Bill Steigerwald, circa 1953.

Bill Steigerwald, circa 1953.

Joe Steigerwald, circa 1993.

Joe Steigerwald, circa 1993.

fd3d8e72-7cd9-4d03-893a-bbaa852cc462-620x372Option one:

If You Looked at Renee Zellweger’s Plastic Surgery, You Need to See These Photos

Mic writer Eileen Shim gives a Renee Zellweger’s face click bait headline, then self-righteously shames you for daring to click on such an inconsequential story. You should care about Kurds fighting, space travel, etc.

You should care more about all those things, that real news, but somehow Shim’s presentation makes me want to go read TMZ like I never have before. Give me good, real news. Find a way for me to want it, if I don’t want it. But do not lecture me about news. And do not sneak it in like a dog owner hides a pill in peanut butter. If I wanted a filibuster about the importance of true journalism, I would watch The Newsroom.

Option two:

‘I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing’

Ponderous Verge writer Chris Plante cares not for science. He cares only for the fact that British rocket scientist Matt Taylor wore a garish, goofy “girly” shirt on television while discussing how he was going to (along with other scientists) put a God damned probe on a God damned comet.

Alright, Plante later admitted to being a bit excessive, yet cheered poor Taylor’s apology which came earlier today. Taylor might be a big old softy who was actually wounded at being accused of sexism. Or he was just bummed out that the gnats of the internet managed to swarm around and diminish his bad-ass day of SCIENCE. Certainly he had been experiencing some seriously keyed-up emotions and stress levels for several days. We don’t know exactly why he was so upset. We do know that Plante’s satisfaction was cold and creepy. And his conviction that the apology at least meant something good came of this was asinine. Yes, Taylor was bullied into an apology — that will teach him to never wear a quirky shirt designed by a rockabilly woman ever again. I am sure that means his eyes were opened about sexism.

Dear feminists, I may be more contrarian than average. But I strongly suspect I am not the only person completely repulsed by your petty myopia. I am not of the right, but you’re certainly not making liberalism or feminism anything I wish to be affiliated with.

Cream of the crop is option three:

‘Woman Gets Death Threats for Tweeting About Disliking A Dude’s Shirt’

This Jezebel post was so painfully wrong that a quick scan of the comments shows folks asking “uh, what death threats?” People were rude to the woman who originally expressed disgust over Taylor’s shirt. I especially dislike “kill yourself” as an internet insult — and it seems to be only gaining in popularity. But neither “kill yourself’ or “jump off a cliff” are death threats.

Not to mention, see the headline. See the fact that only the woman’s narrow focus is acceptable. She is allowed to be offended by a shirt, but the men aren’t allowed to be frustrated by the fact that someone is making a big deal out of a clothing choice. It may well be worse to experience sexism than to be accused of being a sexist. Yet, in order to accept that sexism is bad, men (or women) are not obligated to become prostrate at every accusation of it. They are allowed to fight back.

Death threats are garbage. Everyone should calm down about almost everything except the state. But try to actually include death threats in your piece which advertises that they occurred.

There are small issues to talk about in the world. I hate high heels. I wish women wouldn’t change their last names so often. But yet another thing that violates the sanctity of choose my choice feminism is how I wish that women (and their allies) would stop obsessing over and writing about things as small as a goofy shirt. Especially on a site which has expressed teenaged-style fawning over Barack Obama, while failing to mention his unfortunately less cute attributes like killing Pakistani children and spying on the media and public. Can we not go a little bigger than #shirtgate — without turning into the social good preaching of Mic? Can we not ever learn that powerful, arrogant people who feel as if they have a right to our lives are the enemy — not a badly dressed* British rocket scientist?

Or is it all about pageviews? Yeah, it is. Never mind.

[*11/15 edit: I think I like the shirt now, but it could just be spite. It’s very hard to tell.]

1024px-Map_of_USA_showing_state_namesThe most Montana thing I have ever done is be carried across a raging creek by a Missouri rancher who left the state on a bus when he was a teenager in the 1940s.

The most Tennessee thing I have ever done was eat Prince’s Hot Chicken, black-eyed peas, and potato soup on the same day I had moonshine and listened to a fiddle.

The most Virginia thing I have ever done is know my friend S.T. at all, and also to visit Confederate graves with him.

The most Maryland thing I have ever done is visit somewhere in Baltimore that wasn’t the Inner Harbor.

The most Nevada thing I have ever done is accidentally walk outside of a Vegas motel room while on the phone, then stare in horrified fascination at my instantly blackened feet.

The most Nebraska thing I have ever done is be bored by Nebraska and Kansas.

The most Colorado thing I have ever done is listen to “Hot for Teacher” while driving through the majestic Rocky Mountains and experiencing snow, rain, and sunshine in alarmingly rapid succession.

The most Texas and Georgia things I have ever done are both go to the airport. (That is also the most Germany thing I have ever done.)

The most West Virginia thing I have ever done is visit a yard sale being put on by fierce, mean-eyed folks who seem to have come straight down from the holler. They had nothing to say to our kind, and no salesman or woman politeness to offer. When mom and I finally left, an old man sitting on a nearby porch gave us a curt, yet strangely sympathetic nod and wave.

The most Kentucky thing I have ever done is buy Everclear for $7.99.

The most California thing I have ever done is be born in Hollywood Memorial Hospital.

The most Ohio thing I have ever done is be an asshole.

The most North Dakota thing I have ever done is be cold as hell in Fargo on a bus.

The most Wyoming thing I have ever done is be unable to find a place to sleep.

The most Utah thing I have ever done is listen to my sister complain about some Mormons

The most North Carolina thing I have ever done is shoot a semi-automatic with Calvin T., after visiting a promisingly off-putting Army Surplus store.

The most Washington, DC thing I have ever done is see Al Franken walking by through the window of the taxi I was taking to the RT studio. Second place, go to brunch one time or another.

The most New York City thing I have ever done is tied between being in the same bar as Andrew Kirell and Anthony L. Fisher and not having any interest in anything in the state besides the city of New York.

The most Pennsylvania thing I have ever done is walk Pickett’s Charge.

The most Pittsburgh thing I have ever done is accidentally slip into a Pittsburgh accent when I say “Howler’s” (it’s a bar). Second place is swear to leave soon.

  • It's all true.

    It’s all true.

    A meeting of minds on sites for which I write: Antiwar.com’s Justin Raimondo chats with Rare’s Kurt Wallace, mostly about Rand Paul’s prospects.

  • Also, I enjoyed this Eric Garris (also Antiwar.com) chat with Alan Colmes, of all people, from this summer. They talk about the return of Americans to Iraq, which is a topic that gets more relevant every damned day.
  • Since I’ve been internet creeping on Eric and Justin lately — thanks to many epic Eric stories — here are some other good things. Let us admire Justin’s completely un-hidable contempt for a security state creep who looks like a painted LEGO in this Freedom Watch interview. And Eric being generally insightful and well-spoken in this RT thing from a few years back.
  • Boohoo, Bruce Springsteen played “Fortunate Son” at a 11/11 rally. Jesse Walker has the best response to this non-controversy.
  • Apropos of none of these topics, I wrote a thing for Rare about how the sex offender registry is bad.
  • I guested on Tiffany Madison’s Bourbon and Bitches podcast twice in the past month.

This one is about online harassment, rape laws, and other feminist-leaning topics.

This one is about net neutrality, the troops, and my half-assed defense of Lena Dunham. Also sex robots. Tiffany loves to discuss sex robots.

Let me declare this is today’s video, if only to keep on practicing at not being a music snob. Or being the kind of music snob who likes certain pop music. Which I don’t usually.

But this is pretty fun.

And yet — and yet:

This is why I don’t understand people who only or mostly listen to poppy stuff. It’s fun, it’s good, until you listen to realer stuff. You’re not bad, Taylor, you just gotta know your place.

  • DEBATE PROTESTS

    via the AP

    Politics is the worst thing, and so is making politicians into cults of personality, but I am still very happy that Justin Amash kept his seat.

  • I am even more glad that DC, Oregon, and Alaska legalized recreational marijuana. This is amazing. And disturbingly, it does make paying attention to election day less of a purely awful hellscape situation than it was pre-2012.
  • On Friday and Monday, Radley Balko, busy doing something journalistic, had me cover for him at his Washington Post blog. This was — obviously — a huge deal, and a huge privilege for me. I had two links, and three longer blogs. One is on sentencing reform, the other is on criminalizing charity, and one other is on reported piece on a wrong-door drug raid that police apologized for, but it still scared the hell out of the resident of the wrong apartment.
  • (Also, Kurt Loder was the first person to congratulate me for the Watch thing — and infer its awesomeness — so my life is pretty kick-ass right now.)
  • My recent Antiwar and Rare pieces were both about being afraid that federal agencies do whatever they want, and turns out that includes chilling with a surprising number of Nazis.
  • I don’t approve of taking dogs to war, but this guy is still precious. [Hat tip to Julia.]
  • Sacrebleu! 
  • Me in real life.
  • Journalism critique: The New Yorker should never publish poetry or politics or fiction again, but only publish articles about Tavi Gevinson or A Canticle for Leibowitz.
  • I finally listened to the entirety of Harry Smith’s Anthony of American Folk Music in order, so I can definitely attend snobby parties of a particular sort. Ones that take place in 1960, really.
  • Whenever my video chat connection is bad, I make the same joke about someone looking as if they are on MIR in the 1980s. This article is slightly relevant to that interest,in that it is about video chatting with the USSR in the 1980s.

Today’s video:

’cause Mike Miller is going to be on Politics for People Who Hate Politics tomorrow at 6 pm. Do tune in.

330px-This_Is_Not_a_Test_VideoCoverThis Is Not a Test (1962), directed by Frederic Gadette: This is a strange, low-budget, grim little movie. A cop who progressively becomes more and more creepy stops a few cars full of people in the hills above Los Angeles. The missiles (The Missiles) are coming, and they’ve got to prepare. Most of the characters are unlikable, as they include a murderous hitchhiker, one of those tediously self-sacrificial elderly characters, and the scary policeman. Oh, there’s also a woman who randomly cheats on her husband before the end. Basically, after yelling and flailing, the plan becomes let’s all secure this supply truck as much as possible, and hide in the back. The police officer gets more and more nuts, and the rest of the folks kick him out. The young and in love couple head for the hills, leaving behind grandpa. It’s supposed to be real people in peril, and perhaps it’s so realistic as to be unpleasant. Or it’s just not very good. The scary highlight is snatches of radio reports from the cop and other motorists’ radios. As is so often the case.

twd-season-1-main-590“Days Gone By” — The Walking Dead pilot: I long ago lost track of this show, having left it behind during the end of the God-awful second season of sniping. I may or may not ever pick it up again, though I’ve been meaning to read the comic for ages. Regardless of everything that came after, however, this is a hell of a pilot. Pilots are naturally awkward, much of the time — characterization and usually everything else is off. Even half-decent ones are still inferior to what came ever: The X-Files putting a much more timid Scully in her underwear for borderline-gratuitous reasons comes to mind. But, ah, The Walking Dead knew how to start things off, even if it didn’t know much of what else to do. Sheriff Rick Grimes gets shot, ends up in a coma (poor showrunner had to defend the coma thing, thanks to 28 Days Later), and wakes up three months later in zombie land. (Meanwhile his annoying best friend, wife, and child are busy being alive. Whatever.)

The scenes of Rick waking up in the hell of the abandoned hospital; the barricaded door with hand reaching; the camera pulling back and showing more and more body bags in the parking lot — they are morbid perfection. Hell, I’d almost argue that the show went downhill the moment Rick meets the half-destroyed, crawling “Bike Girl” zombie. Except, no it didn’t, because there we get to see Rick’s complete horror, bordering on a conviction that he is still asleep, because he has to be. I love when heroes, especially male heroes who have been strong in their earlier lives, need a moment to gather their sanity while dealing with the new world around them. The rest of the pilot has great detail, and good characters. Rick hides with the dude from Jericho who isn’t Skeet Ulrich, and zombies claw at the windows, and things become more horror movie familiar. You get that amazing shot where Rick is riding his horse towards the dead city, with cars that were fleeing all piled up his left (where is that show? I want to watch the show on the poster). It’s all so good, and then it ends on a cliffhanger where Rick is about to met all the annoying people who made the show the worst.

scaled.reddawn1984Red Dawn (1984), directed by John Milius: I first watched the ’80s epic when I was 14, and though I saw the potential camp value, it was a little too violent and its ending a little too bleak for me to really feel the joy of it. Plus, C. Thomas Howell, man, I thought you were Ponyboy, sensitive greaser cleaning up the broken potential-shiv from the parking lot so nobody punctures a tire. This C. Thomas Howell whose hate for the Ruskies keeps him warm is a little too much for me.

Successive watching has made me appreciate this movie for the historical document it undoubtedly is. Every then-relevant ’80s teen together in the Rockies clutching firearms. Also, Powers Boothe is there. A vital lesson in guerilla tactics. Oh, right, it’s totally about the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. Awkward in the most fascinating way. Is it a conservative wetdream, or a secret bit of satire? It is all things.  It is idiotic, and it still a little disturbing.

It’s so stupid, and so unlikely, and on 9/11 — before I saw this movie, I think — I had a brief moment of imaging some imminent invasion, and all of rounded up into camps. Here you can almost get into the spirit of the horror of an invasion — the opening scene of the parachuters coming to the school, and then our heroes fleeing the town is cheesy, but not enough to escape its unsettling quality. Some of the violence is both campy and vaguey disturbing for what it suggests. I have never been able to fully laugh at most disaster movie violence, even when I know it’s funny as hell.  The group of patriots being gunned down while they sing the National Anthem comes is absurd, but reminds me of actually horrific scenes in other, real movies. Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen’s father yelling “avenge me!” like an angry ham is hilarious, but then Swayze gives his all, bless him. Nobody told him what movies this was. Nobody told any of these people how funny, dated, and awkward this movie was. (“Wooooooolverines!”) Everything about Red Dawn both mocks and endorses the most terrified of Cold War feelings. This movie is so weird, and it gets weirder all the time.

“London Calling” by the Clash: Stop pairing this in cheesy, cheery teen movies and sitcoms with your 7-10 shots of London that you purchased to prove that the characters are totally going to England. This song is about the apocalypse.

London is not calling you because you are going to have a super cute time “across the pond.” It is calling because it is drowning, and did Joe Strummer’s weird shrieks not hint to you that something has gone seriously awry? Even Paul Simonon’s bassline is menacing. It is wonderful.

Our sassy, liberty-loving panel discussed a disturbing DEA raid covered by Reason TV’s Anthony L. Fisher, then a summer Reason poll that suggested Millennials are not averse to the world “socialist.” We concluded with a pragmatic and pessimistic considering of Sen. Rand Paul’s chances in winning the White House, or even just his party’s nomination. There were a few tangents about Pink Floyd and ebola.

Watch and enjoy.

Host: Lucy Steigerwald : Columnist for VICE.comAntiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog@lucystag

-Joe Steigerwald: Technical dude, guitar guy in Act of Pardon@steigerwaldino
-Anthony L. Fisher: Producer for Reason TV, former producer for The Independents, writer and director of Sidewalk Traffic;@anthonylfisher 
-Andrew Kirell: Editor in Chief of Mediaite, former producer for John Stossel; @andrewkirell

111513010.jpgIt is distressing to be a libertarian who loves both history and Americana, if only because both are so often subsidized. There’s The Oxford American, all the amazing photographs that exist thanks to the WPA, the Library of Congress, PBS documentaries, NPR shows…. My fascination with radio, after getting just a taste of it summer before last, is furthering the problem, but I have felt it at least since I loathed Cosmo and loved The OA.

There’s no market, or not enough of one for historical stuff. One upon a time, when I was growing up, the History Channel may have prioritized Hitler, but at least they showed solid, Grandpa-from-Gilmore Girls-narrated documentaries about the events of World War II. Now, instead of moving Ancient Aliens, weird rumors about cyptids, and Aliens I Saw Just Now to, say, the Hilarious Bullshit Channel (HBC) where they might belong, they push history out entirely.

I hate to say “market failure,” and yet… There are still documentaries. Sirius radio and internet radio,, and, well, podcasts can help with the feeling that that medium is dominated by Top 40 robots, or that cozy, aspirational clique over at NPR. I haven’t given up entirely or anything.

There are many easy to mock tropes of public radio, but at the same time, their music is better, and the fact that they tell tales of weird is awesome. I dislike that PBS and NPR are subsidized. The smallness of their budgets is perfect for revealing Republicans as hypocrites when they rail against the subsidies while not going after defense or Medicare, or anything substantial. Yet, the smallness of their budget, and the heartiness with which the left clings to them betrays their own pettiness, and their own deluded distrust of anything left to the market or private sector.

Still, given the opportunity, I don’t know that I would go to hell if I worked for either. Maybe the first level. Maybe just purgatory. For principled purity, then, I have to object to their existence, and I suppose the Library of Congress. For practical reasons, it’s amazing that such a thing exists as a resource. For real-world compromise reasons, I would have to live to be 500 before I need worry about a treasure trove of subsidized knowledge. At the same time, when reading this 1999 Washington City paper piece about legendary 78s collector Joe Bussard, I was pleased when I hit this passage:

They have gathered to make some digital transfers of Bussard’s 78s for a Time-Life Music project on prewar blues. Since the advent of CDs, Bussard has been in great demand as companies such as Time-Life have reissued the old music. His collection has been tapped as much as any, especially by the Yazoo label (featuring the famous Black Pattie peacock), which has put out such acclaimed sets as The Roots of Rap and Jazz the World Forgot. Thanks to these sorts of reissue projects, the sounds of the ’20s and ’30s have never been more accessible to the average record buyer.

“The important thing about Joe Bussard is that he has disseminated the music more than anybody else on earth,” says Richard Nevins, head of Yazoo and its New Jersey-based parent company, Shanachie. “He has preserved and popularized the music more than anyone, and he’s done more for the music than anyone—all the institutions are bogus nonsense. They don’t do any good at all….The asshole Library of Congress refuses to tape 78s for people, not that they have anything worth taping anyway, but here’s Bussard: If the UPS driver comes to his house to deliver a package, he won’t let him out of there ’til he plays 78s for an hour for the guy. There are people in Australia who have tapes of his entire collection.”

Perhaps the Library of Congress isn’t as bad as all that. But at the same time, Bussard is a man who picked 78s over mutual human relationships. The fact that he has a wife at all is surprising. The fact that she is second fiddle — and knows it — to thousands of country blues, early jazz, and other records is not.

Bussard is hyper-individualistic. He’s a Randian hipster who disdains everything past the ’20s in terms of jazz.  The descriptions of him as a pushy, desperate salvager of old records are not flattering. He did it because something clicked in his brain and he became obsessed. It might not make him the nicest person, but it made him a saver of history. And though it sounds like you come to his basement to listen, not to share anything you have to say, Bussard is still generous. He tapes for people. he shares what he has collected. He isn’t hording it all for the cultural apocalypse. I love that. I love that a crank can save music from turning into dust. No subsidies required, just a man with one consuming love.

Officially: Lucy Steigerwald chats with podcaster, writer, gun-toter, and Free Stater Calvin Thompson about why he joined those crazy kids up in New Hampshire, and why he calls himself an anarchist without adjectives.

Unofficially: I chat with my friend Calvin about why the hell he moved to New Hampshire, while trying to stifle the urge to make him say things like “there will come a reckoning” in his outstanding North Carolina accent.

endisnighThe End is Nigh, edited by John Joseph Adams, Broad Breach Publishing, 350 pages

Poor short stories. That near-dead art form which is represented at its very worst in The New Yorker, yet is a factory-regular writer like Stephen King’s best, most literary work should get more love. It doesn’t, no matter how much people who bemoan this keep right on bemoaning it.

As previously noted on Tuesday Apocalypse, while reviewing a piece by io9’s Charlie Jane Anders, the apocalypse goes rather well in a short format. I haven’t read enough sci-fi in my life, partially because of the genre propensity to give us novels 600 or 800 pages long. (I keep looking at Lucifer’s Hammer on Amazon, then thinking, “but it’s just so long.”) Not to mention, my lack of patience for sci-fi voice, which is all I can think of when I try to read David Brin.

Here, the vaguely artful, plotless quality of New Yorker short fiction (they’re all poor man’s Raymond Carver, except Carver had things happen, I swear) is replaced by ruminations on humanity, and the end; all that good, forever praying-it’s-not-topical stuff. And sci-fi voice appears in this June, 2014 compilation, but it does not take over.

This is only round one in the so-called Apocalypse Triptych, and it it deals with the cusp of things. It’s, as Adams writes in the introduction, the grizzled prophet with the familiar sign. Several authors’ stories apparently tie together across the trio, making me immediately prepared to fork over another $4.99 after digging the first story, and then wishing it were longer.

Like any good novel with different point of view characters, or even nonfiction that switches locale, a short story collection is always about wanting more. You resent each switch to each new place, person, and thing, and then you resent the fact when that in turn ends. Nearly every story in the collection provokes this reaction, to greater and lesser degrees. The only one that truly didn’t is the penultimate story, which brought only nausea. Each story is big, but small, and sympathetic, even in the face of everything coming down upon our point of view character’s ears. Here they are, in order:

“The Balm and the Wound” by Robin Wasserman: Charlatan gets his. A sympathetic enough portrait of a cult leader who pretends to be able to predict the end of the world, and what happens when he is left with a long-lost son who becomes all too true a believer.

“Heaven is a Place on Planet X” by Deserina Boskovich: Fun combination of alien invasion, oppressive government, and potential for it’s all a fraud anyway. (Because, oh God, the things our characters do, when they are told to. Terrible things.)

“Break! Break! Break!” by Charlie Jane Anders: As much as I dig Anders, I was vaguely disappointed at the ratio of unknown to known about the end here. On the other hand, she may have actually followed the guidelines most of all. “The match” that lights the end only happens after a character-heavy story of a boy obsessed with being a stuntman, and it’s in a great big mob that is about to turn into a massacre. The political situation, and the cult or militia that seems to be spreading is intriguing, but it is not enough.

The Gods Will Not be Chained” by Ken Liu: Girl loses dad, dad is turned into emoji-using AI, who still loves her, but often chats with other conscious computers who are losing patience with humanity. Good, touching look at death and losing someone, with a satisfactory level of open-ended “uh oh” at the end.

Wedding Day” by Jake Kerr: A sweet, sentimental, but still stomach-clenchingly anxious look at a lesbian couple trying to save themselves in the face of an asteroid headed squarely for the United States. (Gay marriage, y’all. In case of just such an event.)

“Removal Order” by Tananarive Rue: I always say I get bored by mechanism of survival stories, unless they’re survival in the wilderness stories, and I am nine (or they are true). Apocalypse-wise, I want my money shot of misery and dread when It hits. I want my waiting for the end and the incomprehensible horror that brings (Lovecraft ain’t got nothing…). And yet, this story of a girl staying in her ruined neighborhood her with cancer-ridden grandma as a plague draws ever closer, and fires burn, worked. Some people would read it and assume Nayima should have left her dying grandma ages before, and some won’t. And neither of them is wrong. I also like the cop character, who is both a human being, and believably menacing.

“System Reset” by Tobias S. Bucknell: Future hunters go after a cyber-libertarian-terrorist, who once tried to hack a senator’s car into crashing. But turns out he’s worse than that, and has a plan to set off nukes and EMP the whole damn world. His villain’s explanation is that governments leech off of the tech know-how of those who know, while trying to control them and their skills. Solution? Send the world back into the stone age, then flee to Nerd’s Gulch. Our hero’s partner scorns this Randian vision, noting that trade and exchange makes things possible, not hunkering down and hugging your server tight, while feeing superior. Villain sets off the nukes anyway, but hero’s partner manages to magically have the previously-hidden skills to hastily change the ICMBs to not spare Nerd’s Gulch. Misery must be equal. This bothered me, because dammit, even if it’s unfair and the creeps broke the world, you might want there to be working tech in the world somewhere. The entire story seemed to shift between condemning and then endorsing cyber-libertarianism multiple times. For a second, I really thought it was a libertarian response to Objectivism. Probably not. But the shift mostly works, and does the detective vibe, and the ending which really is properly “nigh.”

“This Unkempt World is Falling to Pieces” by Jamie Ford: Half-Chinese Hotel worker in San Francisco waits for Hale-Bop to kill everyone, or not, and pines for hotel maid. Nice mostly-historical setting, nice picture of idle/in denial rich waiting for the comet.

“BRING HER TO ME” by Jamie Winters: Oh man, this one is great, and this one KILLED ME with its ending. How dare it end there, and bless it for ending there, and all the other emotions one feels when something ends there. A collapsing cult city (the lack of clarity about the size of the outside world, or whether it is there at all is frustrating and intriguing) has almost reached the day it has been waiting for. A woman goes door to door to remind people. A mother is terrified that a secret about her daughter will be revealed, and she argues about it with her husband. The daughter can’t come on the journey that has something alarming to do with the careful preparation of poisoned meat. Is the daughter deaf, as seems to be suggested? No, she’s just deaf to the voice of God that has been booming in every single other person’s head for the past 30 years. The parents are hearing “BRING HER TO ME” but does that mean the daughter can complete the act, or that God has (somehow) even worse plans for her? She can’t hear, so she can’t believe. The night before the God-commanded ritual suicide that will help them all cross over, the deaf girl meets a boy who has a crush on her, who has his own unshareable secret. It’s human, and hopeful, and alarming, and sweet, and I punched the couch several times while reading. I love the lack of obfuscation: that yep, it’s just God in everyone’s heads. It just is. But run anyway.

“In the Air” by Hugh Howey: Michael Crichton-y, and not in a bad way, and not just because it’s a terrifying countdown to nanobot-induced armageddon. A stressful portrait of a dad trying to hide the truth from his family while saving them, and of a quiet war fought with nanobots, that feels more tangible than all that gray goo talk.

“Goodnight Moon” by Annie Bellet: A sad, carefully-paced story of residents of a moon base. This is the only story that ends not on earth (though earth is about to have a rough, albeit not-apocalyptic time). It has the boldness to involve heroic self-sacrifice for the sake of a pregnant woman, a drunk Russian, and colleagues facing death holding hands, without apologizing for how badly done that could have been. It therefore isn’t.

“Dancing With Death in the Land of Nod” by Will McIntosh: A loser with an Alzheimer’s-ridden dad who bought a drive-in on a whim faces what is basically a plague of advanced Parkinsonian paralysis. A neighbor girl helps him realize that helping people who are probably dead anyway is better than falling apart. Nice story; kind of “Testament”-like in its doomed optimism.

“Houses Without Air” by Megan Arkenberg: Finally, a real disappointment, though one with promising elements. As the earth dies of slow asphyxiation, thanks in part to the Yellowstone Caldera, a scientist working on perfect virtual reality and a woman whose job it is to build memorials for tragedies room together in DC, and try to pay tribute to the earth. There’s something trying to come out here with the woman’s polar opposite jobs, and the emptiness of the virtual reality that was supposed to include the five senses, but has no other people in it. It’s not there, though. The whole thing is ephemeral. I’d be pleasantly satisfied by this story in The New Yorker, but not in a collection this strong.

“The Fifth Day of Deer Camp” by Scott Sigler: Old Michigan men! Snow! Aliens! A stalwart older man who won’t let them panic, and then it ends! There had better be more in the next volume.

“Enjoy the Moment” by Jack Sigler: A well-crafted story of an astrophysicist trying to find a legacy, and who unfortunately discovers the rogue star that is going to smush us all out — albeit, in 20 years. The tone, and the weight of the characters, and the events feel like a novel, without feeling like you’ve missed the rest of the book. There’s a bit of the small things in life hope, hence the title. The only wrong note is the last paragraph, which is too much of a punchline.

“Pretty Soon the Four Horseman Are Going to Come Through” by Nancy Kress: A poor trash kind of mother wonders why one of her daughters is so passive, and why some of her schoolmates are the same. It has something to do with a volcano. And maybe aliens. Not a bad story, it just doesn’t quite work as credible.

Spores” by Seanan McGuire: An OCD-ridden lab tech and her wife and daughter, plus some deadly mold that resulted from the lab tech’s colleagues playing God, all for a crisper apple and more succulent peach. The love and the snotty teen daughter the couple shares, and the horror of the mold are all equally well-described.

“She’s Got a Ticket to Ride” by Jonathan Macberry: Hard-boiled snatcher of youths who end up in drug houses or cults has to go after a serene 19-year-old who is right about the end of the world after all.

“Agent Unknown” by Dave Wellington: Is it zombies? Plague? No, just virulent prions. And the only way to potentially save humanity is such a horrifying bummer — especially to a libertarian — that it’s harder to leave the story than some. It also opens the possibility of a novel-length story about what happens after. Even if it’s not feasible. Decent story, with only so-so, thriller-type writing.

“Enlightenment” by Matthew Mather: Fuck you, Matthew Mather. Is this story about eating disorders, sustainability, collapse of society? Is it an indictment of sacrificial religions, self-harm, or meat-eating? I don’t know, but fuck you, the only thing I have had close to meat since reading it is tuna salad. Autocannibalism cults: officially the worst way for us all to go out. The writing is okay, then excessive. Because come on. Come on, dude.

Shooting the Apocalypse” by Paolo Bacigalupi: Decent story of a photojournalist roaming the Southwest, in a world where all of dehydrating Texas is desperate to cross the border back into the United States. Journalists in the bad future thing could be fun, but this feels like a chunk of a novel in the more unfinished way. I wouldn’t mind more of it, though.

“Love Perverts” by Sarah Langan: An asteroid is coming to hit earth, and a very messed up teen is trying to save himself and his equally messed up friend — or, more to the point, save his baby sister from his creep, abandoning parents who have left their blue collar horror town with her in tow. Ugly, but well-written, it might be my post-“Enlightenment” uneasiness that made me not appreciate the story as much. The final lines are fitting to end the compilation, but I almost wish it had ended on “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride.”

Conclusion: Not enough aliens, but more than worth the $4.99 I paid. No story was a complete waste of time (just dinner), and each had impressive world-building, and a palpable, lingering feeling of the decay, exhaustion, and ruin of those worlds.