Uncle Geoff has a story to tell. The story of SFcrowsnest. So settle down, kids, pull yourself up a chair by the fire and warm your hands while the history of online SF unfolds before your eyes...
SFcrowsnest has a strange and spotty past. It started out as a glossy magazine launched in the UK in 1989, called ProtoStellar, a glossy magazine which was founded by Shadwell Oman, a half-arab half-welsh fan of things SF/F. When Shadwell moved back to the United Arab Emirates in 1991, he sold the magazine to one of its contributors of cyberpunk fiction, Stephen Hunt.
Along with another then new on the scene author Stephen Baxter, the readers had voted Stephen Hunt a ProtoStellar Award for best new writer- so he figured it would be cruel to let such a 'discerning' magazine pass into history.
Working for Apple at the time, Stephen decided to move the money-losing print magazine online, putting it onto AppleLink, Steve Job's official early Mac-based Bulletin Board System which later changed its name to E-World. In 1994 two odd twists of fate were to occur.
First, Stephen Hunt's first fantasy novel 'For the Crown and the Dragon', hit the shelves.
He had a hoot when RolePlayer Independent voted his novel 'Best Fantasy Novel of the Year', and got nice reviews in Locus, SF chronicle, The Guardian, Interzone and various other publications. The genre which the novel 'For The Crown and the Dragon' created, 'Flintlock Fantasy', continues to thrive today with popular novels by writers such as Naomi Novik (the Temeraire flintlock fantasy series now optioned by Peter Jackson for a forthcoming film).
It even has its own popular Role Playing Game and range of miniatures, called 'Flintloque'. Fans of the works of Stephen Hunt are today known by the newsgroup they run (alt.fan.shunt), 'shunters' - and apparently reading any fiction by our Stephen is called 'shunting'.
There, hopefully, the train spotting analogies for SF/F fans end! The royalities from Stephen novels (Court of the Air, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves, The Rise of the Iron Moon, Secrets of the Fire Sea, Jack Cloudie etc) continue to help pay for this site today. The second twist of fate? Well, in 1994, a bizarre little thing called the Internet started to intrude on people's attentions.
As I noted, Stephen had been involved in Apple's failed pre-Web attempts to create a rival to AOL, called AppleLink - their proprietary online service/bulletin board you had to dial into. This was enough to qualify him to launch one of the first internet magazines, Nature.com
The site was a super success, and by the end of 1994, as the internet revolution grew from strength to strength, Hunt found himself in increasingly rarefied positions in leading publishing companies.
Then - with an increasingly serious career - and not enough time to devote to ProtoStellar in its print form, Stephen bit the bullet, took the magazine online, and renamed it Hologram Tales - a name intended to hark back to the wonder days of Astounding Tales, Amazing Tales and the like. In 1999, the web site was renamed again and got a new a new web address www.SFcrowsnest.com, selling it's original generic URL www.SF-fantasy.com to a Japanese firm.
SFcrowsnest also started to expand its most popular section - not, somewhat surprisingly, the fiction - but its search engine. This oddly drove traffic through the roof - and to the peak of popularity which it has reached today.
Anyway, the pressures of the somewhat unasked for title of dot com guru and web pioneer has meant that Stephen hasn't had the time he'd like to devote to SFcrowsnest.
Thankfully, the slack has been gleefully taken up by the new Editor, - yours truly - Geoff Willmetts.
I started out as the most frequent contributor to the site, and enjoyed the experience so much that I was happy to help Stephen out by shouldering some of the load. Stephen has now promoted himself to Publisher and Head of Programming, leaving me to deal with the bulk of the editorial gubbins.
And the 'Nest? Well, Yahoo has ranked SFcrowsnest as among the best in the genre; we're one of only four web sites to make it into the Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction; our ranks of users still swell every month; and the nice emails we get from thousands of kind fans helps keep our morale up.
Onwards and upwards, dear Nestizens, Ad Astra.
Geoff 'Uncle' Willmetts
PS - Fans of Stephen's fantasy and science fiction novels looking to get details of his new releases in the UK and USA etc, can now surf on over to www.StephenHunt.net - which looks at the worlds-N-works of our sci-fi sugar daddy himself.
currently free from...
In the Company of Ghosts
currently free from...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA