A little bit of history repeating?

The middle of a pandemic isn’t much of a time to celebrate a birthday, but given this is the 30th year of my science fiction and fantasy magazine SFcrowsnest being online, I thought I might as well give limited celebrating a shot, anyway.

Yes, it was 30 years ago that we plonked a weird independent print science fiction magazine called Protostellar onto Steve Jobs’ online bulletin board system, AppleLink, a BBS intended to take on the likes of AOL and CompuServe.

Before launching on AppleLink, the sci-fi magazine was actually being bundled via the magic of a software program known as HyperCard, and stuck on the CD cover mounts of various retail Apple Macintosh magazines for computer nerds to read for free.

While Steve Jobs’ online endeavour pretty much failed – along with the concept of CD cover mounts – luckily for us, SFcrowsnest is still here. Protostellar rebranded as Hologram Tales in 1994 when the print magazine dwindled and disappeared, with Hologram Tales becoming a World Wide Web-only affair at the now lapsed generic URL of www.SF-fantasy.com.

This was so early in the history of the Internet that scifi.co.uk and sciencefiction.co.uk were both free to register, but when we applied for these, the British domain name authority sadly told us to push off because we didn’t own a limited company with the same identify as the URL – a pre-condition of UK websites at the time.

Eventually, Hologram Tales was itself rebranded as SFcrowsnest during the late 90s. Why? Well, back then the primary search engine was called Altavista. Because the online zine was drifting into the territory of a full vertical portal with its own genre directory and sci-fi search engine and whatnot, we thought we’d come up with a similar name.

A vantage point you could climb up high and look out on the Internet from. A crowsnest seemed apt. It always featured in many sunken pirate ships across various Asterix books, which was a bonus, too. SFcrowsnest the site has remained for over 20 years, resisting the itch to rename as something new and shiny again.

It is a sobering thought that if you are a fantasy and science fiction fan who is also under the age of 30, then you were born before this magazine even first hit the 14.4kb modems. Crikey O’Reilly.

Now, kids, grandad’s gotta go and get a nap before he knocks out some more wordage for the upcoming genre novel.

Q reads SFcrowsnest, but only because he’s a nerd.


I am an author of various fantasy, science fiction, crime and other genre books from Gollancz, Hachette and HarperCollins. Some day I hope to grow up and be an astronaut. Exploring Mars would be nice.

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