As part of the Apex Revive the Drive subscription drive campaign, I have the privilege of interviewing Apex Magazine managing editor Lesley Connor. I'll admit I haven't read every issue of Apex, but every time I dip into it, I find a new favorite, and some of my all-time favorite short stories have been published there, stories such as "Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon, "Frozen Planet" by Marian Womack, "Paskutinis Iliuzija (The Last Illusion)" by Damien Angelica Walters, and of course "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky. Apex stories are always dark and gorgeous, and stay with you long after you hit the end.
The Apex Subscription Drive runs until April 17, 2017, and features some very cool perks. See the full details here.
Sarena Ulibarri: The aesthetic of Apex Magazine has surely changed and evolved over the years and under different editors. What are some of the stories you feel best define the current Apex aesthetic?
Lesley Conner: This is a fantastic question! And also a really hard one to answer because it isn’t as simple listing personal favorites. Apex Magazine is striving to publish stories that are dark and surreal, stories that push boundaries, that blend genres—or throw genre out the window entirely. We want real human emotions in fantastical worlds. Give us outrage, desperation, sorrow, and then twist it into something new and heart-wrenchingly beautiful. We want stories that introduce us to new worlds, that stretch our imaginations.
None of these are things that are easily defined. But I will give it a shot!
Stories I feel best define the current Apex aesthetic:
This is a pretty fair mix of stories. Different genres, different subject matter. Authors from different backgrounds. But all of these stories have something that says “Apex!” to me when I read them and I think they’d be a good place for new readers who wanted to sample what Apex is about.
SU: What's the process a story goes through between the time it is accepted and the time it is published in the magazine?
LC: We are looking for stories that are pretty close to being ready to publish when we buy them. We do a light copy editing and then a second pass proofreading, but that is basically it.
Saying it that way, it sounds like we should be publishing a story the issue after it’s accepted, but that isn’t the case. We typically have several issues worth of content scheduled at one time. This means when we accept a story, it can be a while before we have the chance to publish it. Which is a good thing for us as a publication, because it allows us to select stories for an issue that fit together. Rather than simply publishing all the stories that we really liked—with no thought or consideration to theme, or pacing, or all the other things that make stories work together—having a cushion of already scheduled content gives us time to make sure we’re publishing a story in the correct issue with other pieces that will compliment it.
SU: Jason is editor-in-chief and Lesley is managing editor—what's the difference in your roles?
LC: Jason would tell you that I’m the one in charge and he just writes the checks. This isn’t true.
I manage things. I know, I know, a really imaginative way to explain what a managing editor does—way to not really say anything, Lesley!—but it’s true. I make sure we have all the pieces we need for each issue: Have the stories been copy edited? Do we have author bios? Have I gotten the interviews back? What is the nonfiction for this month? Did we sell ads for the issue? I make sure that authors have been paid, our slush readers are getting through all the submissions in a timely manner, and handle queries from writers, artists, and readers.
Jason does in fact send all the checks and payments, but he does much more than that. As editor-in-chief, he has the final say on what is going to be included in each issue of the magazine. He selects all the fiction, finds nonfiction, decides which authors we should interview and which story to podcast. He also builds the eBook editions of every issue. While I’m handling all the details, he has to deal with more big picture, long term issues that come with running a digital zine.
Basically, Jason makes all the decisions and I organize the shit out of everything!
SU: Apex Magazine always has fantastic cover art. How do you decide what image will grace each new issue?
LC: Thank you! I love hearing that people enjoy our covers!
Finding cover art is one of my favorite Apex tasks. We don’t try to fit specific artwork with certain issues/stories; I’m more thinking in terms of the other artwork we already have scheduled. I want to make that I’m not focusing too much on a particular color palette or a similar focal point in the image. The last thing that I want is for our covers to become predictable. So it’s a balance of finding artwork that fits the aesthetic Apex desires, while at the same time making sure that view doesn’t become stale.
Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 marks her debut experience in anthology editing. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.
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