Contract, Payment Delays at the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction logo

With its first issue published in 1949, and publishing continuously since then, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF for short) is one of the oldest and most prestigious short fiction markets in the field of speculative fiction. For authors at every stage of their careers, a story, poem, or novella in F&SF is an important writing credit.

F&SF takes First North American Serial Rights and pays on acceptance (which in practice means on receipt of a contract). Acceptance emails indicate that writers will receive a contract and a check within two to four weeks. However, Writer Beware has recently received multiple reports from writers whose work has been officially accepted but, months later, are still waiting for contracts and checks. Reported delays range from six months to over a year, considerably extending an (already unduly lengthy) three-year publication window. (Spilogale, Inc. is the publisher of F&SF, owned by Gordon Van Gelder).

Excerpt from F&SF contract: "Spilogale, Inc. shall publish this material within three years from the date of this agreement"

Writers also report a variety of other delays: waiting for notification of official acceptance well beyond the stated acquisition timeline of 6 weeks to 6 months; receiving copy edits and proofs for accepted stories without having received a contract or payment; receiving contract and payment only weeks before the publication date, after months of waiting; completing requested revisions and then hearing nothing more. Many of the writers who contacted me say that they’ve sent repeated emails asking about the delays, and haven’t received a response.

Author Aimee Ogden recently tweeted about her decision to withdraw a story, thanks to some of the issues mentioned above:

I spoke with F&SF publisher Gordon Van Gelder, who acknowledged the delays and communication problems, said that he is taking authors’ reports seriously. Some of the logjam, he told me, is due to the fact that F&SF has overcommitted on acceptances, and is very overstocked as a result.

Gordon indicated that he is working with editor Sheree Renée Thomas to get caught up on contracts and payments. Sheree is also reaching out to authors who’ve been waiting for a response, to give them a timeline and offer the option of withdrawing their stories if they prefer. Additionally, F&SF is mulling the possibility of switching to payment on publication rather than on acceptance.

If you’ve contacted me about F&SF, or have experienced issues like those described in this post, please let me know what happens. Email me, or leave a comment here. I’ll update this post as I receive information.

UPDATE 8/25/23: Jason Sanford’s Genre Grapevine takes a close look at the problems at F&SF, which extend well beyond the delays described above: a controversial story acquisition, attacks on Sheree Thomas, and emerging insider accounts of dysfunction. I’m saddened but, honestly, not entirely surprised.

Meanwhile, I continue to hear from writers who are still waiting for contracts, payments, and/or responses to emails. In contrast to Gordon Van Gelder’s assurance that everyone would be contacted, most tell me that they’ve heard nothing from the magazine.


  1. I’ve subscribed to Fantasy and Science Fiction for decades, but have never worked with them. I have, however, been on the editorial staff of other magazines and written nonfiction for other magazines. I thought it was very strange that F & SF changed direction so suddenly when they got a new editor, publishing rather different stories, overall much shorter ones, by relatively unknown authors. In my experience, magazines that plan to change direction do it gradually, not suddenly. First, there is already months of older material in the pipeline. The publisher signed contracts, they paid authors. Second, the purpose of changing direction is usually to add to the subscriber base, gaining new readers while losing a minimum of current readers. The current readers have favorite writers and favorite material. They want to keep seeing at least some of this. Third, experienced editors don’t usually just throw out the whole magazine and start over. They test new authors and material on readers and see what is popular. But, it looked to me that the new editor of F & SF did just that–ignored everything in the pipeline and the history of the magazine and started from scratch.

  2. Hi, Victoria. Thank you for the article, and for all your excellent work. Is it possible to make the link in your update available to everyone? I couldn’t read the article in the update about insider accounts because it sent me to the web site called Blue Sky (I’m not sure what that is, exactly). Apparently I can’t join or read articles on that site because no one invited me to do so. Is it possible to ask the author if you may reproduce the article here? Otherwise, it limits who can read the valuable information you provide about scams to an invite-only basis. Thanks for your consideration .

    1. Hi, Catherine! I don’t know how to make a gift link for BlueSky, I’m afraid (or even if that’s possible). It’s a Twitter clone, so the link is to a thread by former F&SF editor Charles Coleman Finlay about what he experienced while at the magazine. I don’t feel comfortable copying and pasting the thread, but Jason’s article has a summary.

  3. Hi. I had a story accepted recently by F&SF, my first, and received an email from editor Sheree Renee Thomas explaining that they were running behind on contracts and payments. She said if I chose to wait, I could expect to get contracts sometime in October (about four months after the acceptance in June) but it could be later. If I chose to withdraw the story, of course, she would understand. I was thrilled to be accepted by F&SF, especially since I’ve rarely submitted to them and am a novice writer and said I would be happy to wait. I’ve read about the recent controversies but am still willing to wait and hold out hope that my story will eventually be published and that I’ll get paid. I’m not going to comment on the controversies because like most writers new to the genre, I don’t feel I know enough to speak out, especially in these intolerant times when any opinion can get you dogpiled!

    One request: Your last link in the 8/25 update leads to a social media website named “Blue Sky” which appears to be by invitation only. Any chance you can at least quote some of the relevant portions of that piece here so ‘outsiders’ like myself can get the gist? It would be really appreciated.

    ‘Writer Beware’ is such a valuable resource for me. Thanks for taking the time and effort. It really helps those of us on the fringes and outskirts of publishing, which, I’m guessing is probably most people. Thanks again!

    1. Hi, Sam. Thanks for sharing your experience (and please let us know how you fare). As to BlueSky, the link is to a thread I don’t feel comfortable copying and pasting, but Jason’s article has a summary.

  4. I’ve been waiting for word on a story I submitted to F&SF six months ago. Sounds as if that’s not an unusual time period these days. At least, with the knowledge that the magazine is making an attempt to address the problem, I’m willing to wait a little longer, especially for a prestige magazine such as F&SF.

  5. Thanks for the info. At least the owner recognizes the problem and sounds like he might be trying to fix it. Lots of people or company’s would admit they caused a problem. Natalie @ Literary Rambles

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