Thursday, April 3, 2014

Some Math

Today, my insane project was to try to figure out about how many speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) stories are published per year at a pro rate.

Obviously this count is not remotely scientific.

Counts here are derived from using reported frequency of publication times either the number of stories in the last issue or the average number of stories in the last set of issues. Question marks are presented when content updates on an irregular schedule, even if it's frequent. This count excludes anthologies (even annuals), magazines for children, stuff open only to Australians or Canadians, and magazines set around a shared pre-set world. It does, however, include magazines which are not currently accepting submissions, magazines open mostly to Canadians and Australians, magazines with narrowly themed issues, some magazines that have only put out one or two issues, and some magazines that have missed an issue or two. The count does not include novellas and novelettes, as a rule, though several of the bigger magazines totally do these. It doesn't generally include flash either, though there's a big giant asterisk on that generally for Daily Science Fiction, which publishes 260 stories a year and tends toward low word count.

Again, I want to stress. These are rough numbers. This is a guess.

AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review- ????
Analog- 12x a year 6 short stories- 72
Apex- monthly 6 stories- 72
Asimov's- 12 x 6- 72
Beneath Ceaseless Skies- 26 x 2- 52
Cemetery Dance- 6 x 10 - 60
ChiZine- ???
Clarkesworld- 12 x 6 = 72
Crossed Genres- 12 x 3 =36
Daily Science Fiction- 260 x 1 = 260
Escape pod- 52 x 1 = 52
Fantasy and Science Fiction- 6 x 10 = 60
Fog Horn* - 12 x 4 = 48
Inscription*- 12 x 1 =12
Jamais Vu - 4 x about 7 =28
Lightspeed -12 x 10 = 120
Lore -  2 x 9 = 18
Musa - 12 x 5 = 60
Nightmare - 12 x 4 = 48
One Buck Horror- ? x 6 = ??
Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show- 4 x 5.5= 22
Phobos - ?? x 15= ?
Shimmer- ? x ???= ?
Shock Totem- 2 x 13= 26
Strange Horizon- 36 x 1.75 = 63
Tor 12 x 5 = 60
Unlikely Story- 3 x 6 - 18
Waylines- 6 x 3.75 = 22.5
Wily Writers- ??

So. 1353.5, even without the magazines I didn't get a total for.

There (probably) are AT LEAST one thousand three hundred and fifty three professional rate speculative fiction stories published every year.

That's not an exact number (it's not even a whole number). But it is a big number.

That number's slightly less big when you look at the tables of contents and see Stephen King, Ted Chiang, Neil Gaiman, Laid Barron, Joe Hill, Michael Swanwick, Jack Ketchum, and other big pretty names on the front covers. But it's still a big number.

It's a big enough number to sneak away a tiny fragment of, certainly. 


  1. Interesting. I look at that number and I don't think big, I think "unbelievably tiny."

  2. Really? Even though it's omitting several markets and it's only pro sales? It feels surprisingly big to me.

  3. Really really! Especially since the methodology means you have to factor authors from Canada and Australia into the other side of this. But I don't mean to dissuade you--mostly I'm amused at how people can look at the same concrete detail and have completely opposite reactions.

  4. Honestly, you have to factor all English speaking writers into this anyway, plus translated works. But I certainly don't mean for that to be discouraging, and like you said, I'm amused as well by how opposite your reaction was. Honestly, it seems to me there's a pretty huge US dominance, with UK writers coming in a strong second. Though I could be wrong about that because Canadian authors are often quite sneaky and easy to mistake for their southern cousins. The reason I bring Australians and Canadians up is that there are some nice magazines in both of those countries that are government supported and require them to publish a certain percentage of their stories with native authors.

  5. I believe to feel the full impact of the number of stories available, one would have to also know how many tales are vying for those 1350 spots. If it was only 1500, your odds are good. What is the average rate of rejection for a pro magazine? I would surmise somewhere north of 95%. So approximately 20x more stories than are printed are actually submitted.

    So if you stated from 27K stories submitted to pro mags, only 1350 would be published. That means your story only has to be better than 25650 other submissions. (Reading that, I am not sure I am encouraged or discouraged.)

    Frame of reference is everything.