Interview With Apex Magazine’s Jason Sizemore

Apex Magazine is one of my favourite places on the internet to read short fiction. They publish everything across the speculative fiction spectrum, including some of the biggest names in the business and some of the most amazing short stories I’ve read.  Apex is currently in the middle of a Kickstarter for funding for their next year of publication, and I would encourage anyone who is in a position to do so to support them hereApex Magazine champions diverse works that, in their own words, are “twisted, strange, and beautiful”, so let’s help them to be able to keep on doing what they do so well. 

I was lucky enough recently to have the opportunity to pick the brain of editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore, so read on for an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at a short fiction zine.  

M H Ayinde: Thanks for answering my questions! First up, how would you say the short fiction market has changed in the years since you started Apex Magazine

Jason Sizemore: For writers, it’s improved. There is a still a dearth of high-paying publications, but writers have so many more resources than they did in 2009. Publication transparency is improved. The concept of “for the love” has been critiqued into oblivion so that most markets now pay a decent token rate. Organizations like SFWA and the HWA have improved and become better watchdogs of the business.

For readers, the quality of short fiction has skyrocketed over the past decade. I credit this to the focus on diversity and own voices. Instead of only reading great fiction from the Anglo-centric English-speaking countries, we’re reading great fiction from all over the world!

MA: I’m really enjoying Snap Judgement, Apex’s new critiquing event, where writers can submit the first 250 words of a work for video critique. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see writers make in their opening lines?

JS: Thank you. We worked our butts off preparing for and executing that first entry, so it’s gratifying to know readers who enjoyed it!

By far, the biggest mistake I see is where readers start their stories at the wrong place. Unfortunately, if I’m reading your submission and nothing happens of interest until the fourth paragraph, it will be rejected. This is why you hear the well-worn advice of never start your story with your character waking up. 99% of the time, it is better to have them up and interacting with the plot than sitting in bed musing about what happened or will happen. 

MA: What is your favourite part of the editing process? And the most challenging?

JS: My favorite part is sending the acceptance letters! Not only does this mean that I’ve found a fantastic story, it means I get to make someone’s day. 

The most challenging is making the tough cuts. It isn’t uncommon for me to have rejector’s remorse. I’ll agonize for several days on a decision sometimes. Ultimately, I have to make the call on which stories will appeal to our readers the most. 

MA: Finally, which three SFF/ comic book characters would you have at your side in your ride-or-die squad? 

JS: Ford Prefect from A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Dude is ready for anything thrown at him.

Roland Deschain from The Gunslinger. As long as he’s sharing stories of his youth.

Any badass heroine from a Cherie Priest novel!

Thanks very much! You can also support Apex on their Patreon here. Find them on Twitter here.

The man with the titanium jaw, Jason Sizemore is a three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor, writer, and publisher who operates the genre press Apex Publications. He currently lives in Lexington, KY. For more information visit or you can find him on Twitter @apexjason.

I heart writing (apparently)

I’ve been clearing out all the junk I had stashed in my parents’ loft. I can’t believe how much of it there is. It’s a great lesson to me not to hoard things: it’s going to take me days to sort through it all, and I am never in my life doing this again. For one thing, I feel absolutely compelled to look through everything I’ve kept. In amongst all the old toys, I found some tickets to the World Trade Center, almost all my old school exercise books, lots of very early stories (I mean, like, really early), and a few cringe-worthy journals I quickly abandoned. It looks like I always loved books, and here’s the evidence:

Don’t ask me why I felt it necessary to write these two sentences down, like normal other kids wrote down the names of boys or girls they had crushes on. Clearing out all this junk has taught me a thing or two about myself. I didn’t realise the extent to which my dreams influenced me, even at a very young age. I’m a lucid dreamer (don’tcha know. Only just learned this phrase, see.) I used to suffer with terrible nightmares when I was young, and false awakenings (which I still get now.) I think there may be a connection between suffering from frequent nightmares and lucid dreaming. When reading up on the issue (*ahem* Wikipedia *ahem*), I learned some therapists try to teach lucid dreaming to those who are troubled by nightmares, as a means of controlling dreams, and I wonder if this is something my brain learned to do as a means of escape. I remember I taught myself to bite down when dreaming: I used to suck my thumb, so I told myself that if I was having a nightmare, all I’d need to do was bite, and I’d wake myself up with pain. It never worked, but I have learned to wake myself up on demand by closing my eyes while dreaming and just willing myself awake. I’m also a very light sleeper, which may also explain why I’m able to control my dreams (which I can almost always do to a lesser or greater degree) and why I remember my dreams almost every morning. I didn’t realise that, even as a child, my dreams inspired me to write. Take a look at this:

Yes, I guess that really is all there is to know about me. I still do dream about being able to fly, read minds, perform magic and so on, and this is, I think, why I love science fiction and fantasy so much. And I guess that’s about all there is to me.Here’s some more of the junk I found in my parents’ loft, most of which I suspect will be interesting only to me…

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Rabid Man on the London Tube

I tell you, I don’t know what London is coming to these days.

This morning on my way to work, I was sitting on the Tube reading The Stand  when this guy sits down on the seat next to me. It’s really crowded, as the Piccadilly line usually is, and there’s a woman with a walking stick who the young man had to push past to get this seat. I remember thinking how rude, and was trying to decide whether to say something when I notice this guy’s hand…

His hand is peeling – I mean, it looks like he’s been savaged by a dog or something. The wound is fresh – the blood I can see in it is really raw, and I can see a kind of sludgy blackness at the edges, like rot. I’m totally transfixed; there’s pus in that wound, but the guy shows no sign of pain – when I try to look at his face, I see he’s got the hood of his jacket pulled well down so I can’t see anything. And then I realise he’s picking at the wound, like tearing at it with his fingers, pulling off little bits of flesh. So I sit there, like a true Brit, pretending I can’t see and reading the same passage of my book over and over, but then I realise he’s eating the flesh. He’s pulling little strands of flesh off his own hand and lifting them into the darkness of his hood. And when he lowers his hand again, it’s empty, except for the scarlet stain of his blood.

I’m so grossed out by this point that I have to lift the book up to my face so I can’t see anything.

Then the guy starts muttering under his breath, chanting, and though I can’t hear what he’s saying, every time he draws in a breath, I can actually hear the suck of his saliva, as though he’s drooling like a rabid dog or something.

Luckily my stop has come, so I get off the Tube quick style and join the throng heading to the escalators.

I’ve just put my foot on the bottom of the escalator when I hear people shouting behind me, so I look round and I see this joker pushing his way through the crowd. At first I think he’s elbowing people out of the way, but then I see he’s grabbing at people with his bloody hands, and they’re having to cringe out of his path.

I’m not going to wait around while he passes on whatever disease he’s got, so I run up the escalator. When I reach the top, I see a group of British Transport Police heading in the other direction, but they’re too bloody slow. I’m just putting my ticket into the barrier when that crazy joker sweeps past me, vaults over the barriers and sprints out into the street.

Behind me, I hear people laughing and I know that, in five minutes, all of this will be forgotten. That’s how London is, right? I see some of the people are talking to station staff, saying the guy tried to bite them, and one woman is upset because some of the man’s drool fell onto her daughter’s face.

So I shrug it off and head in to work, and when I get to the security gate, I see a huddle of people clustered around the guard who normally checks our ID cards. He’s on the floor, and I have to tell you, my stomach turned when I saw he had this massive bloody gash on the side of his cheek. Then i see the hooded joker from the station being held back by two more security guards. They’ve pulled off his hood and now I can see his face…

This guy looks like he hasn’t eaten in about a year; I can actually see his bones sticking through his skin, and his eyes are scarlet globes. Lines of drool are dripping out of each corner of his mouth and there’s a red stain on his chin.

That stain is blood. This joker has been biting people.

The security guard is going into spasms on the floor. I’m not going to stick around and gawk like it’s a TV show, so I head on into work.

That’s enough drama for me for one day. Hopefully things will get back to normal now.

Back Online!

After a bit of a break from blogging, I’ve decided to archive my old blog and start up this new site. I’ve had a restless few weeks, and I’ve been meaning to redesign the site for a while now, so here it is.

I’m glad to be back, particularly since Blog Like It’s The End Of The World is taking place again in a matter of weeks.  I took part last year and found it hugely enjoyable… and not just because I love zombies. It was great to be connected to so many people around the world, all participating in creating a piece of fiction (although I really DID turn into a zombie, OK, but they happened to find a cure just in time to save the last shred of my sanity.)

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