Feminisim, Genre, and the Apex Publications
I grew up in a matriarchal household in the San Francisco Bay Area, so my understanding of feminism is really skewed since my whole life the women of my family have always been the breadwinners, the independent types, and a grandmother who never learned to drive but always told me it was because she didn’t want to- it wasn’t ladylike.
Fast forward to my writing career. (And let’s forget my unfortunate first book contract for the duration of this post, shall we?) I ended up gravitating towards Apex. Back in the day (2005) they were a small press before small presses were a Thing, they published sci-fi and horror, ran an annual Halloween short story contest, and they were known for publishing two friends-of-friends (who are both now my own friends) Cherie Priest and Alethea Kontis. (I never did win the Halloween contest although I always placed well!)
In 2009, I joined the coveted ranks of the Apex authors. By then Cherie and Alethea had moved on to bigger things like international recognition and Locus awards and bestseller lists. Jason Sizemore turned over control of the Apex Magazine to Cat Valente who abdicated to Lynne Thomas, both of these ladies have all sorts of awards to their names. Apex has a regular stable of female authors and bloggers and most of the staff is also made up of women.
So imagine me at a panel about genre and feminism and someone asks me my thoughts on the rampant misogyny and the “boys’ club” aspect of writing in the genre world. I sat back, pondered the question, thought about my experiences and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean.”
“I mean,” said the moderator, who surely thought I was trying to be funny, “that women in genre writing don’t get the same treatment as male writers, they aren’t featured as much, their voices aren’t being heard!”
I shook my head and shrugged. “I write for Apex.”
And there it was. Four words that summed up my career: “I write for Apex.”
It took me back to my childhood, awesome but sheltered. Weren’t the women of everyone’s family making six-figure incomes and nationally known in their fields? Weren’t the women of everyone’s publishing house given equal screen time and being nominated for Hugos and Nebulas and Stokers and such?
It was a shock to me to discover that the answer to both is the same: NO, THEY ARE NOT.
But in my world, they are. Fran, Shira, Betsy, Julia, Sarah, Seanan, Chesya, and many more are heard from in fiction and non-fiction regularly. Janet, Sarah, Monica, Sarah (Sizemore has a LOT of Sarahs) and others work tirelessly behind the scenes. And I can’t forget that they work with some top-notch artistic talent like Melissa Gay (and I’m not just saying that because she makes gorgeous covers and illustrations for my books)! Sizemore likes to say that his super-power is surrounding himself with strong, talented, and articulate women. And I have to say, as far as super-powers go, that one ain’t half bad!
And the work they publish is quality stuff and always has been. I also got spoiled for other small presses with Apex. To me, small presses come in: Good, Bad, and Apex. (But that’s another post for another time.)
I still say those four words with pride, a pride that comes from the realization that I don’t live in the world as it is, but as it should be. A world where not just women’s voices, but a whole buffet of diverse voices are not only heard but valued, are not only a “special” issue but showcased every day, are not only a talking-point but a way of life. And I hope to be able to continue saying those four words for a long time to come.
“I write for Apex.”
(And four more: “AND I’M DAMNED PROUD!”)