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Show HN: The first issue of Compelling Science Fiction (compellingsciencefiction.com)
311 points by mojoe on April 11, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 70 comments

Two months ago I posted about a new online science fiction magazine I was creating: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11151062

I'm happy to report that the first issue is now live! I'm looking forward to hearing your feedback. I will continue to refine the magazine as time goes on, but I believe we have a great collection of stories for you, which is what we set out to do.

I asked this on the original thread too but never got an answer, and I ask it again because I'm not familiar with how publishing works: If I submit a series of short stories, would I still retain the right to collect them into a book and have it published elsewhere, like Asimov did with Foundation?

I'm sorry I missed your question the last time around. Yes, you retain the copyright, I just buy 'first world electronic print rights.' This means that I'm buying exclusive rights to publish electronically for a period of time (in this case 6 months) and after that I have non-exclusive publishing rights (so you can sell or publish reprints any time after 6 months). After 3 years you have the option of terminating my non-exclusive rights altogether, although you don't need to to sell your own reprints. I've been told by authors that my contract is the most author-friendly they've seen (it's based on SFWA's model magazine contract).

That sounds good, thank you for the thorough answer.

The rights are mentioned on their website [1]. It states that: 'Our contract follows the lead of SFWA's Model Magazine Contract.' [2]

[1] [ http://compellingsciencefiction.com/submit.html ]

[2] (PDF) [ http://www.sfwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/ModelMagazine... ]

Wow, this is an awesome idea! I'm a very casual sci-fi fan (don't make too much time to read any more) but this appeals to me a lot. I like how you've structured everything as well.

I'm going to try to read the first issue on my phone, if they're good stories, I'll probably subscribe.

I appreciate the compliment, I've spent many weekends on this. There is plenty of room for improvement, so please email me at joe@compellingsciencefiction.com if you have suggestions!

Congrats on the launch. I had a short story in mind that I was going to submit after reading your last post but I didn't realize you were going the hard science fiction route. Although I strive to be as scientifically accurate as possible I can't classify my stories as hard since there are fantasy components-- I have a deep obsession with time travel, parallel universes, bending spacetime, etc. I also like to mix in mythological components from ancient to Mesoamerican.

Love the concept, good sci-fi is hard to come by.

Design thought: the reading experience would be vastly improved by a larger font size and shorter line length. See https://edwardtufte.github.io/tufte-css/ or similar for inspiration.

Thanks for the suggestion, I will certainly review the link you sent! I don't have any volunteers who have front-end design experience, so there is a lot of room for improvement.

All it takes is "7 fucking declarations": http://bettermotherfuckingwebsite.com/

In Firefox, you can click the little book icon to turn on better readability. (Reader View)

It definitely improves the layout, you can copy that design basically. Smaller content width, bigger fonts.

Also, thanks for putting this together!!!

Thanks! It's an expensive hobby :)

How do we sign up to be volunteers :)?

Send me an email at joe@compellingsciencefiction.com with a little info about yourself! I'm sure we'll get along great. I'm very respectful of volunteers' time.

> Love the concept, good sci-fi is hard to come by.

Have you checked out the major SF magazines? Analog, Asimov's, and F&SF? I've got an Analog subscription for Kindle ($3/month) and that keeps me supplied with enough science fiction that I find good to fill up all the time I have for reading science fiction.

I had design/reading issue with 90% of pages, so I just use "Clearly", extension for a browser. I use white on black, bit letters etc.

And it fixes whole web, not just 1 site.

Glad to see all the positive feedback here. I volunteered as a reader/advisor for this first edition and wanted to take this chance to say the experience was great. Joe is very respectful of volunteers time, even those of us who occasionally fall off the grid for a few days ( I still owe you a pic and bio Joe :) ). I'd encourage anyone on the fence to pick up this edition, there are some absolutely outstanding stories in there. And I'd also encourage anyone thinking about volunteering to jump in, it's a great project/maintainer to work on/with. Here's too many more issues Joe!

Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate your help evaluating stories.

This is a very interesting project. Are you self financing the entire operation? The "about us" page has some info on your review process. It seems those are volunteers or are you also paying them? I love the free+payment optional model and not relying on ads. What's your bigger fear, lack of quality entries or lack of subscribers?

6c/words seems pretty solid so that's nice. SFWA rights is a good choice as well, seems like you are pretty author friendly :) How are you handling authors payments btw. (not an author but curious)?

Sustaining >550 paying customers to break even seems like no small task.

I have looked for similar online magazines with good rights in another domain (horror) before and your site seems to be ahead of the curve with regards to seeming professional and transparent, kudos.

Yes, I'm currently self financing everything. All the individuals on the 'about' page are volunteers. You can see a little bit of a finance breakdown on the 'subscribe' tab (http://compellingsciencefiction.com/subscribe.html).

I'm paying authors the old-fashioned way, with checks! Since it's only 5 checks/month, this doesn't seem like something I need to optimize right away.

I appreciate your kind words -- it will be tough to get enough paying supporters, but hopefully people find the content worthwhile.

Just read Gaia's Children (~35min) - a great piece. I actually listened to it in the car on the way to work using iOS's text-to-speech, which was very good quality.

Awesome! We also have plans to record podcasts down the road. I'm glad text-to-speech worked well.

My opinions so far:

Gaia's Children - 5 stars

Reflection - 4 stars

Mean and Clean - 2 stars

Thanks for the feedback!

Mean and Clean was very controversial before publication -- two advisors disliked it and two really loved it.

Finding hard scifi is so hard. Most of science fiction is purely the realm of science fantasy.

I think it's a difficult line to draw, typically (except in the case of high fantasy, like magic). We might find that our understanding of science to be "wrong" at any point, because science is not as "rigorous" as mathematics. At one point modern computing with semi-conductors would've been impossible (classical mechanics), but then we discovered that on microscopic levels quantum mechanics applies instead, and this allowed computers to the extent that we have today.[0]

[0] https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/112615/why-is-it...

True in some senses, but take 'Interstellar' for instance. I would personally categorize it as hard science pushing the fringe into fantasy/speculation. 'The Martian' I would consider more hard science fiction overlooking some technical issues for dramatic effect. In any case, I enjoy SF that is mainly in the realm of hard SF. I read John Cramer's 'Twistor' years ago, and although some have panned it for some stereotypes, I loved reading it at the time. I'll have to revisit it. Professor Cramer is a physics professor at Univ. of Washington in Seattle.

Would you consider publishing an epub format version (either of the individual stories or altogether for each issue)?

We definitely have an epub version, it can be downloaded right now by patrons of Compelling Science Fiction on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/compelling

We're currently discussing additional methods of distribution of e-reader formats. We would like to set up an automated system that emails subscribers .epub/.mobi versions to their address of choice, but we need to put together an in-house subscription system first.

Would you consider distributing the magazine (including subscriptions) via Weightless Books [1]? They are also handing lots of other magazines like Clarkesworld, Locus, NYRSF, etc.

[1] https://weightlessbooks.com/

I would certainly consider it, I'll check out their terms. Thanks for pointing them out! We want to get our stories out to as many readers as possible, so we're looking at many different channels.

Please consider adopting some of the emerging trends in sharing, such as IPFS.io, too. It would be amazing to know your works are always available through such a system ..

Interesting stories. Better copy editing would make them easier to read.

"Ed had shouted on them like this"

"No real kidnapper hauls around a struggling, scream-seeking captive"

"I see I need to show the adolescent asshole affecting to be me "

Broken sentences like these make the stories a bit of a chore to read.

Thanks for the feedback! We hired a professional copy editor, but we will work harder in this area going forward.

For some reason I've always preferred my Science Fiction in short-story form, and my Fantasy in novel form, so this is nice. I do regret that in all of my moving around during college years, I got rid of my print magazines.

hey, why not allow people to supply a Kindle email address so you can push straight to them? they need to whitelist you as a sender of course..

This is a great idea, and we're currently working on a system that will accomplish this.

Consider becoming a kindle magazine. I subscribe to F+SF and would surely subscribe. Its mainly a convenience feature, magically new issues appear on my tablet as they're released and magically you get a predictable monthly cash flow.

I subscribe to 2600 on my kindle; its clearly not a "giant publishers only need apply".

Unfortunately Amazon has discontinued "Kindle Publishing for Newspapers & Magazines Beta". A lot of the small magazines that signed up through that program were grandfathered in. I've sent a query about other ways to get periodicals published, but haven't yet heard back.

Congratulations on your first issue! I'm curious if you have considered suggesting people put their experiences working with your magazine on the Submissions Grinder or Duotrope. I know at least the Submissions Grinder posts the latest updates on its homepage and it might attract you to more writers. Also how much have you considered social media in talking to both fans and authors to keep updates on your magazine, upcoming contests, perhaps a yearly anthology of 'best hits', etc?

Thanks! I had not considered encouraging authors to post their experiences, I will look into it.

We are also working on our social media presence. We have a Twitter account (@CompellingSF) but no Facebook presence yet. We're mostly relying on email currently, however, and that will continue to be our primary communication mechanism.

I will note that the Grinder and Duotrope are writer-contributed anyways so someone will eventually list your magazine there. I only suggest this because both those sites cater to writers looking for markets to submit work. The more writers contribute the stronger your magazine looks in terms of writer's perspective.

Good luck and I hope to look forward to many future releases to come!

Quick nitpick: Could you add a RSS feed? I think it would be a nice alternative to the mailing list.

I will certainly look in to this.

I thought the default look of the site was a bit hard to read, so I made two themes for Stylebot. If you have Stylebot installed you can go to the site, click the Stylebot icon and load either of them from "Stylebot Social".

Stylebot is only available for Chrome though; does anyone know an alternative to Stylebot which is as user-friendly as Stylebot but also available on a broad range of browsers?

Nice! I appreciate the effort. Based on feedback here I'll be changing styles tonight.

Thanks! I'll be bookmarking this and coming back periodically. FWIW, I used chrome dev tools to add some page styles, in order to make the stories easier for me to read.

    body {
      font-family: georgia;
      font-size: 17px;
      line-height: 2;
      background-color: #F8F9E4;
    p {
      margin: .5em 0;
      text-indent: 1em;

I appreciate the suggestion! I'll be changing the styles this evening.

Some more sci-fi:


More hard sci-fi:


You may want to consider turning off the debug flag in Django as advised here: https://docs.djangoproject.com/en/dev/ref/settings/#debug

I'm getting an invalid cert.

Me too, try this link: http://escapepod.org/ ;-)

I always love to get some fresh Science Fiction stories and just pledged my support on Patreon.

I sincerely hope your stories won't be bland (Haven't read the first issue yet).

As a longtime Escapepod listener and supported I love how diverse and creative the stories can get, once you move away from the classical Spaceship & Lasergun stuff.

feel free to email me with your thoughts at joe@compellingsciencefiction.com!

Awesome stuff and I plan on submitting some stories in future. I am more than pleased to see you creating a further avenue for writers, and sci-fi in particular, to get their work into as many eyeballs as possible.

Definitely another thumbs up for paying six cents per word even when you're just getting your feet off the ground.

I'm passionate about supporting content like this, so I'll be paying for it as long as I can!

Any chance I could buy an epub? I'm not sure whether I want to subscribe yet, but I can't read fiction on a computer screen.

(I'll just download and convert if necessary, but it'd be nicer to pay you for it.)

I'll email you one this evening, no charge, just send me your email address (joe@compellingsciencefiction.com)

Something I noticed when I bookmarked the site: none of the pages have a <title> tag.

Thanks for pointing this out! There are a lot of small issues we need to address (favicons, title tags, better typography, etc).

The PNG is pretty large. I compressed it with tinypng to a quarter the size.

Thanks for pointing that out -- there are many optimizations that we need to do.

Can we get it in print?

Maybe they could add an option to order an on-demand print from a service like Lulu.com

Good idea. I'd pay for that.

Not right now, but I'll be looking in to it down the road.

This looks awesome - I'm so excited to read this!

stop with the greek name bullshit already. pick another culture's mythology there are so many out there (hindu, african, persian, etc.) it will help you be a fresher writer

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