Guess what? A reprint is a "new story" if you haven't read it!

Lightspeed Magazine published their third issue last week and they've now settled into their rythym of publishing two original stories and two reprints in each issue. So far I've really been impressed with the magazine and John Joseph Adams' fiction selections. Definitely a magazine worth reading.

However, in the comments for one of the magazine's recent stories--"More Than the Sum of His Parts" by Joe Haldeman--one reader complains about Adams selecting so many reprints:

"I’m obviously not the editor, but as a reader what I really look for in SF periodicals is new material. Of all genres, SF seems the most inherently tied to its point of authorship, especially in the short form. These stories that are 10, 20, or 30 years old may be good, but they are less acutely relevant to the world than a good story written this year. That’s not to say that the form is inherently pulpy, but precious few SF shorts are truly timeless classics; their strengths lie elsewhere.

Even before Adams could respond, other readers explained that Lightspeed only publishes lesser known reprints, with Haldeman's story originally coming out in a 1985 issue of Playboy and having been rarely reprinted since. But the comment did make me wonder why so many readers don't accept reprints--even when they haven't read the reprinted story.

I mean, if you haven't read the story it's therefore a new story to you. However, the attitude among some readers to older genre stories is that if the story hasn't been reprinted up the wazoo over recent years then it must not be worth reading. Or, as the reader above said, that older science fiction stories are not as relevant to today's world.

The truth is the relevance of a science fiction story is not tied to when it was written. Some SF stories from the 1950s are more relevant than stories written last month. It simply depends on how good the story is. And if you haven't read an older SF story, guess what: It's still new to you!

One thing I loved about Ellen Datlow's online magazine Sci Fiction was that they reprinted classic and lesser well-known stories. There are many great SF stories which haven't been read in decades, especially by readers used to online or electronic publishing. So I'm glad Adams is publishing reprints alongside his new stories. After all, 95% or more of the genre stories published each year are brand new. We can spare a few slots to reprint what has come before.