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On the Net: Frequent Filers by James Patrick Kelly



Ah, 1977! It was the year that Star Wars <http://www.starwars.com> first took us to a galaxy far, far away and Voyagers 1 and 2 <http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov> began their tour of the local system. The Apple II <http://apple2history.org> was perched at the cutting edge of technology. The Yankees <www.Yankees.com> won the World Series (yawn). Jimmy Carter <http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.org> was President, Laverne and Shirley <http://www.ksu.edu/english/janette/installations/Amanda/MAIN.HTM> were the queens of televison and Disco <http://www.discomusic.com> was the dance of choice.

It was also the year that Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine first saw the light of readers’ eyes. I remember being tremendously excited at the arrival of IAsfm, as it was known back then, even though in 1977 I had one sorry publication to my name. I mean, I was so green that I hadn’t even grown a Patrick yet; I was James Kelly, plain and simple. But the way I figured it, a new ‘zine would want fresh young voices. And that would be me, right? I believed I could actually hear destiny calling. Alas, it was only the sound of rejection slips whistling by. Although I tried (and tried and tried), six years and two editors would come and go before I first appeared in these pages, even though I was selling regularly elsewhere. I mention this not so much to grind an ax as to point out to aspiring writers reading this that a) that James Patrick Kelly was not built in a day–and neither will you be–and 2) that editors do not, in fact, share a group mind, so that what one rejects with a form letter may turn into another’s cover story.

You can revisit the early days of Asimov’s by clicking over to John O’Neill’s excellent A Brief History of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine <http://www.sfsite.com/columns/asimov.htm>. While you can’t sample the styles of writing that held sway in that halcyon time, you can compare the jpgs of eighties cover art with those of today. You know, even though it was corny, I kind of miss Isaac’s face filling the "o" in Asimov’s.


Why this sudden plunge into nostalgia? You may recall that last time I introduced you to some of the very newest Asimov’s writers. In the exit to that column I had intended to mention some of the writers who have appeared most frequently in these pages. But when I ran out of space, a new column was born.

Actually, I got the idea from Jorge Candeias <http://www.terravista.pt/MeiaPraia/1466> of Portimão, Portugal, who put the question of who had published most frequently in the magazine to the Asimov’s Readers’ Forum <http://www.asimovs.com/aspnet_forum> Several folks offered educated guesses but, at first, no one offered hard numbers. As it turned out, those numbers were not easy to come by. I tried to figure them out myself by guessing at likely suspects and then looking them up in the Internet Speculative Fiction DataBase <http://www.isfdb.org>. But while the isfdb is a wonderful tool, it is not organized to cross reference authors with magazines, nor is it infallible. I nearly went blind trying to cull Robert Silverberg’s Asimov’s contributions from the rest of his astonishing output. So I closed out of the isfdb and returned to the Readers’ Forum to ask for help. Savvy reader Jason Hauser <http://www.geocities.com/j_sun123/> of Raleigh, North Carolina stepped forward with the welcome announcement that he had been keeping a personal database of Asimov’s stories from the Spring of 1977 to December 2002 and could tell me everything I wanted to know.

But before we count down the top ten, a few caveats. This is a snapshot that will be seven months old by the time you view it. With one exception, the writers on the list are all alive and busily typing. Thus rankings could change. Also, what I counted were the number of stories, not the number of words. Remember that both Robert Silverberg and Michael Swanwick have published entire novels in these pages. And I am not counting columns, reviews or poems, although I will mention that if I were counting poems, Bruce Boston <http://hometown.aol.com/bruboston/myhomepage/business.html> would be the all time champ.


top ten

10. John M. Ford (Mike, to his pals) doesn’t actually have an official website, but Will Shetterly <http://www.player.org/pub/flash/people/will.html> has written an admiring An Introduction to John M. Ford <http://www.player.org/pub/flash/ford> Or else click over to Mike’s Strange Horizons Interview <http://www.strangehorizons.com/2002/20020429/interview.shtml> of last year. Although Mike was a frequent contributor from 1978 through 1990, his short story production fell off in the nineties. His most recent novel is the 2001 fantasy, The Last Hot Time.

9. Lucius Shepard is another writer without an official website, although why this brilliant writer hasn’t picked up a single fan website is beyond me. While Lucius was arguably the hottest writer in science fiction during the eighties, in an excerpt of from his 2001 Locus Interview <http://www.locusmag.com/2001/Issue11/Shepard.html>, Lucius frankly admits,

‘‘I had a ‘career pause’ from ‘93 to about a year and a half ago–Nick Gevers came up with that description, and I thought it was very genteel." A must click for Shepard fans is Exclusive Movie Reviews by Lucius Shepard or, The Fall of Civilization by Way of Pop Culture <http://www.electricstory.com/reviews/lsreviews.asp> wherein Lucius offers his often outrageous opinions on the state of modern cinema. Tom Cruise fans are advised to wear body armor.

8. Mary Rosenblum <http://www.sff.net/people/MaryRosenblum> hit the genre running early in her career. From 1990-98 she published more than two dozen stories in Asimov’s, either alone or in collaboration. And then she stopped writing SF and started writing the Rachel O’Conner mysteries as Mary Freeman. About the same time, she stopped updating her website. But be of good cheer, Rosenblum fans. Mary will be returning to Asimov’s after too long an absence and vows to update her site by the time you read this. In the meantime, check out one of her other projects, the Long Ridge Writers Group <http://www.longridgewritersgroup.com> "a program that has, for thirty years, taught thousands of aspiring authors how to find their own writing niche."

7. Connie Willis doesn’t have an official page, there is a fan page about her: The Connie Willis Homepage <http://www.geocities.com/Wellesley/5595/willis/willis.html>. It is, alas, sadly dated as of this writing. Connie has been widely interviewed online: at Cybling <http://www.cybling.com/artists/awillis.html>, twice at Scifi.com <http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue17/interview.html> and <http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue211/interview.html> and The Zone <http://www.zone-sf.com/conniewillis.html>. Possibly the oddest bit of Willisiana on the web is the Connie Willis trading card <http://www.chicon.org/chi2000/card03.htm> issued by Chicon <http://www.chicon.org>, the 2000 Worldcon. Or else it’s Puzzling Connie Willis <http://www.nesfa.org/boskone/b36/b36pb/puzzlingconniewillis.htm>.

6.Robert Silverberg’s Quasi-Official Home Page <http://www.owmyhead.com/silverberg/oldsite/silvhome.htm> is a fitting tribute to a career without parallel in the history of the genre. The site is maintained by Jon Davis and as Bob writes on the home page, "I may be present as a guiding figure in the background, but he and he alone will decide what is to be included." But this is not the only fan page devoted to Bob’s work. I was amazed to find sites in French, Robert Silverberg <http://www.cafardcosmique.com/auteur/silverberg.html>, Italian Robert Silverberg <http://www.intercom.publinet.it/silverberg.htm> and Greek Silverberg Robert <http://www.altfactor.gr/cgi-bin/websf.cgi?silverbe> among Google’s top ten hits for Bob.

5. Michael Swanwick Online <http://www.michaelswanwick.com> is a collaboration among Michael, Vlatko Juric-Kokic of Zagreb, Croatia, Keith Brooke of Brightlingsea, England, Peter Tillman of Tucson, Arizona, and Nicholas Gevers of Cape Town, South Africa. You may remember that from the column I wrote a year ago entitled "Michael Swanwick By James Patrick Kelly." It’s clear that Michael cares about this site and spends time keeping it up to date. Well worth a click are The Squalid Truth and Unca Mike’s Advice where his deeply subversive wit is on display. The site is the gateway to the multitudes of free Swanwick stories. He may have more free fiction on the net than any other professional SF writer I know. .

4. Nancy Kress’s <http://www.sff.net/people/nankress> official site is a model of biographical and bibliographical information. Aside from being one of our best writers, Nancy is also one of our best writing teachers and here she offers advice to aspiring writers as well There are many other Nancy resources on the web, although one of my favorites is the Transcription of the Speech <http://www.lysator.liu.se/lsff/mb-nr21/Speech_by_Nancy_Kress.html> she gave at Confuse93 on the subject of "Women in American Science Fiction." Don’t forget to check out the Science Fiction Weekly Interview <http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue279/interview.html> she gave last summer

3. Well, if your must know, it’s Me <http://www.jimkelly.net> But this column is already way too Kelly-centric, so let’s just move along, okay?

2. Robert Reed is my nominee for the most under-rated writer in science fiction. Year after year he graces these pages with truly wonderful stories and yet he has yet to win a major award. What’s wrong with the world? Pay attention to this man! Although Bob does not have his own website, Star Base Andromeda <http://www.starbaseandromeda.com>, Lincoln Nebraska’s longest running science fiction, fantasy, and horror club, has just put up a site honoring their local hero at Robert Reed <http://www.starbaseandromeda.com/reed.html>. You can read Bob’s own words by clicking the excerpt from his Locus Interview <http://www.locusmag.com/1998/Issues/04/Reed.html>.

1. Isaac Asimov <http://www.asimovonline.com> published forty-seven stories in the magazine that bore his name, ten more at this writing than runner-up Robert Reed. I commended Edward Seiler’s comprehensive fan site to you in one of the first columns and it continues to be the best starting point for exploring Isaac’s prodigious output. But it’s not surprising that there are many, many sites devoted to the Good Doctor on the net. One of the most ambitious is Jenkin’s Spoiler-Laden Guide to Isaac Asimov <http://homepage.mac.com/jenkins/Asimov/Asimov.html>. John H. Jenkins is reviewing all of Isaac’s book and short fiction. He writes "I don’t consider my position as an Asimov fan to obligate me to like his poorer work. On the other hand, there’s an awful lot by Asimov which I really, really like–which is why I’m an Asimov fan in the first place."



Limiting my list to the top ten meant that I had no time to take a close look at some of Asimov’s other top writers, people like Steven Utley <http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/originals/originals_archive/utley/utley_bio.html>, Brian Stableford <http://freespace.virgin.net/diri.gini/brian.htm>, Mike Resnick <http://www.fortunecity.com/tattooine/farmer/2>, Tony Daniel <http://www.cyberonic.net/~danne1/tonydaniel/index.htm> and Jack McDevitt <http://www.sfwa.org/members/McDevitt> who were the eleventh through fifteenth most prolific contributors. No slight was intended.

If there is anything to be learned from this exercise, it is perhaps that how difficult it is to sustain a career as a short story writer. Most of the folks on this list are (or were, in Isaac’s case) accomplished and successful novelists. Yet they returned again and again to the short form. It was not–believe me–for the money. Nor is there great fame to be won in these pages, more’s the pity. So why did they do it?

I won’t presume to speak for my colleagues, but it says here that even though the short story has been pushed to the economic margins of science fiction, it still remains very close to the artistic center of our genre.

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"On the Net:Frequent Filers" by James Patrick Kelly, copyright © 2003 with permission of the author.

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