At first glance I had no idea how to go about judging these, since they each would have different stories and different content every edition and frankly, it is going to be hard to make any decision based solely on the content of the samples. Plus I haven't got nearly enough time to read all the stories in even the sample issues, which would give me a better idea of what the content is like. So to judge this, I had to do a lot of skimming. I also visited websites to see if there was more content or editorials that might give me an idea of what the goals and standards of the 'zines are. But I admit that I don't have a lot of certainty with any of these.
- Abyss & Apex, Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
I'm impressed that the sample issue starts out with a frank discussion about the use of dialect in stories set in particular places. I'm even more impressed that the 'zine not only includes the compromise version of a story heavy in dialect that is edited to make it more readable, but also the original version. That's useful on multiple levels. Overall, I'm impressed with the amount and type of content of this 'zine, and a skim through the website gives a lot more to read and look at.
- Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Bursztynski
I'm not sure whether I like or hate the congrats to various writers on their first sales scattered throughout this magazine. Lots of stories, some artwork. Again, good content. I checked out the website and discovered a deep sense of dismay from some of the people involved that they'd been put on the slate, which I admit gives me a little sympathy for them. However, it also tells me they were on the slate, something I'd been trying to avoid knowing about each nominee.
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
The sample issue isn't nearly as diverse at the first two nominees I read, with mostly just fiction, no editorials, poetry and only the cover art. However, visiting the website reveals an audio component to the regular issues, as well. This 'zine clearly focuses on fiction, and it looks to me like it does it well. Unlike the first two nominees, I found myself being drawn into the stories... although I kept telling myself I didn't have time to read them through. Certainly award worthy, and probably the best choice so far.
- Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
Another magazine in which the quality of the stories dragged me into them despite my goal of skimming. In particular, I'd read all of "Bears Discover Fire" before I realized I wasn't skimming any more. I liked the novel excerpts, giving me a chance to look at something before I buy it (at the same time I hate the novel excerpts, tempting me with new books). There were also a couple of interviews, apparently transcribed from a podcast, and the art was a gallery featuring a single artist, followed by an interview with the artist. Then there were interviews with each of the authors who had featured stories. In short, this is a well thought out package with plenty to read. The website is at lightspeedmagazine.com/ and has an archive of past issues. This one is at the top of my ballot at the moment, with one more to read.
- Strange Horizons, Niall Harrison, editor-in-chief
I was surprised at how many issues were in the sample packet until I realized this is a weekly magazine, then it became obvious the creators of the 'zine want a broad sample for Hugo voters to check out. This magazine is available online with searchable archives. This is another 'zine with a great combination of fiction, poetry, reviews and essays. It's good, and it tried to pull me in, but I didn't find it quite as good as the previous one I read.
This is definitely the highest quality literary category I've seen so far. It makes a nice change from some of the other categories that seemed to be competing for the title of worst effort instead of best. I find I don't actually care which ones of these are slate-nominated, all of them are good and all of them I felt were worth reading. That's been a rare thing this year.