The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction has established a new writing workshop with former Asimov's Magazine editor Gardner Dozois, and F&SF editor Gordon Van Gelder says the workshop will supply stories to F&SF in future. Although it's great for experienced editors like Dozois and Van Gelder to share their hard-won wisdom with aspiring writers, the implication that a "pay-to-play" workshop is going to be the main entry point for new writers to F&SF is causing some consternation. Prime Books editor Sean Wallace blogs: "Um, there are so many kinds of wrong with this I don't know where to start . . ." and one of his commenters suggests the catch phrase "ethics fail." (It's not an internet controversy unless there's word or phrase ending in "fail.")
To my mind, though, Van Gelder is just making explicit what everyone has always known about workshops: they're a way of meeting editors and making connections. David Marusek, to choose a random example, has told many times the story of his first story sale to Asimov's at Clarion West, and how it launched his career. Having read magazine fiction slush before, I don't know that there's a brilliant or equitable way to help new writers bypass it. At the same time, being so blatant about saying "Attend our workshop and you'll get the inside track to publication in our magazine" does feel a bit skeevy. I think the litmus test is whether the increased chance of publication is the main attraction, or just a fringe benefit on top of all the instruction you'll be getting, and that's hard to judge without knowing more.
What do you think?
Update: I've heard from the F&SF folks, and I'm hoping to post their side of this story soon. I apologize for not contacting them before running this piece, since it would have been better to include their viewpoint along with the original report.