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Conversation with Vanessa Jae

Vanessa describes finding work at Apex Magazine and Strange Horizons, along with her most recent anarchies and mosh pits.

Conversation with Vanessa Jae

Vanessa Jae writes horrifically beautiful anarchies, reads stories for Apex Magazine, and is poetry editor at Strange Horizons. She also collects black hoodies and bruises in mosh pits on Tuesday nights. To read tweets by interesting people follow her at @thevanessajae.

Vanessa is also the author of the poem “the type of monster you keep on a leash” from Radon Issue 1. 

Q: Tell us how you came to be a slush editor for Apex Magazine?

When Apex came back from their hiatus in 2020 they were looking for slush readers. “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky was my favorite story at the time, so I immediately applied and was lucky enough to be one of the chosen ones, along with some other amazing people whom I adore.

Q: We'd also love to know how you came to be a poetry editor at Strange Horizons?

Since I’m fortunate enough to work with magazines that value transparency and post public calls for open editor positions, it was basically the same with Strange Horizons. I had gotten to know part of the poetry team a little bit by collecting personal rejections, as well as an acceptance for my poem “the fear of cyborgs to believe in flesh.” Strange Horizons is also a pioneer in publishing speculative poetry, including my favorite “when my father reprograms my mother {“ by Caroline Mao. Getting to edit for them is a dream come true. 

Q: How has reading and editing for prestigious magazines helped your own writing?

A lot of people are good writers, and a lot of them have good ideas for stories and poems. But to stand out and emotionally move readers and editors, you have to make your writing distinctively your own. Develop a unique style and pour your heart out—be ruthlessly you.

Q: What excites you most when editing slush?

I’m addicted to the feeling of reading something I immediately know is one-of-a-kind. Especially when reading poetry submissions. I’m extra excited to find a science fiction poem, those have a special place in my heart. I also adore discovering emerging talents and being able to offer them a platform.

Q: What "beautiful anarchies" have you written lately?

At the moment, I’m mostly (and very slowly) working on my novel. It’s about breaking free from the confusion and anger consuming you when taught to think and act a certain way, and you are starting to doubt whether you stand behind what you thought were your beliefs. No one is immune to manipulation, but in the end, anarchy will always reign in your brain. 

Q: What are your ultimate goals as a science fiction author and editor?

Reading something that resonates so much with you that it shatters your world is something I will never get over. As an author, I would love to write pieces that are just as groundbreaking to someone else, who maybe thought they were alone in feeling like they do. As an editor, I want to help bring this kind of writer and this kind of reader together. 

Q: Have you found a particular subgenre of science fiction that you are drawn to the most?

I love science fiction, which at its core, deals with social justice issues and other flaws in humanity, such as works by Kurt Vonnegut but also Jurassic Park. In my own writing, I’m drawn to sci-fi horror because I love the rawness of the genre.

Q: You've had at least 15 poems published in 2022. Do you consider that a good year for you?

2022 is the first year I was ever published, so I have nothing to compare it to. But I’m feeling extremely lucky to have so many poems out in the world.

Q: You've mentioned you enjoy moshing. What type of metal or hardcore music do you like to listen to when writing and editing?

Oh, I love this question! Guerrilla Warfare has been my go-to for reading submissions lately. But I’m also always listening to any band Jason Butler sings in (letlive., Fever 333, Pressure Cracks), as well as classics like Rage Against the Machine and Slipknot.

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