Fate Magazine Headed for the Other Side

I am preparing myself for life without Fate magazine.

Since 1948, the  digest-sized monthly—later a bi-monthly—has been a reliable (at least in the publishing sense) source for ghost stories, UFO reports, speculative archaeology, Fortean news, and other manifestations of the weird and unexpected.

All viewpoints were welcomed, so articles often completely contradicted each other.

Often the most interesting stories came as reports from the readers of paranormal experiences, encounters of the recently dead, and so forth. There was a certain sameness to these, but perhaps that meant they were true—or else it meant that everyone followed the same cultural template. Or both.

Llewellyn Publications bought Fate in 1988, perhaps hoping to make it what Gnostica, their earlier house organ, had been in the late 1970s—a mix of articles with ads for Llewellyn books.

Some of the long-time readers complained then that Fate was becoming too Wiccan. That is one thing you would learn from all those reader reports: quite a few Americans follow a home-grown metaphysical religion that happily calls itself Christian while including ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, and all the rest.

When Llewellyn pulled the plug, ownership passed to a former employee, Phyllis Galde, who kept Fate going, although eventually reducing publishing frequency to bi-monthly.

This spring, it occurred to me that the “bi-monthy” had turned into semi-annually. It seemed like a long time since an issue had arrived in my mail box.

More time went by, and then I got an email saying that the Sept.-Oct. 2009, Nov.-Dec. 2009, and Jan.-Feb. 2010 issues were available—as PDF files. Eventually they put something on the web site too.

So I had the choice of reading them on the screen or printing them at my own expense if I wanted to read them in bed before turning out the light in hopes of a dream of Bigfoot. 😉

The magazine death pool is so close you can smell the fetid waters.

Fate’s blog keeps putting up new entries, but discussion of the magazine’s own fate is oddly missing.

The economics must be rough. Perhaps this is a case of flat advertising revenues versus rising printing and mailing costs.

PDF files are not the answer, and a Web version of the magazine would have to be re-thought from the ground up.

Then there is the whole question of shorter attention spans and lower reading comprehension on the Web (which is why so many blog comments are so stupid, particularly on the political blogs—people just read one phrase and start ranting before digesting the whole little essay).

But if Fate goes under, popular metaphysical religion will have lost an enduring voice.

5 thoughts on “Fate Magazine Headed for the Other Side

  1. Pitch313

    Maybe this a case of print publishing economics vs. electronic publishing economics. It costs less to blog or to put up e-articles on a web site.

    Rather than any fall off of interest in all things paranormal, supernatural, Fortean, or quirky.

    Or maybe, growth in competing outlets covering the same subject matter.

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  3. Personally, I would like to see magazines like this also make an in-print offering from a self-publishing/publishing on demand service. I think it’s a good compromise given the expense and difficulty of distribution.

  4. quite a few Americans follow a home-grown metaphysical religion that happily calls itself Christian while including ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, and all the rest.

    Mitch Horowitz’s recent book brought home to me the vast extent to which “occult” beliefs have generally been adopted by people who call themselves xian.

  5. @Pitch — I think you are right about economics, but one thing I have noticed is that a paper publishing schedule forces to you get more material, whereas so many web sites languish from month to month, from year to year.

    Since I have not written for Fate since the Llewellyn days, I don’t know if writers are still being paid and on time.

    @Diana — I wonder if they are investigating that option. Don’t know.

    @Hecate — See also Catherine Albanese’s A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion, which also shows just how mainstream “metaphysical” religion can be.

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