Apex Magazine Issue 70, March 2015 (magazine review)

March 10, 2015 | By | Reply More

I wasn’t particularly taken with the February edition of ‘Apex’ as I thought it had taken on a distinctly feminine tone which wasn’t to my liking, so it was with a little nervousness that I opened the March edition. A quick look down the table of contents shows that all the stories authors are women. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it all depends on the content and writing style of the author. I’m pleased to say that there are some cracking stories here.


First up for consideration is ‘Houdini’s Heart’ written by Thoraiya Dyer which didn’t immediately impress. To get the best out of this story I had to read it twice before the penny finally dropped about the artificial hearts. The initial description of the hearts is vague and gets pushed to one side as Houdini continues her battle with Olwen, so I didn’t give it the attention it deserves. In this story, Houdini is a female magician desperate to perform yet another miraculous stunt and earn enough to pay off her debts. Olwen is in charge of the lifts down to the surface of the planet and resolutely stops Houdini from taking the lift down as it would kill her. Houdini’s girlfriend Carmela has the job of picking up the pieces when she fails yet again. Despite me having to read it twice, it’s an interesting story with a good twist at the end.

‘Charaid Dreams’ by Rati Mehrotra might be set on an alien world but there’s almost a fantasy element to the story. This is provided by the colonist’s imaginations as they try to deal with the rather unforgiving world they are trying to survive on. Only one child actually born on Charaid has survived and this is her story. Forced to make a hunting trip in the middle of winter, Charyn and her brother venture out into the woods only for the true nature of the planet to be revealed. I liked this story, especially the way the colonists seem to have reverted to almost to hillbillies. It’s nicely written and could well provide the seed for a novel.

The third story is ‘A Beautiful Memory’ by Shannon Peavey which is an odd little tale. It opens with Anna selling a selection of birds to a passing business man. She says, ‘They’re just birds.’ but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Anna actually grows the birds from the seeds of her own ideas. Unfortunately, doing so has a degrading effect on Anna’s mental state. I’m not sure I follow the ending as it seems to be open to interpretation. Perhaps it’s meant to be that way but the next short story ‘Where I’m Bound’ by Nina Kiriki Hoffman doesn’t leave any room for interpretations.

I’ve always been suspicious, almost fearful of clowns and now I know why. In ‘Where I’m Bound’, the clowns come through a portal from the Underland to entertain and occasionally to steal another child. They aren’t the bumbling, happy-go-lucky people you might like to think they are. The story is told from the viewpoint of a child taken a few years ago who’s now a member of the team and on the hunt for a new team member. In a hierarchy, the clowns are near the bottom, being one of the lowest casts. They are still able to provide an escape to the poor children, they encounter it’s just that it might not be as good as they promised. This is another good story and I feel we are on a roll here.

Staying with the short stories, the last one is ‘Seed’ by Shanna Germain. I’ll have to be honest here and say I’m not sure what to make of it. In this world, presumably set in the middle Ages, eating with a woman is the equivalent to having sex with a woman in our world. The story is set in a brothel where sex is performed in communal areas and only shared eating is reserved for the girl’s private kitchenette. One of the girls is attacked with a knife outside of the house where she sufferers horrendous injuries. The suspicion for the attack falls on the local men without any real evidence. The story deals with the consequences of the attack. Where I had problems with the story was with the way it deals with the socially taboo subject of food and eating. I missed the clue as to the culprit’s identity due to the attention I was giving to the Germain’s writing style. It was obvious on the second reading which could be said to mean there’s a lot to be gained from rereading these stories.

There is also an excerpt from ‘Sing Me Your Scars’ by Damien Angelica Walters but it’s not really an excerpt, it’s the first story from Walters’ collection of short stories. Just to confuse you the story is actually called ‘Sing Me Your Scars’ and is the one to give its name to the collection of short stories. It’s also one of my favourite stories, which I think I said when I reviewed the entire collection earlier this year. Rounding out this edition of ‘Apex’ is two interviews, the first with Damien Angelica Walters and followed by an interview with the cover artist Lucas de Alcȃntara. There’s an interesting review of short fiction by Charlotte Ashley which I like to read to see if there’s anything interesting I have missed. Ashley has a good style for these articles.

There is, of course, the poetry with four poems in this edition and that just leaves ‘Words From The Editor-in-Chief’ by Jason Sizemore which is interconnected with the non-fiction piece ‘A Whole New World’ by Mark Allan Gunnells. For me this is where the train comes off the tracks. Firstly in Sizemore’s piece there’s a paragraph about this edition’s content before turning over the rest of the article over to a eulogy for Gunnells. While lavishing praise on Gunnells, Sizemore writes ‘…including a memorable blow job in the books climax.’ I’m not sure if this is meant to be funny. My gripe is that has nothing to do with this edition of ‘Apex’ and I was expecting something a bit more about this edition or possibly some hints as to what expect in the next edition.

Mark Allan Gunnells ‘A Whole New World’ is simply detailing his struggles to get published while writing openly gay stories. All authors initially struggle to get published so the only differentiator is Gunnells is writing openly gay stories. I’m not sure what to take away from this piece as whenever an author writes about a segment of our society they likely to be limiting their potential audience as there’s bound to be people who aren’t interested. In fact, it’s really about diminishing returns. If you write a Science Fiction story you have limited your audience to people who like Science Fiction. If it’s Science Fiction and the only characters are women then you’re limiting your target audience even more and so it goes on. Publishers will generally want to go the other way and maximise their potential audience and make the most money.

‘Apex’ is supposed to be about speculative fiction and the short stories in this edition prove it. It’s a shame the editorial and the non-fiction piece doesn’t compliment this approach. If you are prepared to home in on the stories and poetry (if that’s your thing) then it’s still worth the asking price.

Andy Whitaker

March 2015

(pub: Apex Publications.  131 page black & white Kindle edition. 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-70/

Category: MEDIA, Scifi

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About AndyWhitaker

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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