by Michael D. Pederson
When I first conceived of Nth Degree I wanted to create a fanzine that would serve as a place for up-and-coming writers and artists to get their first publication. My biggest concern at the time was that I would have to look at a lot of marginal material and end up publishing second-rate authors that would never grace the pages of the big-name magazines. People still ask me at conventions just how many stories I have to reject before I see a quality piece. The answer is: Surprisingly few.
I’m as shocked as you are. I was actually looking forward to having a slush pile of real stinkers. When it comes to finding the discipline to sit down and work on a short story, I’m hopeless. It would have been a nice boost to my ego to be able to sit back and laugh at the lame attempts that these so-called disciplined writers churn out. But, alas, it was not to be. I’ve been receiving quality stories. Now, let’s not get carried away and assume that I mean to say that every story has been a work of art and would win a Hugo if it could only be nominated. But, in my opinion, many of our contributors do have the potential to go on to become major names in the field.
I was prompted to write this rant because at a recent convention a reader said to me, “It’s a great looking magazine, but you should get rid of the fiction.” His complaint was that he didn’t think the fiction was as good as what you can find in the major genre magazines. And he was right. But does that mean that these stories should never be published anywhere? I don’t expect to publish the next Hugo-winning novella but I do expect that one day a Hugo winner will stand before the podium and thank Nth Degree for helping to start their career. At least that’s what I hope for.
Right now, there are a handful of major magazines publishing fiction by recognizable names in the industry. There are also some very good smaller magazines that pride themselves on being able to get fiction from some of the big names in our field. And who can blame them? A recognizable name on your cover sells magazines. Perhaps, if a name appears on our cover often enough it will be considered recognizable enough to be picked up by a major publisher.
I think that we have already published some great new writers and artists that are well on their way to a solid career in the field. I find it unbelievably exciting that I could already be working with the next Vernor Vinge or Lois McMaster Bujold. It thrills me that the next Michael Whelan may donate a piece of cover art to this humble little ’zine in exchange for a small amount of publicity.
The final arbiter on quality though, is you the reader. We will soon be expanding to a greater number of pages and will finally be able to include a Letters column. So, please, write in and let us know what you think. The contributors are used to hearing me say that their work is great—they expect me to say that so that they’ll keep sending me stuff—but I think they deserve to hear it from the readers as well.