Jason Sizemore is the editor-in-chief and publisher of Apex Book Company and Hugo-nominated Apex Magazine, and he’s stopping by today to answer a few questions for me in the spirit of Revive the Drive, Apex’s subscription drive! For $17, you not only get a whole year of fantastic speculative fiction, but you also help support a great small press and magazine. All writers know the importance of supporting a vibrant, active small publishing community, and Apex is offering a whole lot of amazing things in their Revive the Drive store (*cough* critiques! *cough* book bundles! *cough*) to help support your creative efforts, too! It’s a win-win!
And in the meantime, here is my mind-probe of Jason Sizemore for your curiosity!
Q) You write fiction of your own in addition to your editorial duties. Were there any surprises for you in how you approach your own work given that you spend so much of your time within the industry on the other side of the table?
JS: As I’ve grown more experienced as an editor—both in terms of skill and taste—I have found that I’ve grown more critical of my writing. This is a positive growth. It means I’m more patient when it comes to writing. I’m also a lot more receptive to input from my first readers. I am a perfect example of how editors cannot edit themselves.
Rejection has become a “thing” that happens. It does not bother me. Nor do I ever feel it is personal. Disappointed? Always! But knowing first-hand the dozens of factors that go into accepting or rejecting a submission means I realize a rejection isn’t a statement against the work, it’s a statement about the work in that moment of time for that publication.
The clichéd “doesn’t work for us at this time” is true sentiment when editors write it!
Q) Okay, we know it happens: what’s the strangest author-pitch-attack story you’ve got? (In other words, authors, what to do to get an editor’s attention?)
JS: I wrote a book about the more…eccentric experiences I’ve had a small press publisher titled For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher. One thread throughout the book is the true tale of an older gentleman who hunted me down at one or two cons Every Single Year to pitch me his latest outlandish, poorly written right-wing conspiracy novel. Invariably, I would politely decline, and invariably, he would insult me, Apex, and whoever was sitting near me. His timing was impeccable: he found me once while I was suffering from the throes of kidney stones, he nailed me once in an elevator full of people, and he even pitched me after I had failed to win the Hugo Award in 2012 in Chicago!
Q) Reading good fiction (and non-fiction!) is at the core of becoming a good writer. Can you suggest three books that have deeply impacted you that you think every author should read?
JS: My favorite saying is that to become a good writer you must be a great reader.
Imagine, if you will, a little Jason Sizemore. He’s a nerdy kid with big thick plastic glasses and a huge red afro. That kid had his world rocked by the first genre novel he ever read: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Now picture a bigger Jason. He’s a college computer nerd with glasses and an ugly haircut despite having a great bundle of curly red hair. Dune is the book that rocked my world. It felt (was) so intellectual, so grand, and so important.
Finally, the Jason of a few years ago. He’s still a nerd, but has lost most of his awesome hair and likes to sleep more than ever. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell rocked my world. It raised so many questions about who we are, why we have religion, our place in our speck of the universe. It’s still my favorite book.
Q) What is your least favorite story trope that you’re seeing in your slush box currently?
JS: I’ve grown weary of magical realism taking the place of science fiction. It too often feels like the author is taking a short cut when it comes to world-building. Don’t misread this to mean that I dislike magic realism—in fact, I love it. But don’t be afraid to create new science!
Q) And seriously, because it’s me, I have to ask: When are you guys going to appear at a Northeast convention?
JS: There are so many people I want to meet that live in the northeast area. One day, I swear on all that is unholy, I will make it to Readercon.
Two things hold me back. The cost is outlandish. Flights from this area to New York and Boston are expensive. Combine that with the usual travel costs of food & lodging, I’ll need to save 800 to 1000 bucks. Apex is my full-time job now, so that’s a sizable chunk of money! Second, I hate flying. I’ll fly when necessary, but it takes a toll on me mentally. My wife makes fun of me all the time about it. I can stand tippy-toe on a mountain cliff and look down, but put me in the safe confines of an airplane and I stress.
Thank you so much for stopping by today and sharing a little slice of your brain—I mean—your thoughts with us! Check out the Revive the Drive store for all sort of great offers to help support the fantastic Apex Magazine!