasonably, would like to do something different in their spare time.

I'm certainly not here to tell anyone they are prioritising their time wrongly! But I also worry that we get fewer applications because people might assume that the webmaster role is somehow peripheral, just support staff. And that, I hope, is a concern that I can address, at least a little.

In the eleven years I've been involved with Strange Horizons, here are some things that webmasters have done:

From 2005 to 2010, my main interaction with the webmasters was the work they did on the reviews department. The original installation was, I think, managed by Susan Groppi and Jed Hartman; when he took over as senior webmaster in 2008, Pär Winzell upgraded the installation and ensured that it worked more smoothly with the rest of the site. It was Movable Type which made it possible for the reviews department to operate on the three-per-week schedule we've had since 2005; and which let reviews have comment threads when the rest of the site was stuck with old forum software; which let the reviews department develop the sense of community that I think it did.

Pär handed over to Shane Gavin in 2011, not long after I became editor-in-chief. Shane was, as far as I can tell, a wizard. He found ways to tweak and improve the cantankerous old site-that-was and built us lots of helpful add-ons: the readers' poll software that we use was originally Shane's work, as was the rocket widget we use during the fund drive, as was the return of in-line comments on the non-MT departments (which let us run our year of book clubs, among other things), and an improved galleying system behind the scenes. As editor-in-chief it's also been much clearer to me just how much day-to-day work was needed to keep the old site running -- not least of which was the fact that every issue had to be manually published working through a command-line interface. I'm really very glad we're on WordPress now. (Pause to credit Matt Kressel's work building this new site.)

The current senior webmaster, Tim Moore, took over from Shane in 2014, and has arguably had the most challenging job of any of the webmasters I've worked with, because over the last few years we've continually made the magazine bigger and more complex. He came up with a better way of integrating podcasts into the relevant story-pages, he streamlined the mailing lists we were using for submissions, he did a phenomenal amount during fund drives to make sure we published our bonus content on time and in the right place (trickier than you might think), he got us set up on Slack (which has helped our behind-the-scenes coordination no end), and he did a lot of work to get our thoughts in order about what we could and couldn't achieve in WordPress, before we started working with Matt.

And we have had many more webmasters besides. The earliest webmasters were Sean Miller, who did a lot of the original launch work, and Will Quale who, with assistance from Brian Peters and from Jed, kept things on the rails through the first four years of the magazine. Deb Alvers stepped into the breach when they got busy. Our emeritus staff page lists thirteen other webmasters in total, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone slipped through the cracks at some point. (If you did, get in touch so we can add you!) Each of them has left their mark on the magazine; each of them has made it possible for the rest of the staff to work that bit better than they otherwise would. Each of them -- here's my ultimate point -- has been as vital to what Strange Horizons is and does as anyone else on the staff.

And now, as I say, we're looking for a few more pairs of hands. With Samovar cranking up, and a transition to a new submissions system underway, and certain other plans we have for later in the year, it's a busy time for the magazine's infrastructure. If you think you might be able to help, if you'd like to be part of the magazine's story, then please do consider getting in touch.

Niall Harrison is an independent critic based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He is a former editor of Strange Horizons, and his writing has also appeared in The New York Review of Science FictionFoundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, The Los Angeles Review of Books and others. He has been a judge for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and a Guest of Honor at the 2023 British National Science Fiction Convention. His collection All These Worlds: Reviews and Essays is available from Briardene Books.
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