Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 - edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner -

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

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.

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