... in the English language, at least as implied by certain awards nominations and "best of" placements.
Okay, I'm a dork. I want to apologize right away for this list, for two reasons, but then also excuse myself for two reasons.
First apology: It's a little weird for me to occupy space in a philosophy blog with talk about science fiction magazines. I know! Excuse: I've come to think that science fiction, and other types of "speculative fiction" (e.g., Borges), is actually an interesting and valuable way to explore the metaphysical, ethical, and epistemological dimensions of various "what-if" possibilities. The concreteness of speculative fiction, and the way the stories engage the emotions and imagination, has I think both epistemic virtues (you think through the specific scenario somewhat better) and shortcomings (you might be too influenced by particular incidental features). Serious speculative fiction belongs in the philosopher's toolbox.
Second apology: It's silly to take rankings like this very seriously; and also, in certain respects, such rankings tend to reinforce the privilege of the status quo. Excuse: However, in another respect, lists level the playing field. I've started publishing science fiction, and until recently I had no idea where to send things. So I started looking at the original venues for some of the stories I liked in the "Best of" anthologies I'd been reading. This seemed better than just searching "science fiction magazines" on the web and seeing what popped up. The list below is really just a systematization of my efforts, as an outsider without word-of-mouth connections, to see what magazines have the respect of the insiders. It doubles the advantage of insiders if outsiders are at sea about what is read and respected by those at the top of the sci-fi publishing hierarchy. (The SFWA list of qualifying markets isn't necessarily a good guide.)
Okay, I know, I'm still a dork. Feel free to stop reading now, lest you become a dork too.
Method and Caveats:
1. Asimov's (171 hits) 2. Fantasy & Science Fiction (123) 3. Subterranean (37) (started 2007) 4. Clarkesworld (33) (started 2006) 5. Analog (31) 6. Tor.com (26) (started 2008) 7. Interzone (25) 8. SciFiction (22) (ceased 2005) 9. Lightspeed (16) (started 2010) 9. Strange Horizons (16) 11. Jim Baen's Universe (9) (ran 2006-2010) 12. Postscripts (8) 13. Apex (5) (started 2005) 13. Fantasy Magazine (5) (started 2005, merged into Lightspeed, 2012) 15. Realms of Fantasy (4) (ceased 2011) 16. Flurb (3) (ran 2006-2012) 16. Giganotosaurus (3) (started 2010) 18. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (2)(started 2008) 18. Black Gate (2) 18. Cosmos (2) (started 2005) 18. Electric Velocipede (2) (ceased 2013) 18. Helix SF (2) (ran 2006-2008) --------------------------------------------------
Two things are immediately striking about this list:
First, really just a few magazines dominate the nominations and "best of" selections -- especially Asimov's and F&SF. Given the chanciness and subjectivity and imperfections of the submission and selection process, and given the fact that excellent authors might sometimes prefer venues other than the top few on this list, I find it difficult to believe that those few magazines really have that proportion of the highest quality stories. More than half of the hits are from the top two, and 90% are from the top ten. And there are excellent magazines that don't appear on this list at all (Nature's "Futures" series, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, Weird Tales....)
Second, 15 out of the 22 magazines on this list either started or ceased publication during this ten year period. It's a troubled industry. All but a few magazines fail after a few or several years, but dedicated editors regularly launch new magazines (or scoop up the right to old titles) and try again.
[BTW, the Pushcart Rankings served as a partial model.]