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!

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.

Continue reading

Horror Bingo 2022: Poltergeist (1982)

Friends, enemies, random passersby, the end is in sight! I have two more reviews to write (not including this one), and then Horror Bingo 2022 will finally come to an end. (I’d hoped I’d be able to finish up this week, but alas, that was not meant to be.)

Today’s film is a horror movie classic. It is also, hilariously, the only horror movie I liked as a child—hilarious because I did not like most scary things until junior high and usually ran to my room to play whenever any movie frightened me.

Tobe Hooper Poltergeist GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Poltergeist, though? Poltergeist, I liked.

Continue reading

Now Available at Nightmare: “Tiny Little Wounds”

I have a new story out today!

Tiny Little Wounds” is a flash fiction about exorcism, trauma, hauntings, and compulsion, and I’m pretty excited to see it in Nightmare’s 10th anniversary issue, especially alongside fantastic writers like A.C. Wise and Spencer Ellsworth. If you like creepy bitesized horror about what happens after surviving a possession, you might enjoy checking this one out. (CW: skin-picking.)

Unofficial Radiohead Pairing: “Everything in its Right Place”

Horror Bingo 2022: The Black Phone

Now that October is upon us, Horror Bingo has officially begun! (Don’t know what Horror Bingo is? Find out here—and join in, if you’re interested in playing! It’s my very favorite kind of entertainment: a little spooky and deeply low stakes.)

While I typically review three movies at a time, I’ve decided to go one by one again this year. Which means that today we’re just gonna focus on our first film, our free space movie: The Black Phone.

You Are Fabulous Ethan Hawke GIF by Regal - Find & Share on GIPHY

You know, this was a pretty solid way to get the Halloween season started.

Continue reading

TV Superlatives – June, July, August – 2022 – PART II

Hello again! It’s time to dive back into TV Superlatives, this time with ALL THE SPOILERS. (You can check out Part I if you missed it.) Here’s a quick reminder of all the shows I’ve been watching this summer:

Obi-Wan Kenobi
Another
Floor is Lava (Season 2)
Last Week Tonight (Season 9, Episodes 13- 22)
Running Man (Episodes 63-75 and 606-618)
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Stranger Things (Season 4, Volumes 1 and 2)
Evil (Season 3)
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
Tomodachi Game
The Great Shaman Ga Doo Shim
Inspector Koo
Harley Quinn (Season 3, Episodes 1-7)
The Sandman
Soundtrack #1
Adamas (Episodes 1-10)
KinnPorsche (abandoned)
Baking Impossible (abandoned)
Resident Evil (abandoned)

Again, SPOILERS abound in this post. We’re gonna start off real light (the first award barely even counts as a spoiler, honestly) and then bounce straight into character deaths, so please do scroll with caution.

Continue reading

TV Superlatives: March, April, May – 2022

Well. I’ve definitely been ignoring my blog lately. This is partly because of travel and partly because of writing, more specifically, because I started work on this fanfic that, Jesus Christ, has exploded into a novella-length monstrosity and has taken over my entire life. Which means I’m well past due for my Spring TV Superlatives, among other things. Unfortunately, I’m still trying to catch up on a bunch of shit and also, really didn’t watch as much TV as normal, so today we’ll be doing Modified TV Superlatives. (Don’t worry. I’ll still manage to make this post at least 1000 words longer than it needs to be.)

Here’s a list of everything I’ve been watching (and in some cases, abandoning) over the past three months.

The Guest
Running Man (Episodes 50-62 and 594-605)
Last Week Tonight (Season 9, Episodes 3-13)
Our Flag Means Death
The Crowned Clown
Tomorrow (abandoned, may return to)
Vincenzo (abandoned, may return to)
Moon Knight (abandoned for good)
A Black Lady Sketch Show (Season 3)
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (abandoned, will return to)
Star Trek TOS (Season 3, Episodes 4-12)
Nobody Knows
Don’t Call It Mystery

Today, we’ll briefly discuss most of these shows. (Not all. I’ll probably ignore the ones I gave up on.) You’ll be safe on spoilers unless you venture into the clearly marked Spoiler Section, where you will definitely see me rant about certain character deaths because gah. STILL so annoyed about it.

But that’s for later. For now, let’s begin with . . .

The Guest

Creepiest Moment; Most Horrifically Tragic Character; Longest Previously On; Grand Prize for Survival (TIE); Worst Plan (TIE)

A priest, a cop, and a psychic taxi driver walk into a ghost-infested bar . . .

I’d been meaning to check out this Korean supernatural horror-drama for a while now, and overall, I had a pretty good time watching it. (I wish I could find a decent trailer to link to, but it’s proving difficult. This FMV captures the tone and visuals pretty well, though, and I don’t think there are any big spoilers?) I do wish Kang Gil Young (Jung Eun Chae, AKA, the cop) got a little more to do in the Big Finale. And I probably wouldn’t recommend this one if you’re looking for something, you know, upbeat and lighthearted? Like, The Guest is all exorcisms and ghostly possessions and childhood trauma. (A few of my favorite things!) Not to mention, seriously, Most Horrifically Tragic Character can definitely apply to more than one person. I do think one character wins the tragedy competition, but it is, admittedly, debatable.

Still, if you’re in the mood for something a little creepy and a lot angsty with a bit of mystery and some fun side characters (Detective Go Bong Song is precious to me), you might enjoy this one.

(Also. I am not kidding about those Longest Previously Ons. Holy shit. I just clicked on a random episode to time this segment, and it was literally two minutes long.)

Our Flag Means Death

Favorite Canon Ship; Favorite Kiss; Favorite Individual Song (TIE); Favorite New Show (TIE)

Now if you do need something a little lighter and adorable, and you’re also a fan of queer pirates and shenanigans (and who isn’t), Our Flag Means Death might be more your thing. I generally enjoyed the first few episodes well enough (generally, because awkward comedy can be rough for me), but I was definitely sold in “Discomfort in a Married State” when Blackbeard and Stede meet for the first time. Taika Waititi is awesome in this, I adore his cute chemistry with Rhys Darby, and I am just so here for the actually canon Blackbeard/Stede ship. These two have so many cute moments—the wardrobe swap, the foot touch (spoilers in this clip, but also, God bless any movie or show that uses Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”), THE KISS. This show has a pretty great support cast, too; I’m particularly fond of Jim, Oluwande, and Lucius.

Thank God HBO Max finally renewed OFMD for Season 2, cause otherwise, there was gonna be a riot. (Seriously, dudes. No need to wait for Pride next time. Don’t torment us like this; it’s cruel.)

Running Man

 Best Dance Scene; Favorite Betrayal; Best Product Placement; Favorite Scene Stealer

Just assume that I’m always watching this show. We literally have it on twice a week: Thursday is Classic Running Man Day and Sunday is Current Running Man Day. It is my silly time, and I need it, damn it.

Things this show is pretty much always good for: hilariously blatant product placement (in one episode, even the producer starts laughing and tells Jae Suk and Jong Kook to stop overdoing it), silly dances (So Min and Ji Hyo’s birthday dances for Jong Kook are fun, but Sexy Security Guard obviously wins ALL the awards—he needs to come back immediately), and betrayals (the face Jong Kook makes in one episode when Jae Suk betrays him, holy shit, I was dying). Ah, this show makes me so happy.

The Crowned Clown

Happy Korean Drama GIF by Eccho Rights - Find & Share on GIPHY

Favorite Sidekick; Favorite REVEEEEENGE; Favorite Holy Shit Moment; Most Unexpected Tears; Best Death; Worst Death; Favorite New Show (TIE); Favorite Individual Song (TIE); Worst Plan (TIE)

Oh, man. This show. This show. With a few notable exceptions, I’m not generally drawn to doppelgänger and identity swap stories, but I got super invested in this one: the characters, their relationships, the badass moments, the plot twists, the absolutely lovely score (my favorite song might be “The Way of Truth,” but it’s a very hard call, like, “Before Fall Down” is pretty amazing too, not to mention, uh, every other song). And the fantastic acting, my God, especially by Yeo Jin Goo and Kim Sang Kyung. NGL: I mostly checked this show out to see Yeo Jin Goo play batshit crazy—and whew, he does it well—but watching him flip back and forth between Yi Heon, Ha Seon, and Ha Seon pretending to be Yi Heon is especially a treat. And Kim Sang Kyung is wonderful here, too, particularly as we watch Lee Gyu’s dynamic with both Yi Heon and Ha Seon shift over time. There’s this one scene, especially, that just . . . oh, oh, my heart.

Really, though, this whole supporting cast is excellent. I enjoy Lee Se Young as So Woon (restrained, dignified, very different from her delightful role in A Korean Odyssey) and Jang Gwang as Eunuch Jo (I would die for this old man; his relationship with Ha Seon is so sweet). There are our villains: Jang Young Nam as the Dowager Queen (man, I love this actress, the notes she hits when she’s enraged) and Kwon Hae Hyo as Shin Chi Soo (this fucking guy, I swear to God). And I can’t forget about Yoon Jong Seok as Officer Jang, either (quiet badass, and cool to see in a more substantial role after a small part in The Guest). Truly, there is so much good about this show, so much to recommend . . .

. . . but by God, I hate the last 15 minutes so much . . .

List Use GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Meet me in the Spoiler Section, The Crowned Clown, because boy . . .  we’ve gotta talk.

A Black Lady Sketch Show

Most Welcome Return; Favorite Opening Credits

Man, I wish this show had longer seasons. Six episodes is not enough! I was super happy to see A Black Lady Sketch Show come back, mostly because this show is a delight, but also because I’m always excited to hear the new theme song and see the new opening credits. (They change every season.) These opening credits, in particular, are great because they vary a little bit with each episode. Like how Skye Townsend is playing “the rich jilted bride” in Episode 1, but by Episode 6 has become “the rich jilted bride who just committed murder but has no regrets because she killed for righteous reasons including exposing her now dead fiancé as the man who accidentally ran over Robin’s leg at her inaugural parade in the Maldives.” I mean, that’s perfection. No notes.

Moon Knight

Moon Knight Disney GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

Most Unintentionally Hilarious Moment

. . . so, despite the fact that this show is only six episodes total, we gave up on it just two episodes in. Much as I like Oscar Isaac, Moon Knight just didn’t do much for me at all. I’m only bringing it up now because holy shit, that time when Ethan Hawke speaks “Mandarin,” like . . . let me tell you, I 100% do not speak Mandarin, watching a couple of C-dramas does not make me an expert on literally anything related to Mandarin, and even I was like, ” . . . are you shitting me?” If you’d given me three guesses on what language Ethan Hawke was speaking in that clip, Mandarin would not have been any of them. FFS, Marvel. Hire some people for this shit, Jesus.

Star Trek: The Original Series

Star Trek Slapping GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Best WTF Moment, Worst WTF Moment, Most Historically Relevant Moment, Character Who Most Deserves a Better Show; Worst Plan (TIE)

I know I’ve taken a hiatus—again—but I really am going to finish watching TOS sometime this year. In the meantime, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is extremely notable, not only for broadcasting the very first interracial kiss between a Black/white couple, but also for containing the Best and Worst WTF Moments, all in one episode. (The best, obviously, is the GIF above—good for every occasion—while the worst is when Michael Dunn rides on Kirk’s back like he’s a pony. Seriously. WTAF.)

Meanwhile, I just so desperately wish the supporting cast in TOS got, like, subplots and actual shit to do. I know this was the 1960’s, and it was legitimately a big deal to even have, like, a Black woman or a Japanese character onboard. I’m not arguing that, just, I want so much more from Uhura and Sulu. I want more of everyone, really, that isn’t in our Holy OT3, but Uhura and Sulu especially. You two deserve more than this!

Nobody Knows

Favorite Bromance; Most Improved Character; Favorite Like-a-Parent & Child Dynamic; Favorite Kicked Puppy Face; Favorite Plot Twist; Grand Prize for Survival (TIE); Favorite Individual Song (TIE)

I randomly stumbled across this show while browsing Pinterest, of all things, and decided to check it out, partially because I’m a sucker for a good mystery, and partially because of the support cast: I’d just enjoyed watching Jang Young Nam and Kwon Hae Hyo in The Crowned Clown, and had also recently seen Ahn Ji Ho and Yoon Chan Young in All Of Us Are Dead.

I do think the first half of this show is stronger than the second (where I feel like the mystery gives way to a slightly weaker cat and mouse thriller), but I still really enjoyed watching this one. There are some clever plot twists, a fantastic score (unfortunately, most of my favorite instrumentals—including “Grandfather Clock” and “The Long Sleep”—aren’t available on Youtube, but “The Secret Not Revealed” definitely got stuck in my head a lot),  and excellent acting all around. I really like Kim Seo Hyung as Cha Young Jin, our kickass female lead detective; she’s no-nonsense, clever, and goddamn, that woman gets me whenever she cries. I really like her relationship with Eun Ho. Actually, I really like all the kids quite a bit. Naturally, I enjoyed all the cast I was already familiar with—it was almost funny, how bad I felt for Kwon Hae Hyo after hating his character so much in The Crowned Clown. I also really liked Ryu Deok Hwan as Lee Sun Woo and Park Hoon as Baek Sang Ho. Sun Woo is such a delightful scamp, but also constantly looks like he’s on the verge of tears, like, you just want someone to hug this guy. Meanwhile, Sang Ho is, well,  one crazy motherfucker. (I actually have seen Park Hoon before in Descendants of the Sun, but I remember so little about that show; it only exists in my brain as a vague montage of Song Joong Ki, tears, and an improbable number of emergencies.)

Don’t Call It Mystery

Favorite Non-Canon Ship; Favorite Hair; Worst Hair; Worst Plan (TIE)

This quirky Japanese detective show was Mek’s pick, and for the most part, I had a lot of fun watching it. I like Totono as our lead Sherlock. He’s a college student with just the most amazing hair, a serious appreciation for food, and a deep reluctance to solve mysteries for the police department, even though they keep coming to him and interrupting his dinner. Poor Totono. He so rarely gets to eat his curry.

Don’t Call It Mystery has a pretty lighthearted tone, overall, but there are some surprisingly serious and affecting moments, and I definitely found myself invested in the (presumably non-canon) ship of Totono/Garo. (Although my God, Garo needs to fix his hair, STAT.) I’d be happy to be wrong, BTW, about the non-canon thing. It is possible; I’ve never read the manga. Mostly, I’m just hoping we aren’t actually going forward with a Totono/Furomitsu ship. In fact, if we could just kill off this one-sided thing Furomitsu seems to have for Totono, that would be great, too. In general, I would like Furomitsu to get an upgrade in Season 2 (assuming there is one), because even her subplot in the bonus episode doesn’t quite work as well as I’d like. (She gets a friend, who is fantastic; I 100% approve of New Lady Cop and their dynamic in general. But Furomitsu’s plans leave something to be desired, and the Lesson she supposedly learns, well. Without spoilers, let’s just say that I remain unconvinced that she actually demonstrated learning anything, no matter what the other characters insist.)

Finally, before spoilers . . .

Legends of Tomorrow

Most Painful Cancellation

You may have noticed that Legends of Tomorrow wasn’t on my Shows I’ve Been Recently Watching list, and that’s because I fell behind on Season 7 and haven’t yet caught up. I’ll admit, I wasn’t feeling the beginning of this season quite as much as seasons previous, and thus it fell by the wayside when I got busy. Still, I was absolutely planning to catch up because Legends is charming and ridiculous and laugh-out-loud funny, and unlike pretty much every other CW superhero show I dropped, I really wanted to see this one through.

Only then in May I found out that the show had been cancelled, which sucks for all sorts of reasons but especially because I’m pretty sure it ends on some kind of (now forever unresolved) cliffhanger, and I’m trying to decide if I even want to bother finishing it, if we’re only gonna end on some terrible, unhappy note. CW, you absolute bastards. I saw that awful, AWFUL Gotham Knights trailer. You’re cancelling my beloved Legends for shit like THAT? Unacceptable.

And now, let us continue into the . . .

SPOILER SECTION

SPOILER SECTION

SPOILER SECTION

SPOILER SECTION

I wanna wrap this up, so I’m only gonna talk about a couple of the shows that I mentioned before. First, let’s discuss . . .

Nobody Knows

Favorite Plot Twist; Grand Prize for Survival; Favorite Bromance; Most Improved Character

So, Eun Ho is a fifteen-year-old kid who ends up in a coma after mysteriously falling from the roof of a ten-story hotel. Of course, that’s far too high a fall for anyone to reasonably survive in real life, but Plot Contrivance is a powerful god, Eun Ho was definitely on the roof at some point, and salvation is a Big Damn Theme in this show, so sure, it was possible that Eun Ho had actually fallen from the roof . . . and yet, I wondered. Was Sun Woo’s disbelief that Eun Ho survived not just honest shock but also foreshadow? Was Sang Ho pushing that “miracle” narrative a touch too hard? Eun Ho falls, certainly, but was it possible that he actually fell from somewhere else?

It turns out, yes on all counts! Eun Ho, being chased by Sang Ho’s people, finds himself trapped on the roof and uses the emergency ladder to try and escape—but he only gets roughly halfway down before one of the bad guys gets hold of the rope and starts hauling him back up. Desperate, knowing that being captured will mean certain death, Eun Ho does the only thing he can think of—he jumps, trying to escape. Which means his survival is still pretty miraculous, considering that fall,  but not quite so damn impossible. It’s really a clever and nicely executed twist.

Also, I just need to mention that I became so damn invested in the unlikely friendship between Eun Ho and Dong Myung, Dong Myung and Min Sung, and just all three of these kids together. I adore sullen but sweet Dong Myung, sweet but frustrated Eun Ho, and, er, sweet-post-redemption Min Sung. This kid definitely improves over time. Another character who improves over time is the one total jerk cop on the team who apparently just . . . realizes he’s being a total jerk? And then, like, stops? It’s kind of neat, actually; I really ended up enjoying the dynamic of Young Jin’s team, especially once she starts actually being honest with them.

The Crowned Clown

Most Unexpected Tears, Best Death, Worst Death; Worst Plan

Before I get into extended ranting, let’s discuss the excellent death scene in this show. Actually, there are multiple good death scenes here—Lee Gyu is another very strong contender, sob—but nothing surprised me as much or hit quite as hard as Yi Heon. It’s a surprise partially because Yi Heon is a Big Deal Character, one of the two roles being expertly played by Yeo Jin Goo, a primary villain and a king gone mad. Upon starting this show, I certainly didn’t expect him to only make it halfway through before getting murdered—a surprise, but absolutely the right call.

But it’s not just the timing that’s a surprise. I was genuinely shocked by how heartbreaking this scene was. If you haven’t watched The Crowned Clown, let me tell you: Yi Heon is the actual Worst. I’m not saying he doesn’t have some cause, like, the kid has definitely had it rough: his dad never loved him, people tried to assassinate him, and advisors he should’ve been able to trust deliberately hooked him on opium and slowly drove him crazy. OTOH, dude becomes so monstrously paranoid that he orders the murder of his own adorable baby brother, like, seriously, this kid can’t be more than, IDK, 8? Yi Heon abuses his servants, orders his wife’s execution, and sometimes violently loses his shit and kills people. (Admittedly, not great people. Still, this man should not have access to a sword.) Trust me, we were rooting for Yi Heon to die during this show.

And yet when it actually happened . . . I mean, I wept. This scene is so heavy that Mek and I actually took a small break from the show. Yi Heon is so achingly vulnerable, so childlike, in this episode. The drugs have ravaged his body and mind to the point that he can barely hold a sword or feed himself; at one point, he barely seems to understand where he is. And then he’s betrayed ( justifiably so) by the only person that he trusts: Lee Gyu, his one loyal advisor since childhood, the man Yi Heon wishes was his own father. (You know, just to really dig that knife in.) The acting between Yeo Jin Goo and Kim Sang Kyung in this episode, just, gah. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s so GOOD.

Less great, unfortunately, is the death of Officer Jang and, generally, the whole ending of The Crowned Clown.

Okay, so. Here’s how this goes: in the last, say, 15 minutes of the show (give or take, I didn’t go back and count), when we seem to be at our relatively happy ending, Ha Seon has decided to abdicate the crown and go off to live in the countryside. For God knows what reason, he leaves the palace by himself, only Officer Jang knows that’s dumb, so he secretly sneaks out to protect him. Of course, Ha Seon is immediately set upon by a handful of enemies who stab him, and Officer Jang dies trying to protect his dumb ass. (It’s supposed to be worthwhile because we flashback to the moment when Officer Jang says that he wants to serve Ha Seon and die a glorious death while defending him, which, like. Technically? But writers, this is not a glorious death, especially considering he dies presumably thinking that he failed.) We then fast forward two years later and reunite Ha Seon (who survived, possibly—we’ll get there) and So Woon, who’s been waiting for him all this time. And . . . that’s it. That’s where the show ends.

And I’m like, okay, NO. Folks. Lovelies. I know I’ve ranted about many character deaths on this blog, but I haven’t been this unhappy about a lousy death scene in a long, long time. This is such a bullshit way to kill off an important supporting player. Unlike the other heartbreaking deaths on this show, Officer Jang goes out in such a shitty throwaway moment. The whole scene takes maybe less than a minute and feels incredibly tacked on for one last moment of cheap and unnecessary drama. The only consequence of this last minute attack is that it takes Ha Seon and So Woon a little longer to reunite. That’s it. That’s the whole reason Officer Jang gets killed. It’s so infuriating, especially because A) Ha Seon’s decision to leave alone is just unthinkably stupid, and B) the people who kill Officer Jang aren’t even cool villains! They’re just some nameless henchmen of the dead Queen Dowager, and FFS, there aren’t even that many of them! Officer Jang has definitely survived worse odds before, but now he bites it fifteen minutes before the credits roll? Nope. Fuck that. Don’t buy it at all.

It’s also worth pointing out that The Crowned Clown has a somewhat ambiguous ending because it’s been interpreted in one of two ways: either Ha Seon and So Woon reunite after Ha Seon nearly dies, OR Ha Seon also dies with Officer Jang, and his reunion with So Woon is actually in the afterlife. In which case . . . holy shit, that is not better. Not only is it a horrifically tragic and unnecessary twist to pull during the last few moments of a show, it also means that Officer Jang died for nothing. Seriously, NO.

I don’t regret watching The Crowned Clown, like, it legitimately became one of my favorite K-dramas, and I would still recommend it to people (with, admittedly, a pretty big caveat), but the way it ended . . . holy shit. Like, this honestly goes on my Worst TV Endings Of All Time list. Probably not as high on that list as other shows, say, Game of Thrones or Battlestar Galactica, but . . . yeah. It’s definitely on there.

Well, guess that’s it for now. Feel free to agree with me or argue with me or talk about the shows you’ve been watching in the comments, and I’ll be back with more superlatives in two or three months!

Now Announcing: You Fed Us to the Roses – A Collection of Short Stories Written By ME!

I don’t usually post much on the weekends, but I have a pretty exciting announcement today: Robot Dinosaur Press is going to publish my debut short story collection You Fed Us to the Roses on October 18th, 2022! It will consist of ten contemporary horror and dark fantasy stories, including one original that’s written exclusively for this collection.

You can read more about You Fed Us to the Roses here, including some early buzz (which, NGL, made my whole morning) and links for pre-order. Right now, pre-order is only available for the ebook version, but the collection will also be printed in paperback and hardcover as well, and I’ll update here when those links are ready.

Also, just. LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS COVER IS.

Evangeline Gallagher provided this gorgeous cover art, and if you have not had the opportunity to check out their work before, you should absolutely do so, because it is stunning. I feel so incredibly lucky that they agreed to this project, and am just as fortunate that Merc Fenn Wolfmoor (whose writing I’ve adored for years) acquired and edited this collection for Robot Dinosaur Press. Truly,  I’m feeling pretty blessed today.

Triple Scoop Review: Seo Bok, Scream, and Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

So, I’ve basically been ignoring movies in favor of marathoning television for the past three months, but hey! Here are a few films I’ve watched recently!

Seo Bok

Year: 2021
Director: Lee Yong Joo
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Viki
Spoilers: Not directly, I don’t think, but inferences can probably be made
Grade: Rocky Road

Whew. That was . . . yeah, a bit darker than I was expecting from a “jaded ex-agent has to protect the first human clone” movie. Although sometimes, that can be kind of a fun thing about watching foreign films: genre expectations are not necessarily universal, so sometimes, damn, you get a surprise.

Truthfully, I haven’t quite made up my mind about Seo Bok just yet. There are parts that I genuinely like. The acting, in particular: Gong Yoo and Park Bo Gum are  strong leads—I mean, obviously, they’re like 95% of the reason I watched this movie in the first place. I especially enjoyed Park Bo Gum, who was giving me some serious Hello, Monster nostalgia, but I was also happy to also see Jo Woo Jin (who I really enjoyed in Happiness) and Jang Young Nam (who I quite liked in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay). The action is fun. Some of the shots were rather lovely. Some of the thematic material works well for me.

However, not all of it does, and I’m still trying to pinpoint why that is, exactly. Admittedly, the basic thesis of this movie—we’re not meant to be immortal—has never been one of my favorite morals in the world. Still, I think my bigger problem isn’t so much the message but its execution. Seo Bok feels murky, convoluted. Too much going on and not nearly enough time to explore it. I often felt that characters—particularly the antagonists—were making decisions that felt nonsensical and inauthentic. Our heroes are essentially caught between dueling villains here, and I quite like the idea of that; however, that structure can go somewhat awry when you have villains with nebulous motivations making pretty dubious choices.

 Seo Bok is certainly not meant to be an upper; in fact, to me, it sorta feels like the nihilist answer to Space Sweepers. Still by the end, I feel like I was perhaps left with an even stronger sense of futility than the film actually intended. I don’t regret watching it at all, but I also feel like there’s a stronger story here, waiting to be whittled free.

Scream

Film Horror GIF by ScreamMovies - Find & Share on GIPHY

Year: 2022
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Paramount Plus
Spoilers: ABSOLUTELY
Grade: Chocolate

I admit, I was pretty excited when news of the latest Scream movie was announced, considering it’s probably my favorite horror franchise of all time, and I figured the guys who did Ready or Not might be a good fit for it. But I was also a bit nervous because, you know. It’s probably my favorite horror franchise of all time, and there comes a point when you just really don’t want to see certain characters die. For me, that specifically meant Sidney. I am emotionally invested in Sidney Prescott’s survival. Fortunately, I have good news: she makes it!

Overall, I enjoyed Scream. TBH, I enjoy all the movies in this franchise. Even Scream 3, which is probably the worst of the bunch, surprisingly has more to recommend than I’d initially remembered. Which isn’t to say I don’t have criticisms because, well. Me. My biggest problem here is that Melissa Barrera does very little for me as Sam. I wish I liked her more, I really do. I adored Jenna Ortega as Tara and spent the majority of the film wishing she was the primary Final Girl. Actually, I really like most of the cast. Jack Quaid being a villain isn’t exactly, er. Surprising? But I don’t even care because he’s hilarious, and I’ve really liked this actor in everything I’ve seen him in thus far. Also shoutouts to David Arquette, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Dylan Minnette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and Skeet Ulrich—but NOT to Skeet Ulrich’s CGI because good Christ, stop. Just stop.

And I really do love the idea of our Final Girl being cheered on by hallucinations of Evil Daddy Billy Loomis. The scene where Sam stabs the shit out of Richie is easily her best in the whole film. Still, I would’ve loved it so much more if I ever bought Sam or had any investment in her character. I also think Scream might have some second act problems, but I’m not quite sure yet where I think it missteps. I do feel like Tara’s friends get dropped too long, which makes the Amber reveal a little underwhelming. Wes and Judy’s death scenes are good, but feel a bit disconnected from the rest of the film. (I still can’t bring myself to give a shit about Judy, but I do feel sorry for Wes.)  And I’m still trying to decide how I feel about Dewey’s death. I don’t mind that it happened, exactly, just . . . it’s so obvious that he’s gonna die when he goes back that it ends up feeling like a stupid move to me. IDK. I’m still thinking on it.

(Also, FFS. Is the hospital a 9-5 gig? Where are ANY of the employees here? Or for that matter, other patients? Hollywood continues to drive me crazy with this nonsense.)

Overall, though, I was pretty entertained. I had fun guessing suspects and motives and how many killers there would be this time around. Toxic Fandom is the Real Killer here feels pretty apropos for this franchise, and almost all of the dialogue and in-jokes worked well for me. (Poor Courtney Cox is never gonna live those terrible bangs down.) I also enjoyed the step up in gore, and while I may find Sam very dull, I’m always happy to see sisters survive. (See also, Sidney and Gale—I know, not actually sisters—who I really liked in this movie.) I do wish Kirby had come back, but it’s nice that we got confirmation she’s alive! (Though I admit, I absolutely missed said confirmation when it happened.) This movie isn’t perfect, no, but compared to some other horror franchises and their dismal ass sequels? Yeah. The Scream movies still got it.

Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

Year: 2017
Director: Kim Yong Hwa
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Viki
Spoilers: Nah
Grade: Vanilla

So, this is a Korean fantasy-action film about a firefighter who dies and is escorted through the afterlife, facing seven trials in seven hells to see if he can be reborn. It’s a fun premise and an overall great cast with several actors I’ve enjoyed in other shows. Joo Ji Hoon from Kingdom. Kim Hyang Gi, who was (briefly) in Space Sweepers. I’m currently watching Kim Dong Wook in The Guest, and—like presumably many Americans—first saw Lee Jung Jae in Squid Game. Also D.O. (Hello Monster—yes, I know he’s also in EXO, but I know him from Hello Monster), Kim Soo An (Train to Busan), Ye Soo Jung (also Train to Busan), and a half a dozen other people I’ve seen pop up here and there. This is actually the first thing I’ve seen Ha Jung Woo in, but I enjoy him here, too.

My main problem with this film is easily Kim Ja Hong (Cha Tae Hyun), our firefighter, who is just . . . boring. He’s so boring, just zero personality whatsoever, and it feels like half his dialogue is incessantly calling after his mom. Literally everyone around him is much more interesting. My personal favorites are Joo Ji Hoon, who gives a very funny performance that’s wildly different from his work in Kingdom, Kim Soo Ann, because the God of Deceit is just the Best, and Kim Dong Wook, whose performance here alongside Ye Soo Jung provides the movie its heart. I’m probably supposed to feel moved by Ja Hong, too, but unfortunately . . . yeah, no. That’s partially because the character is so boring, but also because we learn some things about this guy that, well. I don’t want to get too deeply into spoilers, but let’s just say that the movie really wants me get into this heartwarming redemption, and I just couldn’t quite get there.

I do think the script could be tighter, and I wish the visual effects did justice to the premise (cause the CGI here is, uh, hilarious), but I also probably enjoyed the film enough to check out the sequel, especially since my least favorite character isn’t in it. Man. I wish that happened in more films. Like, give me Scream 6 without Sam. Or Guardians of the Galaxy 3 without Peter Quill, or Jurassic Whatever without Owen Grady, or . . . yeah, feel free to just pass up Chris Pratt at any opportunity in favor of Chris Pine, Chris Evans, or Chris Hemsworth, please and thank you.

2020: Award Eligible Work and Recommended Short Stories

Looks like it’s that time of the year again. Let’s go ahead and tackle my stuff first. I have two short stories eligible for award consideration:

Monsters Never Leave You” – Strange Horizons (June 29th, 2020)

I’m very fond of this story, but it was not an easy one to write. I went through several versions before this final one could be born, and I’m proud of how it ultimately turned out. TBH, I kind of wish more people had read it, so if you’re a fan of fairy tales, sibling stories, found families, living houses, domestic witchery, creepy trees, and/or dessert, I hope you consider checking it out.

Spider Season, Fire Season” – Nightmare (July 2020)

If you’re looking for slightly creepier fare, you might consider this short story instead. I wrote it shortly after the Kincade Fire, and structurally, it’s a bit of a switch-up for me. (Thematically . . . possibly not so much.) You may enjoy this one if you like ghost stories, found families, non-linear storytelling, California, violent comeuppance, and a bit of optimism in your horror.

Moving on now to some of my favorite short stories I read in 2020, in no particular order:

1. “One Time, A Reluctant Traveler” – A.T. Greenblatt (Clarkesworld)

Oh, this one is just lovely, a story about family and loss, history and survival, about taking all the tales you inherited and finding an ending of your own. It’s a quest story unlike any other quest story I’ve read, and that last line? Utter perfection.

If you must know, I left because if I stayed in Nat’s house one night longer, I was going to unravel, like a tragic traveler in one of my family’s tales. And that was a story I didn’t want to be.

2. “The Mermaid Astronaut” – Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

There’s a lot to recommend in this stunning blend of mer fantasy and space travel: the exquisite prose, the supportive relationship between sisters, the bittersweet resolution that doesn’t rely on a cruel twist. This isn’t a story that punishes our young mermaid for having dreams, and I really appreciated that.

“I don’t think it’s such an evil thing,” Essarala replied, “to want to see new worlds and taste their waters.”

“Evil, no,” the witch said. “Difficult, yes.”

3. “Open House on Haunted Hill” – John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots)

As is likely obvious from my own eligible work, I adore stories about haunted houses and/or houses that are otherwise alive. 133 Poisonwood Ave is definitely alive: sweet and lonely and longing for a family to live inside its walls. This one is heartwarming and an excellent comfort read.

All 133 Poisonwood has is a light touch, but it knows how to use it. Haunting is an art.

4. “Teeth Long and Sharp as Blades” – A.C. Wise (PseudoPod)

Maybe one of these years I’ll make a favorites list without an A.C. Wise story on it, but honestly? That just doesn’t seem very likely. This one is dark and fascinating and hooked me from the very first line. I mean, come on: “Have you ever thought about how fairy tale heroines are like final girls?” That’s basically ALL I think about.

This is my story, but when you hear it, I am irrelevant, a moral in the shape of a girl, an object to be acted upon.

5. “My Country is a Ghost” – Eugenia Triantafyllou (Uncanny)

A melancholy, gorgeous, and ultimately hopeful story about immigration, assimilation, family, and culture. So many of the lines in this one . . . I mean, damn. It’s an incredibly moving piece and an absolute must read.

When Niovi tried to smuggle her mother’s ghost into the new country, she found herself being passed from one security officer to another, detailing her mother’s place and date of death over and over again.

6. “The Sycamore and the Sybil” – Alix E. Harrow (Uncanny)

Look, I know envy is unseemly and all, but also, Alix E. Harrow’s prose is just unfairly beautiful. This story is about women and witches and surviving, until survival alone simply isn’t enough anymore, and if you haven’t already read it, well. Get to it, please.

Before I was a sycamore I was a woman, and before I was a woman I was a girl, and before I was a girl I was a wet seed wild in the hot-pulp belly of my mother. I remember it: a pulsing blackness, veins unfurling in the dark like roots spreading through the hidden places of the earth. You remember things different, once you’re a tree.

7. “Housebound” – Ao-Hui Lin (Drabblecast)

Oh, this story. I knew almost immediately that it was gonna kick me in the stomach, and sure enough, that’s exactly what it did. It’s disturbing and tense and made me positively seethe in fury. This story stuck with me well after I finished reading it.

The closet. It used to be here, through this door, under the stairs. Now there’s just a pit and bite marks on the door jamb.

8. “Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise” – Lauren Ring (Apparition Lit)

Clearly, I love a good time loop story, and this one is particularly fantastic. It’s the rare story where the protagonist doesn’t want to break free from her loop, which I found both original and extremely intriguing. Great concept, strong character work, and a spot-on ending.

Every day, it goes like this: I wake to golden light, with the surface of a star just beyond my wide viewport window. As the hours pass, a supernova forms, enveloping my little research vessel. I check my monitoring equipment, I eat my favorite meals, and then in the evening, I die. 

9. “A Moonlit Savagery” – Millie Ho (Nightmare)

Oh, this is a spectacular horror story, full of loneliness and betrayal and some particularly flavorful just desserts. It’s also my introduction to phi pop, which is very exciting; I want to read about ALL THE GHOSTS, especially the hungry ones.

“ได้,” I mutter against his skin, already dizzy with fantasies of splitting his ribs open.

10. “Dead Girls Have No Names” – Claire Wrenwood (Nightmare)

Finally, we have even more hungry dead in this excellent Frankenstein-inspired short story, where dead girls are stitched together by a mother bent on revenge. It’s dark and  poignant and powerful, and the ending is absolutely sublime. READ IT.

As the lid slammed shut, the truth of our new existence dawned: Never again would any mother name us or hold us or take this cold from our bones.

There in the terrible darkness, we tried to weep and discovered we could not.

That’s it for now. Happy reading!