Zombie-lovers and Life-sucking Lampreys in Apex Magazine Issue 48

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The stories in Issue 48 of Apex Magazine don’t always look like horror when they begin. They might even start on the bright side of a field on the outskirts of Topeka, Kansas. But somewhere in the middle of the story, chances are the heroine is going to be at least metaphorically hanging over a gaping chasm in the earth with a ghost nibbling at her toes and a maddened ostrich-tamer threatening to flay her fingers from above.

“Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy” by Douglas F. Warrick was my favorite new story in Apex Magazine this month. The narrator, Cotton, is dying. He isn’t too happy about his impending demise. “Every organism on earth had this crazy seizure of energy and emotion for a short period, had the chance to change everything, and then fizzled out and died.” He’s also worried about how his diminished faculties leave him unable to communicate with anyone but Professor Eisley, the only other person who can see the lampreys closing in on Cotton. “He could see the shiny wet head of one of the shadowy things, the lamprey-children, the sucker-babies, just cresting over the metal guardrail of the bed.” This is a disturbing little story.

Apex Magazine also offers a Joe R. Lansdale double-feature—a classic story and an interview. Lansdale’s “Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back” tells of a man who feels guilty about his role in a nuclear holocaust. The first worst part of the tale is that the narrator’s wife is helping him pay for his sins. “Never once did I complain. She’d send the needles home as hard and deep as she could, and though I might moan or cry out, I never asked her to stop.” I wanted to stop reading this story just the way I want to stop reading every great horror story I encounter, but instead, I just hoped whatever image the story left me with was one I wouldn’t see in the bathroom mirror in the middle of the night. The thing with the needles is creepy and weird. Then the second worst thing happened in the story. Hint: it begins with a “z” and rhymes with “nombies.”

Maggie Slater interviews Lansdale about “Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back” and about writing in general in Issue 48. Lansdale is an eight-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. His writing is a gift to the reader. His Apex interview is a gift to the writer. If you like to write, read this interview for advice that comes from long experience.

Nominated for a Hugo this year for Best Semiprozine, Apex Magazine is published on the first Tuesday of every month. DRM-free subscriptions (including Issue 48 with stories by Lansdale and Warrick) or individual issues can be purchased on Weightless Books.

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