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 http://www.jason-sizemore.com or you can find him on Twitter @apexjason.

FIYAHCON 2020

Last weekend I attended my first literary convention; FIYAHCON, set up by FIYAH Literary Magazine, and held online across three days. It was a bit of a revelation for me, having never attended a con before in my life, and having never heard so many BIPOC authors discussing speculative fiction. When I told one person I know that this con was organised by a magazine that showcases Black SSF writers, her first response was, “What, you’re not the only one?” We are out there, and in great numbers; it’s just that our voices don’t often get heard.

Having this take place online was really important, I felt. On a personal level, as a (attachment parenting) mother of three young kids, and as someone of relatively limited means, this was finally something I could actually attend. But beyond this, the many visa-related obstacles writers outside the US/ UK face, combined with the prohibitive costs of travel, mean cons just aren’t on option for many. FIYAHCON felt really international in a way few cons seem to be. It was so wonderful to listen to a panel held by people in three different continents. If we want the SFF writing community to be truly diverse, we have to have more opportunities for people around the world to be involved in the discourse; people who can travel less easily – whether due to health or finances or red tape – must be able to join.

Highlights for me included panels on empire, and on the challenges of writing to market as a person of colour. There were many panels I couldn’t attend, so I’m really grateful for the archives, which I’ll be spending a lot of time in over the next few weeks. But honestly, all of it was fantastic. For me personally, the insight and feedback I received from panels, workshops, and one-to-one sessions has been really inspiring. Writers, especially unpublished writers, spend so much time in their own heads, it’s easy to forget there’s a whole community of like-minded individuals out there, who are just as keen to talk magic systems and adverb overuse as you are. And they are from all over the world.

Anyway, all I can say is … I’ve found my con home. And I can’t wait for the next one!

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