Apex Magazine Interview: Sigrid Ellis and Jason Sizemore

Tags: , , , ,

37322-coverWeightless Books interviews Apex Magazine’s publisher Jason Sizemore and new editor-in-chief Sigrid Ellis.

1. How do you know when you have the right balance of science fiction, fantasy and horror for an issue of Apex Magazine?

Sigrid Ellis: Hah! Well, I’m new at this. The proof is yet to come. As your readers are probably aware, I am taking over Apex Magazine from Lynne Thomas and Michael Thomas. Whether or not I know the right balance remains to be seen!

At the moment my managing editor, Cameron Salisbury, and I have selected and organized fiction for our first four issues of Apex. Our conversations have focused on questions of tone, length, and how the works relate to each other. Is one lighter than the other? Too light? Are they thematically linked? Too linked? Do they have things to say to each other? What about point of view? First person, third? Tight narration or omniscient? Is one more descriptive than the other? Does that work?

I could go on.

Whether a piece is science fiction, fantasy, or horror has not so far been my chief concern. That may change, of course, in the future! I look forward to the feedback from our first issues, and what that may teach us.

2. What’s changed in short fiction since Apex Magazine started in 2005, and how have you responded to it?

Sigrid Ellis: It is my observation that genre short fiction has been served notice, a notice declaring that diversity is no longer sufficient. What we as readers, fans, and decent human beings call for now is representation. Cat Valente, Lynne Thomas, and Michael Thomas made Apex Magazine a force for representation. I hope to continue that work.

Jason Sizemore: We joined the fracas right as the tide of electronic books hit the genre. It has been an interesting ride!

The most obvious change is the general presentation and distribution of the work. Podcasts, eBook issues, and online content have all expanded while the print industry has shrunk.

In terms of aesthetics, I think the biggest shift in short fiction is toward darker and bleaker work. We’ve always published dark work (the original name of Apex Magazine is Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest, after all), but over the years we’ve grown more experimental in what is published.

3. Name a recent favorite Apex Magazine story and one from more than a year ago.

Sigrid Ellis: My favorite recent story is Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” from issue 46.

Looking further back, Genevieve Valentine’s “Armless Maidens of the American West” in issue 39 is a favorite.

What stands out for me in both of these stories is how adroitly the authors pull off an exceptionally difficult task, that of writing in the second person. Second person narrative is not to be toyed with lightly!

However, let me note, very clearly, that what I find impressive is the use to which they each put that narration. Both of these stories are intensely emotional. They are grounded in character and detail. They each raise somewhat painful questions, about wildly different topics. Valentine’s piece looks at complicity in exploitation, and the right or ability of a person to own and alter that complicity. It’s a story about the tangle of autonomy. Swirsky’s story is a parable of the pain of love. It’s a fable describing the joy and rage and helpless fearful grief that are all, inextricably, part of loving another human being. And it is a revenge fantasy against the damage caused by blind injustice.

Jason Sizemore: A recent favorite would be “The Performance Artist” by Lettie Prell (issue 44). Lettie’s story might be the best deconstruction of society’s fascination with reality television and self-spectacle that I’ve encountered. And the end of the story is a gut punch.

A favorite from the archives would be “The Green Book” by Amal El-Mohtar (issue 18). This was our first Nebula nominated work. Amal did an incredible job creating a short story that is a bit House of Leaves and a bit Twilight Zone.

4. Your author interviews are packed with information. Have you ever been surprised by something uncovered in one of them?

Sigrid Ellis: All author interviews are a bit of a surprise! While I know the work of many of Apex’s authors, I don’t particularly know them personally. I find myself clicking on the interviews with excitement, looking forward to meeting the human being behind the story just as much as our readers.

5. Apex Magazine started podcasting recently. Is that because you decided to stop sleeping and needed something more to do?

Sigrid Ellis: Hah, well, I already don’t sleep. But, no, podcasting is simply a part of the new models of fiction consumption. Readers – myself included! – are becoming accustomed to having fiction available across platforms and media formats. I can buy a novel from Amazon, start to read it on my laptop, go listen to the audio version in my car while I drive home, then pick up my tablet and continue reading after dinner. The more formats we provide, the more people will find the format that works for them. And that leads to more people enjoying the work.

Jason Sizemore: There’s an old school PSA commercial where one kid pressures another kid to do drugs…the bad kid says something like “Come on, everybody’s doing it.” It was kind of like that situation. All the top short fiction zines had a podcast, so Apex Magazine needed one!

Of course, I love the podcast format and am happy that we’ve ventured into it. In 2014, I hope to expand our podcast to include all our original fiction ran per issue.

6. Are you on any upcoming science fiction and fantasy or horror convention panels?

Sigrid Ellis: My next convention is Wiscon, in Madison, Wisconsin, over Memorial Day weekend. I pretty much always end up on a handful of panels at that convention and I expect this year will be no different. Look for me there! I’ll probably have things to say about Apex Magazine and about my other editorial project this winter, the comic series Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios.

Jason Sizemore: I’ll be doing Confusion in Detroit (Jan 17-19). Then I’m at Millennicon in Cincinnati (Mar 14-16).

7. What are you reading now besides submissions for Apex Magazine?

Sigrid Ellis: The Great Mortality, by John Kelly. It’s a history of the Black Death. Also I am perpetually re-reading my way through the Phryne Fisher mystery series, by Kerry Greenwood. I’m on my, hrm, my fourth re-read of all nineteen books.

Jason Sizemore: Sitting on my nightstand is Skinner by Charlie Huston. The audiobook in my car is Shift by Hugh Howey.

Apex Magazine is an online prose and poetry magazine of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mash-ups of all three. Apex Magazine, which is available for DRM-free purchase from Weightless Books, received a Best Semiprozine Hugo nomination in 2012. A new issue of Apex Magazine is available the first Tuesday of every month.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is in use.
Please feel free to use this form to contact us directly, and we'll reply by email. Thank you!

 | Subscribe to comments via RSS