Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 marks her debut experience in anthology editing. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.
Sci-fi with a dash of darkness
By Lesley Conner
Like a good cup of coffee or tea, every science fiction reader likes their sci-fi their own particular way. Some people prefer hard sci-fi, heavy in science with no whimsy. Others get bogged down with too many facts and prefer a lighter science touch. And there are those who enjoy it with romance thrown in to spice things up.
Personally, I prefer my science fiction with a dash of darkness and a heavy gut punch at the end. Novels like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Flowers for Algernon, 1984, and Cat’s Cradle are right up my alley. Or more recently, The Death House by Sarah Pinborough and Mira Grant’s Parasitology series. Science fiction with an edge horror and a lot of emotion.
Luckily for me, Apex Magazine specializes in just those sorts of stories. Stories that break your heart. “I Remember Your Face” by EK Wagner, “She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow” by Sam Fleming, “Remembery Day” by Sarah Pinsker, and “1957” by Stephen Cox are all wonderful examples.
The question is why? Why am I drawn to stories that leave me a puddle of tears? Why would I want to read stories that give me with more questions than answers? These are questions that I have asked myself often. The world we live is dark enough, why read stories that leave me feeling drained? After a lot of thought and discussions with fellow sci-fi readers, I think I’ve found an answer. These stories are complex and rich, and discovering how they affect me and how they affect others is fascinating.
“I Remember Your Face” is told in two parts. One when set in the past when Ket loses everything: her family, her home, the only life she’s ever know. And one in the present when she has the opportunity to take revenge on the person who took so much from her. Ket lives a bleak life and in the end she has to make a choice. Without being too spoilery, I will say that it is heartbreaking – a moment in which it is as if she is losing her family all over again.
“She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow” explores dependency and manipulation and a very dusty hat in a world that has been ravaged by a disease. Chancery lives alone with Hedon and her dog Skook. She has never been good with people, so this isolation suits her. What Hedon is and why his hat is so dusty is a mystery, but it’s clear that he and Chancery depend on each other. Despite not being comfortable around most people, Chancery still needs them. She’s formed a relationship with Kay, who brings her food and other supplies. But Kay wants more from Chancery than a bartering relationship.
Sarah Pinsker’s “Remembery Day” is a story that has made me cry on multiple occasions. It’s set in a world where there has been a horrible war. A war so traumatic that the veterans who fought in it have chosen to forget that they were ever there. They only remember their contributions on one day when the Veil is lifted and they hold a parade in memorial. Now imagine there is a child of one of these soldiers, and the only time her mother remembers her father is during that one day. So much heartache. For the mother who can’t remember and for the child who feels as though she can never know her father who died or her mother who is a completely different person when the Veil is lifted.
“1957” twists through time and reality. Parts of the story take place in 1957 at boys’ school where Daniel and Parslow are students. It seems idyllic but things aren’t right. Daniel remembers another life: being married, having children. As the story unfolds we get hints of what is happening: Parslow in love Daniel, Daniel rejecting him, time being reset. This is an intricate story. One that is fascinating on the time travel/what is real/what are fabricated realities surface. But right underneath that story is a question about consent. If you have to manipulate time, the very reality of the world – not once, but multiple times – to make the person you desire choose to be with you, can that person truly consent? It isn’t a question that is immediately obvious – or at least it wasn’t to me – but when I saw it, the story took a horrifying twist that made me love it on a whole other level.
All of these stories are dark. They take a bleak look at life and put the characters into impossible situations that leave no happy endings. They are stories that left me feeling hollow, made me weep, left me horrified, and it is these reactions that in my mind make them so, so good.
Apex Magazine thrives on dark SFF. We want stories that make you question them. We want stories that leave you blinking away tears as you rush back to the beginning to read them again. If you enjoy those types of stories, I hope you’ll check us out.
Right now we’re running a subscription drive for Apex Magazine with the goal of raising $10,000. If we hit our goal, we will be able to do several things: add additional content to our special ‘Thank you!’ issue in January 2017, raise the word count for every issue, pay our cover artists more, and raise the rate we pay for original fiction. If you would like to help us reach this goal, check out our subscription drive announcement or buy a subscription to Apex Magazine.