All My Favorite Books and Comics of 2022

Last week, I posted a list of all the novels, novellas, web comics, and graphic novels I read in 2022. Today, I’ll be discussing some of those books in more detail, with some normal categories like Favorite Nonfiction but mostly silly categories like Favorite Fluffy Zombie Apocalypse. It’s kinda like a Top Ten, except it’s really a Top Whatever Number I Arbitrarily End Up At—and then there are a bunch of honorable mentions, too, because, goddamnit, I couldn’t help myself.

As always, I’ll be discussing any books I loved reading in 2022, regardless of what year they were actually published. There actually are multiple things on this list from 2022—pretty rare for me, as I’m forever playing catchup—but still. I’m not just gonna ignore something I loved because it came out in 2021, like. Why?

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Now Available at PseudoPod: “15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook”

Well, this is embarrassing. I meant to post this on Monday, but then . . . forgot. Whoops!

Okay, so, I have a story out! “15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook,” first published in my collection You Fed Us to the Roses, is now available to listen to (and/or read) for free at PseudoPod. This is part of PseudoPod’s really awesome 2022 Anthologies and Collections spotlight, where they highlight specific stories to help various anthologies and collections reach a wider audience. I’m super excited that “15 Eulogies” was accepted here. Obviously, if people like the story enough that they’re interested in reading more of my work, that would be fantastic. But I’m also just really proud of this one, and I’d love more people to read it.

I already wrote a little about “15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook” on this blog, but to basically C+P:

This story is obviously inspired by my love of TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Teen Wolf, and is very much about death anxiety, though I like to think there’s a certain amount of hope in there, too. You might enjoy this one if you like stories about/with  . . .

Poetry
Unconventional eulogies
Angst
Humor
An occasional violent death or two
The emotional costs of repeatedly saving the world/losing the people you love, all while you’re supposed to be studying for physics.

If you give it a listen, I hope you enjoy! See you all in the new year!

2022 Reading List – Novellas, Novels, Graphic Novels, Webcomics, and Non-Fiction

Well, it doesn’t look like I’m going to finish anything else before the year is up—I’m planning to spend the next few days catching up on all my Yuletide reading—so here’s a list of everything else I’ve read in 2022. Plus I’ll discuss a few superlatives (like Favorite Opening Line), a change-up in fandom obsessions, and a short list of books I’m especially looking forward to checking out in 2023.

I’ll discuss my favorite reads of 2022 next week, but for now . . . The List.

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World’s Worst Trekkie: “Requiem for Methuselah,” “The Way to Eden,” and “The Cloud Minders”

Holy shit, only six episodes to go! SIX EPISODES LEFT, PEOPLE.

“Requiem for Methuselah”

Star Trek Kirk GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Okay. For real. What the fuck is this?

A fatal epidemic is raging on the Enterprise, so our Holy OT3 beam down to this zero-pop planet to find the cure—only to run into Flint, an all-powerful old bastard who eventually invites them home to meet his super smart adopted daughter, Rayna. Flint is shifty as hell: he has unknown da Vinci paintings and Brahms’ compositions that seem to be the real deal, but were made way too recently. Also, he’s clearly jealous of Kirk and Rayna while simultaneously pushing them together. Turns out, Flint actually is da Vinci and Brahms (I was afraid of this), as well as Methuselah, Merlin, Solomon, Alexander the Great, Lazarus of Bethany, and probably a bunch of other people, too. Rayna, meanwhile, is a robot. Flint has been trying to create himself the perfect woman and has been using Kirk to “wake up” Rayna’s emotions, since she’s pretty non-responsive to Flint’s kisses. (Frankly, she doesn’t seem that into Kirk, either, and who can blame her? Even for TOS, their love story is absurdly paced here.) 

Flint briefly miniaturizes the Enterprise and plans to kill our OT3, but that angers Rayna, who discovers her true nature and has a lovely moment of self-empowerment, realizing she makes her own choices and no one can tell her what to do. Unfortunately, trying to A) adjust to these newfound emotions, and B) choose between two men she loves equally is too much for Rayna’s poor female robot brain, and she dies. (Or, as Spock puts it: “The joys of love made her human, and the agonies of love destroyed her.” FFS.) Flint lets them go, I guess, and everyone on the Enterprise is cured, although Kirk is too busy moping about the 90th love of his life to give a shit. He falls asleep, wishing he could forget, and Spock (after a brief discussion with Bones, who also wishes Jim could forget—but nevertheless takes the time to needle Spock about his inability to love because that’s Bones for you) unilaterally decides to mind meld with a sleeping Kirk and steal his memories of Rayna away. Holy unethical bullshit, Batman! 

There’s just . . . I really don’t have anything positive to say here except that it’s kinda cool to see James Daly as Flint, I guess, because he’s Tim and Tyne Daly’s father. (Also, his outfit is hilarious, as all TOS outfits are.) Otherwise . . . yeah. I’ve never been very into historical retcon tropes like Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, and this one is particularly ridiculous, cause like, come on, Flint is ALL these guys? This is absurd. Did humanity even accomplish anything, or was it all just this one motherfucker? Then we’ve got the love story, which . . . look, insta-love is nothing new for Trek, but this is especially egregious. Kirk’s acting like he’s been in love with Rayna for the better part of a decade; it’s actually been less than four hours, which we know because anything more than that, and everyone on the Enterprise would be dead. That’s the kind of plot clock that should give this episode some tension, but totally doesn’t because Kirk is too busy giving laughable speeches about love to remember his people are dying. (It would also help if we saw any of our regulars sick. Hell, even a handful of extras in Sickbay would do.) Then we’ve got Rayna’s death, which is infuriating: it’s more of TOS’s logic bomb nonsense, but with the added insult of equating romantic love with humanity, which, gah. And then Spock just up and psychically assaults his BFF? Like with good intentions, sure, but still—in the wise words of Jake Peralta—cool motive, still murder.

Chief Asshat: All of them.

MVP: Louise Sorel, who plays Rayna. Rayna deserves fix-it fanfic immediately.

Grade: Pistachio

Line of the Episode: “I am close to experiencing an unaccustomed emotion.”

“The Way to Eden”

Star Trek GIF by HULU - Find & Share on GIPHY

Christ, it’s all downhill from here, isn’t it? 

On the upside, I’ve seen GIFs from this episode for years now and am delighted to finally have an explanation for the unlikely jam session seen above. Also, I’ve learned that an early rejected draft of this episode introduced Bones’s daughter, Joanna, a character I’ve only ever come across in Alternate Original Series fanfic, so that’s kind of neat. On the other hand, whew, The Enterprise vs. A Cult of Space Hippies is painful, and it’s painful for a lot of reasons. Uhura’s absence doesn’t even make the Top 5, but it’s still weird as hell to see some white blonde lady at her station. 

Our heroes chase down a stolen shuttle. It’s about to enter Romulan space and, more urgently, explode, but luckily the thieves are beamed aboard before that can happen. The thieves—henceforth known as the SHC or Space Hippie Cult—are a group of young people who reject technology and authority and otherwise want to live free. They also wear sorta-futuristic hippie clothing, use a bunch of future slang that I don’t buy, and sing about fucking everything. Under the direction of their leader, Dr. Sevrin, the SHC are searching for Eden; unfortunately, Sevrin is a carrier for some disease that came about from creating artificial atmospheres? Like, you can see why the guy’s bitter about technology, but he’s also 100% willing to risk infecting/killing anyone he comes across, and if he did successfully settle on a planet without the proper vaccinations/medicines, he could easily spread a whole ass plague. So, fuck this guy.

Usually, Kirk is the one to wax poetic about living the simple life, so you’d think he’d be the most sympathetic with the SHC; instead, it’s Spock because he . . . apparently relates to their feeling of alienation? Oh, that feels like a stretch. Maybe if the hippies were actually thoughtful, well-rounded characters and not easily-led, cheerfully obnoxious idiots. At any rate, the SHC quickly manages to take over the ship, partially because Chekov used to date one of them, Irina, and accidentally tells her how—whoops—but mostly because it’s absurdly easy to take over the Enterprise whenever the plot calls for it. FFS, their whole plan to free Sevrin from isolation?

A) Put on a little concert
B) Blast the music ship-wide
C) Wait for the security guard to sway around, distracted by the groovy song, before knocking him out.

That’s it. That’s the whole plan, and  it’s even stupider because it works. (On the upside, it’s nice to see someone besides Kirk have the Romance of the Week—even if Chekov is a whiny jerk the whole time.) At any rate, the SHC once again heads through Romulan space on their way to Eden, but don’t worry; this will come to absolutely nothing. Instead, our hippies steal a shuttle and land on a planet that appears to be paradise— only all the plant life is full of acid, and not the fun kind. One hippie, Adam, dies from a bite of poisonous fruit; truly, this is a subtle episode. Kirk and co. save the rest of the SHC except for Sevrin, who’d rather die than return—or possibly has just convinced himself that he’s meant to survive. (Sevrin is diagnosed as insane, but mostly, dude just seems like an asshole willing to delude himself and others because he can’t afford to back out now.) Sevrin bites into a fruit and dies. Bye, terrible man!

Chekov and Irina fondly say goodbye, which is a nice moment except how it makes very little sense. Chekov’s been a sullen shit this whole episode, but after Irina’s leader tried to murder him and everyone else, he likes her again? Two of Irina’s friends are dead, Eden was a massive bust, and she’s heading off to face presumably criminal charges, but she’s feeling warm and flirty? God, who wrote this?

Chief Asshat: Sevrin, although I also wanted to throw things at Chekov.

MVP: Oh, definitely Nurse Chapel. She’s in this episode for about five seconds, but the way she says “you’re next” to one of the space hippies like she is absolutely 100% done with their shit? It’s a thing of beauty.

Grade: Pistachio

Line of the Episode: 

“Be incorrect, occasionally.”
“And you be correct.”
“Occasionally.”

“The Cloud Minders”

Star Trek Spock GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Okay! Okay, this is better. Perfect, no, but it’s not crushing my goddamn soul, at least.

A botanical plague threatens to wipe out all vegetation on this planet, endangering the lives of everyone there. The Enterprise goes to a different planet to pick up some zenite, the only cure; unfortunately,  the landing party is attacked by a group of Troglytes who live and work in the mines. They’re rebelling against the rich people who live in Stratos, a city in the clouds where art is the chief occupation and violence has (supposedly) been eliminated. High Advisor Plasus and his daughter Droxine believe the Troglytes must remain in the mines, providing a vital function for society, as they’re much too inferior and ignorant and violent to live in the clouds. Bones then discovers the Troglytes are considerably more violent and less intelligent, but it’s because the zenite they’re mining emits a hazardous gas in its raw form. Kirk tries to warn everyone and trade the zenite for a bunch of filter masks, but nobody believes him. Finally, Kirk manages to convince Vanna (the Troglyte leader) when he and Plasus try to kill one another under the influence of the gas. Our heroes get the zenite, Vanna vows her people will now make real political change, and Droxine (apparently) sees the error of her ways and goes off to live amongst the miners for a while.

I primarily associate cloud cities with The Empire Strike Back, so it’s kind of neat (and slightly hilarious) to see one here that predates the film by roughly a decade. Trek costumes are always delightful, of course, and this episode is no exception. There are some decent lines here, and examining a dystopian society feels much more on brand for Star Trek, rather than, say, “annoying young hippies . . . but in space!” I’m not terribly convinced the hazardous gas is necessary, or at least I think the story would be much stronger if we learned that Plasus had known about it all along and done nothing to help. But it doesn’t bother me so much because it seems pretty clear that Plasus would continue to do nothing if his hand wasn’t being forced.

My biggest criticism is Droxine’s redemption. (Well, that, and how Spock apparently just up and tells her about pon farr, because I guess that’s not a secret anymore?) While Plasus is almost hilariously sneery, Droxine strikes me as much more terrifying because she’s all delicate and ethereal and “innocent.” While arguing with Vanna, Droxine isn’t sneering as she says horrible things like, “Your eyes are not accustomed to light, as your minds are not accustomed to logic.” She’s saying them in a girlish and reasonable tone, like of course the Troglytes don’t need or deserve sunlight; of course they can’t think like civilized people do. That’s just how it is and, more importantly, how it should remain—which is way more disturbing, as it’s very much how racism in the real world can sound. And it’s interesting, too, because when Spock has a (pretty random) voiceover, wondering if Droxine could “retain such purity and sweetness” while being aware of the miners’ misery, we soon get our answer: Droxine already does know, and she’s totally fine with it—which is to say, she’s a shitty, hateful person. But since she’s very pretty, I guess, she gets a totally unearned change of heart at the end of the episode, presumably because she has a crush on Spock, and he disapproves of illogical things like ‘prejudice’ and ‘gross inequality.’ It’s disappointing, to say the least.

Chief Asshat: I supposedly Plasus wins because he does torture Vanna. Wait, no, Droxine is there for that, too, and actually argues that Troglytes don’t understand anything but violence, so. Yeah, they’re both the worst.

MVP: I actually do like Jeff Corey, the actor who plays Plasus. His line delivery when he argues in favor of torture’s effectiveness is great. Still, I might go with Vanna (Charlene Polite) here. She does betray Kirk, but it’s not like she has much reason to trust him. She’s also the reason Kirk survives his kinda terrible ‘I’ll poison us all to make them believe me’ plan. And I like that she genuinely cares about her people. (According to IMDb, Fred Williamson—who I know best as Frost from From Dusk Till Dawn—is one of her fellow Troglytes, which I thought was pretty neat.)

Grade: Vanilla

Line of the Episode: 

“What would Troglytes do here?”
Live. In the sunlight and warmth as everyone should.”

TV Superlatives: September, October, November – 2022

Well, it’s December. December can encompass many things, of course—holidays, cold weather, bemoaning the inevitable and inexplicable passage of time. Currently, for me, it means isolation and mucus because, yep, Covid-19 finally caught up to me. (Hopefully, I’ll be feeling better by the time I actually post this.) Today, though, is not about sickness but television, specifically, TV Superlatives!

If you read this blog with any regularity, you probably already know that I have two modes of TV Superlatives: Ridiculously Long or just Unnecessarily Long. Today, we’ll be going Unnecessarily Long; in fact, for me, it’s practically brief. This is partly because I’m low on energy and partly because—as is often the case in autumn—I haven’t been watching that much TV lately. But here is a list of everything I have been watching (and in some cases, abandoning) over the past three months:

Star Trek: Lower Decks (Season 3)
Harley Quinn (Season 3, Episodes 8-10)
Running Man (Episodes 76-88 and 619-630)
Only Murders in the Building
The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time
The Zone: Survival Mission
Last Week Tonight (Season 9, Episodes 23-30)
Link: Eat, Love, Kill
Star Trek: TOS (Season 3, Episodes 13-18)
Los Espookys (Season 2)
Floor is Lava (Season 3)
Nailed It! (Season 7)
Young Actors Retreat
Wednesday
Adamas (abandoned, possibly for good)

I’m only going to talk about a handful of these shows today, considering roughly half this list is made up of variety programs and the like. You should be pretty safe on spoilers, too, since I’m too lazy to create a Spoiler Section right now. (Unless you check out the links, that is. Some of the links do have spoilers, so beware!)

With that all said, let’s get to it.

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2022: Award Eligible Work and Recommended Short Fiction

Christ, it’s that time again already. 2022 has been a wild year for me. I had my first short story collection come out! I got nominated for my first Shirley Jackson Award! I can’t honestly say I expect to receive any nominations in 2023, particularly since so much of my recent work isn’t freely available online, but what the hell, right? I’m excited about the work I’ve done this year, so I’m gonna talk about it for a bit—feel free to scroll on down, should you get bored—before jumping into a list of the awesome short fiction that I’ve been reading. (Don’t scroll past that, though! There are some excellent stories here that you should check out if you haven’t already.)

In regards to my own 2022 published work:

YOU FED US TO THE ROSES

My debut short story collection out now from Robot Dinosaur Press! Starting with “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future,” which appeared in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and ending with “Forward, Victoria,” a recent finalist for the Shirley Jackson Awards, this collection contains ten contemporary dark fantasy and horror stories. Some pretty amazing writers have said such lovely things about it, too, writers like Damien Angelica Walters, Kristi DeMeester, Premee Mohamed, and more. And Publishers Weekly called it a “grim and enthralling collection” that would appeal to fans of Carmen Maria Machado and Angela Carter. So, you know. I’m kinda proud, all in all.

15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook” – You Fed Us to the Roses – October 2022 (about 5800 words)

If people only read one story of mine this year, this would be the story that I’d choose.

You Fed Us To The Roses is mostly made up of reprints, but I wrote “15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook” specifically for this collection. (It will also appear in PseudoPod at the end of December as part of their ongoing 2022 Anthologies and Collections spotlight, which I’m very excited about.) This story is pretty obviously inspired by my love of TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Teen Wolf, and is very much about death anxiety, though I like to think there’s a certain amount of hope in there, too. You might like this one if you enjoy poetry, unconventional eulogies, angst, humor, and stories about the emotional costs of repeatedly saving the world/losing the people you love, all while you’re supposed to be studying for physics.

An Atlas of Names and Footprints and Thoughts Unsaid” – IZ Digital – September 2022 (about 5900 words)

Ah, my queer fantasy/western romance between an ace monster hunter and her fashionable lady detective partner. This story is a bit of a personal one, and I must admit that I’m rather fond of it, especially since the road to getting it published was long and fraught with form rejection. I wish it was available to read for free, but if you are interested in checking it out, a one month subscription to IZ Digital will allow you access to it and any other IZ Digital story. You might like this one if you enjoy F/F romances, friends to (non-sexual) lovers, mutual pining, weird westerns, cultural anthropology, detectives, blood storms, and happy endings.

ETA: Gareth Jelley from IZ Digital has graciously allowed me to post the password (CjrF!re945dfKjQwG) so that you can read “An Atlas of Names and Footprints and Thoughts Unsaid” for free right now!

You Can Have the Ground, My Love” – Classic Monsters Unleashed – July 2022 (about 2300 words)

2020 was a shit year for obvious reasons, but it also happened to be my personal Year of Monsters, where I watched a bunch of classic Universal horror movies and reviewed them here on MGB. Bride of Frankenstein gave me a Lot of Feels—justice for the Bride! Murdered because she just wasn’t that into a strange man abruptly fondling her hand like a weirdo!—so when the call for this anthology went out, I knew I had to try for it, especially with such a fantastic lineup of authors, like, damn. You might enjoy this one if you like stories about resurrection, defiance, murder, living dead girls, aromantic heroines, and women who take charge of their own narratives.

Tiny Little Wounds” – Nightmare – October 2022 (about 780 words)

My creepy little flash fiction about ghosts, exorcisms, and skin-picking. This is a bit of a personal story for me, too, if I’m being honest, and it was super exciting to be a part of Nightmare’s tenth anniversary issue. You might enjoy this one if you like stories about compulsion, trauma, and the wounds that linger even after surviving the monster.

Stringy” – Apex – September/October 2022 (about 250 words)

Finally, my tiniest and most murdery of stories! “Stringy” was inspired by my love for haunted houses and won Apex’s Holidays Horrors contest, which was a delightful surprise. You might enjoy this one if you like pumpkins, blindfolds, grim discoveries, and spooky tales that take less than a minute to read.

In regards to eligibility . . .

YOU FED US TO THE ROSES is eligible for Best Collection for The Shirley Jackson Awards and The Bram Stoker Awards.  Every story listed is eligible for Best Short Story in the Nebulas, Hugos, Shirley Jackson Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy, etc—except “An Atlas of Names and Footprints and Thoughts Unsaid,” which—as a fantasy/western/romance—isn’t a particularly good fit for either Shirley Jackson or Bram Stoker.

With that out of the way, let’s continue. In no particular order, here are . . .

MY FAVORITE SHORT STORIES AND NOVELETTES OF 2022

1. “You, Me, Her, You, Her, I” – Isabel J. Kim – Strange Horizons

I’ve always found myself drawn to stories about identity, particular when it comes to artificial intelligence. There’s a lot to love about this one—the beginning, the ending, the quietly gorgeous prose throughout—but one thing I especially enjoy is that this isn’t a story about wanting to become human. Our MC might be imitating their host, but they never try to become her; rather, this a story about self-discovery, about creating memories, creating art—and then taking ownership of those creations.

You are not here to be faithful. You are here to be adequate.

2. “Lay My Stomach On Your Scales” – Wen-yi Lee – Strange Horizons

Okay, this story is fantastic. It’s about adolescence and body dysmorphia and slowly growing to see the worth in your own flesh; it’s also about penanggalan and stealing body parts and the friendship that forms between two monster girls. One scene in particular gave me some serious junior high flashbacks. Sometimes, it’s easier—sometimes it’s safer—to be a monster than a teenage girl.

I become forty eight kilograms lighter when I detach my head from my body.

3. “Douen” – Suzan Palumbo – The Dark

A dark and lovely story, though that’s hardly a surprise. I’ve yet to come across anything by Suzan Palumbo that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. “Douen” is a story about a lonely, dead child who desperately misses her mother, a child who gradually becomes more and more monstrous as she watches the world move on without her. The ending, in particular, is especially wonderful. It didn’t quite go where I expected, and I loved where it went instead.

I was standing behind one of de concrete headstone watching Mama and all meh aunties and uncles bawl. I cry too, because I didn’t remember how I get there and I didn’t want to be dead.

4. “The Many Murders of the Self” – H. Pueyo – The Dark

This is a phenomenal story. It’s also easily the darkest story on the list, so please pay attention to the content warnings because this one hits hard like a brick to the chest. The writing is gorgeous and pulls no punches. There is approximately zero room for hope, but it is also psychological horror at its finest and deserves to get all the acclaim and award nominations.

The first one to die is the little girl.

5. “If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You” – John Chu – Uncanny

Oh, this is excellent. I mean, just the title alone is excellent, but also a gay superhero romance! Or rather a gay superhero/gay bodybuilder-and-musical-theater-actor romance. It’s a very fun novelette and a very funny novelette (I will confess that I had to Google “Tom of Finland” to get the reference), but it also seamlessly discusses protests and police brutality and violence against Asian Americans. I haven’t been as into superhero movies as I used to be, but this is definitely one I’d watch in a hot second.

He grins when my gaze meets his. I may have inadvertently attracted the attention of a god.

6. “Requiem for a Dollface” – Margaret Dunlap – Uncanny

Listen, I apologize for making the comp that probably everyone makes while talking about this story, but “Requiem for a Dollface” is like Toy Story noir, which means that it’s fucking amazing. It’s a very quick read, only about 1500 words, and goes from “darkly hilarious” to “sweetly melancholic” to “oh, shit, CREEPY” in the blink of an eye. Friends. Darlings. I think I’m in love.

Not every child loved their toys gently. That was life.
This was murder.

7. “Dissent: A Five-Course Meal (With Suggested Pairings) – Aimee Ogden – Lightspeed

What a powerhouse of a story, particularly considering it’s not even 800 words. This flash fiction gives us glimpses of a queer woman’s life as she goes through protests, prison, health care insecurity, and more. The five-course meal structure works really well here, and the story ends on a lovely moment of bittersweet hope.

It’s too late in the meal for slogans.

8. “Choke” – Suyi Davies Okungbowa– Tor.com

There’s a lot of easy, relatable humor in this story (free food is a special kind of delightful, and watching Leverage reruns on Friday nights-in is absolutely the way to go), but “Choke” is also excellent at slowly ratcheting up the unease and tension as a dinner party for international college students soon grows from awkward and uncomfortable to creepy and surreal. Spectacular stuff.

No three words will make you congeal faster than Let us pray.

9. “The Pennyfeathers Ride Again” – L Chan – The Dark

Once again, I am helpless for an L Chan ghost story. This is also a siblings story, a story about creepy dolls, a story about bespoke exorcists—I mean, need I go on? I feel like I’m listing a few of my favorite things here, Julie Andrews style. The only criticism I have  is that I want more stories immediately. A Pennyfeathers novel would make for an excellent Christmas present, that’s all I’m saying.

William Pennyfeather was years dead, opened up from thigh to chin by something in the haunted underground of Holborn Station. Until an hour ago, this had been the most traumatic experience of his existence.

10. “Bonesoup” – Eugenia Triantafyllou – Strange Horizons

Finally, we have this lovely and utterly morbid delight. “Bonesoup” is a dark, modern fairy tale with a grandmother who shows her love with food, a granddaughter who’s yearned to eat what all the other children eat, and the terrible things people are willing to do to nurture and protect their family. Tender, dark, and beautiful.

In Greece, we have a saying: You must eat the body part you want to grow stronger. Or maybe that’s just something my grandmother used to say.

As always, I read far too many fantastic stories this year—not to mention how many more out there I missed—so here are a bunch of fantastic Honorable Mentions.

So You Married Your Arch Nemesis . . . Again” – Merc Fenn Wolfmoor – Lightspeed
The Clockmaker’s Daughter” – Tobi Ogundiran – Lightspeed
The Weight of It All” – Jennifer Hudak – Fantasy Magazine
Apolépisi: A De-Scaling” – Suzan Palumbo – Lightspeed
Plausible Realities, Improbable Dreams” – Isabel J. Kim – Lightspeed
Of all the New Yorks in all the Worlds” – Indrapramit Das – Tor.com
The Travel Guide to the Dimension of Lost Things” – Effie Seiberg – PodCastle
The Application of Strawberry Lip Gloss in a Low-Gravity Environment” – R J Theodore – Lightspeed

That’s it for this year! Though I do apologize to all the December writers—I’ve had a December story, myself, and am familiar with how much that can suck. If I come across anything else that I particularly enjoy, I’ll do my best to tweet/post about it. (Presuming all my various social media accounts survive, which is a big assumption these days.) Meanwhile, Happy Thursday and feel free to rec any short stories that you enjoyed in the comments!

World’s Worst Trekkie: The Mark of Gideon, That Which Survives, and The Lights of Zetar

“The Mark of Gideon”

Star Trek Spock GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

(I usually try to get GIFs or videos from the episode in question, but I’m having difficulty with that lately,  so the excellent Swear Trek will have to do!)

Like a lot of TOS episodes, “The Mark of Gideon” starts out really fun, and then just kinda . . . falls apart. The Enterprise orbits the planet Gideon for some “join our cool Federation” negotiations. Only Kirk is allowed to beam down, though; once he does, he mysteriously goes missing, ending up on a duplicate Enterprise with a bruise on his arm and a small gap in his memory. Excellent! The only other person aboard is Odona, who says she has no memory of how she got there. Meanwhile, Hodin (the Gideon leader) won’t let anyone beam down to search for Kirk, and Starfleet Command orders Spock to play along, even though they know Hodin is behind Kirk’s abduction. Spock isn’t allowed to interfere unless he has definite proof that Jim is in imminent danger.

It turns out that the people on Gideon are functionally immortal: they live an extremely long ass time, have an ability to regenerate, and live on a planet with absolutely no germs. Since they apparently don’t believe in contraception (life is sacred, gah), Gideon is suffering from critical overpopulation. The Gideons kidnapped Kirk specifically for his blood, so they could inject it into Odona and hope she dies from some terrible sickness that Kirk once had. (Odona, BTW, is Hodin’s daughter and a willing participate in this whole experiment). They also hoped that Kirk would fall so hopelessly in love with Odona that he’d agree to stay behind on Gideon and spend the rest of his life giving a fatal disease to anyone who wants it—which, IMO, is not exactly a foolproof plan. Spock goes against Stafleet’s orders and rescues Kirk, Kirk saves Odona despite the fact that she chose to die, and Odona survives to fulfill Kirk’s role of infecting anyone who wants to sacrifice their lives.

The initial mystery is pretty entertaining, and there are a few moments here or there that I enjoy: Scotty’s indignation on behalf of the Enterprise, David Hurst’s performance throughout the episode. But the writing is pretty bad, and it’s pretty bad in multiple ways. Overpopulation anxiety is . . . fine, I guess, but one of the reasons it exists at all is because humans don’t have anywhere to go if we overrun Earth; this is not a problem for people in TOS, where there are thousands of cool places to explore, not to mention a deserted, livable planet for every five you come across. No one would have to engineer a whole ass alien plague if some of the people on Gideon just moved. (It’s also pretty hard to take overpopulation seriously when it’s represented by roughly 12 people wearing hooded unitards bumbling around a room, like, I know Season 3 had basically five bucks for a budget, but damn.)

Starfleet’s decision to ignore Kirk’s kidnapping also makes no sense because this episode never bothers to establish why Gideon is so important to the Federation. Maybe they’d be willing to sacrifice a legendary starship captain if Gideon had, say, a fleet of planet-killing starships or if dilithium crystals grew on trees there, but as presented, this is just nonsense. Likewise, Spock’s cynical dialogue about diplomacy feels deeply inauthentic. Leonard Nimoy’s line deliveries are beautifully disdainful, but from the bottom of my soul, I do not believe that Spock would bitch about diplomats only being useful to prolong a crisis. There’s a real world cynicism on display in this episode that just doesn’t feel true to the characters or institutions of the story. Combine all that with the usual BS romance and the complete lack of consequences for Spock disobeying Starfleet, and . . . yeah, this isn’t one of my favorites.

Chief Asshat: Hm. Hodin, I suppose, but there’s certainly an argument for that shitty Starfleet admiral.

MVP: David Hurst, who gives a very solid performance despite the weak material. (The serious moments are good, but I particularly like him when he’s being infuriating and hilariously snotty.)

Grade: Rocky Road

Line of the Episode: “Very well, then. You shall test the skill of your very excitable repairman.”

“That Which Survives”

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This episode begins with the Enterprise coming across a “ghost planet,” that is, a planet which doesn’t fit any proper categorization and basically defies all the laws of science. Kirk, Bones, Sulu, and Soon-To-Be-Dead D’Amato happily beam down to investigate. Their good cheer does not last, partially because they immediately get stranded on the planet while the Enterprise gets knocked across space, partially because Losira (Lee Merriweather, AKA Catwoman!) keeps popping up to murder people left and right, and partially because, IDK, someone pissed in everyone’s replicated Corn Flakes, I guess? Kirk snaps at Sulu multiple times for no reason; Bones also cuts off Sulu once, and Spock, well, he’s a pedantic asshat to basically everybody he talks to: Scotty, M’Benga, Uhura, etc. (Uhura, at least, gives Spock a Look, which I definitely appreciated.) This is the second episode in a row where Spock’s dialogue has come across as surprisingly inauthentic, like, being a dick is one thing, but Spock is weirdly over literal here, in a way that just doesn’t ring true for his character at all. He kinda feels like a Spock written by somebody who’s heard about TOS but never actually seen it.

“That Which Survives” is an okay episode. Weird planets are fun, and I like Lee Merriweather. The mystery surrounding her character is intriguing: why is she killing people, why can she only hunt one person at a time, all that “I am for you” stuff, etc. (Plus, she’s got a fun outfit and fantastic eye shadow; I’d cosplay her in a hot second if I was a more confident person.) I’m happy to see Sulu have something to actually do for once, although the fanfic writer in me is dying for some post-ep H/C goodness here—like, disrupting/exploding all the cells in one’s shoulder should probably have some lasting effects, yes?) I also enjoy seeing Scotty literally reversing the polarity to save the ship, as well as M’Benga’s return. And there’s an Indian lieutenant with a bindi who has actual lines and everything. (It’s really cool for about two seconds, until you realize that Lt. Radha is definitely being played by a white woman.)

Unfortunately, the mystery does kinda fall apart for me at the end. It turns out that all the people who once lived on this artificial planet died, and Losira is basically just an old super computer defense system, which isn’t terrible; it’s just that we’ve done this sort of thing before. Plus, it doesn’t really explain Losira’s whole “I am here for whoever” bit—a defense system that can only attack one specific person at a time does not strike me as particularly well considered. (Yes, yes, she eventually multiplies, but not until the end of the episode and is pretty easily defeated, besides.) Also, Spock’s constant pedantry gets pretty annoying. I like that he refuses to sacrifice Scotty, and how he points out that Losira’s beauty wasn’t what made her remarkable (unlike Kirk, Bones, and Sulu, who all keep pointing out how gorgeous she is whether it’s relevant or not—it never is), but man, Spock feels off, and it gets very grating after a while.

Chief Asshat: Spock, although I wanted to slap Kirk around, too. You don’t get to be snippy to my man Sulu, Kirk. That is not allowed.

MVP: Probably Lee Merriweather, who I think does the absolute most she can with kind of a limited role.

Grade: Vanilla

Line of the Episode: 

“Question is, why are you alive?”
“Captain, I’m happy the way it turned out.”

“The Lights of Zetar”

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The Enterprise is on its way to drop off new equipment to Memory Alpha, which is basically a whole ass Library Planet. (Okay, fine, a Library Planetoid. Still.) This is awesome for multiple reasons: one, a whole ass Library Planetoid, and two, Memory Alpha is the name of this excellent Star Trek wiki which I reference all the damn time. Lt. Mira Romaine is onboard to supervise the equipment transfer, and—very unfortunately—she and Scotty are in love. I say unfortunately because despite being extremely competent 99% of the time, Scotty is apparently the Absolute Goddamn Worst when he falls in love, completely unable to prioritize, do his job, or answer basic questions. Also, it’s important to know that while Mira has both a name and a rank, rarely does anyone but Scotty actually use it. She is continuously and maddeningly referred to as “the girl” by everyone—or, in Scotty’s case, “the lass.”

The Enterprise encounters a very strange, very colorful phenomenon—let’s call it Space Fireworks—that incapacitates everyone in different ways. Mira is the only one who gets hypnotized, though, and weird sounds come out of her mouth after she collapses. She’s also unreasonably agitated by her mandatory checkup in Sickbay, but Scotty decides it’s just nerves because this is Mira’s first deep space assignment. Soon, the Space Fireworks appear again, this time attacking Memory Alpha. Everybody on the planetoid dies, and the memory archives are completely destroyed—a tragedy that is noted once and then never mentioned again. Mira has a psychic vision of the corpses (I swear to God, I initially thought one of them was a werewolf), but even when she finally tells Scotty, he insists that it’s just Space Hysteria, or whatever, and that she’s under no obligation to tell anyone else. I want to murder him. I want to cut his heart out with a spoon.

Turns out, the Space Fireworks are actually the last survivors of Zetar—or what’s left of them, anyway. (Kinda like TNG’s “Power Play!” Okay, not really—those guys were prisoners—but still. I’m having a lot of TNG nostalgia here, maybe because the aliens’ voices also remind me of Possessed Troi in “Clues.”) Communicating through Mira (which Spock unnecessarily explains for the audience—it’s an embarrassment), we find out that the aliens are looking for a compatible corporeal host, and that they’re fully prepared to kill everyone if they don’t get it. To their credit, though, our heroes never suggest giving up on Mira, and even more refreshingly, Mira doesn’t offer to surrender herself, either. I genuinely like the moment when she says, “Life was given to me. It is mine. I want to live it out. I will.”

Scotty puts Mira in a pressure chamber, which kills the aliens, and the day is saved. It’s decided that Mira doesn’t need any additional time off for further medical or psychological evaluation (Mira, herself, doesn’t seem to have any voice in this decision), as she fought back well against psychic invasion, and also because’s Scotty’s love will undoubtedly help her recovery. FFS. Instead, they head back to Memory Alpha because Mira’s got a lot of work ahead of her—the understatement of the fucking century, since the computers are apparently forever fucked and everyone there is dead, but you know. Let’s not worry about that now; this is Holy OT3 Banter Time!

Chief Asshat: Scotty, no question.

MVP: . . . I think I’m giving MVP to the Space Fireworks. They’re hilarious and delightful.

Grade: Rocky Road

Line of the Episode: “Somehow, I find transporting into the darkness unnerving.”

Horror Bingo 2022: Nope

Roughly a week and a half after Halloween, Horror Bingo 2022 has finally reached its conclusion, with our last movie being Jordan Peele’s Nope. Which means—

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—I won! I mean, Marisa won, really, but in the battle of the St. George Sisters, I PREVAILED. Horror Bingo 2022 Queen for me! I need to get myself a sash and a bottle of champagne immediately. Well. Okay, I’m not that into champagne, but I’d totally take a sash and a bottle of Martinelli’s.

We’ll get to our brief Horror Bingo wrap-up in a little bit, but first let’s discuss our final movie.

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Horror Bingo 2022: Ring

I saw The Ring (the American remake) back when I was in high school, but I never got around to watching the original Japanese film. I’d always had some interest, though, and when I recently found out that Hiroyuki Sanada was in it, I decided to add Ring to the Horror Bingo pool.

It’s more of a slow burn mystery than I (vaguely) remember the American remake being, but I had a decent time watching it.

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