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Jason Sizemore

Writer/Editor - "Apex Digest"
Interview by: 
Head Cheeze

 Hey, Jason! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Why don't you tell the Horrorviewers a little bit about Apex Digest?

With Apex Digest, I wanted to merge two stereotypical groups of fanboys together.  If you wear heavy metal black t-shirts, maintain a scraggly beard, and have seen "I Spit On Your Grave", then Apex might interest you.  If you wear tacky golf shirts, like to discuss the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and you have a shrine to "Alien", then Apex might interest you. 

"Salo" fans, we don't want.  You damn sickos.

Outside of those stereotypes, Apex places high literary value on 'dark sci-fi'.  "Alien" is the perfect example of sci-horror.  "The Thing", both versions (though I heart Carpenter's version).  Now imagine these fantastic movies being novelized by Faulkner or Hemingway.  That's the type of literature we print.

Hey, I like Salo!! What made you sit down one day and decide “Hey, I'm going to start a magazine, damnit!”

Because all the crap 'webzines' infiltrating our world wide web.  Too many times did I read that they couldn't afford to pay their hard working writers, but by-God, they gave you exposure.  Then they would throw your story on their website with little or no editing.

At the same time, I'm reading all about the death of the small press.  I started doing some numbers on a yellow pad.  And I thought "Wow, I can do this.  I'll show those rat bastards that short fiction still has a place in the world!"

Of course, the naysayers chanted "You'll never get away with it!"  And even though I'm terrible at math, Apex is going strong.

Math sucks. Me like English. In addition to being the editor of Apex, you're also a writer. I can imagine you've had your share of rejection over the years, so does the writer in you make it hard to reject another writer's work?

It never gets easy.  For a 2,000 word story, it might take me 20 hours to 'perfect'.  And for those manuscripts that are clean, well written, and submitted properly, you really do feel bad saying 'No thanks' because you sense the hard work and time put into the material.

At the same time, a writer has to have that leathery smoker's skin, to not let the sting of rejection stop them from their goals.  Apex only accepts 3% of the submissions we receive, so unfortunately (or fortunately), I get to reject stories all the time.

Editors often reject stories not because they are poorly written, but simply because they don't fit a specific mold that the editor believes his audience expects. What is it that makes a particular story an Apex story?

The simple answer is an entertaining story that combines elements of science fiction and horror.  We like to print fiction that is thought provoking and edgy, riding that fine line of literary and pulp.  As I've seen in many submission requirements, I'll say here:  surprise us!

What is your take on the current state of sci-fi in both film and literature?

At the box office, science fiction might be running out of steam.  It's not because of the source material, but the people bringing the movies to the screen.  There's this horrible drought of creativity in Hollywood , where film making is no more about the ideas but about brainwashing your tweener kid into watching their movie, playing their spinoff games, and buying their crappy collectible card games.  But there's always hope while the smart screenwriters keep pulling from the gems of sci-fi.

The literary genre of sci-fi continues to chug along, stronger than it has in a long time due to the talents of Neil Gaiman and Susanna Clark pulling fresh readers into the market.

Do you see the genre as being as vital and prescient as it was back in the “golden age”?

We're living in an era of our own 'Golden Age' giants.  I'm referring to Orson Scott Card, Dan Simmons, William Gibson, Gaiman, just to name a few.  These writers have recently and continue to push the envelope.  And the great thing about sci-fi is that you can pretty much get away with creating or inventing anything.  The hard sci-fi readers will hate you, though.

Yes, but I don't think the hard sci-fi guys will leave their parent's basements long enough to really do anything about it.

Could you educate our readers on some of the newer sub-genres that have been popping up in sci-fi of late? For example, just what in the hell is ‘slipstream'?

Apex is riding the slipstream, baby!  From the way I understand it, it's the combination of two genres.  So most of the fiction we publish combines horror and sci-fi, so that's slipstream. There's so many sub-genres, but a couple of my favorites are the erotic high-fantasy made popular by Jacqueline Carey, she's such a fantastic and naughty writer.  Another is, well, I'm not sure the name of it, but it's a branch of cyberpunk that can be found in the writing of M.M. Buckner and others.

Then you got the Tigers Flying Spaceships made popular by Niven.

That sounds...err...interesting.

I'm a purist, and, while I love the internet, I still like the tactile feeling of flipping through a good ol' printed book or magazine. However, it seems that more and more “small market” magazines are turning their back on print altogether, opting for the “e-zine” format. What are your thoughts on this?

Hell, even Apex Digest has an online version called "Apex Online".  And as I jokingly tell Apex fans, it's the primary revenue source for Apex Digest!  The internet and a little web knowledge makes it so cheap to present materials to a mass audience.  But I doubt we ever grow to a point where the printed page loses to a CRT.  Sitting on the couch reading a novel with a laptop just isn't the experience of sitting on a couch reading a paperback.

And those that folded their magazines and transformed them strictly into online publications did so because they did not have what it takes to run a print publication.  It can be done.  Give me a couple years and we'll know whether I've got the acumen to run a print publication.

Still, as you pointed out earlier, many of these ‘webzines' are amateurish at best, often not even having a proper URL, let alone a format I'd want to see my work presented in. Do you think that, with the ease and cost of running such a site, being published in these webzines should carry the same weight as having ones work appear in print?

It's a tough call.  The best advice I can give you is to look at the webzine, read its fiction, and evaluate the site's production values.  Once you give those precious first rights and e-rights over to a crap site, they're lost forever. Right now, there's only a few webzines that should command as much respect as most of the printed semi-pro and pro magazines.  The best of these is Scifi.com.  Another good one is Chizine.

If the firemen from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 were to suddenly barge through your door tomorrow and tell you that they would let you keep one book on your shelf, which would it be?

Something big and fat, that I could read over and over again.  Robert McCammon's "Swan Song".

I'd take Gravity's Rainbow, 'cause it would probably take me a lifetime to make it through.

Can I get Gill's phone number? I like English chicks, and the name Gillian excites me.

There's two things you need to know about Gill.  She hates the name "Gillian".  I even explained to her that fanboys like myself love the name due to Gillian Anderson.  Her response (imagine, if you will, a thick British accent), "Bloody hell, like I care."

Second, she's something of a scientist.  I'm quite certain she knows how to brew up lethal, flavorless poisons.  I believe she even sells her own line of artificially manufactured absinthe ale to the French underground.

In other words, watch your back.

Oh, I always do.

So you're a Kentucky boy, Gill's a Brit, where are the other contributor's to Apex from? Is this a multinational project like Horrorview? (We've even got us an Australian, but he's usually drunk on Fosters and rasslin' crocodiles).

Nah, we're mostly rednecks.  Justin Stewart (art director) and myself live in Kentucky.  Athena (co-editor) and Alethea (contributing editor) live in Tennessee.  William (contributing editor) lives in Arizona.  Gill is the lone foreigner.

If anything else, my female editors have the prettiest names in all of the small press.

And that's odd, Gill stays cooked on the dark ale. 

I don't think Americans drink enough!

Well you obviously haven't been to my parent's house...

So what does the future hold for Apex and Jason Sizemore? Ever thought about publishing longer works from some of your authors, or, heck, maybe even something by a certain horror web site editor?

Our third issue comes out in the middle of September.  As I've been telling anyone that will listen, this is the Best. Issue. Ever!  Horror stud Brian Keene and sci-fi star M.M. Buckner headline the issue.  But there's a couple of stories that will even have your 'Faces of Death' contingent shaking their heads.  I'm a little worried we might have gotten too edgy.  I just hope nobody from Barnes and Nobles gets wind of what's in this issue!

Right now, we have a novella by Bryan Smith coming in the fourth issue that clocks in at 13k.  But as far as publishing novels or anthologies, that's not in the picture...yet.

Odd that you mention this anonymous 'certain horror web editor' person.  Justin, my artist, keeps telling me a 'weird horror guy' calls him all the time offering to pose nude to get a spot in Apex Digest.  Dude, if you're reading this, ain't going to happen.

Damn you, Jason Sizemore!! Damn you to hell!!!