Jason Sizemore talks about Apex’s Robotic Ambitions
Jason Sizemore talks about Apex’s Robotic Ambitions
By Angelique Fawns
Apex Magazine is a venue for dark and spectacular science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They ask for short stories, “filled with marrow and passion. Works that are twisted, strange, and beautiful.” They’ve won multiple Hugos, Nebulas, and World Fantasy Awards. Jason Sizemore and Lesley Connor are co-editors and have provided a space for readers to experience some of the most mind-expanding tales being published today. They are also actively involved in helping authors learn their craft. I took a seminar with the Apex team at Fyrecon 2022 this November called “The Line Between Dark Fantasy/SciFi and Horror.” I couldn’t take notes fast enough.
Their latest project is an anthology called Robotic Ambitions. It’s currently live on Kickstarter.
“Editors Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner are looking for stories that examine the concept of “robotic ambitions.” Using philosophical, moral, and practical points-of-view, what does it mean to be sentient and mechanical? What challenges will mechanical beings face from a fearful and chaotic world? What are their goals and ambitions?”
I asked Jason Sizemore, owner and editor-in-chief of Apex Magazine and the Apex Book Company, a few questions to learn more:
AF: Tell me about your inspiration for “Robotic Ambitions”.
JS: Even prior to the current discussions going on concerning ChatGPT and the various AI art tools, I’ve had a fascination with the struggle we have coming to terms with technology. What happens when we can no longer discern the difference between human and artificially created concepts/designs? Will humans become marked as deprecated by AI and relegated to secondary status? If AI consciousness should emerge, what does that mean for the world?
I don’t see these predicaments becoming a concern in my lifetime, but I do find them interesting to think about. My hope is that Robotic Ambitions will interrogate these questions and propose scenarios and situations and how AI and humanity deals with them.
“…I’ve had a fascination with the struggle we have coming to terms with technology. What happens when we can no longer discern the difference between human and artificially created concepts/designs?”
AF: Can you give us some hints as to what kind of stories are most likely to be successful? Are you looking for stories told primarily from a robot’s POV?
JS: The POV isn’t the critical aspect. What’s important is that your story tackles the concept of artificial (mechanical) sentience in some manner. We have a list of example stories that we’ve published in Apex Magazine over the years that Lesley and I would consider fitting the theme. We’ve also made a story that will appear in Robotic Ambitions, “A Still Life” by Elliott Wink, available for potential readers and writers.
The stories can be found listed on our anthology call page here: https://www.apexbookcompany.com/blogs/frontpage/anthology-submissions-call-robotic-ambitions.
AF: Have you already secured some “invite-only” stories for this anthology? Tell us more!
JS: Right now, we only have “A Still Life” by Elliott Wink in our hands. But we do have promised stories from eight more authors: Danny Cherry Jr., Sheree Renée Thomas, Marie Vibbert, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Lavie Tidhar, Premee Mohamed, Izzy Wasserstein, and Renan Bernardo.
Also, we have stretch goal authors ready and waiting: Jason Sanford, Marie Croke, Derrick Boden, and Russell Nichols.
We also just announced that Martha Wells will write a foreword to Robotic Ambitions should we hit her stretch goal!
“What’s important is that your story tackles the concept of artificial (mechanical) sentience in some manner.”
AF: Talk to me about your beautifully eerie cover art. Who is the artist? Inspiration?
JS: The artist is Vincent Lefevre. Lesley and I originally wanted to commission an original piece for the anthology. So we set about to look for work to offer as inspiration to a potential artist. One of us, I don’t remember who, came across Vincent’s work titled “Fatherly Love.” It features a larger robot leading a smaller, childlike robot down a street in a rainstorm. The little robot holds a futuristic umbrella.
We both immediately loved the piece. It displays warmth and affection, not the expected cold-natured mechanical ambience many will assume the anthology concerns itself with. The anthology isn’t going to be entirely dystopian. Nor are we interested in presenting a barrage of anti-tech stories. Thus, the decision to license “Fatherly Love” for our cover was made.
Vincent creates many depictions of robots and androids. He has a fantastic portfolio available at https://www.artstation.com/ptitvinc for those interested.
AF: Please tell me about the conception and growth of Apex?
JS: I’ve always been fascinated by the impact technology has on our world, both in real and theoretical terms. I think that was a big reason I started a publishing business focused on dark science fiction. Due to human nature, technology feeds into our duality for being awesome and for being awful. I publish a lot of dark SF, but I do so in the hope of presenting them as (entertaining) cautionary tales!
AF: What is your background? Do you have a day job outside of publishing? Are you a writer yourself?
JS: I was a software developer for 22 years. Big corporations. Dot com startups. Government agencies. Education. I job hopped with the hope of finding something that engaged me. During the second half of those 22 years, I ran Apex Publications as a hobby business. I realized the hobby business is what I found engaging. Running Apex is now my occupation.
I do write infrequently. I do it purely as a side hustle.
“Right now, Apex is focused on scaling up. This means major projects such as Robotic Ambitions.
AF: In your opinion, what are the best resource for writers looking to enhance their craft? Any seminars, books, or cons you suggest?
JS: Writing can be a lonely profession. If you have the financial means look to attend a professional writers’ convention. You’ll find opportunities to network, meet other writers in similar career paths, and to receive the wisdom veterans in the business. Don’t be shy about talking to others—remember that the writers, agents, editors, and publishers at the convention are there to meet people.
Local writing groups can be fruitful, especially if they’re well ran and have defined goals for their members.
I also advocate for writers to engage with the various online networking and educational opportunities. These present in various manners: online workshops, Discord, Facebook groups.
AF: What is in the future for Jason Sizemore and Apex Magazine?
JS: Right now, Apex is focused on scaling up. This means major projects such as Robotic Ambitions. I’m co-editing an anthology with Sheree Renée Thomas this winter (details to be shared next month). We are close to having the magazine operating in the black once more. Apex behind-the-scenes is a busy, busy place!
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Angelique Fawns writes horror, fantasy, kids short stories, and freelance journalism. Her day job is producing promos and after hours she takes care of her farm full of goats, horses, chickens, and her family. She has no idea how she finds time to write. She currently has stories in Ellery Queen, DreamForge Anvil, and Third Flatiron’s Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses. You can follow her work and get writing tips and submission hints at http://fawns.ca/.