The readership of my blog continues to baffle me. You'd think a Filipino residing in the Philippines would draw a big audience from his country but that's not the case. For the past few years, more than half of my readership are Westerners (with some exceptions, such as last week's book blockade). I bring up this topic because the World Wide Web is indeed worldwide (barring US-only sites like Hulu). When it comes to the field of speculative fiction, I suspect there's a lot more diverse material out there, at least compared to three or four decades ago, in part due to the Internet, whether it's readers being more aware of other cultures, or writers having a more convenient method of sending out their manuscripts to publishers (or hearing about them in the first place).
Which brings me to the topic I want to discuss: embracing technology. Not that technology is entirely beneficent (viruses, worms, and spyware for example) but there are some tools which are a definite advantage.
Take email for example. Especially with today's innovations in that medium (i.e. searching/archiving capabilities and significant storage space), you'd think a lot of publications would make the most out of it. But the big three print speculative fiction magazines (F&SF, Asimov's, Realms of Fantasy) don't accept submissions via email. On the side of the editors, I'm not asking that they give up their dead-tree stories, but tracking stories electronically is probably easier than staplers and paper clips (and it's a lot more portable too). Perhaps the reticience in accepting email submissions stems from time and costs (such as actually printing out the stories) in the case of traditional editors. On the side of prospective authors, visiting the post office is one less hurdle they don't have to encounter. Or in my case, the international author, it saves me time (it's there NOW instead of XX weeks later) and money (and perhaps these two factors have an effect on the participation of non-Western authors).
Moving on to more positive topics, I've also noticed some innovations that's developed over the past two years. Since we're talking about online submissions, I'm really impressed with Clarkesworld's Submission Tracker (which was later adopted by Fantasy Magazine). A lot of publications that accept online submissions have some form of tracking (even if it just means the slush reader responding and noting down each and every submission) but what makes Clarkesworld's impressive is that it's a) automated and b) there's a transparent method for writers to follow up on their submission. Not that every online publication should use it (Lone Star Stories for example responds in two days so it's not needed when you're working with such efficiency [or low submission rates as the case may be]) but those looking for a professional and long-term systematic process would be wise to give it a look.
The next innovation I'd like to point out is John Joseph Adams' story database for editors doing reprint anthologies. As an aside, John Joseph Adams is one of those people who's been quite nimble when it comes to technology and finding clever opportunities to utilize them. That he's the assistant editor to F&SF is a credit to the publication and I only hope that in the future, we witness such innovations implemented in the magazine. Back to the topic at hand, Adams' story database template is currently being used by a couple of editors, from Ellen Datlow to Jonathan Strahan to Tim Pratt (I might be missing someone... I'm a stalker, not omniscient). The latest version that I've seen is Pratt's (1, 2). Basically, it lets online readers make recommendations on what stories to incude in an anthology. There's nothing groundbreaking in the technology (it's a public shreadsheet!) but the practical usage of it is. There's also something Doctorow-ish with Adams in his willingness to share the template with fellow editors.
The third innovation I want to talk about is Twitter but it's branching out in two different directions. The first, and again I first witnessed this through Adams, is using Twitter to report events live, such as awards ceremonies. True, that feat can be replicated with live satellite feeds via a TV or radio station, but for those of us who have more limited budgets, Twitter is the most optimum format at this point in time (and something Twitter does better compared to blogs). In this year's Nebula Awards, we had Mary Robinette Kowal (via @sfwa), Mike Allen (@mythicdelirium), and Scott Edelman (@scottedelman) doing some coverage, whether formally or informally.
The other direction is the birth of new publications like @outshine or @thaumatrope. I'm not fond of this new medium but it caters to a certain readership and hopefully will give birth to new "spaces" (to borrow a literary term).
So, what other innovations are you aware of or would like to see in the field of speculative fiction?