Thursday, September 22, 2005

Apex Digest Issue #1

John Clute's popular Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia opens a discussion on genre magazines with:
When we say PULP we may be describing a category of magazine, smaller than most of today's glossy magazines, [...] and generally devoted to fiction. [...] The format is now history, but pulp stories are still written.
-John Clute
Jason Sizemore's first issue of Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest is a magazine smaller than most of today's glossy magazines, and is entirely devoted to fiction. The physical presentation of Apex Digest determined by Sizemore might or might not have been chosen to evoke a morphic resonance with the magazine's spiritual ancestors, but the effect is achieved nonetheless.

Within the gloss covers (preceeding comments regarding format notwithstanding) Sizemore presents ten short stories in the first 87 pages; and in the remaining 14 pages he delivers four book reviews, an essay, an interview, and a flashfic endpiece. The black and white graphics achieve a sense of consistency throughout, and the advertising is unobtrusive.

The overall style speaks to Sizemore's vision of a professional quality small press genre offering that has both physical and market substance. His interview with Project Pulp's Jon Hodges is insightful and thought-provoking and worth the cover price for genre hopefuls wanting to benefit from Hodges's considerable market experience.

But what about the stories? One contributon certainly hits the mark of Sizemore's stated aim to deliver 'dark' SF, and two more are close. Allergies by short fiction newcomer Christine W. Murphy tells the story of an itinerant security worker desperately trying to keep one space-station ahead of the secret of her weakness in a synthetic society. The run-of-the-mill situation is written well and easy to read. And that easiness is used to good effect as the story slides effortlessly to a disturbing conclusion. The secret, when revealed, is anti-climactic: the disturbing situation in which the protagonist finds herself is made all the more disturbing by her obliviously focusing on the 'official' denoument. The casual reader could be forgiven for making the same mistake.

Liam Rands's story His Cross to Bear is a thoughtful examination of society's response to crime (including crimes of ommission) told from the point of view of a man being kept alive while crucified on the outskirts of an interplanetary colony. Halfway through, Rands subtly turns his focus, and explores personal altruism. Although well-written and certainly a dark situation on the face of it, the story's conclusion (while satisfying) somewhat robs the piece of the degree of darkness Sizemore appears to be working towards.

Similarly, Lawrence M. Schoen's contribution The conservation of Thelos ended on too wholesome a note to fully realise the full potential of his engaging elemental protagonist. Instead of becoming the Gully Foyle (of Bester's Tiger! Tiger! (Stars my Destination in USA release)) suggested at the outset, Schoen's anti-hero becomes whole and healed, but only through exposure to a more terrible anger than his own. There is a lesson contained therein, but the story's contribution to Apex Digest's overall mood of darkness is made a little less than it might otherwise have been with a different ending.

The other stories are all written well enough, but none stand out quite like the three already mentioned, particularly in the context of a dark SF publication.

Overall, Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest is a product greater than the sum of its parts. Good stories, good reviews (and essay), a great interview all add up to a top notch debut. But most of all, Sizemore's vision promises future editions will build on this good start.

Addendum: Apex Digest has a lively and useful support website with an online edition (different than the print publication) and discussion forum and more.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bryn- it's Sean, from way back. I continually lose and regain touch with you, an old friend, but peculiar as it is, you occupy a lot of my mind. I go back again and again to when I was just a bit smaller, writing on fanstory, and enjoying your snide, ridiculously foul stories about our many false (were they?) realities.

Christ have you hit it off. I'm glad. Incredibly so. How are the kids? Are you still in the field of sleep physiology?

I mentioned you a few days ago to my pastor when we were doing study of Pilate. I talked about how you honestly thought Pilate believed. Everyone ooohed and ahhed- thank you for making me look good.

I don't mean to take too much public space up wih this. My email address is

Extra points if you know what Philip K. Dick story that's from. Contact me. As I'm getting older I'm realizing pieces of my history are valuable. I miss old friends.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Bryn Sparks said...

Russell Faraday, as I live and breathe!

I'll flick you an e-mail as well, but I'm extremely pleased you stumbled across my brand-new FUGGIN AWESOME blog. Something must be working right somewhere.

Felix Rex - doesn't that add up to 256? If you're kabbalistic.

The thing with Pilate 'believing' is that as a Roman pagan, having a God manifest as a human wasn't such a big deal. I think the words and actions attributed to him in the Gospel accounts make the most sense if you assume that he became convinced that IHshWH ben Joseph was in fact the human incarnation of a Jewish god.

What did your Pastor think of the idea?

12:24 PM  

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