Short fiction is a form that does not lend itself to easy assessment and review. Unlike a novel, where an author has the space to stretch her wings and unfold a myriad of themes, plot, and situations, a short fiction writer must be more clever. A short fiction writer must wield the tools of writing with greater precision: word choice, tone, symbolism, subversion of these tools, and so on.
It is left to a short fiction reviewer to recognize authorial intent, express and identify the authorial craft of a work of fiction, and to share why a reader should spend time reading a story. Reviewers must also dance around the dangers of spoiling plot since, obviously, there is not as much of it.
It’s a challenge. There are some reviewers that stand head and shoulders above the rest, and I want to direct our readers to them.
Charles Payseur (Quick Sip Reviews) writes entertaining and smart reviews. His pairing of alcoholic drinks with his favorite stories of the month is amusing. If a reviewer can have “heart,” then Charles has it.
Maria Haskins is incredibly well-read and she takes the time to write a list of her favorite stories along with capsule reviews on her blog. She’s a great advocate for short fiction and short fiction publications.
A.C. Wise contributes a monthly review column to the Apex Magazine website titled “Words for Thought” with some of the smartest analysis you’ll find.
Paula Guran regularly reviews work outside her comfort zone and adds much needed life and variety to the short fiction reviews in Locus Magazine.
There are others (though not as many as there should be). If you have a favorite reviewer let me know!
* * *
This month we welcome a quartet of writers making their Apex Magazine debuts. “Welcome to Astuna” by Pip Coen is a fast-paced sci-fi mystery that takes a well-worn trope (You Wake Up in a Room) and makes it fun. Aimee Ogden examines the cruel nature of the muse in “Elena’s Angel.” We have an award-winning story appearing for the first time in English: “Black Hole Heart” by K. A. Teryna. The original Russian version of “Black Hole Heart” (“Чёрная дыра вместо сердца”) won the Golden Roscon award for Best Short Story in 2016. Finally, we bring you the reprint for this issue “Sundown” by fantasy and sci-fi legend Tobias S. Buckell. We are delighted to have all four of these outstanding writers in our pages.
Our nonfiction this month is led by Karen Lord’s “The Ecumenical, the Ersatz, and the Euphemistic: Three Ways to Misunderstand Identity,” along with interviews of author Aimee Ogden and cover artist Irina Kovalova.
Mary Turzillo receives special focus on the heels of the release of her Apex novel Mars Girls. In her essay “Mars Isn’t Easy” she discusses some of the reasons Mars is such an interesting setting for science fiction writers. We also are pleased to present an extended excerpt from Mars Girls that we think you’ll greatly enjoy.
Our podcast fiction this month is “Welcome to Astuna” by Pip Coen. Give it a listen. Mahvesh Murad always does a wonderful job.
Thank you for reading.