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Apex Magazine at 100: An Introspective

September 7, 2017

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Jason Sizemore is the owner and editor-in-chief of Apex Magazine and the Apex Book Company. You can follow him online via his Twitter feed @apexjason.

You know when television shows do one of those “clip shows”? Lost would do one before every season to catch viewers up on the labyrinth plot. Seinfeld did one because it was easy to produce and he and Larry David could use the week to count all their money.

This feature is going to be a little like that, except there’s no counting of money.

What we can count are the incredible number of issues of Apex Magazine we’ve published: 100. That’s 8 years, 4 months of new fiction published the first Tuesday of each and every month.

While I’m throwing about numbers, I thought it might be interesting to dig around the zine’s history box and share other fun facts.

  • Number of editor-in-chiefs: 4. Me (issues 1-14), Catherynne M. Valente (issues 15-29), Lynne Marie Thomas (issues 30-55), Sigrid Ellis (issues 56-67), then me again (68-100).
  • Number of short stories published: 381
  • Number of stories submitted to Apex Magazine in July 2017: 751
  • Most popular original stories based on online views: “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky, “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon, and “The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon.
  • Most popular reprinted stories: “Nemesis” by Laird Barron, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest: Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster, and “each thing i show you is a piece of my death” by Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer.
  • Ursula Vernon has 4 of our 6 most popular original stories. Rachel Swirsky has the other 2.
  • Most popular nonfiction: “Writing About Rape” by Jim Hines.
  • Most popular poem: “Turning the Leaves” by Amal El-Mohtar.
  • Most popular interview: “Interview with Rich Larson” by Andrea Johnson
  • Most prolific Apex Magazine fiction author: Three authors have 7 stories each in Apex Magazine: Rich Larson, Lavie Tidhar, and Mary Robinette Kowal.

Thank you to our readers, editors, volunteers, writers, artists, podcast producers, and narrators that have been a part of those 100. While I rule over the industrial machine known as Apex, nothing happens without those awesome people. I wanted to give some of them a chance to have their say about Apex Magazine. I urged levity and light taunting, but most people responded in sweet, complimentary remembrances that nearly made this editor’s black unfeeling heart swell in appreciation.

CRIS JURADO – International Fiction Editor

The Apex—the only scientifically verified shift-changing animal in the world—lives in the cold caves of Leuze, just outside the small commune of Roeux in the northern part of France. Very little is known of this species, aside from its ever-changing footprints and its central leader, called the Sizemore, notorious for assembling the members of the group (actual numbers are difficult to validate for obvious reasons) with a mix of cries, occasionally overheard by hikers and speleologists, even though it is extremely difficult to prove the authenticity of those phenomena. Few sights have been confirmed, although no direct contact has ever been made between an Apex and a human. In case of an encounter, extreme precaution is advised, because the Apex can adopt any animal form in a split second, so one can be facing a grey bear or a giant anaconda without warning, and it is believed –from ancient tales and legends—that they are voracious and fearless, especially if you are holding a book.

BETSY PHILLIPS—Author of “Frank” (issue 28) and “The Four Gardens of Fate” (issue 81)

Apex Magazine was my first professional sale and it meant the world to me. It still does. When my story, “Frank,” was accepted, it felt like I had crossed a personal Rubicon. I couldn’t halfheartedly fart around saying “I want to write stories.” I had to accept that I was whole-heartedly farting around writing stories. I was doing the thing I had dreamed of doing since I was a little kid—being a fiction writer. It still blows my mind. Because of Apex Magazine, now, at the least, I am a minor, inconsequential writer! Whew, I made it!

Every month I look at the Apex Magazine table of contents, and I see people who are just so fucking talented, and I read their stories and they’re all so damn amazing. And at least a couple of times, you guys thought I was good enough to be among these writers. It’s something I’m really proud of.

Also, I really admire the fact that you’re just a regular dude running a magazine. When you screw up, you admit it. When you see that something needs to be done, you either do it or find a way for Apex to support and showcase the people who are doing it. When things don’t work—even things as awesome as the interviews!—you try something different. In a business full of people who are so sure they know the right thing to do, I like your openness to trying new things, in different ways.

So, 100 issues. Here’s to 100 more and 100 more after that. May we all grow old reading Apex Magazine.

DAMIEN ANGELICA WALTER—Author of 5 Apex Magazine stories and the collections SING ME YOUR SCARS and CRY YOUR WAY HOME.

There’s something undefinable, something magical, about an Apex Magazine story. Just as there’s something magical about the magazine. One-hundred issues is a lot of stories, a lot of magic, and I hope to read at least 100 more.

JANE MORTKOWITZ—Associate Editor

Apex Magazine is an incredible experience from both the prospective of a member of the production team and as a consumer. Our staff works hard to find authors and stories with unique and diverse voices and share those works with the world.

RUSS DICKERSON—Contributing Editor

Way back in 2005, when Apex Magazine was in the early print stages, I created art for a Bryan Smith story for the magazine. At around the same time was the first of several “pauses” in my art career, thanks to a family emergency. Having the opportunity to work for an already respected publication was wonderful, and that print issue remains one of my favorites.

Fast forward to January 2010, which began my time as a blogger for Apex Book Company. I would imagine that my monthly blogs corresponded with a massive drop in traffic for the Apex site, apologies to the esteemed Mr. Sizemore. But for me, it was an opportunity to flex my writing muscles consistently, and to relearn the writing techniques I had put away for a number of years. I even had enough articles to create an eBook out of the entries, so popular that I almost had to count my sales on two hands.

For me, blogging for Apex filled a massive hole in my life, at a time when I needed something to hold on to. The nonprofit I worked for almost collapsed under mismanagement, resulting in my layoff from the organization. The recession was on, and I couldn’t sell any art or get any commissions. I ended up disastrously unemployed for over sixteen months, only finding a part time job 50 miles from home at the end of that era. Life was rough, and in almost every way I saw only disaster.

The light in the darkness was having the chance to write monthly for Apex. It was a constant reminder that there existed a thread of hope somewhere in the dark. It was an outlet for creativity that simply no longer existed, at a time when I felt everything was against me. Secretly though, as much as I enjoyed the blogging, I had always hoped to write directly for the magazine.

As the Apex Book Company site changed, so did the opportunity to write for the blog. I was sad to see it go, but I was also in a better position in life. A few months later, the esteemed Mr. Sizemore approached me to write for Apex Magazine, to interview each month’s cover artist. Since I had been an illustrator for many years, including many genre pieces, he thought that I would bring a unique style of questions to the interviews.

Whether or not my interviews are horrifyingly bad or not (Lesley and Jason DO say they are pretty decent), I have been writing them now for nearly three years. The experience has been wonderful, and I not only get exposure to great new art and artists each month, I get to explore my interviewing techniques and writing skills. I even added the interviews to my resume and my writing samples. Later this week, I have a second interview for a writing position with a major university, and I would like to think that my interview experiences with Apex Magazine had a lot to do with that.

So, happy 100th anniversary to the fine people at Apex. You all deserve accolades for an outstanding publication, and I raise a glass to this and the next 100 issues.

KAT ROCHA, esteemed longtime Apex Magazine reader

Besides being an amazing publication, what drew me to Apex Magazine was meeting the staff first hand at World Horror Con. The people behind the publication were so fun and friendly. We had tables next to each other and chatting with them helped make some of the slower points of the show fly by. Because they were such good people I knew I had to give the magazine a try, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

RICH LARSON, author of 7 Apex Magazine stories

Since I started writing, I’ve had the pleasure of appearing in Apex Magazine with seven different stories, many of which I suspect were too strange (biological armory ménage à trois) or too somber (time travel leading to endless suicide) for most other magazines. Apex has a special place in my heart not only for its weird, often dark, always unique fiction, but also for treating its writers like people, not story generators—Jason and Lesley are two of the most personable editors I’ve ever worked with. Here’s to the next hundred issues.

URSULA VERNON, winner of the Nebula Award for “Jackalope Wives,” winner of the Hugo Award for “The Tomato Thief”

Apex Magazine was the first place I ever had a short story published, by virtue of then-editor Sigrid Ellis saying, “Write me a story.” Prior to that, it had not really occurred to me that people would want to give me money for what amounted to a weird little fictional blog post. It seemed like an interesting idea, so I wrote one called “Jackalope Wives” in a sort of daze while sitting at a tattoo parlor and sent it in a few days later with a note saying, “Here is a thing and it is probably not a thing you want and if you don’t want it, I will write you a different thing, but if you want it, it’s yours.”

(I have been informed that this is not the proper format for a cover letter. Now I try to include the word count of the thing.)

Anyway, it all seems to have worked out pretty well. I will never not be grateful to Sigrid for asking for the story, to Jason Sizemore for asking for even more stories, and to the Apex readers for reading them!

HANNAH RUTH KRIEGER, associate editor

I am so excited that Apex Magazine has reached its 100th issue! I’m continually impressed by the unique, mesmerizing, and strong quality stories that the magazine faithfully publishes. I am so proud to be a small part of this magnificent publication, and I can’t wait to see what other stories are out there waiting to be published by Apex. Jason has been an incredible mentor to me. His genius and savvy when it comes to finding and editing stories, running the company, and always having something witty or sarcastic to say is truly outstanding. Here’s to another 100 issues!

DERRICK LAFAYETTE, esteemed longtime Apex Magazine reader

I had only been writing short stories for about three months when I came across Apex Magazine. Something told me to submit, just go for it. The allure of the cover art wouldn’t let me leave the website. To my surprise, Lesley Conner replied about my short “The Monster,” saying some staff members thought it deserved a closer look. My head nearly blew off my shoulders, and I read through about three of their magazines that week. Of course, as fate would have it, my short “The Monster” didn’t make it through, but I held no grudges and continued being a fan. “Luminaria” by John Honor Jacobs, “Cut, Cut, Cut” by Walter Mosley, and “Welcome to Astuna” by Pip Coen are my current favorites. I always knew I’d be in Apex, I just didn’t know how.

GILL AINSWORTH, former senior editor

Wow! One hundred issues! Well done to all concerned!

I’m thrilled that Apex has flown so high, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. And I’m truly proud that the zine has reached such a total number of issues, and with loads more to come! Right from the beginning, when Jason rejected my story but offered me a position with his yet-to-be-published magazine, I knew Apex would be fantastic. Whether that was because he recognised an ill-fitting story when he saw one, or whether his supernatural powers were able to detect a dedicated reader, who knows? (Note to self: I must ask him.) But, for whatever reason, Mr Sizemore has the ability to see talent. Apex’s Brilliant stories, many of which were written by, what were then, aspiring authors but are now established writers with awards to their names. Other stories were penned by renowned writers, who brought a rounded perspective to both print and on-line publishing that’s hard to beat. Just ask the readers; they’ll tell you.

Not only that but I also have to thank Apex for teaching me so much about writing, editing and even erm… some words that I wasn’t taught at my English convent boarding school. And I like to think that I managed to pass on a few Britishisms to the Apex crew as in the true meaning of “a snifter” and what exactly “keep your pecker up” refers to. Clue: it isn’t rude.

So well done to Apex and to Jason, well done to all the team, past and present, and Happy Birthday to the Zine!

STEPHEN WILLIAMS, esteemed longtime Apex Magazine reader

Oh man! Discovering Apex Magazine has been a life changing experience for me. When I first signed up for Jason Sizemore’s writing class, I had no idea the world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror that would open up, but I am so glad I did. Looking for recommendations for genre fiction, I would almost always turn to Apex for some of the best writers and their finest work. I’ve read about 30 issues of Apex and have decided to go back to the beginning and read them all since I snagged all the copies during the awesome deals they have during one of their drives, it’s one of my life goals alongside reading all the books they publish. Featured in each issue are excerpts from the novels they publish on the Apex Book Company side and I usually pick up copies of these and am never disappointed. Alongside great stories, there are always insightful interviews, reviews, and enlightening nonfiction articles that teach me something new. On top of all the great fiction and nonfiction, they have excellent genre poetry, something not always easy to find. The stories in each issue are humorous and horrifying, beautiful and disturbing. They touch on deep themes of time, life, family and deliver surprising twists that change the way I see the world and the power of fiction.

Some of my favorite stories are “Cuckoo Girls” by Douglas Warrick, “Mountain” by Li Cixin, “The Drowned Celestial” by Lavie Tidhar, “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon, “Pimp My Airship” by Maurice Broaddus, “Advertising at the End of the World” by Keffy R.M. Kehrli, and “The Beast at the End of Time” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

MAGGIE SLATER, former associate editor and slush reader

I started at Apex Magazine as a slushmonkey way back in 2008, and under the guidance of people like editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore, editors Catherynne M. Valente and Lynn M. Thomas, I learned so much about how fiction and publishing works. It’s the number one thing I recommend to new writers: if you get the chance, slush for a publication you love. It’s like being handed a key that unlocks ninety percent of the question, “How do I break through the slush pile?” The other ten percent is trying to apply the lessons you pick up.

Apex Magazine was still starting out back then, and I held a lot of other positions during my time there, but it’s been an absolute pleasure watching it blossom into the fantastic ‘zine it is today. Everybody’s put so much heart and fire into its creation, and it shows. Onward to the next one hundred!

LESLEY CONNER, managing editor and true Boss of Apex

It’s been more than 5 years since I first came on as an associate editor at Apex—nearly 3 years since I stepped into the role of managing editor—and as I sit here very early in the morning, drinking coffee and trying to put into words what being part of Apex means to me, I have to admit I’m kinda at a loss.

There’s a part of me that wants to throw out a snarky “Dammit, Sizemore, I don’t have time for this! I have a magazine to put together! One of us has to do it!” and be done with it. That would be easy and very typical of the teasing Twitter followers have come to expect from Jason and me. But that wouldn’t genuine and it would downplay just how important Apex—and for that matter, Jason—are to my life.

For most people Apex is a once a month thing. They get the new issue and spend a few hours enjoying great stories then put it aside until the next month and the new issue. For me, Apex is my every day. From answering reader questions, working with writers, putting together new issues, and scheming (so much scheming!) with Jason, Apex has become a huge part not only of my life, but of who I am. I’ve been able to stretch and grow as an editor, take charge as Apex’s art director, and champion writers who work I feel is valid and deserves a place in the world. I can’t imagine who I would be without Apex and honestly, I don’t want to.

Apex is my home. Jason, the other editors, and all the writers have become my family, and I’m in this for the long haul. Here’s to the next 100 issues.

LAVIE TIDHAR, author of 7 Apex Magazine stories, including the first story every acquired by editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore

Back when the world was young and I had hair, I came across a listing for a new magazine called Apex Digest and I sent them a story. It was a pretty weird story. The editor was a guy called Jason Sizemore and he bought my story. Much later, I found out it was the first one he’d ever bought.

Apex has gone through a lot of changes since that day long ago. The print digest became a professional online magazine, one of the rare few at the very top. Apex began publishing books. My hair is short now. Jason is still a ginger.

It’s been an honour and a privilege to be associated with Apex since the very start. I don’t think either of us thought we’d ever get this far… over the years I published stories in the magazine (under several different editors); Jason published my first weird little collection, HebrewPunk, and let me edit the first Apex Book of World SF back in 2009, which became a series. He is a stubborn man, and Apex is a stubborn sort of magazine. Sometimes I like to think of Jason as the Boyd to my Raylan.

He still rejects my stories, damn it.

It’s a great magazine. I don’t know where I’d be without Apex—happier, probably, and with more hair. But it’s been worth it—at least, I think it was. Who else would let me write stories like “Agent of V.A.L.I.S” or the continuing adventures of Adolf Hitler: Private Eye? Who else would let me edit a whole series of anthologies dedicated to international speculative fiction? For that matter—why? Why did you let me do it, Jason!

It feels incredible that Apex has hit the big 100—100 issues filled with weird, dark, award-winning stories, and hey—I even got to guest-edit one of those! No, really, it was issue 5 (I think it was a pretty good one, too).

So, congratulations, Apex, and everyone involved in the mammoth task of getting here. Let’s meet again in issue #200—or #1000!

And as for Jason, I suppose, in the end, there is not much to say but this: We dug coal together.

© Jason Sizemore