My Favorite Bit: Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner Talk About Apex Magazine

Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner are joining us today to talk about Apex Magazine, which is running a Kickstarter until Aug 18, 2021.

Here’s a description:

Apex Magazine is an online and digital zine of fantastical fiction. For over ten years, we’ve published works filled with marrow and passion, stories that are strange, shocking, beautiful, and surreal. 

We publish in two forms: an every-other-month ebook edition and a free serialization of the issue’s content over a two month period on our website. Additionally, we will continue to produce a monthly podcast of narrated original short fiction.

Our fiction has won or been nominated for most major industry awards: the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Stoker, Shirley Jackson, World Fantasy, and more.

We’ve published groundbreaking work from a diverse list of writers: Ursula Vernon, Suyi Davies Okungbawa, Tade Thompson, Alix E. Harrow, Sheree Renée Thomas, Rachel Swirsky, Fargo Tbakhi, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Cassandra Khaw, and many, many others.

We’ve published 124 issues (thus far). We’re excited for what the future holds.

JASON SIZEMORE

For anyone who follows my shenanigans online, the story of my health battles since 2018 are well-documented. I had a tumor on my mandible that required a full resection of my jaw. The magazine went on hiatus and its future was in the air while I started the long path of recovery.

I discovered many things about myself during that year: Certain pain medications cause me to hallucinate Alice in Wonderland characters. ICU nurses are God’s angels on Earth. That I have a codependent relationship with the zine publication I ran.

I admit, that last bit sounds weird. But for ten years, I had come to lean on the magazine as a source of joy. A direct line can be drawn between Apex and some of the best friends I’ve ever had: Lesley Conner, Maurice Broaddus, Jerry Gordon, Elaine Blose, and so many others. Because of the zine, I’ve worked in the trenches with incredible people like Catherynne M. Valente, Lynne & Michael Thomas, ZZ Claybourne, and Lavie Tidhar.

My favorite bit of working with Apex Magazine? The writers, artists, and editors.

Many moons ago when Maurice and I first became friends, he said (to paraphrase) “Apex is like a family.” At that moment, I thought it was a silly thing to say. Over the years, I gained a sense of what he was describing. Our fans, our writers, our artists, and the editorial team have a tendency to feel like they’re a part of something awesome. It’s that feeling fueling my codependence. The friendships, the professional relationships, the mutual love of genre short fiction, all these things I associate with Apex Magazine. They’re all a necessary part of my life.

Incredibly, all these wonderful things come with a bonus—the privilege to publish/edit/read amazing work by amazing writers. I’ve been doing the zine thing for 16 years. Here’s to the next 16 years!

LESLEY CONNER

Way back in the early 2000s I discovered what would become my favorite bit about Apex Magazine. This was a handful of years before Jason even started the magazine and a good decade before I became involved with Apex, but back in those days I was taking my first college English courses. I was falling in love with sitting in a room full of readers and diving into deep conversations about what we’d read. Whether it was the short fiction of Angela Carter, Shakespeare’s plays, or countless novels, the classroom discussions were thrilling and engaging in a way that I hadn’t realized reading could be.

Fast forward to 2015. Jason stepped back up into the role of editor-in-chief and I took over as managing editor. We quickly worked out the submissions process that we still use today: the first readers do the initial rounds of cuts, I read everything they recommend, Jason reads the stories I pass up to him. Most of the time Jason and I discuss the stories that make it to his queue. We pull them apart, looking for their strengths and weaknesses. We test how they’ll fit with other stories we’ve already accepted. We ponder whether or not Apex Magazine’s readers will enjoy them. It’s like being back in those college classes. And it’s thrilling!

When we reopened from our hiatus, we set up a Discord server for our slush team. It has been a great way to keep everyone active and for us all to build a deeper comradery. To help our newest readers get a better idea of what sorts of stories we’re looking for, I started telling them which stories I pass up to Jason. This gives them all the opportunity to read what stories make my cut (plus, gives the reader who recommended it a well-deserved thrill). It also opened up another layer of discussion. Suddenly, rather than just discussing stories between the two of us, Jason and I were able to get a wide variety of perspectives and feedback. And believe me, the slush team is not shy about championing a story they are passionate about! There’s been more than one occasion where I was certain they’d rebel if Jason rejected a particularly well-loved submission!

Since then, our Discord has opened up to our Patreon supporters, magazine subscribers, and Kickstarter backers. We have several channels where members can discuss the latest issue of the magazine or their current reads. Conversations about stories and novels fly back and forth. People passionately discuss books that they love, go back and forth about a bit that maybe didn’t work for them, and cheerlead writers who share their successes.

This is my favorite bit of Apex Magazine. Sitting in a virtual room full of other readers, digging into stories to see what makes them tick, sharing our love for the written word. I fell in love with this process in college, but Apex Magazine gives me the opportunity to do this every single day, and that’s the best.

LINKS:

Kickstarter

Ajax Magazine

Patreon

Twitter

BIOS:

The man with the titanium jaw, Jason Sizemore is a three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor, writer, and publisher who operates the genre press Apex Publications. He currently lives in Lexington, KY. For more information visit www.jason-sizemore.com or you can find him on Twitter @apexjason.

Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications, and a Girl Scout leader. 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.

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