Interview with Apex Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Jason Sizemore

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.

2.  Can I admit I’m nervous that The Black Tapes and TANIS don’t have an end game and thus might trail off into some True Detectives-like nonsense that makes me feel like I’ve wasted my life? That’s not my question. Just an observation. Trying to end stories sucks and it’s hard to do well. You read a lot of stories. What makes a good ending?

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.

3. I think of Jennifer Pelland’s “Ghosts of New York” a lot, even all these years after I first read it. There’s something really amazing about the way she’s able to tell this tragic story that, by the end, I wanted with my whole heart to be true. And I feel like that’s a story I could imagine people in a hundred years reading to try to understand the post-9/11 U. S. I kind of consider it Apex’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” in terms of its potential longevity. Do you have a couple of other Apex stories you think could have that kind of staying power?

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.

4.  One trope in horror is the monster who seems like a normal person or maybe even better than a normal person. Vampires are aristocratic and cool. The werewolf is mostly the guy down the block. But eventually, their true nature comes out. Do you think this is a fundamental truth or wish fulfillment. In other words, do you think bad people eventually always show their true colors to the world and vindicate their victims or do we like stories where that’s so because we only wish life were like that?

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.

5. If your cat, Pumpkin, grew overnight to be the size of a tiger, do you think he would eat you?

 

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 and pumpkin

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.

 

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