Archive for the ‘Apex Publications’ Category
I had so much I wanted to stay about The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad that I couldn’t possibly jam it all into one blog post. Last week I talked about a few of my favorite stories in the anthology, and today I’m going to talk about a few more. With over 24 stories in the anthology, it was easy to have a very long list of favorites. I took the list of stories I really enjoyed, and cut it in half. Because I need to leave you something to discover on your own, don’t I?
Here are my thoughts on yet more of my favorites out of The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4.
Single Entry, by Celeste Rita Baker – Written in dialect, it was all I could do not to read this entire story out-loud. You can feel the energy of the carnival in the rhythm of the words, hear people singing and cheering. Dressed as the planet Earth, the protagonist is a single entry in the carnival. But where is the music coming from? How does their costume swell and shrink to fit through every door and fill every plaza? Momentarily so big people can see themselves and their homes on the planetary surface, the walking dancing planet loses steam and shrinks back down to human size. And then keeps shrinking. Just a beautiful story to read, it feels like a song whose time signature changes as time flows.
The Language of Knives by Haralambi Markov – I’m not sure how much I enjoyed reading this gory, grisly story, but i certainly won’t ever forget it. In a bakehouse, a loved one is prepared to be fed to the gods. His family strips his body, dries his bones, makes him into meal. A death rite combines with a coming of age rite, wrapped in a story of love both romantic and familial. That this story is really a love sonnet makes swallowing the subject matter a very strange experience.
Pepe by Tang Fei – Pepe and her brother are at an amusement park. But they aren’t real children. Created with springs inside, Pepe, her brother, and all their siblings were created to tell stories. But oh, the stories they tell! They were born many years ago, and in the time since, their siblings have been destroyed. Such a dichotomy in this story, Pepe and her brother are lightheartedly enjoying the amusement park, the rides, the lights, the laughter of children. But her brother dwells on their dark past, the memories of watching the other storytelling children pulled out of crowds and forced to talk, forced to expose their identities. Remember the movie AI: Artificial Intelligence? this story feels a little like that, but completely from the kids points of view. They never asked for this life, they were never given a choice. They were designed and programmed, and are now locked in a life they wouldn’t choose for themselves. But Pepe’s brother has one last choice to make, one last opportunity for freedom.
published Aug 25, 2015
where I got it: receive review copy from the publisher (thanks Apex!)
Quick! how many anthology series can you count on one hand! Some of you probably need both hands and a foot. If you’re looking for a new anthology (or just want to read some compelling and fun fiction), allow me to introduce you to the Apex Books of World SF Volume 4, which showcase speculative fiction from around the globe. Lavie Tidhar edited the first three volumes, and he’s passed the reigns to Mahvesh Murad. I’ve read and reviewed the first and third volumes of this series (and I’ve got Vol 2 around here somewhere), and Lavie, I gotta tell you, Mahvesh put one helluva book together. You better make sure you’ve contracted her for at least three more of these! In more than 24 stories, this volume takes us from Pakistan to Israel to Mexico to Iceland to Bangladesh to Uganda to Singapore to Kenya and beyond.
Reading science fiction from elsewhere feels a little like reading mythology from elsewhere. Mythology doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither does speculative fiction. Both are affected by current and previous cultural mores, ecology, weather, local resources, politics, rivals, etc. Well, so is any kind of story telling, and science fiction is just another type of story to tell. And like mythology, people everywhere use fantastic fiction to explain something that seems like magic to the uninitiated. I used the term fantastic fiction because these stories bleed through and beyond the assumed limitations of science and even speculative fiction – in this collection you’ll find magical realism, mythology retellings, the languages of artificial intelligences, mourning practices, experimenting scientists, families torn apart, and more. A handful of these stores are available online, if you want a sample:
The Good Matter by Nene Ormes (at Io9)
Six Things We Found During the Autopsy by Kuzhali Manickavel (Apex Magazine issue 76)
The Four Generations of Chang E by Zen Cho
My absolute favorites in this anthology were Like a Coin Entrusted in Faith by Shimon Adaf and The Four Generations of Chang E, by Zen Cho. Here are my thoughts on those and a number of others. I’ve split this review into two parts, because I just had so much I wanted to say!
Setting up Home by Sabrina Huang – a very quick and very effective story in which an amnesiac man’s empty apartment slowly fills up with furniture, gifts, and household items. It’s quite magical actually. The final item is accompanied by a note from his father, explaining how this final gift should be “used”. There is a lack of overt context and background, but you’ll figure out what’s going on pretty quickly. I do wonder though, how the man will react when he figures out what’s happened.
In Her Head, In Her Eyes, by Yukimi Ogawa – young Hase is a servant girl at the compound of wealthy indigo dyers. She does her job, but everyone treats her cruelly. She claims to be from a mythical island, and here to learn about patterns, that she’s been tasked with bringing home as many patters as she can. What makes Hase so weird is that she wears a metal helmet that she never takes off. It covers her face, and can’t be pulled or pried off. Hase also seems to love being teased and treated badly, as to her, this is just another pattern. What’s really on her home island? When someone finally does she her face, that’s when the story really gets weird. Hase certainly did learn something from her time with the indigo dyers, and it’s not what anyone expected.
I’ve been following the Apex Book of World SF series for a while, and was thrilled when the fourth volume was announced. The series had previously been edited by Lavie Tidhar, and now the editing reins have been passed to Mahvesh Murad. A new editor can mean a new direction, and a new style. No matter the direction, readers are guaranteed a mind bending taste of speculative fiction from around the world, including stories from Spain, Sweden, Kenya, Uganda, Taiwan, Japan, India, Israel, Greece, Iceland, Pakistan, Philippines, Czech Republic and more. The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 hits bookstore shelves and e-readers on August 25th. Wanna pre-order? Click here to order direct from Apex Publications*.
If you’re looking to read beyond your geographic horizon, this anthology series is a great place to start. And yes, it’s an anthology series, but it’s not a series. You can start anywhere.
Mahvesh Murad was kind enough to give me a behind the scenes look into her editing process for this new volume. And then we got on some tangents, and talked about radio, her new podcast Midnight in Karachi, and her Dragonlance reread over at tor.com. After the interview, I’ve got some links to reviews to previous volumes in the World SF series so you can see what others (including me) thought of this anthology.
let’s get to the interview!
Little Red Reviewer: Tell us a little about the behind the scenes selection process for this anthology. Were there open submissions? Did you solicit stories from authors you already knew? What if you wanted to purchase a story that didn’t yet have an English translation?
Mahvesh Murad: The Apex Book of World SF is primarily a reprint anthology so we looked at work already published in various anthologies or online all over the world. There weren’t open submissions as such, no, but we did reach out to editors we knew who had worked on or curated stories from writers outside of the US/UK mainstream to see if they had stories we could look at. There were some stories I knew I wanted as soon as we started because I’d read them recently and they had left their mark, so we reached out directly to those writers, specifically about certain stories.
We have a few translations in this volume but none were translated for the anthology. If a story didn’t have an English translation, chances are I wouldn’t be able to read it so wouldn’t know if I wanted it or not:). It would be fantastic for this anthology to grow to a point where we can commission translations though!
LRR: What are some of your favorite stories from the new anthology?
You’ve been seeing this banner all over the place, yeah?
This is 300 and some pages of unexpected short fiction. Stories that transport you, that surprise you, that burrow behind your eyes and make a home for themselves in the recesses of you mind.
Because I know you’d love to have this beautiful book on your bedside table or snuggled into your e-reader, we’ve got some bloggers doing give aways as part of the tour. Act fast, and win yourself a brilliant collection!
Dab of Darkness is giving away an e-book (international) ends at midnight on Feb 22
Fantasy Review Barn also has an e-book up for grabs (international), ends on Feb 25
My Shelf Confessions has a print copy up for grabs (sorry, US only), you’ve got about another week to enter.
So what are you waiting for? Go get yourself some unforgettable short fiction!
Ok blog tour participants and anyone else who has a copy of The Book of Apex Vol 4, raise your hand if you have a print copy. it looks wet, doesn’t it? I left the book on the kitchen table a few times, and even my husband wondered why I’d let water get on a book. The magical cover of this book, my friends, is the work of the unbelievably talented Julie Dillon.
(in fact, all of the artwork you see in this post is by Julie Dillon)
That names rings a bell, doesn’t it? Oh yeah, she also did the cover art of the very first Subterranean Press special edition I bought for myself, Silently And Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente.
So it goes without saying that I was over the moon when Julie agreed to do an interview for this blog tour. When you’re just browsing through the bookstore, not looking for anything in particular, what do you gravitate towards? Interesting cover art, of course. Julie Dillon makes that cover art. She’s the reason you touch a book. She’s the reason I expected my finger to come away wet every time I picked up The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine.
So let’s get to the interview!
LRR: You’ve won the Chelsea award twice, been nominated for the World Fantasy award and you were nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 2013. What was it like to learn you had made the Hugo ballot? And speaking of, we’re right in the middle of nomination season. Are you eligible again this year?
J.D.: It was very validating to make the Hugo ballot. I didn’t think I’d be ready for that kind of recognition for another 5 years or so, and I was blown away that I was nominated. I was very honored and flattered that people saw anything of value in what I do. That said, I try not to let awards or nominations affect me too much, and I try to keep learning and working hard regardless of whether or not I am recognized. The recognition definitely helps, though, and goes a long way for helping me to reaffirm my decision to purse art fulltime. Getting awards and nominations encourages me to keep trying even harder.
LRR: Did you always want to be an artist? Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a professional artist?
J.D.: That’s a tricky question. I was always interested in drawing and creating, but it never really occurred to me that I could pursue art as my profession until my mid twenties. From all I had heard from other people, art was just something you do as a hobby in between your real work and real jobs. I spent much of my college life prepping for other careers, but I was always drawing and painting whenever I had free time. Eventually, thanks to the internet, I started noticing that there were such things as art schools, and professional artists, and people making a living doing a variety of types of art. I started wondering if maybe that was something I could do, too, and slowly I began taking actual art classes and investigating local art schools, and eventually started seeking out more freelance jobs. It took many long years before I got my portfolio up to a level where I was able to have fulltime freelance work, and I probably would have progressed faster if I had believed in myself more earlier on, but all things considered I think I’m doing an okay job of it.
LRR: What are your thoughts on traditional media (oil, acrylic, etc) vs digital?
J.D.: I think traditional media is vitally important, I think there are a lot of benefits to working in traditional media, and I enjoy doing working with real paint when I get the chance. But I think digital media is a valid tool, one that has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. So often I see people dismissing digital art as somehow cheating or not as valid or important as traditional art, but the computer is just another tool. It doesn’t do the work for you, you still need to have foundational drawing and painting skills to make a good digital piece. I personally prefer working digitally because it allows me to work quickly and cleanly. I don’t have to buy paint or brushes or canvases, I don’t have to wait for paintings to dry before sending them to clients, I don’t have to photograph or scan my final work, and I can make edits immediately and easily. But, I also do not have a physical original painting that I can hang up or sell, and I do miss out on the fun and satisfaction of working with real paint.
LRR: How long, on average, does it take you to complete a piece of art?
J.D.: It’s hard to tell, since I’m usually working on multiple illustrations that I rotate through, but I’ll usually spend at lease several days or weeks working on something. The actual time spent on any given piece are probably something like 8-20 hours, depending on the complexity.
LRR: Do you do commissioned pieces as well? How does that creative process differ from when you are creating a piece out of your mind?
J.D.: Most of my work is commissioned, although I don’t post all of it online. The main difference between commissioned work and work I do for myself is that if I’m doing for myself, I don’t have to worry about sticking to an art description or working for a specific audience or project. On the one hand, with commissioned work it’s sometimes nice having an art director to bounce ideas off of, because sometimes it’s difficult narrowing down concepts or compositions. But it’s also nice to be answerable only to myself and to work on projects where I have full control over how the piece progresses.
LRR: I really enjoyed the Digital Illustration Tutorial you have on your website, it really opened my eyes to all of the behind the scenes work that goes into art creation. do you think you’d do more tutorials like this?
J.D.: Thank you! I’m glad it made at least a little sense; I worry if I’m being coherent or helpful at all when I make those things. I might do more tutorials in the future, although I’m not sure what my focus would be. For the most part, my actual method of painting has remained the same. Any improvements I’ve been making have been because I’ve been going back and trying to work on my art foundation skills more with figure drawing and anatomy studies.
Scattered throughout the month, I’ll be posting reviews of selected stories of The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine. If something you read here or on any of the other blogs participating in the blog tour gets your attention, I encourage you seek the story out on the Apex website. And if you like what you see? Consider purchasing a subscription to the magazine, or one of their anthologies. Consider leaving a comment on their website, or on twitter, or on the blog post. You’ve got an opinion and thoughts? I’d like to hear ‘em.
What I love about the fiction published by Apex is that it’s not straight up scifi, or straight up fantasy, or straight up anything, really. It’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It’s true fantastika. Stories that can’t possibly happen in real life, but as you are reading, you so very much *want* it to be happening. The ultimate in suspension of disbelief. Many of your favorite authors have been published in Apex magazine, along with new authors who are soon to become favorites. And that’s what Apex does – they take the cream of the crop of the strangest of the strange, scratching that itch you hadn’t known you had until it was relieved.
This is the stuff you can’t get anywhere else, it’s that flavor that’s part bloody sunset, part crystal constellation, part fever dream. It’s like walking into that weird little bar on the corner (you know, the one with no windows? that one.), and playing it cool. You ask the bartender what they recommend, and they bring you a pint of something dark. You think you know what it is, but that first sip tells you this is something very different. It starts out gentle, even a little sweet, but then ends with an unexpected bite, so sharp you wonder if you’ve bit your lip because you swear you taste blood in your mouth. This is that unlabeled, brewed in the back, only available for people who ask for it by name type of drink.
The 24 Hour Brother, by Christopher Barzak – The first thing you need to know about this story is that you’re not going to get through it without crying. Lewis is excited to finally be an older brother. After the complications of Lewis’s birth, no one expected his mother to be able to carry another child to term. But a miracle happened, and little Joe was born. but Joe didn’t stay little for long. He cut his first tooth shortly after being born. Within the hour they were chasing him around the hospital. He’d nearly grown out of his baby clothes by the time his father caught him for the taxi ride home. Within 12 hours he was fully grown, and leaving his 15 year old older brother behind when he went out drinking. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Joe’s mother knew, the first time she saw him, that she was going to lose him. There’s something especially tragic about stories where you know from the opening paragraph that it’s going to end badly. Like I said, you’re not going to get through this one without crying.
The Leavings of the Wolf, by Elizabeth Bear – Dagmar runs to get away from her divorce. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. She runs to lose weight. If she loses enough weight, she’ll be able to pry that wedding band off her finger, that gleaming golden reminder of everything that went horribly wrong in her life. And interspersed with her running is a floating story line, a dialog between her and an ex. But the thing is, this extra story line? You don’t know when exactly it’s happening. Was it years ago? a few weeks ago? yesterday? The weight of these few extra lines here and there are like the mark a wedding band leaves on your finger after years of wear: you don’t know anymore who you are without the mark. Anyways, on her morning run, Dagmar often sees the same murder of crows, it’s that group she’s been studying, anklebanding, and researching for the University. The crows know her, she knows the them, and she even makes the occasional Thought and Memory joke. One day she meets someone who might be a God, it’s not a joke anymore. And he tells her why she’s still running. We’re all running from something, and sometimes it’s only the fear of losing a mark that tells us who we thought we were supposed to be. I’ve run hot and cold with Bear’s fiction in the past, and this one hit me hard. In a good way.