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Literary Spotlight: Apex

Writers from around the world find a home – and a paycheck – for their genre fiction at this bi-monthly publication.

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To join the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, a writer needs to sell a work of short fiction for at least $.08 a word – a tall order when so many magazines struggle to pay contributors. Those speculative authors hoping to become SFWA-certified can gain membership with a publication in Apex Magazine, a genre publication focusing on horror, fantasy, and dark spectacular science fiction.

Jason Sizemore is the editor-in-chief; he’s published over 120 issues of the magazine with his team of editors. Apex comes out bi-monthly as an eBook, and editors release each issue online over a two-month period. The publication includes short fiction, author interviews, topical nonfiction essays, and a podcast comprised of narrated short stories.

Tone, editorial content

Sizemore enjoys reading and publishing stories from writers around the world. “They have a different point of view,” he says. “They’re very interesting to me.” He published Palestinian-American performance artist Fargo Tbakhi’s story “Root Rot” (1/5/21), set in a colony on Mars. It begins:

By the time I hear that my brother is looking for me, and has somehow scraped together enough credit to get on a commercial flight to New Tel Aviv, and that he’s also brought his three-year-old daughter on her first interplanet trip, my insides are already rotten. Can’t get to the doctor without citizen papers, but I know. I can feel it.

Sizemore calls the story a great extended metaphor for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – for the colonization of West Bank and how military presence affects the culture and treatment of people. “The main character is an alcoholic who dislikes looking back on the past because he sees what he used to have, and he doesn’t think he’ll ever have it again,” Sizemore says. “It’s one of the most effective pieces of writing I’ve read regarding the Middle East. It resonated with our editors and our writers and people all along the political spectrum.”

Tbakhi narrates his own story on Apex’s podcast, as do a handful of other writers. Other times, producer and host KT Bryski finds voice talent to perform published pieces from the magazine.

Sizemore and his staff are committed to publishing the work of marginalized writers. In October 2021, Apex features an issue titled “Indigenous Futurists,” guest edited by Allison Mills, who is Ililiw/Cree and Canadian. “Our focus is on indigenous writers and artists all over the world,” Sizemore explains. “We’re looking forward to highlighting different voices in our publication.”

Contributors

Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali has a short story titled “She Searches for God in the Storm Within” in issue #122 (4/6/21). That same issue includes a nonfiction piece by ZZ Claybourne titled “Jimi Hendrix Sang It” and Barton Aikman’s story “Black Box of the Terraworms.” Nigerian speculative writers Suyi Davies Okungbowa and Wole Talabi have published in Apex. So has Malaysian horror and science fiction writer Cassandra Khaw.

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Hugo Award-winning Kentucky author Alix E. Harrow has a short story titled “Mr. Death” in issue #121 (2/2/21). It’s a narrative that falls into the category of what Sizemore refers to as “Reaper Fiction.” In this case, the Reaper gets assigned to reap a 6-year-old, and he decides he can’t go through with it. Harrow’s story begins:

I’ve ferried two hundred and twenty-one souls across the river of death, and I can already tell my two-hundred-and-twenty-second is going to be a real shitkicker. I know by the lightness of the manila folder in my hand, the preemptive pity in the courier’s face as she gives it to me. I read the typewritten card paper-clipped to the front with my stomach tensed, braced for the sucker punch.

“It’s just an incredible examination of dealing with personal loss and how loss can affect your current state of mind,” Sizemore says. “It resonated with readers. It’s certainly our most-read story this year.”

Issue #124 on 7/6/21 includes a story by R. Gatwood titled “How to Be Good,” a piece Sizemore describes as “fantastic. It’s the story of a sociopath employed by an unethical government agency as an interrogator. “His work includes non-traditional forms of interrogation,” Sizemore says. “There’s a twist at the end that punches you. It’s really well concealed – a brilliant piece.”

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The same issue includes Kelly Sandoval’s story “What Sisters Take” about “Vanishing Twin Syndrome,” which occurs with a woman has two fetuses, and one ingests the other. “Sandoval has taken this idea to the extreme and added a bit of conspiracy and a little family drama,” Sizemore explains. “One of my favorite things to publish is stories with medical themes, pieces about science gone wrong.”

Advice for potential contributors

Sizemore personally gravitates toward horror writing and stories about the perils of medical technology. The other Apex editors have different preferences. Potential contributors should study back issues of the magazine on the website. “Make sure you’re familiar with the content that we publish in terms of tone, subject matter, and semantics,” he says. “We get 1,200 to 1,500 submissions a month, so be familiar with our publication.”

As well, he says, those interested in being published in Apex should meet and interact with editors online or in person at conferences and other events. “Never underestimate a personal touch and the power of a positive, meaningful interaction,” he says. “If you’re in the slush pile, and I see your work come across my desk, and I’ve had good experiences with you, I read your work with more enthusiasm.”

Apex at a glance

“A bi-monthly science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazine featuring original, mind-bending short fiction from many of the top pros of the field.”

Reading period: See website for deadlines.

Length: Prose to 7,500 words.

Genres: Fiction, nonfiction, interviews.

Submission format: Online, via the publication’s website.

Payment: $.08 word.

Contact: Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore, apex-magazine.com

—Melissa Hart is the author, most recently, of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Sasquatch, 2019). Instagram: @writermelissahart.

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