Various genre magazines are suffering in these credit-crunched times - Realms of Fantasy has ceased publication, F&SF has gone bimonthly, and both Asimov's and Analog have reduced page counts. It looks very gloomy...
There have been several calls for action, but the dumbest solution to this situation I've heard so far is this one:
"Maybe what’s needed is for the genre to get down to one magazine. Refocus the field of science fiction. And since the magazine publishing and distribution industry is so screwed, maybe the short story market should move to a different format. I’d suggest a trade or mass market paperback series published quarterly to start with edited by team of editors to get the very best and diverse kind of story."
If you search for science fiction markets on Duotrope, a writers' resource web site, you get 342 hits - ranging from the professional magazines, such as the aforementioned Analog and F&SF, to the amateur online zines which don't pay contributors. For a reader, there's a wide range of fiction of varying quality available there. For a writer, there's ample opportunity to get into print.
But James Wallace Harris thinks we should chuck all that. Instead, the only outlet for science fiction short stories should be a single quarterly paperback anthology. About 100 published stories a year, then. It'll make picking a shortlist for the Hugo and Nebula Awards easier. That's about the only good thing I can say for the plan. But it will also make it impossible for anyone except an established name to get a story into print.
It will kill science fiction.
The genre needs a constant input of new talent. That's how it grows and evolves. Choke off that talent, and science fiction will stagnate and die. There'll be no books by new writers, just more tired old crap by the old guard. And when they're gone it'll be... reprint after reprint after reprint. The sf shelves of your local book shop will start to resemble the Penguin Classics shelves - full of multiple editions of the same canon of books by long-dead authors.
So what if a few magazines go to the wall? It's happened before, and it'll no doubt happen again.
And science fiction is still here, still growing and still evolving.
I have to wonder if the same can be said for some of its fans...