I’ve mentioned my love for and entanglement with Apex Magazine before, so it’s with great pleasure that I’d like to introduce the editors: Big Chief Jason Sizemore and Comfortably In Control Lesley Conner (who has All the Answers AND a Production Spreadsheet of Doom – but we’ll get back to that). They joined me for a fun kaffeeklatsch in honour of the annual subscription drive.
@imyril: Let’s start at the beginning of the day. I know Lesley at least is an early bird (how does she manage to be having breakfast at the same time as me when I’m on another continent with a 6 hour advantage?). What gets you started for the day: rocket fuel? Coffee? The tears of your enemies?
@lesleyconner: Coffee. Large amounts of coffee. I’m actually really bad at the whole breakfast thing. I get hungry, but at that time of day I don’t want to worry about cooking, so I just grab whatever is handy. Sometimes cereal, sometimes leftovers (nothing wrong with eating spaghetti at 6am!), sometimes I realize it’s 10:30 and I forgot to eat breakfast at all. But there’s always multiple cups of coffee.
A lady after my own heart. Now I understand.
@apexjason: Strong coffee. Specifically, Nate’s Coffee. Light roast. I also eat a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats and a banana. After that, I chug Diet Mt. Dew. Yes, I know, I know, not healthy. But I don’t smoke, I rarely drink, and rarely swear, so it’s my one unhealthy vice. Don’t judge!
Me? Never. Reading friends? I make no promises. What do you say, friends?
@imyril: Given your working day revolves around reading, do you read to unwind or do you find you need to do something completely different?
@lesleyconner: I LOVE to read! Love it! And I read just about everything. My older daughter is 14 and she is a big reader. She also wants me to read what she’s reading, so I’m currently reading a lot of YA (just started Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin). I’m also into a series of mysteries by M.C. Beaton called the Agatha Raisin mysteries. I’m pretty early in the series yet (on book 3 and I think there’s something like 26 books currently), but I love that the protagonist is an older woman who isn’t perfect. She’s cynical and a bit shallow and gets bored incredibly easily — which of course leads to hilarity. If I’m wanting to relax, I’m grabbing a book from that series. I also read a lot of science fiction, horror, and historical fiction. Pretty much anything I can get my hands on.
@apexjason: I am a voracious reader. I also prefer to read all over the spectrum. I’ll skip from grimdark to literary to space opera, etc. My only requirement is that the book is interesting. At night when I’m winding down, I prefer to read nonfiction. Always be learning as Alec Baldwin never says. My most recent read is the collection Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie set in his First Law universe. Fun stuff.
I really need to nudge Sharp Ends up my TBR…
@imyril: As one of your slush bunnies, I know what it takes to find an Apex story, but I’m fascinated to know how you pick the amazing cover art. The artists are phenomenal. How do you find them?
@lesleyconner: Searching for cover art is one of my favorite Apex tasks. For the most part, when I’m looking for Apex Magazine covers, I’m not looking for something specific. When I have some downtime, I’ll go to DeviantArt and do a random search — maybe scifi, or weird, or robots, whatever strikes my fancy — and then I just start scrolling. I don’t know what image I’m looking for, but I am looking for a reaction, for a piece of art that catches my breath, one that demands I share it with everyone because it is just so amazing.
I usually send Jason an email with three to five different pieces and he replies with the ones that he likes the best. Those are the artists I contact. So far this process seems to work for us. We have gotten to feature some amazing artwork from artists around the world.
I love that one of our guiding lights for all things Apex is that if you feel your heart skip a beat and struggle to tell whether it’s love, beauty or terror, it’s Apex.
@imyril: Let’s get to the big questions: is it true that the Production Spreadsheet of Doom can be used to accurately foretell the birth of galaxies and the death of tyrants?
@lesleyconner: I’m sad to say that this is incorrect. The Production Spreadsheet of Doom would never accurately foretell anything so happy as the birth of galaxies and the death of tyrants. It only foretells doom — plagues, zombie outbreaks, apocalypses, gridlocked traffic. That, and when Jason and I are supposed to have each task completed for Apex’s upcoming books for 2017. Doom! Doom, I tell you!
*shudders* It is both epic and terrifying.
@apexjason: One half of The Production Spreadsheet of Doom is collection of all the millions of questions that Lesley hits me with in her never-ending series of encyclopaedic-length emails. The other half is my one-word or hard-to-comprehend answers. Granted, if I was organized and bothered to document anything, she wouldn’t have to ask all those questions. Lesley is incredibly kind and patient with me.
@imyril: I’d like to address a persistent rumour while we’re here: does Lesley really have all the answers?
Lesley Conner is astute, intelligent, and clever. The clever part is key, because even if she doesn’t know the answer to a question, she can come up with one that sounds correct that tricks me into thinking “Well, that’s answered, time for the next task!” I wonder how often she’s messed with me…it’s just easier to believe her than to have to look it up for myself.
@imyril: What’s the most unlikely answer Lesley’s ever given you?
@apexjason: Inexplicably, when I asked her if she liked the modern horror classic film It Follows, she said “No.” Truthfully, this shifted my worldview of Lesley Conner. It’s when I figured out that she’s clever and does not ALWAYS have all the correct answers. She’s got answers, but occasionally she’s so off the mark (such as her opinion of It Follows) that it makes me grimace and feel bad for her.
I’m not taking sides, okay? I’m unafraid to admit I don’t like being terrified, so I don’t (usually) watch horror movies. But It Follows somehow manages to look intriguing.
@imyril: Love-in time! What is the thing you each appreciate most about working with the other?
@apexjason: Lesley told me I had to answer this one, so here goes.
I appreciate Lesley’s positive attitude. Running a small press is a stressful, emotional job, and when I’m down she’s able to lift me up. She’s self-motivated. She knows how to figure stuff out without me having to hold her hand. She’s also an inspiration: Lesley does so many great things for so many people.
@lesleyconner: This is a hard question. Really. It is. Jason and I have been working together for a long time — longer than any other job I’ve had — and we work really, really well together. But what do I appreciate the most? Probably the fact that Jason trusts me. He doesn’t stand over me and micro-manage every task I’m assigned. I have my work and he has his, and we trust each other to handle our own shit. This is especially important because I have a not-so-secret identity as a stay-at-home mom. School events, doctor appointments, sick kids: they all happen and mess with a normal 9 to 5 schedule. Plus, I’ve never been very good at normal work hours anyway. If Jason was always checking up on where I am on this project or that, or if he got upset by me needing to take an hour or two off to do something for my kids, being Apex’s managing editor wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
@imyril: What’s the best thing about being a publisher?
@apexjason: The feeling of having produced a fantastic book never grows old. The satisfaction of finding a fantastic story in the slush. The thrill of publishing writers you’ve long admired. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me going.
This interview comes to you in honour of Apex Magazine’s annual subscription drive. We rely on subscriptions and donations to keep bringing you amazing stories, haunting poetry and gorgeous artwork. As usual, there are amazing reward tiers to unlock – we’ve already unlocked the official It Follows live tweet-off between Lesley and Jason! – including bonus stories and poetry (and one of last year’s bonus stories is shortlisted for a Hugo, so, y’know, no pressure people. Honestly). Sign up for or renew your annual subscription, make a donation or just buy something in the Apex store to help keep Apex going for another year.
Or don’t, and make a slush reader cry (you can also do this by submitting REALLY GOOD FICTION. I know which I’d rather you do).