Offering an array of original fiction and comics, online communities, commentary, and blogs organized—sometimes loosely—around science fiction and fantasy, Tor.com is an online experiment in transforming a corporate Web site into an all-purpose publishing platform. Although a similar publisher site, Random House's Suvudu.com, tries to act as an online hub for science fiction fans, Tor.com offers a dizzying variety of original content and commentary that reaches far beyond Tor Books and its authors.
Tor.com was conceived at a Tor Christmas party in 2007 by Tor's v-p of strategic technology, Fritz Foy—now publisher of the Tor.com site—as a way to create a site that was more than a corporate brochure. While parent company Macmillan maintains a very corporate site for Tor and Forge books, the new and improved Tor.com site manages to offer a little something for anyone who's into science fiction and fantasy. Tor's senior editor and manager of science fiction, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who created the original Tor Web site in the 1990s, said, "Fritz said we could pay for and publish original fiction and it would be cheaper than buying advertising." Tor.com and its accumulation of original publishing, blogs, and related features is conceived, Nielsen Hayden said, "to be a continuation of science fiction by other means. We've adjusted that since the site's launch in 2008, but stayed true to the original vision."
That vision includes focusing the site on themes like the just completed Steampunk Fortnight, a two-week follow-up to last year's Steampunk Month—"a month can be an eternity on the Web," said Nielsen Hayden—offering a focus on a fantasy subgenre about a fictional historical era of futuristic technology powered by steam. Steampunk Fortnight offered a host of guest bloggers like writers Jared Axelrod and Evelyn Kriete, original steampunk fiction from Eileen Gunn and Cat Rambo, listings of steampunk events, as well as lots of giveaways and swag for the steampunk faithful. Past Web site themes have included Cthulu Christmas (an homage to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft), Urban Fantasy and Romance; and Zombie Week. Tor.com offers a kind of one-stop-shopping venue for fantasy, science fiction, and related genres.
Since its launch in July 2008, the site has acquired and published more than 60 pieces of original short fiction (novellas and short stories) by professional writers. "We're building an online community," said Tor Books art director Irene Gallo. "Traffic continues to grow, helped by word-of-mouth, and we use social media to drive it." Tor.com has "over 200,000 active registered users," Gallo said. "We do better than double that in unique viewers every month and have grown 40% in the past four months." Gallo also said that "the key statistic" is the time per visit "our community members spend—weekly averages of four and five minutes per visit are not uncommon."
Gallo is also creative director of Tor.com and took over the position from Pablo Defendini, art director and producer at the Tor.com site, who left Tor to join Open Road Media. Science fiction fans are usually interested in comics, and Defendini and Tor editor Liz Gorinsky both acquired original comics for the site—Defendini acquired Dan Goldman's quirky long-form Web comic, Red Light Properties, recently serialized on Tor.com, and the site also features such notable comics creators as Jim Ottaviani, Sean Beri, Andi Watson and Joanna Estep.