by Jason Sizemore
You could say I had my great “awakening” in the summer of 2004. That it coincided with an early mid-life crisis isn’t just a nice bit of dressing to the story, it is an integral lump of dirty coal burning in my cast iron stove.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A good awakening doesn’t happen without a pit of fuel to drive inspiration. Whatever it is that strikes the flint nestled in your brain matter at an influential moment in your life will spark the fuel that motivates you creatively for many years. For me, it was The Exorcist, the Rapture, and the combined works of H.G. Wells and Jack London.
I was born the son of a coal miner deep in the hills of southeast Kentucky. I have many memories of my father coming home, covered head to toe in coal soot, holding his black aluminum lunch pail in one hand and his battered orange safety helmet in the other. Often he worked 14 hour shifts in the deep mines, and often these occurred on Friday night (movie night!). Friday evenings, Mom would take me to the local video store and we would choose a rental. My mom was a big horror fan back then (this was the early 80s, a great time for horror). Some selections I remember include The Howling, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Night of the Demons, The Thing, Dawn of the Dead, Alien, Aliens, and Teen Wolf (ugh).
Looking back, I’m glad she had the good sense to say no to movies like Cannibal Holocaust and Salo. Who knows how messed up I would be otherwise?
Those Friday nights hold some of my fondest memories. They also hold some of my most terrified memories. Night of the Demons was a particularly rough one. But by far, the hardest movie to deal with as an eight-year-old kid was The Exorcist. This segues nicely to . . .
. . . being an eight-year-old kid who attended service three times a week with his grandmother at the local fire and brimstone Southern Baptist church. Three times a week for every year of my life until I left for college, I sat in frightened silence as a screaming, angry preacher convinced me I was going to hell, that I must accept the Lord into my heart, because it was all going down soon, brother, the Lord was coming back in the great Rapture to send the sinners to the lake of fire.
While not watching the living horror at church or the acted horror on the television screen, I sought solace in a small library of books my parents, inexplicably, kept in a junk drawer in their living room. There was a treasure trove of classics. Several H.G. Wells novels. Jules Verne. Jack London. As you might imagine, I was a sheltered child, and Mr. Wells, Mr. Verne, and Mr. London were my connection to the outside world.
Now we can return to 2004. That’s the year I turned 30. I’m now 38, and I’m still traumatized by the event. I hit 30 and an early mid-life crisis hit back. (Other factors were in play, such as working a dead end job and the rapid loss of my lovely red locks). I remember sitting at my desk, holding a pen over a yellow legal pad, trying to think of ways I had made a positive difference in the lives of anybody (discounting immediate family and spouse). That pad stayed empty, and this bothered me greatly.
My creative inspiration comes from those Friday nights with my mom, reading H.G. Wells with a flashlight under the covers, and parceling out the good parts of the preachers’ sermons. You can take a quick look at the Apex Publications catalog and see all three in play with books such as Dark Faith: Invocations, Machine, and An Occupation of Angels.
I am inspired to publish, edit, and write by an overwhelming need to see that blank yellow legal pad filled with pages and pages of notes. I’ll be the first to confess that I’m no saint; I absolutely want to make money, lots of it, while filling those pages. But I’m the type of person that draws comfort knowing that life has meaning, a purpose, a quantifiable goal beyond that which requires faith in an omnipotent god (all hail Lord Cthulhu!). The last eight years, running Apex Publications has given me this.
And until I run out of pages or the ink in the metaphorical pen goes dry, I hope to continue.
About the Guest Author
Born the son of an unemployed coal miner in a tiny Kentucky Appalachian villa named Big Creek (population 400), Jason fought his way out of the hills to the big city of Lexington. He attended Transylvania University (real school with its own vampire) and received a degree in computer science. Since 2004, he has owned and operated Apex Publications. He is the editor of five anthologies, a Stoker and Hugo Award loser, an occasional writer, and usually can be found wondering the halls of hotel conventions seeking friends and free food. He currently has edited three titles for Apex: The Book of Apex: Volume 1 of Apex Magazine, The Book of Apex: Volume 2 of Apex Magazine, and The Zombie Feed Volume 1.