The Hill We Climb

“The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it—if only we are brave enough to be it.”

Amanda Gorman

Earlier today, Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States of America, took his oath of office on the U.S. Capitol Building steps. One of the guests who spoke was 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. A recording of her reciting her poem, The Hill We Climb, can be view above. It’s a stunning piece of verse that confronts the tumultuous experiences of the last several weeks and hints at the possibility of a new start and a fresh beginning. For me, it was one of the highlights from the whole ceremony, and I’m glad to know it’ll go down in the annuals of American history.

Featured Photo: Amanda Gorman ’20, the first Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, is pictured in Harvard Yard at Harvard University. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer – Found over on PBS.

Raunch Review: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

Raunch Review: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.

 Raunch Review: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

The Author: Glen A. Larson

Work in Question: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

The Profanity: “Felgercarb”

By this time, I’m sure it’s no secret I’m not a fan of Battlestar Galactica’s previous attempts at fantastical cursing. It’s lazy and really nothing more than a censor slip. And while it’ll never score high around here, it’s become kind of a mantra for the show, gracing everything from t-shirts to stickers to novelty mugs. “Frak,” whether I like it or not, is here to stay. But this wasn’t the only pseudo-off-color word in the Battlestar Galactica universe. In the 1978 series, there was another word that at least tried, and for that, I have to give the writers a little more credit.

The word “felgercarb” shows up a few times—sometimes said in the show as “feldergarb” depending on the actor—it’s an expletive whose origins are either mild or more severe depending on your wiki or discussion board of choice. The most common description is that it serves as a replacement for “crap” within the Colonial vernacular. (Funny how fictional vernacular only seems to have replacements for very specific and convenient profanity.) At its core, it’s another censor slip from a show that helped define the censor slip—but, while I do think it’s overly flamboyant and an awkward mouthful, it’s at least trying a bit harder than “frak.” A little more drift, or perhaps a simplified version, would have helped its cause. You can hide censor slips within lore. So while it scores a little better than “frak,” I don’t think “felgercarb” is going to run away with any major awards here.

There is a fun little nod to the word in the reimagined series, with “felgercarb” being a brand of toothpaste from Tauron. But, now understanding a little more about the word’s history, you have to ask the question: is Felgercarb Toothpaste actually a brand one would want to use?

Final Score: 2.0

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews

Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made-up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.

Jean Paul Sartre

The Absurdity of Their Replies

“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”

Jean-Paul Sartre

Come Hang out with Me at #TBRcon

Come Hang out with Me at TBRcon

2021 is upon us, so let’s start it off right by hanging out #TBRcon21 talking science fiction, fantasy, and horror at a safely-socially-distant online convention! David Walters of FanFiAddict has assembled an incredible slate of authorial talent for a week’s worth of panels all streamed on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook. I’m going to be participating!

It’s also totally free! Instead of charging for tickets, TBRcon will be raising money for three great charities Shelter, No Kid Hungry, and the World Wildlife Fund. So make plans to attend. There’ a lot going on. You can check out the full schedule and donate to the charity of your choice over on the TBRcon21 landing page.

What will I be doing?

On Tuesday, January 26th at 1:00 PM (PST), join me, M. R. Carey, Lee C. Conley, Andy Davidson, Jonathan Janz, and Tim Meyer as we discuss writing horror today compared with writing horror in the past, what it takes to scare a reader, and what actually scares us horror writers in the “But, What Scares YOU?” panel.

Tuning in is super simple, just use one of the links below during the convention and enjoy the live stream.


See Full Schedule

There’s a lot more than just my panel as well. I’ll absolutely be checking out the “World-building and your place in it,” “Sensory Details in SFF,” “History in SFF,” and I’m stoked to see the panel with all of the recent SPFBO finalists. TBRcon should be a good time. I am looking forward to it. So mark your calendars, dear readers. Synchronize your watches! I’ll see you later this month.

Want to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information. Sign Up Today→

My Reading List for 2020

My Reading List for 2020

It’s no secret 2020 has been a challenging year. While upon reflection, I found it to be surprisingly full, like many of us, I still spent the majority of my time at home. One benefit of our new socially-distant stay-at-home culture was the amount of reading I managed to accomplish. Just like previous years, I’ve compiled a list of the books I’ve read over the last three hundred and sixty-six days, and as always, I want to share them with everyone.

This year was hit-or-miss for me reading-wise. There were books I loved and many books I ended up loathing. I found books I know I will re-read and proselytize, but they were often mirrored by other books I hate-read. I also found myself reading a few histories for pleasure, not something I normally do, and I dipped into science fiction much more than in previous years. Audiobooks (🎧) used to be the mainstay of my daily commute, and this year they became the soundtrack to housework. Not a bad tradeoff. Oh, and as always, I beta-read a couple of great books, and I’m excited to see where those go in the future.

This list correlates with my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge, but it always includes a few extra since Goodreads doesn’t let me count beta reading, and I don’t list comics or short stories or poetry (new this year!) over there. Remember, this is all strictly reading for pleasure—I typically forgo listing any research/history books I’ve read for a project as I read those differently than I do fiction. This list is always enormous, so l skip reviews except for my favorites in each category. However, I’d invite you to follow me on Goodreads, where I occasionally leave other reviews.

New for this year: with a few exceptions, most links now go to IndieBound instead of Amazon—2020 has been rough on small businesses, and now more than ever, be sure to support your local bookstore. When possible, I am now linking to each author’s personal website—if you’re on the list and I didn’t find your website, please let me know about it. (I won’t link to social media, sorry.)

📚 Novels & Novellas

  1. Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1)
    by Rebecca Roanhorse
  2. Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1)
    by Tamsyn Muir
  3. City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1)
    by Cassandra Clare
  4. Prosper’s Demon
    by K.J. Parker
  5. The Crimson Campaign (The Powder Mage Trilogy #2) 🎧
    by Brian McClellan
  6. Jade War (Green Bone Saga #2)
    by Fonda Lee
  7. Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)
    by Martha Wells
  8. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland 🎧
    by Patrick Radden Keefe
  9. The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War 🎧
    by Joanne B. Freeman
  10. They Mostly Come Out at Night (Yarnsworld, #1) (Link goes to Amazon)
    by Benedict Patrick
  11. Frank on a Gun-Boat
    by Harry Castlemon
  12. A Head Full of Ghosts
    by Paul Tremblay
  13. On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)
    by David Weber
  14. The Reign of the Kingfisher 🎧
    by T.J. Martinson
  15. RADIO
    by J. Rushing
  16. Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)
    by William Gibson
  17. The Fireman 🎧
    by Joe Hill
  18. The Cipher
    by Kathe Koja
  19. The Mist
    by Stephen King
  20. Control Point (Shadow Ops #1)
    by Myke Cole
  21. Blood Standard (Isaiah Coleridge #1)
    by Laird Barron
  22. City of Miracles (The Divine Cities #3)
    by Robert Jackson Bennett
  23. The Iron Ship (The Gates of the World #1)
    by K.M. McKinley
  24. Vita Nostra (Metamorphosis Cycle #1) 🎧
    by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko
  25. Thieftaker (The Thieftaker Chronicles #1)
    by D. B. Jackson
  26. BETA READING (Literature)
  27. Circe
    by Madeline Miller
  28. Terrier (The Legend of Beka Cooper #1)
    by Tamora Pierce
  29. Red Storm Rising 🎧…. again.
    by Tom Clancy
  30. The Only Good Indians
    by Stephen Graham Jones
  31. Clutter: An Untidy History
    by Jennifer Howard
  32. The Half Killed
    by Quenby Olson
  33. The Toll
    by Cherie Priest
  34. Jurassic Park …again.
    by Michael Crichton
  35. Seveneves  🎧
    by Neil Stephenson
  36. Night of the Mannequins
    by Stephen Graham Jones
  37. In the Valley of the Sun
    by Andy Davidson
  38. Foundation (Foundation #1)
    by Issac Asimov
  39. Consider Phlebas (Culture #1) 🎧
    by Iain M. Banks
  40. BETA READING (Historical Horror)
  41. The Worm and His Kings
    by Hailey Piper
  42. Wake of Vultures
    by Lila Bowen
  43. Metro 2033 🎧
    by Dmitry Glukhovsky

🏆 Favorite Novel of 2020

In the Valley of the Sun

by Andy Davidson

This sun-baked vampire horror set in Texas unexpectedly became a new favorite. A surprisingly tense, character-focused narrative. Brutal. Anguished. Tormented. Bloody. Lyrical in ways that remind me of Cormac McCarthy without the weight. It’s not shy of confronting the cracked ugliness of humanity and finding the beauty between the fissures. Davidson is an incredible writer, and I immediately purchased his more recent novel after finishing In the Valley of the Sun. We need more horror like this.

🏅 Favorite Novel Runners-up of 2020

RADIO by J. Rushing


by J. Rushing

A jazz-infused, opium-soaked, historical fantasy that explodes from the opening chapter and never relents until its final pages. A thoroughly fresh debut that’s unlike anything I’ve read before. Rushing brings his unique, well-researched world of 1920s Paris to life with a captivating voice. Don’t expect a saccharine overly-romantic version of Paris; this is a stained, broken, and bloody place—a welcome addition to modern fantasy literature. Jim’s a friend of mine, so be sure to read my interview with him.

City of Miracles

by Robert Jackson Bennett

In recent years, the Divine Cities have become one of my favorite urban fantasy series, mostly for its fresh approach to the genre, atypical characters, and serious exploration of themes oft-ignored within mainstream fantasy. With City of Miracles, Bennett wrapped up the trilogy with a heartbreaking yet thoroughly satisfying ending. This story is a bit tighter and more focused than the previous two while wrapping up various loose ends rather nicely. It’s rare to find a final book in a series that resonates with me as much as City of Miracles did—it’s easily my favorite book in the trilogy.

🎈 Honorable Mentions of 2020

I started doing Honorable Mentions in 2018 so I could highlight some of the other standout novels from my year of reading. Below you’ll find many more excellent books, I’ve listed them in order of reading.

📜 Short Stories

  1. An Inhabitant of Carcosa …again.
    by Ambrose Bierce
  2. And Now His Lordship is Laughing
    by Shiv Ramdas
  3. How the Trick is Done
    by A.C. Wise
  4. The Yellow Sign …again.
    by Robert W. Chambers
  5. Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the
    Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island

    by Nibedita Sen
  6. Give the Family My Love
    by A. T. Greenblatt
  7. The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power
    by Karen Osborne
  8. The Masque of the Red Death …again.
    by Edgar Allen Poe
  9. The Repairer of Reputations …again.
    by Robert W. Chambers
  10. Paper Menagerie
    by Ken Liu
  11. Seasons of Glass and Iron
    by Amal El-Mohtar
  12. Tideline
    by Elizabeth Bear

🏆 Favorite Short Stories of 2020

The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power

by Karen Osborne

Generation ship! Class struggle! Religious ritual! Rebellion! Murder! Control! The complexity told within this genre-mashup was astounding. Such a rich world crafted in a way that feels effortless while maintaining a rich narrative was impressive. It’s no secret I’m drawn to stories that are hard to pigeon-hole into a specific genre, and that is fully represented here. Well worth a read.

🏅 Favorite Short Story Runners-up

Paper Menagerie

by Ken Liu

This heartbreaking story about magical origami, cultural identity, and family was the first piece of fiction to win a Hugo, a Nebula, and a World Fantasy Award. And after reading it, it was easy to see why. Touching and reflective. A masterwork of speculative short fiction.

💥 Graphic Novels

  1. Preacher: Book One
    by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)
  2. Saga, Vol. 8
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author) & Fiona Staples (Artist)
  3. Preacher: Book Two
    by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)
  4. Once & Future, Vol. 1
    by Kieron Gillen (Author), Tamra Bonvillain (Artist), & Dan Mora (Artist)
  5. American Vampire, Vol. 2
    by Scott Snyder (Author) & Rafael Albuquerque (Artist)
  6. Paper Girls, Vol. 2
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Cliff Chiang (Artist)
  7. Preacher: Book Three
    by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)
  8. Die, Vol. 2
    by Kieron Gillen (Author) & Stephanie Hans (Artist)

🏆 Favorite Graphic Novel of 2020:

Preacher: Book One

by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)

I didn’t expect to like Preacher. I bounced off the series hard when I was younger, writing off Ennis as a “blasphemous shock jock” and nothing more. But revisiting it as a middle-aged adult revealed a different sort of comic. The offensive transgressive material is still there, but beneath it is something much more—a book with more heart and humanity than one would be able to judge by its surface and laced with merciless satire that still rings relevant twenty-five years later.

🏅 Favorite Graphic Novel Runner-up of 2020:

Paper Girls, Volume 2

by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Cliff Chiang (Artist)

Volume 1 nearly made my runner-up list last year. On the surface, it’s a time-jumping story about a group of friends caught in the middle of a future war. But beneath those sci-fi trappings, there is so much more here. It’s a book about being a kid and the expectations therein, complications with friendship, and the complexities of growing up. The characters are fantastic, and the story moves along at a clip, making it impossible to put the trade down. I’m ready for volume 3.

🎭 Poems

So this year, I’m including some of the poems I read in 2020. I hinted at doing this last year. But this is really a trial run. In reality, I read more poems than listed below, but I didn’t do an outstanding job keeping track of them. Because this is the first time for poetry on this list, I’m going to skip picking a favorite. Hopefully, I’ll be back on track next year.

  1. Small Kindnesses
    by Danusha Laméris
  2. The Peace of Wild Things
    by Wendel Berry
  3. Beneath the Sweater and the Skin
    by Jeannette Encinias
  4. The Woods
    by Melanie Batista
  5. I Confess
    by Alison Luterman
  6. The Waste Land …again.
    by T. S. Eliot
  7. Near a Raven
    by Mike Keith
  8. Insha’Allah
    by Danusha Laméris
  9. We Lived Happily During the War …again.
    by Ilya Kaminsky
  10. Christmas Greetings to Felis …again
    by H. P. Lovecraft …again.
  11. Passing Solstice
    by Ken Hada
  12. Winter Solstice
    by Hilda Morley
  13. Childhood Memory from the Old Victorian House on Warner
    by Beth Cato
  14. Raw With Love
    by Charles Bukowski

So that’s my reading list for 2020. It’s been an interesting year in reading for me. As promised, we now have a poetry section, and I hope to expand that in the future. There are some great poems there, so be sure to explore them further. Despite my ups and downs, I’m overall quite happy with the books, stories, graphic novels, and poetry I read over the last twelve months. They were excellent distractions from the chaos of the year, and it was refreshing to lose myself in other worlds. 2020 will be behind us soon, and I am looking forward to the worlds I’ll discover in 2021.

How about you? What were the standout books, graphic novels, short stories, or poems you read this year? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know!

Are you looking for a good book? Want to see my reading lists from previous years? Check any of the links below and see what I was reading in the bygone days of old.

 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 20182019

Next year, why not join me? Goodreads does a reading challenge every year, and I am an active participant. First, follow me on Goodreads (leave me a review while you’re there), and once the New Year arrives, participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2021.

Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. Alexander

Want to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Old Haunts — Vignettes and Visions from the City of Lovat

Old Haunts: Happy Auseil

📍 Hickman-Franklin Warren
🌃 Level Three
🕝 Early Morning

“The rattle of holiday decorations added to the din. It was Auseil, sometimes called Bresh in the inner Territories. The month-long winter holiday, a time of feasting, drinking, celebration, and remembrance. Decorated five-limbed branches hung from ceilings or were mounted above doorways festooned with twinkling lights. Families wrote the lyrics of the traditional Zann hymns—ancient accounts of the Aligning—on long strips of paper and sealed them around doorframes with brightly colored wax. They were said to bring fortune and good luck, something Lovat could use these days. The strips of colorful paper moved and twisted in the breeze, giving the whole city a strange quavering appearance. They tore from their seals and danced down the street, creating a constant rain of inadvertent confetti.”

—Waldo Bell, Red Litten World

Visit Previous Haunts:
Study Related Ephemera:
Explore Distant Margins:


Auld Lang Syne performed by the Westminster Chimes (1908), written by Robert Burns

Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. Alexander

Want to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →