So let’s jump in, shall we? Be warned in advance that this final retrospective is LOOOOONG. It's so long that LiveJoural can't handle the entire retrospective in one entry. So here's Part I. Part II will follow shortly. There are some statements with asterisks scattered throughout both parts. All of those can be found at the end of Part II. Sorry, I'm copying and pasting everything from another file and don't feel like moving these statements around. Them's the breaks!
There is no better place to start with than the fiction. The first issue of Realms of Fantasy was the October 1994 issue. The final issue was the October 2011 issue. During this seventeen year period, the magazine only missed one issue, good enough for 102 issues total. 596 stories were published during this time by 280 different authors. That’s good for a shade over two stories per author. Of these 596 stories, fourteen were reprints, leaving 582 original pieces of fiction to appear in the magazine’s pages. These fourteen reprints were written by ten different authors, leaving 270 authors who submitted original fiction. When we consider only original fiction, the numbers still work out to slightly more than two stories per author on average. At 596 stories divided up over 102 issues, the magazine published approximately 5.8 stories per issue during the course of its history. Over the course of a year, that works out to about 34.8 stories.
The magazine’s most published author is Richard Parks, with twenty-five stories, about 4.2% of all fiction. That’s good enough to fill up 4+ issues. The next most published author is Tanith Lee with fifteen stories, about 2.5% of all fiction. That’s good enough to fill up 2+ issues. In third place is Bruce Holland Rogers with twelve stories, about 2% of all fiction and enough to fill up two issues. The only other authors to have hit “the Double Digits Club” are Jay Lake and Liz Williams, each with ten stories, and each representing about 1.67% of all fiction. Any author who published six or more stories produced enough fiction for at least one entire issue and accounted for at least 1% of all fiction. There were nineteen such authors in total. The remaining authors from this group are Peni R. Griffin, Devon Monk, Carrie Vaughn, Tim Pratt, Euan Harvey, Kate Riedel, Josh Rountree, and James Van Pelt with eight stories a piece, breaking down to about 1.34% of the fiction each and 1+ issues each; Patrick Samphire and William R. Eakin with seven stories each, breaking down to about 1.17% of the fiction each and 1+ issues each; and Alan Smale, Naomi Kritzer, Jane Yolen, and Bruce Glassco with six stories each, breaking down to about 1% of the fiction each and about one issue each. Combined, these authors accounted for 174 stories, about 29.19% of all fiction. That’s good for thirty issues, about 29.41% of the 102 issues, and enough to fill up the magazine for five years.
During my six and a half years with the magazine, I pulled thirty-two stories from the slush that were published in the magazine, about 5.37% of all fiction. That’s good enough to fill up about five and a half issues. These thirty-two slush survivors went on to publish fifty-two stories total, about 8.97% of all fiction. That’s good enough to fill up just shy of nine issues total, about 8.79% of all issues, or just shy of filling up the magazine’s fiction for a year and a half. For those keeping track, Euan Harvey not only published eight stories, he was also a slush survivor, so there is some crossover between these stats and those outlined in the previous paragraph.
Of the 280 authors to publish in RoF, 141 were male and 139 were female. That works out to approximately 50.375% male vs. 49.642% female. The fact that these numbers come so close to an exact 50/50 split is nothing short of amazing. Among my thirty-two slush survivors, nineteen were women vs. thirteen for men. That works out to 59.375% female vs. 40.625% male. Obviously this is a smaller sample size, and being as I passed stories along to Shawna for final consideration, it means I didn’t have final say over what/who we would publish. But the fact that the slush results favor women by about 20% doesn’t surprise me. As a general rule, the stories submitted by women to RoF’s slush were stronger during my time with the magazine. I imagine that if I had been making the final calls on the slush stories, the results still would have favored female writers. Please note than I am speaking in generalities only, and am in no way comparing the merits of the work concerning male and female slush survivors who went on to publication.
Further research supports this supposition that I would (and to the extent of my responsibilities did) favor female writers when it came to the slush. Of the 186 slush stories I passed along to Shawna, 185 were considered before the magazine’s cancelation. 105 were by women (the one that went unread was also by a woman). Of the remaining eighty-one submissions, seventy-nine were by men. One submission was by an author whose sex I am uncertain of despite online research, and one by an author whose sexuality doesn’t define with traditional male/female pronouns. If we focus on the 184 submissions as defined by authors carrying male and female labels, 57.05% of what I passed along was by women vs. 42.93% by men. Of the 104 submissions by women that Shawna had a chance to read, 19.23% were accepted (including one story that never saw publication). Of the seventy-nine submissions by men, 17.72% were accepted (including one story that never saw publication). The author of unknown sex and the author who didn’t define with traditional pronouns both ended up getting rejected. You’ll excuse me if I pass on providing similar data concerning the automatic passes—sifting through that information represents a headache of epic proportions.
I would be interested in providing data concerning stories that deal with characters or issues important to the LBGT community. Unfortunately, I am not confident the data I could provide here would be accurate. I keep a master story log of all the stories published in RoF, which I filled out as I read issues and did retrospectives. This log includes one or two-line summations of each story, meaning they’re rather brief. I don’t trust the summations to always inform me about whether a story touches on LGBT matters in a meaningful way. Even with these summations (and my retrospectives series as a further source), there are a number of these 596 stories that I have absolutely no recollection of. If my data is off a percentage point or two here or there, I feel as if this is a forgiveable offense. But I refuse to grossly misrepresent any numbers on these matters. It would be unfair to everyone.
On minority writers, I run into a similar problem, i.e. when there are so many writers I don’t know and never met, I don’t believe I can state with any degree of accuracy which of them are minorities.
I will however consider a much smaller sample size, this being my thirty-two published slush survivors. Naturally the results here cannot be attributed to all the fiction and writers in RoF, but it does provide something, insufficient though it is. Three stories focus or touch on LBGT themes in a meaningful way, with a fourth being cleverly ambiguous regarding a homosexual relationship. Having read this story twice, my personal opinion is that the relationship was homosexual. With this in mind, 12.50% of the published slush survivors focused on or dealt with LBGT issues in some meaningful way. Five of my slush survivors come from minorities, or 15.63%. If you are interested in cross-referencing this data, the total number of stories dealing with LBGT issues combined with the total amount of minority authors would come out to eight, of 25% of the fiction.
I’ll add that to the best of my recollection, Shawna was always rather open to LGBT fiction, so consider it an educated guess when I say I think her percentage is a bit higher than 12.50%. I couldn’t guess one way or the other about her numbers regarding minority authors, but I see no reason to assume they would be significantly lower than my own percentage here, and would be pretty shocked if it proved otherwise. At the very least, I would imagine the numbers are comparable.
Now let’s take a look at submissions. There were some submissions that were accepted but never published in the magazine due to its closure. Where applicable, I’m going to include those figures here to provide as much relevant data as possible. So instead of published stories, I’m going to create a wider net by discussing accepted stories. Those stories passed along to Shawna from the final two batches of submissions never received their final decisions and will only be included in some of the following tabulations.
Toward the end of the magazine’s run, we had closed to submissions with the intention of reopening to electronic submissions several months later, but the magazine folded before we could make this happen. Instead, Shawna and I considered the fiction the old-fashioned way, i.e. via snail-mail. On top of this, there was no office for RoF where the two of us worked. She worked from home in NJ, I in NY. Every so often we would meet in Manhattan, where she would give me the latest batch of submissions to sort through, while I gave her everything that made the cut from the last round.
I started working with magazine back on May 10th, 2005. The last time we did a slush exchange was on September 11th, 2011 (with my last official day with the magazine being November 2nd, 2011). During this time, I sorted through 9,231 submissions, including a number of manuscripts submitted to RoF before I started working the magazine. Of these submissions, there were 784 automatic passes (meaning they went directly to Shawna regardless of my opinion on them) and 186 slush stories that I passed along for further consideration. The combined number of stories that were passed along during this time for further consideration was 970, or approximately 10.51% of all stories submitted to the magazine. I also know of eight stories by automatic passes that were submitted directly to Shawna via email, all of which were accepted for publication.* So the adjusted numbers for all submissions received during this time that I know of works out to 9,239, with 792 of them being automatic passes, 186 being slush stories, and 978 stories total that reached Shawna, or 10.59% of all submitted stories. Of these stories, Shawna made a decision on 942 of them.** The remaining thirty-six stories were either withdrawn due to various reasons before they could be considered, or the magazine suffered its final cancelation before Shawna passed along her final decision. Of these 942 stories, 191 were accepted for publication. 157 were accepted automatic passes, which came from a total of 757 automatic passes, and thirty-four were accepted slush survivors*** from a total of 185 slush stories. That works out to a combined 20.28% acceptance rate.
80.36% of all stories that Shawna considered were automatic passes, 19.64% were slush stories. Of the 757 automatic passes Shawna considered, 20.74% were accepted. Of the 185 slush stories, 18.38% were accepted. The difference in acceptance rates between automatic passes and slush stories works out to a mere 2.36%. Shawna and I didn’t always agree on which stories to take, but I always believed we worked well together. According to these numbers, that belief bears out, because during the course of six and a half years I was passing along enough fiction to essentially match the acceptance rates from more established writers.
If we subtract all of the automatic passes, that leaves us with 8,458 slush stories I considered during my time (though I read everything not submitted to Shawna via email and offered her my thoughts/opinions). At the time of the closure, I had already considered every last piece of slush, so these numbers are all-inclusive. Of these 8,458 stories, 2.20% were passed along for further consideration. Given Shawna’s 18.38% acceptance rate of slush stories, once a story got past me the chances of landing a sale went up significantly. (This is of course to be expected, as my chief responsibility with the slush was to cull it down to the best possible candidates for the fiction editor to choose from.) Of these 8,458 slush stories, 8,457 received their final decision from Shawna. Only .4% was accepted for publication, or less than half a perecentile.
Anyone who passed muster with both me and Shawna should give themselves a hearty pat on the back. Both of us are very picky (if it were otherwise we’d have been awful at our jobs). I have no idea about the amounts of slush stories my predecessors were passing along to Shawna, but based on these numbers, it seems like a safe assumption than anyone who clawed/earned their way out of the magazine’s slush and went on to publication at any point defied the odds in a serious way and should be very proud of themselves. I should add that even rejected authors who got out of the slush seriously beat the odds. Anyone who isn’t brand new to the field obviously knows the odds are stacked against them when submitting to a magazine’s general slush pile, but the sheer volume of data here may demonstrate it in a way that you might not have considered before.
If we consider the accepted slush within the framework of all the fiction that was submitted and considered by myself along with everything that reached Shawna that was also considered—and factoring in a reasonable estimate of about twenty stories that were withdrawn from the general slush over the years for various reasons—this number will bring us to 9,182. (My response times always remained rather acceptable during the days of postal subs despite handling all the slush on my own, and I therefore never had to deal with many withdrawals.) Of these, only .37% of stories were accepted. If we consider all of the accepted automatic passes out of everything submitted and considered, the number jumps to a 1.71% acceptance rate. If we consider all the fiction she accepted out of these 9,182 submissions—which is to say slush stories and automatic passes—the acceptance rate jumps again to 2.08%.
There are a lot of little things that pop up when you sift through as many stories as I have for as long as I did, so while I double-checked these numbers before posting them, for the sake of full disclosure I will mention it wouldn’t surprise if something here or there may be slightly off. However, the volume of fiction covered here is such that any such discrepencies can be considered negligible when considering the final data.
Let’s now turn to special recognition the magazine’s fiction has received. Credit belongs where credit is most due, meaning I will focus on the stories that were originally published in RoF. I’m also not going to include sRoF stories that received reader awards or were published on the magazine’s website, as RoF stories automatically end up getting selected by default. But over the years, the magazine’s fiction received two Nebula Awards and six Nebula nominations for its fiction. It received one World Fantasy nomination for its fiction, while Shawna also received one World Fantasy nomination in the Special Award—Professional category for her editorial work on Realms of Fantasy, and was additionally honored at the 2011 World Fantasy Convention as the Editorial Guest of Honor. Our fiction also received one Bram Stoker Award, one Gaylactic Spectrum Award, and two Gaylactic Spectrum Award nominations. Thirty-nine stories were included in various Year’s Best anthologies, and I know of an additional eight stories that were reprinted in other significant venues.**** Twenty-six stories were podcast on what I would consider significant podcast venues. Four stories were longlisted for the Locus Award, and one story was shortlisted for the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award. Also worth mentioning is I know of at least two stories first published in our pages that featured characters of stories later expanded into book deals with major publishers.
Naturally this list can never be comprehensive. There will always be more stories that get reprinted, more stories that get podcast. You never when an author will turn a story into a major novel deal. Nor will I claim the reprints I’ve mentioned are absolutely comprehensive—I’m sure I missed some news about worthwhile reprints, particularly with stories reprinted before I started working at the magazine. But I did my best to note them. As you might also expect, when it comes to good stories there is also crossover in more than one instance, with stories earning nominations while also being reprinted, and so on. Still, based on the available numbers I know of seventy-nine different stories received some sort of special recognition. This means of the 582 original stories the magazine published, 13.57% were judged by some editor, jury, or vote as deserving of special recognition, being brought to the attention of a new audience, or worth being turned into a novel to reach a new and bigger audience. Put another way, that’s more than one out of every ten stories. Over time, this number should only rise.
As is always the case when discussing the slush, we’re obviously considering a much smaller sample size, but of the thirty-two slush stories I discovered that saw publication, one story provided the springboard for a big novel deal with a major publisher, one was nominated for a Nebula Award, two appeared in Year’s Best anthologies, one was reprinted in another significant venue, and two appeared in significant podcast venues. There is some crossover with one of these stories, but 18.75% of these stories went on to receive special recognition, close to one of every five stories. And as with the rest of the published stories, it is certainly possible that over time this number will rise.
It’s important to add that in some major award categories, fantasy has often been treated as the ugly stepchild as compared to science fiction. This would explain the lack of a single Hugo nomination in my opinion, and likewise the limited Nebula recognition. Eight combined Nebula awards and nominations are certainly nice, but it’s not all that much considering how many stories we published. I can understand only receiving one Bram Stoker Award as Shawna’s tastes never ran too dark overall (though she published more than one beauty in her time), but when it comes to the World Fantasy Awards, I consider it patently ridiculous that the magazine’s fiction received only nomination and not a single award. Of course, every industry that provides special recognition is subject to this sort of scrutiny and I don’t wish to take away anything from those who did earn awards or nominations, so I’ll say no more on this subject except that matters such as these are all part of the business.
Let’s move onto the artwork. All but four stories received some sort of illustration during the magazine’s history, which adds up to 592 interior illustrations. Including covers (but not including the Artists Gallery, which I consider a separate beast), the magazine ran 679 illustrations. If you’re thinking this number should be 694 due to there being 102 issues, I will remind you that RoF ran a number of media covers over the years featuring stills from movies and television (fifteen, obviously) and these should not be considered illustrations. In the magazine’s final years, a number of interior illustrations and images from the Artists Galleries that also doubled as magazine covers, so the adjusted number for different illustrations run by the magazine is 668. Including the cover to each issue and not including the art found in the Artist Galleries, there were about 6.6 illustrations per issue. Over the course of a publishing year, that works out to about 39.6 illustrations.
Not including the Artists Gallery, there were 177 different artists who had their art appear in the magazine. 135 were male, forty-one were female, and the sex on one is an unknown. If we focus on the remaining 176, we’re left with a number of 76.70% male vs. 23.30% female.
Obviously this is a tremendous disparity. I am guilty of it as well, though my sample size as compared to the overall artwork is much smaller. I started overseeing the artwork with the August 2009 issue. A number of illustrations were inherited from preexisting inventory from the previous publisher, two illustrations were overseen by someone other than me during my tenure, and one illustration was a stock image with no attribution from the website of origin. Several illustrations also doubled as covers, and I’m only counting them once for the purposes of these percentages. Of the remaining illustrations during this time, I ended up working with sixty-four, both original and reprints. If we included the stock image, I worked with 9.43% of all illustrations, or less than one tenth. Over time, the numbers I’m about to share would unquestionably change, though to say with any certainty they would change one way or the other amounts to little more than conjecture. With this said, I will discuss my personal numbers in this department.
Sometimes there were artist teams working on these illustrations, and I also hired artists to work on the same piece more than once, so the total number of artists attached to these illustrations is thirty-nine, with thirty-one men and eight women. That breaks down to 79.49% men vs. 20.51% women, which comes fairly close to the work of my predecessors (both men and women have overseen the artwork over the years if anyone is curious).
So while my work with the fiction favored the women by a wide margin, my work with the art favored the men by a much wider margin. I find this tremendously interesting, though I admit my knowledge of the speculative illustrative field isn’t as wide as that of speculative authorial one, so attempting to decipher what this all means based on the relatively small sample size wouldn’t reveal all that much in the way of illuminating information. In case anyone considers it relevant data, of the sixty-three illustrations I worked with, nineteen of them had at least one woman involved (again, some pieces had artist teams), which would bring my personal percentage up to 30.16%.
Interestingly enough, of the seven interior illustrations that I ended up using as a double for the magazine’s cover, four of them were by women, or 57.14%. So of the eight female illustrators I worked with, half of them had their work featured on the magazine’s cover. Also worth noting is that in the magazine’s last issue, three of the five illustrations were by women, with one of them doubling as the cover. Given the unlikelihood of this many women appearing in a single issue based on the raw data, I’d like to believe this was indicative that my percentages concerning female illustrators would have climbed had the magazine’s run continued.
I am going to pass on working up similar figures for all the artwork due to all the hair-pulling that would cause me, but it’s a safe assumption that the percentage for female artists would again go up if you calculated everything according to female artists working on any piece.
When it comes to figuring out the LGBT art, I will point out that all the interior art was based on the accompanying stories. And as I’m uncertain about all the LGBT fiction, I’m not about to sift through all 596 stories to see which illustrations tap into these themes. Doing so would certainly be worthwhile, but even I have my limits to how comprehensive I’m going to be in this final retrospective.
As to minority artists, it is much the same case as with minority writers, i.e. I hesitate to provide numbers for fear of gross misrepresentation. Among the artists I worked with, I’m afraid I don’t know them well enough to feel comfortable providing any kind of numbers (though I can certainly pick out a couple of minority artists at a glance).
In terms of covers, the artist with the most cover illustrations is Luis Royo, with twelve, or 12.24% of all covers. Over the years, the magazine ran nineteen covers (about 18.62%) that included a dragon.***** There were also nineteen covers that included warrior women of some kind (about 18.62%), most of them of chicks in chain mail (including a couple of media covers). As previously stated, the magazine ran fifteen media covers (about 14.71%). Seven covers doubled as interior illustrations (about 6.86%) and six covers either appeared in the Artists Gallery or were provided by the featured artist in the Artists Gallery (about 5.88%). There were five Lord of the Rings covers (about 4.9%)—all traditional media covers—and there were four Harry Potter covers (about 3.9%), though three were illustrations rather than traditional media covers. There were four Elric covers (about 3.9%) as well as three Conan covers (about 2.9%).
Based on my research, the vast majority of covers were reprints. Unfortunately, the original publishers were very uneven when it came to providing information concerning the covers. Where I could, I researched the answer on my own, either finding the answer on the artist’s personal website, through a Google image search, or through miscellaneous means. These were not fullproof methods though, even when I visited an artist’s personal website; artists do not always include all their artwork on their websites, and even when a piece is posted, they don’t always include all the relevant information.
With this in mind, fifty-three covers were reprints (51.96%), it’s unknown to me whether nineteen of them were reprints or being published in the magazine for the first time (18.63%), fifteen were previously unpublished (14.71%), and as previously mentioned, fifteen were media covers (17.65%). Of the 579 illustrations, 503 saw publication for the first time in RoF, or 86.87%. As a reminder, this number may be higher since I was unable to determine the origins of eighteen covers.
Our most published illustrator is Web Bryant, with twenty-two illustrations, (about 3.25% of all illustrations).****** That’s good enough to fill up 3+ issues. In second place is Laurie Harden, with twenty illustrations (about 2.96%), good enough to fill up three issues. Third is Lori Koefoed with seventeen illustrations (about 2.52%), good enough to fill up 2+ issues. Fourth are Paul Lee, Patrick Arrasmith, and Janet Aulisio with fifteen illustrations a piece (about 2.2% each), good enough to fill up 2+ issues. Fifth are Michael Gibbs and Luis Royo with fourteen illustrations a piece (about 2.07% each), good enough to fill up 2+ issues. Sixth are Scott Grimando and David Beck with thirteen illustrations a piece (about 1.9% each), good enough to fill up 1+ issue. Seventh are Carol Heyer, Dave Leri, and Mary O’Keefe Young with eleven illustrations a piece (about 1.6% each), good enough to fill up 1+ issue. Eighth and the final members of the “Double Digits Club” are John Berkey, Ken Graning, J.K. Potter, Chris Cocozza, Allen Douglas, and Charles Demorat with ten illustrations a piece (about 1.49% each), good enough to fill up 1+ issue. Anyone who contributed at least seven illustrations was responsible for at least 1% of the magazine’s illustrations, and filled up at least one issue with their illustrations. The remaining authors are Michael Whelan, Eric Dinyer, and Tony Shasteen with nine illustrations, Steve Adler, Gary Lippincott, and Peter Ferguson with eight illustrations, and Annie Lunsford, John Montelone, and Joel F. Naprstek with with seven illustrations. Combined, these twenty-eight authors provided 313 illustrations, whichr represents approximately 46.37% of all illustrations, enough to fill up 47+ issues, or almost half of the magazine’s run. It’s interesting to note that such a relatively small amount of artists provided close to half the magazine’s art, though I’ll leave it to others to pontificate upon what this might mean.
Not much would be accomplished in discussing unsolicited art submissions—they were few and far between, even after the magazine began to officially accept them via electronic submission. I did learn of a few artists through this route (including the artist of our last illustration ever) but mostly it fell to me (and my predecessors) to solicit the artists. If you’d like to argue this makes me more culpable regarding the disparity in male vs. female artists, I suppose that is fair. But again, I will point out that I worked with a relatively small amount of art and artists, especially as compared to my work with the fiction.
In terms of recognition, thirty-seven pieces were published in various editions of Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Art, including one piece that won the Gold Award in the Editorial Section, and another piece that won the Silver Award in the Editorial Section. For the Chesley Awards, the magazine twice won in the Interior Illustration category while also receiving five additional nominations, along with another five nominations in the Cover Illustration, Magazine category. The art directors were also nominated for a Chesley Award on three separate occasions, twice for Managing Editor Laura Cleverland, and once for Editorial Director Carl Gnam. In total, the art or its art directors received awards or recognition fifty-three times. The art itself received awards or recognition forty-nine times. Three pieces of art received both Chesley and Spectrum recognition, meaning forty-six separate pieces of art received recognition. Chesley rules are a bit funky, as they seem to permit reprinted work to win the award provided its appearing in a particular medium for the first time (for example, a book cover appearing for the first time as a magazine cover). With this in mind, I will provide percentages out of all 679 illustrations to appear in RoF, meaning 6.77% of them received recognition of some sort.
As to my own tenure, I oversaw five pieces that appeared in three different editions of Spectrum, including one previously unpublished piece that won the Silver Award in the Editorial Section. While none of the work I oversaw earned Chesley recognition, it may surprise some to learn that based on my small sample, 7.81% of the artwork earned recognition, 1.04% higher than the established rate overall. And if we remove the artwork I oversaw while at the magazine from the overall totals, forty-one pieces received awards or recognition, dropping the percentage to 6.67%.
Also worth noting is that of my thirty-two published slush survivors, six of them had accompanying artwork that appeared in various editions of Spectrum, while a seventh piece was nominated for a ChesleyAward for Interior Illustration. That is roughly 22% of all my published slush survivors, and a little over 15% of all illustrations that received recognition. As it happened, I never handled the art direction on any of these pieces. That may seem a bit coincidental, but far more interesting to me is the fact the stories I plucked from the slush should account for such a high total of the art that received recognition. The chances of that happenening seem astronomically high, and it’s an odd enough statistic that I wanted to point it out.