About Far Sector SFFH:
What is Far Sector SFFH? The short answer is: this is a web-only magazine of speculative and dark fiction. We have been around since April 15, 1998, when we launched as Deep Outside SFFH. We closed January 1, 2007. There is more information in the For Writers section below. Even though we are closed to submissions, there is plenty of good, juicy reading from our columnists, and there are short stories available through our distributor (Fictionwise).
What Formats Do You Publish? We publish short fiction (3,000-6,000 words) in all major e-book formats through our affiliation with Fictionwise.com. That includes MS Reader, Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat PDF, Palm, Hiebook, and more.
Far Sector SFFH is closed to submissions effective January 1, 2007. In fact, Volume X, No. 1 will be the last issue of Far Sector SFFH. This notice replaces the guidelines, which have been in effect, with modifications, since our founding in 1998 as 0uts1de: Speculative & Dark Fiction, which morphed into Deep Outside SFFH in 1999.
This is a positive moment for me as editor and publisher. It is a time to thank the many writers and readers who have been our mainstay for then ten calendar years wewere live on the Web. We published some superb new writers (Dennis Latham among them) and we published some established writers, including Andrew Vachss, Pat York, Melanie Tem, and others. I will keep this website posted for years to come, like the previous iteration of this magazine, Deep Outside SFFH.
It is good to end on a high note. It's not that I am tired of being an editor, but that it's time to move on to other things with new joy and enthusiasm. I really enjoy the process of digging into the transom pile and finding that rare jewel that jumps out. I have always been disgusted with the cavalier ways of publishers and editors who disparagingly refer to incoming stories as 'slush' or 'the slush pile' and speak cavalierly of 'rejecting' material. We have been known for some of the kindest and gentlest language in the world in receiving what we call 'transom material' and 'passing.' Whatever legacy this magazine leaves, I wish it would convince modern, brainy, sensitive publishing professionals to truly be professionals and treat writers not in a slash (or slush?) and burn manner, but to respect them as the foundation of creativity and the content that allows publishers to earn a living and readers to enjoy a good dream.
I have enjoyed working with my fellow editors, columnists, artists, and writers who devoted some years of their lives to this publicationin no particular order, Brian Callahan, Dennis Latham, Shaun Farrell, A. L. Sirois, John Kenneth Muir.
Back in 1996, before there was Web commerce, and when the Web was very young, Brian Callahan and I saw the possibility for Web publishing. In the spring of 1996, we launched the first of a series of websites (Neon Blue Fiction) and in July the second (The Haunted Village). There was no real e-commerce yet, and we offered my books and stories for free. In fact, by some reckoning, I was the second author in the world to offer weekly serialized novels starting that year. At Neon Blue Fiction we did weekly serials of my steamy thriller Neon Blue), and at The Haunted Village we serialized my SF novel Heartbreaker, later retitled This Shoal of Space).
People were able to download a chapter of each novel per week, and it was great fun hearing from readers on all continents (except Antarctica, the one market we never cracked). I was delighted (in those early Web days, like a kid over a crystal radio set in his garage, wire attached to the sink) to get excited fan mail from faraway places like Toronto, Munich, Auckland, Beijing, and many more. Somewhere in Web space, there is a website containing the memory of the early Web, and fragments of all this are recorded for posterity.
On April 15, 1998 Brian and I launched our magazine. Our premise was not only to have fun publishing, and making a name for ourselves, but to help the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America ease into the modern age. To that end, we paid professional rates, published in North America, published in English, and so forth&&151;all the rules for a magazine to receive official recognition, and have our authors credited professionally for fiction published with us. The only rule we couldn't meet (and neither could scifi.com, which only a few years later received the first Nebula Award for an SF short story, which happened to be published digitally on line).
Back in 1998 (to the best of my recollection) Omni Magazine had shut down its physical presence, and soon after its digital presence online, and Ellen Datlow had taken her SF publishing online with an exciting venture called Event Horizon. I remember getting a note from her late one night, asking when we were going to provide her with a back-link from our magazine, and we did exchange links.
Event Horizon folded not long after, making us (as we billed ourselves) "the world's first Web-only professional magazine of speculative and dark fiction or sf/f/h without print antecedents." Alas, SFWA wasn't ready for the future, a strange position for a group of futuristic visionaries. I made several attempts to have our magazine recognized professionally, and at one point an officer started to say 'yes,' but apparently was silenced by the majority. The Futurians of the 1930s had become the Backwardians of the early 21st Century. Stanley Kubrick's paleolithic bone was still spinning in the air at SFWA Headquarters. When I sent them a check and an application, they didn't respond. When I sent two more by certified mail, the receipt came back saying someone had accepted them, but it was apparent that they tore up our applications and checks and threw them away, because we heard no more from them. I relate all this without much residual emotion. It is simply the truth, and a part of history that needs telling.
SFWA had made itself a staple among readers of SF and F since its founding in the 1960s. To aspiring SF writers like myself, SFWA had been a shining beacon, something to aspire to. SFWA had sold itself to several generations of North Americans (their chosen playing field) as a community. When we launched this magazine in 1998, therefore, we felt we were part of a community whose passport read SFWA. It was a disappointment, therefore, to be told later that "SFWA is not there for readers and aspiring writers," but for established professionals only. In other words, even the backdoor contacts I had, including one regional director, who were militating for change in the organization, were held in check by a few hundred crabby old farts who were the ants on top of their little mole hill, and didn't want any changes to rattle their world. In a positive sense, this was an important part of my own personal education in the ways of human imperfection. I stopped seeing SFWA (or any organization) as a shining beacon and instead shrugged them off as a rusty freighter missing a screw or two and adrift on the seas.
Brian Callahan and I kept the magazine going, still paying professional rates and conducting ourselves like professionals in the world of sf/f/h. We consolidated The Haunted Village and Neon Blue Fiction into Clocktower Fiction (later Clocktower Books). We joined Nuvomedia in 1999 to publish Rocket eBook editions, and several of our novels, including at least two of mine, were on the ebook bestseller lists at Barnes & Noble for many weeks. In 2000, we joined LightningSource as publishing partners and launched a line of Clocktower Books titles, some of which are still in print today.
Brian left for better pastures (New Orleans) in 2002, and I took over the operation as sole owner. By then, I understood that my primary calling in life is as a writer. I shrank Clocktower Books to the minimum and made it, sort of, a boutique press or a micro-vintnery (Stephen King's own Philtrum Press comes to mind) for my own work and that of a very small group of close friends (Dennis Latham and A. L. Sirois, for the most part). Thus, Clocktower Books never actually opened to full public submissions, and that is fine with me. I will hold forth elsewhere on the joys and rectitude of self-publishing. After all, if it was good enough for the likes of James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence and William Shakespeare, among others, it will do nicely for me. And in fact, my web-publishing, in the aggregate, accomplished its purpose because I became a published author (in the 'traditional sense,' by a New York City house; more on that in a moment).
When Brian left, I changed the name of our magazine again, this time to Far Sector SFFH. I soon became a publishing partner of Fictionwise.com (A HREF=http://www.fictionwise.com/eBooks/ClocktowerBooksandFarSectorSFFHmagazineeBooks.htm target="_resource") and Fictionwise thus became our distributor. Because it was obvious SFWA would keep spinning the bone for who-knew-how-long, and I could no longer afford to shell out hundreds of dollars a month for stories, I instituted a model for publishing that I knew would work for me. I saw too many instances of a group of writers starting a magazine (whether e or p), passing the hat around so they could pretend to pay themselves professional SFWA rates, only to fold after an issue or two. Instead, I offered what I felt was a doable advance ($10) against royalties (50% of my receipts, or 25% of suggested list price therefore). Once the story earned through this small advance, the author got paid.
During the period 2002-2007, together with a loyal and persevering core group of columnists, Far Sector SFFH enjoyed a nice run. We maintained a steady, monthly publishing schedule of highly professional columns (Media Critic John K. Muir, Ask The Smart Guy humorist Dennis Latham, Reviews and Interviews by Shaun Farrell, rants and updates by me).
There is more to the history of e-publishing in general, and the history of Far Sector SFFH and Clocktower Books in particular, than I have time or room to tell today. One of these days, I will write a book about it. For now, let me bring this to its conclusion.
We live, proximately and for the most part, in what amounts to a free enterprise system in which the markets make their own choices. Free markets continually renew themselves, often chewing up and recreating multiple versions of what worked last time. The seas are full of rusty hulks adrift, by the earlier maritime metaphor. As even Richard Nixon discovered in 1968, redemption is available for anyone who seeks to reinvent himself. And sometimes it is time to reinvent one's self. This process usually doesn't come with a clean break. Rather, it is a multi-threaded system in which the old fades while the new is giving birth to itself. And thus it is time for Far Sector SFFH to join the ages. It will be a milestone for all of us, particularly the writers and the great columnists who have written for me.
It is a milestone for me, because I have recently passed my ten year mark of working, hoping, and struggling online. During that time, I have written quite a number of new novels and honed my writing skills considerably. I have learned a great deal about the world, about people, about business in general and publishing in particularmore so than in business school at Boston University, where I earned by Master's many years ago.
It is an organic and a good thing for me to change directions, now that I have entered my second decade online, and have a good feeling for where I need to head. I think I understand the business much better now (more about that sometime soon, elsewhere). After years of struggling to "get published," and all the lost months and years of waiting, and all the near misses ("Atlantic Monthly considers your story to be among the top ten percent we have received...however, we regret that it does not quite meet our needs..."), I had an unusual thing happen a few years ago. A publisher contacted me to ask permission to publish some of my Web-published work.
Byron Preiss (iBooks, then distributed by Simon & Schuster) contacted me in late 2003 to ask if he could publish, in book form, two articles I had written. In those articles, I described an imaginary journey to ancient Rome. Byron was anticipating the BBC/HBO co-production of Rome, whose first episode aired in mid-2005. He wanted a book about ancient Rome to coincide with the series, because he rightfully saw that modern society's interest in ancient Rome will never abate, and in fact that it was about to ride another crest. I managed to convince him that the two articles were too short to make a book, and that I should write a book for him. (This was not a work for hire situation, but one of those odd situations that left me and a number of other writers being owed sums of money by iBooks, a saga that is not yet finished as I write in December 2006). Nonetheless, the upshot was that Byron published my political thriller (novel) The Generals of October in October 2004 (there is a picture of me at a book signing here in San Diegothat's me standing outside under the marquee). He also published he first edition of my nonfiction/Ancient History book A Walk in Ancient Rome (more about that here) in May or June 2005. Byron, sadly, was killed at 51 in an untimely manner, a car crash, and iBooks suspended publication months later. I have retained all rights to both books, and will be publishing A Walk in Ancient Rome, Second Edition, in a much improved version with many maps and pictures and a larger trim size, in April 2007. The book has already received accolades and endorsements from several academic experts in the field of ancient Rome topography, art, and architecture, as well as at least one bestselling author in the field of ancient Roman biography (Anthony Everitt).
In 2007, I plan to publish a number of other new books. These will include Doom Spore (horror); Dead Move (probably a Sherlock Holmes novel, involving the famous suicide of a famous ghost, Kate Morgan, at the famous Hotel del Coronado); a San Diego tour guide; and at least one other book.
My first decade in Web publishing made me a published author, listed in Who's Who in America. Knowing what I know now, I think I will make a very satisfactory go of improving on that in my second decade of Web publishing (which now includes print venues of all sorts).
The passing of Far Sector SFFH, therefore, is timely and positive. It is a moment whose moment has come and gone, like the swift, powerful padding of sabertooth cat paws in snow, hunting on a moonless Paleolithic night eons ago atop the glacier we would one day call Europe. I'll say no more, for these moments are alive in their flesh and blood as they occur, and then vanish into the silence of history. The Forum of Rome, which was once a center of the world, became an unknown graveyard of tumbled marbles known for centuries as the campo vaccino ('cow pasture') until it was excavated and its wonders reborn into human memory in the late 1800s. Maybe, eons from now, in that dream space of true Futurians, someone will remember what happened here, and see that it was good.
John T. Cullen
|| Home | Broadband | Transmission | Singularities | Other Stories | Incoming - Awards | Hot ||