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Infinity and beyond

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It's cutting-edge, it's hip, it's next-gen, it's so next-millennium you have to wear shades: it's the revived Infinite Matrix, Eileen Gunn's online speculative-fiction magazine. Daily Weblog by Bruce Sterling. Weekly "news & wit" in David Langford's "The Runcible Ansible" (featuring the entertaining "Thog's Masterclass" samples of bad published writing). Weekdaily "This Week in History" mini-micro-item by Terry Bisson, a sort of Great Moments from the Future feature. Short-short stories by Richard Kadrey. (Whose bio notes: "Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, includng William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s." Sterling's bios tend to be similarly ~modest~.) Reviews by John Clute (bio: "the pre-eminent critic of science-fiction and fantasy"). Illustrations by Paul Mavrides (one of the artists for The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers back in the '70s; also an artist for The Book of the SubGenius). All this plus fiction: novel excerpts from Cory Doctorow, Kathleen Ann Goonan, and Pat Cadigan; a posthumous Avram Davidson story; more to come.

Currently funded by an anonymous donor. Unclear what the future will bring, but ain't that always the case? Eileen's gotten a lot of attention from the slashdot crowd, and she has big names to draw further attention; maybe some rich geek will decide to fund the magazine as a hobby.

Eileen pays more for fiction than we do, but she prints only one story a month, and isn't open to subs. She also has the additional expense of drawing a salary; she's done plenty of volunteer work for the sf field (including working for Clarion West), but this gig isn't something she can afford to do if she doesn't get paid. So it keeps coming back to the same Big Question that's been haunting the Web for years: how can you make money by giving away content? Nobody yet has come up with a workable answer. Ellen makes it work at Sci Fiction by being corporate-funded; they run advertising, but mostly for the Sci Fi Channel, and I would be surprised if the magazine brings in any significant revenue. (But I don't know anything about it; I may be totally wrong.) We make it work by being volunteer-run and donation-funded. I think everyone else who's doing an online magazine is putting their own money into it. Gothic.net has started charging for premium content, like Salon; I haven't heard anything about how that's going. It'll be interesting to see where things end up in a couple years, whether the free-content model is eventually going to be doomed. I hope not, but I'm an idealist.

On a different note, I kinda like the fact that there are a range of different presentation formats and frequencies in online prozines, from the 8-times-a-year of Speculon to the once-a-week of Sci Fiction and Strange Horizons, to the monthly-stories-and-daily-features at The Infinite Matrix. A range of interesting models. There's always the question in an online magazine of how you keep readers coming back; the SH and Clean Sheets model is to post new content on a regular schedule, on time, once a week, and send out a newsletter to remind people. I think Eileen's mix of frequencies is an intriguing alternative: new fiction less often, but other stuff that'll draw people back more often.

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