Since 2014, I’ve compiled an annual ranking of science fiction and fantasy magazines, based on prominent awards nominations and “best of” placements over the past ten years.
Below is my list for 2019. (For all previous lists, see here.)
Method and Caveats:
(1.) Only magazines are included (online or in print), not anthologies, standalones, or series.
(2.) I gave each magazine one point for each story nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, Eugie, or World Fantasy Award in the past ten years; one point for each story appearance in any of the Dozois, Horton, Strahan, Clarke, or Adams “Year’s Best” anthologies; and half a point for each story appearing in the short story or novelette category of the annual Locus Recommended list.
(3.) I am not attempting to include the horror / dark fantasy genre, except as it appears incidentally on the list.
(4.) Prose only, not poetry.
(5.) I’m not attempting to correct for frequency of publication or length of table of contents.
(6.) I’m also not correcting for a magazine’s only having published during part of the ten-year period. Reputations of defunct magazines slowly fade, and sometimes they are restarted. Reputations of new magazines take time to build.
(7.) I take the list down to 1.5 points.
(8.) I welcome corrections.
(9.) I confess to some ambivalence about rankings of this sort. They reinforce the prestige hierarchy, and they compress interesting complexity into a single scale. However, the prestige of a magazine is a socially real phenomenon that deserves to be tracked, especially for the sake of outsiders and newcomers who might not otherwise know what magazines are well regarded by insiders when considering, for example, where to submit.
1. Asimov’s (206.5 points)2. Clarkesworld (163.5)3. Tor.com (162)4. Fantasy & Science Fiction (142.5)5. Lightspeed (116)6. Subterranean (73) (ceased 2014)7. Analog (56.5)8. Uncanny (54) (started 2014)9. Strange Horizons (49.5)10. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (48)11. Interzone (43)12. Apex (28.5)13. Fantasy Magazine (24.5) (merged into Lightspeed 2012, occasional special issues thereafter)14. Nightmare (18.5) (started 2012)15. Fireside (10) (started 2012)16t. Postscripts (9) (ceased short fiction in 2014)16t. The New Yorker (9)18. Slate / Future Tense (7.5)19t. Black Static (7)19t. Realms of Fantasy (7) (ceased 2011)21t. McSweeney’s (6)21t. Shimmer (6) (ceased 2018)23t. Electric Velocipede (5.5) (ceased 2013)23t. Sirenia Digest (5.5)23t. The Dark (5.5) (started 2013)26t. Conjunctions (5)26t. GigaNotoSaurus (5)26t. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet (5)29t. Fiyah (4.5) (started 2017)29t. Intergalactic Medicine Show (4.5) (ceased 2019)29t. Omni (4.5) (classic science/SF magazine, restarted 2017)29t. Terraform (4.5) (started 2014)29t. Tin House (4.5)34. Boston Review (4)35t. Cosmos (3)35t. Helix SF (3) (ceased 2008)35t. Jim Baen’s Universe (3) (ceased 2010)38t. Buzzfeed (2.5)38t. Harper’s (2.5)38t. Kaleidotrope (2.5)38t. Lone Star Stories (2.5) (ceased 2009)38t. Matter (2.5) (started 2011)38t. Paris Review (2.5)38t. Weird Tales (2.5) (ceased 2014)45t. Abyss & Apex (2)45t. Augur (2) (started 2018)45t. B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog (2)45t. Beloit Fiction Journal (2)45t. Mothership Zeta (2) (started 2015)50t. Black Gate (1.5)50t. Daily Science Fiction (1.5)50t. e-flux journal (1.5)50t. Flurb (1.5) (ceased 2012) ————————————————–
(1.) The New Yorker, Tin House, McSweeney’s, Conjunctions, Harper’s, Beloit Fiction Journal, Boston Review, and Paris Review are literary magazines that occasionally publish science fiction or fantasy. Cosmos, Slate, and Buzzfeed are popular magazines that publish a bit of science fiction on the side. e-flux is a wide-ranging arts journal. The remaining magazines focus on the F/SF genre.
(2.) It’s also interesting to consider a three-year window. Here are those results, down to six points:
1. Tor.com (67.5)2. Clarkesworld (63.5)3. Lightspeed (51.5)4. Uncanny (48)5. Asimov’s (47)6. F&SF (36.5)7. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (29.5)8. Analog (17.5)9. Apex (14)10. Strange Horizons (14)11. Nightmare (12)12. Fireside (10.5)13. Interzone (8.5)14. Slate / Future Tense (8)
The classic “big three” print SF magazines are Asimov’s, F&SF, and Analog. The three-year list makes clearer how these paid-subscription magazines have been increasingly challenged in importance by a trio of free online magazines, all founded 2006-2010: Tor.com, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed — plus relative newcomer Uncanny, founded in 2014.
These three-year results also confirm, I think, my decision to use a ten-year window. For example, my impression from chatting with people in the field is that Asimov’s is still arguably the most prestigious venue in the mind of the median SF insider, though increasingly challenged by Clarkesworld and Tor.com — just what the ten-year results say.
(3.) Looking back on my original 2014 list, I’m struck by these differences:
(a.) More magazines are represented in 2019. Twenty-nine magazines appear on the 2014 list; fifty-four appear now. Now, that’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, since my methodology changed in 2015 to include the Locus list and go down to 1.5 points. However, the more comparable 2015 list still only contains forty magazines. Although several magazines have closed since 2014, overall there are now more opportunities to publish in venues that are regularly read by Locus editors and Best-of editors and awards nominators. I credit the rise of online magazines, which are less expensive to publish.
(b.) The falloff between the top-ranked and the mid-ranked magazines is less steep in 2019 than it was in 2014. For example, in 2014, the top ranked magazine (Asimov’s) earned 8 times as many points as the tenth ranked magazine (Lightspeed). In 2019, the 1st:10th ratio was only 4 to 1. I’m inclined to credit, again, the rise of free online magazines. The rise of such magazines means that publication outside of the bigger circulation print magazines doesn’t doom your story to obscurity. This makes it easier for authors to choose other magazines that they personally like for whatever reason. Another factor might be better communication among authors, allowing authors to find magazines that are a good fit for their stories.
(c.) The relative decline of Asimov’s and F&SF. Both are still terrific magazines, of course! But in 2014 they were far ahead of all other contenders: 197 and 146 points respectively, while no other magazine had even a third as many points. F&SF is now 4th. Asimov’s is still 1st, but based on the past three years’ data, it looks quite possible that Clarkesworld or Tor.com will soon claim the #1 spot.
(4.) Left out of these numbers are some terrific podcast venues such as the Escape Artists’ podcasts (Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders), Drabblecast, and StarShipSofa. None of these qualify for my list by existing criteria, but podcasts are also important venues.
(5.) Check out Nelson Kingfisher’s analysis of acceptance rates and response times for most of the magazines above.
(6.) Other lists: The SFWA qualifying markets list is a list of “pro” science fiction and fantasy venues based on pay rates and track records of strong circulation. Ralan.com is a regularly updated list of markets, divided into categories based on pay rate.