09 December 2007

Failbetter 25

One of the more venerable online literary magazines, Failbetter.com, has now reached a milestone: its twenty-fifth issue. Published quarterly since the fall of 2000 (when, coincidentally, one of the other venerable online magazines, Strange Horizons, also began), Failbetter has been a model of what can be accomplished on the web. They've consistently offered interesting fiction, poetry, art, and interviews -- indeed, their very first interview was with pre-Pulitzer Michael Chabon, and they would go on to interview a number of other authors only a few months or even weeks before they, too, would be bestowed with prizes.

Of course, the web has changed a lot since 2000, and Failbetter has changed too. Now they've got an RSS feed and are releasing content every week rather than just four times a year. The quality is still high, though, and the diversity of content exciting.

I can't claim impartiality -- one of my first publications of fiction as an adult came with "Getting a Date for Amelia" in the Summer/Fall 2001 issue. Editor Thom Didato and I had met at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference the summer before, and Thom promptly rejected two other stories of mine, saying they were well-written but dull. I'm glad he said that, because "Amelia" is a story I'm still fond of (even if it's a bit too much of a George Saunders pastiche), and I only sent it to him out of spite, thinking, "Well, this may be junk, but at least it's not dull!"

I've seen a lot of literary journals -- in print and online -- appear and disappear during the past few years, but Failbetter has remained strong and reliable, and in these times when so much attention runs a deficit, and so much of what we encounter is ephemeral, I think Failbetter's relative longevity and consistently high quality is a real accomplishment.