There’s something unusual in the air these past few weeks. Certainly, spring is on the horizon for those of us in the northern hemisphere, but it’s more than that. The human collective has started to express a smidge of hope and optimism.
Finally someone let me out of my cageGorillaz, from the song “Clint Eastwood”
Like the ebullient Del the Funky Homosapien rapping about his escape in “Clint Eastwood,” people are excited to regain freedom. We’re not clear of the pandemic yet, but the metaphorical locked door has been opened and a sliver of daylight is streaming across our pale, tired faces.
I shared a conversation over the phone with one of my editors, Maurice Broaddus, a few days ago. He and I made tentative plans to hang out in the next six weeks. We’ll both be fully vaccinated. We’ve both been locked down with our families since last March. We’re both ready to resume some degree of normalcy.
Toward the end of our frantic planning, we shared a moment of awkwardness as the weight of what we were doing hit us. It felt foreign, a little dangerous, and incredibly cathartic.
There are many problems in the world right now, but for a brief moment, I enjoyed the realization that we might finally be gaining the upper hand on at least one of them.
I often consider what we receive through our slush (and ultimately publish) as a reliable snapshot of how the writing world currently feels. In this issue of Apex Magazine, our original fiction unsurprisingly deals with themes of confinement in various forms.
“This Is the Moment, Or One of Them” by Mari Ness finds its protagonist making a series of life decisions, but will her path always take her to the same place? Life presents itself as a long line of choices, but many of them were made long ago by powers beyond our control.
“DEMON FIGHTER SUCKS” is a startling piece of modern fiction about a young woman who livestreams a summoning. This story was selected for publication prior to our hiatus in 2019. When Katherine Crighton resubmitted it after we relaunched, I happily accepted it again. It’s more germane to the challenges it addresses than when it was accepted in 2018.
Another story that we had accepted prior to the hiatus that worked its way through the slush a second time and back to my desk is “Mishpokhe and Ash” by Sydney Rossman-Reich. (As an aside, I’m quite pleased that “DEMON FIGHTER SUCKS” and “Mishpokhe and Ash” landed in my queue again. It shows our slush team is doing a fantastic job!) Here we have a young protagonist and her family struggling to survive while trapped in Hungary as the Nazis lock them out of society. It’s a frustrating and heartbreaking read.
“Throw Rug” by Aurelius Raines II reads like a superhero origin myth interposed with the entrapments of systemic racism. It’s an epic story that concludes in an unexpected manner.
If you know a little bit about my background (raised dirt poor, the son of an unemployed coal miner in southeastern Kentucky), then you’ll not be surprised by how much “All This Darkness” impacted me as a reader. The nameless “them” protagonists are bound to the land, the mountain, by the promise of riches and ruthless coal barons. From this reader who, like the children in the story, thought the coal mines were my future as a youth, Jennifer R. Donohue nails the perspective incisively.
Rounding out our original fiction is a fascinating character study by A.K. Hudson titled “The Life & Death of Mia Fremont: An Interview with a Killer.” This is one of those stories that rewards multiple reads. Hudson doesn’t provide explicit answers, but the bread crumbs are there for attentive readers to make their own conclusions.
Our classic reprints this month are “Uniform” by Errick Nunnally and “Doll Seed” by Michele Tracy Berger.
Alex Bledsoe takes a deep dive into the Arthurian myth and its representation in modern fantasy, including his own work. In her essay, Nicole Kornher-Stace resists the overwhelming urge that producers and editors place on creators to wedge romantic relationships where they aren’t wanted or required.
Wrapping up the issue are our bi-monthly features, including author interview with A.K. Hudson and Jennifer R. Donohue by Andrea Johnson, our cover artist interview with Denis Zhbankov by Russ Dickerson, and A.C. Wise’s latest Words for Thought: Short Fiction Review.
As always, I wish you fun reading, good health, and a generous amount of springtime happiness!