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The Beat Goes On

by Don Webb

Jerry’s editorial “The Heart” (in issue 219) gave readers a glimpse of what has been going on more or less behind the scenes at Bewildering Stories.

Now that Bewildering Press has been launched — Jerry has put all the legal and technical parts in place — we’ve had to consider how it will relate to Bewildering Stories. And, talking more about dreams than plans at the moment, how would a print magazine — call it Bewildering Quarterly — affect us?

Jerry’s editorial sums it up succinctly: Bewildering Press and Bewildering Quarterly derive from Bewildering Stories, and they all support one another. Now, it’s not quite as simple as all that: unlike Captain Picard we can’t simply say, “Make it so.” How do we make sure it happens?

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Contributors know how practical Bewildering Stories is: print publication cannot match us for accessibility; it can’t even come close. When your work appears in print, it’s available only to those who hold the book, magazine or journal in their hands unless or until it’s available for reading or download on line.

BwStories can’t guarantee literary immortality, but it does offer the next best thing: a certain permanence on the Net. As our home page says, it’s all available, all the time. That’s why, as websites go, Bewildering Stories is rather large.

However, another question arises: can print and on-line editions of the same work coexist without competing with one another? As Jerry put it:

if we pay for the stories that will appear in the print magazine, we have not only the right but the responsibility to present the best stories we can, which means that we have to determine a policy. Do they appear in the online version first? Do they disappear with only a link once they appear in the magazine? Will the magazine find enough readers to make the whole concept work?

All these questions remained hypothetical until Saturday, when Jerry and I were faced with a practical problem. Rachel Parsons had sent us a file — complete with cover art — for a book provisionally titled Rhiannon’s World. It contains a hitherto unpublished story, as a special treat for anyone who buys the book.

A new story is obviously a good thing in itself. But what if BwPress systematically published works from outside of BwStories? That would risk making BwStories irrelevant, and we’re not going to let that happen.

Take a hypothetical worst-case scenario:

Or take a middling bad scenario:

I. M. Potato (sorry ’bout that, Spud) sends a book. It’s good, too, but nobody has ever heard of Mr. Potato. Our contributors would have every reason to say, “Just a minute here! This ain’t fair. From now on, I’m sending everything to BwPress or BwQuarterly.”

That’s no way to run a railroad, let alone the Bewildering Publishing Empire.

It occurred to me that the medium-bad case has already happened. In fact that’s why we’ve had — for several months now — official rules to cover it: our excerpts guideline. The gist is that we publish excerpts only from authors who have already had one or more works accepted by Bewildering Stories.

You can see why we need that rule: excerpts are free advertising, and what author wouldn’t want that? Once the word got out, all the authors on the Net would realize they’d have to be lazy or crazy not to flood us with excerpt submissions.

It’s just a matter of extending the rule: to qualify for an excerpt — and now, for Bewildering Press — an author must be a contributor to Bewildering Stories. And the rule applies to everyone, including Hugo P. Nebula.

As for the Bewildering Quarterly, everything will have to go through Bewildering Stories first. After four years of publication we have enough print-quality material to publish magazines till the cows... no, make that the starship Voyager... comes home.

We expect this policy will enhance Bewildering Stories’ stature and reputation — we’ve already seen it happening — and our print arms will be strengthened as well.

Bewildering Stories is loads of fun. We want to keep it that way.


Copyright © 2006 by Don Webb

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