You should buy and read short story magazines. For lots of reasons.
The selfish reason first – I write short stories. The more people who buy and read short story magazines, the more money these magazines have for acquiring work and the more likely they are to buy mine.
But here’s the other reasons. Short stories are, perhaps, the best way to get into reading fiction. People who feel unsure about reading books will find that the shorter lengths (as few as 100 words, sometimes!) are less opressive. Because they’re short, people can read them in a few spare minutes in their busy days.
Short story magazines are cheap. Usually cheaper than a book for dozens of seperate stories!
And they’re complete stories, with characters and a plot arc and all the things you love from TV and video-games, but there’s no unnecessary extras. Just the story.
Short story magazines cover all genres and interests. Upset that there aren’t enough fairy-tale retellings in the bookstores? There’ll be a magazine you can read.
As for why you should pay for them? Well, there are plenty of brilliant free ones out there, it’s true (I suggest popping over to 101 fiction for good, very short pieces, and not just because a story of mine will be going up there soon) but the competition for writers to get into the paying market is fierce. Which means you get the best of the best. The brilliant ones.
So, you’ll be supporting the careers of writers, ensuring hard working creatives get paid, and enjoying yourself at the same time. Win win!
Some of my favourites:
Most of these publish spec fic, as that’s what I like to read and write. Some publish literary or have a small niche.
If you want to read short stories and don’t know where to start, a good place to look is duotrope. It exists mainly as a way for writers to keep track of submissions, but you can search it for specific genres and sub-genres, and you may well find a magazine you like that way.