The Internet Review of Science Fiction has been around for six years. IROSF is a small webzine which has always been electronic; the primary content has been reviews and commentary of science fiction in the genre’s multiple incarnations. I have been a subscriber for at least three years or so, and have always enjoyed it. Unfortunately the magazine has hit upon hard times. As noted in last month’s editorial, this month saw its final issue. I’ll let the editor, “Bluejack”, describe the situation in his own words:
Many other volunteers came and went over the years, culminating in our most amazing, Stacey Janssen, without whom IROSF would have perished many, many issues ago. I continue to expect great and wonderful things of Stacey in the future. But even with volunteers, each issue took a lot of work, and volunteers turn out to be real people, with other things going on in their lives.Which pretty much brings us to the present day. The money ran out a while ago, and we’ve been scraping along as best we can. The master plan has gone no further than a slowly developing gleam in my eye. Writing has been a slow and largely unproductive hobby for a few years now.
I want to be clear that it’s not just about the money. I continue to believe that with the right energy behind fund drives, advertising, and perhaps some further experiments with subscription models and/or donation mechanisms, IROSF could potentially break even this year. Stacey and I talked about these options in depth, and on some days got ourselves psyched up to try it.
But here’s the thing. If Paul Allen (noted Science Fiction enthusiast and my current (albeit at a certain great remove) employer) were to hand me a couple of hundred grand and tell me to turn IROSF into a business, I would decline. Or rather, I would pitch him the master plan. Because IROSF by itself has been a wonderful experience, and, from all the positive feedback over the years, I think it has been a worthwhile gift to the science fiction and fantasy community. But it’s not a business model, and will always be, at best, a labor of love.
No, the empty coffers are just an excuse. A really good excuse to go back to the original mission and see if we can’t do something a little more significant. Something that changes the way publishing itself works.
We know that digital distribution is changing the way people buy their reading material. We know that the music industry, the film industry, and the television industry are all in deep experimentation, struggling–in some cases with, in most cases against–the changing times. Journalism is completely on the rocks. Publishers, distributors, and booksellers are all in the same boat, and the past six years have taught me a thing or two about the struggles that face even a very small, distributed publishing team.
My conclusion is that now is the time for that old master plan, now thoroughly updated and juiced with new possibilities that didn’t exist back in 2003. I can’t hold down a job, continue to improve the IROSF experience, and undertake new experiments in publishing.
… and thus we have a text book example of of a rapidly increasing trend over the last several years– the decline of free journalism content as costs (both economic and opportunity costs) drive even electronic efforts to the brink.
I’ll miss IROSF, it was a very congenial little publication, and I read a lot of good reviews and even short fiction there over the years. But I’m hardly surprised. The internet has become a grim arena for the labors of love that used to dot the landscape of cyberspace.
Farewell, IROSF, and I hope we see you again some day, resurrected in another more sensible form. Perhaps as a downloadable gadget for the Iphone or Kindle, perhaps?