Casting off ...
The changing of eras … the clanging of type … the fizz of the aethernet. I am here to announce the end of one era and the beginning of another for UFO Magazine.
The most important thing is the preservation of the content. Can we agree on that, at least? Every word from Issue #1 to Issue #158 is preserved on disk and in physical form. When the paper copies run out, we might make more, depending on demand. For certain, we are digitizing everything.
The digitizing is being done by hand and with greater accuracy, since human beings, for the most part, are doing the actual work. I talk about this step in the chain a little further down the page.
And then there's our new issue #159, which is the freebie-forever one with the cute little girl on the cover. You can download it and copy it to your heart’s content, but it is only in print at the moment if you physically turn on your printer and print the damn thing out.
How many of you are willing to do just that? I know that I wouldn't bother to do it, if it were up to me. And, as I’ve said before, if you’re reading this on a screen or if an electronic voice is reading it aloud to you, or if you’ve pressed the button and heard our podcasts, then you and I are on the same page, and it’s an electronic one.
I spend all the live-long day and all-nighty on the computer talking to friends and family and researching and booking guests and writing and reading and very occasionally playing a baby-level game that is based on the principle of trying to put five dots in a row and clear the board of them while other dots of other colors pile up and pile up until you fail.
Sort, sort, sort until the tomatoes pile up and the game is over. It’s the mindset of the compliant worker, maybe even the ones who built the pyramids. Or the UPS guy who piles up boxes of magazines on a wooden pallet. Blingy was a particularly vicious form of that game. All the jewel games are like that. And Tetris, of course, and if you haven’t googled what happened to the creator of that game, consider yourself lucky.
And if you don’t go on Facebook or understand any of the above chit-chat, consider yourself special, because you are. You are also hopelessly locked out of the thinking buzzing hive of the human race and all its wonders. As long as the electricity flows and the WiFi sends out its invisible love, gathering all within its fun embrace, we will be OK.
If it all goes away tomorrow, issue #159 will go away, too. Will I wish I had printed it out? Maybe. Maybe, because it was free and downloaded zillions of times, maybe someone somewhere has a hard copy. And if the zombie scenario happens, I would probably be taking notes about infection and gathering recipes for grubs and beetles rather than referencing our last digital issue.
But for now, we’ve got the electricity and the buzzing hive mind that is the aethernet. This is the marketplace where we will be selling and developing and deploying the next incarnation of UFO Magazine, reclad as its hyperzine super-self. I don’t know how that’s going to turn out, obviously, but I’ve got a hunch it will be good.
Which brings me to the point of this little bit of writing. If you’re reading down this far, you are the audience this essay is meant for. You don’t blanche at the word “essay”. You know when the period should be placed inside the quotation marks. You are one of our readers. And if you continue to try to avoid the digital issues, you will be missing your favorite writers and compadres.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I feel that we all can have a new reincarnation in the Eleusinian Cafe of my dreams, where we can talk about NICAP and Ed Ruppelt and Matthew Arnold and O’Hare and everyone knows our names. The issue of UFO Magazine that I’m putting together right now is already bigger and more colorful than any of the old print issues on the shelves.
You see, fewer and fewer people either want or care about a print edition of anything. I am reluctantly one of those people, and most — but not all — of our subscribers feel the same way. Paper magazines and catalogs are not the pleasure they used to be, and their tiny little dots of words might as well be Braille because I can’t see them well enough to read. And it’s not just because of my age.
As magazine began to watch their pennies way back when the party was still going on in the heady ‘90s, designers began to squeeze more and more onto a page because paper is expensive and you can only print in multiples of 16 pages, give or take. Tinier and tinier words, words lost to a background, magazines that were wet pulp if the mailman left the mailbox door open. And we have been replacing those magazines for customers for the last ten years for free.
We’ve been doing a lot of things to keep the lights on for the last ten years, but it’s time to buck up, face reality, and realize that we can’t keep selling only a paper product and neglecting the digital one. Which brings me to the reasons why I haven’t taken down the subscription pages as we continue our behind-the-scenes renovation. There are several reasons:
1. Hundreds and hundreds of pages to hand-repair if I make any kind of change at all.
2. Since we don’t know exactly how to properly allot a print-digital ratio to past subscriptions, based on projections and measurements still being coded, we decided that: dang it! We merely double everyone’s issues! Whatever you have on your subscription, we will double it. If you’re a person living outside the U.S. and you’ve paid good money for that boat or plane ride in the freezing cold, well, we’ll add even more issues to your order.
It’s all based on solid calculations, and I’ve done this twice before to come up with a fair price for all subscriptions. I’ve honed it down to the penny, and we haven’t raised our prices in ten years, in ten. long. years! folks. We aren’t even going to raise our prices now, and if you are so bold as to want to subscribe, go and do so with my blessing!
3. I’m going to keep on banking the money that comes in from poorly described subscriptions (see above). That’s the whole point of this endeavor. More money: The writers get paid. More money: We hire some help. More money: We go to print. It’s as simple as that, really.
Notice, I’ve not talked about any money for me, poor little me, and Bill. We do this out of the goodness of our hearts and because you keep subscribing and I don’t have time to turn off the spigot because of the many-hundred-pages-and-merchant-codes I’d have to change.
And I can’t just yank the site and go dark for a while because that would be insane. We are having the time of our life creating the new hyperzine version of the old paper magazine. It’s all new, and oh, so glamorous. Meanwhile, every week on Saturday night at 6 pm EST we go live and talk about all of this on our radio show called Future Theater. I invite you to join us live and participate in the chat.
I know you are mad because I’ve been away more than here. It’s exactly the way I am with plants. If something starts to go wrong with them, I feel guilty and avoid them, and then eventually … you know. I don’t want that to happen here, and so I will try to post here and keep you informed.
Soon, this site will re-emerge as a beautiful shiny new version of itself. We take great pride in presenting UFO Magazine, and the new site will be spiffy. As will the new issue. As will all the subscription pages.
If you have questions, ask them, below, and we will continue this dialogue even into the new site design. It’s just that good. Happy and merry and greetings of the seasons to you! Thanks for being on the other side of the screen.