Most of y'all who would care about this have probable heard already, but what the hell: we've just been officially informed that Strange Horizons now qualifies as a pro market by SFWA standards, retroactive to the launch of the magazine.
In some ways, this isn't a big deal. We've been getting, and publishing, good stories all along; we've met all of the SFWA qualifications all along, except for that sticky question of how to measure circulation of an online magazine; most people who even think about the question apparently assume that we qualify as a prozine.
In other ways, though, it's a very big deal:
- First, it's got tremendous symbolic value for me personally. It's a big deal for many beginning writers to make their three sales to pro magazines and qualify for SFWA membership (and even one pro sale qualifies authors for associate membership); it's a mark of having Arrived, of being a Real Pro. In the same way, the news that we qualify is a big sign of external validation for me; in some sense, it makes me feel that the magazine is a Real Pro Magazine.
- It's a nice step for online magazines in general. Until now, there've only been two current online magazines that qualified: Sci Fiction and Gothic.net. (I assume that Ellen Datlow's previous online magazines, Omni Online and Event Horizon, qualified while they were being published.) The information we'd received indicated that those magazines qualified by special dispensation of the Board of SFWA; nobody has come up with a useful standard for measuring circulation of online magazines (though some people are trying; see the ongoing discussion at the Rumor Mill). And those two were pretty obvious exceptions to make: Sci Fiction pays better than any other extant sf magazine (except The Infinite Matrix), and is edited by one of the best-known editors in the field, and a story published there has won a Nebula; Gothic.net pays well, has been around for years, and has a measurable subscriber base (unlike most other online magazines). So it was relatively easy to look at those and say "Well, okay, these two should count, but otherwise online magazines aren't worthwhile." But the more online magazines that qualify, the more acceptance and recognition I think online magazines in general will receive. Note that Speculon also now qualifies; that makes four. I suspect that The Spook and Future Orbits will both qualify when they reach their first anniversary, but those are different—published as PDF, not HTML. I'm sure that The Infinite Matrix will qualify if it keeps going for a full year, as I hope it does. It'll be interesting to see whether Deep Outside (which just published an Ursula Pflug story!) and Would That It Were (the other most established online sf magazines that pay pro rates) will qualify or not.
- SFWA membership is a big carrot to dangle in front of new authors. (The question of whether SFWA membership is all it's cracked up to be is one I'll leave for another time; for now I'll just note that the first time I saw someone write that SFWA membership was unimportant, it was like the first time it occurred to me that I wasn't going to grad school. It had never occurred to me to question these things.) Regardless of the benefits of SFWA membership, it's (as noted above) a mark of external validation; there are new writers who won't submit to markets that don't qualify as prozines by SFWA standards. (In fact, I'm one such writer. Not that I've sent anything out in ages. But even after seeing the infighting that goes on on the SFWA newsgroups, the allure is still there for me; if nothing else, I want to be able to vote on the Nebulas! So until I make a second and third pro sale, I'll be submitting whatever I submit to markets that count as pro sales.) Um, the point being that I'm hoping this announcement will bring in submissions from up-and-coming writers who have been loath to submit to us 'til now.
- Finally, mixed in with the above, I'm hoping that more SFWA members will also see us as having received the Official Stamp of Approval and submit to us. I don't know that that'll happen; I think this announcement is mostly of interest to people who haven't yet qualified for membership. But I suspect that it'll give us slightly more legitimacy in some people's eyes than we've had thus far.
Okay, enough on that. Suffice it to say, I'm very pleased.