Genre: Non-fiction; autobiography
Publisher: Apex Book Company
Publication date: June 20th 2015
This edition: Ebook (review copy, received from the publisher)
What does it take to become a Hugo and Stoker Award-nominated editor and publisher? Follow Jason Sizemore’s unconventional professional path as it winds through a tiny, overheated Baptist church deep within the coal fields of Appalachia, Kentucky, past a busted printer and a self-serving boss that triggered an early mid-life crisis and the epiphany that he should open a magazine spreading the gospel of science fiction to the masses, all the way to WorldCon 2012 and his first Hugo Awards ceremony.
In this collection of semi-true and sometimes humorous essays, Jason exposes the parties, people, and triumphs that shaped him into the Apex Overlord. He also lays bare the hardships and failures that have threatened to take it all away. Meet Thong Girl, heed the warning about the ham, receive rest stop bathroom wisdom, and visit an emergency room straight out of a horror movie in this extraordinary account of life as a publisher and editor.
With rebuttal essays from Maurice Broaddus, Monica Valentinelli, Lesley Conner, and more, For Exposure tells Jason’s story with insight from key players along his road to success. It is a comprehensive and frank look at what Apex and the genre publishing business is about. Take a shot with the publisher, dance the night away, and become a legend. And do it all For Exposure.
Regular readers of this blog (if there are such people) may well be aware of my recent yet ever-growing appreciation for short SF/F fiction, and how much of it is due to discovering Apex Magazine. By this point I’ve got a regular subscription, I’ve reviewed a couple of their anthologies and a bunch of their monthly issues, and I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing The Man Himself (check it out for some of his personal recommendations!) and reviewing his own short fiction collection. With all of this in mind I jumped at the chance to review this book, and I’m happy to report that it left me more impressed than ever.
Well, one part of it scared me a little, but we’ll get to that…
It might sound cliche to call this a rags-to-riches story, and given that we’re talking about a small press publisher (it’s right there in the title after all) there are doubtless many who could argue the ‘riches’ part, but in the spirit of things, it’s pretty apt. Jason Sizemore got into the publishing business out of a love for the work he publishes (and a fervent dislike of the soul-sucking day job he had at the time, which I’m sure a person or two could relate to…), and it’s taken him and the company to some impressive levels. That said, he doesn’t shy away from discussing the ‘rags’ either. Getting any fledgling business off the ground is going to be difficult, even if you love it enough to keep at it, and the frankness with which he talks about those hard times is telling – he’s proud of his baby, but he’s honest about the hard work it takes.
What’s as refreshing as his candor in telling his stories is the way he doesn’t tell them alone here. Apex would never stay afloat without his colleagues and the people who helped it get to where it is now, and for every story he tells about the company’s journey, there’s a rebuttal from one of those key people that tells it rather differently. The result of this is an engaging and often very amusing, conversational style of anecdote, whether it’s an account of a particularly wild convention party told from behind the curtain, as it were, or one of the various unfortunate mishaps Jason gets himself into – everything from forgetting award acceptance speeches to sudden visits to the kind of emergency room that wouldn’t feel out of place in a horror movie… (Seriously, this was an eye-widening kind of story to read about.)
So this is not your average dry, one-sided account of one man’s effort to achieve his dream. It is marvellously entertaining, and occasionally terrifying, proof that one man can’t do it all by himself. It’s also a shining example of how far a dream can go when you’ve got the right people willing and able to help it along. There may not be Hollywood levels of glitz and glamour here, but there’s no villainous backstabbing either, and that’s bound to be encouraging to someone, somewhere…
(One last thing I wanted to mention, if you have in fact read this book already – he probably didn’t exaggerate about the absinthe. I’ve drunk the stuff without sugar before, and… Yeah, I still don’t remember…)