Apex Magazine # 62, July 2014 (magazine review).

With magazines, the cover is an exceptionally critical component. Get it wrong and people will pass up on the issue regardless of the quality of content within the magazine. ‘Apex Magazine’ has been blessed with some exceptional covers recently and issue 62 is another winner provided by Ashley Mackenzie. The cover illustrating ‘The Scarved’ should draw the readers in to discover the tried and tested format of short stories, poetry, interviews and a non-fiction piece. There is also ‘Resolute: Notes From The Editor-in-Chief’ section, penned as usual by Sigrid Ellis which sets the scene for this month’s issue.


On the whole I stay away from vampire stories but ‘The Food In The Basement’ by Laura Davy is an absolute gem of a story. Its 12 pages long on my Kindle and is an extremely strong opening story. I couldn’t put it down as it was such an intriguing, creepy story. I don’t want to say anything about the plot other than it’s a about a vampires victim. Read it and you will not be disappointed.

Food is the link between the first and second story, although it’s the lack of it in Victor Fernando R. Ocampo’s ‘Blessed Are The Hungry’. Set in a colonisation spaceship, the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje which translates as ‘Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage’, during its epic voyage to a new planet. Unfortunately for the passengers, it’s anything but peaceful with summary executions and cuts in rations. This leads to revolution and armed combat between the crew and the passengers. This story touches on a great many things such as gene manipulation, forced segregation, duty to have children and artificial intelligence. It is longer than the first story but is yet another very good story and well worth a read.

You don’t get a break in this issue as having read the first two stories you are immediately thrown into ‘Insurrection In Silk’ by Gillian Conahan. I suppose this would be classified as a fantasy story as it’s set in the Middle Ages with the lead character being a nobleman’s daughter. With the destruction of her city by the Empress’s army, she is forced to become the Empress’ dressmaker as a hostage to save herself and what remains of her family. I realise it doesn’t sound like the usual muscly-men-with-swords story but Conahan’s beautiful writing brings out the terror, despair, exhaustion and glimmer of hope with tremendous passion. I know nothing about dressmaking but the writing just draws you in. Another excellent story which is Conahan’s first published fiction.

Now, for me things come of the rails here as the very short story ‘Willow Pattern’ by Jon Singer left me confused. I was willing to go along with the idea of a story being told by plates in display cases which may or may not have had mystical qualities. It’s just the ending I have issues with as it seems confused. The story had previously been published in 2007 so I’m not sure why it’s been included.

Next up is a novelette taken from the ‘Apex Book Of World SF 3’, ‘Courtship In The Country Of Machine-Gods’ by Benjanun Sriduangkaew. I could write a whole piece on just this story as it both delights and infuriates. The author is introducing a new civilisation and has had to adapt existing words or phrases to provide a new terminology. You may need a dictionary on hand as some very infrequently used words are thrown in.

The interview with Victor Fernando R. Ocampo conducted by Andrea Johnson provides some insights into the author’s thoughts as he wrote ‘Blessed Are The Hungry’. This begs the question why isn’t the interview following the story? I can’t answer that but it would have made more sense as the story would have been fresh in the reader’s memory.

The non-fiction piece is “We Are Comics: A Visual Message For A Visual Medium” by Rachel Edidin is yet another article I have issues with. Firstly, it assumes that everyone involved in the comics production and consumption is a community. Secondly, it assumes that it is the responsibility of this community to promote the diversity (physical attributes, disabilities, gender, race and sexual orientation) through the medium of the comic. Before discussing the above points I do agree with Edidin that the work of comic production should be available to all and be completely oblivious of a person’s physical attributes, disabilities, gender, race and sexual orientation. What seems to escape Ediden is that mainstream comics are a way of making money for their publishers. To make money, they have to be bought by the readers and so have to appeal to the readers interests. It’s not up to the mainstream comics to make a change (they are doing very nicely, thank you), it is up to other comic creators to develop a new comic for the market not being served by the mainstream comics. If they get the formula right then they, too, will become mainstream and make money. The Internet does provide a platform for new ideas to be tried but I’m not seeing many new comics go viral.

With the above rant out of the way the interview with Ashley Mackenzie by Loraine Sammy is a welcome return to calmer waters. Mackenzie produced the cover artwork for this edition of ‘Apex’ and I do like it. This is an interesting interview punctuated with some more of Mackenzie’s images.

‘Clavis Aurea: A Review Of Short Fiction’ by Charlotte Ashley is an interesting piece but I feel it sort of runs out of steam at the end. The majority of the article is taken up with discussing ‘magical realism’ with several stories being used as examples. This is done well but I don’t understand why Ashley finished by discussing ‘Migratory Patterns Of Underground Birds’ by E. Catherine Tobler. It would appear to have nothing in common with the other stories already discussed.

Almost last but not least there is the poetry. ‘Sentience Is Watching A Sunset’ by Melanie Rees is a rather nice environmentalists protest poem. I’m not sure about ‘The First Stone’ by Anne Carly Abad and ‘Baba Yaga Tries To Donate Money’ by Rose Lemberg which is probably saying rather more about my limitations then about the poetry. On the other hand I am sure about ‘Cairn By Dark’ by Cairn” by Neile Graham. Enough said.

To wrap everything up, there are two excerpts from novels. The first is from ‘The Keys To The Relms’ by Roberta Trahan. This is book two of ‘The Dream Stewards’ series and looks to be standard fantasy stuff. Witches, castles, men with swords and a prophecy. You get the picture. The second is from ‘The Enceladus Crisis’ by Michael J. Martinez which is the second novel in the ‘Deadalus’ series. It seems to be set in the era of the Nelson and the Battle Of Trafalgar with a slight twist. HMS Fortitude is descending from the Void to the sea in the middle of a battle against the French. They are attempting to take their place amongst their compatriots’ sea-going vessels and add their cannons to the fight. This novel looks rather good and a further investigation is required.

Issue 62 of ‘Apex Magazine’ is certainly worth the money. There are good stories with the interviews adding complimentary bonus material. The non-fiction items will make you think even if you don’t agree with them.

Andy Whitaker

July 2014

(pub: Apex Publications: Black & white Kindle edition. Price: £ 1.99 (UK). ISSN: 2157-140-6. ASIN: B00LFQOSG0)

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I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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