Thursday, March 9, 2023

Support Stupefying Stories

I’ll be blunt. We need your help. *You.* No one else. To quote the old aerospace industry adage Tom Wolfe made famous when he gave the line to Gus Grissom in The Right Stuff: “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”

That’s right. That’s what makes Stupefying Stories fly. Funding.

The short version.

Where does our funding come from? Two sources: book sales and donations. And right now, neither source is bringing in enough money to keep Stupefying Stories afloat. So if you like what we’re publishing, right now, today, there are two things you can do to help:

1. You can click on this big blue ibuprofen-like button to DONATE money to help keep us going.

2. You can buy some of our books. 

Have a Kindle? Find out what you’ve been missing!
Buy the four latest issues with just one click!

(Or buy just one, if that’s what you’d really prefer.)

3. Or, if you already have all the books you need and don’t have a few bucks to spare, there are some other things you can do to help.

  • Write a quick review of one of our books, or at least rate it. Remember, on Amazon especially, ratings and reviews sell books.

  • Tell your friends about us! If you like what you’re reading here, share the links and good news! (If you don’t like what you’re reading here, tell me. Reader feedback is always valued.)

  • If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, retweet or share the links. Remember, likes and hearts are nice, but shares and retweets boost the signal!

Thank you,
Bruce Bethke
Editor, Stupefying Stories


The tl;dr version.

When we first launched Stupefying Stories and Rampant Loon Press, it was with a small nest-egg and the idea that it would be self-funding. We believed we could bootstrap this new magazine and publishing company from the ground up, simply by growing sales. For the first few years, that worked. Some of our original novels and some issues of the magazine sold thousands of copies each, and we plowed every penny we made back into publishing more stories and paying our authors and artists more.

Then my wife’s cancer hit, and if you’ve been following us, you know how that story ended.


Now it’s 2023, and here we are, emerging from hibernation after a very long metaphorical winter and blinking in astonishment at how much the publishing landscape changed while we were asleep. The technology available to small-press publishers has taken enormous leaps forward. We no longer need to handcraft our e-books with stone knives, bear skins, and raw XHTML. When I compare our first POD paperbacks to our latest hardcover and paperback releases, I am very pleased. I would be happy to put our latest books up against any new releases from the big New York publishers, both in terms of the quality of stories inside the covers and the physical qualities of the books themselves. For example:

We’ve branched out into print editions, in both trade paperback and hardcover. We have distribution onto Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and just about every other e-book delivery channel around. We’ve branched out into audio books, e.g.:

But while the production technology available to us continues to improve, and the market for non-fiction books and full-length novels took a significant jump during the pandemic, the short fiction marketplace looks like it’s been looted, burned-out, and bombed to bouncing rubble. It’s easier than ever to publish short fiction now, but harder than ever to get anyone to notice. There are days I think the only people reading short fiction are those who to hope to write and sell it.

Hmm. If people aren’t reading short fiction, they’re not buying the magazines and anthologies that publish it. If they’re not buying magazines… Well, there goes the idea of bootstrapping Stupefying Stories through increased sales—at least, not without spending ungodly amounts of money on advertising.

That goes against my grain. The entire point of Stupefying Stories was to use the attention people seem to want to pay to me, because of what I did in the 1980s and 1990s, to get them to pay attention to newer and younger writers who are writing great new stories now. From the very start, we made a commitment to spending more on the authors we publish than we spent on promotions, advertising, marketing, or any of those other things that are so vital to growing a publishing business, but that don’t put money directly into the pockets of the people who create the content being published.

Hmm again. Interesting dilemma. Chicken or egg? Go big or go home? Approach this problem thoughtfully or continue to rattle off shopworn clichés and fatuous dualities?


This is where you come into the story.

Right now we are at a metaphorical crossroads. We can either cut back drastically on the amount of fiction we publish and instead put our money into advertising, or we can shut down Rampant Loon Media LLC entirely and replace it with a non-profit corporation.  

The problem with the latter is, I’ve played the non-profit game before. I’ve been on the Boards of Directors of several 501(c) corporations. Right now, the obvious thing for us to do would be to go after a few very well-heeled donors, to cajole them into donating to the Support Stupefying Stories fund, and to turn this into an ars gratia artis operation, more concerned with fund-raising than with producing anything anyone actually wants to read.

I’ve been down this road before. Ars gratia artis organizations invariably end up pandering to the socio-political concerns of their few major donors and producing music no one wants to listen to, plays no one wants to watch, and literature no one wants to read—but boy, do they get good at fund-raising! In time fund-raising becomes their raison d'être, the art they were ostensibly created to foster becomes an afterthought, and they find themselves in the business of selling the feeling of being virtuous to affluent urbanites and suburbanites who can’t be bothered to watch, listen to, or read the work their donations are supporting.

As I said, I’ve been down this road before. It leads to Writer’s Hell. I’m hoping there’s a third way.

If the whole point of Stupefying Stories is to get people to pay attention to the writers and the fiction we’re publishing, then this works better if a lot of people have a vested interest in our success. And that is why I’m asking you to support Stupefying Stories right now

Right now, we’re essentially in the launch phase of this project (or relaunch, if you prefer). Our ultimate goal remains what it always has been: to grow Stupefying Stories to the point where it becomes a professional magazine, that pays its authors “pro” word rates and funds itself through sales of books and magazines. But right now, we need bridge funding to get us through the next six months, and enable us to concentrate on publishing fiction rather than on advertising or fund-raising.

Here are the numbers:

  • At our current burn rate, we spend about $500 monthly just to keep SHOWCASE going. (Surely SHOWCASE alone is worth $5 a month to you, isn’t it?)

  • Each issue of Stupefying Stories magazine costs us about $1,000 to produce. It should cost more, but we woefully underpay our authors, and everyone working behind the scenes is a volunteer, working for free.

  • If we can get just one hundred people to commit to chipping in $5 monthly to support SHOWCASE—or fifty people to commit to $10 monthly, etc., etc., you can do the math—we will be able to fund SHOWCASE indefinitely, and thank you very much for making that possible.

  • If we can get three hundred people to commit to chipping in $5 monthly (or the equivalent thereof), we can fund both SHOWCASE and the magazine indefinitely, and can focus on growing the readership for both.

  • If we can raise more than $1,500 monthly, it will go straight to raising our word rate and paying our authors more.

  • But if we get to June 2024 and are still dependent on donations instead of sales, then we’ll need to reevaluate what we’re doing and decide whether we should continue.

That’s the vision. Those are the numbers. You’ve read the pitch. Now it’s up to you, and whether you choose to click this DONATE link or to buy some of our books.

Thank you for reading this, and while you’re thinking about it, you might also want to consider following us on Twitter or friending us on Facebook, via either the Stupefying Stories fb page or my personal page.

And remember, while likes are nice, Shares and Retweets boost the signal, and reviews and ratings sell books!

Kind regards,
Bruce Bethke
Editor, Publisher, and Executive Cat-herder in Chief,
Stupefying Stories