Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: Apex Magazine

Apex is a quarterly print magazine specializing in what could be termed Science-Horror. Jason Sizemore, the editor, found this niche in the small press market and Apex has evolved to publish authors such as Ben Bova, J A Konrath, James P Hogan and Tom Piccirilli.

Preferring not to simply read magazines such as Apex from front to back, I will scour through the text and illustrations as though dipping in and out of a carnival rollercoaster ride: whichever narrative appeals most to my sense of the fantastique I will go with first , and so on until the end. In the case of issue six it was 'Cut and Paste' by Peter Gutierrez. The illustration features a typewriter with malign sentience - the sort of graphic display that tickles any writer's heart, no doubt.

'Cut and Paste' is short and perplexing. We are given only basic clues from a narrator that certain 'masters in the future' have gone about the process of eradicating the written word and our ability to even give birth to them in thought form. I would be lying if I claimed to understand its hidden ramifications; aside from this, it is somehow entertaining with bristling intellectualism. Perhaps an individual with more erudition in the S/F sector could shed light on it.

Long time contributor and prolific author Ben Bova has supplied 'Duel in the Somme.' Here, Bova's characters are young adolescents in the future. Although simple, it seemed strangely familiar and after a while it came to me: Starship Troopers. In a kind of love-triangle, young space cadet Tom tries to win the girl of his dreams in a duel. In true S/F style, both boys go at it in a V/R environment - a virtual simulation dominion of World War Two dog-fighting. Now that's a way to win the fair ladies hand!

A former nominee for the Nebula, Sturgeon and Hugo awards, Christopher Rowe gives us previously published 'Whether to Go Through.' Reminding me of another journey into celluloid , this time with the movie Cube, we find ourselves accompanying a rag-tag motley crew of space explorers finding each other in an unexpected environment. Although highly trained, their skills will not help for what lies in wait. Very short - and very satisfying. No complaints here.

For an author's first published piece of fiction, Robby Sparks has made 'Indigestion' the absolute stand out of this collection. Funny, serious , and with surprising plot-twists and pre-planned overtures, I found myself wanting more even though its length exceeds the rest. Here, earth is ruled by callous alien superiors and one fragile human named Hardin has had enough. With alien delegates having names like 'Girobian' (one gets the feeling of delicious caricatures resembling Star-Trek aliens of the sixties), and toilet happenings that take on a scientific edge , Indigestion will leave you frazzled but pumped. It's an electrifying tale and I hope to see more of Robby's work soon.

Another surprising thing happened when I came to 'Cerbo en Vitra ujo' by Mary Robinette Kowal. What started out as an almost light-hearted piece that could've been 'romance in space' suddenly dovetailed into dark regions I know of all to well of from my personal writing endeavors. Grete's boyfriend has recently left Banwith Station to attend school on a planet-based school. Then he goes missing. Suffice to say the conclusion is unprecedented and I cannot say more than this. Only readers with a strong stomach may apply.

Two gay queens in space. Yep; you heard that right. If this isn't enough to lure you into 'Queen of the Stars' by Bryn Sparks, nothing will. In this tale, both Aaron and Moesha have been charged to herald one of humanity's first attempts to be ambassadors to the stars. Things take a turn for the worst when they are highjacked by bestial Australian pirates. With me? Good. It gets even better -

In another intellectual foray, we have 'The Deep Misanthropic Principle' by Brandon Alspaugh. Alspaugh manages to convey what is perhaps his own philosophical questions riding on the plot of a Noah's Ark in Space. The Pistis is filled with survivors from whatever cataclysm befell the earth to bring them to their singularity. It is filled with 'Fugues' , survivors from this information holocaust. And 'Teachers' to guide the benefactors with scripture before they reach they're allotted 'destination.' This is certainly one of those tales that will hold different meanings for different people.

With this issue, the science fiction facet is strong; however, ripples of horror abound and coming out of it I got much the same feeling as though I'd read a piece by Orson Scott Card - where maturity and immaturity intertwine to create a unique tapestry. One of the things that irks me about this sort of format is the solicitous way we are pushed almost rudely into a story. I can't help but think a slight blurb or introductory are necessary to goad a reader in so he or she doesn't get cold feet. Of course, this is one man's opinion. But some of these stories are brilliant , exceptional even; and without a sufficient gateway of a line to usher me in, I feel like turning away.

All that aside, I wish Apex well in its impeding endeavors and will continue the journey with them. As some of you might know the future of its continued existence has come into jeopardy, so rally behind this faithful little magazine and grab a subscription.

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