The Collapse of A Universe.

Jim Baen’s Universe, to be precise.

I am a bit shocked that Jim Baen’s Universe is closing, but only a bit. The short fiction market is slowly dying. I’m not going to say it’s doomed until we hear Fantasy and Science Fiction or Asimov’s Science Fiction is closing.

Actually, if Black Gate closes, that’ll pretty much be the end of short fantasy fiction for me. I haven’t found another print magazine that comes close to meeting my particular tastes in fantasy.

It makes me wonder how on-line enterprises are doing. Is Strange Horizons still in the black? Is Fantasy Magazine viable?

What does this mean for writers? Well, if you aren’t particularly interested in the big payday, not much. There will always be venues that will present your writing. It is getting to the point, though, where there is as much prestige in hosting one’s own writing as sending it to a free e-zine.

Now that’s quite a statement from Sword’s Edge, which was once a primarily fiction market. The thing is, one of the reasons for SE’s demise as a fiction market was the very serious question I asked of myself: what value am I adding to these stories. The sad truth was, not much.

That and I am truly very, very lazy.

There may be validation in getting someone to accept one’s fiction. That’s fine. Selling to Black Gate and On Spec is as much about validation as it is about the paycheque. Though I do love the paycheque.

Back in university I took a course called the Social Psychology of Sport. I didn’t take much away from it except for the concept of paycheque as validation. Why is it so important for athletes to get such big paycheques? It may be about greed, but in most cases it is a tangible indicator of the amount the team or organization values the player. To get paid more than anyone else on the team is basically saying that the player is better and more valuable than anyone else on the team.

Transfer that to fiction writing. I admire Black Gate for its stories, but it also pays professional rates. That is a level of validation higher than the lower pay or no pay markets. When I sell to Black Gate, I get to sit among other writers I admire and would like to emulate. The paycheque also tells me that I am worthy to stand among the professionals.

Jim Baen’s Universe had that level validation, that level of paycheque, and the prestige of Baen behind it. Now that is all gone.

I’m starting to think that Trent Reznor’s advice to new/unknown artists may, in some ways, be applicable to writers. Don’t expect other people/markets to hype you and sell you to the public. You need to do it yourself. And the Internet will allow you to do that, done correctly.

Mike Stackpole has said as much as well.

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