Every now and again, you have to stop and just kind of look at the world in awe. I just announced our new magazine, One Weird Idea, at the brand-spanking new Glorious Dawn Press site. The idea is to have a regular publication dedicated to the kind of science fiction that takes an idea, something absurd like thinking machines or environmental disaster or genetic engineering, and explores the implications. The kind of SF you can cut your teeth on.
Twelve years ago, I ran another magazine. I printed Rocket Takeoff in batches of a hundred at the Staples, tossing in everything that struck my fancy: Mike Combs’ The Case for Space, iron-ons, anarcho-capitalist tracts, comics, monologues against censorship. They were pocket-size, in black and white, a straight-up ‘zine. I had to sell each one by hand. I sold them for $2.50 apiece, and I barely broke even.
Now I’m gearing up to sell a magazine for 99 cents, and we’re fully expecting to pull a profit. We’re printing it without paper, selling copies to computers the size of paperbacks that can hold entire libraries. For some of our readers, they’ll be reading each issue on their phone. And I’m marketing it entirely over the Internet, with press releases, social media, and web presence. I’ve even learned to delegate.
I used to have to wait six months to a year after mailing a story to Asimov’s to hear them say ‘no.’ Now, I can get rejected in under a week from Daily Science Fiction. I’m flirting with a woman in Madras, all the way from Shenzhen, after calling my parents in San Luis Obispo, California. My father has hosted government meetings where each person was in a separate city, sometimes separate countries. Miss Madras and I trading movies, books, and music, showing each other things we’ve never seen and expanding each other’s horizons.
My friends are American, Canadian, British, Chinese, Hongkongese, Spanish, South African, Aussie, Kiwi, some are even Republican. And I can talk to all of them, as easily as I can load up a copy of Zork. Which used to come in boxes on massive floppy disks and take up all your CPU cycles, and which you can now download and play for free right now. And after such games were too old and cold and primitive to sell, people took the code, and started to play with it, and a transcontinental community emerged to make a new art form of it. At least one of them lives on his programming, all paid for by people he’s never met who contributed anonymously.
I’m an American, sitting in my office in China, looking out on a city that didn’t exist 30 years ago. China and India, though great poverty still exists, are hopeful for the future. This country was starving when I was born. Now I’m sitting next to educated, erudite, and cosmopolitan young professionals who have never known starvation.
The oil sheikhs of the Maghreb and the Middle East are crumbling and tumbling down, and democracies are blooming like flowers in the desert. They were organized in advance by people who never met each other, over computers connected to one another and running encryption to make Bruce Sterling green with envy. Senators are resigning over pictures put in the data stream by interested parties and amateurs, completely independent of the mass media. America elected a black man. Gays and lesbians can serve in the American military and will soon be allowed to marry the people they love.
Welcome to the future!