Author: Jason Sizemore

I am a writer, editor, publisher, and hillbilly. I own and operate Apex Publications (ApexBookCompany.com) and am the editor-in-chief of the Hugo Award-nominated Apex Magazine.

24 Days till the Apex Celebration

By my reckoning, we are 24 days from the Apex 10th Anniversary event at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY. This day also marks the release date for my new book For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher.

Each day I hope to write a countdown post until we reach the big date. Each post will relate to Apex Publications and/or For Exposure. This is the second one!

Religion has always played a prominent role in my writing. In fact, it still informs my genre leanings. I’m always drawn to shows and movies that have a religious/mythological aspect: Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and so on. I attribute this to my grandmother. She was a pious woman. The kindest and sincerely good individual I’ve known. She attended church her whole life and lived her life in a Christian manner the best she could. The best parts of Christianity she tried to instill in her family: love, generosity, kindness, acceptance, charity, and more.

She loved taking her grandchildren to church. My youngest brother didn’t attend to often. Her other grandchild lived in Ohio. So usually, I accompanied her alone to every Sunday service, most Wednesday night services, and many of the church’s extracurricular activities. Church never was a spiritual thing for me. Instead, I went because I loved the shared time with my grandmother. I wasn’t a mommy’s boy or daddy’s boy (Is that even a thing?). I was a granny’s boy! (Sorry mom. Sorry dad.)

The church we attended was across the street from where I lived. It’s a tiny building that holds 100 worshipers at best.

bigcreekbaptist

Big Creek Baptist Church

Even though this church is a deep well of inspiration for my horror and dark SF, it has also shaped some of my fondest memories. Churchs typically function as makeshift community centers in the poorer parts of our country. Big Creek Baptist was no exception. The church sponsored or held many events and activities that united the hill-folk in fellowship.

While Big Creek Baptist Church scared me into becoming a genre fan (Thanks, Lord!), it also holds a place close to my heart.

“Such beautiful hair this one has,” she’d said. “Did’ya get it from your momma’s side?” It’s a common refrain he hears, particularly from the older folks. No Sizemore in memory has ever had red hair, and members of the small community never fail to note the aberration.

–Excerpt from For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, Prologue

Actually, people never stop commenting on my red-fro until I started going bald in my late 20s. People rubbed my head like a Buddha’s belly for good luck. As a misinformed youth, I hated my hair. As a misanthropic adult, I would give up my right pinky finger to have it back! :)

If I can find a picture of my red-fro, I’ll post it. This weekend I visit my parents and they have albums filled with little Jason photos…

On June 20th, we celebrate my 10 years of being a genre publisher. Event page is here. Event info is below.

Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Lexington, KY
5:00 pm

25 Days till the Apex Celebration

By my reckoning, we are 25 days from the Apex 10th Anniversary event at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY. This day also marks the release date for my new book For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher.

Each day I hope to write a countdown post until we reach the big date. Each post will relate to Apex Publications and/or For Exposure. This is the first one!

Look at the youthful publisher wannabe in the photo below!

Apex Overlord or Babyface Hillbilly?

Apex Overlord or Baby Face Hillbilly?

That’s me approximately 10-12 years ago. This was me before kids, before publishing, with a lot less wrinkles and a much lower blood pressure. Look at that face–even back then I took the happiest selfies!

That guy in the photo is clueless. He’s about to have a kid. He’s about to be laid off from that job and land a position at the Lexington city government offices. All the crazy life transitions messed him up. The guy tried to steady the boat and put a decent effort into succeeding at his boring system administration job.

It’s the weirdest things that make the biggest differences in life. For me, it was a cheap, broken printer.

Then this happened:

That was that. My side of the story was cast aside as falsehoods. The two directors commenced a discussion regarding a six-month probationary period, mandatory anger management counseling, and having my wages garnished an amount equal to the cost it would take to replace the broken printer.

As they talked about me as though I weren’t sitting right there, I considered my life. That exact moment was playing out exactly as it should based on the parameters I had set for myself for the last 30 years. I would sit there meekly, accept whatever punishment deemed appropriate, and continue to being a ‘nobody’ to all the ‘superiors’ in my life.

No, that would not do, I thought. I would change the script of my life.

–Excerpt from For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, Chapter 1 “The Risk Master”

Not long after that, this happened:

Proud publisher or creepy peeping Tom?

Proud publisher or creepy peeping Tom?

The picture of me with issues one and two of Apex Digest was taken in late 2005. Almost 10 years ago.

I hope you come celebrate those 10 years with me on June 20th. Event page is here. Event info is below.

Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Lexington, KY
5:00 pm

Apex Publications 24-7!

xAPEX-Pub-banner-101812

Ten years ago I started a small zine named Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest. Although I started the publication for the simple goal of channeling my creativity, it didn’t take long for me to realize something else. I would rather be editing, publishing, and writing than doing software development.

While Apex Publications has grown and done well, the circumstances of life and reality has kept it firmly in a nebulous state between hobby and small business. During the last ten years, there has been war, an economic recession, and a housing market collapse. My wife and I had two kids. At no point in that time could I risk quitting the relatively stable profession of software development to pursue my dream of running Apex full-time.

Recently, however, the opportunity of switching professions became a reachable goal. The company has undergone tremendous growth over the past two years. Suddenly I found myself facing a difficult choice: hire somebody full-time to run Apex, or personally take over Apex full-time and draw a salary from the company. I chose the latter!

Starting June 1st my official profession will be publisher.

The first step of the journey! Issue #1 of Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest.

The first step of the journey! Issue #1 of Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest.

A lot of people have asked me if I’m scared. My answer is “Heck no! I’m excited!” I’ve been working ten years toward this goal. All those many, many months of working a day job, going home to take care of kids, then spending late weekday nights and whole weekends playing book and magazine publisher are finally paying dividends. I’m taking this opportunity and running with it.

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably someone who has made my career transition possible. I want to thank you for helping make my dream happen. My goal is to pay back your support with more great books and stories by more incredible authors. Let’s keep this rocket ship blasting skyward.

But first, we will celebrate the past ten years of Apex Publications on June 20th at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY as authors, editors, and artists who have played a major role in my journey join me in a reading, a Q & A, dinner, and a cocktail party. More details can be found here: http://bit.ly/1Q8FZhP.

And here’s to another fantastic ten years of Apex Publications!

See me at World Horror Convention this weekend!

Even though I’m not on the WHC 2015 attendees list, I will be present (they do list Apex Publications as attending).

I will be running the Apex Publications table in the vendor hall. Come by, pick up some limited edition promotional postcards, tell me all the latest gossip, and BUY stuff. Buy LOTS AND LOTS OF STUFF. As you might surmise, I will have all the Apex horror titles available.

This is my first WHC since 2007.

WHAT:
World Horror Con 2015
http://www.whc2015.org

WHERE:
Atlanta, GA
Atlanta Marriott Marquis

WHEN:
May 7th – May 10th

See you there!

Mo*Con X and other updates

Tonight I’ll be heading to Indianapolis for Mo*Con X. Ann VanderMeer is the Guest of Honor. I believe this will be my first time meeting her, so I’m pumped and a little nervous. :)

Mo*Con X site: http://mauricebroaddus.com/mocon/

FOR EXPOSURE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A SMALL PRESS PUBLISHER UPDATE

I’ve finished the first draft of the book. The next week will be spent polishing and editing. So far, I’m pleased with my first book sized project. I had a few…doubts…that I could finish by April 30th.

Apex T-shirts arrive today! Model shots coming soon!

VHS: Viral — A Public Shaming

First came VHS. It was okay.

Then came VHS 2. It was good.

VHS: Viral came and upset me by being terrible.

The VHS films are each an anthology of horror shorts with each short contributed by a director of some acclaim. For instance, in VHS, you have contributions by Ti West and Joe Swanberg. In the first two, a cache of videotapes are found that depict horrible things by horrible people. In the third…I’m not sure how it all ties together.

The first two films each feature one short that stands heads and shoulders above the rest. “Amateur Night” in VHS is a sexually charged statement of female empowerment with a star making turn by Hannah Fierman. “Safe Haven” by Timo Tjahjanto from VHS 2 is one of the most insane, jaw-dropping crazy, and scary experiences you’ll have watching a movie. The standout short in VHS: Viral is…okay, “Dante the Great” would pass for a mildly entertaining student film.

VHS: Viral contains the singular worst entry of the series (and, granted, the series has some stinkers) with “Bonestorm”. “Bonestorm” is 20 minutes of following a group of privileged douchebag skateboarders who run into some type of Mexican death cult.

Hannah Fierman in "Amateur Night" in V/H/S

Hannah Fierman in “Amateur Night” in V/H/S

The directors who participated have show the capability to produce quality work. Justin Benson (who directed “Bonestorm”) directed the thought provoking and unsettling Resolution (and the critical favorite Spring). Shame on you, Mr. Benson, for “Bonestorm”! Marcel Sarmiento directed the classic 2008 film Deadgirl. Shame on you, Mr. Sarmiento, for “Vicious Circles”! Nacho Vigalondo directed the cult favorite Timecrimes.  Shame on you, Mr. Vigalondo, for “Parallel Monsters”!

Gentlemen, you are better than this.

Readers, you are better than VHS: Viral. Do not watch this movie.

The trailer is the best part of the movie.

Review: Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

“…frustrating triumph” — Slate.com, Mac Rogers

I believe that neatly sums up my assessment of Jeff VanderMeer’s magnificent Southern Reach trilogy.

(SPOILER FREE REVIEW)

First, a quick recap:

Annihilation (Book 1) — A mysterious, alien environment named Area X has taken over a spot of land in a location I presume to be the Florida coastline (though the exact location is left unspecified). You can only enter and exit via a singular portal. An expedition team is sent into Area X to investigate. Annihilation is the story of these people, particularly a biologist who returns as the sole survivor.

The story is fascinating. It reminds me of all the parts of Lost that made me love that TV series so much.

Authority (Book 2) — We’re introduced to a new Southern Reach director who calls himself ‘Control’. The book amps up the tension as the pervading sense of weird and danger affects members of the Southern Reach. There is an entertaining battle of wills between Control and his assistant director, Control and his mother, and Control and the biologist from the first book.

Jeff VanderMeer masterfully explores interpersonal dynamics and uses them to create a book examining how we react to an unknown, looming danger.

Acceptance is the third book of the trilogy. The blurb on the back cover promises that answers will be provided. Ha! This ain’t my first rodeo, blurb author, I know how these things play out. A few answers will be provided, a few more will be hinted at, and a whole bunch will forever be left hanging loose.

Acceptance is a swirl of identities and personalities. The mystery of Area X is not the main concern of the author. I would propose it has much more to do with concepts of isolation, mistrust, loneliness, and, yes, acceptance. All our protagonists are somewhat difficult people, certainly lighthouses of individuality. They’re outsiders to the world. The metaphor here is that we all feel safer within boundaries we understand and control. Area X is that safe place.

VanderMeer enhances the separation the characters feel via the trick of points of view. First, second, and third are presented in Acceptance. He also employs timeline hops as a means of filling in the gaps. All this jumping in POV and setting gives a fair approximation of the disorientation the characters must be feeling.

Many of the wondrous and bizarre incidents and creatures that inhabit VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy are never explained beyond an extrapolated metaphorical sense. It *can* be a frustrating read for this reason. But to deny yourself the pleasure of reading VanderMeer’s masterpieces would be a shame. How else will you learn how to clean a mouse in a pond?

Click to purchase

Click to purchase

 

Sci-Fi/Horror Writers Group SPRING session

Carnegie-sub-pages-logoI’m leading a Spring SF/Horror writers group session at the Carnegie Center for Literacy in Lexington starting this coming Monday. It is a six week session, 2 hours per session, 5:30-7:30pm.

You can register here: http://carnegiecenterlex.org/adult-class/spring-sci-fihorror-writing-group/?class-name=SPRING:%20Sci-Fi/Horror%20Writing%20Group&class-price=$72

I’ve been asked how I run my groups. I started to write up some commentary, but then I found these methods from a post titled “How to Build a Writing Group in Your Community” by Jane Friedman that describes my philosophy spot on.

Structure. In some groups writers read their material aloud, but I’ve found that e-mailing work in the days prior proves more productive. First of all, it gives readers time to think about the material before offering feedback, and second, it presents work in the same way it’ll be seen by editors and agents.

Feedback. Some groups elect to have writers sit silently while receiving feedback, but this may limit the constructive dialogue that can happen. The trick is for the writer not to become defensive, and for the readers to stay focused on what the writer is seeking to accomplish rather than what they would do differently themselves. If the dialogue remains honest, open, and patient, it will prove useful to the writer’s process.

For the first session, writers should bring something to read for the group to critique. All following sessions, writers will be expected to email their work to the group at least 3 days prior to our meeting if they wish to receive feedback.

I hope to see you there!

For Exposure: Prelude

Jeff VanderMeer, one of the world’s best writers, posted this picture to his Facebook profile.

Ready for a cock fight!

Ready for a cock fight!

Why he did so is not important for the purposes of this post. What’s important is the picture: a man, looking unhappy, dressed as a giant chicken.

During a recent meeting with my writers group, I was asked about the first story I had had published. I made a choice that day to share a shameful moment from my past. Now I do it openly on the internet.

Way, waaaaay back when, I was a grunt programmer who worked in a small cubicle. On my cubicle wall I had  displayed a large, colorful calendar that I had picked up at a local Mexican restaurant. The calendar promoted the restaurant, of course, and displayed the months of the year (of course). The artwork adorning the calendar was something like a scene straight out of a Cormac McCarthy novel: a group of wild-eyed Mexican men and scantily clad ladies stood around a bloodied cockfighting pit, many of them holding money in their fists above their heads. Two fighting cocks were engaged in a horrible fight and feathers flew all different directions.

Looking back, I shake my head at the young Jason. I can’t believe I hung such a racist, violent calendar in my work office! At the time, I reasoned that Hey, the Mexican restaurant gave it to me, so it must be okay.

The restaurant’s calendar inspired me to write a terrible short story titled…well…I’m not going to divulge the title in case the story exists somewhere. I don’t want anybody reading it. Ever.

I can tell you about the story’s plot, though. There is an unhappy young man working in a cubicle farm. He is called into a meeting by his supervisors. The bosses tell him he’s going to be fired, but he can save his job by agreeing to do some cleanup work in the basement of the building. He agrees to do the work. In the basement, he’s clubbed over the head, locked in a steel cage, and fed nothing but cans of corn for 3 days. After three days, they force him to wear an armored chicken suit and then throw him into a pit with another, larger man (the pit champion!) and tell him to fight or die. The senior management of the company he works for all sits around the pit on leather couches while betting on the outcome.

The cubicle flunky loses the fight and is pecked to death. Finis!

I warned you it was a terrible short story. But I got it published in one of those ‘for exposure‘ do-it-yourself underground zines. I bought 20 copies of the issue and gave them out to family and friends.

I wish I hadn’t done that.

I see chicken suits all the time. And every time, I’m reminded of my shame.

(Author note: This is not an essay in my upcoming book, just an essay about a sale I made to a “for exposure” venue)

For Exposure cover reveal

Behold, the cover art to FOR EXPOSURE:

For Exposure_CVR002sm

Click for a larger, better view.

Justin Stewart did the art and design. Dude has mad skills!

The book is coming along. It’s about 50% written. The “Eyewitness Rebuttals” by Justin, Maurice Broaddus, and Sara Harvey are great. The ‘Oral History’ piece is nearing completion. The ‘Apex in 10 Years’ essays are a hoot. I think folks will enjoy For Exposure immensely!

This comes out on June 20th, at the Apex 10th Anniversary Party.

A few people have asked about preorders. Our target date is late April/early May.