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One of the benefits of putting Apex Magazine on hiatus is I now have more time to focus on marketing and promoting the books we publish through Apex Book Company. You’ve probably noticed that I can’t shut up about our upcoming summer releases – Do Not Go Quietly edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner, Pimp My Airship by Maurice Broaddus, Coil by Ren Warom, Snow Over Utopia by Rudolfo A. Serna, and Ration by Cody T Luff – and for good reason! They are all amazing, and I want to make sure these books find their way into the hands of readers who are going love them as much as Jason and I do.

With more time, I’m getting even more excited for these books and I hope that it’s getting you excited for them too! But it made me think: What about the books Apex has already published?

Since 2004, Apex Book Company has published around 70 books—everything from novels, novellas, nonfiction, anthologies, and single author short story collections. We’ve even published a poetry anthology! And you know what? These books, the ones we published last year and the ones published more than ten years ago, deserve the same level of excitement as the books coming out this summer!

With that in mind, this September Apex will be running a Back Catalog Blog Tour!

So what does this mean? It means I’m looking for book reviewers and book bloggers to review books from our back catalog and interview our authors, and post those reviews and interviews on their website during the month of September. My hope is to have a new post every day of the month (really I want two new posts every day, but let’s shoot for one first).

Which book can you review? Any of them! We have 70 books in our back catalog! Take a peek and see which one tickles your fancy. Then email me at lesley@apexbookcompany.com and I’ll hook you up with a free review copy! Let me know what day in September you are planning to post your review, and I’ll get you on my schedule. As days fill up, I may ask reviewers if they can shift their post to a different day, but I’m going to try to work with reviewers and their schedules as much as possible.

Which authors can you interview? That’s where things get a little tricky. I have asked all of Apex’s authors if they are willing to participate in up to two interviews. Below I have listed which authors have said they are able to, the Apex book(s) that they wrote or edited, and how many interviews with them are still available. I will update this list as these interviews get snagged by reviewers/bloggers. The reason I’m asking our authors to only do two interviews is two-fold: 1. They’re busy! This isn’t a new release that they’re going to be talking about, and while I know they are excited to help promote their older work, I don’t want this to be a huge time commitment for them. And 2. My hope is we will be able to cover as many Apex titles over the month of September as possible. If twelve book bloggers all want to interview Damien Angelica Walters, that is great for Sing Me Your Scars and Cry Your Way Home, but less helpful for the other 68 books in our catalog.

If there is one author in particular you are interested in interviewing, contact me soon! I will be scheduling interviews on a first come, first served basis. Again, my email address is lesley@apexbookcompany.com.

The authors participating in interviews are (the number in parenthesis is how many they have left, I’ll remove their name once two have been scheduled):

Jennifer Pelland (2) – author of Unwelcome Bodies and Machine

Kirk Jones (2) – author of Aetherchrist

Monica Valentinelli (2) – co-editor of Upside Down

Benjanun Sriduangkaew (2) – author of Winterglass and Mirrorstrike (upcoming in November, 2019)

Justin Stewart (2) – artist of Kentucky Kaiju

Damien Angelica Walters (2) – author of Sing Me Your Scars and Cry Your Way Home

Steven Shrewsbury (2) – co-author of King of the Bastards and Throne of the Bastards

Mark Allan Gunnells (2) – author of Asylum

Paul Jessup (1) – author of Close Your Eyes

Michael Burstein (2) – author of I Remember the Future

Steve Rasnic Tem (2) – co-author of Yours to Tell

E. Catherine Tobler (2) – author of The Kraken Sea and The Grand Tour (upcoming in October, 2019)

Maurice Broaddus (2) – author of Pimp My Airship and I Can Transform You, co-author of Orgy of Souls, co-editor of Dark Faith and Dark Faith: Invocations

Mari Adkins (2) – author of Midnight       

Nick Mamatas (2) – author of Starve Better

Brian Keene (2) – author of The Lost Level, Return to the Lost Level, and Hole in the World, co-author of King of the Bastards and Throne of the Bastards

Jaym Gates (2) – co-editor of Upside Down and War Stories

Elizabeth Massie (2) – author of Desper Hollow

Lavie Tidhar (2) – author of HebrewPunk and An Occupation of Angels, editor of The Apex Book of World SF series

Tim Waggoner (2) – author of Like Death and Some Kind of Monster (upcoming in 2020)

Francesco Verso (2) – author of Nexhuman

Shawn Pryor (2) – author of Kentucky Kaiju

Jerry Gordon (2) – author of Breaking the World, co-editor of Dark Faith and Dark Faith: Invocations

Kristi DeMeester (2) – author of Everything That’s Underneath

Cody T Luff (2) – author of Ration

Sara M. Harvey (2) – author of The Convent of the Pure, The Labyrinth of the Dead, and The Tower of the Forgotten

Erica Satifka (2) – author of Stay Crazy       

Alex Livingston (2) – author of Glitch Rain                                            

Jason Sizemore (2) – co-editor of Best of Apex Magazine volume 1, Do Not Go Quietly, Appalachian Undead, editor of The Zombie Feed, author of For Exposure, and owner/publisher of Apex Publications

Lesley Conner (2) – co-editor of Best of Apex Magazine volume 1 and Do Not Go Quietly, and managing editor of Apex Publications

Are you a book reviewer, book blogger, or bookstagramer? Do you want to be part of the Apex Back Catalog Blog Tour? Interested in reviewing one of our books or interviewing one of our authors? Both? Email me at lesley@apexbookcompany.com.

 

Thanks!

Lesley Conner

Managing Editor

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Apex Book Company by Jason Sizemore - 1M ago

Chapter 1 Enjoy this taste of Coil by Ren Warom? Grab a copy from Apex or one of our many vendors.

 

 

Black eyes cold as the icy ground, Stark surveys the Wharf Guard tanks squatted like grey toads in front of Wharf End’s imposing tenements. Behind their stolid presence, yellow tape crackles, and grim-faced Wharf Guards hold formation, bulky in winter uniform. Most residents may have left this part of the Wharf, but the gang folk haven’t. This is Broken Saints territory. Attack is not only possible, but fully anticipated, and the Guards are a line of tension, fit to snap. Stark can’t fault their unease. There’s something about this case; a subtle but unpleasant pall of ill fortune, bleeding back through the horrors faced by the victims, the awful isolation of their deaths. And here it is, too, this fucking case, leading him back to where he was born: to where he died. To where Teya’s face rises with such crystal clarity, he could reach out and wipe the tears from her eyes.

He believes in coincidence, in the arbitrary nature of life. He’s seen all too often how horror arises from the insipid, the mundane. But in this case, right from the beginning, he’s been struck by a powerful sense of pattern, of convergence. Past and present colliding. Now here’s this body, in this place of all places, and every instinct he possesses screams that this is a message. Twofold. One for him, from someone he never thought to hear from again, and one for someone else. Someone he desperately needs on this case: Bone Adams, the premier Mort in all the Spires, whose attention to detail and vast array of connections in the Zone are sorely needed here. He’s put two formal requests for Bone through his office at City Central to the Notary Board, the Spires governing body, and they’ve rejected him outright each time, citing cost and logistical difficulty, which is so much bullshit, he could mulch a state farm with it. Bending to lean through the back door of his car, Stark grabs his coat.

“Don’t bother waiting,” he says to his driver Tal. “This one’s an all nighter.” Slamming the door, he cracks his knuckles and strides to the nearest private. “Is De Lyon here?”

“No, sir. He called in. Said to tell you to get the Buzz Boys to bag it up and send it to him; there’s no way he’s stepping foot on Saints territory, not for another Doe.”

Stark twitches, his muscles bunching beneath cheap polyfibre, and barely restrains himself from unleashing a tirade on the blameless private. It’s not his fault that De Lyon is as inordinately determined as the Notary Board to see nothing in these nameless bodies. To leave them as they’re being found: abandoned to die.

“Buzz Boys in then?”

“No, sir. Like I said, that’s been left down to you.”

Stark nods, biting back a grin. “There’s my first good news.” De Lyon, the Mort assigned to the case, a man about as useless and self-important as it gets, has gone and handed Stark the excuse he needs to act. He gestures the private aside, impatient. “I’m calling in another Mort to look at this. Send him corpse-side as soon as he arrives.”

“Sir.” The private snaps a salute.

“I’m not army, boy,” Stark mutters. “Not anymore.”

He moves on, thickset and gruff, his body like his temper; short, built on a grand scale. Unfazed by the smell, he pulls aside pieces of tape as if they’re cobwebs, and steps inside the shattered entrance. This place is a miserable hole, airless, corridors thin as choked arteries and black with the greasy soot of living. Stark resists the impulse to fend his way through. He doesn’t like the uncontrollable sense of urgency, the copper tang of remembered fear these conditions spark, memories of a personal history he’s worked hard to disown.

By the entrance to the scene the stench of vomit fills the air. A lone private stands, surreptitiously wiping his mouth, flushed with shame. It’s obvious this is his first assignment as a uniformed creeper; he has that demeanour suggesting unrestrained cockiness reduced to cinders. Stark claps a hefty paw on the boy’s shoulder. The boy rocks and gags. Stark winks, too long at this job to care. What’s dead is dead. Not much to do about it. Only the job. Only ever the job. The boy will learn.

“Body?” Stark demands, voice dry and heavy as stone.

The boy straightens smartly and raps out, “Secure, sir.”

“Good lad.”

Stark pushes past the tape placed around the doorway. Stops just over the threshold, steadying an urge to walk back out triggered by the unexpected lurch of his innards. A woman. It had to be a woman. Pulling his chin left, then right, displacing tension, he wrestles back self-possession by sheer force of will, and gives his attention to the room. To the body at its centre, warped by ropes to near enough the shape of a reversed question mark. As ever, the sight fills him with dull, helpless anger. Fierce determination.

Given the outlandish state of these bodies, not merely the ropes but the bizarre lack of any modifications, Stark’s first instinct had been to suspect Bone Adams’s involvement, mainly based on the fact of his voluntary freedom from mods, beyond unusual in the Spires. After the first bodies were found, Stark spent hours hunting down everything there was to know about Bone Adams, and, finding a mess of a man who goes between his mortuary and the Zone with nothing more than drinking in between, went swiftly from suspecting him to suspecting that the bodies are meant for him: to see, to solve. Meaning Stark needs him here. Now.

Screw the Notary; this time, he’s bypassing fucking procedure and going straight to the source. He snatches out his cell and dials with clumsy, impatient stabs.

“Bellox, it’s Stark. I need Adams.” Stark’s tone is brusque, demanding, allowing GyreTech’s Mort Director, who’s taken over the late Leif Adams’ duties until a new MD is voted in, to know he’s not in the mood to be fobbed off.

“I’m very much afraid the Notary would have significant issues with that request, Stark. The cost …”

“Bellox,” Stark interrupts firmly, “I’ve had costs and logistics rammed down my throat by the Notary vultures twice already. Not interested. It’s BS, and we both know it. Just give me the Mort I want. I’ll take the heat, if there’s any to take. De Lyon’s on my last nerve and I’m getting all kinds of twitchy about his incompetence. May have to put in a complaint to GyreTech’s Chair. May have to mention your name.”

Bellox chokes on that, as Stark knew he would. The GyreTech Chair has a reputation for coming down hard on incompetence. This is his ace card, one likely to get him yelled at by all and sunder, considering his inability to conform to protocol and the trouble it causes, but this is why he does it. Protocol, procedure, achieves nothing but frustration, not only stifling proper investigation but often stagnating it completely. This is how murderers walk free. How crime goes unpunished. How the worst of the world perpetuates all but unchallenged.

He hears Bellox’s teeth grinding in the silence, until he bites out with painful reluctance, “That won’t be necessary. When do you need him?”

Stark smiles. Grim satisfaction. “I needed him last fucking week, but today will do. ASAP. Site’s at Wharf End. He can’t miss it, the Guard have a shit-load of tanks bugging up the air.”

Job done, he ends the call, jams the cell into his pocket, and turns back to the room. Takes it all in, slow. The first look. The first smells. These impressions are the ones he’ll keep at the forefront in the investigation to come. The ones that will tell him the most, if they tell him anything at all.

Enjoy this taste of Coil by Ren Warom? Grab a copy from Apex or one of our many vendors.

Ren Warom lives in the West Midlands with her children, her cat-pack, a snake called Marvin, and innumerable books. She’s currently pursuing a PhD and thinks she may have lost her mind. If you find said mind, please return in a secure, locked box to the address on the collar. Do not, repeat, do not, attempt to feed it! Thank you.

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After announcing our STOCKUP sale yesterday that referenced my health problems, a bunch of people have asked if I'm doing okay. The overwhelming support of friends both digital and IRL is good for the soul.

The short answer is that I'm doing well. But I've been through some things, man...

The long answer starts on a late November morning. I was having my usual large mug of coffee when I noticed that not all the coffee was making it down. In fact, most of it was dripping out of the left side of my  mouth. I soon discovered that nearly the whole left side of my face was immobile. I called my primary care doctor who ordered me to call an ambulance and be taken straight to the ER because she feared I was having a stroke.

I wasn't about to call an ambulance. Other than half my face being paralyzed, I felt fine. So I drove myself to the ER at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. Seeing my symptoms, the ER admitted me straight to the examination area. They performed a bunch of tests and scans. Finally, the ER doctor came back with an official diagnosis.

Him: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you are not having a stroke."

Me: "Thank god."

Him: "The bad news is that your CT scan shows a large mass present on your mandible. I've contacted our oral surgeon for a consult."

Me: "Shit."

A couple days later I'm at my oral surgeon's office. My Bell's Palsy has grown worse and now it excruciatingly painful. I can barely talk. I can't close or blink my left eye. The surgeon performs a very painful biopsy cut from my gums and mandible and sends it to pathology. The biopsy leaves me with a large wound in the front of my mouth that now makes it impossible for me to talk and I can only eat through a straw.

The nerve pain in my face was a constant, making work difficult. All I could manage was warm compresses, sleep, and ibuprofen.

A few days later the results of the pathology report come back.

Him: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you don't have cancer."

Me: "Thank god."

Him: "The bad news is that you have an aggressive odontogenic keratocyst that has to be removed. It's invaded virtually your entire mandible."

He tells me I will have to have a triple resection of my jaw. He will take my left leg's fibula, remove it, cut it into three pieces, and replace the diseased mandible with the fibula. I will lose all my bottom teeth, several salivary glands, and require a nerve bundle transplant. I'll be in a leg boot for 6 weeks and will require a skin graft for the leg. The surgery lasts 8 hours and that I will be in ICU for a week post-op.

Fortunately, since the keratocyst was benign, I didn't need immediate surgery, but the sooner the better.

Surgery was February 7th. I was in surgery for 12 hours. I was kept unconscious for an additional 24 hours. I spent 9 days in ICU.

The surgery was successful, but there had been a couple of complications the doctor had to deal with.

I spent several weeks eating nothing but protein shakes and crushed pain pills. My face was swollen and bruised. I had a boot on my leg thus limiting my mobility.

The surgeon had warned me that it would take me six weeks post-op before I would feel halfway decent. He was right. I didn't return to meaningful work until the last week of March. Last week I finally returned to full time as the pain in my healing mouth had finally started to ease up.

I'm still on a soft food and liquid diet and will be for a few more months. My face is still swollen quit a bit (people still stare at me when I go out in public). I still have no bottom teeth, it might be a year before I can get implants. There is a bright red scar that runs from ear to ear on my neck. My Bell's Palsy is about 80% healed, though I still can't lift my top left lip much.

But ... the good news is that the worst is behind me and that I am doing much better. The bad news is that Apex, my passion and occupation, was left mostly neglected by me for 4 months. Thus the rough patch Apex is now experiencing and the STOCKUP sale to help us get back on steady ground.

Apologies for the lengthy explanation. A lot of wild health stuff happened all at once. And I've left off many of the juicier bits ... such as my bad reaction to Oxycontin that caused me to hallucinate talking giant rabbits for a whole day.

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Publishing is a tough business. Anyone who says it isn’t, is lying. But it’s also exciting and fast-paced and ever-evolving. If you’re not willing to evolve with it, publishing will leave you behind without a second thought.

For a long while, Apex has kept the prices of our novels quite low—typically around $4.99—while the price of everything else in publishing has continued to rise. The time has come for us evolve, and that means raising the eBook prices of our more recent novels slightly.

Beginning next week, the eBook editions of Stay Crazy, King of the Bastards, The Lost Level, Entertaining Demons, The Wicked, Ugly as Sin, Hole in the World, Nexhuman, Close Your Eyes, Breaking the World, and Return to the Lost Level will go up to $6.99. This is still below many other publishers’ eBook prices, but it puts Apex in a position to pay our authors a competitive rate while also keeping our books affordable for our readers.

So, what does this mean for you?

Well, for one, if you’ve been waiting to pick up a copy of any of these titles, you have a week to get them before the prices go up. Take advantage of it and stock up!

Secondly, we’re hoping you’ll use this window of opportunity to help Apex over a bit of a rough patch.

If you follow Apex’s owner/publisher Jason Sizemore (@apexjason) or managing editor Lesley Conner (@LesleyConner) on Twitter, or if you’ve read any of the recent editorials in Apex Magazine, then you know that since late November 2018, Jason has been going through a long series of health issues that led to him having jaw surgery at the beginning of February. His recovery has been long and difficult. At this point, he’s about 90% back to his old self but, despite the Apex team pulling together to keep things going while Jason was in the hospital, business has suffered and the company is in a bit of a hole. There are a lot of expenses coming due for upcoming projects, and we need cash to cover these so that we can bring you all of the exciting releases we have lined up for 2019 without delay.

With Jason feeling better, both he and Lesley are excited for the future of Apex. We hope you’ll lend us a hand now to help us hop over this rough patch, and take on the rest of the year without a hitch.

How can you do this? Buy our books! Any of our books! Sales mean money for Apex, and right now that is what we need. Complete your purchase on Amazon, Weightless Books, B&N, or any other online retailer. And be sure to pick up those novels that will be going up in price next week!

Buy directly from Apex and save 15%! While purchasing books through a partner seller is great, the fact remains that when you buy directly through our store, we get to keep more of the profit. If you make a purchase in the Apex store between now and April 18th, you can save 15% off your entire order when you use discount code STOCKUP.

Tell a friend about your favorite Apex release, and encourage them to read it!

Review your favorite Apex books on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and anywhere else. Honest reviews help new readers discover Apex books.

And thank you for continuing to support Apex. We know this is but a small bump in the road after what has honestly been a crappy start to the year. We are ready to put the beginning of 2019 behind us and move forward into an exciting future.
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Chapter One A Change Is Gonna Come Enjoy this taste of steamfunk from Maurice Broaddus's Pimp My Airship? Grab a copy from Apex or one of our many vendors.    

Vox Dei Data Files: If decent citizens wish to go slumming for their entertainment, the Two-Johns Theater caters to mostly laborers and local residents. Originally opened as the Little Doo in 1909, by two owners both named John, the Two-Johns Theater officially launched in 1911. Easily among the most clever of the colored performers featured there, Miss L. Tish Lee made her initial appearance at the theater. The theater hosts a variety of entertainers to this day.

 

Sleepy was a dreamer. He closed his eyes and imagined wide-open spaces, the feel of grass beneath his feet, and a small place to call his home. He dreamed of a short walk to an ocean beach, not that he’d ever even left the city, but he’d seen pictures and guessed at the smell of salt air, which would fill his nostrils. A cool drink in one hand, he’d watch pretty women stroll by in all manner of bikinis (he’d heard tell of the immodest fashions of Albion, especially along the French Riviera). Most of all, he dreamed of the sun. A bright, incandescent ball he couldn’t quite focus on, set against the clearest of blue skies, in whose warm light he’d soak in every bit.

Too bad he had to open his eyes.

A sharp jerk of the train sent bodies pressing in on him from all sides. The train rattled and clanged, the tough grind of gears jostling the cabin of bodies as it rumbled along the tracks. The cabin space had been designed for maximum occupancy, not comfort. Folks still had to get to work. A protrusion of elbows encroached on either side of the slight berth Sleepy managed to call his own. Despite this, he counted himself lucky to find a seat on the underground railway. The only reason there were any benches in it at all was due to a lawsuit after a pregnant mother was trampled to death when she doubled over in labor pain. The lawsuit was dismissed, after all, she was still only a dweller, but the Parliament pressured the train manufacturer to add a row of seats to the cabins as a gesture of good will and common decency.

“One seat per passenger.” A white man stared down his wire-rimmed, round spectacles at him. His rumpled business suit and crushed bowler marked him as little better than a dweller, but his eyes scored Sleepy with the expectation of deference. The man eyed the spot on the bench and clearly assumed Sleepy would give up his spot, or at least accommodate him. This was the usual dance of polite society.

“Excuse me?” Sleepy rolled his eyes slowly to him, not in the mood to put up with anyone’s foolishness.

“The law says one seat per passenger.”

“Do you mean to suggest that I’m … a lawbreaker?” Sleepy smiled a crocodile grin, cold and predatory. Shifting his wide girth, he spread his massive legs just a little further.

“I mean to suggest …” the man continued with the measured pause of consideration.

“Choose your next words carefully, like your life depends on it. I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding.” Sleepy didn’t let his smile falter. In fact, he parted his lips wider, presenting rows of bright, pianoforte key-white teeth. They were his pride, tended to each night with exacting care. Unlike the orthodontic nightmare that seemed to be the height of fashion in capital Albion. No hint of a glower nor of menace presented itself. Except, maybe, in his eyes.

“I merely suggest that a portly gentleman such as yourself …” The man’s composure began to falter.

“Portly.” With his forefinger, Sleepy nudged his thick, black-rimmed glasses higher along his nose.

“… may need to bear additional consideration …”

“Consideration.” Without breaking their gaze, Sleepy popped the knuckles of each hand, then bridged his fingers in front of him.

“… when it comes to his fellow passengers.”

“A … portly … gentleman, such as myself, may indeed require his own measure of consideration after a day’s work managing your waste. Allow me to suggest that you kindly shut the fuck up and enjoy your ride.”

Shocked by the affront, the gentleman broke his glare long enough to give Sleepy a fuller inspection. Stepping aside, he allowed him more space. The crowd around Sleepy stared with a mix of disdain and pity, undergirded by the presumption that he had been abandoned as a ward of the state from birth and was just another pickaninny fulfilling his destiny. That he grew up with flash mobs of urchins on the streets, pick-pocketing the hapless innocent citizens of the overcity, only to graduate to organized gangs before being shipped off to the criminal finishing school, the Allisonville Correctional Facility, a place colloquially known as The Ave. He’d probably be more offended if society didn’t seem so hellbent on ensuring that all of his class shared similar stories.

The reality was that most days he might have given his seat up to the man simply to maintain the peace of things. Sleepy valued quiet and order, content to drift through life without confrontation or undue attention. He’d left his unipod at sixteen and was lucky enough to immediately find work at the White River lift station, though as a sewage scraper.

The city experimented with privatizing some of the public works. Commonwealth Waterworks was one of the better ones. The company was steady pay and Commonwealth provided a measure of benefits to their employees. Being a steam engineer, he processed water for the heart of the Indianapolis undercity, the area the residents had nicknamed Freetown Village. Twelve hours of shoveling coal and tending to the machine works. A maze of tunnels and pipes formed the ironworks of the plant processing engine. Fans funneled gas out. Torrents of waste, gravity filtered and captured in basins left the gray water directed to the steamworks. The mildew veneer of the constant sheen of sweat. A heavy, dull scent of hot, moist funk clung to the air like lavishly applied perfume to a prostitute. He reeked of industrial lubricant, coal, and sweat, all congealing into the sweet tang of fermented grime. With its white stone walls and ornate columns, it was like a temple of waste. And he was its minister.

His uncle worked there before him and continually reminded Sleepy that fortune favored him not only to have a job but to be brought into the plant at so young an age. If his providence bore out, he could retire from the plant. His life was set. Sleepy never—well, rarely—complained. Though he’d worked there only a few years, the many similarly empty, sweat-filled days ahead of him made him wonder if there as more to life than shuffling through a sunup-to-sundown workday six days a week. Earning just enough credits to scrape by, teetering on the edge of financial ruin should he ever miss a paycheck. Needing to fill the settling ennui between work shifts simply because the expanses of idle nothing left plenty of time to remind him of his utter worthlessness to the greater scheme of things.

This was exactly why he couldn’t wait to get high.

The gleaming thundering worm rumbled along the raised rail, winding through the intestines of the undercity. Exposed pipes lined the top of the car. Steam coursed through them like blood through constricted capillaries. The heat produced by them added to the swelling temperatures and casual discomfort. Most people chafed within the scratchy material of their clothes, which neared the texture of burlap, given the heat. The air grew heavy with re-breathed effluvia. Sleepy ignored the forest of buttocks crammed into his eyeline. Snatches of the city could be spied from their vantage point as they ringed the city along sub-system 465. The airship docking station. The Indianapolis Aeromotor Speedway, home to the largest airship race, and fastest racing autocarriages, in the world. The heart of downtown, a glistening dream in the distance. The spires of the Indianapolis overcity loomed. Their waning shadows in the sunset plunged the undercity into deeper darkness. The bustle and jolting of the train faded into comforting white noise.

“Don’t mind him, brother.” One of the eye level asses turned to the side. “Despite the fact that he finds himself riding the same train as us, he believes he’s entitled to more. Too many of us never speak to the truth of the matter. Too many of us have forgotten who we are.”

“Uh huh.” Sleepy watched the first gentleman inch away from the two of them, scooting out of earshot to pretend that they weren’t talking about him.

Turning to the window to study the shadows of the undercity, rather than have a conversation with the profile of someone’s trousers, Sleepy focused on his checklist for the night. He performed tonight, and nothing was going to spoil it. “No worries, man. We good.”

Encouraged, the set of trousers angled toward him. “I’m only saying that a hardworking man like yourself deserves a moment of respite.”

“All I need is a glass of a little sipping something, a smoke, and a pork chop. Life don’t need to be no harder than you make it.”

“Pork leads to trichinosis of the mind.”

“No pork leads to …” Sleepy ran out of clever retort once he raised his eyes to meet the man, rather than talk to his crotch. The man’s red-tinted hair sprouted into a series of twists, like gnarled fingers protruding from his skull. A beard and mustache framed his mouth. His stylized sunglasses rotated like the blades of a hand fan unfurling, shading studious eyes, reducing his face to glowering slits of eyes that tracked everything with a mix of anger and suspicion. His nose, broad and flared, seemed to snort air rather than inhale it. His thick, white cravat tucked into his burgundy vest. One hand looped through the leather handhold of the train, the other clutched a cane. He shifted his weight, failing to mask a slight limp. Sleepy waved the man off with a sharp flip of his wrist. He didn’t have time to waste on all these folks attempting to crowd into his zone.

“You getting ready for something?” the man continued.

“A little something,” Sleepy said. “Down at Two-Johns.”

“You on tonight?” The man’s voice raised with knowing excitement, the way a fan of his might.

At the possibility that the man might indeed be a fan, Sleepy issued him a measure of grace. “Someone’s got to hold the mic down.”

“All right, brother. I’m in.”

I don’t recall inviting you along, Sleepy thought. Then again, no need to be rude to a potential audience member since all performers split a percentage of the gate.

The train ground to a halt. Sleepy huffed, pulling himself out of his seat to get off at his stop. The man tipped his hat and parted way for Sleepy.

The train deposited Sleepy at the way station closest to his home at the 38th Street juncture. Two government-issued steammen attended the unloading platform. Their design inelegant, to be charitable, little more than lumbering metal boxes. Twin fans mounted on one of their backs, their air channeled through their body cavity and out the hose attachment on their arms to blow trash into the runoff bin for the other one to collect. The station was less crowded than usual. Sleepy pushed through the sparse queue of milling passengers.

The Eagle Town Homes nestled along the 38th Street corridor. A series of one room, two-story apartments, with a bedroom over a bathroom/kitchenette, they looked like upturned shotgun houses. The rows of townhomes occupied little space. The four-feet space from the sidewalk to the front stoop served as the yard. With the rows lined back-to-back, the city could cram nearly one hundred residences into a city block. Sleepy’s neighborhood regulars already huddled about, someone bound to drink too much or get offended at some imagined slight to justify getting into a fight simply to break up the monotony of their day.

Sleepy kicked off his shoes once he crossed his door’s threshold. Gaslit lamps lit up the small, gray box of a room. He opened a window to deal with the heat of his lights. With a somnambulant stagger, he stepped around the electro-transmitter equipment, which took up much of the room. A glass-fronted cabinet with spires to boost a signal, custom-built speakers, twin phonograms. With his portable broadcast unit, he had grand designs to broadcast his poems backed by music tracks. He even saved credits with the dream to one day fashion a studio in which to play and record his music.

Streaked with steam-driven coal mixed with oil, he peeled off his outerwear before he wandered into his bathroom. The same mixture coated him from head-to-toe, finding its way into places he didn’t want to think about. The water shuddered through the pipes before pouring down on him in a lukewarm piddle. Hands pressed against the stall wall like he assumed a position to be frisked by the water spray, he suspected that if he spent the next week under its tepid stream, he wouldn’t be able to fully remove the stain of his labor.

After twenty minutes, Sleepy wrapped a towel around his waist and staggered out of the bathroom. He paused in front of his floor length mirror, clutched the folds of his belly, and jiggled it. He never excused his shape with word games about how greater girth made for a greater man. He simply was who he was, and he was content with that.

Sleepy opened the armoire and selected his most elegant formal wear. Throwing on his black-stripe coulter shirt over his undergarments, he primped in the mirror. With the solemnity of donning armor, he fixed his black Y-back braces to his pinstriped pants and buttoned his red vest. With each new piece of clothing, he transformed from city worker to stage performer. Sleepy fussed with his silk cravat, adjusting it several times because it didn’t quite look right to his exacting eye. Now was one of those moments he missed his brother. He’d always fastened his ties for him.

By the time he slipped on his formal tailcoat, gray gloves, and gray-felt top hat, Sleepy had transformed into a new man.

 

Vox Dei Data Files: “Indianapolis—the hope of Albion.” Though the sun never set on the Albion Empire, ruling the empire was not without its travails. Indianapolis was the kind of city the United Kingdom of Albion held up as a shining beacon. Only a dozen or so cities in the American colony were larger. Many discounted it entirely, only knowing it was a city somewhere in the middle of the United States. But to Albion, Indianapolis was what every city in the American colony should aspire to. A large city with a small-town feel, Indianapolis was quiet. It knew its place.

 

There were certain sounds which became part of a familiar cacophony for those who lived in Freetown Village. Pistons pounded out the power to run the overcity. Steam hissed as it escaped pipes and billowed through the manhole covers along the streets. Sleepy shuddered when he walked passed a sewage truck, wanting to banish any reminders of his day job from his mind. Daguerreotypes of the civil rights provocateur, known as the Star Child, plastered every telephone pole in the neighborhood. His sepia shadowed image highlighted by his green eyes. A street artist painted the words “I am the change” across his forehead. News of his capture swept through the community, a near tangible ripple of anger, resentment, and frustration. Sleepy heard him speak at a rally once. The man’s words had a way of carving into a person’s heart. Shaking him from the inside. Stirring him. With eloquence, the Star Child detailed the excesses of the policing force and instilling a sense of pride into each of his words. Of course, the powers had to silence him. Sleepy’s heart ached. Heavy with the dull reminder of where he stood in the greater schemes of Albion. He imagined it would be the same for his fellow poets and make for a tough crowd. Still, he needed to get into character.

Slats of metal lined the twin, six-paned doors of the Two-Johns Theater. Security on the doors amounted to a coal-complected former fighter, whose size suggested that he may have swallowed a small truck. Beyond those doors was an open set of wood-framed glass doors. A lesson in restored opulence, eight faux-wood pillars lined the lobby. Ceramic tiles on the floor created a mosaic. Two massive chandeliers barely lit either side of the pavilion. The main hallway led directly into a small ballroom, candles illuminating each table. With a hiss of steam, like a fussy iron, a steamman took Sleepy’s coat. Only older models, little better than government issued ones, were employed on their side of town. Not like the automatons of the overcity, with their porcelain parts and silent running.

Even as Sleepy attempted to find his bearings, a familiar figure of hair twists and sunglasses bobbed toward him.

“I can’t stand places like this,” he said.

“Who are you?” Sleepy nodded, before pretending to catch someone’s eye and made off toward the stage.

Determined not to be left behind, the man followed. Not rushing, his nonchalant stride easily kept pace with Sleepy. “Today’s mathematics is knowledge. Ten numbers constitute the language of mathematics. Ten. I am the sum of the cypher. (120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah.”

The words hung in the air between them like the pronouncement was supposed to bring all action to a halt. But the world kept moving, as did Sleepy. Knowing he wasn’t about to call him that mouthful of syllables every time, he debated between calling him One or Knowledge Allah before settling on the latter. “Well, Knowledge Allah, this is the home of true revolutionaries.”

“What do you know about true revolutionaries?” Knowledge Allah half-huffed, his limp becoming more noticeable as he kept pace.

“Submerged in song and poetry and stories, we bring the message, the fight, to the people. We awaken their minds.” Sleepy recited the refrain the poets often bandied about. While high.

“Is that so?” Knowledge Allah made a point of craning his neck about. “Filled with self-important, neo-soul types. Look at them. An audience of nouveau Negro bohemians.”

“Is there anyone you won’t complain about?” Sleepy asked.

“I uproot the mind state. I’m not satisfied with anyone. We can all do better.”

Pausing at the side of the stage, Sleepy held up his hand without touching Knowledge Allah. A nearby sign read “Performers Only.” The man stopped short as if checked by an invisible force field. “Hold up. We about to start.”

“Bring the funk, Sleepy.” Knowledge Allah limped off into the curtain shadows.

Waiting until he made sure he was alone, Sleepy closed his eyes while he got into his mental place. He waited for the announcer to bring him out.

“‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’” The announcer spoke, low and breathy, into the mic, a seducing minister of the word. “The time for games is over. The mission is clear. We fight to survive. We struggle to stay alive. You’re either with us or against us. The Cause is a state of mind. Some of us struggle with our past. Some of us struggle with our future. Some of us struggle with ourselves. We struggle against oppression. This is the good fight. Welcome with me a man who brings the fire. Who brings the soul. The government knows him as Hubert Nixon, but we know him by another name. He’s our brother. He’s our friend. Set it off for us, Sleepy.”

Sleepy bumped shoulders with the announcer when they clasped hands. Stepping to center stage, the spotlight glared at him and the house lights dimmed. A gleam in his eyes, he inhaled and held his breath. He was in his moment, deep in his muse. When he opened his mouth, the words poured out from a different place.

“I’d like to do a new piece for you. This is the first time even I’m hearing it out loud. It’s called ‘Let it Flow.’”

The crowd applauded with encouragement then settled down to allow Sleepy a moment to gather himself.

“Too many thoughts crowding in my brain

I’m just so angry, so frustrated, I don’t know where to begin

To unknot this cord inside my head.

I just need to sit back, relax, and let the chiba flow.

 

You see, my girl done left and I say I don’t pay that no mind

The first time in a while I let myself relax

Been too long between girls. I got that charm. I got that smile.

I got them words that burrow into your soul.

I’m a mirror. Maybe they don’t like what they see.

Or maybe it’s just me.

I just need to sit back, relax, and let the chiba flow.

 

I got me a job and I got no right to complain.

Gonna work the same line, dawn til dark, all sweat and grime

In the end, I don’t do nothing, don’t amount to nothing

Ain’t changed nothing. Day in, day out, just another cog

In a machine that grinds you up in its gears.

And would never know that I was here.

I just need to sit back, relax, and let the chiba flow.

 

I wake up in the morning with nothing but the craving

The need to chill out and let my thoughts rise high.

Just wanting to escape. Alone, not wanting to be alone, resigned to loneliness.

Looking all around me, my soul cries out for more.

I just need to sit back, relax, and let the chiba flow.

 

Every time I share my story, I create a new history.

Stuck with a ghost spell truth: builders build.

I’m wandering in the desert of our U-N-I-verse trying to overstand.

Didn’t know my father. Couldn’t save my mother. Couldn’t save my brother.

I need to get out so that I can at least save me.

I just need to sit back, relax, and let the chiba flow.

 

Where can a brother get a light?”

The pause when he finished was always the longest, most unbearable stretch of seconds. The held breath of the audience deciding if his piece was to be received well. But the roar of finger snaps and a series of all right, nows greeted him. Sleepy basked in their approval for several heartbeats before he tipped his hat. He returned the nod of the announcer, who prepared to bring up another poet. A few patrons passed behind him and clapped him on the back for his poem. Another poet took the stage, talking about the tragedies of her family.

Knowledge Allah remained locked in an animated conversation with a man not dressed in a too dissimilar manner from him. The man’s long suit jacket, black tinted glasses, and bow tie gave him the intimidating appearance of a classic gangster. He carried himself with grim seriousness.

“Peace, sun. I heard you took on a new name.”

“Peace, sun. One is Knowledge. Zero is a Cipher. Completion,” Knowledge Allah said. “(120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah.”

“The tricknology of living mathematics.” The man stepped back a bit, taking a fuller appraisal of him. “Two is Wisdom. One plus two equals three. Three is Understanding. Seven is the divine influence in the physical realm.”

“Seven is wholeness,” Knowledge Allah said.

“Seven plus seven plus seven equals twenty-one. Two plus one equals three. Three is holy because seven is God.”

“G was the seventh letter made.” When Knowledge Allah spied Sleepy, he crossed his hands to wave off the man mid-sentence and limped away from him. “You dropped some deep science there, Sleepy. It was like you were aiming your words right at me.”

“I spit for me.” Sleepy dabbed his forehead with his handkerchief. His pre-performance jitters kept him from eating, but after his success, both his appetite and thirst returned with a keen fury.

“You put words to something real right there. A hurt. It was like you knew.”

“Knew what?”

“I think you’re ready.”

“Ready for what?” Withdrawing a small pouch from his jacket pocket, Sleepy tamped out a measure of chiba..

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If you follow Apex Magazine's editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore on Twitter (@apexjason), or if you read his editorial from this month's issue, you know that he has been dealing with some health issues since this past November. (If you didn't know, you can read his editorial here.) As of when I'm writing this, he is in surgery to remove an aggressive growth and a 5 inch section of his jaw. Doctors will be rebuilding his jaw from a bone they remove from his leg. The surgery should last 8 hours, and he will be unconscious for 24 hours. After that, Jason will be in ICU for the next five to seven days.

None of that is spectacular, but it could have been worse, and after today Jason can focus on resting, recovering, and getting back to his true Apex Overlord status.

Knowing this surgery was coming up, I have been thinking a lot about what we could do for him. If I lived nearby, I'd make dinner for his family or make sure they don't need help around the house, but I don't. So what do you do when you live hours away and you want to show someone that you care? The answer I finally came to was you give them readers.

Apex is Jason's fulltime job. This is what he does, what he loves, so what better way to say "Get well soon!" than by running a mini subscription drive? I know that coming back online after being in the hospital for a week and seeing a bunch of new subscribers would make Jason really happy. So that's my goal. That's what I want to give him to say "Get well soon! We're here for you! You have our support!"

My goal is for Apex Magazine to pick up 100 new subscribers before Jason is home from the hospital. There are several ways to subscribe, depending on your subscription needs:

You can subscribe direct through Apex. For $2.99 a month, we will send you DRM-free ePub, mobi, and PDF files of each new issue so that you can download it onto your eReader.

If you have a Kindle, you can subscribe through Amazon and they will automatically deliver the new issue directly to your device.

Both direct Apex subscriptions and Amazon are recurring monthly subscriptions that you can start and stop at your convenience.

Weightless Books offers the more traditional 12-month subscription for $21.95 a year. This is a great way to get a year of Apex Magazine for yourself, or to give a year of Apex to a friend! You can give a gift subscription of Apex Magazine by adding the subscription to your cart, and then clicking the little box that says "this is a gift order." Enter the name and email address of your gift recipient, and checkout. Voila! You've given 12-months of Apex Magazine goodness to someone near and dear to you!

And, of course, there is Patreon. Our patrons help us fund specific goals for the magazine. Patrons can choose from several backer levels, and for those backing at $2.99 or more, they receive new issues the Sunday before the magazine's release. Patreon is how we fund our monthly podcast, and at the $600 level (which we are currently just under), we run a bi-monthly original novelette. When we hit $900 a month, we will add a second reprint to each issue.

Already have a subscription, but still want to show Jason some love? Browse the Apex Book Company catalog and pick up a book or two. Tweet about your favorite Apex book or Apex Magazine story (tag @ApexBookCompany and I'll be sure to retweet you). Write a review on Amazon.

All are little things that can add up to a big impact and really show Jason that we're here for him.

If you're interested in knowing how his surgery goes and how he is recovering, I will be sending out updates from my Twitter account (@LesleyConner). I will make sure to post as soon as I hear anything.

Thank you, and happy reading!
Lesley Conner
Managing Editor
Apex Publications
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Coming February 26th is the exciting new book in Brian Keene's The Lost Level series, HOLE IN THE WORLD.

HOLE IN THE WORLD is the third book in the series, but functions as a prequel to THE LOST LEVEL. It's standalone in nature, but pushes the plot along by providing answers to some of the lingering questions from the first two novels.

You can preorder from Apex and receive for free one of our other eBooks by Horror Grandmaster Brian Keene. Additionally, you can order from number of vendors. Where you order doesn't matter, what matters is that you don't miss this exciting new adventure novel!

Apex preorder link

Also available for preorder from the following vendors:

Amazon (print) | Amazon (Kindle) | B&N (print) | B&N (nook) | Kobo | iBookstore | Google Play

Cover art by Kirsi Salonen.

282 pp.

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The holiday shopping season is upon us, and Apex wants to help you fill all the stockings with fantastic science fiction, fantasy, and horror!

(Sale excludes book bundles, preorders, and Apex Magazine subscriptions.)

Print or digital, our latest release or something from the back catalog—it is all on sale!

Pick up a copy of The Apex Book of World SF volume 5 edited by Cristina Jurado and Nexhuman by Francesco Verso for your favorite cousin because they love traveling the world, and then load up your daughter’s eReader with Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters, Upside Down edited by Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli, and Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt because she can’t get enough of short fiction.

Have a favorite story published in 2018 in Apex Magazine? Pick up a print copy of the issue so you can read it over and over again!

Load up your cart! Pick up all your favorites to give as gifts to your friends and family this holiday season! And save 50%! Simply use discount code HOLIDAYS2018 at check out!

Head over to the Apex store and shop for all the book lovers in your life!

Sale runs Black Friday (November 23rd) through Cyber Monday (November, 26th).

Before you leave, be sure you pick up an Apex Mystery Box!

Each box is stuffed with Apex goodness with a retail value of at least $25 (and most likely higher!). Apex books, print copies of Apex Magazine, swag, and an alien!

You pick up gifts for all your friends and family, and let Apex send a surprise for you!

Apex Mystery Boxes will only be available through Monday, November 26th. Get yours now!

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It’s hard to believe, but 2019 is nearly here. And with that, comes a new batch of books published by Apex. I am extremely excited about this line up! Some are continuations of stories Apex has already published. Others come from authors new to Apex but who came with stories dark and disturbing, stories we felt were a perfect fit for the Apex catalog. All are amazing and I can’t wait to bring them to you, loyal readers.

Here’s a preview of what’s to come from Apex in 2019:

Hole in the World (novel):  Return to Brian Keene’s Lost Level with this prequel to his Lost Level series. A new group of people and new adventures, but this novel is sure to excite fans of the series. Look for it in late February to early March.

Do Not Go Quietly (anthology):  Resistance. Revolution. Standing up and demanding to have your space, your say, your right to be. An anthology edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner, Do Not Go Quietly will be available in April, 2019.

Pimp My Airship (novel): Pimp My Airship is a steamfunk adventure novel by Maurice Broaddus. It’s slated to be released in May, 2019.

Coil (novel): Part near-future scifi, part CSI-esque murder mystery, Coil by Ren Warom is a seriously twisted novel that will drag readers into a world ruled by body modifications, gangs, and a killer who strips his victims of their individuality, twisting them into grotesque works of art. Be ready to jump into Ren Warom’s world in June, 2019.

Snow Over Utopia (novel): Snow Over Utopia by Rudolfo Serna is a literary science fiction novel that takes place in a future where we have ruined the environment. Pockets of civilization have survived but humanity has been warped and twisted in such a way that it is barely recognizable. This novel is intricate and layered with prose that borders on poetry. It’s the type of novel that demands to be read, and then to be read again. You can read it in July, 2019.

Ration (novel): Cody T. Luff brings us a world dictated by lack—a lack of food and of resources. A world where no one ever has enough to fill satisfied, let alone full, and they never have—not once in their lives. What would that do to a person, a school, a society? These are the questions explored in Ration. Coming August, 2019.

The Grand Tour! (single author collection): E. Catherine Tobler is known for her magical Jackson’s Unreal Circus stories, and in 2016 Apex published The Kraken Sea, which gave readers a peek into the early years of Jackson’s and how he became the ring leader. Now Apex is thrilled to be publishing a collection of several of the circus stories. Buy your ticket in October, 2019.

Mirrorstrike (novel): Benjanun Sriduangkaew takes us back to Sirapirat in this sequel to her sci-fantasy novel Winterglass. Coming in November, 2019.

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Apex Publications is happy to announce the acquisition of Mirrorstrike by Benjanun Sriduankaew. Mirrorstrike is a sequel to her critically-acclaimed Winterglass, and will be published in late 2019.

With her mother's blood fresh on her hands, Nuawa has learned that to overthrow the tyrant Winter Queen she must be as exact as a bullet … and as pitiless.

In the greatest city of winter, a revolt has broken out and General Lussadh has arrived to suppress it. She's no stranger to treason, for this city is her home where she slaughtered her own family for the Winter Queen.

Accompanying the general to prove her loyalty, Nuawa confronts a rebel who once worked to end the queen's reign and who now holds secrets that will cement the queen's rule. But this is not Nuawa's only predicament. A relentless killer has emerged and he means to hunt down anyone who holds in their heart a shard of the queen's mirror. Like the general. Like Nuawa herself.

On these fields of tumult and shattered history, the queen's purposes will at last be revealed, and both Lussadh and Nuawa tested to their limits.

One to wake. Two to bind. These are the laws that govern those of the glass.

You can find more about Benjanun Sriduangkaew and her other works at her website.

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