This list ranks literary magazines by how often their short stories have appeared in the Best American Short Stories.
In some ways it’s ridiculous to rank literary magazines by the number of awards they’ve received, but it still can be useful for writers to figure out where to submit. (If you’re looking for nonfiction or essay rankings, go to my Ranking of Literary Nonfiction Markets).
The list below arranges literary journals in order of how many times they’ve had a short story or special mention in the last ten years (2007 – 2016) in the Best American Short Stories (BASS). I award a certain number of points for the winners and a lesser number of points for every special mention. Every October I’ll update the page to reflect the new year.
ZYZZYVA was the biggest mover in 2016. The west coast literary journal run out of San Francisco, which a few years ago shifted from Howard Junker’s editorship to Laura Cogan’s, went buck wild this year, with multiple stories reprinted and a whole slew of stories earning a special mention at the back of the anthology. Other than The New Yorker, no other journal earned as much recognition in BASS.
In its new slot, ZYZZYVA is just below Kenyon Review and One Story, and just above Virginia Quarterly Review and Iowa Review. It formerly had 12 points, and now it has 26.
The surge of mentioned stories might be due to the fact that ZYZZYVA used to limit submissions to writers on the West coast, and now it has broadened its focus to solicit submissions regardless of location. Whatever the case, it’s nice to see that under Cogan’s leadership the journal is flourishing.
New England Review did well also, and so did One Story, recovering from a slump a year ago when it got no stories mentioned at all.
Iowa Review also had a stellar year, with stories reprinted and multiple special mentions.
There were eight newcomers added to this year’s list, all of them at the bottom of the page. Some of the journals were new, and some have been around quite a well and only now are being recognized by BASS.
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On statistics: statistics is a epistemic methodology prized by our modernistic, science-obsessed world as the primary way to Know Things. The cold hard facts trumps subjective knowledge, right? But I would argue that statistics gives us only a very limited view of the world, and one which necessarily skews “proper” knowledge.
Let me be less philosophical and more practical: Please don’t overestimate the important of the list below. The list below does not tell you whether a literary journal is good or not, it only tells you whether the Best American Short Story editors happened to like the flavor of stories in a literary journal. That, necessarily, is entirely subjective, and I encourage you to discover for yourself the type of fiction each literary magazine publishes, as well as explore the many excellent literary journals that don’t appear on this list.
I dislike some “high” level literary journals and really love “low” level literary journals. So while my tastes are not necessarily reflected by the list below, that’s good, because it will force you all, my lovely, devoted readers, to form your own judgments.
For those of you already deep in the literary magazine world, I hope that this Best American Short Story list is one aid among many to help you figure out where to submit and subscribe.
Best Literary Magazines Rankings: