Clarkesworld Magazine is an online science fiction and fantasy magazine that features at least two original short stories per month from new and established authors as well as artwork, podcasts, and non-fiction articles. Founded in October 2006 by Neil Clarke, its online content is totally free. The magazine has been experimenting with innovative methods of funding. No paywalls or DRM or desperate IP aggression here.
While its content is freely available online, Clarkesworld sells print versions of its fiction. An annual anthology series, Realms, is available in trade paperback, hardcover, and ebook formats. Additionally, several months after online publication, each month’s fiction is collected in chapbook form; the value-add here is that the chapbooks are limited print run (100), numbered editions that are signed by the authors. If you happen to have a tablet pc or ereader, you can also purchase ebook editions of each monthly online issue in epub or mobi/kindle format.
But what really caught my attention was the innovative way Clarkesworld is approaching the traditional donation model. The magazine has instituted a 4-tier membership program, with larger donations getting you access to a higher tier of membership (a status symbol) and better benefits (listing in the annual anthology, copies of Realms in one of its formats, Rejection Journal, other merchandise).
There’s a twist, however, that really intrigued me. By donating you don’t just become a “member” but a “citizen.” As a libertarian anarchist, I really get a kick out of that. Now here’s a form of citizenship I can get down with! Completely voluntary, incredibly easy to renounce, not tied to any geographic territory, narrow in scope, provides real benefits I might actually want and supports something of actual value.
Check out the Clarkesworld Census and you’ll see they’ve made something of a game out of it too. You can be a higher ranking citizen’s minion/devoted subject or follow one of the authors as if they were a god.