Get Upside Down for FREE!

By Lesley Conner
on December 15, 2016

Would you like to get your hands on a print copy of Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli for FREE?

For nine people, that is exactly what is going to happen!

Here's the situation. Jason Sizemore and I have been mailing out the contributor and Kickstarter backer copies of the anthology. For me to be able to help out, Jason has been mailing large boxes of books from Kentucky to my home in Maryland for me to package up and send back out. One of these boxes ... well, I'm not exactly sure what happened to it, but the books inside were banged up. Not badly, the books are completely readable and look pretty good, but they aren't pristine enough to send out to Kickstarter backers or to sell.

Bad news for us. Good news for you.

After sending out most of them to reviewers, I have nine scuffed up copies left. I don't want to store them at my house indefinitely so Jason and I have decided to give them away!

How can you score one?

Easy! All you need to do is follow these three easy steps:

1. Live in the US. (International shipping costs prohibit us from opening this up to everyone. Sorry.)

2. Buy $18.95 worth of goodies from the Apex store. $18.95 is the cover price of Upside Down. Take that money and get something else. Anything else! A subscription to Apex Magazine. A few eBooks. Another recent release that you haven't snagged yet. As long as the total before shipping comes to $18.95, you are good. (And remember, if you spend $25, shipping is FREE!)

3. Let me know you want a copy of Upside Down. Leave a note while you are checking out or send me an email at It doesn't matter as long as you say you want Upside Down.

That's it! The first nine people to spend $18.95 in the Apex store and let me know they want a copy of Upside Down, will get a copy for free! A great deal for you, and it will help me make sure these books find good homes!

Note: Since the copies of Upside Down are at my house and Jason ships out all the Apex orders from the Apex's offices in Kentucky, the copy of Upside Down will come separately from the rest of your order.

It's time to get Upside Down!

By Lesley Conner
on December 13, 2016

If you’ve been waiting for the release of Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli, then wait no more!

Today is release day!

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling is an anthology of short stories, poems, and essays that highlights the long-standing tradition of writers who identify tropes in science fiction, fantasy, and horror and twist them into something new and interesting. The anthology was successfully funded through Kickstarter earlier this year.

"Speculative fiction fans tired of clichés will want to grab this expectation-subverting anthology." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling is an anthology of short stories, poetry, and essays edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates. Over two dozen authors, ranging from NYT-bestsellers and award winners to debut writers, chose a tired trope or cliche to challenge and surprise readers through their work.

Read stories inspired by tropes such as the Chainmaille Bikini, Love at First Sight, Damsels in Distress, Yellow Peril, The Black Man Dies First, The Villain Had a Crappy Childhood, The Singularity Will Cause the Apocalypse, and many more ... then discover what these tropes mean to each author to find out what inspired them.

Join Maurice Broaddus, Adam Troy-Castro, Delilah S. Dawson, Shanna Germain, Sara M. Harvey, John Hornor Jacobs, Rahul Kanakia, Alethea Kontis, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Haralambi Markov, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Ferrett Steinmetz, Anton Strout, Michael Underwood, Alyssa Wong and many other authors as they take well-worn tropes and clichés and flip them upside down.

This anthology is available in trade paperback, eBook, and hardcover editions direct from Apex. Pick up the trade paperback and eBook editions from any of our online retailers.

Upside Down is editor Jaym Gates’s (War Stories) second anthology with Apex Book Company, and it is the first for editor Monica Valentinelli. The two have put together an anthology with a strong mix of fiction and essays that is sure to both entertain and educate readers on tropes and how they are used by writers.


Everything is turning Upside Down

By Lesley Conner
on March 18, 2016

There is a little over a week left in the Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Kickstarter and we are well on our way to hitting our second stretch goal. The response to this project has been overwhelming and positively amazing, and we really can't say thank you enough to everyone supporting us in this venture!

Through the efforts of the awesome editors and contributors, Upside Down has gotten coverage all over the web, with guest posts and interviews popping up in a variety of places. I wanted to take a minute to share links to all of this coolness so you can learn everything there is to know about Upside Down.

Our first stretch goal was to add critical essays by Lucy A. Snyder, A.C. Wise, and Patrick Hester to the anthology. We hit that goal, and it was announced earlier this week that we would adding two more essays! These new contributions will be written by Keffy R. M. Kehrli and Victor J. Raymond. You can read more about them and their planned essays here.

There is still plenty of time to support Upside Down on Kickstarter and help us make it even more fabulous than it already is. If we hit our second stretch goal ($15,000), we will be able to give all of our short story authors a raise, paying them $0.08 per word rather than $0.06. With less than $700 to go until we hit that goal, I am sure we can do it. Help us turn tropes Upside Down!

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Anthology Kickstarter

By McKenzie Winberry
on February 26, 2016

We have a new project coming and we could use your help getting it ready to go!  Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates are working together to turn your favorite tropes on their heads.  Not only does this anthology promise to be a show-stopper, it's already got over 150 backers and is almost a third of the way funded...and there are still 28 days to go!  It was even chosen as a Kickstarter "Project We Love" and trended on twitter with 8k tweets!

The cover art was created by award-winning artist Galen Dara.  It has already been announced that Maurice Broaddus, Anton Strout, Shanna Germain, Sara Harvey, Delilah Dawson, John Hornor Jacobs, Rahul Kanakia, Haralambi Markov, Sunil Patel, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Alyssa Wong, and Princess Alethea Kontis will have pieces in the anthology, which you know means it will be a great anthology!  If that's not enough to entice you, just look at the ridiculous amount of stuff we are shelling out to supporters!

Check out this video they made for their Kickstarter, then go support it:


Open Call for Submissions to Upside Down

By Lesley Conner
on November 13, 2015

Announcing the open call for submissions for the upcoming Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling anthology. This collection is edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates, and will be coming in 2016 from Apex Publications.

There have been quite a few discussions in science fiction and fantasy addressing the idea of tropes and cliches, from whether they’re good or bad to how they change over time. Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling is a collection of stories that aims to subvert many of the popular tropes and cliches to show them in a new light. Each story in our collection will be an author’s creative examination of a specific trope that is prevalent in science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Examples of tropes include some well-defined character tropes, but also storytelling tropes that lazily incorporate race, gender, religion, etc.

Writers who have already been accepted to the anthology include Alyssa Wong, Nisi Shawl, Sara M. Harvey, Maurice Broaddus, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Michael Underwood, and many more wonderful authors. Hugo, Chesley, and World Fantasy Award-nominated artist Galen Dara will be providing the art for our cover.

Tropes examined thus far include:

  • Chainmaille Bikini
  • The Magical Negro
  • The Super Soldier
  • Chosen One
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot
  • Love at First Sight
  • Damsels in Distress
  • Heroine Loves a Bad Man
  • Yellow Peril
  • The Black Man Dies First
  • The Villain Had a Crappy Childhood
  • The City Planet
  • Prostitute with a Heart of Gold
  • The Singularity will Cause the Apocalypse

To be considered for Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling we ask that authors

  1. a) identify the trope and b) break, bend, twist, smash it in some creative, literary fashion.

Trope examinations may range from: poetry, short stories (up to 5000 words), flash fiction, interstitial fiction (e.g. fake interviews with public domain characters), song lyrics, and other written forms. Examples of additional tropes may be found in sites like Depending upon how you choose to address these tropes, we may decide to publish multiple stories based on the same trope, too.


What Monica is looking for: “I enjoy tight, lean, fearless stories from honest writers. If you've thought: "Maybe I shouldn't write that..." I would probably love it. I also read a lot of diverse authors and works with an emphasis on deep characterization, cultural authenticity, dark fantasy, obscure folk tale re-tellings, and alternate history/futurism. I'm hoping to feature more voices and tropes, including envelope-pushing sex-and-gender based cliches, to give readers a collection with stories they might not have considered before. For example, maybe an exorcism that's normally performed by a Catholic priest might incorporate voudon, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Mormonism, or Asatru beliefs. Or, alternatively, the fantasy trope related to virgin purity could be addressed through the eyes of a member of the Metis tribe or a povo de santo from Brazil. Should your story include details relating to characters like these, but fall flat on authenticity, then I'll probably give it a pass.”

What Jaym is looking for: “Solid research, strong voice, and a clear understanding of your plot and setting. Think outside the box. Don’t worry about being the best out there, that’s what editors are for, just write the best you have in you. You’ll get extra points from me if your stories are relevant to current events.”


We plan to fund the cost of the stories, as well as cover art, layout, and production, via an Apex Publications Kickstarter campaign that we will launch early 2016. Our track record with Kickstarter, thus far, has been very successful and includes anthologies such as War Stories and Genius Loci.


Writers will receive $0.06 per word, to be paid out of the Kickstarter. As creators ourselves, we are planning on introducing stretch goals to further raise the word rate.


The submissions period opens now. It will close on December 31, 2015.


Please send all submissions as an attachment to with a cover letter that clearly identifies the title of your story, its word count, your name and contact information, and the trope you are examining. Your manuscript should be formatting using the standard manuscript guidelines as a *.doc or *.docx file. Please note that we will only accept unpublished works for consideration. Submissions that do not meet these requirements will be deleted unread.


Monica Valentinelli

Monica Valentinelli is a full-time writer, developer, and editor of stories, games, essays, and comics for both her original properties and media/tie-in settings such as Firefly and Vampire: the Masquerade. For more about Monica, visit

Jaym Gates

Jaym Gates is an editor, author, and communications manager. She’s the editor of the Rigor Amortis, War Stories, Exalted, and Genius Loci anthologies, as well as a published author in fiction, academic nonfiction, and RPGs.


You can get in touch with us at regarding submissions, or if you have any questions about the anthology. You can also find us on Twitter at @JaymGates and @mlvwrites.


Making of an Anthology: Submissions Phase

By Lesley Conner
on August 18, 2015

guest post by Jaym Gates

The best part of an anthology, for me, is when we start getting submissions and I can see the first vague shape of the project. The moment when it starts transitioning from idea to reality, in other words.

Anthologies are living, breathing things, and there is often a huge shift from idea to conception. The overall theme will stay the same, but there will be trends to the submissions that will shape the end product. War Stories did that—we ended up with a lot of quieter pieces dealing with the residual effects of war than Andrew and I originally planned—and it absolutely benefitted in the end from the shift. Genius Loci became far more literary than the early discussions suggested, filled with history and folklore (although that one isn’t surprising, in hindsight).

Upside Down is in that phase now: we’re getting the first stories, and the ideas that Monica and I had are now taking shape. It means that now we have to sit down and look at what has come in to decide what we still need. We have to figure out how to edit the first pieces, not necessarily knowing the specifics of what else we’ll be getting. We’re building a body of work that needs to be balanced, diverse, exciting, and relevant.

The pieces we’ve gotten are…well, there’s nothing to say except that they’re exceeding even our high expectations. Maurice Broaddus sent us a piece tackling the ‘Magical Negro’ trope, and it’s funny, witty, dry…and packs a punch of reality behind it.

Nisi Shawl’s story is half superhero origin story, half heartbreaking look at police brutality, timely and painful. I’m actually hoping she takes one of the characters and writes a novel about him, it would be amazing and relevant. Alyssa Wong sent us a story set in San Francisco, a beautiful little thing about family, magic, and trying to survive in a place that doesn’t want you.

Sunil Patel’s snarky, fun take on the origin of villains and heroes is a nice antidote to the typical grimdark found in comics and origin stories. Kat Richardson thoroughly skewers the chainmail bikini trope, AND there’s a smartass dragon, so I basically yelled “Take my money!” when she sent it in. Michael Underwood’s take on the Super Soldier idea is…unusual, and equal parts horrifying and adorable.

All that? That’s just a sample of what we have. The stories we have are diverse and colorful, with some pieces that are played for laughs and some that are beautiful but grimly thought-provoking, and everything in between. The anthology’s skeleton is starting to get some muscle, and it’s pretty awesome muscle.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the solicited pieces add to the whole, and what amazing things we’ll get from the open call.


Conceptualizing the Upcoming UPSIDE DOWN Anthology

By Lesley Conner
on April 29, 2015

by Monica Valentinelli

When we announced Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling back in February, we mentioned that we’d be talking about the editorial process and sharing more insight with you in anticipation of this anthology’s release. Today, I’m going to talk about the concept behind this collection of stories, so you get a better feel for the anthology’s framework and how it’s coming together.

Like many writers and editors, I love talking about the craft of writing. I have this bad habit of getting fixated on a specific concept like plotting or, in this case, tropes and clichés. The more I read (like most people I imagine) the more certain tropes stand out in my mind because, true to their definition, they are overused devices that are instantly recognizable. Take, for example, The Chosen One. As you’re probably already aware, the heart of this cliché is that a story’s protagonist is the only character in the known universe destined to fight The Big Bad and save the world. The trope of The One is so prevalent, that its alter-ego (e.g. So Sorry, You’re Not Really The Chosen One) can also evoke an emotional reaction in the form of an eye roll as well. There are too many references to list here, but a few quick searches on Ye Olde Google and you’ll see how often The Chosen One is included in lists of storytelling shortcuts that writers shouldn’t take, and how many conversations this specific trope has generated.

The discussion about whether or not this common cliché was “bad” is what inspired me to conceptualize an anthology that encourages writers to smash tropes. I felt that an examination of tropes like this required a variety of voices to better serve the reader, and would work best as an anthology. Before I pitched the anthology to Jason, I asked Jaym Gates to be my co-editor to balance out my editorial style and ensure the collection wouldn’t be overly slanted to my tastes. Too, since Jaym Gates edited anthologies for Apex Publishing before, I felt she’d be a perfect fit because you were familiar with her work.

As an editor, I do not feel it’s my responsibility to collect stories that fit how I feel about tropes, because this anthology is designed to be read by many different kinds of readers and, with a little luck, discussed, too. My role is to ensure we have a broad range of clichés that are being smashed, and that the writers effectively turn that trope upside down for the reader in their stories, with their unique voices. While the backbone of each story is about breaking a specific trope, we (e.g. Jaym and I) never intended this collection to be a gimmick; we both feel that the stories need to resonate above and beyond the technical aspects. For this reason, we asked the writers to choose the trope that they explicitly wanted to break in their stories, which genre they were interested in writing, and then helped them brainstorm if they were stuck.

Most writers knew which trope they wanted to tackle, while others had decision paralysis because there were so many to choose from. We’ve been very lucky to work with such talented people, because the tropes that our writers have chosen reflect a broad range of genre clichés that run the gamut from tired plot devices, overused protagonists and antagonists, as well as commentaries about sex and race. To me, this diverse range of tropes makes the collection stronger as a whole and more satisfying as a reader.

Our broad selection of clichés, in particular, is something we’ll highlight in the coming months. When the open call begins in September, we’ll post which tropes are being smashed in the core of the anthology, so you can see where the gaps are for yourself. It’s our goal to offer a satisfying collection that will appeal to a broad range of readers. We also feel that the open call will help us discover new and existing writers who are as passionate about the subject of clichés as we all are.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek into the concept behind Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. If you have any questions about the anthology, feel free to post in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

About the Editor: Monica Valentinelli writes stories, games, essays, and comics for media/tie-in properties and her original works from her studio in the Midwest. She’s a former musician of 20+ years and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Creative Writing program who now writes and edits full-time. Her sanity is kept by her two cats, water frog, bettafish, and her long-time partner. When she’s not obsessing about deadlines, she designs jewelry and dabbles in other artistic endeavors. For more about Monica, visit

Announcing Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling

By Lesley Conner
on February 12, 2015

Apex Publications is pleased to announce the addition of a new anthology to its 2015 release schedule. Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling is an anthology of short stories and poems that will highlight the long-standing tradition of writers who identify tropes in science fiction, fantasy, and horror and twist them into something new and interesting.

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling will include original contributions from Maurice Broaddus, Shanna Germain, Laura Anne Gilman, Sara Harvey, John Hornor Jacobs, Rahul Kanakia, Haralambi Markov, Sunil Patel, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Lucien Soulban, Wrath James White, Alyssa Wong, and many others.

“I am excited to be working with two fantastic, smart, and gifted editors like Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli,” says Jason Sizemore, the publisher of Apex Book Company. “They should only enhance the Apex reputation as one of the genre's leading anthology publishers with the release of Upside Down.”

Edited by Jaym Gates (War Stories) and Monica Valentinelli (Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horrors), the anthology will debut in Fall/Winter 2015 in both digital and print. The anthology will be Gates’s second collection with Apex Book Company and Valentinelli’s first. A Kickstarter and open submissions period are also planned for this fall.

To find out more about Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, be sure to watch for milestone-related updates from the editors posted here.


War Stories 40% off for Veteran's Day

By Lesley Conner
on November 11, 2014

In honor of Veteran's Day, we're running a one day sale on our anthology of military science fiction, War Stories! Edited by Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak, War Stories collects 23 short stories dealing with the effects of war prior, during, and after battle to both the soldiers and their loved ones. It includes stories by Joe Haldeman, Linda Nagata, Karin Lowachee, Ken Liu, Jay Posey, and many more. 

Until midnight tonight (EST), you can get a copy of War Stories for 40% off the cover price! This includes both the trade paperback and eBook editions. To get these amazing savings, simply use discount code VETERANSDAY at checkout.

Still not convinced? Listen to what reviewers are saying about the anthology.

Lauren from Violin in a Void said War Stories is "an excellent, eye-opening read that goes far beyond what I expected of this genre."

Paul Weimer from SF Signal said its "An essential set of stories for readers interested in military science fiction."

Pablo James from Ranger Up said War Stories is "a collection of stories about people and their feelings, their experiences, their nightmares, and their loyalties. In short, these stories transcended genre and focused on great story telling."

Get your copy of War Stories today and get 40% off with discount code VETERANSDAY.

War Stories has arrived!

By Lesley Conner
on October 08, 2014

After months of work, War Stories: New Military Science Fiction has finally arrived, prepped and polished and ready for the frontlines.

Edited by Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak, War Stories collects 23 science fiction and fantasy stories that examine the effects of war, prior, during, and after the battle has taken place, on both the soldiers and those who love them.

Order War Stories today!

War is everywhere. Not only among the firefights, in the swear dripping from heavy armor and the clenching grip on your weapon, but also wedging itself deep into families, infiltrating our love letters, hovering in the air above our heads. It's in our dreams and our text messages. At times it roars with adrenaline, while at others it slips in silently so it can sit besdie you until you forget it's there.

Join Joe Haldeman, Linda Nagata, Karin Lowachee, Ken Liu, Jay Posey, and more as they take you on a tour of the battlefields, from those hurtling through space in spaceships and winding along trails deep in the jungle with bullets whizzing overhead, to the ones hiding behind calm smiles, waiting patiently to reveal itself in those quiet moments when we feel safest. War Stories brings us 23 stories of the impacts of war, showcasing the systems, combat, armor, and aftermath with condemnation or glorification.

Instead, War Stories reveals the truth.

War is what we are.

Get your copy of War Stories today and dive into these fast paced, emotional stories about the impacts of war.

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