Apex Magazine # 80, January 2016 (magazine review).

The first ‘Apex’ magazine of 2016 is a bumper edition with a rather surreal cover by Matt Davis. It’s a cover that certainly gets your attention so I suppose it does its job. Jason Sizemore is holding the Editor-In-Chief baton so we’re in safe hands. Squeezed into this edition are six original works, two reprints, seven poems and a non-fiction piece along with lots of interviews with the contributors.


Sizemore says in his editorial piece that the crown jewel of the edition is Ursula Vernon’s novelette ‘The Tomato Thief’. It is set in the same universe as her Nebula Award winning story ‘Jackalope Wives’ and is really very good indeed. I would not be surprised if it won its own award. There’s also another short story by Vernon titled ‘Razorback’ which follows Sizemore’s editorial piece. While this story is also about a witch, it’s in a completely different style to ‘The Tomato Thief’. Apparently, it is based on an old British folktale but one that I’m not familiar with. Following the interview with Vernon, there’s the first of the seven poems, ‘Automaton’ by Bianca Spriggs which is quite a long one.

The next story is ‘Bones Of The World’ by Jennifer Hykes. It’s another magical tale although, in this case, the witch is just a little girl. I’m not sure ‘witch’ is the right term here as in the story she’s referred to as a changeling. Either way it’s a nicely written tale.

‘Soursop’ by Chikodili Emelumadu is a rather stark Science Fictison story set in Earth’s future where things have not gone well. The majority of the population have left the planet and taken just about everything of use with them including the natural resources. This leaves the few remaining people on the planet to endure a rather stark existence. It also seems that the planet’s day is now three months long which makes for a very long night.

The next short story is ‘That Old Lucky Sun’ by Carrie Cuinn, which is another Science Fiction tale. It’s about a young girl Melanie and her mother Amelia, who’s mostly referred to as Mrs. Rhodes. The story seems to be set in the sixties in America but it’s an alternative America and there’s more to Melanie than you would expect. I liked this story and the gentle style Cuinn has adopted to tell it.

Lettie Prell’s story, ‘The Open-Hearted’, is an interesting study of one of the people who frequent Greenwich Village in the USA. It is a Science Fiction story dealing with the latest craze in cosmetic body modifications. The main character, Palmer, is one of those entrepreneurs who’s on the look-out for the next best thing. A chance meeting in a Greenwich Village coffee shop provides him with the opportunity. This is an interesting tale of fashion and trending.

I have to admit the last few non-fiction pieces I have read in ‘Apex’ have been poor and ‘An Exploration Of Racism In Heart Of Darkness’ by Lucy A. Snyder continues this trend. It’s an analysis of any racism that may be present in the 1899 novel, Heart Of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. I ended up asking myself why? What’s the point? What are you trying to achieve? Having read the article, I still have no clear answer to those questions. Snyder might as well have done an analysis of the racist abuse suffered by Mr. Spock, largely inflicted by Dr. McCoy in the original series of ‘Star Trek’. It’s a bit more recent than an 1899 novel. I have no idea why Sizemore includes these pieces as they don’t seem relevant or fit in with the magazines objectives.

There are two novel excerpts included in this edition. The first is ‘Paper Tigers’ by Damien Angelica Walters. There’s an introduction to set the scene and help put the excerpt into context. It’s not quite my type of story, although the excerpt might be a bit too short to tell.

The second novel excerpt is ‘Kutraya’s Skies’ by Dave Creek. While it’s a long excerpt it really does suffer from not having some kind of introduction. There’s no description of the sentient species, so we have no clear idea of what they look like. For example, were told that they have lower arms in sheaths. There’s also talk of true mates, one-mates and second-mates but no real explanation. Presumably, you get all the details if you buy the novel. Perhaps.

There’s some good short stories in this 80th edition of ‘Apex Magazine’ with some interesting poems as well. The novel excerpts were disappointing as was the non-fiction piece. However, the standout story ‘The Tomato Thief’ is well worth the cover price. I do hope Sizemore commissions better non-fiction articles for future editions.

Andy Whitaker

January 2016

(pub: Apex Publications. E-mag. Price: $ 2.99 (US), £ 1.99 (UK). ISSN: 2157-1406 ASIN: B005ANGWV8) check out website: www.apexbookcompany.com/collections/apex-magazine-all/products/apex-magazine-issue-80/

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