Founded in 1949, Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine is the award-winning original publisher of such classics as Stephen King's Dark Tower, Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon, and Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. Each bimonthly issue offers compelling short fiction by writers such as Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Terry Bisson, along with the science-fiction field's most respected and outspoken opinions on books, films and science--plus a dash of humor from our cartoonists and writers.
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First a side note: I like reading science fiction, and now I live in Germany. Before Amazon existed, I had to buy lots of books on visits to America and take them over to Europe in my suitcase. First Amazon made it possible to order US books from Germany without huge (actually, usually free) shipping costs. Now, Amazon's Kindle makes it possible for me to read US magazines at what is actually *below* the price of a US newsstand or subscription price. Yay!
I have an issue of F&SF from 2010 that lists the 2-year subscription price as $56, plus $12 per year foreign postage, makes $80. The current Kindle subscription rate is $2 per issue. With 6 issues per year, that's only $24 for 2 years. Analog and Asimov's are about $33 per year, but have more pages.
So, what's the difference between the three? Analog and Asimov's (both published by Dell Magazines) tend to publish science fiction that involves spaceships, aliens, robots and the like. F&SF prints stories that are more literary, sort of like a normal short story with an element of science fiction / fantasy (sometimes described as "New Wave" science fiction to distinguish it from the subject matter of the "pulps" from the mid 20th century).
Actually, I like "spaceship" science fiction, but I subscribe to F&SF and only purchase Asimov's if that month's issue sounds promising. Why? I think the quality of the writing in F&SF is a cut above that of the other two. But if you don't like fantasy-related stories at all, you would be better off choosing Asimov's.
Analog has a reputation of having the most science-based SF stories, even including a "Brass Tacks" section where readers can discuss what they think are factual errors that appeared in the stories (or in the one-per-issue science fact article). Unfortunately, errors are what distinguish Analog from the other two - it is the only magazine of the top 3 that has abysmal copy editing, so that a missing word, or repeated words, or incorrect words appear about once per printed page (perhaps about what you'd expect from a webzine, but certainly not from a professional publication). There are also some factual errors that seem to indicate that the editors don't bother to read the manuscripts. In the issue I just read (July 2012), a story by a quite famous writer, Ben Bova (who usually writes very well), describes a golf hole that is par 6, but all 3 main characters manage to hit their balls onto or past the green on the first shot. I don't play golf, but I know that it will take 2-3 strokes to get onto the green on a par 5 hole, so it would be even more for par 6. Strange that nobody at Analog noticed this. (By the way, I also read some issues of Analog about 10 years ago, but they were so chock full of grammar and storyline mistakes back then that they were nearly unreadable. So nothing has changed there.)
If you want to read stories with spaceships, etc., I think you should try Asimov's. If you like more down-to-earth stories and don't mind a little fantasy, go for F&SF, which you should also do if you like high-quality writing and editing. But if you want to prove your skills as a copy editor, or if mistake-riddled writing doesn't faze you, then Analog is just the ticket for you!
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