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Anniversaries and Milestones

by Sheila Williams

I’ve been entwined with Asimov’s for more than half my lifetime and share certain milestones and anniversaries with the magazine. I assumed the position of editorial assistant on June 24, 1982, a couple of months after the magazine’s fifth anniversary. Although my name first appeared in the January 1983 masthead, I worked on three 1982 issues—November, December, and Mid-December. Thus, as the magazine hits the midpoint of its year-long fortieth anniversary celebration, I’ll also be celebrating my thirty-fifth year with Asimov’s.

When I started at Asimov’s, I felt like the magazine and much of its staff had already been around forever. Shawna McCarthy, the managing editor, had joined the staff in 1978, and Betsy Mitchell, who had just moved over to Analog, in 1980. They had so much more knowledge and experience that I was sure I could never catch up. I learned a great deal from both, however, which was good because they had each moved on to other companies by Asimov’s tenth anniversary.

1987 was an exciting year for me. Isaac Asimov and I held an event commemorating the magazine’s tenth anniversary at New York’s Ethical Cultural Society, and I wed a fellow employee of Davis Publications (Asimov’s original publisher). The anniversary event, which got a mention in the New York Times, opened the West Side YMCA’s 1987 Writers’ Voice season; my fiancé, David Bruce, was one half of Davis Publications’ IT department. He’d asked me out on our first date when I approached him about whether he could supply me with some cyber stuff to wear to a costume party in honor of Neuromancer author William Gibson.

Alas, the magazines’ fifteenth anniversary was not a happy occasion. Isaac died on April 6, 1992, leaving all of us heartbroken. He’d told me several times before he died that one major reason he’d founded the magazine was to give new writers a welcoming place to break into science fiction. He also expressed his deeply held wish that the magazine continue long after his death. While the following year wasn’t a special anniversary year, it was a happier one. In March 1993, Rick Wilber and I announced the creation of what would become known as the Dell Magazine Award. This award, which goes to the best SF or fantasy story by a full-time college student, seeks to further Isaac’s legacy of supporting emerging authors. Later that year, I hit another important milestone—the birth of my first daughter, Irene.

I don’t remember if we held a twentieth anniversary celebration for the magazine in 1997, but I do remember that the magazine hit a grand slam at the Hugos. Asimov’s stories picked up the award in all three short fiction categories, and Gardner Dozois won one of his many Hugos for best editor. The twenty-fifth anniversary is another blur, partly because my second daughter, Juliet, was born in early July.

The next major milestone for me occurred in the spring of 2004. After working at the magazine for twenty-two of its twenty-seven years, I became editor-in-chief. Again, due to publishing’s lead-time, my title didn’t change on the masthead until the January 2005 issue.

In 2007, we marked our next significant anniversary with a commemorative book—Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 30th Anniversary Anthology—which was released by Tachyon Publications. The book includes stories by Connie Willis, Robert Silverberg, Nancy Kress, Robert Reed, James Patrick Kelly, Mike Resnick, and many others. We celebrated with a party at the Worldcon and several author signings.

In 2012, the magazine’s thirty-fifth anniversary, and my thirtieth year on the staff, I received my second Hugo Award for best editor—short form. Unlike the previous year, when I was awarded my first Hugo, my husband and younger daughter were at the ceremony with me. My older daughter was away at college and sorely missed, but that night still ranks as one of the happiest in my life.

2017 is shaping up as a very good year, as well. As I write this, we are formulating plans for a fortieth anniversary celebration on April 13. It will be held in New York City at the Housing Works Bookstore Café on 126 Crosby Street. Although this issue doesn’t go on sale until April 25, I hope that many of you will have heard the word via social media and will have commemorated the occasion with us. Later in the year, Prime Books will be publishing Asimov’s Science Fiction: A Decade of Hugo & Nebula Award Winning Stories, 2005 to 2015 in conjunction with our anniversary year. In addition to many of the authors who appeared in our Thirtieth Anniversary Anthology, this book contains stories by Sarah Pinsker, David Levine, Karen Joy Fowler, Elizabeth Bear, Vylar Kaftan, Will McIntosh, and others. We hope to have a book signing in place in NYC to celebrate the launch of the book. Please keep up with us on social media to learn more about our plans.

2017 is personally significant to me as well. In addition to my thirty-fifth anniversary with the magazine, my husband and I will be celebrating thirty years of marriage in August. Another wonderful juxtaposition of anniversaries and milestones! It’s been fun to share so many important events with the magazine. I’m glad I’ve been able to continue Asimov’s tradition of keeping the doors open for new authors just as Isaac desired. I’m also delighted that so many established writers continue to be loyal to Asimov’s sending material our way when they have it. The hard work of our staff, the excellent stories we’ve had the opportunity to publish, along with the steadfast support of our readers, has gone a long way toward fulfilling Isaac’s second dream of having the magazine succeed long after he could be here to oversee it. We plan to continue honoring both wishes and look forward to many more anniversaries and milestones in the years ahead. 

Copyright © 2017 Sheila Williams

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