Review of Apex Digest Issue 11

Apex Digest has long staked a claim as one of the best SF/F semiprozines and issue 11, which arrived in my mailbox yesterday, continues this trend. The issue features a great science fiction/horror story by Gary A. Braunbeck called "Blackboard Sky," in which Braunbeck channels Arthur C. Clark's Childhood End into the type of horror Clarke couldn't imagine on his most pessimistic of days. Steven Savile follows up the story with a fascinating interview with Braunbeck where they discuss Braunbeck's rather dour worldview (note: Braunbeck avoids calling his worldview pessimistic, instead saying its "more a pragmatic one that been run through a pessimistic filter and then presented to you by a cautious optimist.") The interview also discusses Braunbeck's views on writing and his life, including a horrific event no father should ever endure. This is hands down the best author interview I've read all year and, combined with Braunbeck's story, makes the issue a must read.

Another great story is "Ray Gun" by Daniel G. Keohane, in which an old man with Alzheimer's encounters a hostile alien. As the killing starts, the character tries to understand if this is really happening or simply a disease-related hallucination. While this set-up could have been a disaster in the hands of a bad writer, Keohane's steady prose presents the main character and situation through painfully-understated images and emotions, which gently lead the reader toward a tragic but understandable conclusion.

The issue also features a very good cover story, "The Moldy Dead," by first-time writer Sara King. The story is a well-written exploration of alien intelligence and genocide which is a fun and fascinating read. In fact, the heroic aspects of the story reminded me (in the best of ways) of something straight out of science fiction's Golden Age.

A final tip of the hat must be given to the short "What to Expect When You're Expectorating" by Jennifer Pelland. This hilarious spoof of drug commercials features a pharmaceutical cure for minor demonic possession. Of course, you should "Stop taking Xybutol if you experience dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sleepiness, projectile vomiting, an urge to vote Libertarian, voices telling you to cover up the local Indian burial mound with a Wal-Mart, or if you cough up something which then attempts to sell you a time share in Florida." All in all, Pelland's story is a fitting drug to close out a great issue of Apex.