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Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 Paperback – January 5, 2016
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About the Author
Born the son of an unemployed coal miner in a tiny Kentucky Appalachian villa named Big Creek (population 400), Jason fought his way out of the hills to the big city of Lexington. He attended Transylvania University (real school with its own vampire) and received a degree in computer science. Since 2004, he has owned and operated Apex Publications. He is the editor of five anthologies, author of Irredeemable and For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, a three-time Hugo Award loser, an occasional writer, and usually can be found wandering the halls of hotel conventions seeking friends and free food.
Lesley Conner is a writer, social media editor and marketing leader for Apex Publications, and Managing Editor for Apex Magazine. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, proofreading, wrangling slush, doling out contracts, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind on the @ApexBookCompany Twitter account. Most of her nights are spent with a good book and a glass of wine. Her alternative history horror novel, The Weight of Chains, was recently published by Sinister Grin Press. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.
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Before I get to the review of this anthology I have to comment on the exceptional cover art "Life is a Dance in the Rain" by Adrian Borda. This piece really sets the stage for the twenty-one stories that follow in this first collection of the Best of Apex Magazine.
An Apex story can be difficult to describe, but in this collection I enjoyed nearly every one of them. Its the best of speculative fiction, covering multiple genres with an international list of authors, some familiar, many not, but all rich with storytelling skills.
Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon the Hugo-award winning author of the comic Digger. Ursula also writes for adults under the name T. Kingfisher. Her work has also won the Nebula, Mythopoeic, Cóyotl, and WSFA Awards. "Jackalope Wives" gets the anthology started just right. A story that adds to the mythology of the jackalope, a mythical creature from North American folklore.
Going Endo by Rich Larson who was born in West Africa, has studied in Rhode Island, worked in Spain, and at 23 now writes from Edmonton, Alberta.
Candy Girl by Chikodili Emelumadu a Nigerian Writer whose corporeal self resides in London. Her story "Candy Girl" was nominated for the 2014 Shirley Jackson award. A story that would be comedic if it weren't so very tragic.
If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky, a graduate of Clarion West, her short fiction has been nominated for the Hugo, the Locus, the World Fantasy, and the Sturgeon Awards. She's twice won the Nebula Award, including in 2013 for "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love." Whenever I see Rachel's name on the cover of a magazine or anthology I know I'm in for a treat. I loved this story when I first read it and enjoyed it again with this rereading.
Advertising at the End of the World by Keffy R.M. Kehrli. Keffy is a science fiction and fantasy writer currently living on Long Island in New York. When not writing, he's busy working on his PhD, doing science, or editing Glittership. A quirky, imaginative story of robotic advertising.
The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell who likes to explore the edge where humans and their technology are increasingly merging. She is an active member of SFWA. A wondrous tale of performace art and technology taken to the extreme.
A Matter of Shapespace by Brian Trent. This story was voted by Apex Magazine readers as their 2013 Story of the Year, and he is a 2013 winner in the Writers of the Future contest. Speculative fiction at its finest. In a future here you can be backed up to the cloud, three megacorps rule the earth. Two have merged and plan a hostile takeover of the third.
Falling Leaves by Liz Argall. An Australian living in Seattle, Liz plays roller derby with the Rat City Rollergirls, writes, and draws comics. A beautiful story of a terribly awkward friendship.
Blood from Stone by Alethea Kontis. New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a fairy godmother, and a geek. She's known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampires, and ranting about fairy tales on YouTube.
Sexagesimal by Katharine E.K. Duckett a writer living in Brooklyn who collects canes, bookmarks, and unusual earrings.
Multo by Samuel Marzioli who has an incredibly simple bio. He was born and raised and that's all you need to know about that. What would a collection like this be without a ghost story? "Multo" is that story.
Keep Talking by Marie Vibbert an IT professional from Cleveland, Ohio. She has ridden 16% of the roller coasters in the United States and played for the Cleveland Fusion women's tackle football team. This story was the 2014 Apex Magazine Reader's Choice Winner and deservedly so.
Remembery Day by Sarah Pinsker who, in addition to writing science fiction, is a singer/songwriter and has toured nationally behind three albums on various independent labels. She lives with her wife and dog in Baltimore, Maryland. "Remembery Day' tells of a future where one day each year the veil is lifted and people remember the war and those who fought in it.
Blood on Beacon Hill by Russell Nichols a speculative fiction writer and endangered journalist. He writes about race, class, and other human myths. Raised in Richmond, CA, he now lives on the road, out of a backpack with his fairy tale freak of a wife (current location: Mexico). This was my favorite story in the anthology. I do lean more toward horror in my personal taste and this story of the conflicts between mortals and immortals in old Boston hit the spot.
The Green Room by Amal El-Mohtar, an author, editor, and critic: her short fiction has received the Locus Award and been nominated for the Nebula Award, while her poetry has won the Rhysling Awrd three times. There truly are stories for every taste in this collection. Here is a rather strange story of books.
L’esprit de L’escalier by Peter M. Ball the author of Horn, Bleed, and The Floatsam trilogy from Apocalypse Ink. I couldn't begin to tell you what this story was about, but I did enjoy it immensely.
Still Life (A Sexagesimal Fairy Tale) by Ian Tregillis the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader. He lives in New Mexico, where he consorts with writers, scientists, and other disreputable types. A charming fantasy of a clock-maker from a very visual writer. He had some great lines, like "Sharp enough to shear the red from a rainbow." and "Its edges were the sharpest things that could ever be, sharp as the now that separates past and future."
Build a Dolly by Ken Liu an author and translator of speculative fiction, as well as a lawyer and programmer. A winner of the Nebula Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. "Build a Dolly" is a short yet powerful story of a doll with a kind of consciousness.
Armless Maidens of the American West by Genevieve Valentine an author and critic whose first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the 2012 Crawford Award; her second, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, was an NPR, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune best book of the year. Another of my favorites in this collection, the story of a particular armless maiden in the American west and a journalist who comes to attempt an interview,
Pocosin by Ursula Vernon. This is her second work to be included in this anthology. In this story, God, the devil, and death each seek an audience with a dying possum god.
She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow by Sam Fleming who lives in north-east Scotland with an artistic spouse and the correct number of bicycles, that being entirely too many and not quite enough.
Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Apex Book Company.
While I didn't enjoy every story in this collection. I certainly liked enough of them to recommend it, particularly if you love speculative fiction in all its various forms.
I was provided with an electronic ARC of this collection, in exchange for an honest review, and can say that, if you like SF, Fantasy, the ‘weird’ (that new genre), or anything out of the ordinary for your readings, this set will have a place in your shelf, whether is made of electrons or wood.
Some of these stories play with multiple levels of emotion [“If you were a dinosaur, my love”] or experiment with alien sex [“Going Endo”]. Others are a delicate meshwork of time and love [“Still Life’], or gather together memory and war [“Remembery Day"], but perhaps, if you reread these last two, it might seem that it was the other way around.
The end of the world gets a playful treatment [“Advertisement at the end of the world”] and, sideways, another tale builds for us an awful future that we haven’t yet imagined—so bend as we are on worlds of virtual reality—and leads to a territory even more nightmarish than nuclear blasts or zombies [“A matter of shapespace”].
There are also all kinds of (hopefully fictional) legends [“Jackalope Wifes” or “Armless maidens of the American West”, as examples] and witchcraft that’s presented in a shockingly sweet, unexpected way [“Candy Girl”]. And yes, there are vampires [“Blood on Beacon Hill”], but these would make you wonder if there aren’t some loose in our current electoral system.
Each of these worlds is quite experiential, and we get to move through events that seem real, even when they are clearly out there and beyond the ‘outer limits’. I can’t possibly comment on all the short stories of this collection, or do it more extensively for some, without spoiling the fun. I’d just say that, from all the collections I’ve read over the years, this one has distinguished itself with an incredible breath. What I can truly promise any interested reader is that one (but surely many more) of these stories will stun you, shock you, or excite your mind into reading other collections. And this will be true no matter how jaded you have become, or how many times—my sorry experience—you’ve fallen asleep going through a supposedly-amazing ‘Annual Best’ or ‘Selected such-and-such Genre’ collection.
A surefire read, and also a spirited effort—hopefully to be continued—to put together a broad set of fantastic tales from many award-winning authors.
NB: I won a copy of this from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. Thanks!