zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Monday, April 7, 2008

Review: Apex #11


via HorrorScope by Matthew Tait on 3/16/08

Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest is a quarterly print magazine in what could be termed science-horror. Jason Sizemore, the editor, found this niche in the small press market and Apex has evolved to publish authors such as Kevin J Anderson, Bev Vincent, and William F Nolan.

Blackboard Sky by Gary Braunbeck

This issue's opener is by the prodigious Gary Braunbeck, a story that fits nice and snug into what Jason Sizemore probably had in mind when terming the phrase 'Science-Horror' to describe what he envisioned for Apex. A delicious little tale, it serves as perhaps surveillance on Art (any kind) used for medicinal purposes - a motif King has used to great effect. Although I've been unlucky enough not to read any of Braunbeck's novels, I have the distinct feeling isolation and loneliness is a theme he might use often. (Pessimistic, I heard from one reader). A central character, Vincent, has become symbiotic with a device from another star-system that was originally charged with the task finding God itself. Vincent, tortured and vulnerable, uses the power to change humanity, but cries out for help to another soul in the format of storytelling. There are surprises, here, as the mundane and the miraculous intertwine to become one.

Spinnetje by Stefani Nellen

Any story featuring scuttling metal spiders that have a relationship with the human brain has to be disconcerting for anyone. Spinnetje is described by the author as: an autonomous creature composed of a horde of nanites that could crawl through brains like a crowd of tourists crawling through ruins. Charming. Our main guy, Milo, uses it to experience and taste the emotions of someone else … in this case his partner. Everything seems to be going swimmingly for a while; but one of the great things about these tales – or indeed, Apex tales in particular – is that we know the horror to come . . . and wait for it apprehensively. Primarily, this is a short piece of obsession turning into possession, but it's the nuances, the subtle things that work for me . . . like kitchen-ware that cleans itself up by folding into balls and bouncing away. Also, there are tangible scenes here that spring to mind grotesque images from quite a few films. In this case, it's Cronenberg's Naked Lunch.

Ray Gun by Daniel G Keohane

This is a small piece that's like a second course in between a first and third, with a bit of light comic relief. Ray Gun has a kind of sixties nostalgic feel as an old man wakes up early one morning to find a spaceship has crash-landed in his back yard. A friend comes over to help with its perusal, and havoc ensues. This is a sort of 'every day Jill's and Joe's getting caught up in a nasty situation' kind of story, and they never fail to entertain. One of the aliens is described thus:

An octopus with too few heads one moment, too many the next.

Uncanny by Sammuel Tinianow

Told in first person narration, Uncanny by Samuel Tinianow is extremely short and … uncanny. Too many question marks abound, but you'll want to read it anyway to have a crack at deciphering it. Lying in a Hospital bed, our narrator recounts the story of a female cyborg who has been adopted by his family whilst they wait for her resurrection.

The Moldy Dead by Sara King

Another classy sci-fi story with a 'pulp fiction' type feel The Moldy Dead is the epicenter of this issue. Esteei is a receiver who joins a motley band of inter-species aliens to discover a 'mold' planet orbiting the fringes of space. Stephen King gave us a sand planet with Beachworld. Also, there was a 'Grassworld' story a couple of Apex issue's back. Now 'molds' on the agenda to cover a planet – and, although it starts off somewhat sluggishly – The Moldy Dead becomes a tearful tale of endurance and grief. Sara King is a new writer, and in this issue she shares space with Gary Braunbeck to take away top honors for best story.

Also included in this issue is a fascinating interview conducted by Steven Savile with Gary Braunbeck (whose Mr. Hands in now in the post and flying my way), and horror writer Bryan Smith. The highly entertaining Althea Kontis gives us her thoughts on Curses and there's a quaint epilogue of a story entitled What to Expect when your Expectorating by regular Jennifer Pelland.

Part three of a serial is also included CainXp11: What to do about all the Blood. Unfortunately, this reviewer lost the previous issue which included part two in a bar, and does not feel confident to elucidate on this one.

With prolific authors now regular contributors to Apex, I suspect this little magazine will only ever evolve from here.

Subscriptions can be ordered directly from their website.


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