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Reviews of Not That Old Science Fiction Magazines: Apex Volume 1 Issue 11 (2007): Not to be confused with Abyss and Apex. I believe Sumana got this magazine from a friend in 2008 and gave it to me so I could study the market. I studied it enough to see "Science Fiction & Horror" at the top of the cover, and then put it in with the rest of my unread magazines. I do not like horror. I realize that this says more about me than about the genre, so I will spare you my half-baked opinions and nickel psychoanalyses of the horror writers profiled in this issue of Apex. Suffice to say that I am suspicious of any genre named after an emotion. Like if comedy was just called "laughing".

That said, there was one story in this issue I really liked. Sara King's "The Moldy Dead" is one of my favorite types of story: a first contact story with no humans in it, just alien-on-alien action. The horror element is surprisingly understated, and I appreciated it on an intellectual level when it came into play in the ending. It was kind of Star Trek-ish, though (if I may damn with faint praise) more interesting than any time Star Trek ever tried to do horror. (PS: Helpful hint to space explorers. If you go to a planet looking for intelligent life, and you find only one form of life on the planet, that might be it!)

I also enjoyed the title of one of the pieces: "Cain XP11 (Part 3): Sorry About All The Blood". That was the third part of a four-part novella about a government plan to clone history's great serial killers and train them as super-soldiers, a well-thought-out plan which surprisingly goes awry.

And that's the kind of thing found in the rest of the magazine. The ads are uniformly interesting: small-press stuff with the distinctive small-press art style, and because I don't believe in the reading conventions of horror the copy just makes me laugh. ("Resurrected against his will in an unholy deal with Hell, he must now use his surgical skills to harvest the living to feed an ever-growing army of the undead.")

However, I would like to give a special shout-out to David Wong, editor of Cracked.com and author of John Dies At The End, which in 2007 was advertised as available online for free, but which since then has been trapped in a paper book. Great title! I'm getting most of my entertainment here from the titles. ("Where Evil Lurks: Special Edition") Also Alethea Kontis had an editorial about curses that was pretty interesting.

Finally a note about the cover. I don't have my camera handy but it's a brownish painting of the face of some dude who looks like an octopus (or maybe it's the whole body, if dude really looks like an octopus). Tentacles, mottled skin, big round eye, etc. I looked at this cover and thought "Man, this is why I hate horror. I'm supposed to be prejudiced against this creature just because it looks like a tentacle monster. There's probably some Lovecraft ripoff story in this magazine, instead of a cool story about aliens." But no, the cover illustration was just a picture of one of the aliens from "The Moldy Dead", a cool story about aliens.

So that was a pleasant surprise. But then I started wondering how Apex readers distinguish between a horror tentacle monster and a science fiction tentacle monster. Then while looking at the ads I figured it out: teeth. The single most reliable indicator of horror art is exposed teeth (runner-up: an open mouth without exposed teeth).

Octopus-dude's teeth, if any, are not depicted on the cover. Its most prominent feature is the eye, which you'd think would be creepier (I'd rather see a tooth lying on the sidewalk than an eyeball), but in fact it creates empathy, letting you know that this other thing is a person. In the ads in this magazine, creepy things tend to have their eyes closed, or else their eyes lack pupils.

This teeth thing is also largely a matter of prejudice (there's a funny scene in Old Man's War that makes fun of this), but I think that's how the signalling works.

: "You're a pigeon, my friend."


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