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Editorials

A New Home For Short Historical Fiction

 


Ever since the 18th Century which is when authors began writing works of long-form fiction, historical novels have always been popular.   Even back in ye olden days, there were highly successful novelists who more or less specialized in historical novels.   However, for some reason, shorter length historical fiction has never reached the popularity of historical fiction novels.    


During the era of the pulp magazines, that were inexpensive fiction magazines, the 1890's to the 1950's, there was only one magazine that specialized in historical fiction from ancient times to the near present day.  This was Golden Fleece Historical Adventure that published nine issues during October 1938-June 1939.  There were others that published a significant amount of historical fiction such as Magic Carpet MagazineOriental StoriesAdventureAll-Story and Argosy in addition to the dozens of pulps in the Western Sub-genre.  However when the pulps died off due to the advent of TV, so did the publishing of original short historical fiction.  During the period of the early 1960's, through the early 2000's, there was but little activity in short historical fiction publishing.  While non-magazine projects such as original anthologies in other genres flourished, there was practically nothing going on in historical fiction.


Then, out of the blue, in 2003 and for 13 issues through 2009, Paradox magazine was published.  This was a professional magazine that featured all varieties of historical fiction although it became best known for alternative historical stories.  Just as the 9-issue run of Night Cry during the mid-1980s set the stage for the flowering of the horror fiction small press boom of 1985-1995, so too did Paradox for historical fiction.  


Roughly around the year 2013, there were a number of historical webzines being published including CircaThe Copperfield Review, and Lacuna.  When you include the Western sub-genre webzines Frontier Tales, Rope & Wire and The Western Online, its pretty clear that there was a renaissance in online historical short fiction publishing.   You could arguably add the fantasy webzine  Mirror Dance that zine publishes more historical fantasy than just about any other webzine.  More to the point, it was the period of the most short length historical fiction stories being published since the 1950's when there were a number of digest-sized Western magazines around to say nothing about such slicks as Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post.


The boom in short historical fiction publishing also extended to books.  During the years 2007-2010 Russell Davis and Martin H. Greenberg collaborated on editing a trio of original Western anthologies entitled Ghost Towns, Law of the Gun and Lost Trails.  These books published a fair number of lesser-known writers some of whom have gone on to do bigger and better things.  In 2010 Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin collaborated on a trio of original military fiction anthologies entitled Warriors.  Close to half the stories in these volumes were historical fiction although the paperback books were labeled "Fantasy" on the spine and marketed as such.  Even worse, all the authors of the stories in these books were big name types with lesser-known writers not given a chance to submit their works for consideration.  


However, this boom was not to last.  Circa, Lacuna and The Western Online have all ceased publication.  It was not until the 2018 launching of this webzine, The Magazine of History and Fiction, that a new historical fiction publication was brought into being during the last few years.  During the meantime, a lot of writers have evidently lost interest in historical fiction.  If you point your browser to both http://lacunajournal.blogspot.com/ and http://blog.meganarkenberg.com you will find Lacuna editor Megan Arkenberg complaining about being swamped by historical fiction submissions to the point where she often did not make a decision on a submission until six months after her receiving them.  Although she did not give any figures, it appears that only a very low percentage of her submissions were ever accepted for publication.  


In contrast, roughly 70% of all the submissions to this webzine were accepted.  This was due to the sheer lack of submissions.  As a result, only one issue of the webzine could be published this year instead of the hoped-for two.  At this point, it's doubtful that we'll be able to reach the goal of four quarterly issues next year.  And no, there were no submissions that were accepted merely to fill out the issue.  Basically, what happened was that for a month after H&F was listed at Duotrope, there was a flurry of submissions, but for the last three months or so, submissions have been coming in at the rate of only one every other week or so.  


Once this premier issue has been finally put to bed, I'm going to bring it to the attention of bloggers and others and hopefully get some link exchanges made.  If everything goes right, this webzine could make its mark and help get historical fiction roaring again on the Internet.  


For what its worth, the goal is for Issue #2 to be published by the end of March 2019.  

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