SFX editor David Bradley has flown back into the country to answer my question about fiction in the popular newsstand SF magazines. He was probably coming back to the country anyway I guess, not just for my sake.
Here's his thoughts on the subject:
There is a difference between magazines that print SF stories, and magazines that comment on mainstream SF media. We fall into the latter category, and it is currently the most successful market in terms of mainstream newsstand sales, which is why I guess there are several other magazines in the same space now. There are popular and successful fiction magazines, though, and I know you're familiar with them from the commentary on your site. While many of them do a very good job, it is a different market to us.
SFX's continued success (we're the undisputed market-leading newsstand SF media magazine) comes from its choices regarding what it features. The content that helps our magazine to sell most is based on analysis and interviews (for instance, articles about the cast and crew of Doctor Who) and it would be a mistake to sacrifice these to experiment with fiction, for the obvious reason that we must appeal to our core audience. SFX is a big supporter of SF literature and we devote many pages to authors and books each issue, and I never say never to an idea, but a regular fiction section in the magazine would not be in keeping with SFX's current position or objectives.
That said: SFX actually prints stories once a year, in our annual fiction writing competition that results in a book we distribute on the newsstand. It's 'amusingly' called Pulp Idol and the next competition details are due to be released in April. These are aimed at new and amateur authors. You can find out more via our website.
Look out for author interviews (Iain M Banks, Stephen Donaldson, Brandon Sanderson) and fiction reviews in the current issue of SFX, number 167, on sale now.