At last year's Confluence, I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel of short fiction editors with David Hartwell. In the course of that hour, he made a comment that has intrigued me ever since. Editors such as myself, who do the hard work of putting together small press anthologies and magazines, serve an important role within the speculative fiction field. We are the minor leagues, preparing writers for the pro circuit, which consists primarily of Analog, Asimov's, and Fantasy and Science Fiction, and various anthologies that are typically by invitation only.
This struck me as an "old world" pre-internet concept. It didn't seem to me that I had been developing individual writers for the big league, but rather that the whole field had been fragmenting for some time now. Great, ambitious works are found in the Big Three to be sure (and publishing in them remains my Grail), but it seems that more and more excellent work is being found elsewhere, in places like Clarkesworld, Apex, SubterraneanPress, Lightspeed, and many others. Triangulation: Last Contact (the anthology I edit for Parsec Ink), for example, garnered more recommendations (7) from Tangent Online in the short fiction category, than Asimov's, Analog, or Fantasy and Science Fiction for the 2011 year. What does this say about the minor leagues?
In the good old days, there did seem to be a cohesive structure to this process of honing one's craft. One would begin, perhaps, as a fan fiction writer, progress to the small press, and finally break through into the pro marketplace. The experience these days seems to be one of being thrown into the deep end of a pool so crowded with swimmers that it's difficult to find water. Craft is honed, voice perfected, and gradually, one's stories begin to gain some notice.
What is your take on this topic?