Sovryn Top 8: Must Read Magazines
Ever since the Apple iPad was released in 2010, the claim that the printed magazine was finally dead has been laid out over and over again (honestly, this has been predicted for over a decade before that). And while certainly the magazine/journalism powerhouses of yore have fallen to the World Wide Web, magazines are far from dead. Digital magazines–which are just digitized version of print magazines–have come to popularity and prominence in recent years, and even their print counterparts are seeing a new rise in popularity. In my opinion, this comes from the rare ability that magazines have to collate and beautifully present content as a coherent whole, as compared to the often distracting and confusing bouncing around from link to link and click bait to click bait online.
I love magazines. I’ve discussed this passion on my tech podcast, Sovryn Tech, in the past. A magazine often feels like a singular moment of time, and a special gathering of information, two things that the Web seems to make impossible by its nature. Magazines aren’t quick tidbits of data like social media, they are a thematic collection of knowledge or entertainment from “cover-to-cover” (digital or print).
Ironically, the Web has helped magazines become popular once again, and even content wise, websites in general have taught magazines a thing or two about layout. So in many ways, magazines and the Web are companion pieces (and digital magazines often have website links built right into them). I couldn’t be happier with the arrangement, really.
And in my happiness I decided to share with you one of my infamous “Top 8’s”, with this one covering my favorite magazines. This won’t be all of the magazines that I read, but these are the ones that I usually can’t wait to tear into. And unlike other “Top 8’s”, these are in order of greatness, with #1 being the best, and #8 being the least best (but still very, very good). Here goes:
1. Retro Gamer: Where was this magazine 20 years ago? Well…actually, it’s just covering what gaming magazines actually covered 20 years ago…so I guess it didn’t need to exist then. Seriously, this is the greatest magazine today. Covering every video game system from the Odyssey to the PSOne, the nostalgia alone is worth reading this beautifully put together magazine cover-to-cover, but with new insights into classic games and systems, as well as covering the retro gaming scene and its new developments (even new homebrew games for new systems are covered), this is reading and news not to be missed by any serious gamer or even game developer. Interestingly, this magazine, along with a few others on the list, are all published in Britain (you’ll notice Retro Gamer covers the ZX Spectrum—A LOT–which didn’t really hit the USA, but is fascinating to learn about) by a company called Imagine Publishing. I don’t know exactly who’s behind Imagine Publishing, but with the content their magazines cover overall, they’re creating a one-publisher magazine renaissance, really. And Retro Gamer is the jewel of their crown.
2. PC Gamer: While you may think that reading this magazine is no longer necessary since A.) PC Gamer has such create content on their website, and B.) included demo CD-ROMs are a thing of the past, that the magazine is no longer necessary to read…yes, it’s not necessary, but often time-exclusive content (as in, content that doesn’t get released onto the website till much later) is in the magazine, and the magazine still delivers a more coherent all-in-one picture of what is happening in the PC gaming world, as compared to just the randomness of stories that get posted to the website. So I still consider this required reading, and of all the magazines on this list, this is the one that I’ve been reading the longest…as in since I was 12. I can remember vividly reading about the TIE Fighter release and seeing it on the cover. And after actually playing the game and it living up to the hype in PC Gamer, well, I became a PC Gamer reader for life.
3. Chess Life: As you can see by this choice, my oft said point that, “I’m a gamer first, a historian second, and a tech journalist third”, is absolutely true. And chess is just that: a game (it’s not usually a video game, but it is a game…some say “the game”). I’ve been a chess player for as far back as I can remember, and it almost felt like the ability to play was a survival trait in New York. Chess Life shows a side of chess that most people probably don’t even know exists. Competitive chess, big money tournaments, and all the things that make for great strategy. It’s a unique magazine that covers the “Game of Kings” for the 21st Century.
4. All About Space: Remember Imagine Publishing out of the UK that I mentioned? This is another one of their properties. So finding it in stores in a physical form would be a rarity, but getting it digitally is the way to go. It’s a beautifully done magazine that covers the latest scientific developments in astronomy and astrophysics, along with new technologies and new discoveries…if you’re into outer space (and I certainly am), this magazine does a better job of delivering space news than any website I’ve seen. And one of the great things about magazines is that they rest on stories and new developments. They’re not like the Web where things get reported by the second, only to get debunked five seconds later. So you’re getting very carefully reported and curated information with magazines like All About Space.
5. All About History: Another Imagine Publishing property, and it does for history what All About Space does for outer space. While certainly All About History’s coverage of history doesn’t stray too far from the accepted historical narrative, it does deliver that with aplomb. I’d love it if they allowed for more speculative positions and stories within its pages, but that takes nothing away from the great presentation of history here. Like other Imagine Publishing titles, All About History will often release single-topic magazines that will take one historical moment and dissect it endlessly, that usually only a 500 page book could do, but All About History’s magazine style makes it possible in a smaller, more efficient package.
6. Star Wars Insider: A title that has changed hands (and even title) multiple times, but has always delivered the same great Star Wars content that is very unique to the magazine. Interviews with actors, producers, and even exclusive news on future releases, it’s the only news source you really need when it comes to Star Wars, and no website will have what Star Wars Insider delivers. Also, ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm/Star Wars, Star Wars Insider has been publishing exclusive, canonical (as in, it is “real” within the larger Star Wars Universe) fiction stories that are usually solid, quick Star Wars fixes. The fiction alone makes the magazine a must read.
7. Analog Science Fiction and Fact: What a history. The first issue of Analog was published in 1930, and it’s still going strong today. Bringing you the best in speculative short fiction, a lot of classic science fiction authors over the past 85 years have cut their teeth with Analog, and it turned them into superstars. And even today, if you want to read great short fiction, along with some interesting science news here and there, Analog is the magazine to read and support.
8. 2600: The Hacker Quarterly: Another long running magazine in this list, there literally is nothing else like 2600 in the world. Released quarterly, the interesting (real) hacking tips and tricks within, along with the fascinating stories from cypherpunks and others around the world are priceless reads. You won’t find any of this great stuff online, and the voice that 2600 gives to people that otherwise would be laughed at is so important, it’s worth purchasing out of support alone. I’ve read some stories from 2600 on Sovryn Tech before, and will do so in the future since the content is such a treasure in a world that sadly seems to just love the Surveillance State. 2600 is just as important today as it ever has been.
So that’s the list. If you haven’t checked any of these magazines out, jump on them. I’d almost guarantee that you’ll walk away from reading them as a happier and far more knowledgeable person than if you spent the same amount of time reading the magazine as you’d spend reading link after link online. Magazines aren’t dead, they’ve just adapted to the digital world and become all the more relevant and important in our attention-starved society.
DISCLAIMER: The ZOG Blog is the part of this site where Dr. Brian Sovryn can talk about anything. From pop culture, to philosophy, to just sharing updates with what’s going on at Zomia Offline Games and with other projects.