THE STATE OF AMAZING

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    Amazing Stories has now been on the web for just a couple of days shy of 365.  (We’re actually a year and a month old, or 5 years and a month old – or 87 years old – depending upon how you want to measure things:  we started this website in November of 2012 in a beta form, wen’t public in December of 2012;  applied for the trademarks in 2008 and, of course, the first issue of Amazing Stories hit the news stands way back in March of 1926.)

    While there is no true corporate line of descent between Gernsback’s original publication and this current incarnation, we all want there to be one and have deliberately gone about attempting to maintain a connection;  we believe that science fiction and the practice thereof is a continuum – and is all the better for its continued connections to its history.

    So where are we at after nearly 365 plus or minus days of operation?

    We launched, successfully, if I am any judge.  We could not have done so without the recommendation of Bud Webster (who handles estates for SFWA) for the web development services of Woodall Designs and the leader of its team – Kermit Woodall.

    We’ve published well over 2,000 individual articles (2,059 to be precise), an average of nearly 6 posts per day.

    Those posts would not have happened if it were not for the work of 132 individual contributors.

    We also added a few staff positions that help reduce my work load and increase our reach:  Michelle Bradbury and Rachel Isaacs are on board for daily editing; Tanya Tynjala serves as our Spanish Language Editor and occasional interpreter; Ricky L. Brown is now our Reviews Editor and Duncan Long has taken on the duties of Art Director.  All are volunteers.

    Many of our contributors are names well-recognized in the field and I am grateful for their willing involvement.

    Perhaps the two greatest stories about our contributors have been their willingness to come aboard and the very, very few (count on less than one hand few) interpersonal issues we’ve had along the way.  A couple of folks dropped off over “irreconcilable differences” of philosophy, direction, personal beliefs.  The remainder have had to devote their time to personal and career issues – and just about every single one of them has expressed a desire and an intent to return to our pages at some time in the future.

    Not bad for herding cats over the course of a long year. (And what cats!  Imagine if you will the inscrutability of the siamese crossed with the messianic zeal and ferocity of a Kzinti, crossed with the playfulness of eight week old kittens and you’ll have a dim view of an inkling of an impression….)

    Amazing Stories articles have become increasingly linked to, tweeted, referenced and quoted elsewhere on the web;  a couple of review lines from our pages have been re-purposed as review blurbs.

    We’ve also (somehow) managed to work through the year with only four major “issues” – two internal and two public.  Of the two internal differences of opinion (created when one set of contributors took umbrage over the writings of another set of contributors), both were resolved satisfactorily and everyone learned a few more lessons about how to get along in a diverse community that harbors wildly different politics and beliefs.  The lessons boiled down to:  learn to be a bit more respectful and thoughtful.

    Of our two publicly aired “issues” – the Paul Cook When SF Isn’t SF affair and the Felicity Savage Selfie-Diversity Affair – I believe that both are now in the rearview mirror, after having taught us all a thing or two.  (I hasten to add – behind us but NOT forgotten.)

    When SF Isn’t SF demonstrated that there was a hole in the management of comments on the site:  the twitter buzz over Paul’s piece took place while I was out of town, attending to my father’s medical emergency.  As I have stated elsewhere, at least half of the controversy surrounding that issue was due to my hasty cutting off of the debate – which I did not because I wanted to shutter the debate, but because I was unable to monitor it on a sustained basis and the at the time pending comments made it appear that everything was descending into a maelstrom of nasty name calling.

    Had the circumstances been different, the results would have been different.  As it stands now, two editors have been brought on, folks who can handle things if I am unable to be away.  I can’t promise that we won’t have controversy here anymore, but I can promise that reasonable debate will be allowed to continue even in my absence.

    Of the Felicity Savage Affair: It seems that we have all learned that issues impinging on diversity are going to be scrutinized and questioned more deeply than most other issues that will be raised here.  As such, it behooves us to pay a bit more attention to the ways in which our words may be received.  I’ll not revisit that debate here except for one aspect of it:

    In attempting to answer some comments regarding her post, I stated that I had asked Felicity what the intent of her article was.  Her response made it clear – to me – that her intent was in support of diversity, not in opposition to it.  I chose to believe her.  Just as I chose to believe the statements in the comments that made it clear that readers were not seeing that intent.

    I’ve no reason not to do so and I will continue to choose to believe that both our contributors and our audience are being honest and straightforward when they offer their opinions and commentary on any given subject. To do otherwise (absent evidence to the contrary) defeats the entire purpose of discussion.  So I approach the articles and the commentary with no preconceived notions and no assumptions about whatever agenda one may be pushing.

    I also choose to believe that everyone here is genuinely interested in promoting the positives of our community – that they are interested in building a community that is valuable, important, respectful and representative of everyone who desires to call themselves a fan.

    I also choose to believe that it is possible for us to have differences of opinion, and possible to express those differences, without resorting to rancor, name calling, ostracism, bullying and all the rest.

    I believe very strongly that missteps and mistakes are learning experiences – so long as they are given the room and the air they need to become so.  (And so long as individuals are willing to treat them as such.)  If I have one concern about these issues it is the tendency for individuals to try and shut down discussion in favor of their viewpoint, rather than seeking common ground and engaging with those who may seem to disagree with them.  I’d really prefer to see folks approach our discussions from a positive and open point of view:  certainly a position may be right, and certainly the opposite position may be wrong.  There are truths out there.  However, the end goal of our discussions and learning experiences should be learning, not winning internet points.  (This is general commentary – specifically not directed at any one individual or discussion.)

    In light of my own learning experiences, I have determined that I will increase my own efforts in learning about and supporting issues of diversity.  I know that I began this project with several goals, one of which was always to embrace and support the diversity found in the SF community;  I’ve made deliberate outreach to the black science fiction community when it was apparent that we were not engaging with it sufficiently.  That work is not done, but it has started.  I made deliberate outreach to different cultures by encouraging the participation of those whose first language is not english – and if the popular posts feature is any indication, that effort has been a success (and one that will continue and expand).

    I’ve made general efforts to include diverse viewpoints and lifestyles by being open to and encouraging the participation of individuals whose experiences have not been my own or who hold beliefs and faiths other than my own – and by allowing them to express their viewpoints without interference.

    But as always, more work needs to be done and I have committed myself to that goal;  by way of example, I have begun searching for individuals and organizations that represent various minority communities within fandom – fans with disabilities, fans of hispanic identity, organizations serving the LGBTQ  community:  in support of that effort, I would appreciate hearing from anyone who represents or belongs to such communities to discuss ways in which my outreach can become more effective and to discuss ways in which Amazing Stories can better serve your communities.

    As if that weren’t enough for the coming year – what else is in store for Amazing Stories?

    At long last, our first piece of original fiction – David Gerrold’s comic script A Doctor For the Enterprise – is nearing the end of its production phase.  Troy Boyle, the artist in chief on the project, had to contend with some personal issues that has seriously affected his ability to create, but those seem to have largely passed by;  if you were paying attention, you will have noticed our cover reveal of a few days ago.  Inkers and colorists and letterers are all busily working away and I expect to be able to announce that the comic is being published sometime during the first quarter of 2014.

    We’re working on producing a video program with some friends over at the SciFi4Me blog;  it’s been a slow haul there too, but not because of problems;  we’re all trying to figure out exactly how to put things together – from our production values to our content.  I believe this to be a case of “all good things come to those who wait”.  Expect more detail on this subject in January.

    We’re still pushing the T-shirt thing and still need to sell about two dozen more shirts before we can launch the print run.  I’d really like to have one of those shirts – so would just about everyone else who has had a chance to look at the artwork.  Take another look and see if you can’t bring yourself around to placing an advance order.  If that goes well, we’ll be launching other t-shirt designs PDQ.

    We’re putting together a new team of bloggers who will be devoting themselves almost exclusively to writing reviews.  We’ve got a good half-dozen candidates at the moment (I expect we’ll finish up with about a dozen), so:  publicists – put us on your lists.  Authors – keep us in mind.

    We’ve opened up the site to outside advertising and that’s been pretty well-received – at least enough so to offset our hosting costs, which increased tremendously when we shifted from a cut-rate hosting company (one familiar to many) to a cloud-based server.  That move would not have been necessary if it hadn’t been for you – our 3,000+ members who are visiting the site daily, making it necessary to improve our hosting services in order to serve you properly.

    Speaking of our 3,000+ members – wow!  That’s over 8 new joins per day over the past year.  It started slowly but has experienced near-exponential growth over the past several months.  Our traffic well-exceeds 1,000 views per day – by February we ought to be seeing 2,000 views per day minimum.

    And we’re making an impression – there’s no doubt about that.  I’ve been tapped for panels at February’s Boskone and am in preliminary discussion to do the same at Lunacon.

    All in all, I have to say that Amazing Stories has had an excellent, sterling, unexpectedly successful (happily so) first year.  To which I say – THANK YOU ALL!

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