Q+A with Lesley Conner from Apex Magazine

131 issues. 553 stories. 2.5 million words of strange, shocking, surreal, beautiful fiction have wriggled their way into the pages of Apex Magazine. That’s 553 times Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner have screamed, “Yes!” Which–in a wild coincidence–is exactly what we did after reading their answers to our interview. If you ever worried that the editors of one of your favorite magazines are part of a dark-cloaked cabal that feeds on the tears of rejected writers, read on. And if Apex isn’t on your list of favorite magazines, read it here, and see why it’s on ours.

If you could sum up Apex's vibe in six words or less, what would they be?

Dark. Strange. Surreal. Shocking. Beautiful.

Editors notoriously don’t get paid much (if at all) and tend to take a lot of flack. So, why do it? Is there a moment you can remember in your time with Apex where you thought: ‘this, this is why I do it’?

You do it for the stories. Finding those fantastic stories and being able to bring them to the world is an amazing feeling! Especially if it's a story from a writer that has been submitting to Apex for a while. As editors, we get to watch writers improve their craft, and when a story finally hits and makes us scream "Yes!" it's an exhilarating moment.

Who are four or five writers you see as typifying the kind of work you look for in Apex?

Cat Valente, Lavie Tidhar, Sheree Renee Thomas, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Fargo Tbakhi

What is one thing you’d tell writers to avoid in their submissions to Apex?

Submitting stories without a speculative element. Apex Magazine is a speculative fiction magazine. If you send us a story that doesn't have a speculative element, then we will reject it, no matter how well-written or amazing the story is.

Is there a specific kind of project you haven't seen in your current submissions that you'd love to see come in?

We're always looking for dark science fiction and stories that push the boundaries of genre.

Are there magazines you see as literary siblings, mentors, aspirations, besties, etc.?

There are so many fantastic speculative fiction zines out there right now. The Deadlands, Nightmare, Lightspeed, FIYAH, I could go on and on. I have major respect for all of the zines out there supporting writers, publishing dynamic diverse work from authors around the globe, and sharing stories that allow readers to experience such a wide swath of voices. It's pretty amazing!

Any parting words of advice for people submitting work, either to your magazine or other journals?

Many zines post their content online to read for free, so my suggestion is read as many of them as you can! The best way to grow as a writer is to read. Spend some time figuring out why a story works for you or why it doesn't.

Also, reading the publications that you want to submit to is essential! You'll have a better understanding of what an editor is looking for by reading the stories they've already said yes to.

Finally, if you want more insight into how editors make judgments, check out Apex's Snap Judgement. It's a quarterly event we do where Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner are joined by a guest editor. A narrator reads the first 250 words of submitted works and the editors raise their hand at the point where they would reject a story. We then spend some time doing a short critique, giving each editor time to share what worked or didn't work about each piece. The first 3 episodes are available to watch on YouTube. Episode 4 will be streamed live on August 2nd. The feedback that we've gotten back from authors is that these sessions teach them a LOT about openings and the editorial thought process.

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Check out Apex’s Snap Judgements on their YouTube channel, here

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Apex Magazine

"A bi-monthly science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazine featuring original, mind-bending short fiction from many of the top pros of the field. New issues are released on the first Tuesday of every other month."
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