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Worlds Without End Blog

Who Can Replace SF Signal? Posted at 8:00 AM by James Wallace Harris



The popular science fiction site, SF Signal closed it’s doors May 5th. There are many great sites on the internet devoted to science fiction, but I usually didn’t visit them unless SF Signal directed me with a link. I was lazy, depending on SF Signal to curate content for me. I’ll need to go elsewhere now for the two main functions I found so useful: news about science fiction books, and links to classic science fiction ebooks on sale. Their site provided immensely more content, but those two functions are what I’ll miss.

Other fans of this very useful site are going to miss SF Signal for other reasons. I’ve been wondering how many sites we’ll have to visit each day to make up for our loss. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to bum out John DeNardo and crew because they left us. I understand, after almost thirteen years of relentless work they deserve a break. I just wonder who might provide some of the tasks they did so well. This would be a great time for a young person to jump in and start a site.

I’m going to mention just some of the locations I’ll have to visit to keep up with just the content I got from SF Signal. If you use programs like Feedly for RSS feeds, you could cobble together something like the daily “SF/F/H Link Post” – but it will require a whole lot more scanning time. I often saw many of its daily stories come through on News360 and FlipBoard, but never anything like all of them.

First, and foremost, I believe writers and publishers are going to miss SF Signal the most. SF Signal was great at promoting new novels, collections, anthologies and magazines. It’s daily “SF/F/H Link Post” was one-stop shopping for all the news about science fiction, fantasy and horror books, as well as media related news. They began the list with links to interviews, which I’m sure help new writers get noticed. They also published long lists of forth coming books and books received, published book reviews, and linked to books reviewed. Their regular feature “Mind Meld” let readers and writers reference older books that need remembering. All of this was a goldmine for book promotion. Here are some good sites to follow to keep up with the science fiction book world.

Of course SF Signal also covered movies, television, games, and other related media, as well as the fantasy and horror genres. My focus is SF books, so lists of alternate sites will have to be much longer if you want cover all the territory.

After the news, the thing I’m going to miss most are the list of bargain ebooks. I’ve built quite a library of classic science fiction books on my Kindle with SF Signal posts like “200+ SF/F/H eBooks for $5 Each or Less.” Not only did I love snagging old favorite books I read as a kid for $1.99, but I really enjoyed seeing all the book covers. It was rows of three with the sale ebooks, but larger rows of two, in the Books Received section. Take a look at the January-June 2016 list, and tell me you don’t like seeing the covers? Isn’t that a wonderful way to shop for books? I don’t know any site that takes the time to link to so many covers. I could go to my favorite bookstore and pull books off the shelf one at a time to look at covers, but this feature makes the job much easier.

I asked John how he tracked down all those book deals and he sent me these links:

Even subscribing to all of these daily newsletters of book bargains, they don’t provide the convenience of that SF Signal did with their sale posts. And that must have been a tremendous amount of work creating all those links

I hope some enterprising young person sets up a web site that offers just these two features. Links to all the great stories about SF/F/H on the web that comes out each day, and links to all the sale ebooks for SF/F/H. Actually, I’d be happy with a site that just focused on science fiction. But even narrowing the work down to one genre, it would probably take several hours a day to keep up with the task. Can you imagine doing that for thirteen years?

Web sites come and go. Especially ones that are essentially labors of love. Sure you can make money off the web, but it’s hard. Corporations with large bankrolls struggle every day. I hope SF Signal finds someone to host their archive, because I’d hate to see all that effort disappear. But I do think we’re seeing an interesting dynamic on the internet. The net has been around long enough for sites we once assumed would be there forever to disappear. I’ve known a number of folks who have burned out. I’m not sure users of the net understand the kind of work that’s involved with maintaining useful web sites. We have to salute the crew at SF Signal for working so hard for so long. (Long enough to attend kindergarten through high school graduation.)