Posts Tagged "issue 44"

The Patrician

by on Jan 1, 2013 in Short Fiction | 1 comment

Clea Majora walked through the hot streets of Nova Ostia, her sandalled feet lightly treading on the wide, baked, paving stones. She bought a honey cake from a pastry stall and nibbled it as she walked, using the vine leaf wrapper to catch the crumbs. At the wall, a couple of boys she knew from school were playing a covert game of soccer, and called for her to join them, but she waved and kept walking. It was too hot for games, and besides, she had her own plans for her lunch hour. Outside the stifling confines of the city, she kept walking until she came to her favourite gum tree. She unpinned her stola so that it folded underneath her when she sat down on the rough ground, and slid in the earbuds of her iPod. For a blissful forty minutes, she listened to music, and a podcast about movies she would never get to see. The rest of the world existed, out there, and she liked the reminder of that. Clea did not see the stranger until he was almost on top of her. She was startled when he tripped on a root nearby, and stared at her as she yanked out her earbuds. “I’m sorry!” he exclaimed. “No, I’m sorry!” Quickly, Clea fastened her stola back up so that it covered the front of the Gladiators Do It in the Arena T-shirt she had borrowed from her brother that morning. “I’m not supposed to be here,” she confessed. “Not during daylight. Are you a tourist?” “Yes,” said the stranger in a cultivated, I-was-not-born-speaking-English kind of accent. “I suppose that I am. Are we near Nova Ostia? I lost my way.” Tourists always came to the city by train or by coach, but were asked to walk the ten-minute hike up the sloped road so that they entered the city without the ease of modern transport. Clea recognised the factory-produced tourist toga and tunic as one from Roman Road Tours. This man must have wandered away from his group. “You shouldn’t wander off-road,” she said accusingly. “This is Australia, the bush can be dangerous.” She should tell him about drop bears. That would serve him right. She was resentful of losing the last fifteen minutes of her lunch hour. “Come on, I’ll take you.” He wore a hat, at least. Many tourists refused, wanting the full “authenticity” of the Roman experience, only to appear at the city gates bright red like crayfish. The city was built with shaded streets to keep the Australian sun away from bare arms and bald pates, but that ten-minute walk could do a lot of damage. The visitor wore a broad-brimmed woven straw hat, not a design Clea recognised from Roman Road Tours. His hands were blistered from their moments in the sun, but the rest of him was a paler, European colour. Clea dropped into the usual tourist spiel, about how a replica Roman city had come to be built in New South Wales, though it wasn’t really a replica, but a combination of several Roman towns. She added the part about real stone from Ostia and Herculaneum having been shipped over as part of the building process. “Yes,” said the visitor with a sigh. “I wish you hadn’t done that.” Still, he seemed interested enough, and stopped to peer at the triumphal arch that served as the city’s gateway. The soccer boys were gone, probably yelled at by one of the merchants. The worst crime in Nova Ostia was to be inauthentic where the punters might see. “Would you like to wait for your tour group?” Clea asked politely. “Or some refreshment, perhaps?” She would be late getting back to the thermopolium at this rate, and it would look better if she brought a customer with her. The stranger’s eyes were fixed upon the wall of the Temple of Vesta, and it was as if he had already forgotten she existed. “Thank you,” he said absently. “But I travel alone.” * * * * Clea dreamed of snakes, of women...

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Trixie and the Pandas of Dread

by on Jan 1, 2013 in Short Fiction | 17 comments

by Eugie Foster Trixie got out of her cherry-red godmobile and waved away the flitting cherubim waiting to bear her to her sedan chair. She wasn’t in the mood for a reverent chorus of hosannas, and the sedan chair desperately needed re-springing. She felt every jostle and jounce from those damned pandas. A day didn’t pass that she didn’t regret adopting giant pandas as her sacred vahanas. Sure, it seemed like a good idea at the time. They were so cute with their roly-poly bellies and black-masked faces, but they were wholly unsuited to be beasts of conveyance. The excessive undulation of their waddling gaits was enough to make Captain Ahab seasick, and their exclusive diet of bamboo made them perpetually flatulent. The novelty of being hauled along by farting ursines in a stomach-roiling sedan chair had gotten very old very fast. But there wasn’t a lot she could do about it now. It was all about the brand. Pandas were part of her theology. If she adopted new vahanas, she’d likely end up with a splitter faction, possibly even a reformation. Such a pain in the ass. So she’d started walking more—well, floating really, since gods weren’t supposed to tread the earth. Appearances and all. Drifting a hairsbreadth above the pavement, Trixie pulled out her holy tablet and launched the Karmic Retribution app. The first thumbnail belonged to a Mr. Tom Ehler, the owner of the walkway and the two-story colonial house it led to. She unpinched two fingers across the screen to zoom up Mr. Ehler’s details. Yesterday, Mr. Ehler, under the handle GodnessWins, had posted on a public forum a series of inflammatory comments in response to a YouTube video depicting a street fight. His sins were a nearly perfect fit for the specifications she’d told the app to flag, right down to the secondary parameters (Mr. Ehler’s toxic vitriol was also egregiously ungrammatical). But even reading, “yo niggers, whiteman gave u freedom whiteman take it away” and “fucking street monkey deserved to get hang from a tree like the good old days,” only made Trixie feel tired. Where was the seething indignation? The fiery wrath and burning rage? She knocked on the hardwood door, admiring the architecture as she waited. It was a pretty swank piece of real estate, red brick with whitewashed wooden trim. Definitely upscale. The door opened at her fourth knock. The man glaring at her matched his profile headshot—receding hairline, thickening gut, age spots beginning to speckle his face—but she didn’t need the app to confirm his identity. Her omniscience had kicked in. “What you want, missy? Knocking on decent people’s door this time of night?” Trixie didn’t bother with any theatrical pyrotechnics or a “repent now” spiel. She just punched her fist into Tom Ehler’s chest and yanked out a handful of viscera. He collapsed, spraying blood and choking on his own bile. With disinterest, she watched him flail and shriek before calling down a white-hot levin bolt to finish him off. She sighed. Yeah, it was still satisfying, ridding the world of another dickhead, but something was missing. Trixie had been a god for so long she barely remembered the time when she’d been mortal, just an earnest supplicant imploring the deities to smite sinners in the name of justice and an offended sense of Why hasn’t this asshole been horribly maimed or engulfed in hellfire yet? She did remember her euphoric rapture when the Karma Committee appeared at her door with an oversized certificate of godhood and a bouquet of burning bushes. But she hadn’t felt anything but a plodding sense of duty for a long time. A middle-aged woman and a high-school-aged youth spilled out of the house—Mr. Ehler’s wife (now widow) and son. The woman began to sob and scream, but the boy just regarded the messy corpse of his father for a long moment before turning his scrutiny upon Trixie. “You the god rained annihilation on my dad?” he demanded. Trixie donned her divine aura with reluctance. “I am,” she boomed in her best holy...

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The Performance Artist

by on Jan 1, 2013 in Short Fiction | 10 comments

by Lettie Prell On the first day, she sits there wearing a black dress that is neither provocative nor sexless. Yet visitors who flock in from the cold January streets and ascend to the atrium on MoMA’s second floor are mesmerized, for the entire space is awash in a video installation depicting various interactions between machines and flesh. The footage flashes across the walls and sweeps over the woman sitting in the chair. Some images are recognizable: beams of light illuminating eyes during exams, prostheses being fitted to amputees, a dental hygienist cleaning teeth, a kitchen cook working a meat grinder. Other clips are strange: a small device crawling up a person’s spine, thumping sharply as it goes; people sprouting electrodes; a man strapped face-down and gripping handlebars while the lower half of the table slides back and forth, stretching his torso. The bizarre imagery quickly infects the ordinary scenes until everything “seems an invasion of humans by the things they have wrought.” Or so writes the Times critic in an article that splashes across the Sunday Arts & Leisure section. The performance artist is the talented Anna Pashkin Bearfoot, the critic raptures, who charged onto the scene last year with a week-long piece where, while nude, she built a robot amid a jungle of potted plants. The current installation is slated to last a full month. The second day the crowd swells, despite a nasty frozen mix that pelts Manhattan. Today, a real machine squats eight feet from Anna, and to her right. What is that? and I don’t know are repeated many times before the crowd engages its collective intelligence: “I think it’s one of those downloading machines.” “Are you sure?” “To transfer human consciousness into a computer?” “I’m not sure.” “That would explain the shots of the meat grinder. Lose the meat.” “Yes, it is a downloading machine. I saw it in Scientific American.” “But she’s not sick.” “We don’t know that.” “They would never let her, surely, if she’s healthy.” “No law against it.” “I bet she’s going to.” “Why else would it be here?” “She’s going to use it.” “Omigod.” “She’s going to download herself here? At MoMA?” The art critic zips out a new article. On the third day, the line to get in stretches to Sixth Avenue. Today Anna is speaking, still dressed in plain New York black. Every fifteen minutes she says the same thing: “By my words you will know me. I am my true self and no other. I shed the inessential. I shed woman. I shed race. I shed age. I shed status.” On the fourth day, Anna sits in the same spot wearing a hospital gown. The line to get in curls around West 54th. The drama outside the museum overshadows the exhibit itself. Police keep a careful eye on dozens of protestors lined up across West 53rd, shouting slogans like, “It’s a lie. She will die.” And, “Only God grants eternal life.” The daytime talk shows focus on ethics, rules and regulations. Can a medical procedure even be performed at an art museum? Would visitors be required to don surgical masks? All the guest medical experts condemn the Lazarus Project for creating such a circus. By the end of the day, a MoMA spokesperson assures the public that the actual procedure will not be part of the live performance. The statement only serves to inflame interest, since it constitutes official confirmation that the artist is indeed going to download her consciousness into a computer. The nighttime talk show hosts eagerly point out the careful wording of the statement leaves open the possibility of a video installation of the procedure. No one is disappointed. On the fifth day visitors ascend to the atrium to find Anna Pashkin Bearfoot is not sitting in her place. The downloading machine has been rolled to the central position. The video shows a montage of the artist’s life. There are home videos of her as a toddler on a tricycle, and again at a birthday party, taller than the other girls though...

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Blood on Vellum: Notes from the Editor-in-Chief

by on Jan 1, 2013 in Nonfiction | 0 comments

Welcome to issue 44. We have some great works for your enjoyment this month! In our new fiction, Eugie Foster brings us “Trixie and the Pandas of Dread,” a darkly humorous take on gods among us. Lettie Prell’s contribution “The Performance Artist,” sketches the gruesome price of the artistic life for one artist. This month’s classic revisited is Tansy Rayner Roberts’s “The Patrician,” a tale of monster-hunting, family, and history, first published in Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press 2011), and republished in The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2011. In nonfiction, Sarah Kuhn discusses the paucity of the “fake geek girl” debate, and Maggie Slater interviews Eugie Foster about her work and the importance of chocolate covered potato chips to the writerly process. Thank you, as always, if you’ve chosen to begin the year with a subscription or renewal to Apex Magazine. You make great fiction possible, month after month. If you’re enjoying what we do and have a Kindle subscription, please consider sharing the love by leaving a review on our Amazon subscriber page. Also, Hugo Award nominations opened on January 1st. Apex Magazine is eligible in the Best Semiprozine category. Each of our 2012 original stories (all of which are available free online) are eligible in the Best Short Story category. We have reopened to submissions as of January 1st. I very much look forward to reading the tales that the next group of Apex Magazine writers are working on. I hope that you will enjoy them, too.   Lynne M. Thomas...

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All the Real (Geek) Girls

by on Jan 1, 2013 in Nonfiction | 55 comments

by Sarah Kuhn When I was in high school, there was one other girl who loved Star Trek as much as I did. Deep Space Nine was our jam, so our bond was forged in the fire caves of Bajor, solidified by amazing-in-our-minds inside jokes revolving around oo-mox and various disgusting uses for Odo’s bucket. We laughed; we obsessed; we wore matching Bajoran earrings obtained at the annual “Trek” convention held at a grimy motel by the Portland airport. We were an all-female club of two—not exclusive by choice, but because no one else wanted in. These days, my geekdom is a much larger, messier, and altogether more complicated club. And recently, that club has disheartened me so much, I sometimes wish I could go back to a simple two-person set-up, wherein the biggest disagreement we had was over which hunky hunk of man-meat Major Kira should ultimately end up with. The source of my disheartenment stems from a certain pervasive notion that pops up with the irritating frequency of a broken Whac-a-Mole. Said notion is two-pronged: Geek girls do not exist. If they do exist, many of them are surely “fake geek girls;” superficial pretender ladies who profess enthusiasm for all things nerdy in order to “get attention.” Let’s start with the first prong. In 2010, I was on a panel at San Diego Comic-Con called Geek Girls Exist. On the placard outside the panel room, someone scrawled: “YOU LIE.” I wish I could say our panel—which featured a wide array of writers and gamers and musicians—totally proved the existence of geek girls to the entire world. Or that the success of GeekGirlCon, a Seattle-based convention celebrating the female geek, has brought enlightenment to those who would deny the existence of lady nerds. Or that, I don’t know, these doubting Thomases and Thomasinas would just open their eyeballs and see the masses of women attending comic book conventions, debating Doctor Who online, and buying entire wardrobes of Star Wars hoodies from Her Universe, actor Ashley Eckstein’s line of clothing for female sci-fi fans. And yet, the idea that all nerds are white, straight, pizza grease-stained dudes who live in some sort of basement (maybe it’s mom’s, maybe it’s a benevolent uncle’s, maybe it’s even their own, but whatever—it’s always a basement) seems to have implanted itself in the world’s collective consciousness like some kind of mind-controlling chip of dumbassery. We still get articles like Moviefone’s “Girl’s Guide to The Avengers,” which ran last year and started with the line: “As your boyfriend probably told you, The Avengers is hitting theaters this Friday.” (Sidenote: who is this strange, bubble-dwelling lady that gets any and all moviegoing information from her boyfriend? Also, why is he telling her if she’s not going to care anyway? Shouldn’t he be making these plans with his other basement-dwelling friends?) After getting a hearty smackdown in nearly every corner of the internet, the Moviefone article was re-titled “One Girl’s Guide to The Avengers” (the piece was written by a woman) and slapped with an “editor’s note” claiming satire. But that hasn’t stopped a boatload of other, similar articles from popping up elsewhere. We also still get looks of utter incredulity from strangers: while waiting in line for a movie, a friend and I had a pleasant conversation with a seemingly enlightened dude who, after learning of our various hobbies and interests and amazing nerdy knowledge, allowed his eyes to widen to the size of dinner plates while exclaiming that we were “true geeks” and that he wouldn’t have initially pegged us as such. I was pretty offended since 1) I was wearing clunky glasses, the stereotypical marker of nerds everywhere and 2) he said it in the tone of a loudmouth boss delivering a super-awesome promotion or maybe Tyra Banks proclaiming someone America’s Next Top Model. This brings us to the second prong, the “fake geek girl” prong, which to me, is also the “who gets to decide which lucky souls are worthy of the ‘geek’ label” prong. This guy thought he was giving us...

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