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Jason Sizemore

Five Books That Dump You into a Pit of Despair

In the first chapter of For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher I describe my pre-teen Friday nights with my dear ol’ Mom. She’d set aside these evenings as “Family Movie Time.” Each week she and I would trek to the local video rental store to find the latest offerings of horror movies.

Why did she let her ten-year-old boy watch movies such as The Exorcist and The Howling? My best guess is she wanted the company, as my dad worked in the coal mines 60 to 70 hours a week. Whether or not this was the case, movie time with Mom greatly shaped my entertainment tastes, even to this very day. Thinking back on those movie nights with Mom, there are two movies that still stand out for me, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Both are outstanding films. Both are relentlessly dark with denouements that will punch you in the gut with despair. The visceral emotions I felt as a kid still affect me as an adult.

[Contemporary literature is filled with such grim classics…]

Series: Five Books About…

Searching for Lavie Tidhar

World Fantasy Con 2010 was something of a milestone for me. I finally met somebody who confirmed that Lavie Tidhar is, indeed, a real and breathing person. John Berlyne of the Zeno Literary Agency tells me that Lavie is of human flesh and not some computer entity sliding along the ocean floor or a conglomeration of underpaid authors cranking out hundreds of thousands of words for publication.

You might have heard of Lavie Tidhar. Locus called him an “emerging master.” His short fiction work has appeared in most professional short fiction publications of note: Clarkesworld Magazine, Apex Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Strange Horizons, Chizine and more. His stories have appeared in heavyweight anthologies such as Salon Fantastique, The Del Ray Book of Science Fiction & Fantasy, Lovecraft Unbound, Phantom, Interfictions II, Shine, and Dark Faith. Most recently Lavie broke into the mainstream with the mass market paperback novel The Bookman (first in a series of three) from Angry Robot Books. He also runs the World SF blog with Charles Tan.

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Science Fiction Across National Boundaries

The genre world goes through phases much the same as any other cultural zeitgeist. Right now, horror is mired neck-deep in the world of vampires and paranormal romance (with zombies running a close second). Science fiction readers are enthralled with steampunk and the apocalypse. Fantasy is trending toward more gritty, salt-of-the-earth type novels (raise your hand Richard K. Morgan!).

The zeitgeist winds are blowing, my friends. We have seen the science fiction community lift its gaze from its current obsession, push those horn rimmed glasses higher up the bridges of their noses, and expand their view of the world beyond the borders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. We, as a community, have taken a keen interest in the concept of “world SF.”

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A New Future for Our Print Magazines?: Print on Demand

For quite a while there’s been a lot of hand wringing and finger pointing by fans of horror, fantasy, and science fiction concerning the waning fate of our short fiction print markets. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?


Fortunately, I’m not writing this to rehash the decades-old argument of why the print markets are dying and how to save them. I’d like to discuss an emerging technology that might have a hand in deciding the future of our print short fiction publications.

Print on demand (POD) services are certainly not new, but the quality has improved greatly in recent years. The small press book publishing markets are going through a bit of revitalization thanks to the high quality physical product and decent price-per-unit offerings from places such as Lightning Source, Booksurge, and Lulu. Granted, the interior content is a mixed bag depending on the publisher, but I always tell people the small press market is like any other—be sure to do your research before you part ways with your money. Trust me, it doesn’t take much research to find out if a press is reputable.

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Writers Workshop of Horror: interview with editor Michael Knost

In the early years of my editing and writing adventures, I spent a fair amount of coin on books about writing. I had high hopes of learning the secret handshake required of becoming a successful writer. In general, the books were a waste of time and money, but at least my coin helped put bread on the table for some starving writer, right?

Then, an odd thing happened. I stumbled upon a handful of books about writing that were actually informative and helpful. Two of these come from a pair of the speculative fiction genre’s most successful authors: Stephen King (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft) and Orson Scott Card (How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy). Both were entertaining and provided a framework that allowed me to further enhance my skills.

Writers Workshop of Horror edited by Michael Knost hopes to provide the same type of fun, scholarly content from successful genre authors such as Clive Barker and Brian Keene. The book comes out in August from Woodland Press and is currently available via pre-order. A busy editor and writer, I was pleased to steal a few minutes of Michael’s time for this interview.

Jason Sizemore: What sets Writers Workshop of Horror apart from the other “how-to-write” books currently on the shelves?

Michael Knost: Well, Writers Workshop of Horror specifically focuses on the craft of writing. There is nothing in this book about landing a three-book deal with a major publishing house, finding an agent, applying marketing tips, or anything else that is outside the scope of the craft. Secondly, this book is genre specific to horror and dark fiction. Now the advice here will certainly apply to any writer regardless of the genre he or she chooses, but this book specializes in horror, dread, fear, and the darker sides of the imagination. Remember, these are all elements every writer (regardless of genre) needs in his or her craft toolbox.

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Memo to Myself: Do the Dumb Things I Gotta to Do, Touch the Puppet Head

Invariably, I’m asked, “So what prompted you to start a publishing company?” This happens at conventions, in interviews, and by concerned family members. It’s a loaded question, because what they mean to ask is “Are you nuts? Do you enjoy losing money? It’ll only end in tears and you’ll probably be the one left crying.”

I liken it to the ‘train wreck’ scenario. People can’t look away from a good disaster. People can’t help themselves but to wonder.

In the four years since I started my adventures in small press publishing, I still can’t give a direct, concise answer as to why I started a publishing company. Part of it comes down to having a career crisis. In 2005, I was working in a dead end job as an I/T support specialist for the city government’s division of risk management. I’d also just turned 30. I could see myself troubleshooting risk management software for the rest of my life, never making waves, never making a difference, and that depressed me. Making sure somebody is getting their workman’s comp payments is a good thing, but it’s not something that gives a person joy or pride—at least not this person.

I wanted to combine something I enjoyed with something that could be a positive influence on others.

Then, one day, while browsing the Shocklines forum (a popular site for horror fans), I noticed a topic of the sort that stated that the short fiction print market was dead. I wondered, “Is this true?” For a long time, I’d dismissed the problems of the ‘big 3’ digests as their inability to leave the Jurassic age (particularly in presentation and design). I formulated a plan for an edgier, more visually appealing digest, wrote up a business plan, bummed some money from a bank, and set forth to prove the naysayers wrong.

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Little Fish, Big Pond

My name is Jason Sizemore. If I had to guess, I’d say not many of you have heard of me. I’m a small fry in the genre cooker. But like a lot of people in the business of words, I wear many hats. I write (I just sold my first short story collection!). I edit (Stoker Award-nominated as an editor). I publish. That last one is important. It’s my one claim to fame and notoriety, and I abuse it for as much personal gain as possible: I’m the owner and editor-in-chief of Apex Publications, a publisher of quality dark SF, dark fantasy, and horror. In fact, I’m pretty sure the whole Apex thing helped me land this terrific gig.

Short bio: I live in Lexington, KY, where I work as a software developer for the state’s Department of Education. I moonlight (about 30-40 hours a week) as a book & magazine (Apex Magazine) publisher. I’m 35 years old. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science from one of those hippie liberal art schools—Transylvania University (and yes, it is a real college, minus the vampires but choked full of hairy frat boys that could certainly pass as werewolves). My heroes include but are not limited to: Ellen Datlow, Mary Doria Russell, Deb Taber, Brian Keene, Cherie Priest, Tom Piccirilli, Alethea Kontis, and Mary Robinette Kowal. I really like Neil Gaiman, but he’s blocked my number and no longer answers my calls.

Pablo Defendini and the wonderful people at deserve a shout out for giving me a platform to talk about small press publishing, the chores of editing, and the perils of being a writer.

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