Apex Magazine #84, May 2016 (emag review).

It’s Apex # 84 under scrutiny in this review and there’s no better place to start than the intriguing cover art by Robert Carter. A man’s head is apparently being unwound (literally) and seems to be filled with nothing but fresh air. While the illustration does not relate to any specific story there is a gender balance article. Of course, this could just be coincidence but I wouldn’t put it past the resident editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore. The team has put together a cracking good edition of the magazine.

Sizemore gets things underway with Sizemore’s ‘Words From The Editor-In-Chief’ piece where he introduces the content awaiting the adventurous reader. It is the normal format of speculative fiction, poetry, a non-fiction piece and an excerpt from a novel. There are interviews with the magazines contributors in addition to short bios of the interviewers.

The first fiction piece is ‘1957’ by Stephen Cox which is an intriguing and challenging story that requires some effort from you to understand what’s going on. There’s sexual content and multiple timelines although the central time period is, as the title suggests, is a few weeks in the summer of 1957. The central character is a boy who, in 1957, is at an English boarding school but at different times he’s doing different things. The problem is the experiences aren’t happening chronologically.

It’s one of the best short stories I have read in recent times and the interview with the author provides an interesting insight into how the story originated. He also provides information on what he’s currently working on and currently reading. Cox lives in London, while the interviewer, Andrea Johnson, lives in Michigan. I wonder how the interview was done. Johnson is a regular interviewer for ‘Apex’ and has a habit of asking the right questions to get the most out of her subjects.

The next fiction piece is ‘Cottage Country’ by David K. Yeh. This is also an exceptional story set in the country outside of Sudbury. That’s Sudbury in Ontario in Canada and not Sudury in Suffolk. Which is just as well as the main character, Pete, sets off for a walk in the country with a Browning .22 rifle strapped to his back. From this innocuous start, Pete’s little trip into the woods with his dog, Jackson, starts to get a little weird. Firstly, the dog runs off and Pete backtracks looking for the dog’s tracks in the snow. When Pete finds his dog’s trail, he recognises the tracks of a sidhe which are alongside the dogs. This is not necessarily good news.

The author Yeh uses flashbacks to Pete’s youth and times he spent with his grandfather to provide more information on the magical folk known as sidhe. There’s also a talking fox missing his tail and a talking crow missing his eye. I found this to be a delightful story that pulled me into the world it created. It is well worth the read.

Poetry has never been my strong point but I have to say ‘Hubilee’ by F.J. Bergmann is the type of poem that could get me to take more of an interest. It’s written from a robot’s perspective with a wonderful twist in the tail. The second poem is titled ‘Before The Empire Goes Inter-Galactic’ by Ken Poyner and is also very good. I think it’s from the perspective of a potentially conquering civilisation but in a sort of jovial way. That’s two poems which I have read and enjoyed. I should probably go and have a lie down now.

Maggie Slater pens the third short story titled ‘The Behemoth Beaches’. It’s a somewhat disturbing story set in a different universe at an earlier time. A small fishing village located in a cove is visited by a behemoth which I took to be a mechanical whale. It promises to protect their dwindling fish stocks in return for payments and they submit to certain conditions. The story depicts the changing attitudes of the villagers as the behemoth changes its price and its conditions. It ends with a stark observation.

The non-fiction piece ‘Gender Equality In Apex Magazine’ is actually a reprint of a blog post Lesley Conner wrote for the ‘Apex Magazine’ website. It was written in response to a reader comment that Apex # 83’s heavy slant towards male authors. This is the complete opposite of what I said when I reviewed # 69. While I don’t mind what gender the contributors are, in that particular issue a very large proportion of the content was about female suffrage. What Lesley Conner writes in her post is that # 83 should not be taken as a snapshot. In retrospect, I think you could say the same about # 69 as well. Conner points out what get published is the best of the material that is submitted to them which is good to know. I want to read the best stories regardless of the gender or race of the author. ‘Apex’ normally delivers in this respect.

The final complete fiction piece is the reprinting of the novelette ‘The Downed Celestial’ by Lavie Tidhar. This is a much longer piece at 10,200 words but well worth the read. It reminded me of stories from the 1950 which could be said to be Science Fiction’s golden years. Things were so much simpler then. ‘The Downed Celestial’ tells the story of a human and a Venusian (Colt and Sharol respectively) who become acquainted when a card game is interrupted somewhere on Old Venus, the ancient and most decadent of planets.

While Old Venus does have continuous cloud cover it differs from the Venus we know in having a breathable plant life, indigenous natives and animals. It provides the backdrop for Colt and Sharol to have a traditional roller-coaster adventure. They meet Sharol’s sister who’s a witch, get enrolled in a project to acquire some treasure, meet aliens or rather native Venusian wildlife and shoot guns. It’s a very good read and I enjoyed it immensely.

There is an excerpt from the new novel by Chris Bucholz titled ‘Freeze/Thaw’ to round things off. It tells the story of someone who is called ‘Luggage’ by one of the other characters. Luggage appears to be wearing an exoskeleton which develops issues after he downloads a software update. While that may be bad, the people around him are quick to make the most of his predicament. It’s an interesting excerpt which I have to admit did its job and got my interest. It looks to be an interesting story and I’ll be looking out for the novel when it is published.

To sum up, we have one of the best editions of ‘Apex’ magazines here. Anyone of the four fiction pieces is well worth the cover price. When you consider that there’s bonus material available from the Apex web site including a pod cast, it seems exceedingly good value for money at £1.99.

Andy Whitaker

May 2016

(pub: Apex Publications. Kindle edition. Price: £ 1.99 (UK). ISSN: 2157-1406. ASIN: B005ANGWV8)

check out website: www.apex-magazine.com/issue-84-may-2016/

2 thoughts on “Apex Magazine #84, May 2016 (emag review).

  • Excellent review Andy, I may buy the mag. I live in Wessex and like ale (even unreal), walking my dog and cooking and love 1950’s SF, too. We were separated at birth! Moreover, I find all this gender, sexual orientation fuss is nonsense and what counts is the story, damnit!
    Can you tell me how to add my author profile as a reviewer? Geoff tells me I know how, but I don’t.


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