science-fiction, writing, technology
When I was visiting over Christmas I picked up a couple of UK scifi magazines, so a review and comparison seemed in order. The magazines in question are:
SciFiNow, issue 75, Imagine Publishing, £4.80, 130 pages
SFX, Feb 2013, Future Publishing, £4.50, 138 pages
SFX has by far the longer and more interesting history, having been founded in 1995, included a column written by David Langford in every edition and is able to list Simon Pegg under it’s contributers. SciFiNow was founded in 2007 and won Best Magazine at the 2010 Fantasy Horror awards.
Both are excellent in terms of layouts, graphics and use of photos and artwork. SciFiNow appears slightly more modern and slick, whereas SFX has a slightly more fun approach that reminds me of computer games magazines in some places. SciFiNow is a slightly taller and wider magazine, which contributes to it’s more glossy feel and presentation.
This issue of SciFiNow covers the following news: Being Human, Superman, Beetlejuice 2, Kick-Ass 2, Walking Dead, Blood & Chrome, Grimm, Merlin, True Blood and Fighting Fantasy. It also unfortunately has a small piece on the UK’s first Klingon wedding, which I’m determined not to read. The content mostly relates to film and tv series, with some comic references and a nice page on the return of Fighting Fantasy books. The Disney purchase of Star Wars is covered in a separate article.
SFX covers: Star Wars (Disney purchase and a new comic), Da Vinci’s Demons, Safety Not Guaranteed, Iron Man 3, I,Frankenstein, Young Avengers, Grabbers, Zero Hour, Oz the Great and Powerful, Fringe, V/H/S, Dr.Who and Nexus. Again most of the emphasis is on the movies and tv series, but with some inclusion of comics and books. There are also four short interviews, two of them with actors from Star Wars and Clone Wars, one terrible ‘celebrity’ interview that I regret reading, and one with the author Ramez Naam about his new book, Nexus.
SciFiNow includes ten features, covering Arrow, Doctor Who, Millennium FX, Primeval, Star Wars under Disney, Star Wars figures (a book of them), Mark Millar, Life of Pi, Texas Chainsaw 3D and Grant Morrison. The features are satisfyingly detailed, including interview extracts, episode summaries and ratings and background information.
SFX includes nine features, covering Doctor Who, Martin Freeman, Buffy, Primeval, Glen A Larson, Seth Grahame-Smith, A Song of Ice and Fire, Mark Hamill and ET. The features are varied and interesting, with good interviews. Some of the features are framed in listing format, such as ’20 reasons why…’ and ‘Top 10 unanswered questions…’. I like a good list but tended to find these a bit patronising, perhaps aimed at younger readers.
Although both magazines also cover Primeval, I’m going to look specifically at their coverage of Doctor Who by way of comparison. SciFiNow looks back briefly at the origins of Doctor Who, then it’s more recent history with quotes from Matt Smith about what to expect in 2013 and some side detail on the 2012 Christmas special. The SFX approach is a good interview with Steven Moffat, initially about the Christmas special but then looking forward into 2013. SFX has by far the better images, but the SciFiNow text gives more insight.
With Sightseers headlining in SciFiNow and Breaking Dawn (yes, really) in SFX, actual scifi starts to feel scarce. Both have similarly short reviews of Safety Not Guaranteed but otherwise it’s a case of turning to the DVD sections for Total Recall (better in SFX), Star Trek: The Next Generation (extensive in SciFiNow) and less mainstream releases such as Wizards vs. Aliens (SciFiNow) and Manborg (SFX). Overall SciFiNow has the better coverage of the mainstream movies, with SFX giving more column space to the lower-budget releases.
There was better coverage of books that I expected in both magazines, with 14 pages in SciFiNow and 10 in SFX, including comics in both. The SFX section is made up almost entirely of reviews, with one ‘book club’ page about Frederik Pohl’s Gateway. SciFiNow mixes together reviews and features into a dedicated book section with a feature on H.G.Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and a Terry Pratchett interview. To pick an example book because I happen to be reading it currently, Nexus by Ramez Naam is given more extensive coverage in SciFiNow but, so far (I’m only a few chapters into the book), I’m more inclined to agree with the conclusion and rating given by SFX.
Both magazines include a page of computer game reviews and a few card/board game reviews. Both have a few pages for scifi-related merchandise (more in SciFiNow). I was disappointed that SciFiNow doesn’t include a letters page, although there are some extracts from Twitter and Facebook. Both include a short quiz and have ‘retro’ sections covering Buffy and E.T. in SFX whereas SciFiNow looks at Smallville, Twin Peaks and Gremlins.
Both magazines cover a lot more than just traditional scifi, which is understandable given the desire for mainstream appeal. The individual columns and letters in SFX are excellent and I like seeing a particularly personal view stated alongside the more general conclusions in the reviews. I also like the mixture of styles in SFX, although some features were too simplified for my taste. The reviews and features in SciFiNow were often more extensive and provided better insight.
Which would I choose? Based on these two editions, I would just, and only just, choose SciFiNow.
Which do you prefer?