I’ve been asked what my opinion is about the fact that Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine will soon be offering an online workshop. It’s an workshop which offers an interesting twist: for a currently unspecified amount of cash, aspiring writers can workshop with noted SF editor Gardner Dozois — who, if he takes a shine to a story from the workshop, can slide it into the magazine. Dozois can do this up to three times a year, apparently.
This sounds like a good deal for newbie writers hopeful for mentorship and publication, but those of us who are firm believers in Yog’s Law (“Money should flow toward the author”) could quite reasonably note there is a problem here, i.e., it sure looks like writers paying money for access to publication, instead of getting paid for their labor. Compounding this problem is the current lack of real information on the workshop, including apparently any explicit notation that the workshop participants whose work is selected for publication will get compensated for their scribbling efforts.
Fortunately, there’s a simple and easy way for F&SF to avoid the appearance of being skeezy folks looking to screw newbie writers, which is, obviously, for F&SF to pay the writer of any workshop story that Dozois elevates to publication the same rate the magazine pays any of its other writers. This compensates the writer, and resolves any major ethical concern that this workshop is a process for gulling the unschooled.
In fact, I’m sure F&SF was always planning to do this; it’s just that in all the excitement and hullabaloo, editor Gordon Van Gelder somehow managed to neglect mentioning the whole “oh, yes, and by the way, we’ll pay for those workshop stories we print” business. This was rather silly of him and I’m sure he’ll take steps to correct this oversight as soon as humanly possible, because no one likes looking vaguely unethical any longer than they absolutely have to, especially in a genre where the standard rate for short fiction is as low as it already is.
Other than this unfortunate oversight in explanatory verbiage, I have no opinion about the workshop one way or another, except to note that as far as I know, it’s the only possible way currently to submit an electronic manuscript to any of the “big three” science fiction magazines. This is of mild interest to me because as many of you know one of the major reasons that I’ve never submitted a story to any of the “big three” magazines is that they don’t accept electronic submissions, and I don’t own a printer. However, if I’m not going to bother to buy a printer to submit work to these magazines, I’m even less likely to pay for a workshop simply to get around an arbitrary and increasingly antiquated submission barrier. So, no stories from me in “the big three.” Still.
Update, 10:30 7/3: Gordon Van Gelder notes the magazine will pay “beginner’s rates” from stories plucked out of the workshop.