It’s time for another installment of five books 50 pages! This is where I grab 5 books that I’m kinda sorta intrigued by reading just the first 50 or so pages. The goal is that hopefully at least two will really stand out as something I want to keep reading. I’m going into these books knowing barely anything beyond them other than the back cover blurb. But I have high hopes! Last time I did five books 50 pages I discovered a book that ended up being one of my top reads for 2016.
The contestants this week are:
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Nine Fox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
Cold Iron by Stina Leicht
Dear Sweet Filthy World by Caitlin R. Kiernan
What was YAY, what was NAY, and what was MEH. Let’s find out!
When a book has the kind of effect on you that McIntosh’s Defenders had on me, it’s time for a reread!
published in 2014, read my original review here.
What I remember most about the first time reading this book is that it scared the living crap out of me. Not “omg, there’s a spider, someone kill it!” scared, not “why did a fire truck just pull into my apartment parking lot” scared, but the kind of scared that made me want to hide in the back of the bedroom closet, cover myself with a blanket, and be so silent that nothing would even know I existed.
When people ask me about books that had a strong emotional impact on me, this book gets a mention.
The first time I read Defenders, I read the last chunk of it in one sitting in the middle of the night because I was afraid that if I put the book down all the main characters would die before I could pick the book back up.
I’ve been itching to re-read Defenders for over a year. It’s so absorbing that it makes for an absolutely perfect escapist thriller. Near future, but so ridiculous that none of this stuff could ever happen. . . right? I mean, right?
Actually, the only thing in this book that I see as not happening in the next 50 years is us making contact with an alien species. That’s how the book opens: contact with an alien species that lands in remote areas on Earth. The Luyten are telepathic, and can easily read the minds of any human within 8 miles. When we come up with plans to attack them, they can easily pull those plans out of the mind of anyone involved and nearby, so a counter attack is easy. The Luyten didn’t come here to exterminate us, but they don’t want to die either. I’m reminded of something author Tade Thompson said when I interviewed him:
“LRR: If Earth does experience first contact with an alien species, how do you think humanity will react?
TT: If we encounter intelligent life, blind panic and religious hysteria.
If we encounter flora or fauna, blind panic and religious hysteria.
Humans don’t handle the unknown well. Look at our history.”
In Michael Wehunt’s debut short story collection, Greener Pastures, readers will enjoy a variety of his favorite short stories – everything from unsettling horror, to spooky fun, to Southern gothic, to unnerving dogs and haunted woods. If you’re looking for unsettling stories that touch on a variety of themes, this is a collection you should look. Greener Pastures was nominated for the Crawford Award, which is presented annually by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for a first book of fantasy.
Michael had some fun when Greener Pastures came out from Apex Publications, he made a bunch of meme-ish images, and they are hilarious! I’ll be posting a few of them throughout the interview, here’s a link to the whole collection. Michael’s short fiction has appeared in Innsmouth Magazine, Shock Totem Magazine, Aghast, Unlikely Story, The Dark, Cemetery Dance, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Vol 3, and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2016 among many others. Michael was kind enough to answer my questions about the amazing cover art on this collection, how he knew what should go in the collection and what should be left out, why writing horror is so much fun, and more! Let’s get to the interview!
Andrea Johnson: The cover art for Greener Pastures features some easter eggs that connect with stories in the collection. Most authors don’t have any control over the cover art of their books, but you had a number of conversations with cover artist Michael Bukowksi about what you wanted in the artwork. What can you tell us about your brainstorming sessions with the artist and how the two of you decided what the cover art should include?
Michael Wehunt: I was lucky to be able to commission an artist for a new piece, and I was doubly lucky to choose someone as talented and collaborative as Michael. He was enthusiastic and communicative from the beginning. The first thing I told him was that I was open to anything. The second thing was an asterisk regarding the first thing—that I had my heart set on trees. Not every story in Greener Pastures features trees, but the book as a whole felt very woodsy and earthy to me. And I knew from Michael’s style that the trees would look amazing and draw the viewer in. We started brainstorming with the diner from the title story, crowded on one side by the woods, but as soon as Michael read the story “October Film Haunt: Under the House,” he really wanted to use the dog with the wooden crown in its mouth as the focal point (the dog unnerved him deeply), and that was instantly a yes for both of us. So the woods became the entire backdrop, which was the right choice. From there we decided to do a full wraparound cover, which was exciting, and with the extra space we chose elements from three other stories to include in the art, and a year later I’m still in love with the entire piece.
We’re getting close to the halfway point of the Apex Magazine Revive the Drive, (and holy cow have you seen the awesome stuff in the Drive Store?!?!?!) so let’s catch up with Editor in Chief Jason Sizemore and Managing Editor Lesley Conner! Jason and Lesley let me pick their brains, and it is very important that the resulting document they sent me back was exactly 666 words! Now that I’ve wrecked that word count with an intro and outtro, let’s get to the interview!
Andrea: I really loved the print edition of Apex Magazine:SFFH Volume 0. What needs to happen for there to be more of these?
Jason: Glad you liked it. I kind of did it in a nostalgic cloud for the old Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest of yore.
Like most things, it comes down to time and money. I don’t expect the print edition to make Apex the big bucks, but it has to at least pay for itself and make enough profit for me to buy a bag of Nate’s Coffee.
Andrea: How many short story submissions do you get in a month? Are there certain times of the year when you get way more submissions, or times of the year when the quantity of submissions dip?
Lesley: We average between 800 and 1,200 submissions a month. We definitely get more submissions in January and right after we open after being closed for a while. Other than that, the rate at which we receive stories seems to be pretty constant. Apex Magazine is typically open 9 or more months out of the year, so yeah … we read a LOT of stories. Good thing I love it!
Andrea: When you’re reading a submission, what makes you say “I gotta buy this story!”
Jason: One of the things I’m proudest of is how well Apex Magazine has branded itself. So many of our fans and readers tell me that there is a certain…tone or theme that makes our original fiction standout as an ‘Apex story.’ Writers who read our zine have a huge advantage over those that don’t for that reason. Certain writers from the get-go tap into this with ease: Rich Larson, Lavie Tidhar, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ursula Vernon.
I’m big on ideas, characterization, and symbolism. I like stories that carry an edginess. Stories that can tap into my emotions are particularly great, as I’m a rather emotionless editor (okay…this is true of most editors).
Lesley: Stories that evoke a strong emotional reaction definitely grab my attention. Also, great characterization and a since of purpose. If I finish a story and immediately want to read it again, then I’m definitely sending it up to Jason.
Andrea: What are you hobbies when you’re not working on the magazine?
Jason: My favorite hobby is giving Lesley Conner a hard time. Other hobbies include chasing Pumpkin the Apex Cat around the house, playing video games (it’s my mindless escape), ranting about the inequities of life, and reading (of course).
Lesley: When I’m not wearing my Apex editor hat, you can often find me doing something cool with my Girl Scout troop. Whether we are camping, going on trips, making a horror movie, baking goodies for our local police officers, or volunteering at the food bank, the girls in my troop really know how to keep me running!
If I have a break from both Apex and Girl Scouts, then I’m doing something … calmer. Reading, hiking, yoga—things that are nice and relaxing amid my chaotic life.
Andrea: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Jason: Some favorite writers include Nick Cutter, Ben Winters, Nisi Shawl, Cat Valente, Cherie Priest, and Nick Mamatas (but please don’t tell him). My writer crush is Jacqueline Carey.
Lesley: How much room do I have to answer?
For short fiction, I adore Rich Larson, Damien Angelica Walters, E. Catherine Tobler, Douglas Warrick, Sarah Pinsker, A. Merc Rustad, Iori Kusano, James Beamon … There are so many fantastic authors writing really stellar short fiction right now; I could go on and on. For longer work, I will pick up anything and everything by J.F. Gonzalez, Sarah Pinborough, Cherie Priest, David Wellington, Shirley Jackson, and Katherine Dunn. I’ve recently read books by Consuelo Saah Baehr, Laura Hillenbrand, Fredrik Backman, and Paolo Bacigalupi and really enjoyed them so I’ll definitely be looking for more.
… I may have a slight reading habit.
Andrea: Thanks Jason, Thanks Lesley! I really have no idea how those to do it. They must have some kind of time creation machine that lets them have 32 hours in each day.
Hey, did you know? The $3500 award in Revive the Drive is me getting to
harass interview Jason over Skype! Which means I need all sorts of fun questions. The above interview was informative and all, but those were some gentle questions, wouldn’t you say? Give me some suggestions of both heavy duty and crazy things to ask Jason! If the video goesn’t go viral on YouTube, we’ve failed in our mission!
Will 2017 be the year of the reread? only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying Sheri S Tepper’s Arbai trilogy. Again.
published in 1990
where I got it: who knows. I’ve had it forever.
If you’d asked me five years ago for a list of my top five favorite novels, Sheri S. Tepper’s Raising the Stones would have been on that list. Is it still in my top five? Sadly, no. Is it a hella good book? Absolutely. I wrote a review of Raising the Stones back in 2011, which gives a great overview of the plot if you’re interested in the plot end of things.
I’ve been itching for some comfort reads lately, escapist novels that I know I will enjoy no matter what is happening in the world around me. Tepper’s Arbai trilogy fits that bill a hundred percent. I have no idea how many times I’ve read Raising the Stones, I know exactly what happens in it, I know who dies at the end, who the jerks are, who should have known better, who was blinded by their own narrow-mindedness. It’s neat to read a book that you know so well, to set aside everything that you know you know about it, and find everything else that was hiding there in plain sight all along.
Something that did catch my attention this read through was how the novel is paced, and that the pacing matches exactly something else that is going on in the background. Lemme ‘splain. The first half of the novel is painfully slow. I’d forgotten how slow it was. Slow isn’t bad per se, there is buckets of fascinating worldbuilding and learning about the various cultures in this star system and their beliefs; characterization of Maire, Sam, China, Jep, and Saturday; the slightest beginnings of what’s happening behind the scenes on the planet of Hobbs Land. There is tons of good *stuff* in the first half of the novel, it just doesn’t feel like anything is happening. Maybe I was just antsy for the good stuff? I dunno, but it felt sooooo sloooooooow. The last third of the novel is solid anxiety. Everything comes to a head, rebellions and coups are put into action, what’s been happening behind the scenes on Hobbs Land is suddenly very much the center of attention. It’s like something finally reached a critical mass.
And that’s exactly what the pacing of the plot mirrors – the pace of the growths on Hobbs Land reaching their critical mass. Very slow, barely detectable at first, and then slowly increasing, and then reaching a point where it has no choice but to asymptotically reach for infinity. Pretty brilliant trick for an author to pull off, when you think about it!
I’ve been involved with Apex Magazine since sometime in 2014. I met Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner at a convention, we hit it off, I did some slush reading, and before I knew it I doing author interviews in the magazine every month.
Getting to read someone’s forthcoming story months ahead of time, researching the author, putting together engaging interview questions, writing an intro that hopefully gets your attention . . . if you’re a nerd like me this is the best gig ever! And it really is the best gig. I’ve gotten to interview authors such as Nisi Shawl, John Hornor Jacobs, E. Catherine Tobler, A. Merc Rustad, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Ursula Vernon, Chikodili Emelumadu, Brian Keene, Damien Angelica Walters, and Seth Dicksinson, just to name a few (and I realize I’ve just named a bunch of my favorite authors, as well. bonus!).
I know from the outside, it looks like Apex Magazine magically comes together every month, but it isn’t magic. It’s a lot of time, passion, and hard work from the people involved. And I’m just the smallest, tiniest part of how the sausage gets made.
Apex Magazine is currently in their 2017 subscription drive. What’s a subscription drive? It’s where you can buy subscriptions (now only $17! Less than a $1.50 an issue! like, you can’t get a cup of decent coffee that cheap), you can buy stuff (artwork! signed books! handmade blankets and hats! critiques!), Lesley Conner will send you an awesome postcard! And there are stretch goals for more stuff. Reaching $10K means the magazine can pay their authors more, buy more stories, hire another editor, and do all sorts of amazing things.
What’s in it for you, you ask? When stretch goals are reached, EVERYONE gets to enjoy the rewards! including:
- more awesome fiction from Tade Thompson! You know, that guy who wrote Rosewater, one of the most unique alien invasion stories I’ve ever read?
- Jason and Lesley torturing and teasing each other about It Follows.
- Me having the opportunity to ask Jason all sorts of goofy and embarrassing questions over Skype.
- Apex donating convention memberships and badges to Con or Bust
- more fiction from Delilah Dawson, Cherie Priest, and Jacqueline Carey!
There’s about a bazillion more stretch goals, but those are the ones that will benefit YOU, as a magazine reader, the most. Oh wait, you’re not a reader, you’re an author or an artist? Stretch goals for you include paying you more money.
the first stretch goal, has already been unlocked, so you better go vote in who is more adorable – Oz the dog or Pumpkin the cat. I think I’m gonna have to snuggle with both of them for at least 3 days before I can come to a decision.
Some of you already read Apex Magazine, or other online magazines such as Lightspeed, Uncanny, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, or others.
But some of you aren’t onboard with electronic magazines, and that’s totally OK. You’re more the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Asimov’s type. Trust me, I get it. I’m all about teh dead trees. And I have something just for you!
Apex SFFH: Issue Vol 0 – this is a gorgeous print issue, a sampler of 2016. It includes essays, short stories, novel excerpts and interviews, and can be yours for only $8! And oh yeah, I’m in it! As a HUGE fan of dead tree magazines, I am a cheerleader for the Print Issue. I don’t know how many Jason needs to sell for it to be worth it for him to print more volumes, but I want to get there. Getting Apex (hi Jason!) to do a dead-tree full length sampler once a year is a personal goal of mine.
Apex prints dead-tree versions of anthologies and novels too! Imma make this super easy. Here are my top pics of Apex print copy goodies: the just mentioned Apex SFFH: Issue Vol 0, Rosewater by Tade Thompson, Shine Your Light on Me by Lee Thompson, Stay Crazy by Erica Satifka, The Best of Apex Magazine, The Apex Book of World SF series, and For Exposure by Jason Sizemore.
a year’s subscription for less than a cup of coffee per issue (and an interview by yours truly in every issue!)
kick-ass print full-length print sampler available for $8 (also, I’m in it)
there’s a stretch goal where I get to ask Jason a bunch of goofy and embarrassing questions
better pay for writers and artists in the magazine
if you don’t care about any of that stuff, go check out some sweet anthologies and novels printed by Apex.
ok, so what are you waiting for? go forth and Apex!
Lee Thompson’s newest novella, Shine Your Light On Me, is now available through Apex Publications. Thompson writes thrillers, mysteries, and horror, often focusing on how to regain our humanity when we feel that all has been lost. His previous novels include A Beautiful Madness, It’s Only Death, With Fury in Hand, and When We Join Jesus in Hell. (Click here for info on purchasing Shine Your Light On Me)
In Shine Your Light on Me, Aiden faces a family tragedy only to months later be given the gift of healing. He doesn’t understand how his gift works, but his neighbors and acquaintances demand that he use it for them. When he could have the power to heal an entire town, does Aiden really have a choice? Desperate measures, indeed. Lee Thompson was kind enough to chat with me over e-mail about this thrilling new novella and other projects he has in the works. You can learn more about Lee at his website, Lee Thompson Fiction.
Let’s get to the interview!
Andrea: The plot of Shine Your Light On Me sounds absolutely fascinating. Miraculous healings, hopefulness that turns into dark desperation, and a teenager thrown into the middle of it all. Where did the idea for this story come from? Even more incredible is that this is a novella! How did you cram all of that into less than 200 pages?
Lee: Thanks for the interview, Andrea.
Well, Ken Wood from Shock Totem would tell you I was inspired by the cover for issue 4. And he’s partly right. Mostly it was asking myself, what things haven’t I written about that I want to now, right now? And I thought about it for weeks, finally realizing that to go from being a no one to everyone wanting a piece of you, would be terrifying to me. Especially if I was still a teenager. It’s kind of the opposite of Stephen King’s Carrie.