Saying goodbye: another OFP

I like good magazines. Good magazines are carefully curated* collections of content delivered on a regular basis, and if done well the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (If done really well, the ads in a magazine actually enhance the package instead of getting in the way.) *I’m not wild about overusing “curated,” but I think it’s the right term for thoughtfully-edited magazines.

Saying goodbye to a magazine I’ve subscribed to for years is always difficult–made less so lately because I suffer from CTCT (Cover-To-Cover Tendency, the tendency to read all of a magazine) and can’t keep up. (This is also why I’ve never subscribed to The New Yorker and don’t subscribe to any weeklies: I couldn’t keep up.)

I said goodbye to one old friend of a magazine last year, but that was because Conde Nast Traveler‘s new editor had changed it from a content-heavy travel magazine full of good information into an oversized art portfolio with lots of photos, little text and never any prices for anything actually travel-related. It became one of those “if you have to ask” magazines. I still miss it. (Fortunately, Travel + Leisure seems to have stepped up its game, although I worry about the Meredith takeover of Time Inc. We shall see.)

This month marks two more goodbyes, for different reasons.

Porthole–one of two cruise-related bimonthlies we subscribed to for many years–always was an “if you have to ask” magazine and almost entirely fluff. We both finally just lost interest. (It wasn’t hard to jeep up with: I could usually read a whole issue over breakfast. And then note that I hadn’t gained anything from the experience other than a meal.)

Analog is a much tougher case. It’s the oldest of the surviving science fiction/fantasy print magazines (originally with a more vivid name), and published many first-rate stories in the “golden age” and beyond. I don’t know how long I’ve subscribed to it, but probably more than 40 years (based on my awareness that I’ve always read Asimov’s, and it’s celebrating its 40th anniversary). I’ve subscribed to all three remaining SFF magazines for many years, even as they’ve gone from monthly to bimonthly (but with the same fiction page count: each issue of each magazine is now, I’m guessing, well over 100,000 words long).

I’ve been falling behind, and decided something had to give. That something is Analog–and not just because I’m falling behind (thanks to more bookreading, other demands on my time, and just plain slowing down). The other factor is that recent issues seem to be short on good story-telling, as though the new editor doesn’t think that science fiction must first be fiction. Increasingly, I either give up on a story partway through or get to the last page and wonder why I didn’t find it satisfying or intriguing or humorous or informative or much of anything.

That “what did I just read, and why is it considered a story?” feeling almost never happens with Asimov’s or The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, but it’s happening most too much of the time with Analog. So it’s time to say goodbye. It was great knowing you for some decades; too bad things have soured.

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