Lesley Conner is joining us today to talk about Apex Magazine. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Apex Magazine is a monthly digital e-zine of professional-level science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction. The e-zine is edited by Jason Sizemore and is a multiple Hugo Award nominee. Apex Magazine has published many genre luminaries (Theodora Goss, Jeff VanderMeer, Gemma Files, Mary Robinette Kowal, Saladin Ahmed, etc.) as well as bright new talents (Onu-Okpara Chiamaka, Tade Thompson, Iori Kusano, and more). Visit http://www.apex-magazine.com for some fine speculative fiction!
What’s Lesley’s favorite bit?
Jason Sizemore and I have been going back forth about who should write this post. We both wanted to write it, but it was coming down to who had the time and who’s to-do pile was more likely to crush them. Between the Apex Magazine subscription drive, our annual flash fiction contest, getting ready to release Rosewater by Tade Thompson in November and Upside Down edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates in December, and everything else Apex, schedules are tight! Finally Jason said he’d read slush if I wrote it, and with that he knew he had me, because Jason reading the stories that have been pushed up to his desk from the Apex Magazine slush pile is my favorite bit.
I know that sounds weird. Let me explain. When Jason reads slush, he’s reading stories that I’ve already read. Stories that were recommended by our slush readers and that I fell in love with and kept moving up the chain. So while he’s reading, if he comes across a story that he’s not sure about or that he’s questioning the ending or a character’s motivation, he asks me my thoughts on it. Aha! This is the moment that I look forward to most as managing editor of Apex Magazine. I whip my English degree off the wall, prop it on the couch beside me, and Jason and I start pulling the story apart.*
I cannot speak for every English program in every university, but my experience at WVU in the early-2000s was one of dissecting poetry and short stories and novels. I wrote countless papers defending my opinions about author intent, discussing pacing and diction in class, picking sentences apart bit by bit, all while knowing there was no way I could be sure I was correct because I couldn’t ask the author, but I would build a damn good argument for my case. And I loved it. Sadly, in the world we live in, spending half an hour discussing the meaning behind one particular word or phrase in a book is not a skill you often have the need for in day to day life – even when a big portion of your life revolves around editing and writing – so when the chance comes up, I grab it!
There’s something about having an intellectual discussion about fiction: discussing how it makes you feel, whether you find it believable, if the pacing works that I find satisfying on so many levels. And when Jason and I get into these discussions over stories in the slush pile, that feeling of satisfaction is even greater.
Several of my personal favorite Apex Magazine stories are ones that Jason and I have discussed. “Blood on Beacon Hill” by Russell Nichols, “Anabaptist” by Daniel Rosen, “1957” by Stephen Cox, and “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys: The Elephant’s Tale” by Damien Angelica Walters immediately come to mind. “The Love it Bears Fair Maidens” by K.T. Bryski coming out in the December issue is another one we chatted a long while about. And I’m not saying that Jason didn’t like those stories. The opposite in fact. These were stories that he did like, but that there was something about them that he needed to work out with another person before accepting. I feel like Apex Magazine is stronger because there is an open dialogue between us, allowing us both to see stories from other perspectives.
While Jason ultimately makes the final decision of whether or not to publish a particular story, being able to champion for my favorites is amazing. I feel like a gallant knight brandishing my sword and beating back the dreaded rejection letter. Even though I don’t always win the battle against rejection, these discussions leave me feeling invigorated. They are a good reminder of why I love reading and everything about the written word, and they are definitely my favorite bit of Apex Magazine.
*I don’t actually whip my degree off the wall. It isn’t even on a wall. It’s in an envelope in the back of my closet.
Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 marks her debut experience in anthology editing. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.