What Science-Fiction Magazines Look For

What science fiction is, is a subject of much controversy. So let us see what editors of self-described science-fiction magazines want. I looked in Top 10 Science Fiction Magazines – Every Writer to find the biggest names, and I selected three dead-tree ones with a long history by Internet standards. Analog Science Fiction (founded 1930 as Astounding Stories of Super-Science), Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (founded 1977), and Fantasy and Science Fiction (founded 1949). Some previous ones were Galaxy Science Fiction (1950 – 1980), If (1952 – 1974, merged into Galaxy), Amazing Stories (1926 – 2005, revived online 2012), and others.

Home of the World’s Leading Science Fiction Magazine | Analog Science Fiction: Writer’s Guidelines – Contact Us | Analog Science Fiction

We have no hard-and-fast editorial guidelines, because science fiction is such a broad field that I don’t want to inhibit a new writer’s thinking by imposing Thou Shalt Nots. Besides, a great story can make an editor swallow his preconceived taboos.

We publish science fiction stories in which some aspect of future science or technology is so integral to the plot that, if that aspect were removed, the story would collapse. Try to picture Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein without the science and you’ll see what I mean. No story!

The science can be physical, sociological, psychological. The technology can be anything from electronic engineering to biogenetic engineering. But the stories must be strong and realistic, with believable people (who needn’t be human) doing believable things–no matter how fantastic the background might be.

What the people in a story do with the science and technology, and what it does to them, and not just the science and technology itself. Not just self-driving cars, but what happens to manual driving. But they also want good stories and good characters.

Home of the World’s Leading Science Fiction Magazine | Asimov’s Science Fiction: Writer’s Guidelines – Contact Us | Asimov’s Science Fiction

In general, we’re looking for “character oriented” stories, those in which the characters, rather than the science, provide the main focus for the reader’s interest. Serious, thoughtful, yet accessible fiction will constitute the majority of our purchases, but there’s always room for the humorous as well. SF dominates the fiction published in the magazine, but we also publish borderline fantasy, slipstream, and surreal fiction. No sword & Sorcery, please. Neither are we interested in explicit sex or violence. A good overview would be to consider that all fiction is written to examine or illuminate some aspect of human existence, but that in science fiction the backdrop you work against is the size of the Universe.

Not as explicit about what is SF.

Fantasy and Science Fiction: Fantasy and Science Fiction – Writers’ Guidelines

We have no formula for fiction. We are looking for stories that will appeal to science fiction and fantasy readers. The SF element may be slight, but it should be present. We prefer character-oriented stories. We receive a lot of fantasy fiction, but never enough science fiction or humor.

Analog seems to prefer relatively hard science fiction, something with at least halfway plausible extrapolated science and technology. IASFM and F&SF seem to also accept stories that fade off into fantasy.

Analog’s definition is commendably precise, though some of what is often called science fiction may or may not fit.

One Response

  1. […] very simple one: “Fiction in which advanced technology or science is a key element.” In What Science-Fiction Magazines Look For | NexusZine I mentioned Analog magazine’s preferences: stories where future science and/or technology is […]

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