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Revive the Drive: an interview with Lesley Conner, Apex Magazine’s managing editor

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It is a commonly accepted fact that if you are reading genre fiction, and you want to keep up with the state of the art, and see new ideas and trends as they are born and evolve, the latest award-winning novel is OK, but you really have to read the short the stories that are being published in the magazines.
That’s where the new and exciting stuff happens.
Apex Magazines is one of the places where new and exciting things are happening right now, and they are relaunching their subscription drive these days – they are calling it Revive the Drive.

REVIVE-THE-DRIVE-LAYOUT

Subscriptions are what keeps a magazine alive, and keeping Apex alive is a good thing. More magazines on the market means more outlets (and opportunities) for authors, more diversity, a healthier market, and more stories for the readers.
So here is where I say Go and Subscribe to Apex!, but there’s more – first, because in the Revive the Drive Store you’ll find not only subscription opportunities but also books from the Apex Book Company, goodies and even some special opportunities if you are a writer.
Second, because Lesley Conner, Apex Magazine’s managing editor, has been so kind she answered a few questions of mine about her magazine, her job, her experiences, and a few fun facts.

Go on and read the interview below.
And then Go and Subscribe to Apex!

Five questions for Lesley Conner, Apex Magazine Managing Editor

Now the first obvious question should probably be “How do I get published?!”, possibly said out loud, with a slightly stridulous, overexcited tone, while gripping you by the lapels.
But we’ll try and do something classier.

First Question – Apex Magazine’s been around for a while, you will hit your 100th issue this year. How has the magazine changed through these years? And also, has the field changed, and how?

Lesley – I came onboard as managing editor back in 2014 when Jason Sizemore stepped back into the role of editor-in-chief. Before that I mainly worked on the book side of Apex Publications, so I can’t speak to how the magazine changed before that time. Since then, I know that Jason and I have really worked hard to make sure that we are putting together a magazine that reflects as many voices as possible.

One of the ways we try to do this is by occasionally handing the reigns over to other editors and asking them to guest edit an issue. In September 2015, we published a special international-SF themed issue guest edited by Cristina Jurado. Issue 95, April 2017, was edited by Maurice Broaddus—it is a phenomenal issue, you do not want to miss it! And coming up in August 2017, Dr. Amy H. Sturgis will be guest editing an issue featuring Native American and First Nation authors. I really love getting to work with these other editors and seeing how they take Apex Magazine’s tagline “Strange, Beautiful, Shocking, Surreal,” and make it their own.

Second Question – Apex publishes SF, fantasy and horror. How do you approach the different genres when selecting your stories? Do you weight different factors depending on the genre?

Lesley – We love stories that push the boundaries of genre, that blend and experiment with them. It’s rare that we publish a story that fits squarely into only one genre, we like the stories that straddle more than one.

When it comes right down to it, we’re looking for amazing stories. Yes, we want speculative fiction, but we don’t have a clipboard where we’re checking “sci-fi,” “fantasy,” or “horror” when considering a story. Instead we want to moved by an amazing plot, characters, and story.

Third Question – Apex offers a very diverse selection of authors. I am particularly interested in your contributors coming from a non-English-speaking background. Are there many of them? What are they like compared to their English-speaking counterparts? Anything funny about working with speakers of other languages?

Lesley – We publish authors from around the globe, but unless we are working with a translator—we have a great story by K.A. Ternya, translated by Alex Shvartsman, coming out this summer—the authors all have an excellent grasp of English, so there haven’t really been any odd interactions.

This isn’t always so when working with cover artists. There have been many times when I’ve approached artists who are not very comfortable with English and they have been very unsure about doing the artist interview. Between making sure that Russell Dickerson sends them the questions very early, and then going through the interview and helping them work on grammar and clarity, it has always worked out alright, but it can be a long process. I want to make sure that the end product is an interview they are proud of.

I can remember one time in particular where things didn’t go so smoothly. I was working with an artist from Russia. I’d sent him an email asking for a bio and headshot, and what he sent back was neither. Subsequent emails didn’t help, and I quickly realized that something was getting lost in translation. I do some freelance editing for an author named Yaroslav Barsukov, who lives in Austria, and I know he speaks Russian. Finally, I asked him to reach out to the artist and work as a translator. With Yaroslav’s help, we were able to get all the pieces that we needed for the issues. I felt bad because I was worried that the artist would come away with a bad experience, and I always want our cover artists to like working with Apex Magazine. I’m just happy that I knew someone who was able to bridge the gap in language.

If you are really interested in reading stories by authors from non-English-speaking backgrounds, be sure to check out our Apex Book of World SF series. Four volumes edited by Lavie Tidhar (volumes 1-3) and Mahvesh Murad (volume 4) featuring authors who are not from the US or UK. It’s a great series and a great way to sample speculative fiction from around the world.

Fourth Question – On being an editor for a cutting edge magazine and podcast. How did you get the job? What do you love about it, and what do you hate about it?

Lesley – I met Apex’s owner/publisher Jason Sizemore at a convention years ago. When he mentioned that he was looking for someone to be his blog manager, I volunteered. I didn’t get that position, but Jason did ask if I’d be willing to help out 5 to 10 hours a week. I was. That’s where it started.

I’m not going to say I love everything about being the managing editor of Apex Publications—I have days where I just want to forget about work and goof-off—but overall it is a pretty sweet gig. I’m able to work from home and make my own schedule, so if my kids have a field trip or a doctor appointment there’s no problem with me taking time off. I also get to work with amazing authors and artist on a daily basis! And I actually enjoy doing copy editing and proofreading work.

Plus, Jason and I get along really well, and it’s definitely easier to enjoy your job if you like your coworkers!

There really isn’t anything that I hate about my job. The schedule can be a bit intense at times—we put out an issue of Apex Magazine every month and publish several books a year through Apex Book Company— and that isn’t always fun, but when things get to hectic I know it’s time for me to take a break. I’ll buy a cup of coffee and head to a bookstore. Even an hour or two away can really make the load feel lighter.

Fifth and final question – Is there a story that you have been hoping to read since you started, and yet nobody has submitted? What would that story be about, and why do you think nobody wrote it yet? I’m asking for a friend…

Lesley – You know there’s no real answer to this, right? There’s no way I can lay out a specific story idea that I’d like to see in the Apex slush pile. First, what I think might be amazing, may not be through someone else’s interpretation. We all put our own spin on ideas. Second, what I think of right now, sitting on my couch at 9 o’clock at night, may sound like complete trash to me tomorrow. So no, I’m not going to give you a specific idea that I think would be great.

What I will say is I want to read amazing stories. Stories that take me far away from my home in Maryland and allow me to explore this world and so many others. I want stories with beautiful language and inventive dialogue, stories with complex characters that grow and change. I want stories that are edgy and surreal and challenging.

And this is it, for the time being.
A big thank you to Lesley for her replies to my rambling questions.
Now Go and Subscribe to Apex!
And as you are at it, also check out the Revive the Drive Store.

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

16 thoughts on “Revive the Drive: an interview with Lesley Conner, Apex Magazine’s managing editor

  1. Great article!
    Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome! I know I may seem ignorant, but I have never read Apex Magazine! I’all look for it and let you know what I think!

    Like

  3. Interesting read. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good read. I love science, fantasy but a little bit of horror. Anyway a good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice article, Good read. Thanks for sharing..

    Like

  6. Awesome read! Thanks so sharing 🙂

    Like

  7. Thank you so much for having me, Davide! I really enjoyed answering your questions. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you again for your kindness and your in-depth answers.
      I hope this helps bringing you a few new readers – I’m sure they’ll be pleased should they decide to subscribe to Apex!

      Like

  8. I’ve never heard of Apex but it sounds interesting 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. i’d never heard of this – I shall look for it now. it sounds interesting

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a fantastic interview, I love that this woman comes over so passionate and she certainly does not mice her words.

    Like

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