Apex Magazine Issue 73, June 2015 (emag review).

It’s another month which means it’s another ‘Apex Magazine’. After the last couple of issues, where it seemed to be losing direction and struggling for content, I had reservations about reading this one but old habits die hard and I had a quick look. This turned into a longer look and before I knew it, I’d read the entire edition from cover to cover. It’s certainly bounced back in terms of content.


The format remains the same with very striking cover artwork, an editorial, poems, interviews, a couple of excerpts from novels readers might want to consider and a review of short stories. For me, however, the jewel in the crown for this edition are the short stories which are cracking. However, taking things in the order they are presented, we must start with the cover art by Tori K. Roman. I don’t know why but I found the cover grabbed my attention. It just seemed nostalgic, almost haunting. The interview with Roman (also known as To-Ka-Ro) provides some background to the image and is worth a read.

To kick things off we have ‘Words From The Editor-in-Chief’ penned by Jason Sizemore where this week he tells us that one of his considerations in selecting stories that make us think of the world we live in. Three of the four short stories certainly fit the bill but one other piece of news is that Sizemore has given up his day job to become a full time Apex employee. I certainly wish him well in this and hope that ‘Apex Magazine’ will be able to maintain the quality shown in this edition. He may want to consider changing his photo to reflect his new position.

It’s now time for my favourite; the short stories. Things start with ‘Inhabiting Your Skin’ by Mari Ness. Consider what your home will be like in the fairly immediate future where sensors are deployed throughout the home providing feedback to the homes computer. It will be able to do things to reflect your moods or needs such as playing soothing music or cooking a meal. No aspect of your behaviour would be beyond reach of the sensors. This is what our unnamed character has to put up with. It seems he’s been through a difficult breakup with a girlfriend so he’s not quite at his best, at least mentally. The story is told from the perspective of the resident and the home’s computer as they become locked in a cycle of mutual feedback.

I really liked the story but question the ending as it pushes things beyond what is plausible in the framework of the story. It’s still a good story though. Andrea Johnson interviews the author where she provides more background information on the story while describing her creative process.

I’m sure it was sheer coincidence that the day after I read the next story ‘Proximity’ by Alex Livingston, the story broke that fake mobile towers were being used in London to scoop up data from passing mobile phones or maybe Livingston is ahead of the curve here. In ‘Proximity’. a few select gangs roam the city harvesting information from the people’s phones. They target the rich, famous and connected people so that they can sell the information to the data providers who sell it on to marketers, governments, lobbyists and anyone else who will pay for it. It’s technically illegal but pays well providing you have the right kit and knowledge. As the title suggests, you need to be close to the target to get the information and do it in such a way as to avoid being detected. ‘Proximity’ is another excellent story which is imminently plausible requiring just a little extrapolation of today’s technologies.

The third story which makes you question where we are headed is ‘Foreclosure’ by DJ Cockburn. This is set in the near future in a flooded London. People still live and have relatively normal lives but are confined to the high ground or high rise buildings in the flooded areas. The story concerns Colin, a junior loan facilitator from the Bank of Friends. It seems one of its clients is in arrears and its Colin’s job to settle the matter. In this future world, it seems that there are many ways of settling the contracted debt and paying the money is the most palatable. If you can’t pay up then things can and do get extreme. I can’t imagine Bank of Friends has many friends. The story is very well written and has an unexpected twist in the tale. It gave me the creeps.

Those three stories fit in with getting us to think about the current world but you can’t say that for the fourth story. ‘Mud Holes And Mississippi Mules’ by Malon Edwards is set in a post-apocalyptic mining town near Chicago. To be more precise, its set in a bar as the story doesn’t venture outside of the Colliers Folly and it doesn’t really need to. Petal McQueen narrates the tale of how she and her friend Aeshna sat at their usual table are visited by a bald-headed man who turns out to be working for the Hanged Man who’s the local head boss man and he wants Petal or, at least, something from her. Both Petal and Aeshna are heavily modified humans but in Petal’s case, it’s with a steam-powered heart and a compost boiler fitted into her chest. There’s a hard edge to the writing with Petal narrating the story in a deep southern accent. I suppose you could say this story is a rough diamond as its certainly something of quality. It’s one I enjoyed reading.

‘Interview’ by John W. Sexton is exactly what it says it is, an interview but with a house spider and is special as it has been up to the International Space Station. Although this is a very short piece, I take my hat off to Sexton for the sheer inventiveness. I’ll keep an eye out for more work from him.

Also included in this issue is an excerpt from ‘Flex’ by Ferrett Steinmetz. There’s an introduction to the excerpt which is unusual but certainly sets the scene for ‘Chapter 11: How To Make Flex’. If the introduction doesn’t get your attention and it should as it’s well written, ‘Chapter 11’ will. ‘Flex’ is actually magic but, in the world of Flex, magic comes with a cost which can be devastating. I think there’s enough here in the excerpt to whet your appetite for more.

You could also say the same for the second excerpt which is from ‘The Venusian Gambit’. This is book three of the ‘Daedalus’ series of novels, which are set in an alternative steampunk universe where space travel was undertaken in sailing ships. England and France are at war and the French have had the nerve to invade although Nelson did his job and defeated Napoleon’s fleet. The excerpt is Chapter 2 which is set in the English outpost at Mercury. Captain O’Brian is playing host to Admiral Weatherby who’s paying a vist to O’Brian’s ship, HMS Thunderer. I’m going to get the first two books as it looks to be well worth a read.

It’s good to see ‘Apex’ back on top form publishing excellent speculative fiction. Long may it continue.

Andy Whitaker

June 2015

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

check out website: www.apexbookcompany.com/collections/apex-magazine-all/products/apex-magazine-issue-73/

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