If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know I’m a big supporter of Apex Publications, a small company that not only publishes cutting edge SFF novels, but runs an award nominated digital magazine with some of the best short stories out there today. Jason Sizemore is in charge of all things Apex, and Lesley Conner is managing editor (and a damn good writer herself!). I’ve been lucky enough to host both Jason and Lesley here on the blog in the past, and to celebrate the publication of Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1, which hits stores tomorrow, they’ve agreed to answer even MORE of my questions, LOL!
And before I jump into the interview, I wanted to let you know that if you pre-order a copy of Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 today, both Jason and Lesley will sign it for you, so don’t miss out!
And with that, please welcome Jason and Lesley to the blog!
Books, Bones & Buffy: First of all, can you both introduce yourselves and give us an idea of your main roles at Apex?
Jason Sizemore: Somebody has to pay the writers. That’s my job. I own Apex while serving the role of editor-in-chief of the magazine and our book line.
Lesley Conner: Jason claims that all he does is write the checks, but don’t let him fool you. Mr. Sizemore works his ass off!
My official title is managing editor of both Apex Magazine and our book line, but I really think I should have a shiny button that proclaims me “Senior Vice President of Getting Shit Done.” I think that has a nice ring to it. LOL!
The short answer is it is my job to make sure that everyone has what they need to do their jobs. The long answer … is long and probably not super interesting to anyone who doesn’t work in publishing. It involves email – a lot of email! – and all of the little things that make a publisher run smoothly; like proofreading, finding cover art, and managing the slush pile.
Apex Magazine has been going strong for over six years. How long have you been planning to publish a “Best of Apex,” and what makes now the perfect time to do so?
JS: Because the zine is digital only, this excludes a large segment of readers who prefer print. We wanted to give everybody a chance to read Apex Magazine, so doing the Best of anthology felt like a good first step.
LC: I think the first time Jason mentioned the idea to me was early in the summer. I’m sure he’d been thinking about it before then, but that was when it went from something that might be cool, to something we were going to do. So many amazing stories have found their home in Apex Magazine – both award-winning/nominated stories and personal favorites – and having a print edition with all of them in one place was an exciting idea. I was immediately onboard.
What was the selection process like? With so many wonderful stories to choose from, it must have been hard to narrow it down to only twenty-one!
JS: It felt damn near impossible. Fortunately, some stories felt necessary as I think they do a good job defining the type of fiction we like to publish. We included a bunch of award-nominated works. Several stories voted by our readers. In the end, Lesley and I only had to argue over five or so stories.
LC: It really did feel impossible! Six years of content is a LOT to go through. The first thing I did was start rereading the original fiction from before I was a part of Apex. Yes, I’d read them before, but it had been years ago and I hadn’t read them with an editor’s eye.
Separately, Jason and I made lists of stories we felt should be included in the anthology. When we were finished, we compared notes and luckily many of our choices matched up. (Great minds think alike or is it that Jason and I are equally dark and twisted? Hmmm…) The stories that matched up immediately made the cut, then we added in the Story of the Year stories selected by our readers and some award nominated works, and yeah, there were only five or so spaces left to fill. Though I wouldn’t say we argued. It was more of a completely GEEKTASTIC debate where we both tossed out some of our favorite stores that hadn’t been on our initial list, with a whole lot of “Oh YEAH! That one is great!” Eventually, we settled on a final table of contents.
Can you tell us a bit about the cover artwork and how it was selected?
LC: The piece is “Dancing in the Rain III” by Adrian Borda. It was the cover art from Apex Magazine Issue 71. We knew that we wanted to use a cover from a past issue of Apex Magazine. Narrowing it down to the issues that I’d selected the covers for made the selection process, and made the process of getting in touch with the artist that much easier since I already had all their contact information.
I narrowed it down to three or four that I really liked and sent them to Jason, but “Dancing in the Rain III” was always my favorite. He agreed it would make a great cover for the anthology. The image is breathtaking! Every time I look at it, I think, “God, it’s so beautiful!” But beyond that, it’s an incredibly rich image. Once you look beyond the dancing figures, you can look down the street and take in the world around them.
It was also pointed out to me after issue 71 came out that the image can actually be viewed in two ways (probably more!). I’ve always looked at it as a spontaneous, romantic movement; a couple so swept up in the music of the rain that they can’t help but dance among the drops. A reviewer mentioned that you could also see it as a menacing image; the violin caught in the tuba’s grasp, the bow raised aggressively. While I can see where the reviewer sees this, it isn’t the vision I want to believe. I want to be swept up in the moment, in the romance. I want to dance in the rain.
JS: I’m partially colorblind and I have zero graphic design skills. Usually, when I tell people this, they’ll nod and say something like “That explains the wardrobe.” The distinctive look of Apex Books and Apex Magazine is owed completely to Lesley Conner and Justin Stewart.
What sort of stories can readers expect to encounter in Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1?
LC: I think that our tagline really does sum it up best: Strange. Beautiful. Shocking. Surreal. When we put together the table of contents for Best of Apex Magazine, our goal was to create an anthology that truly encompassed the vision we have of Apex Magazine. The stories are a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and tend to lean a bit on the darker side. They are emotional, the ones that brought tears to my eyes, or made me laugh. They’re the stories that capture my imagination no matter how many times I read them.
What else is coming up in 2016 for Apex Publications?
LC: We have a very intense publication schedule set for 2016. After Best of Apex Magazine, we have a novella called Glitch Rain by Alex Livingston coming in February. Also on the schedule is a short story collection called First Communions by Geoffrey Girard, novels by Chris Bucholz, Tade Thompson, and Erika L. Satifka, and a novella by E. Catherine Tobler. The Kickstarter for Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli will be launching very soon. At the end of the year, we have a poetry anthology edited by Bianca Lynne Spriggs and Katerina Klemer-Stoykova coming out. Somewhere amidst all of this, we’re working on a project with Justin Stewart. Finally, on the schedule we have Return to the Lost Level with Brian Keene!
On top of this, readers can look forward to new issues of Apex Magazine every month, and Jason and I are both writing novels. We’re nothing if not ambitious! And sleep is WAY overrated.
Send coffee! Lots of coffee!
And to wrap things up, I’d love to hear your top three favorite things—books, movies, television—of 2015!
JS: Book–I’m a big Richard K. Morgan fan and really enjoyed The Dark Defiles (the concluding book of his A Land Fit For Heroes trilogy). There’s also this disturbing novel called The Weight of Chains by Lesley Conner that I quite enjoyed…even if it makes me fear for her girl scout troop.
Movie—It Follows is one of my favorite movies of 2015. While not a perfect horror movie, there are a lot of things it does right, including an opening ten minutes that are amazing.
Television—I thought the final season of Justified was amazing. I’ll ship Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder anytime!
LC: My Girl Scout troop loves me! And I love them! We play with glitter and tons of Mod Podge! 😉
Book – The final book in Mira Grant’s Parasitology trilogy Chimera showed up at my house right before I left for my holiday travels. I’ve loved the first two books (Parasite and Symbiont) and can’t wait to curl up with this final chapter of the story as soon as I can get settled into 2016. Just like her Newsflesh trilogy, Parasitology is a perfect blend of horror, sci-fi, and thriller. It hits all the right buttons for me.
Movie – Seriously, Sizemore, you’re going to bring up It Follows as your favorite movie? Yeah, sure, it’s perfect! Perfect if it’s okay for the climax – what should be the most exciting part of the movie – to be completely lame. Perfect if you like watching characters stare out windows and lay about. I realize I’m in a minority – so many people seem to completely LOVE It Follows – but I am not a fan. Jason and I have discussed this. At length.
For my favorite movie I’m going to say Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2. I got to see them both in the theater in a special showing with my 13-year-old daughter. I was already a fan of the series, and absolutely loved the books, but having my daughter reach an age where she could read and enjoy the books and watch the movies, and then getting to see her excitement at seeing the final book unfold on the big screen … It was special. One of the parenting moments that I will always cherish. And the movies are pretty darn good to boot!
Television – I don’t actually watch a lot of TV, but for you, Tammy, I will reveal a secret pleasure of mine. I kinda love Z Nation. It’s completely ridiculous and super cheesy, but that is exactly why I love it. (Who couldn’t love a show where they release a giant wheel of cheese and it crushes zombies as it rolls down a hill, legs and arms and torsos sticking out at all angles?) It is the perfect ‘I need to relax and forget about everything on the to-do mountain’, pour a glass of wine, grab a giant bowl of popcorn, and binge watch show. I giggle my way through every episode! It is my guilty pleasure.
I also really dig Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel. Makes me want to take a long vacation and drink my way around the world.
OK, Lesley, you’ve obviously given me a challenge, and that’s to check out Z Nation! Thanks for joining me, Lesley and Jason! Check back later in the week, because I’ll have my review of Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 up soon.
I recommend pre-ordering the book TODAY from the Apex website, but you can always find it in these locations as well: