Posts Tagged "nonfiction"

The Fuzzy Bunny Squad is Standing By….

by on Aug 4, 2015 in Nonfiction | 0 comments

Picture this: you’re reading a novel, or a short story, or perhaps watching a movie or television show; you’re being entertained, you’re caught-up in the story, enjoying the heck out of everything, and then— —what the…?— —something so unbelievably, incredibly, and mind-numbingly STUPID happens that whatever spell has been cast by the story/novel/film/show is instantly broken, and you spend several moments trying to figure out why this moment of radiant brainlessness has elbowed its way into something that was, up until this point, doing a damn fine job at helping you suspend your disbelief; in fact, you spend so much time meditating on this conundrum that you miss whatever happens next, or are so flummoxed by it that there is absolutely no way in hell that you can enjoy the rest. What is a person to do? The obvious answer is to seek out those books, stories, movies, and shows that have some integrity and acumen behind them, and whose creators display an obvious respect for your intelligence. (And while you’re at it, discover that cure for cancer we’re all waiting for, will you?) Unfortunately, most people have neither the time nor the inclination to seek out those works that adhere to the above guidelines (they are out there, but keep in mind as we go along, everyone is entitled to the occasional mis-step; this statement will be made clearer shortly). So the answer to the question What is a person to do? is actually very simple. What follows is my personal solution: Fuzzy Bunnies. Think about them for a moment: you’ve got these bunnies; they’re all warm and plump and fuzzy; you can hug them and squeeze and call them “Norbert”; they’ve got their cute bunny noses and adorable bunny whiskers and those loveable floppy ears; you can hold them in your arms and pet them and—just like Spock with a Tribble—all your cares and concerns just…fade…away…under…the…weight…of…all…that…cuteness. For the record, I’m not suggesting you go out and purchase an actual fuzzy bunny; they tend to poop and copulate a lot, and you don’t need any more frustrations; I’m talking about metaphorical fuzzy bunnies, the type you keep running free in the Watership Down field in the back of your mind, all ready to be called upon when needed. But what use are these fuzzy bunnies if you cannot properly identify a Fuzzy Bunny Moment? Lucky for you I have no life and few friends and am terrible lonely and so have spent a great deal of time considering this problem in order to give my existence the illusion of meaning. Let’s start with the supreme Fuzzy Bunny moment from the film Aliens. I like this movie, but had it not been for the Fuzzy Bunnies, the ending would have ruined it for me. You have to know the moment I’m talking about. Sigourney Weaver has bitch-slapped the Queen Mother Alien down into this airlock chamber. The Queen is scrabbling to get to Sigourney. There’s no time to close the roof, so Sigourney—in an act that defies not only all logic but at least three separate laws of basic Physics—hits the “jettison” button, the doors open, and the Queen is sucked into space. But what of Sigourney? How does she prevent herself from being pulled into the death of space’s vacuum with the Queen? With one arm—count it, one—she holds onto a single rung of a ladder. Forget that the sudden decompression is sucking pieces of equipment that weigh several tons more than she all the hell over the deck above, Ripley somehow manages through a feat of god-like strength to hold onto the rung for several seconds, all the while defying the power of the vacuum to reach out with her free arm (which should have been wrenched at the very least out of its socket, if not ripped off entirely) and hit the button to close the door, and the day is saved. You could do several things at this point while watching the movie: laugh; shake your head; run, screaming, for a copy of Ernest Scared...

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Words from the Editor in Chief

by on Aug 4, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Welcome to issue 75! It is August—the dog days of summer. This is when we sit in the shade on our back porch and fan ourselves, ignoring the flies and sweat bees looking to make dinner out of you. The world moves in heat-induced lumber, and we only have the energy to gossip and philosophize. The quartet of original fiction Apex brings to you, dear reader, will help give you mental grist for your intellectual posturing. There’s an overarching theme that loosely ties the stories together: our need to find and be the person we see ourselves as being. In Mehitobel Wilson’s “Brisé”, the protagonist toys with the notion of “many worlds” and what happens when we glimpse at the possibilities that exist in them. “Coming Undone” by Alexis A. Hunter is a sharp flash fiction piece about a person born with a congenital defect and the lengths he/she will go to in order to feel whole. Sunny Moraine returns to our pages with “It is Healing, It is Never Whole”, a dreamlike exploration into suicide and seeking for what makes you happy. Rounding out our original fiction is the always amazing Damien Angelica Walter with “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys: The Elephant’s Tale.” Poetry editor Bianca Spriggs has one again loaded up the poetry offerings with some great works by A. Merc Rustad, Levi Sable, Jennifer Ruth Jackson, and Mary Soon Lee. Reprints editor Charlotte Ashley gives us “New Feet Within My Garden Go” by one of my favorite writers, E. Catherine Tobler. Our nonfiction is “The Fuzzy Bunny Squad is Standy By….” from Gary A. Braunbeck. Also on tap are Clavis Aurea (a review of this year’s Hugo Novelette nominees), interviews with our cover artist Billy Norrby and author Mehitobel Wilson, and excerpts from King of the Bastards by Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury and If Then by Matthew De Abaitua. § Congratulations to Ursula Vernon! Her story “Jackalope Wives” has picked up a World Fantasy Award nomination for best short story! Ursula has had quite the year. § Fiction writers don’t forget that we reopen to submissions on September 1st. We can’t wait to read your best work! Poets please note due to an excess of inventory, we will be closed to poetry submissions for the foreseeable future. Enjoy issue...

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For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher (Excerpt)

by on Jul 7, 2015 in Nonfiction | 0 comments

When people learn you’re the editor of a short fiction magazine, they press you for all the lurid slush pile stories. They understand that the world overflows with twisted, confused individuals and that, as an editor, you have chosen to make your living with the creative output from that crowd. Due to ghastly curiosity, they have questions. What’s the craziest story you’ve ever received? Oh, I’ll get to that later. Have you ever read anything that made you want to call the police? No. But other things related to editing have. I’ll get to that later, too. Has anybody famous ever submitted a story? Stephen King, if you’re reading this, I’m still waiting for your story. Any experienced editor who works with a slush pile will have a litany of odd encounters to share. It’s part of the burden of working with the public-at-large. The privilege of working with the ‘outside the bell curve’ types is a necessary part of the job. The boring truth is that most slush stories are simply unremarkable. You read them, you reject them, you move on to the next one. But once in a while, strange and unfortunate stories find their way to the submission stacks like fruit gnats magically appearing around your kitchen table. Lesson one as editor: Don’t place your home address in the magazine’s masthead. I did just this in the first two issues of Apex Digest. I had yet to learn the hard lesson that some people accept rejection in less-than-professional ways.[1] I received my first threat of violence (this implies more than one because, of course, there has been more than one) while reading submissions for the third issue of Apex Digest. Years of managing a small business has taught me that a smart business tactic is to always be a professional, so my rejections are concise, short, and polite. Should the mood hit, I’ll include personal feedback, particularly to authors I know personally and won’t take my suggestions as an insult. However, a majority of the time I’ll send a form rejection. Not because I don’t like to help people with their writing, but more as a matter of personal time restrictions. Form letters are an evil necessity in the publishing business. A form rejection ignited one man’s irrational anger in a memorable and frightening way. Six minutes after I emailed the rejection notice, the author wrote a heated response. Before I go any further, let me give writers these words of advice: never, ever respond to a rejection. You’re not going to change anybody’s mind. Move on and try again with a different story. Also before I go any further, let me give editors these words of advice: never, ever respond to a rejection response. The writer at the other end of the letter is likely in an emotional and irrational state. Move on, you have hundreds of stories waiting for you in the slush pile. At that point of my editing career, I had never received an argumentative, impassioned response to a rejection. Perhaps a few “Thank you for your consideration” and “Maybe next time” notes here and there, sure—harmless stuff that wasted my time. But this author had a beef with me over a most unusual thing. I’ve always worked hard to make sure Apex has a reasonable response time. Back in those halcyon times, my goal was to answer all submissions within seven days. I had rejected this upset gentleman’s story in two days. Two days! The author’s polemic made it clear he felt that two days was not sufficient time to read, assess, and reject his story. He then went on to say mean things about Apex Digest, and said he wiped his ass with the pages of my zine. I wondered then and I wonder now: who gets upset over a two-day response time? I’ve had publications hold on to my work for two years before they reject it. Compared to that, two days seems like a minor miracle. And if you hate a magazine enough to wipe off your derriere...

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How Horror Made Me More Empathetic

by on Jul 7, 2015 in Nonfiction | 0 comments

Recently, a New Republic article entitled “What It Says About You if You Enjoy Horror Movies” caused a lot of controversy and angered many horror aficionados and creators, including myself. One of the conclusions, and the one that drew the most ire, was that people who enjoy horror movies lack empathy. (The article can be found here: newrepublic.com/article/120689/babdook-what-it-says-about-you-if-you-enjoy-horror-movies) I take exception to this as someone who considers himself both an empathetic person and a lover of the horror genre. My fiancé is one of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever met, and also a voracious devourer of all things horror. These two examples don’t exactly make a scientific case study, but there is something to be said for personal experience. And my personal experience is that horror has actually made me more empathetic. In order to really explain what I mean by this, it will be necessary to provide a brief rundown of how I define horror. What I think makes for good and true horror storytelling. For me, the most basic building block for horror is suspense. It’s not the gore or the creative kills or the blood-curdling screams…what actually makes horror horrifying is the ratcheting of tension, that edge-of-your-seat suspense that ties the audience’s stomach up in knots. And what is the most effective way to build suspense in a horror story? Well, ask a dozen people you may get a dozen different answers, but as a lifelong fan of horror and someone who has been publishing in the genre for the past ten years, I’m going to share my thoughts on the subject. The most effective way to build suspense for me is to introduce characters the audience can relate to, can care about, then place those characters in jeopardy. It is this investment in sympathetic characters that are in peril that gives the story the sense of risk that is necessary for true suspense. Of course, not every horror movie or novel follows this formula. There is a subgenre—sometimes called “torture porn” in film and “siction” in print—where the main focus is the imaginative death scenes, the extreme and graphic violence. And dating back even to the later Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, killers were being turned into anti-heroes, and the fun of the films was derived from rooting for the killer to off a succession of increasingly obnoxious and vile characters. It is not my intention to judge those that enjoy those types of stories; they provide their own form of entertainment. However, I do not believe that they are truly horror. You cannot be horrified if you are cheering and laughing your way through the film. That may be an enjoyable ride, but it is not the essence of horror. As I’ve stated, my definition of horror makes you feel connected to the characters you’re watching or reading about, and you root for them, you want to see them survive…but you know for some of them that might not be an option, and that’s what creates the tension and suspense. There’s also an element of putting yourself in the shoes of the characters, imagining what it might be like to be in their place. All of this can be summed up in one word: empathy. Yes folks, I firmly believe that horror in its truest form actually fosters a sense of empathy for other people. The success of such tales hinges on it. In fact, I would argue that if horror has a higher purpose beyond mere entertainment (which I think in and of itself is a pretty lofty goal), it would be that it develops and nurtures a deep feeling for those in trouble, those in need, and makes you feel their pain as if it were your own. When watching the original Halloween and Halloween II, which I saw repeatedly as a child, I was not on Michael’s side. I was putting myself in Laurie’s shoes. Her unease early in the film was mine, and when she started finding the bodies of her friends strew...

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Words from the Editor-in-Chief

by on Jul 7, 2015 in Nonfiction | 0 comments

Welcome to issue 74! This month we have an edgy SF exploration of gender and sexuality in Rich Larson’s “Going Endo.” I suspect the story might not be to the tastes of some readers. For example, read the opening lines: They say the reason it’s mostly fems who go endo is because of the whole penetration thing, like us sirs can’t handle the wet interface, but once on leave I got my face pulped in a blood-brawl at Decker’s Draughts & Dopamine, and since the autosurgeon took five whole hours putting my jaw back together I woke up with a supersize catheter stuffed up my cock. Going endo can’t be worse than that, I don’t think. That’s imagery that sticks. It’s like Larson has tapped into a David Cronenberg hallucination. In A.A. Balaskovits’s provocative story “All Who Tremble” the author paints the page with dark imagination. It has the feeling of a fairy tale in voice and style, but only if fairy tales are strange and dark and twisted. “Never Chose This Way” by Shira Lipkin makes a nice bookend to Larson’s “Going Endo.” When you’ve read both, you’ll understand what I mean. Our reprint this month is “The River” by adrienne maree brown. We have a fascinating near-epic poem named “How the World was Made—A Super Crown” by Roger Bonair-Agard. Charlotte Ashley reviews the Hugo Award short fiction nominees. Andrea Johnson interviews Rich Larson about “Going Endo.” Russell Dickerson interviews our cover artist Carly Sorge. Finally, Mark Allen Gunnells returns with his essay “How Horror Made Me More Empathetic.” We have two excerpts this month. The first is from the hilariously titled “The War Against the Assholes” by Sam Munson. The other is by a name familiar to readers of this magazine… “For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher” by Jason Sizemore. Apex wishes to congratulate Ursula Vernon. Her story “Jackalope Wives” won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story! “Jackalope Wives” has also earned a Cóyotl Award nomination for Best Short Story. It is gratifying to see such a talented and wonderful person receiving so many accolades! Jason Sizemore...

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