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Words for Thought (Short Fiction Review)
Welcome to Issue 133!
September is probably my favorite month. It brings with it a return to normalcy after a chaotic summer. My work schedule becomes more stable, the kids are back in school, Girl Scout meetings pick back up, and after months of trips and visiting family, Oz and I once again have hours alone at home. Summer is fun, but by September I am craving routine and productivity. It also happens to be my birthday month, so that’s bonus fun points for September!
This issue, Apex Magazine brings you a series of bizarre and melancholy stories. I didn’t set out to build an issue that would leave you mumbling “WTF” as you cry into sodden tissues, but sometimes a tone pulls together that is just too good and you have to run with it. Grab a box of Kleenex and strap in for an emotional ride. It may be a bit intense at times, but trust me, it is so worth it.
We start the issue with “On the Sunlit Side of Venus” by Benjamin Parzybok. In this story, we meet Leesh, a scientist stationed on a space station on the sunlit side of Venus. Earth has gone quiet and there is no way for Leesh to know what happened. No way for her to ever go home. Overall, she’s alright. She has crops growing, plenty of food stores, oxygen, and water, and the ship’s AI to talk to, but she is utterly alone. This story explores loneliness and the need for human connection in a way that is beautiful and heartbreaking.
Sergey Gerasimov is a Ukrainian author currently living through the war with Russia and it’s easy to see how that experience has influenced his writing. His story, “The Day When the Last War Is Over,” is a surreal tale about a world where war has led to the destruction of all living things and one skeletal girl is hoping to make one last connection.
Paul Jessup returns to Apex Magazine with his generation ship story, “The Skinless Man Counts to Five.” This story chronicles bizarre occurrences where bodies are turning up mutilated and speaking a number repeatedly. The first corpse found is saying “Five” and as more bodies turn up they count down. Why are they counting down, and to what? That’s what the cops are desperate to find out.
If you follow Apex Magazine on Twitter, then you have surely seen us retweet Leah Ning. With each new issue, Leah live-tweets her reading of Apex and it has quickly become a highlight for the magazine staff. Leah gets what makes an Apex story and she seems to delight in the strange and dark stories we publish. Well, this month, Leah is IN Apex Magazine. “Nothing That Bleeds” is a fantastic second POV story that deftly swirls time loops, heartbreak, and those feelings of responsibility and guilt when someone you care about is hurting. Definitely an Apex story!
I think as we get older we all fear there will come a time when the people closest to us—our children, friends, physicians—will begin to question whether or not we can care for ourselves. They worry that the strong person they’ve known for years is no longer capable of making decisions about their own welfare and we worry that they are going to take away our freedom to live as we please. “Kings and Popes and Saints,” by Jon Hansen, does a wonderful job depicting this fear. Patricia knows that her daughter and son-in-law do not feel she is capable of taking care of herself, that they won’t believe her if she tells them there is something malicious in her backyard, but she knows that there is. Luckily, her friends, the popes and kings and saints, have her back. This is a delightful story about ageism and conspiracies with a questionable narrator that will leave you racing back to the beginning when you finish so you can try to untangle what is real and what is not.
To round out the original fiction in issue 133, we have “Ten Steps for Effective Mold Removal,” by Derrick Boden. Told through a series of product reviews, this story tells the tale of a mold epidemic, lockdown, and one woman who is slowly questioning her reality. It feels very foreign and strange, but also all too familiar. This is a very unsettling, heartbreaking read.
The mood of intensely sad and surreal stories continues with this month’s classic fiction. We have two wonderful pieces: “Brief Life Story of Lila” by Danny Cherry Jr. and “Something New for the Silent” by Zig Zag Claybourne. Both pieces perfectly compliment our original fiction and I am so happy to be able to share them with you.
Our articles are by Brandon Crilly and Martha Wells. Associate editor Marissa van Uden interviewed Sergey Gerasimov and Derrick Boden about their stories, and Bradley Powers spoke with artists Alyssa Winans, Angelica Alzona, and Pamela Zhang about collaborating on our cover art.
Finally, to help us kick off the spooky season right, we have the Holiday Horror winners from last year. Enjoy these bite-size stories from Carlie St. George, Anna Madden, and Chris Clemens. I hope they help to get you in the mood for Halloween!
As I’m writing this, the Apex Magazine 2023 Kickstarter has a week left to go, so I don’t know how it turns out, but I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who supported the campaign. I know that you have heard Jason and me say it before, but we couldn’t make Apex happen without the support of our readers. You pay the authors, artists, and editors who work on each and every issue. For this, we are eternally grateful. Thank you.
As I close and allow you to go and read this short collection of sad, bizarre stories, sing it with me: “It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to.”