When I was one of the so-called “Slushmasters” at RaygunRevival.com, they used to have a very lively forum. Every day writers and readers participated in some good discussions on topics of interest to readers of the ezine and of science fiction in general. Since the publication changed ownership, the forum, while still open, has completely died.
Same thing has happened at the SF Reader forum. This forum was once one of the liveliest sci-fi and fantasy discussion groups on the Internet. But the site was revamped and required members to re-register at the new site, and for some reason, a lot of them didn’t. Participation dropped drastically. Webmaster David Felts is doing his best to bring people back and the latest indications are that new faces are showing up and occasionally an old face returns for a while, but only to fade away again. For the most part, the forum remains the domain of a few participants grinding out their opinions on books and movies, or whatever interests them at the moment. The newer faces are there mostly to promote their books and published stories, which is a good, legitimate use of a discussion board. hopefully more will come. You can check it out here: http://forums.sfreader.com/
There has been a lot of speculation as to why forum participation in general has declined. I think there may be two factors responsible: Facebook and the decline in the number of pulp-style e-zines. People in general seem to be more interested in writing about themselves rather than abstract subjects like the current state of genre fiction, or trends in publishing. Facebook seems to have an addictive quality to it, and perhaps people just don’t have time for anything else. Also in discussion forums you’ll often find somebody who doesn’t agree with your opinion, and that’s always a shock! On Facebook, if somebody sends a nasty comment your way you can just delete it.
The lack of forum participation also seems to be running in parallel to the decline in the number of online genre e-zines on the Web. When raygunrevival.com’s forum was in full swing (just look at that gorgeous cover above from 2006), sci-fi and fantasy e-zines were popping up all over the ethernet. At one point in my discussion with Raygun Overlord Johne Cook, I coined the term “Neo-Pulp Electronic Revolution” as a way to describe what I thought was going on. A new kind of writing was being developed on the Internet. E-zines specializing in quazi-1930s-1940s-style pulp fiction were sprouting up everywhere. These zines included all kinds of pulp genre’s—not just sci-fi, but westerns, horror, detective fiction.
The writers of the stories for these e-pubs were all fans of the kind of writing that appeared in Black Mask, Amazing Stories, and all the other well-known publications of that era where writers like Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, E. Bertram Chandler, and others (pick a name) practiced their art. The newer writers had the benefit of everything that came before. So while the style and genre might have been influenced heavily by pulp fiction, the writing (while certainly not better) was more modern, and more appealing to today’s readers.
Several serials were spawned on the electronic pages of Raygun Revival, including my own Jack Brand spacewestern stories, which were later published as a novel. http://www.amazon.com/Jack-Brand-John-M-Whalen/dp/1617060135/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277305191&sr=1-1
Johne Cook wrote the Adventures of the Sky Pirate, and L.S. King wrote Deuces Wild, Beginners Luck, which also was published as a novel. http://www.amazon.com/Deuces-Wild-Beginners-L-King/dp/0979307988/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340375572&sr=1-1&keywords=Deuces+Wild+by+l+s+king
There are still some good pulp-style e-zines on the web, but quite a few of them have simply faded away. The current economic climate probably has put a lot of the e-zine owners out of their day jobs and they simply can’t afford to continue to run them. More and more of the e-zines that are still around are cutting back on what they are paying authors, some aren’t paying at all. Even the indy book publishers are offering less in payment for stories.
Raygun Revival is still around and seems to be doing well. But its format has changed, the great artwork covers have been minimized. In an effort to rise to status of the pro markets, it doesn’t allow publication of stories written by staff, which was why I left. That sense of excitement of hell-bent-for-leather amateurs not afraid to hit the wall (which was so much a part of those times all over the Web) is no longer there.
I have to wonder. Is the Neo-Pulp Electronic Revolution already over? Has it died from lack of interest, money, readers, or simply run its course? Where is all the excitement of a few years ago? Are the revolutionaries still out there, lying dormant, waiting for the right time to make a comeback? Anyone got a clue? Comments invited.