As a part of Apex Magazine’s subscription drive, I was supposed to run my interview–which, for the record, I did in a timely manner–with Jason Sizemore YESTERDAY. But I flaked. So I’m running it today. Also, they have a lot of nifty things up for grabs in their store, like that cool She Persisted print that I can’t believe no one has nabbed yet. Apex was the first place to pay me for my fiction, so I have strong feelings of loyalty for them. Also, the more they’re able to thrive, the more I get to say “Oh, yeah, I was published by the same folks who published Famous Author X.” I enjoy that. Okay, enough. Here’s the interview:
1. Hypothetical situation: Both the podcasts TANIS and The Black Tapes have a new episode, but you only have enough battery left to listen to one. Which do you choose and why?
Why would you ask such a cruel question?
Let’s get this straight: I love both shows equally. They’re some of the best cross-genre work I’ve encountered in any media. My hat goes off to Paul Bae and Terry Miles for their ability to make believable audio drama out of some fantastic research.
Having said that…I must go with The Black Tapes. I have an audio crush on The Black Tape protagonist and narrator Alex Regan. If I’m down to my last battery, I want Alex Regan to accompany me to the end.
If I had to guess, Paul Bae and Terry Miles will be tapped for television at some point. The big bucks will draw them from TBT and TANIS, and the shows will be wrapped up. If the journey is fantastic but the destination is a bit of a drag, does that mean the experience is a waste? No.
But adding a powerful ending that makes sense and provides satisfaction can turn a good work into something you’re talking about decades later.
Short fiction has one advantage over longer forms of entertainment: the ending doesn’t have to “pop” to the degree of a novel, movie, or television show. As you indirectly pointed out, the longer you ride along with something, the bigger the expectations at the conclusion. Your ending needs to be “earned.” This means it needs to fit into the overall plot and theme. A classic conclusion fail is LOST the television series. Not enough information was given to the viewer to earn that ludicrous and obvious pull of our emotions in the last church scene. A classic conclusion success is the Ambrose Bierce story “An Odd Occurrence at Owl Creek.” The big twist is earned because the reader *knows* the unlikelihood of everything proceeding it.
A handful come to mind immediately: “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon, “Lazarus and the Amazing Kid Phoenix” by Jennifer Giesbrecht, and “The Gentleman of Chaos” by A. Merc Rustad.
A more practical way to view this phenomenon is to realize that most of the time we already recognize that they’re monsters, but because of their place in society or social structure, we let it go because we mistakenly see it as advantageous or benign. Ignore the monstrous side of something, then perhaps you’ll earn their favor.
I cite the election of Donald Trump as the ultimate expression of my point.
Hard to say. He’s fiercely loyal. Wants my love and attention. He’s also well-fed.
I would answer with “probably not???” and hope for the best!
Jason Sizemore is the Editor-in-Chief of Apex Magazine. Sadly, shortly after this photo of him was taken, Pumpkin did indeed eat him. Happily, after a few days, Sizemore reappeared at his desk with no memory of the gruesome incident. He seems fine and himself, though maybe a little taller than he used to be, so his family mostly decided to not ask questions.
Sizemore is the author of the short-story collection, Irredeemable, which I liked a lot, though, if I’m being honest, I find a little intimidating. You tell yourself “editors edit, authors auth, and they’re two different skills contained in two different people.” But no. Not for him.
He also wrote For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher,
which is part memoir, part roast. It famously contains the story of the time Sara Harvey saved Sizemore from an East St. Louis hospital.
Also, rumor has it that Sizemore has three small pebbles embedded in the palm of his left hand from a childhood bicycle accident while he was fleeing the Pilot Knob witch child. That can’t possibly be true. Everyone knows that witch child was over by Marion, not up in the Kentucky hills where Sizemore was a kid. But if he didn’t have an encounter with the witch child, how is it that he can control the weather now? You can follow him on Twitter @apexjason. He or one of his spectral doppelgangers is probably following you already.
I think The Magnus Archives is my favorite podcast at the moment and I think the reason why is that I’m longing for resolution. I love The Black Tapes and Tanis and even the new Rabbits, but each of them is a long, unspooling mystery that never really resolves. When I’m in the mood for that, it’s wonderful. But I don’t want to get stuck in some Lost bullshit where you slowly begin to realize that the people making the thing have no idea what the overarching plot is. You’re not lost in a well-designed maze. You’re lost in the woods with people trying to claim it’s a maze, scurrying ahead trying to hope they stumble into a maze they can lure you through.
So the thing about The Magnus Archives is that there is an overarching mystery, but each episode is also its own contained thing–a person comes to the archives to tell about a strange thing that happened to them. These strange things begin to tie together, but each episode there’s the satisfaction of resolution. Even if that resolution is only “This is everything I can think to tell you about this thing at this time.”