Musings from Maryland

If you’ve read Jason’s editorial in the February issue, or if you follow him on Twitter (@apexjason), then you know that he has recently been facing some health issues, including Bell’s palsy and a surgery on his jaw, to remove an aggressive growth and a five inch section of affected bone. Since he is otherwise occupied with recovering, he asked if I would handle writing the editorial this month, which, of course, I was happy to do. I’m writing this the day before Jason’s surgery, sitting in my living room, knowing there is a high likelihood that I won’t talk to him again until after the whole thing is over, and I’m a bit more emotional than I expected I would be.

This entire experience—Jason waking up with one side of his face paralyzed, his trip to the ER, the diagnosis first of Bell’s palsy, and then of the growth in his jaw, and now the surgery—has made me think a lot about the age of the Internet and the ability we have to make friends all over the globe. I live in Maryland. Jason is in Lexington, KY. Not far in worldwide terms, but we definitely aren’t grabbing coffee together every other week. For the past four and a half years, we have spent nearly every day working as the editing team of Apex Magazine. If you add in the time I’ve worked on marketing and editing for Apex Book Company, we’ve spent more than eight years working together. During that time we’ve talked work, family, life, and everything in between, we’ve partied at cons, and edited two anthologies together. By this point, I think it’s fair to say Jason is one of my best friends, and I care about him a great deal. For me, when someone you care about is sick or going through a rough time, you do something for them.

Over the years, I have made dinners, chauffeured kids, cleaned houses, and sat in waiting rooms for friends who were sick or going through a hard time. Once, when a girl in my Girl Scout troop wasn’t feeling well, one of my co-leaders and I covered her front lawn in balloons and surprised her with a gift bag full of activities while she was recuperating. That’s what you do when someone you love is down. (Well, maybe you don’t balloon someone’s yard, but I do.) There’s this overwhelming need to be there, to do something, to fix things, to make that person know they are loved, they are cared for, and I’ve got their back.

When the person you love is in another state, when they are hours away, and your friendship is one built through Google chat and text, taking a casserole to their house or just sitting a spell and being there with them isn’t an option. And I’m not going to lie; it has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. It has me wondering about the future, when more friendships are forged online and our neighbors, who are right next door, are strangers. Who will make you a casserole when you face a hardship? How will you show your friends, who are a world away, that you care and are there for them? I don’t have the answers, but I know somehow we will figure it out. As a community—whether that community is online or in person—we have a way of coming together and helping each other when the need arises.

For me, right now, that means making sure all things Apex-related are handled and dealt with, so Jason can rest and recover from his surgery. It means writing this editorial, answering emails, and doing all the things that come with running a publishing company. And it means dealing with the fact that, as much as I want to, I cannot fly to Lexington to make Jason’s family a pie. Maybe I will mail them some homemade marshmallows. And read. Because reading is always a good decision. Luckily for you, we have a new issue full of reading pleasure.

This month, we have original short fiction by Elana Gomel, Ben Serna-Grey, and Russell Nichols. We open the issue with Elana Gomel’s thought-provoking “The Prison-house of Language,” a story that explores how language developed, how it steers our way of thinking, and what may happen if those constraints are stripped away. Ben Serna-Grey’s “Where Gods Dance” is a flash piece that delves deep into a parent’s grief and how they use that to try to hold onto their child. It is short, but incredibly powerful. “Curse Like a Savior” by Russell Nichols envisions a future where people can have holograms of Jesus deliver devotions in the comfort of their own homes. Like with all technology, sometimes these holograms need to be repaired. This story follows a repairman who goes on a call about a hologram Jesus that is using some very unChrist-like words. “Curse Like a Savior” is rich and immersive and a lot of fun.

Finally, we have an original novelette this month, funded through the support of our Patreon patrons. “O Have You Seen the Devle with his Mikerscope and Scalpul?” by Jonathan L. Howard is an in-depth look at the Jack the Ripper murders, through the scope of someone who is obsessed with the case: they know all the details, have read every article and scrap of news. As the story builds, they take the reader through each death, wishing they could change things, but knowing they can’t. This is a wonderfully inventive look at a story we all feel we know, and it is a thrilling ride.

Our reprint this month is by Regina Bradley. Andrea Johnson discusses language and how it influences our thoughts and how we feel with Elana Gomel in our author interview, and Russell Dickerson talks about musical influences and the power of family with Aaron Jasinski in our cover artist interview. Our nonfiction piece is a wonderful look at peaceful and ethical engagements within the community through the arts, where author Tabitha Barbour discusses how Mari Evan’s writing and activism influences her.

I hope you enjoy this issue as much as I have enjoyed helping to put it together for you. Hug your family and tell your friends how much they mean to you.

Lesley Conner
Managing Editor
Apex Magazine

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