Thursday, February 21, 2008

Changes and Trouble at On Spec

It's been awhile since I left On Spec, having decided I needed to allow time for my writing and family life. Jena Snyder and then Holly Phillips had left before me, but Peter Watts and Steve Mohn were still there, representing, I believe, a view of spec fic that more closely met with my own than the views of Diane Walton and Susan MacGregor. As a matter of fact, long before he joined us I remember arguing vociferously for a story of Steve's, one that had pretty much everyone lost. I won that fight, and was proved right in the end.

Not that that is wrong. The whole idea is to have a broad spectrum of views so that you mix it up and get a variety of fictional flavors.

But now Peter and Steve have left, and been replaced by Barb Galler-Smith (whom I like very much, but I do suspect is very close to Diane in her views) and by Robin Carson (and I have no idea who this is, and Google is not my friend in this case). For Peter's take on the matter, see here and here. Diane's take is to issue a notice on Facebook that they have two new editors and to thank Peter and Steve "for their loyal service."

I had talked with Peter on the phone just a few days ago, and he had mentioned his plan to write the editorial and include the art and the likely need to use the Cliff Burns Memorial Anti-Veto Bomb (and right about now would be a good time to go back and read what he wrote, in case you haven't yet. Go ahead, I'll wait). I didn't say anything to him at the time, but it seemed to me that this could be a losing cause. Not because it's a bad idea, but because, in spite of the best efforts of Peter and Steve, On Spec is and always will be an inherently safe publication.

Yeah, there have been exceptions, including some of Peter's own fiction, and I once had to go to the mat with someone else about cover art I wanted (I won, and it proved out for me). But, in spite of its small press status and the chance to take on a mantle of responsibility in response to that status, On Spec is primarily there as a venue to showcase science fiction and fantasy and horror writing, hopefully good writing, and any ideas that come along for the ride are probably going to be of the neat-o keen-o sensuwunda variety, rather than of the skullfuck variety.

And that's okay, if that's all that it is. A damn shame, too, if you ask me, but in the end that's the right of the person in charge. Unfortunately, the person in charge, Diane, seems to have reneged on a deal made with the other editors, and to have done so in a fashion that indicates her contempt for the deal in the first place. Hell, she seems to have called it a "joke." At the same time, it appears she has rewritten the rules, all rules that only existed in the ether, mind, but they were there nonetheless. When I was an editor with the magazine, and afterwards as an Art Director, nobody ever broached the topic of democracy vs. editorial monarchy, but I don't remember one occasion where a majority was overruled.

So, good for Peter and Steve for packing up their principles and moving on. Seven years is a long time, and I'm honestly surprised Peter lasted this long. As for Diane and the rest of the editorial staff, I wish them continued success. I'll keep reading, but my expectations will be tailored by this latest set of events.

And as far as continuing to read the magazine goes, I'm now going to take a moment to respond to the doofus who posted on Peter's blog that he would now boycott On Spec (while also noting that he doesn't actually, you know, already read the thing): a boycott is not, I hope, the reason for Peter having posted his thoughts on the matter. Last year when a certain SFWAn did a remarkably stupid thing in public, there were people out there who actually stated that they would for now on boycott and SF/F by any SFWA member. This is all very short-sighted. You want to make an impact? Read the damn magazine, find the stories that you feel are worth singling out, and write letters about those stories to the authors and the editors, and seek out those authors elsewhere in order to encourage them. Strange and challenging stuff will still slip through, especially if people continue to send it in.

If it doesn't, well, vanilla is still a flavor to some people. That makes me sad, but it's the truth. Whether it's flavor enough to continue to grab attention is another matter.

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