Cover Art by James Lincke
Apex Magazine Issue 78 is one of my favorite issues of this year. This issue packs a punch dealing with some serious social issues and offering a heavy dose of sci-fi/horror.
The exceptional fiction collection starts with Blood on Beacon Hill by Russell Nichols. For one of his first published short story works, he really knows how to write. The world is vivid and reminds me of one of my favorite shows True Blood in that vampires are a known species. The author uses this subversion of the trope to explore issues of race in a unique way and I found the protagonist to be very identifiable. His struggle as a teenage vampire mirrors the struggle of many young men in the nation today and provides an intriguing perspective to current social issues. Plenty of twists and turns and great symbolism of the Venus Flytrap persuasion and what would an Apex issue be without a little necrophilia to top it off. So much is packed in this story from the struggles of adolescence to political intrigue. This story stuck with me and I could easily find myself coming back to it again. I am curious to read The Wordsmith by Russell Nichols after getting a taste of his writing from this short fiction piece.
To Die Dancing by Sam J. Miller is a story where when I first started reading, I thought this would never happen but then the author does such a great job providing the background and setting up the scenario that I found it totally believable as I ventured deep into the night club on this one particular night. There are some great statements on religious zealously applied laws and how they can go to far. I could feel the heartbreak and loss of the protagonist and deep within the throbbing pulse of the night club is a truly gripping romantic tale. These kinds of stories make me love short fiction and understand it's importance. I could see the way an idea could go to far and fiction lets a writer explore that realm before reality catches up and we all suffer the awful consequences. I want to go out to a nightclub just to appreciate a good dance after reading this one.
The Beacon and the Coward by Day Al-Mohamed is an awesome mix of historical fiction with a sort of steampunk sci-fi twist. It's a short time after an alternate history American civil war and despite mechanical additions to the human body, race is still an issue. The Coward from the title still garnered my sympathy and there was a nice bit of action in this one that melds well with the new tech that function smoothly in this new world. That the author was able to transport me back in time and set up a completely believable twist to it is really a credit to the great writing.
Signal to Noise by Gemma Files is the reprint fiction piece and is such a cool mix of spycraft and ghost story. It feels like the Showtime series Homeland mixes with The Ring or some technological horror story. The protagonist is a no nonsense spy who starts to uncover messages that shouldn't be there, a very interesting twist on the familiar tale of the war on terror. I like that Apex brings back such great fiction that I would never personally encounter until I picked up a new issue.
The nonfiction this month, Cthulhu Apocalypse and the Terrifying Tradition of Horror Role-Playing by Ed Grabianowski give an in-depth look into the concept of horror RPG not to be confused with the usual fantasy epic RPG. Just from reading this alone, I wanted to play the games mentioned and should really step up my RPG game. It seems actually terrible to immerse yourself in the worlds described so as a fan of horror this is on my to-do list.
The chilling poetry in this issue is, as always, a nice extra treat to leave me with goosebumps when I've just had my worldview altered by the short fiction. Rolling Dice by Chloe Clark makes a familiar fictional deal seem wholly unnerving. Mother Doll by Brittany Warman had an "As I Lay Dying" vibe that grossed me out but felt melancholic. When The Gods Come Knocking by Julia Kingston will make me look at my next thunderstorm in a totally different way. Time Missing by Michael Sikkema captures the confusing nature of time travel in a way that only good poetry could.
My kindle messed up so I might come back and edit this review to add the novel excerpts if I manage to get a hold of them. I know I am looking forward to reading The Weight of Chains by Apex editor Lesley Conner.
Apex Magazine is in the midst of a subscription drive so I'd like to add the link below in case you would like to contribute. It ends on Friday the 13th! This magazine publishes great fiction that might otherwise not reach a large audience so it is worth whatever you can give.