A Conversation with Jason Sizemore, Editor-in-Chief of Apex Magazine
I had a chance recently to converse with Jason Sizemore, the editor-in-chief of Apex Magazine, about running a successful online literary publication. If you're not familiar with Apex, here's a little bit of info from their website's About page:
Apex Magazine is an online prose and poetry magazine of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mash-ups of all three. Works full of marrow and passion, stories that are twisted, strange, and beautiful. Creations where secret places and dreams are put on display.
I talked with Jason about the origins of Apex, the magazine's diversity goals, as well as their current submission and donation drive, which aims to expand their average issue's word count and increase pay to 8¢ per word.
Can you give us a brief history lesson on Apex Magazine's origins? What lead you to pursue publishing a monthly fiction magazine?
The publishing dream started out modestly in 2004. I was thirty years old, and had something of an early mid-life crisis. Stuck at a dead job and starving for a way to express myself creatively, I decided to open a print zine of dark SF. Thus was born the quarterly print zine Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest.
Around 2008, I saw the digital tsunami that was about hit the periodical industry. I elected to go on a one year hiatus and reopen as a monthly digital publication titled, simply, Apex Magazine. 90+ issues later, here we are!
You're a writer as well as an editor and publisher. Given this, what does the average work day look like for you?
Writing is a hobby. Editing and publishing pays the bills. Each and every day starts and ends with email. In between is a frantic mix of marketing, editing, accounting, and customer service.
In the submission guidelines for Apex, it is stated: "Apex Magazine welcomes and encourages submissions from writers of all race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, and military status, in any of its activities or operations. We want diverse voices. We value diverse voices. Having said that, please be aware that we do not collect any information that might clue our editors to any of these attributes other than your name, email, and address prior to any decisions made regarding your submissions." Apex has quite a solid diversity track record without "going out of its way," so to speak, via special issues. Is the above welcoming statement of inclusivity the sole facet of this track record, or are there other factors that play into it?
That particular statement stems from the recent Fireside Magazine survey about representation of black authors in the top-tier SF fiction publications. As it turns out, Apex Magazine was not doing as good a job of representing authors of color as had been thought. Our first step was to include a blanket diversity statement in our guidelines to make sure that any writer of non-white cishet male background knew that we WANT to hear their voice in our submissions folder.
However, I currently do not want to collect demographic data that might influence our decision making. We want the best stories and are not selecting materials just to check a box.
What kinds of story submissions do you want to see more of? What are you tired of seeing?
We receive way too many stories of magic realism and not enough dark science fiction.
You're currently in the midst of a subscription and donation drive for Apex, which aims to includes reader patronage via Patreon. We've discussed in the past the virtues of providing free content online, which Apex does, and which readers can support via Patreon donations. What would you say is the biggest benefit of subscribing to Apex, and having each issue of the magazine delivered directly to your eReader, as opposed to navigating to Apex's website and reading content there?
Having access to an eBook edition saved to your cloud or local drive is more convenient than having to go online. You also receive the whole issue on the first Tuesday of the month instead of waiting for it to appear piecemeal on the website.
Most importantly, you're helping keep genre short fiction alive with your dollars when you subscribe. SF has a long and important relationship with the short form. It's continued existence helps keep genre work fresh and vibrant.
You've already published some amazing authors with the magazine, including Nick Mamatas, Lucy A. Snyder, Jeff VanderMeer and Seanan McGuire. Do you have any dream authors you'd like to see printed in Apex?
Every publication dreams of landing Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Margaret Atwood in their table of contents. I've spent the better part of a decade trying to talk Mary Doria Russell into penning one solitary short for the zine to no avail. China Mielville is another Lord of the Written Word I query every couple of years hoping for the best.
A few more: Joe Abercrombie, Richard K. Morgan, Charlie Huston, Walter Mosely, Chelsea Cain, and Sherrilyn Kenyon.
For more information about Apex and their submission and donation drive, click here.
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