Today we’re over the moon to be wishing Dave Bradley, Editor-in-Chief of SFX, friend to Gollancz, and all-round superstar a very, very happy 140th birthday indeed! For he has not just marked his 40th birthday, but today will mark his 100 edition of SFX, which makes it a very special day indeed.
Let the champagne corks pop, and please raise your glass in honour – and read the fantastic post, from the man himself, which follows.
It’s often said that as you age, the days seem to pass more quickly. Cynics may believe you simply experience fewer momentous “firsts” as you embrace the treadmill routines of your life; in the words of Martin Amis, “My memory’s in good shape, I think, it’s just that my life is getting less memorable all the time.”
But as my 100th issue of SFX rockets onto newsstands, it’s a theory that does not ring true. In 2013 I reached the ripe age of forty in the same month as I passed this professional milestone and my experiences in publishing surprise and delight me as much as they did when I edited my first SFX in 2005. Indeed the creative challenges, possibilities and firsts seem to grow in number. SFX 233, the one hundredth issue with my name on it, hits shelves today and this landmark month affords me an opportunity to reflect – what I see from the last eight years is a time of discovery and change. Without doubt the profession I’ve chosen continues to evolve and stay fresh.
Consider this: when I wrote the coverline “It’s clobberin’ time!” 100 issues ago (yes, it was an imprudently optimistic issue about the Fantastic Four movie) there was no Twitter or Facebook. There was no such thing as an iPad or Kindle. Even YouTube – that pervasive resource the younger generation considers as omnipresent as oxygen – did not launch publicly until November of that year.
Our magazine, like all magazines, books and newspapers, has had to learn and adapt. Some of the inevitable changes were regrettable: one of the most popular parts of SFX magazine before I joined was the amusing personal ads section, but in an era of Match.com and eBay who writes to a monthly magazine in search of love or cheap X-Files DVDs? We would have kept the section, with its snarky comments and wry asides, if people had continued to submit entries, but instead they went online… so SFX responded, with a vibrant website and forum. SFX.co.uk gets almost half a million unique users now and I’m sure romance blossoms there occasionally too.
It’s no longer possible to be a magazine editor (or indeed novelist or book publisher, I suspect) who just commissions, writes and edits copy. Those days are gone and we must instead think of ourselves as curators of a packed multimedia exhibition, one that includes video performances and real-time Twitter dialogue. Aspiring journalists take note: you cannot work on a magazine now without also being a blogger, panel guest, HTML coder, video editor, forum moderator, social media guru, event organiser and broadcaster.
It’s hectic but exciting. It means one is constantly developing new approaches. In times gone by, 100 issues of a magazine might inspire restlessness or, worse, stagnation in a team member but barely a day goes by without the gang and I being exposed to some new opportunity. Take the iPad: SFX’s parent company has embraced this new format as a chance to reach new readers around the world. Future has now sold more than three million digital magazines via Apple’s Newsstand and signed up well over 180,000 full subscribers. The launch of the Apple Newsstand has not cannibalised our sales but instead – thanks to new readers choosing to join us that way – SFX’s circulation rose a little last year (up about 1% according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations).
And it gives us a sandpit in which to play with additional interactive content, photo slideshows and more. My 100th issue features a video interview with myself and previous editors Dave Golder and Matt Bielby discussing SFX’s history, ready to play on your tablet as you eat your breakfast (hopefully not putting you off your cornflakes). This stuff would have seemed like science fiction even eight years ago when I penned my first SFX editorial. Editions tailored for Google Play, Kindle Fire and Nook have recently joined the roster, and who knows what we’ll be doing in another eight years’ time?
There is, of course, another theory about why life seems to pass more quickly as you age; it could be because the quanta of time that make up your life become comparatively smaller – after all, one year is a fifth of a five-year-old’s life but only a 40th of mine. In which case all these new activities will accelerate me towards my 200th issue at a frightening pace. Brace yourself: the future’s busy.