Seems like everyone's talking about John Scalzi's rant against Black Matrix press - a short story junket that pays $0.005 cents per word. In one corner, Scalzi calls this a pittance, an insult, and encourages his followers never to submit your work to such a magazine that values your words so poorly. In the other corner is everyone else in the world who is not John Scalzi.
It seems like Scalzi says one stupid thing each year, like he's handing out judgement to the commoners. Last year it was his justification for blog tyranny, and his idea that his blog was private property. This year, it's like Van Halen declaring every other musician in the world should only play arenas.
It seems like sometimes he forgets that not every writer is at his level. The simple fact is we are not all John Scalzi. And we never will be. Scalzi is a "genius" writer, and those people are born, not made. Their success cannot be duplicated. Should that preclude us from ever trying? No. As someone once said, "It would be mighty quiet in the forest if the only birds that sung were those that sung best." (paraphrased).
Some of us are just trying to get a nose into the writing world. One of those ways is by submitting to small fiction markets. Even Stephen King advises this in "On Writing". Because if the small fiction markets take notice of you, then the semi-pro markets might. If the semi-pro markets take notice, then the pro markets might.
Not all of us make pro the first try-out. You got to serve your time as equipment manager, then maybe you make JV, then maybe you make varsity, then maybe college ball, then maybe pro. And punctuating all those "maybe"s is the eternal question - are you good enough for the level you want to play at? And Scalzi forgets that. He also forgets that not all of us are doing this for a career. He forgets how few pro markets are really out there, and how selective they are. And not all of us can write a story knowing it's guaranteed to be selected for publication. Scalzi's name is known and people will pick up a magazine if his name is in it because A) he's an excellent writer and B) he has a large following, that leads to click-throughs.
Scalzi's not really a short story writer, and he's claimed as such. Scalzi's a better novelist, and he chooses to be a better novelist. It's like a professional baseball player criticizing a softball league. So I'm not sure where he gets off handing off judgement to this magazine for its piddly pay rate. Assuming he has listed every short story he's ever wrote, I've already written more short stories than him, and I haven't had one published yet. There's a ton of magazines out there that pay nothing. And I'm sure I would/could be rejected by even them! But I don't submit to them because I agree with his philosophy that you should get paid for your work.
I also agree with Jim C. Hines that he submits to the pro markets because he wants to be read. I would forego any sort of money if it meant that I would be read by many people. But before you can be read, you must be accepted. The reason I submit to the token markets is that, for me, it's about filling out the resume. Each step brings me that much closer to being heard.