Six weeks ago the idea that would eventually become Flying Island Press was a conversation happening in Google Wave. As of now, we have a website, a rudimentary business plan, and are actively soliciting stories from some of the most creative people it’s my pleasure to know. We have years of experience in audio production and podcasting. We’re developing expertise in publishing for today’s e-readers. In less than five weeks, we ship our first issue. It’s more than a little crazy that this whole thing is going from inception to publishing in about two and a half months. I blame good, devoted, hard working friends who have inspired me and helped get this idea off the ground. But the fact remains that none of us have what you’d call a map for how this is supposed to work. In the great tradition of Indiana Jones, we’re making this up as we go. But that’s all right. We can see a little way ahead (personally, that sight is extending to launch on July 4th) and we have a general sense of what we want to achieve – our Compass that points the way.
With our first magazine, FlagShip, I wanted to hearken back to what some have called the Golden Age of Science Fiction. The people we regard as the grand masters of genre fiction, or a lot of them anyway, got their start writing in the “pulps”. There was a sense of optimism and hope in those old stories that I miss in more recent science fiction. Fantasy has been largely immune from this trend, so far as I know, but I worry about the negativity, the cynicism, and the pseudo-sophistication of the culture. In response to that, I have some specific things I want to accomplish.
First, it’s my hope that FlagShip will be a place for optimistic, entertaining fiction. We’re going to publish the best fantasy and science fiction we can get our hands on. In the coming months, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to expand our offerings, and experiment with the content and delivery a bit. We’re going to be looking at doing interesting things like audio or text exclusive stories. We’ll be looking for longer works that can be serialized over several issues. We’re going to play with the way we deliver content to you, and how you experience it. Some of our bigger ideas are down the road, because we need to develop or hire some expertise, but we have some big ideas in this space.
Second, it’s my hope that FlagShip will be commercially viable. That may stick in the craw of some people, but it’s an utterly rational thing to work for. After all, we’re looking for the best content we can find, and we’re paying for it. We’ll be asking you to do the same. The more successful we are in selling FlagShip either through purchase of individual issues, ongoing subscriptions (something that’s coming), through the sale of advertisements (something we’re working on), or something else we haven’t seen, then the more we can pay our authors. We’re aiming to get to a place where we can pay SFWA rates for fiction within our first year. We’re not there yet. But if we put out a good product, if people enjoy what we bring and how we bring it, then I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened much sooner than one year. And as we’re able to pay more, the talent we’ll be able to attract to writing for us gets better also.
Third, we need to get you involved – either as an author, as an artist, as voice talent, or as a reader and fan. We want to give you the tools and space to connect with each other. In fact, tools to connect are already out there – it’s just a matter of learning to use them effectively and efficiently. And hopefully we’ll learn. We’ll get better at it. And we’ll strive to create an interesting community of fans, authors and artists.
Those are my goals for FlagShip. If we can get this sucker off the ground and hit escape velocity, there’s no telling where it will take us. It will allow us to expand our offerings into other genres. It might allow us to do all kinds of different magazines – not just speculative fiction, but mainstream fiction, non-fiction. I’d love to see a magazine devoted specifically to history or to music. But first, we have to prove that the model can work.
I once heard a talk by Seth Godin. I’ve read some of Seth’s writing. Some of it I actually agree with. But the quote that keeps running through my head lately is one from a talk he gave when he described shipping. “How do you ship on time and on budget?” he asked. “When you run out of time, or you run out of money, you ship.”
We’re doing this first issue Seth Godin style. Time runs out July 4th, 2010. We’ll be checking in here regularly to let you know how things are going as we continue our countdown, and beyond as we prepare subsequent issues. For now, we’d love your feedback. And we’ll see you on the launch pad.
– Zach Ricks