Apex Magazine -- #26 & #27, July & August 2011

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 18:22 Chuck Rothman
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Apex Magazine Double Review -- #26/July & #27/August 2011

Apex Magazine #26, July 2011

"The Widow and the Xir" by Indrapramit Das
"The Neighborly Thing to Do" by T. J. Weyler

Apex Magazine #27, August 2011

"The Whispered Thing by Zach Lynott
"The Tiger Hunt" by Rabbit Seagraves

Reviewed by Chuck Rothman

Apex Magazine is clearly going for stories that combine literary prose in a science fiction and fantasy setting.  And it's clear that the literary values of their stories are quite high, but that's often not enough.

"The Widow and the Xir" is set on a desert planet where the inhabitants, instead of dying, are transformed into a kind of desert cat creature called the xir. Sanih loses her husband, but knows that the xir she spots following the tribe is her husband and has to deal with her grief and the dangers it causes.  Indrapramit Das has created not only an interesting world, but some very good relationships between Sanih, her husband, her child, and her tribe. The story builds to a satisfying end to her dilemma in a way that is very moving.

T.J. Weyler's "The Neighborly Thing to Do" isn't quite the stand out.  It's told from the point of view of a preschool girl, whose family -- very big on living the natural life -- have returned to a town.  The narrator is invited by the little girl next door to visit, and things quickly turn dangerous and dark. I think that the story resolves its main conflict far too easily, and in something that is essentially a high-class deus ex machina.  (Not a horrible one, by any means, but it's not well foreshadowed.)  The idea is probably better handled in a longer form.

Apex seems to have a fondness for first person stories where the character's name isn't given and that's the main thing the two stories in their August 2011 issue have in common.

Zach Lynott's "The Whispered Thing" is clearly a horror story.  The protagonist (who calls himself "Gregarious") is in Japan, teaching English in a primary school.  One of the girls is ostracized, partly because she spends her recess talking to a mysterious hole in the ground. Gregarious takes her away from it, but things start to fall apart. .. .

The story didn't do much for me; I could see where it was going pretty early on and I found it hard to understand how the events actually fit into what the author was trying to say as his theme.

"The Tiger Hunt" by Rabbit Seagraves can be categorized as magic realism, as the events in it don't have any explanation; they just happen.  In it, the protagonist goes hunting in the back yard for tigers and manages to find one, and kill it.  She is transformed by the event, but I find that the biggest issue is that the transformation does not illuminate anything about the character.  What about her life makes this resonate with her?  There has to be more than just unexplained events; the events must mean something.

I will say the biggest problem with these stories (and all of them in Apex) has nothing to do with the authors; it's the design of the web page.  Gray text on a black background may look cool, but it's hard to read.  It helps when I increase the font size, but even that makes your eyes blur out when trying to concentrate.  That does the authors a disservice.