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.

Black Hole Sun

“Times are gone for honest men.”

The man who wrote and sung that lyric has died.

Chris Cornell is probably most famous for fronting the Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. He also had success as a solo artist and leading Audioslave (with the remaining members of Rage Against the Machine). Cornell had incredible vocal range and one of the most recognizable yowls in rock music.

The song that made him and Soundgarden famous was “Black Hole Sun.” It’s a trippy, moody 5+ minutes. A song you can listen to over and over.

Personally, it’s a touchstone song.

In the summer of 1994, I shared an apartment with my cousin in Richmond, KY. He and I worked different shifts and rarely saw one another. He also had a job that required travel, so I was often home alone.

One Friday morning, I awoke very ill. Vomiting. Terrible pain in my side. Any movement I made caused me to dry heave. But remaining still was agony. Few people had cellphones in 1994, including me. And my cousin and I had thought we would save money by foregoing a landline.

Being 20 years old, I thought I could tough out whatever illness had befallen me (kidney stones, as I discovered later). I laid on the floor in front of my bed, in the dark, crying in agony for 12 hours. The only thing keeping me company was my little 13 inch television playing MTV. “Black Hole Sun” was in heavy rotation. It’s the only song I remember during my suffering.

At one point, I decided I must be dying, and therefore, had to summon the strength to find a phone. I recall walking to a nearby gas station to use the payphone to call my parents (who lived 2 hours away). Thinking back, I’m shocked nobody called the police. I probably looked like a strung out druggie, rung out, puking every minute or two.

For reasons I don’t remember, it took my folks 6 hours to come get me. They took me to the UK hospital emergency room where I was given two ibuprofen and told to tough it out because I didn’t have insurance. I eventually started showing a fever after another 12 hours where I was in so much pain I was delusional and my parents took me to a different hospital.

I primarily remember three things from those hellish 24 hours. 1) “Black Hole Sun.” 2) Apologizing to my brother for being a shitty big bro. 3) Dropping my pants and pleading with the nurse to give me a shot for the pain (ha!).

RIP Chris Cornell. Your song got me through some tough times, man.

3rd Annual Sapiens Plurum Short Fiction Contest

3rd annual Sapiens Plurum short fiction contest.

Free entry.
Theme “the future of humanity.”
1500-3000 words.
Deadline May 27th.

1st: $1000; 2nd: $500; 3rd: $300

Rules & Info: http://sapiensplurum.org/fiction-contests.html

Past winners include Richard William Larson and Hannah Ruth Krieger.

Full Disclosure: I’m on the board of directors of this organization. I do help judge submissions, but we use a multi-reader blind submission protocol. Judge pool includes several other professional editors.

If you have a submission you think fits, send it in.

Apex Magazine subscription drive

It’s the last day of the drive. We’re sitting at $5275. A solid number. The goal is $10000 to achieve all I want to do for the zine for our readers and writers over the next 12 months.

You can support the zine for as little as $3. Some amazing rewards remain: original signed manuscripts from Brian Keene, handwritten poetry by Brandy Schwan, freelance services from me, signed books from Ellen Datlow, signed art prints, and more.

Revive the Drive

 

Books in Progress Conference

I am leading a writing SF/F/H breakout session at this year’s Books in Progress conference here in Lexington. This is one of (if not) the largest professional writing conferences in the state. It’s tailored for the literary crowd, though this year they’re sneaking some genre into the fun (yay!).

My breakout session is planned for June 9th, 2pm-3:30pm.

Link below for information about the conference. This is affiliated with the Lexington Carnegie Center.

Click here for more information.

Updates Updates

My next genre writers group session starts on April 10th at the Carnegie Center for Literacy. They run 5:30-7:00pm.

Sign up here.


Some Jason-centric items are up in the Revive the Drive (Apex Magazine fundraiser) store.


Hey, guess what? I sold a story to Speculate! magazine. This was one of those rare instances where the story was bought by the first place I submitted it!

The title of the short is “Free Coffee, Courtesy of the Telford Nature Explorers.” It’s about many things: rest stops, coffee, cryptids, big pharma, fear of flying. Here is a very short snippet.

To be honest, Jack was surprised Telford had much of anything, let alone a Nature Explorers group and a rest stop. Few cars passed by on US-HWY 2. No houses, strip malls, gas stations, or other signs of civilization marked the lonely stretch of highway—just yellow lines and innumerable mile markers ticking off the passage of time and distance. Snow-capped mountains could be spotted far off to the west while driving over the occasional gentle rises in the road, but otherwise the view was all dirt, road, and shrubbery.

It is slated for publication in the June issue. Naturally, I’ll be crowing about it on the blog when it comes out.

Why Revive the Drive?

If you follow Apex Magazine, you probably know we’re currently running a promotion called Revive the Drive. It’s a mix of subscription drive, fundraiser, and an excuse to have some fun (the Pumpkin vs. Oz cuteness showdown, the live stream of It Follows commentary).

We called it “Revive the Drive” because we cut our annual drive short back in November after the election. It was a time of celebration for Trump supporters. It was a time of sadness for Clinton supporters. Nobody was in the mood to spend money. Bigger things were going on.

Also, being raised a Southern Baptist in the hills, I’ve always had a thing for revivals.

But why do a drive at all?

Fair question.

Apex Magazine makes enough via regular promotions and day-to-day sales to maintain the status quo. But what’s a life if you’re not always trying to improve? We want to increase our author, artist, and editor pay. We also desperately, and I mean DESPERATELY, need to hire a part-time assistant editor. Lesley and I struggle to keep our heads above water at times.

There are also plans to expand how much fiction we publish each month, but that’ll require a bit more than our $10,000 goal.

But really? This is all a grand scheme to make Lesley Conner watch and live tweet It Follows with me.

Travel Weary

I’m not much of a socializer. I enjoy going out just enough to dispel any sense of loneliness, but otherwise, I am content to stay home, play video games, and work on Apex or my own editing/writing. All the major conventions (and minor ones) I did last year put a toll on my social fuel.

On a more practical manner, it put me way behind on many, many projects.

So I’m restricting my official travels for the rest of the year to Imaginarium in October. I might pop up elsewhere depending on money, time, and levels of loneliness.

2018 will be a much more active year. For now, I rest.

Please don’t fret. You can always get your fill of that special Sizemore sauce online!

Locus Awards — Vote!

I don’t comment much on awards on the personal blog. I do my offers of congratulations via social media and private emails. And on the official Apex accounts. But I’m changing that today–at least on a one time basis.There’s this thing called the Locus Magazine Reading List. The reading list is compiled by the Locus Magazine staff editors and professionals in the field. The Locus Awards winners are then selected from that list by reader voting.

Since Apex only has one item on the entire list (novel Rosewater by Tade Thompson–yay Tade!), I want to accomplish five things.

1) Help Rosewater make the Locus Awards top 5 in the novels–science fiction category.

2) Via write-in votes place “The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon in the top 10 for novelettes.

3) Via write-in votes place The Kraken Sea by E. Catherine Tobler in the top 10 for novellas.

4) Via write-in votes place Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka in the top 10 for first novels.

5) Via write-in votes place an Apex Magazine story in the top 10 for short fiction. Based on popularity and critical input our most popular story of 2016 was “The Old Man and the Phoenix” by Alexander Baisden.

Voting is easy. Go here and fill out the ballot. There are lots of quality works–let your opinion be known fairly and in all the categories. Considering voting for Rosewater and writing in “The Tomato Thief,” The Kraken Sea, and Stay Crazy.

While you’re there, grab a subscription to Locus Magazine. It’s a fine publication that has earned the support of genre readers and writers.

If enough of our readers and fans make their voices heard via the Locus Award voting, perhaps the work of our fantastic authors won’t go overlooked!

Guest lecture at the University of Kentucky

Just got back from my guest lecture to an Intro to Writing Professions course at the University of Kentucky. Great students with some pointed and knowledgeable questions. Several were Apex fans!
 
Thank you to Dr. Mike Pennell for having me speak. I always cherish the opportunity to subvert the minds of young writers.
 
I meant to get a picture with the class and the professor but totally forgot. Instead, you get a picture of me in my teaching shirt.
img_1140
Consolation prizes are such a disappointment sometimes.

Back to Nebraska, back to jamming to Kay Hanley

Random fact: the most popular blog post on this site is my love letter to the alt-rock women of the 1990s: https://jason-sizemore.com/2014/05/30/letters-to-cleo-kay-hanley-and-ben-wyatt/

The highlight of that post was the confession that I harbored an innocent crush on the lead singer of Letter’s to Cleo. I mean, I still do, but I’m happy to jam to Kay Hanley’s music and follow her antics on Twitter.

For example, she’s still as cool and fierce now as she was back then.

 

Also, she still personifies the rocker grrrl aesthetic these days as much as she did back in the 90s.

Here and Now

Here and Now

A few months back Kay Hanley’s band, Letters to Cleo, released their first new music since 2008 in an EP titled Back to Nebraska.

How is it? Fun. Jaunty. Quite good. Kay’s powerhouse vocals are still intact. The band sounds as great as ever.

I’m reminded of how I felt when another 90s rocker grrl band, Garbage, released new material a few years back. Shirley Manson’s incredible voice remained in tack. The outstanding guitar and drum work was still there. But the music lacked the edge that drew me to it. It felt like going through the paces. Shirley Manson has mellowed with age. And I understand that, it happens as you mature.

(Granted, I keep waiting for my mellow, but it has yet to happen.)

Letters to Cleo is still delivering the goods that drew me to them 20 years ago (good lord, 20 years).

The EP opens with the fast, peppy pop-rock in “Can’t Say.” Jumps next into “4 Leaf Clover”, then a squeal and a twangy rock chord introduce the title track. “Hitch a Ride” is a pulsating punk-lite that recalls the best of 90s fast rockers.

Kay Hanley has described her music as “Gloomy lyrics” and “Happy-as-fuck melodies.” That’s exactly what you get in the new EP, and I love it.