A Considered Look at Every Inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 15

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a place that I find, as an institution, vexing. The actual, physical hall of fame – the pyramidal building on the lake in Cleveland – is pretty cool, but it is spoken and thought of often as an intangible – as a sort of arbitrating body on the worthiness of the body of rock musicians. My thought, for many years upon surveying lists 1 and the like was to think that they have about a fifty percent success rate for getting it anything like right. 

But what if it doesn’t? Previously I listened to and considered each of the best-selling albums of all time, and learned that they were considerably more of a mixed bag than I had thought 2. So what if the inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are the same sort of deal?

And so it’s time to dive in and take a look at what the nominees and their enshrinement actually are.

Click the links for Part 1,Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13 and Part 14 of this series.


The Beastie Boys

WHO THEY ARE: Just three Boys Entering Anarchic States Towards Inner Excellence”

WHY THEY’RE HERE: The RRHOF at this point has started admitting a token early-ish hip hop outfit into the HOF each year, and the Beastie Boys were probably inevitable. They were extremely popular before most rappers were and, to their credit, did a lot to expand the genre and the way in which it could be considered. It’s hard to argue with their influence, acclaim or accomplishments, and certainly they’re better than anyone else admitted this year. Technically, due to a historical quirk, they’re also the first former-hardcore band to be admitted to the HOF, although they operated under a different name and I’m certain it wasn’t taken into account.

AND…?: I don’t really listen to them for pleasure, but I get it, and I’m not mad about it.



WHO HE IS: The Hurdy-Gurdy Man himself! The Sunshine Superman himself! Mellow Yellow himself!

WHY HE’S HERE: It’s worth noting at this point that he got famous due to his early association with Paul McCartney. He was a vaguely almost-psychedelic hippieish British folk dude, which seems like it oughta be a shoo-in, but which population is not terribly represented 3. This is not a complaint so much as an expression of bewilderment. I suppose he made it in before Badfinger, that’s something. Anyway, it’s got to be the Paul McCartney thing because, while he was hugely popular, I can’t think of a time I’ve ever heard his influence present in anyone else’s music, and I have no idea if anyone still listens to him, since his music very does not pass any kind of test of time.

AND…?: I do not care for Donovan, and really have to question why this seemed like a good idea.


Guns n Roses

WHO THEY ARE: The last of the Sunset Strip rock bands of the eighties. To their credit, they at least had very little to do with glam metal. That’s just about the only thing I can say to their credit. 

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Well, they sure did sell a lot of records. They also represent 4 a particular kind of success for the record-selling industry, whereby they were able to be force-marketed into their fame very quickly, which probably inclines some of the folks that make the HOF decisions (who would have gained economically from that situation) to include them. But then, I’m probably being needlessly cynical.

AND…?: Oh, it’s terrible music. Just terrible.


Laura Nyro

WHO SHE IS: A songwriter, predominantly, although she’s inducted here as a performer.

WHY SHE’S HERE: Well, she definitely created a sort of template for a wildly-eccentric performer-type. Her music has exactly nothing to do with Rock and Roll, but I suppose it’s the idiom through which she was associated, so that’s something. I dunno, actually. I cannot for the life of me figure out why she got here before, say, Randy Newman 5

AND…?: I haven’t spent much time with her work, and haven’t liked much of what I’ve heard, but she wrote “Eli’s Coming,” and thus, as a songwriter, features prominently in Sports Night, which is something.


Red Hot Chili Peppers

WHO THEY ARE: They’re almost certainly the biggest-selling rock band that’s still a going concern in 2019, I suppose. Unless that’s U2. Who can say?

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Well, they’ve sold as many records as anyone could imagine, and really did a lot to bring funk and associated funk-type styles into rock music after the first wave of funk-influenced rock bands in the sixties. They helped usher in a bunch of styles of the last thirty years, and while almost all of those are regrettable, it’s hard to take that away from RCHP, or to blame them for their followers. 

AND…?: I dunno. There’s stuff I don’t mind in there, certainly, but not a lot of it. They seem like they’re having a good time, though.


The Faces/The Small Faces

WHO THEY ARE: Well, they’re definitely the first band to be inducted under two different names.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Uh……The Faces were a very good band, certainly, and had some hits. They’re largely overshadowed by their singer’s solo career and their guitar player’s contributions to the Rolling Stones, and it’s entirley possible that those two things spilled over and got them in here. They’re in about the same boat as Donovan, only they’re not as boring and there’s more of them.

AND….?: They’re fine. I had a real moment with The Faces a bunch of years ago, and sometimes dig them out as a result of that, for my part. 

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I dunno. Probably not really. 2012 is a year that I don’t have very many feelings about, I guess. 

The Blue Caps/The Comets/The Crickets/The Famous Flames/The Midnighters/The Miracles

WHO THEY ARE: A bunch of backing bands who were associated with singers (Gene Vincent, Bill Hailley, Buddy Holly, Jamnes Brown, Hank Ballard and Smokey Robinson, respectively) that were already inducted.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Because rock and roll is the sound of a band playing together, and the bands are important.

AND…?: I do sort of wonder why the Famous Flames are in and not the JBs, or rather, why they aren’t both here, but I guess I get having it be one per performer, and the Famous Flames had more “hits”.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Very much so. I’m a big fan of this decision.

Freddie King

WHO HE IS: A Chicago Blues guy.

WHY HE’S HERE: He had a bunch of hits in the sixties, some of which are notable for being very popular instrumentals, which happens only rarely, and almost never with blues songs. Good job, Freddie King.

AND…?: This just continues the streak of inductees that I have no strong feelings about. He was a good player, that’s for sure.


Don Kirshner

WHO HE IS: A guy with a Rock Concert

WHY HE’S HERE: He showed rock musicians on television, at a time when that was extremely rare. 

AND…?: I think that’s generally a force for good in the world.


Cosimo Matassa

WHO HE IS: He was a record producer who got started in the forties.

WHY HE’S HERE: He recorded a bunch of early-R&B/proto-rock and roll songs, including “Tutti Frutti”.

AND…?: Sounds good to me.


Tom Dowd

WHO HE IS: He’s often credited as being the man who invented multi-track recording 6

WHY HE’S HERE: mostly the recording thing.

AND…?: The recording thing is certainly enough to convince me


Glyn Johns

WHO HE IS: He recorded a whole bunch of super-heavy hitters in the sixties and seventies. 

WHY HE’S HERE: No, seriously, super-heavy hitters. Great big names.

AND…?: Hey, he recorded Who’s Next, Abbey Road, the best Faces album and the first Led Zeppelin album. No amount of The Eagles can take that away from him.




WHO THEY WERE: A lady rock band from Seattle

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They sold a bunch of records, and were rockin’ women, which paved the way for similarly rockin’ women down the way. One of them was a terrific rhythm guitarist.

AND…?: You know, outside of this writeup I think the last time I willingly called them up to listen to them specifically was when I wrote about them for their Who the Fuck Listens to This. So there’s that.


Albert King

WHO HE IS: The last of the Kings of the Blues (the other two are Freddie – see above – and BB – see previously) to be inducted into the RRHOF.

WHY HE’S HERE: It would be silly to not have him in here after inducting the other two, plus Born Under a Bad Sign is probably the best single moment of all of the electric Chicago blues, so he should’ve been in before the other two.

AND…?: Eh. If any of those dudes deserve to be here, and they probably due, if influence if not for any other reason, then it’s Albert King.


Randy Newman

WHO HE IS: A songwriter who also performs his own songs.

WHY HE’S HERE: He had successes on his own (“Short People,” “I Love LA”) and as a songwriter of other people’s hits (“You Can Leave Your Hat On,” “Mama Told Me Not to Come”). He’s probably the funniest songwriter inducted into the HOF, and, in fact is something of a master of the funny/angry song. He also had a string of records in the seventies that were pretty much bulletproof.

AND…?: I have long been public about my deep and abiding love of Randy Newman


Public Enemy

WHO THEY ARE: Probably the first of the obligatory RRHOF hip-hop inductees to have actually made great records 7

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Well, they were huge at the time, balancing enormous popularity and critical respect in equal measure. Their production team – the Bomb Squad – interestingly and innovatively recorded their music by all setting up in a room and triggering their samples manually, like a band would. I’m always surprised more people don’t do this, and I think they should. Anyway, even aside from that, they were groundbreaking rappers with incredible musical instincts. Plus, in addition ot being able to help you expand your mind and thoughts, one of them is even a cautionary tale! They just keep giving! What dudes they are. 

AND…?: Super-great records, super-great band, super-into it. Still not rock and roll, but that bird has flown.



WHO THEY ARE: Canada’s premier prog rock band

WHY THEY’RE HERE: For all that they’re easy to make jokes about, they’ve been exactly the band they’ve wanted to be, regardless of their popularity (which, at times, has been enormous) or productivity (which comes and goes), and it’s hard not to want to honor that. A bunch of bands formed in their wake, they made a strain of prog rock that’s uniquely theirs, and they did so to a lot of success and a rabid fanbase for half a damn century

AND…?: It’s not to my taste, but that seems rather beside the point.


Donna Summer

WHO SHE IS: The queen of Disco or whatever

WHY SHE’S HERE: Disco is clearly also making its inroads, and has been for some time 7, and Donna Summer is emblematic of that sort of thing. She wasn’t a very good singer, but she had a bunch of hits.

AND…?: It should probably be Giorgio Moroder, I think? 

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really, but it’s nice to see a woman of color get the nod, so I’m not going to fight too strenuously against it.

Lou Adler

WHO HE IS: Another record producer

WHY HE’S HERE: He produced a bunch of wildly popular, and also terrible, albums in the seventies.

AND…?: He made those Cheech and Chong records. I like those. And The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I like that, too.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Oh sure, fine, I just am not going to be very happy about it.

Quincy Jones

WHO HE IS: A record producer, label head and general all-around honcho-type.

WHY HE’S HERE: He is, quite possibly, the most famous record producer in the world, and has made a kind of above-the-title name for himself as such, which I suppose is its own kind of impressive. He co-produced Michael Jackson’s super-enormo-huge records in the eighties, in addition to scads of other things.

AND…?: I don’t like the way much of what he’s produced sounds, but I guess he did do it, so there’s that. At the moment, however, I’m disappointed that I can’t get the bat off my shoulder to make a proper Arrested Development joke. 

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I guess so, but kind of begrudgingly. 

  1. also the centerpiece of the museum itself, for those that have never been there, is a very long video encapsulating each inducted class, with clips of performances by most of them and things like that, and is generally a pretty cool thing to behold. 
  2. although they did, as you can read here and going back from there, skew toward “pretty bad” 
  3. NB that the Fairport Convention (nor Richard Thompson himself) is not inducted, for example, nor is Nick Drake, either of which I’d rather see here than fucking Donovan. 
  4. in ways and for reasons I’m not going to go into here, but feel fre eto hit me up sometime and ask about them 
  5. who also, among other things, wrote one of Three Dog Night’s giant hits. 
  6. this is a complicated claim! But he probably has as much stake in that claim as anyone else.  
  7. There are about as many disco outfits, for example, than prog rock outfits, which is absurd 

The Best Records of November 2019

Greet Death – New Hell (Terrific shoegaze stuff, really crushing guitar sounds, I can’t stop listening to this one)

Anne Muller – Heliopause (A really accomplished cellist makes lovely cello music, with her cello. Cello.) 

Suss – High Line (They describe themselves as an ambient country band, and that about sells it. It’s really good ambient country, though.)

Earl Sweatshirt – Feet of Clay (I mean, there was no reason to expect that he’d slip up at this point. Dude’s recorded body of work is basically perfect.)

Mono – Before the Past – Live From Electrical (three very early Mono pieces, played by current Mono. A fantastic idea, executed fantastically)

The 110-Year-Old Up-To-Date Sandwich Book (part 2 in a series)


Sometime in the mid-eighteenth century, John Montagu wanted to gamble and/or do work 1,and he asked for a lump of meat to be shoved between two slices of bread, and then he ate it, and, in so doing, created the sort of portable instameal that the world over has been happy to indulge upon ever since. 

By 1909, in fact, the sandwich was two things: impossibly variegated and stodgy and old-fashioned. Thus, Eva Greene Fuller came along, to rescue the impossible old-fashioned reputation thereof and to convince America that the sandwich was a foodstuff more than worthy of their time and attention (I may be extrapolating as to the author’s goals here). To do so, she assembled the Up-to-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich. The book is, as most old cookbooks are, a very interesting window into the way food was addressed in the past. 

1909 is before the supermarket, before most refrigeration, several decades before the interstate system made it possible to haul food across the country in any kind of timely fashion (although not before the train, which did some of this also), before automobiles, before the widespread availability of electricity, before, in short, anything that made the process of sandwiching anything like it is now. As a result, many things were just bang out of the question. 

The whole book is downright fascinating, a look at the many functions of sandwiches – some are portable meals (then as now), some are cocktail hors d’ouevres, some appear to be cake-replacement style desserts. The book itself is divided into seven sections – Fish, Meat, Cheese, Nut, Sweet, Miscellaneous and Canapes 2 and seems, to me at least, to be alarmingly comprehensive. 

What follows, then, are some of the very weirdest of the sandwiches, the ones that really just seem like they must be the product of either some sort of completely-insane fever dream, or just relics of a time when sandwiches were more open, and considerably less explicable. Part 1 of this extremely-occasional series can be found here

puritan sandwich.PNG

So if we allow for the “______ Salad Sandwich” – i.e. a sandwich made with mayonnaise, as for tuna salad or egg salad or ham salad – to extend to include “Cheese” salad sandwich (which seems fine), and then allow that in some places you’d make a gribiche 3 instead of a mayonnaise to bind such a sandwich, even if somehow that wasn’t encouraging a sandwich that only had one texture, and even leaving aside that you’re using butter as the emulsified fat in the gribiche, which brings it more in line with a hollandaise – so now picture a hollaindaise and cheese salad sandwich, only cold, then we can sort of see how one would arrive at this sandwich. It’s begging a lot of questions, but we can see what we’re doing there.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT, THOUGH: Obviously puritans, denying themselves any of the pleasures of spending their time well, have nothing to do but come up with freakish, over-complicated sandwiches of all-yellow ingredients. 

chevy chase sandwi ch.PNG

This is a perfectly respectable mashed-egg sandwich. It actually sounds fine, really. I wouldn’t use melted butter, but I get it, as it’s the predominant cooking oil throughout the book (see above, and also bearing in mind that other cooking fats would be considerably less available – Italians hadn’t brought olive oil into common usage yet). 

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT THOUGH: I mean, it’s called a Chevy Chase sandwich! In 1909! That’s jarring! Maybe it did a funny impression of President Taft. It’s a portly sort of sandwich, after all. 

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A tomato sandwich with caviar on it sounds fine, if you’re into caviar.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT THOUGH: I mean, honestly, whose “specialty” is a tomato and caviar sandwich? If your tomato is good, why use the caviar? If your caviar is good, wouldn’t you want to taste that and not the tomato? I don’t understand it. It’s like something someone made up to settle a bet. Also, somebody that settles bets with caviar sounds fancy. This should have a fancy name, like “tip-top” sandwich. That’s something a fancy person would say. 

epicurean sandwich.PNG

This is, and I’m not going to mince words here 4, a salsa sandwich. A mild salsa sandwich.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT THOUGH: Truly, the most sophisticated epicurean gourmand in 1909 wanted to eat…a salsa sandwich. For real. It’s a salsa sandwich. 

novelty sandwich.PNG

I make chow chow pretty regularly, and have eaten a few other ones, and seen recipes for a few beyond that, and have no fucking idea what this means. So basically this is baffling because it contains a regionalism that (presumably) wasn’t thought to be a regionalism, and doesn’t make any sense when your chow chow is a corn relish, or carrots and tomatoes, or pickled butter beans, or cabbage. It’s weird, and I’ve never seen it involve mustard beyond mustard seeds, and you would have to really squint to call mustard-seed-studded brine “mustard dressing”. 

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT THOUGH: Well, it’s certainly a novelty to use a minor variation on a traditional food with several different origins as the basis for a sandwich. So I guess that part checks out. 

grape sandwich.PNG

Ok, actually, this is fine. Skinning grapes seems like the sort of insanity that we won’t get to here, but I get it – grapes have come along way in the last 110 years. This is here to bolster what I think of the next one.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT THOUGH: It’s a sandwich made of grapes. No big deal. Just keep it in mind while we look at the next one. 

grape fruit sandwich.PNG

Ok, so. “Remove the pulp” from…a grapefruit? Or is this a fruit sandwich made with grapes? Am I 50 Cent? What is happening? How do you remove the pulp without mashing the fruit? Are you adding the walnuts to grapefruit juice? If you are adding the walnuts to the grapefruit juice (which is what you have if you remove the pulp – the fruit solids – from a grapefruit) why do you need to add mayonnaise to “moisten” it, since it now consists of wet walnuts? Similarly, if it is grapes, and it’s a grape (the fruit) sandwich, wouldn’t that still be wet walnuts, albeit with chunk of fruit in it? WHAT IS THIS SANDWICH? I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT THOUGH: I feel like if I were to somehow be told this was in here as a riddle, or as some kind of inter-spy secret code or something, I would totally believe it, and it might be the only way for me to be satisfied with how all this has turned out. 

picnic sandwich.PNG

picnic sandwich 2.PNG

(it’s two images because of a page break in the book)

So I guess a lamb roulade stuffed with ground-up cow is only a little bit weird, but I will say that the thing that makes this recipe stand out is the tape. So you grind up your cow, you mix it with some egg and some bread crumbs like it’s a giant meatball, and then you wrap it up in a lamb steak, and then you sew that shut and then you tape it further shut. At what point, when you’re taping up your lamb to make a uh…sandwich for your picnic(?!) do you not think “something has gone wrong here”? Especially if you’ve already sewn it up and that’s still just not enough to prevent the cow from squeeging out through the spaces between the stitches.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT THOUGH? Everything else notwithstanding, what about a sandwich made of fried slices of a meat tube wrapped in lamb meat (and uh…taped together) says “yes this will be festive for a lovely picnic. Aunt Sally’s three-bean salad, Jimbo’s Jello Delite and this hunk of meat-wrapped meat that no longer has tape on it. That’s the lunch for me.” I assume this is for a family-style picnic, and not, like, a romantic date, because if someone shows up to a date with slices of a meat tube wrapped in meat and explains the tape thing stop dating them forever they do not deserve love

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A steak tartare sandwich seems like a fine idea. Might be nice on a picnic.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT THOUGH: This is actually a pretty well-established thing, but I’m including it because I think it’s funny. It does, however, contain within itself a sort of question: why would we assume a cannibal wouldn’t cook his food? Traditionally when people have resorted to cannibalism it’s been evident that they first cooked the people. I mean, I know it’s because it’s raw meat and therefore a cute name but still. 


The onion juice gave me pause, but it was pretty common in recipes of the time. This is a pretty normal chopped-tongue sandwich.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT THOUGH: Yessir, I’m off on my excursion. Gonna board a train to the harbor where I’m going to catch my steamer to the far-flung shores of the Old Country. Better pack this minced tongue sandwich, I might get hungry. 


I’m a big fan of a frittata sandwich, and wish that more people made more of them, outside of Iran (technically a kuku sabza sandwich) or Denny’s (technically an omelet sandwich). Because that’s a weird thing to only happen in two places, and those are the two weirdest places for it to happen. Anyway.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT: The name of this sandwich is wild. I have no idea why it’s called that. I mean, I do agree that it’s a tip-top idea, but how did we land on that way of describing? Is it because “specialty” was already taken? Because I think this would be a better specialty. 


This is ham and walnuts and pickles, bound together with mustard and, presumably, the fat expelled from the walnuts as they go through the “meat chopper”. Not a terrible idea if you’re into that sort of thing. 

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT: This is inexplicable, except that in 1909 the automobile was new 5, and people that were into cars were really into car ownership. Ten years after the publication of this book, Frank King would start the comic strip Gasoline Alley, the initial conceit of which (this is before Skeezix showed up on Walt’s doorstep) was that all of the characters owned cars. What I’m saying is that a car owner in 1909 made a sandwich, decided that this was the thing that they ate in their car, and that was that. 


Fig jam (this is sort of a poor man’s fig jam – chopped stewed figs aren’t going to maintain much of their integrity, and the lemon juice will denature it a little further) on toast is fantastic. This is a fantastic idea. 

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT: Because whoever came up with this must have felt like a damn hell-ass king. 


So the fig sandwich looked amazing, and this is similar, but with walnuts and with “the prune syrup” – the liquid left from when you boil the prunes – instead of lemon juice. I’m sure it’s fine or whatever, but no plum has ever made me as happy as any given fig, and dried plums are kind of the worst dried fruit. Oh also, “spray” in this case means “bunch of leaves”, what we now call a “sprig” and use to refer mainly to parsley or thyme, and smilax is the primary flavor in sarsaparilla. 

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT: Anyone who dreams of plums should be locked away with the dudes that take a meatball wrapped in lamb meat to a picnic. This is perversion, and it cannot be allowed to stand. 


It’s just sort of a half-assed Waldorf salad on whole wheat bread. I have no real beef with its contents.

WHY’S IT CALLED THAT: It’s not particularly spooky, so I have to imagine that even in 1909 it’s because raisins have no place on Halloween, and the dude who gives out raisins on Halloween is slightly better than only the dude who gives out coupons for his small business. At least the toothpaste people are well-meaning (and I like having a new toothbrush anyway) and the Chick tract people are spreading hilarity. Be better than the raisin people. Don’t make this sandwich. 

  1. popular legend has it the former, one of his biographers, who admittedly would know what he’s talking about I guess, insists the latter. Although the dude gambled a hell of a lot so maybe it’s a little of both, who am I to say?  
  2. canapes being a kind of cheat, as these aren’t really all “sandwiches” as currently recognized, but either the category was looser 109 years ago, or Ms. Fuller decided it was close enough since it’s still “stuff on bread”. 
  3. a sauce made of an emulsion of cooked egg yolk – as here – mixed with fat, in the manner of a mayonnaise but different.  
  4. not like they’d have you mince those vegetables anyway hiyooooooooo 
  5. shoutout to Cleveland’s own Baker automotive, who made electric cars (well, they were more like carts, but still: electric cars) in 1909. They were some of the first cars ever made! Thomas Edison drove one! 

The 2019 American Music Awards

So the American Music Awards are back at their usual time, which means mid-November, and not their weird early-October thing from last year.

This is fine. A return to normalcy, however small and ultimately inconsequential, is fine, and especially when it means I don’t have to concern myself overmuch about the awards show where Disney gives awards to music that isn’t always from Disney-affiliated people.

Anyway, this year there’s actually a reason to find the American Music Awards a little interesting: Taylor Swift is receiving the Artist of the Decade award, and claimed that Scooter Braun, having acquired her back catalog, was going to prevent her from performing her old hits at the ceremony 1. Braun, and label honcho Scott Borchetta, denied that this was happening at all, and saying that they just wanted to talk to her about it (?!). They then subsequently claimed to have reached a deal with Dick Clark Productions – the producers of the AMA’s – which is weird, because if there wasn’t a question, why is there now an answer? In any event, DCP denied ever having heard anything about it, and washed their hands of the matter, claiming that this was between Big Machine Records and Swift. Taylor Swift responded with evidence, and called upon her fans to do stuff to make sure she can play her hits at the AMA broadcast. Whatever ensued, as of the time of this writing, it appears that she’ll be able to play old songs, an agreement has been reached, all of this was a lot of sturm and drang. So it goes. Now she can play “Shake it Off” and everybody can be happy. 

So happy.

Anyway, Taylor Swfit is their artist of the decade, and here are the rightful winners in all of the other categories.

Favorite Artist – Electronic Dance Music

True story: Avicii and Marshmello have both been declared the rightful winner of this category in years past. Since this is the last year Avicii could possibly be nominated, I guess I’ll give it to him.


Favorite Artist – Contemporary Inspirational

True story: every year I pretty much just call this for Lauren Daigle, the only one of these whose music isn’t godawful. Pardon the pun.


Favorite Artist – Latin

True story: I think I’m out of these little true story interludes as of this one! But it’s still J. Balvin again!


Favorite Artist – Adult Contemporary

I suppose there’s probably not any denying that it will be Artist of the Decade Taylor Swift, and that’s probably fair. Her music used to be better than Maroon 5’s or P!nk’s.


Favorite Artist – Alternative Rock

I think that the Imagine Dragons dude seems cool. Everything I know about him makes him seem like a super-nice guy. His band’s music is beyond terrible, but he seems nice. Anyway, I don’t much like Billie Eilish’s music either, but it’s the best on offer in this category. 


Favorite Song – Soul/R&B

This is almost certainly the only category in this year’s ceremony, and perhaps the only time in the history of the American Music Awards, where I like all of the songs that are nominated in a category. We’re crossing into a new frontier here, folks. It’s probably because the American Music Awards are aimed at old people, and I am an old people.


Favorite Album – Soul/R&B

Awwww. Khalid and Ella Mai are friends. Doesn’t that seem nice? I think it seems nice. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Khalid, Free Spirit

Favorite Female Artist – Soul/R&B

It happens more often in the artist categories that I like all the options, but that’s mostly because they only run three people per field, and that usually engenders an environment where it is possible for one of them to be at least adequate.


Favorite Male Artist – Soul/R&B

It’ll be Khalid again, because I’m not sure what the arguments in favor of it being Bruno Mars could possibly be.


Favorite Song – Rap/Hip-Hop

Well, as generally in favor of Cardi B as I am, “Money” is pretty terrible. So I guess it’s “Old Town Road,” despite the song continuing to not live up to the video.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road”

Favorite Album – Rap/Hip Hop

It is a bleak fucking category when Meek Mill’s most recent album is the best one. Get your back into it, American Music Awards.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Meek Mill, Championship

Favorite Artist – Rap/Hip-Hop

For whatever reason, this is not egregated by sex like the other genre-specic favorite artist categories, and thus has five (and not, as you would expect, six) nominees in one pile. Luckily, only one of them is someone I actually like as a rapper, so this went down pretty quickly.


Favorite Song – Country

Obviously the only correct answer here is a write-in candidate.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Memphis Kansas Breeze, “Human Skin Truck Baby”

Favorite Album – Country

Well, Memphis Kansas Breeze doesn’t have an album. That’s a shame, because oof these are bad. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Carrie Underwood, Cry Pretty

Favorite Duo or Group – Country

Truly, the way they decide which genres get which categories is inscrutable. Also hi, Old Dominion, and thank you for saving this very category from being as impossible as the Country Albums category once more.


Favorite Female Artist – Country

Every damn year I have to say something on the order of: it’s not that I like Carrie Underwood as such, it’s that I dislike her less than I dislike the other folks here. 


Favorite Male Artist – Country

That said, the male categories are absolutely dire, and I have no idea what to do with any of this. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luke Combs, I guess? I’m not happy about that, but I’m not sure what else it could be.

Favorite Song – Pop/Rock

I will say that this comes down, basically, to Halsey’s “Without Me” and Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower,” which means that I’m basically choosing between the best songs by people whose music I don’t ordinarily like (Post Malone, that is. I like Swae Lee fine, generally). I think I’m inclined to go with “Sunflower” because I like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse so darn much.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Post Malone & Swae Lee, “Sunflower” 

Favorite Album – Pop/Rock

Taylor Swift’s most recent album is her worst, Ariana Grande’s voice still gives me panic attacks, so I guess we’re back to Billie Eilish. Again. Truly this is the Groundhog Day of music awards shows.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Billie Eilish, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Favorite Duo or Group – Pop/Rock

You know, while we’re chalking up things that happen every year in these categories, I’m pretty sure BTS is the rightful winner in this category pretty much every year. I will say that at least this year there are some (nominal) rock bands in the “rock” categories, which is nice.


Favorite Female Artist – Pop/Rock

For more of my feelings on this exact set of three people, see two categories ago. Please and thank you.


Favorite Male Artist – Pop/Rock

Somehow two of these men (but not the third)were kept out of the Rap and R&B categories, because words are meaningless.


Favorite Soundtrack

Every year this is a weird category, and this year it was the least-weird so far! It’s original songs from a musical (albeit a musical that’s a remake – A Star is Born) and a collection of “inspired by”-type songs from a cartoon (albeit one of the greatest cartoons ever made – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and then of course a collection of pre-existing Queen songs (blah). So Spider-Man it is!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Favorite Social Artist

Blah blah blah BTS etc. If you need to know my feelings on the matter, the search bar is available to you and you’ve probably already read them (they come up like six times a year).


Favorite Music Video

Well, it took the American Music Awards to finally set things right, and nominated the “Old Town Road” video in a music video category. Good job, American Music Awards, you finally got something right.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road”

Tour of the Year

Every year I judge these categories based on how likely I would be to have gone to each of the events in question. I don’t love Elton John, but I respect that this is his last tour, and probably would have accepted free tickets to it. So that one wins.


Collaboration of the Year

While I don’t love “Old Town Road” as a song, I think that Billy Ray Cyrus jumping on it to sing the chorus so that people couldn’t complain about it not “really” being a country is both admirable and very, very funny. So I’m for it as a collaboration, and also the rest of these songs are pretty bad.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road”

New Artist of the Year

Leaving aside the standard misgivings about the use of the word “new” here, I’m pretty happy to call it for Lizzo.


Artist of the Year

Given that Taylor Swift is artist of the decade, wouldn’t it also make sense that she’d be artist of the year? I mean, I suppose it might not, and it makes sense that she’s not the artist of every year (I don’t think she’s artist of any year, really), but it sure seems like since you’ve already got her there it would be weird to give it to, like, Halsey. Still and all, it would be funnier that way, so I’m really pulling for Ariana Grande, because I think that’s the funniest of the available options.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ariana Grande, because it would be funniest. 

  1.  for the record, they can’t actually stop her from performing her own song, the question would be about the broadcast/rebroadcast rights on ABC’s end, but that seems to have not ever been a factor in the feud, which just makes it all that much dumber. 

But, Like, What if Nobody is Right?

So the argument that just won’t end has been raging for about a month, and since it keeps rearing its ugly head, I finally get a chance to write about it 1.

Martin Scorsese doesn’t like superhero movies, calling them “not cinema,” even while crediting the people that make them with doing fine work, and comparing them to theme parks in that they are there to offer thrills and little else. Francis Ford Coppola, then, entered the fray later, claiming that Scorcese didn’t go far enough with it all, and that actually the movies are “despicable,” insisting that everyone expects to learn something and be improved by the experience of cinema (?), which superhero movies don’t (can’t?) provide. which is certainly a take, and involves several of my favorite things, combining the insane stances of both “something isn’t to my taste and is therefore morally bad” with “I am speaking for all people’s expectations about a thing that I don’t like”. Obviously, this is all bullshit and should have been pretty easy to dismiss, and yet this all happened a month ago, and has spent the intervening time as a matter of extreme conversation as a result.

As a result of this extreme conversation, Scorsese felt compelled to retrench, expanding upon his point to say that he fears that franchise movies are destructive to the public appetite for other types of movies 2, and that “cinema” (per his definition) is pushed out by the constant-bombardment of superhero movies. Several Marvel-adjacent and Marvel-employed folks interjected, mainly along the lines of “we love you Martin Scorsese but you are wrong about this thing” 3, culminating this last week with Marvel honcho Kevin Feige emerging to weigh in and say that he loves Martin, but he is wrong about this thing. He specifically calls out the communal nature of movies, and the love of going places and having a thrilling experience in a group of people which sounds, to be frank, like what people are also looking for when they go to a theme park. 


Further compounding the pro-dismissal crowd is some really ugly ageism (“Martin Scorsese is too old to be relevant”), but an even bigger part orf the mix is this seeming desire to demand that everyone enjoy the thing. It’s not enough that the movies have made literally unfathomable amounts of money, or that they receive the kind of acclaim that was the exclusive purview of, well, Martin Scorcese movies in the seventies until recently, there simply cannot be allowed to be any dissent at all, it seems. This is, I believe, the result of the way that the culture around superhero fandom is built. 

The word “fandom” itself has, in recent years, begun its turn into a sort of gross appellation that no longer speaks of appreciation, but of the performative “obsession” that yields social media posts and/or reddit threads where people try to one-up each other endlessly in their ability to be devoted to their things. One of the reasons for this is pretty easy to spot and is historical: for a very long time, to be into Thor or whatever required spending your time and money doing that instead of the things that the majority (at the time) of the people around you were doing.

Put simply, the time it took to read up on the Chippendale Dancer of Thunder in the nineties was time taken away from, say, watching a sportsball game or whatever. It’s also a solitary experience, which meant that it was something you didn’t do with other people. A hobby that (relatively) isolates as well as consuming the time that isn’t spent on more popular pursuits is one that places you at odds with the people that don’t share the hobby, and therefore leave you in a position to glom together with the other people that do share it. 

This is, essentially, what the internet is built on, and I’m saying absolutely nothing new by pointing this out. What has happened, then, is the bro-ism that’s overtaken the idea. Because of the specific marketing and availability/representation concerns of traditional superhero comics, the set of people that built up the mechanisms and discourse of its fandom are, by and large, the sort of people who are also inclined to turn their hobby into yet another form of dick-jousting. The talk about superheroes has, for several decades, had to emerge out from under (or just around) the idea that superhero stories were simple and for children and all that, which has necessarily (and perhaps understandably) led to some wagon circling. But with wagon circling comes figuring out who you let in the circle, and that fosters an environment that is basically the opposite of the sharing mentality outlined above, which only ratchets up the argumentative nature in question. 

This mindset – that the thing that the fandom bros love is under constant attack and needs to be defended from the powers that call it silly – persists, even as the movies are beloved by so many people that not liking them puts you in the same minority that you would have been in if you had been, say, a Thor fan in the early nineties 4. But the conversation still contains all of the unexploded landmines of the past, and so any sort of broadside against the idea of the fandom being good and pure or whatever must be STAMPED OUT.

I’m not a sociologist, and this is just a blog post about some filmmakers who have opinions, so I’m not going to get into the vagaries of how liking a movie becomes a part of the personal identity of people, or even say too much about the appeal of entrenchment among bro-fandoms seems to be such an appealing mindset. I’ll point out that this is happening alongside the constantly-simmering MCU vs. DC thing, and the thing that’s currently immolating Star Wars fan circles, and a billion other things where somebody decides that everything they love is under attack. The point is that people have taken the fact that the guy who directed Mean Streets doesn’t like their favorite movie, and that the guy who directed Bram Stoker’s Dracula is somehow involved in not liking it also, and this must be defended, because the history and tradition of talking about superhero entertainment is intertwined with people calling them “underwear perverts” and holding up non-superhero entertainment as the only real examples of graphic storytelling (this happened a lot in comics circles, I’ve probably even done it myself, shamefully). 

I’m also not a literary theorist, so I’m not going to spend a tonne of time beyond this paragraph talking about how fiction of the imagination (a thing we use for the majority of our stimulation when we’re young) – put simply here as “genre” fiction, and winnowed down specifically here to superheroes, a subset of fantasy – yields to more “serious” fiction, which I guess is fiction of consideration or contemplation 5. When you stop being a child, you put away childish things, which is generally thought to include the stories you enjoy. 

The seeds of this particular violent upheaval, then, are harvested from a couple of babies that have been thrown out with the bathwater. The first of them is that there is (as previously mentioned) a lot of discriminatory weirdness baked into the history of the conversations about superhero stuff, and this has somehow been taken to be (by the people that are angry at Martin Scorsese) a necessary or, at least, currently-extant, part of those conversations in this ever-changing world in which we’re livin’. The second is that there is that when someone doesn’t like something at the genre level, there is some sort of necessary judgement happening at the people that do like it – that, in short, Frances Ford Coppola’s belief that superhero movies are “despicable” is also the view of Martin Scorsese, who just doesn’t like them, which means they aren’t “cinema”.

Lost in this tangent is the fact that it is completely insane to say a thing isn’t the thing it is just because you don’t like it. It genuinely is an infuriating set of thoughts and words that are borne out all over – certainly Martin Scorcese is not the first to be guilty of this nonsense – and certainly these infuriating thoughts and words could be addressed on their own merits, and not as some sort of weird imaginary culture war where a dude says he doesn’t like a movie that everyone else likes?

I’ve written previously about the sort of totalitarian attitude of poptimists – that something is popular because it is good, or good because it is popular – before, and I think that it’s worth introducing the following opinion into the whole thing: it is possibly to like something and not have it be great, or even good. Everyone gets to define what “great” is for themselves, certainly, and more importantly “good”, which works along considerably more axes 6. The question “which superhero movies are worthy of consideration as ‘great’?” is one that I think about kind of a lot, and one that has very few answers (Blade, the second Hellboy movie, The Dark Knight, Black Panther, and Thor: Ragnarok ) 7

But whatever your opinion is on the goodness slash greatness of the movies in question, it’s certainly worth examining the context: people are going to disagree with any given position, and just because the history of a genre’s treatment in the popular discourse has gone one way historically doesn’t mean it’s the only way it can go, so maybe rely on the fact that nearly everyone agrees with you to bolster your own opinion, and quit freaking out when people don’t share it.

  1. I mean, I’m a one-man operation and can pretty much write whatever pops into my head, but the awards show posts and such are kind of the bread and butter around here, and things have to be slotted in around them, so when something dumb happens and then there’s a bunch of awards and stuff, I sometimes lose the moment. 
  2. I would hardly be the first, or even the hundredth, to point out that this can be read as “films like The Irishman 
  3. I’ll get more into my position on the matter at the end here, but I can say in this footnote: I love you Martin, but you are wrong about this thing. 
  4. Hi! It me! 
  5. I’m keeping this boiled down for brevity, and I’m kind of making these terms up on the fly in order to do so, so I may rethink this set of classifications in the future, but for right now they’ll do. 
  6. like, graphing axes not the things you use to chop woods or Lizzie Borden’s parents or whatever. 
  7. see, I told you I’d get to my opinion on the matter. Note also that I’ve seen every single movie in the MCU and liked pretty much all of them, even the second Thor movie, so it’s not like i’m immune to their charms. 

The 2019 E! People’s Choice Awards

So last year the People’s Choice Awards underwent their former syndicated glory to become the sole artistic purview of the E! Network. I think this seems reasonable, but it also puts me in an interesting frame of mind, analytically. To wit: I have no idea who actually takes any of this stuff seriously (other than me).

I mean, I’m writing about it, so obviously I care about this stuff. And obviously it’s still going, and wasn’t cancelled unceremoniously, so enough people care about it that it’s still worth the expense, but that’s not really what I mean. I’m going to talk now, probably at some length, about television, the worst 1, most popular, medium for entertainment.

The E! People’s Choice Awards are meant to be a sort of grab-bag of the things that people like enough to vote in a basic-cable company’s online poll and declare their favorite 2. As such, it sort of begs the question of who the “people” involved are, and, given the loose nature of “choice” (read here as “favorite”), what it is they are choosing. When television was a more-controlled environment, and basic cable faced fewer alternatives (network and premium cable), it was probably easier to maintain the illusion that this was the choice that was made by the people. 

As it is, however, I’m unsure how many actual people would be involved in this. While the awards show itself is presenting itself as the sort of thing where we, the populous, gets to choose what it is that receives the statue, it’s actually a subset of the people that watch the network that has all the Kardashian shows and whatnot on it, which may or may not be any kind of direct representative sample of any of the actual people, because we have no idea who is watching E!, and, more to the point, who is watching it in such a way that they see the commercials for the People’s Choice Awards and, further still, are thus impelled to come out and vote for them.

Now, most awards are selected by smaller, less theoretically-democratic groups of people – AMPAS, or the Hollywood Foreign Press, or the Recording Academy, or the editorial staff of Billboard Magazine. You see what I mean. So this is probably a larger body than those, and it’s definitely more open 3, but the thing that calls attention to wondering just who it is that chooses to exercise those voting privileges is the fact of its openness. 

The People’s Choice Awards, then, were always absurd 4 – they were never actually a democratic representation of anything other than people who knew what they were, and cared enough to vote on them which, given the viewership numbers and their general place in the pop-culture firmament, was already a tiny number, but used to include, say, people that were exposed to the commercials and such during shows people actually manage to watch on television 5, or who were into the idea of dumb awards shows in the first place and just managed to know about them that way (that’s how I got here, I haven’t regularly watched a television show on E! Since they cancelled The Soup). 

So when presented with the nominees, one is presented with what the people that are putting on the awards think are going to make for interesting television among the set of people that represent their most ardent viewers and/or carers about, plus whatever other audience the people nominated for the awards can bring in (under the assumption that if, say, Cole Sprouse tweets about his nomination and potential win, he can gin up some support from his social media followers. Or whoever, I’m not actually picking on Cole Sprouse here.

So, walk with me down the aisles of what a cable network thinks that their fans will agree on, mixed with a smattering of folks who are attainable to the E! Network and their audiences, which is a different set of audiences than they had a few years ago.

And these are the rightful winners, even though I think a record number of them for one of these writeups go to people that were not, technically speaking, nominated by the People’s Choice Award…um….people.

The Pop Podcast of 2019

I don’t really have an opinion about it as a show, but I do think that it’s funny, for me, biographically, that I thought of Jonathan Van Ness as a podcaster first, because his Earwolf show was heavily promoted right before Queer Eye got into my field of vision. Anyway, WTF has come a long way since its salad days, but it’s still the best one in the field here. 


The Game Changer of 2019

Megan Rapinoe not only won another damn World Cup for her team, but also made a bunch of other people who wouldn’t have otherwise cared about soccer, which is a hard thing to do for an American audience. Good job, Megan Rapinoe.


The Style Star of 2019

You know what, given that Celine Dion hasn’t done a tonne of stuff publicly except show up places and wear clothes (and have a Vegas residency, which is why she was showing up places and wearing clothes. Well, she probably would have been wearing clothes anyway. You know what I mean.), and that this has proven to be nothing but absolutely delightful, I think it’s got to be her.


The Comedy Act of 2019

Last year I mentioned the oddness of the E! Network’s devotion to Amy Schumer 6, which persists to this year, which is fun. I’m still just going to give it to Kevin Hart, though.


The Animal Star of 2019

Well, this is just the most delightful category of all, but I’m a big fan not only of Nala’s general existence, but of her overcoming her hardscrabble shelter-cat roots in order to be so. Also how many of these can I give to Nala the cat? Like, all of them, right? I think she deserves all of them.


The Social Celebrity of 2019

Like, Nala should definitely be here. None of these people are shelter cats. Not even one of them looks smashing in a shark hat. I’m annoyed beyond measure that I now have to consider any of these people when we should all just agree that social media is for cats and nothing else. And certainly not Cats

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nala again. I’m overriding the nominating body this time.

The Beauty Influencer of 2019

I mean, Nala is a super pretty cat, guys. She always knows how to make her eyes pop (be a cat), her hair always looks great (she’s a cat), and she always knows how to accessorize. Does Desi Perkins have that same gift for accessories? NO.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nala, in a surprise running-away-with-it-all victory. 

The Social Star of 2019

…….after all that do you think there’s going to be some kind of Dolan Twins/Liza Koshy combined come-from-behind situation? No. Social media is for cats, and Nala is the cat in contention. So it’s Nala again.


The Concert Tour of 2019

Shoutout to the E! People’s Choice Awards for being the one organization that remembers that Man of the Woods happened. Jesus. Anyway, the only one of these I spent more than half a second considering was Lady Gaga’s, so I guess there you have it.


The Music Video of 2019

Lil Nas X is, once again, nominated for the song (which is bad) and not the video (which is great), which is stupid and unfair. So, since I’ve already gone full rogue here, I guess he wins this category and all these people don’t.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” 

The Latin Artist of 2019

I guess I’m going to like Daddy Yankee the most in this category until he stops appearing in this category, since his is the only music in this category that I actually find memorable.


The Country Artist of 2019

Uhhhhhhhhh…….Carrie Underwood? I guess?


The Album of 2019

The thing that is most important about this particular exercise is the fact that my decision of rightfulness is, of course, rightful, and the only one of these albums that own is Lizzo’s, so it’s got to be Lizzo. Ipso facto.


The Song of 2019

The music categories of the People’s Choice Awards make me feel like a cranky old person. I have mentioned this previously in conjunction with other music awards, certainly, but here it is again. I kind of like the Khalid song.


The Group of 2019

I usually default to give these things to BTS, who are impressive in their professionalism and showmanship, and their ability to, prior to the last couple of years, manufacture their whole entire fame with the internet and word of mouth. They’re more established now, so I guess I have to consider their music, which isn’t as good as BLACKPINK’s, so there you have it.


The Female Artist of 2019

This one probably has to go to Billie Eilish, who came out of nowhere to take over pretty much everything and is, to her credit, a total weirdo. Good job, Billie Eilish. The music is still pretty bad, but at least it’s bad in an interesting way.


The Male Artist of 2019

For all that I think “Old Town Road” is bad, and that the rest of Lil Nas X’s music is pretty forgettable, I’m at least into his thing, and his ability to ride out his one great idea to its logical conclusion, so he gets this one.


The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show of 2019

I don’t know if The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is actually as good as all that, or if it’s just impressive that they’ve managed to make exactly one Archie Comics themed television drama, and that it’s much better than its previous sitcom incarnation, but either way it’s the standout here. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Bingeworthy Show of 2019

Talking about television in the medical language of addiction is one of those things that I always expect will go away as people realize what they’re doing, but they never really do. That seems bad. Stop doing it. Anyway, the clear winner here oughta be Bojack Horseman, so I’m going to declare it a better candidate than any of the rest of these.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bojack Horseman, in defiance of the actual nominees

The Reality Star of 2019

So anyway Jonathan Van Ness has a podcast and it’s pretty cool, and he’s also got a memoir that everyone likes and is my favorite part of Queer Eye so it’s got to be him, but without him this category would be a bleak and desolate place, devoid of joy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jonathan Van Ness, Queer Eye

The Competition Contestant of 2019

While my mind twists itself into knots trying to figure out how anyone from The Bachelor/ette would qualify for this award, I’m just going to give it to T-Pain. It’s for my own health, you see.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: T-Pain, The Masked Singer

The Nighttime Talk Show of 2019

As always with one of these categories, it comes down to the current Daily Show host versus some former Daily Show correspondents. It was a hell of a show, turns out.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Samantha Bee, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

The Daytime Talk Show of 2019

It amazes me that daytime talk shows are still a thing. I mean, I get that nighttime talk shows aren’t much less insane, but I am still amazed that in 2019 the best thing to fill network air is “a bunch of people talking in six minute chunks”. I will confess that I find it baffling, but I can’t really pinpoint why I find it so baffling. I guess I’ll have to think about it some more, which will represent just about the most thought I’ve ever spared for a daytime talk show.


The Comedy TV Star of 2019

Well, The Good Place is my favorite live-action comedy that produced episodes during the period of eligibility, so it comes down to the two women from The Good Place, of which I think the lead is funnier.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kristen Bell, The Good Place

The Drama TV Star of 2019

So one of the seemingly-unending aspects of this particular awards show is that they don’t segregate their acting awards along sex lines when you’re evaluating along genre lines, and then it comes time to pick a man and a woman (sometimes each of whom were nominated in the same category back when it was drama vs. comedy or whatever) and give them a sex-segregated award. It is weird! 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things

The Female TV Star of 2019

See? Now we’re only looking at the women, and in a moment the men, despite them all being in the same pot for whether it’s comedy or drama. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Danai Gurira, who is on a terrible show (The Walking Dead) doing fine work, and who wasn’t nominated back in the Drama tv Star category, which just compounds the weirdness. 

The Male TV Star of 2019

I still feel bad for singling out Cole Sprouse earlier, so I think he deserves a sympathy award here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cole Sprouse, Riverdale

The Competition Show of 2019

Shoutout here to The Masked Singer for 1) being completely unwatchable, and yet somehow compelling enough that I actually sat and watched it all, and 2) being a television show that is devoted to, and indeed completely in debt to, its costume designers.


The Reality Show of 2019

I don’t think I like a single thing about most of these, but I kind of like Queer Eye, insofar as I’m capable of liking any of this.


The Comedy Show of 2019

Unsurprisingly, I think it’s The Good Place, although I’ll probably have to figure it out after it ends, which is at the end of this season. Very sad. 


The Drama Show of 2019

Well, none of these shows brought me any particular pleasure, but the members of the cast of Big Little Lies sure are attractive, aren’t they?


The Show of 2019

I like that WWE Raw pops up here at the end, having not fit into any of the other categories, despite being dramatic enough to be drama, funny enough to be comedy, no less scripted than most of the “reality” options, and generally more entertaining than any of them. I don’t like wrestling, but I don’t like the rest of this either, and don’t see how it shouldn’t be given an award. At least it’s up front about what it is. This is, admittedly, pretty thin reasoning, but it’s a pretty thin field of nominees, and it doesn’t include The Good Place, which really should be winning.


The Animated Movie Star of 2019

I’m happy enough about Toy Story 4, and Tom Hanks generally, to declare a winner here and move on without expressing my extreme disapproval of most of the rest of these.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tom Hanks, Toy Story 4

The Action Movie Star of 2019

I will say this: despite not being a fan of Acting, the very fact that Robert Downey Jr. managed, in an environment where he by no means had to 7, to turn in a reasonably-good capital-A Acting performance in an environment (see above) where it was not only unlikely due to circumstance, but also made actively more difficult by the process itself, probably deserves an award. Not a big award, but maybe a small award. Like, say, a People’s Choice Award.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Robert Downey, Jr., Avengers: Endgame

The Comedy Movie Star of 2019

As often happens here, my favorite performance was by the person who is not, technically, a trained actor. Go figure. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ali Wong, Always Be My Maybe

The Drama Movie Star of 2019

I appreciate that, in addition to the aforementioned Man of the Woods, the People’s Choice Awards are also here to remember the existence of Glass. I mean, I’m glad they’re doing it so that no one else has to.


The Female Movie Star of 2019

It does, however, remain odd to me that Sarah Paulson can be nominated for Drama Movie Star (regardless of sex involved) but not Female Movie Star. Some of this is because they tighten up the number of nominees for the latter, but that’s an arbitrary decision they’ve already made, and besides which, it should go the other damn way. Also Scarlett Johansson is here, and not in the other category. Basically what I’m saying is that sorting these categories out by sex is stupid, and also that I did actually like Scarlet Johansson in Avengers: Endgame. But not as much as Lupita Nyong’o, generally.


The Male Movie Star of 2019

I mean, I already said the thing about Robert Downey, Jr., so now I’ll just go ahead and applaud some more special effects and point out that I like the way the computer-folks and Samuel L. Jackson assembled his de-aged performance in Captain Marvel.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Samuel L. Jackson, Captain Marvel

The Family Movie of 2019

Aw, hey, I liked The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part an awful lot. I think I’m going to vote for it here sentimentally, if for no other reason. Also because it’s going to go to Toy Story 4 no matter what I do, and I like to be contrary.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

The Drama Movie of 2019

Dude, the idea that someone at E! wants to convince people to watch Glass is geniunely, actually funny. Not in a post-internet “dude that’s hilarious” way, but in a way that I’m always made happy when I find someone who is willing to champion something that I think is bad. I had a friend in college whose favorite band in the world was Blessid Union of Souls. This makes me think about the same reaction I had to that. I don’t understand it, I can’t fathom thinking that Glass needs an award, but I’m glad someone does, because I’m glad someone out there appreciates the time and effort spent on it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Us. I mean, I like that someone likes Glass, I’m not one of those people. 

The Action Movie of 2019

So it’s true that there was some fine acting in Avengers: Endgame, certainly, and the directing was good enough to make sense of the whole thing, but the movie itself worked becaue of the enormous and presumably-Herculean efforts of a team of editors, staff coordinators, animators, scheduling producers (and other such calendar-mavens) and continuity experts, who could get a cast of seventeen gajillion people into a movie together, despite it being fairly certain that none of them could be together at the same time, coordinating the efforts a bunch of high-level big-name folks in addition to the fact that the movie was nearly entirely CG. While I may not agree that it was a great movie (although I liked it a lot, and can’t imagine a way in which it would have been any better), it certainly was a great achievement, even if only in terms of its staggering logistics. So it should probably win some awards or whatever.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Avengers: Endgame

The Comedy Movie of 2019

I could probably say the same thing back in the drama category about half the movies here, but instead I’m just going to do what everyone else does, and come out in favor of The Hustle.


The Movie of 2019

I probably should’ve saved all the stuff I said about The Avengers for down here, but I will also use this space to point out that, in addition to The Avengers being The Movie of 2019 in People’s Choice Awards parlance, it’s also probably the movie of 2019, in that it’s probably the apex of the superhero-movie dominance, and the movie that will forever be associated with the era. I mean, I’m not a good prognosticator, but I’m pretty sure that was it, and that it’s probably downhill from there. Not in terms of quality 8, but in terms of absolute cultural dominance. In any event, the coordination of the movie, but also the couple of dozen movies that fed into it and the constant shifting of studios and contracts and such (as mentioned above) is still really impressive. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Avengers: Endgame


  1. I’m not really getting into the “worst” thing, but you can see much of what I’ve written previously on the subject. 
  2. this is, of course, dependent on taking at face value that this voting, and the attendant award-granting , is all done as it is suggested that it is done – i.e. that the votes are tabulated and then the winner announced therefrom. While there are potentially all sorts of places where this could turn out not to be true – i.e. the votes could not matter, or could be massaged and/or juiced by the producers or their representatives – for our purposes here, that doesn’t really matter. In summation, it’s not that I have faith in the honesty and openness of the people at E! as much as it is that the whole ball of weirdness doesn’t actually depend on that honesty for its appeal in the first place. 
  3. For example, I was able to vote for these, a distinction shared only by the Hugos, and I had to pay money in order to vote for the Hugos. 
  4. you can see me write some about the absurdness of them in pretty much each of the annual writeups. 
  5. they formerly aired on CBS, which has long been the only broadcast network that can manage to consistently bring in traditional ratings, largely by appealing to an older demographic, although even that is changing/has changed. 
  6. which is probably attributable to her being willing to Schumer it up on the red carpet at even non-E! events. 
  7.  and, indeed, where many of his peers did not 
  8. actually, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Captain Marvel are both much better movies, as movies in and of themselves go. 

The Best Records of October 2019

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (it’s true that there are no bad Nick Cave albums, or at least that there never has been one, but nobody expects a record this good forty-odd years into one’s career 1, but here we are)

Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin (This is a fantastic change of direction for Mr. Brown – excellent flow, great production, generally just a great step forward)

Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Volume 4 (surfacing some decidedly folky elements of her noise/jaz/soul music has made it more interesting – this is the best of these albums, and they were at a pretty high level to begin with)

Sunn O))) – Pyroclasts (a second top-shelf Sunn O))) record in a year is a real gift. This one is less composed and a lot looser than the other, but also more cohesive.)

clipping. – There Existed an Addiction to Blood (this is the most like midcity they’ve sounded since midcity, and I am here for it)

  1. counting from The Boys Next Door, that is 

The 2019 World Fantasy Awards

The end of the year only means one thing 1, and that’s the World Fantasy Awards! 2

Every year I talk a big game about how the World Fantasy Awards are a lot of fun for me because they involve taking me out of my comfort zone, etc, but this year that proved to be really true: this year most of the material was very much not my bag, but it was enlightening and worthwhile to get through it all, anyway. 

We live in an exciting world full of stimulating and engaging art for all sorts of people, and almost none of those people are me. I am a smart person, and I am pretty steadfast in my opinions and the reasoning for them, and it would be very easy to let those opinions calcify, 3 and stick to the rivers and lakes that I’m used to. But it’s good to get out there and chase the waterfalls of, say, fantasy stories about warrior-poets, because it’s a useful reminder that it takes all sorts of get everything done, and the people that would respond to that sort of thing are also often people that I admire and respect. Even if they aren’t, and even if I don’t know them at all, sharing this thing with them (the nebulous, unseen enjoyers of the thing) brings us all closer together as human persons, and is therefore enjoyable to me even when I don’t much care for the work itself.

That said, I’m still right about everything all the time, so I’m here to declare which award-granting decisions are rightful. It’s the least I could do, really.

Oh, except that I don’t talk about the special awards ever, because I don’t really have a perspective on them as such, and I’m not going to say much about the Lifetime Achievement Award winners, even when one of them is given to Hayao Miyazaki (!) and the other to Jack Zipes (an excellent folklorist).


Additionally (this is the last additionally I promise) I usually spend some time equivocating in this entry about how I don’t know anything about visual art and am therefore bad at doing this category, so I largely won’t, and will just say that I like Charles Vess’s Earthsea illustrations and, while I didn’t vote for them at the Hugos, I think that they’d be just right for this here, so let’s do that.



So this year, this category was filled with many wildly-uneven sets of stories, and one clear winner.

Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell’s The Tangled Lands had its moments, mostly in the first two stories, which were written several years before the last two. Bacigalupi’s stories are especially varied in quality – “The Alchemist” is much better than “The Children of Khaim”, mainly on the strength of its world-building 4 while “The Executioness” is only a bit better than “The Blacksmith’s Daughter”. All told, it was an interesting idea that doesn’t bear much out.

Andy Duncan’s An Agent of Utopia is a fine, slim set of stories that are of a pretty-consistent level of quality. Much of it is historical fiction, and he writes pretty well about a supernatural South. I wrote about the title story for the Nebulas back in May, and it’s still pretty good, and has a sense of humor that runs through the collection. “Joe Diabo’s Farewell” is a sort of barstool-type end of the night story. “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” and “Slow as a Bullet” turn into pretty good folksy-type stories, the formersort of a spooky campfire business 5 and the latter a straight up tall-tale-type yarn. “Senator Bilbo” turns a very familiar character into a very real villain for very plausible reasons, and works marvelously. “Close Encounters” may not read as effectively to anyone who hasn’t ever been taken by stories of alien abduction/encounter, but it sure is great if you have. “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” literalizes the place of the titular song, and talks about hobos (as the song does) and how they’d get there. “The Map to Homes of the Stars” is a bit of an outlier, and also possibly the best story in the collection, about the need to escape and the means by which people do so. It’s all pretty good, but not anything that stands above the pack.

Margo Lanagan’s Phantom Limbs is a really hard book for me to evaluate. Lanagan is a terrific writer, with a good sense of how to propel her stories and where that propulsion should take them. She’s willing to do a lot more with the “takes on fairy tales” toolbox than most, and it’s very interesting. But I bounce off of almost every single one of them – her stories are intensely biological, and are especially about the role and position of women’s bodies and the things that can and do happen to them. I suppose it says what it says about me that I have a hard time grappling with that sort of thing 6. Even with all that in place, the high points of the book break through into the “stuff I really like” pile. “Tin Pocket” has a robot (of sorts) in it, and isn’t afraid to have a happy ending, which I liked. “Titty Anne and the Very Hairy Man” is the best of the fairy-tale derived stories (“Red Riding Hood,” no less). “The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross” is a gorgeous story about aliens and what men feel entitled to and…well, the biology comes up but it’s a spoiler, so you should just go read it. “Catastrophic Destruction of the Head” is also lovely and concerns the difficulty of putting extreme things behind you. “Heads” is about children, and the way that things become normal and, well, measuring heads. It’s got its charms, and this one has the widest mileage variance of any book I’ve ever considered for an awards write-up.

Amanda Downum’s Still So Strange is the most inconsistent of the bunch. Her high points are great weird stories, and account for probably half the book. “Wrack” is a pretty, sad 7 story about a man who falls in love with a mermaid. “Dogtown” is a scary story about a town that goes way off the rails. “Wounded in the Wing” is a rather original take on a story about an angel, among other things, that it’s hard to say much about without giving away, but which ticks along well and has a great ending. “Flotsam” is about a woman’s choice to be human. “Red” deals some more with women’s bodies and their right to them, and also the idea that what we think of as a universal case for, say, zombies, might actually not be. “Smoke and Mirrors” is the best story I’ve read about a lady re-joining the circus in several years 8. “Gingerbread and Time” is also about moving on with one’s life, this time as a witch, and is probably the winner for the best collection-closing story.

NK Jemisen’s How Long Til Black Future Month, though, is the goliath to all the other collections’ David here. It’s a tremendous collection of one of Earth’s finest writers’ short work. I’ve covered “The City Born Great” in the past 9, and it’s still born great. “Those Who Stay and Fight” builds on Le Guin’s classic “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas” in a really inspiring and empowering way. “The Effluent Engine” deserves credit for not merely mentioning its airships, but actually including them in the actual workings of the actual story 10. “L’Alchemista” is about the importance of being able to treat ingredients properly when cooking them. “The Trojan Girl” gives its robots a different, non-Asimovian set of rules to work with, and is very moving for all that. “The Valedictorian” travels a similar road, flipping the expectation of what it means to be selected for being “different” in a society that discourages such for general science-fiction reasons 11“Walking Awake” is great science fiction horror, about the demands for perfection, and one woman’s attempt to get revenge, of a kind. “The Stone Eater” is the story that launched a billion people falling in love with Jemisen’s work, and while it’s not as good as the Broken Earth books, it’s still quite good. “On the Bank of the River Lex” is an admirably weird look at an admirably weird version of the future. “Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows” is probably my favorite story in the collection, about the nature of online communication and closeness after a very strange, specific apocalypse. “Non-Zero Possibilities” was a lot of fun, and concerns the joys of accepting things as they are, and being able to admit when things you can’t have actually just kind of suck anyway. “Sinners, Saints, Dragons and Haints” is a great bookend to “The City Born Great,” also about a man’s love for his city (this time post-flood New Orleans) and the supernatural creatures that exist therein. The collection operates at a super-high level, and this is probably her category to run away with. It’s certainly the best collection by my estimation.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: NK Jemisen, How Long til Black Future Month?


This category was also (relative to other years I’ve been doing this) somewhat disappointing. There were a couple of interesting swings that weren’t very consistent, but by and large it was an extra-mixed bag, and while none of it was outright bad, this has definitely been a stronger field in previous years. 

Gardner Dozois edited The Book of Magic in the same vein as last year’s The Book of Swords and the like, and it’s probably the last book published under his editorship, which is bittersweet. It’s fine, and not the best of them. KJ Parker’s “The Return of the Pig” 12 was about a world where souls can travel and be trapped, in this case in a pig, and it’s terrifying (the way the sould is dealt with) and funny (it’s a pig) in equal measure, as is par for the course for Parker. Megan Lindholm 13 gave us the also scary “Community Service,” about an unknowable evil with a pretty tragic appetite, and some ingenious problem-solving. John Crowley’s “Flint and Mirror” is a good Doctor Dee story, with the good Doctor in this case training a kid for a war. Rachel Pollack wrote a sort of magic-noir in “Song of Fire”, where a card-playing Cool Dude and his Djinn investigate a mystery, and therefore deserves extra prays for being assembled almost entirely out of elements I would generally request be left out of my magic stories, but being very good anyway. Eleanor Arneson re-writes an Icelandic folk story for “Loft the Sorceror,” and things do not turn out well for our titular bad-bargain maker. Tim Powers’s very Tim Powers-y “The Governor” is about a guy who figured out how to Thing on the Doorstep his own children, and the extraordinary lengths he went to predict himself at their expense. It does feature both a terrible not-dead family member and an old book 14, and is a lot of fun besides. Elizabeth Bear’s “No Work of Mine” is a very twisty story about a magic artificer. Greg van Eekout’s “The Werewolf and the Manticore” pretty much gives you what it says on the tin (and is also quite twisty). Scott Lynch’s “The Fall and Rise of the House of the Wizard Maluril” is probably the best story in the collection, about a magic house and its relationship to the kobold servants that work in and around it. It really goes some places, and it’s worth reading the book just to get to it. 

Stephen Jones’s The Year’s Best Horror 28 was the usual Stephen Jones bag 15, which is to say that it’s a reasonably-good overview of what’s going on in short horror. . It does have two good Angela Slatter stories as bookends, with her MR James-esque “Pale Tree House” kicking it off and her Baba Yaga story “The Red Forest” ending it. Good work all around, as usual for Angela Slatter. Glen Hirschberg’s “India Blue” is the best story about an ancient destructive monster at a cricket match that I’ve ever read. Peter Bell’s “Carrying the Cross” does a good job of getting some more juice out of a church that’s All Wrong. Richard Stephen Matheson’s “Bedtime Story” is a good little screamer, although it puts one in the mind of, like, a horror-themed Whitehouse song. Darren Speegle’s “The Symphony of the Normal” is about the ancient horror-type dangers of climate change 16. Lynda E. Rucker’s “Who is This Who is Coming” is reasonably spooky, but more welcome for being quite funny, about a woman who takes a vacation to a town where outsiders are not treated as kindly as one might hope. Lisa Tuttle’s “A Home in the Sky” transforms anxiety about not being able to acquire a home into a literally unattainable house. Brian Hodge’s “On These Blackened Shores of Time” makes gripping hay out of the generally-terrifying nature of old mines. Caitlin R. Kiernan’s “Far From Any Shore” is about an archaeologist who discovers and extremely terrible ancient relic. Michael Marshall Smith’s “Over to You” gets a surprisingly-scary story out of a writing exercise involving a chess piece, which would be the least-likely scary story object if it weren’t for the cricket match several stories before. It’s also worth noting that the end material of this collection is a useful, if catalogue-ish reference, first of the horror material generated in the year in question, and then at the end for the people in the field who passed. 

Aidan Doyle, Rachel Jones and E. Catherine Tobler edited the interesting but deeply-inconsistent Sword and Sonnet. I’m going to come out and say, like last year’s Djinn anthology, this is a thing that does not in any way fall under my usual set of interests, and some of it was downright hard for me to engage with 17. Its hits were pretty effective, however. A.C. Wise made a pretty cool story in “Words in an Unfinished Poem” about a gunslinger with poem bullets. The reliable CSE Cooney’s “As for Peace, Call it Murder” is about the revolutionary power inherent in poetry, and how that itself could be the act of warriors and all that. Victoria Sandbrook’s “El Cantar de la Raina Bruja” is a pretty-good revenge story, and the author’s note 18 gives us the phrase “Attic Wife Rage” which is basically worth the entire cost of admission. Kira Lees’ “Her Poems Are Inked in Fears and Blood” deals with the idea of “women’s work” in a really interesting feudal-Japan-inspired way. AE Provost’s “Labyrinth, Sanctuary” deals with multiple definition of “walls,” literal and figurative. Matt Dovey’s “The Bone Poet and God” was probably the story I enjoyed outright the most, about a bear who does magic with bones, and the conceivable benefits of faith and behaving honorably. Samantha Henderson’s “The Fiddler at the Heart of the World” was a very good fairie story about sacrifice in a hospital 19. Cassandra Khaw’s “Recite Her the Names of Pain” is about a Siren, and has a tremendous ending, and set me firmly on the path that I should be more into Cassandra Khaw (see below). Alex Acks’s story is actually called “Siren” but kicks off a set of more science-ficiontal stories, by being about a destructive space….force? thing? Carlie St. George’s “The Lexicon of Bone and Feathers” deals with the difficulty of communication between sapient species, and also with a truly bizarre and off putting definition of “poem”. Ingrid Garcia’s “Dark Clouds & Silver Linings” mashes together Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace, and communicates largely in a variegated set of references, and perhaps more than any other story I read here was about the joy of the language, and would probably benefit from being read aloud. I suppose when I write out all the high points, there are more of them than I thought there were while reading it, which isn’t nothing. 

Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s Robots vs. Fairies is another theme collection, and has pretty much the same trajectory as Sword and Sonnet, even if the open nature of the book means that the stories are a little bit less swingy. It includes Ken Liu’s “Quality Time” and Jeffrey Ford’s “The Bookcase Expedition,” both of which I wrote about for the Locus awards and still quite like. Seanan McGuire’s “Build me a Dreamland” is about a very odd amusement park, and is the first of the stories to explore the intersection (kind of) between robots and fairies. Analee Newitz’s “The Blue Fairie’s Manifesto” recasts the titular fairie as a workers-rights advocate, in which she foments a revolution. Sarah Gailey’s “Bread and Milk and Salt” is about the problem with trying to capture a fairy, and deserves to be noted as another story about revenge that doesn’t make me the least bit queasy 20. Jonathan Mayberry’s “Ironheart” is about the importance of putting one’s blood, sweat and tears into one’s work. Madeline Ashby’s “Work Shadow/Shadow Work” deals with when, exactly, a robot is and is not human. Alyssa Wong’s “All the Time We Have Left” is a very good, and unsettling look at the inevitable consequences of replacing humans with robots. Maria Dahvana Headley’s predictably-excellent “Adriftica” is about a music journalist who turns out to be entwined in a very familiar fairie relationship. Cathrynne Valente’s rollicking “A Fall Counts Anywhere” literalizes the title, with all of the fairies fighting all of the robots, and if it isn’t the most fun I had reading something for this set of awards, then i don’t remember what was. All told, it’s very much worthwhile, and none of the stories are bad, but it isn’t quite the winner. 

Irene Gallo put together World Seen in Passing 21 as the best of the fiction published by Tor’s website, and it turns out to be a real mammoth of a collection. “The City Born Great” is represented here again, of course, as are David Levine’s “Damages”, Alyssa Wong’s “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers,” Maria Dahvana Headley’s “The Tallest Doll in New York City,” Max Gladstone’s “A Kiss With Teeth” and Tina Connolly’s “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections”, all of which I’ve written about for various awards previously. They’re all great and very much worth revisiting 22. Aside from those, Charlie Jane Anders’s “Six Months, Three Days” is about the downfall of being able to see the future, and whether that’s actually possible. Carrie Vaughan’s “The Best We Can” has long been a favorite of mine, as it deals with all my favorite stuff: a heartless corporation stifling scientific progress and human development, space travel, and perseverance in the face of said corporate indifference. Yoon Ha Lee’s “A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel” is an excellent travelling snapshot of various alien civilizations. Helen Marshall’s “The Hanging Game” is about just who, exactly, pays a debt. John Chu’s “The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere” is a lovely, heartwarming piece of magical realism about a world where lying dumps water all over people, and the power of the truth to help things turn out better than you thought. Ruthanna Emrys’s “The Litany of Earth” is about a descendant of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth in a world where the government took it out, Waco-style. Aaron Cowin’s “Brimstone and Marmalade” is a cute 23 story about a girl and her pet demon. Nino Cipri’s “The Shape of My Name” deals well with trans* issues while also presenting time travel in a really novel way. Rachel Swirksy’s “Eros, Philia, Agape” is about the nature of free will, and what it means to not have been human from the start 24. Mary Robinett Kowal’s “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” is better than the novel it was expanded into, and is very much worth the several mountains of praise that were heaped upon it. Genevieve Valentine’s “La Beaute sans Vertu” is a terrifying piece of body horror, about a monomaniacal fashion industry, and the toll it takes on the people that it consumes. Laurie Penny’s “Your Orisons May be Recorded” is a lovely story about an angel that works in a prayer-receiving call center. AM Dellamonica’s “The Cage” is about a Vancouver where there are werewolves (illegal werewolves, no less), and the value of community and what we owe to each other. Leigh Bardugo’s “The Witch of Duva” is about a little girl who goes to a witch to learn how to get rid of a monster, with another terrific ending. Cassandra Khaw’s “These Deathless Bones” is about a magic-imbued tyrant child and his caretaker, and even if the story itself weren’t great, the final line would catapult into being mentioned here. Kelly Barnhill’s “Mrs. Sorenson and the Sasquatch” is about the freedom to love who we want, and presents its magic-containing world in a very straightforward, straight faced way, which I really loved. Kathleen Ann Goonan’s “A Short History of the Twentieth Century” is a piece of historical science fiction that tells the story of a determined computer programmer, and is about the support structure of family, and specifically has a really moving mother-daughter relationship at its heart. It’s beautiful, and ends the collection well. Basically, the best of short fiction published on Tor’s website is the short fiction that appeals to me the most, and you could do a whole lot worse (and not much better) than to get this one. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Irene Gallo, Worlds Seen in Passing

Short Fiction

Hoo. Okay. So the writeups get a lot shorter from here on out. This was a good field, although in keeping with the general level of quality on the year, I’m unsure how much of it will remain a standout as time goes by. 

Emma Torzs’s “Like a River Loves the Sky” is a deeply weird, sweet story about taxidermy in the post-apocalypse. It takes a little while to get its wheels on the road, but once it does, it moves along effectively, and the ending genuinely took my by surprise. 

Sarah Pinsker’s “The Court Magician” has come up previously, and isn’t as wildly great as the best Sarah Pinsker, but is still a very moving and effective look at a world where magic actually requires something of its participants, and the nature of forgetting, and longing, and whether things are ever truly completely gone. It’s nice enough, and it grew on me with a repeated reading, so maybe I’ll like it more when I read it again in the future.

Adam Troy-Castro’s “The Ten Things She Said While Dying” is about the death of a woman from the perspective of an Unknowable Terror Monster (UTM). It’s a lot of fun, and plays a pretty good game with the titular statements and the point of view of the UTM. The perspective is impressive, and it’s definitely unique, which are not small things, but it’s slighter than a couple of the other stories here.

Alex E. Harrow’s “A Witch’s Guide to Escape” was also previously addressed 25, and is a good, engaging story about the nature of escape that charmingly casts librarians as literal witches, which I enjoy a great deal. It got bumped out of the number one spot, but it’s still a tremendously worthy entrant. 

A list of ten itemized things also provides the structure for Mel Kassel’s “Ten Deals with Indigo Snake,” which actually improves upon some of the themes and devices of both “The Court Magician” (i.e. the magic in the story comes at great loss) and “The Ten Things She Said While Dying” (i.e. the presentation of the things one by one, and the explication thereof). It deals with the cultural nature of snakes in the first place, and with the process under which we make major decisions, and whether or not they are the right ones. There’s also a little “Monkey’s Paw” in there for good measure. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mel Kassel, “Ten Deals with Indigo Snake” 


This category fares a little better than some of the others. It was a bang-up year for novellas, and while some of these are playing pretty loose with “fantasy,” the winner wouldn’t be in there they weren’t, so I’m willing to not gripe about it 26.

P Djeli Clark’s The Black God’s Drums has come up twice before, and I’ll stand by my judgement: it’s pretty good alternate-history stuff, and I’d be interested in seeing if there are more stories that take place in its world, but it wasn’t my favorite material here.

Aliete de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective remains a fun mystery story with some great world-building, but, like the Clark, doesn’t quite get over into “potential winner” status. It was also nominated for a Hugo

Seanan McGuire’s Beneath the Sugar Sky is another of the Wayward Children novellas, all of which have been previously written about in this space, and each of which is pretty fantastic. In this case she does more world-building than usual, creating a recognizable and understandable world out of the idea of a literalized candyland, and while I like the protagonist a lot, it lacks some of the punch of the other installments 27.

Kij Johnson’s “The Privilege of the Happy Ending” is a fantastic, wonderful story about a little girl and her talking chicken, and where their misfortunes take them. It also manages to deal with questions of body autonomy and fertility 28, and for all that is also occasionally very funny. It would’ve won in many years, probably even the majority of them, but, again, there’s the Bolander.

Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing is among the very best great things, and deserves this and every other award for which it could possibly be nominated, as previously asserted. It’s about the way that the underprivileged are treated by those in power, and chiefly about elephants, and is beautiful and surprising and emotional in ways that were occasionally unexpected, and always welcome. Surely you’ve read it by now, yes?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brooke Bolander, The Only Harmless Great Thing


And, finally, we come to the last category, for the longest works. This category was the most affected by the Great 2019 Quality Malaise, as most of these are fine 29, but not spectacular. A couple of them are truly great, however, and I’m very happy to see them here.

Dale Bailey’s In the Night Wood is another in the string of Dale Bailey works that I have bounced straight off of. It’s an engaging-enough story about an inherited house with Something Wrong, and a horned king. It’s dragged around by the time spent developing the adultery plot that sets the whole backstory into motion, and which comes up basically every few pages despite not actually contributing much to the book beyond its initial role in establishing the character relationships. It’s quite readable, but not very satisfying. 

RF Kuang’s The Poppy War came up at the Nebulas and the Hugos, and there are things about it that really stick in the mind, although some of this is certainly attributable to how graphic it all is 30. It’s got a fascinating world, and tells an interesting and engaging story, and certainly one can find the violence and general human atrocity abhorrent, but it’s necessary to the story. It’s just not a story that I like as much as the other ones here. I look forward to Kuang’s career progressing, and am confident she’s got genuinely great work in her, but I don’t know that I agree that this is it. 

CL Polk’s Witchmark remains a well-rendered look at a fascinating world with a really interesting set of social relationships. It finishes in the middle because it never really seems to put its elements together in a very satisfying way, and it’s clearly the beginning of something, rather than a book of its own. 

Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning is a first-rate story in terms of its characterization and world. If the end is a little bit of a let-down, it’s a let-down that serves the book, and while my enthusiasm for it isn’t as wild and blazing as it was back at the Nebulas, there’s certainly nothing wrong with it, and it’s only because it’s held up against this year’s rightful winner that I’m even examining it for flaws in the first place. 

But, alack for all the rest of them, Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife is so goddamned good. It’s a retelling of Beowulf in affluent suburbia, and rather than sketch out the familiar beats of a story told often, it manages to take the story organically through a new set of events and actions, along the way dealing effectively with veterans, shared heritage, privilege, expectations and the way that we all find ourselves cheated by the very mechanisms and systems that we rely upon to maintain our regular lives. What a fantastic book. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Maria Dahvana Headley, The Mere Wife

  1. that’s right. One thing. One single thing, and no other things. 
  2. that’s it. That’s the thing.  
  3. and perhaps, if I’m being honest, a sort of innate tendency in me exists to do so 
  4.  which is, in fact, the world that all four of the stories take place in 
  5. although a very funny horror story 
  6. put charitably, what it says is that I’m a big ol’ prude when it comes to my reading material, although I’m happy her work exists because it’s really quite well-wrought. 
  7. two adjectives, although I suppose it is also “pretty sad” 
  8. although it’s probably worth pointing out that with this, Jane Yolen’s excellent Dorothy story from last year, and Caroline Yoachim’s “Carnival Nine” all in the last couple of years, I might just be really into stories about circuses. I will research the matter and report on my findings. 
  9. it’s also reprinted in Worlds Seen in Passing, see below 
  10. speculative fiction is littered with mentioned and not-used airships, you see 
  11. the reasons are specific, but I try to keep these brief and devoid of details that give stuff away, because while I don’t believe in spoilers, some of my readers do, and I’m willing to make that concession. 
  12. there are many things I hope that someone comes along to pick back up in the absence of Dozois, but one of them is that someone should make sure that KJ Parker is always there to lead off a collection. 
  13. who also writes as Robin Hobb, and is another Dozois mainstay 
  14. but then, I already said it was very Tim Powers-y. Also, I love Tim Powers and do not mean this to sound critical. 
  15. full disclosure: I usually read this series anyway, although not usually as closely as I did for this. 
  16. among all the other dangers, that is 
  17. it’s probably better if the idea of a set of stories about warrior-poets sounds like something you’d be into 
  18. I will say that the inclusion of an author’s note after each story was a good tocuh, and really helped me go back and re-read some of them with an eye to what they were doing. This helped with some stories – the Sandbrook under question here being one of them – by giving me something to latch onto, since my natural reading faculties weren’t always able to get a grip on the material. 
  19. like, the concept of sacrifice, not like ritual sacrifice. Well, kind of like that. Read the story it’s good. Jeepers. 
  20. the trick, see, is generally to make the punishment fit the crime and not make it just a sort of blanket case of violent retribution. 
  21. I am from Kent, and keep mucking up the title by getting it confused with the title of the Six Parts Seven’s excellent album Things Shaped in Passing, which isn’t important, but is worth noting, and I’m not going to pass by an opportunity to praise that record. 
  22. many of the other stories in the collection were also nominated for awards that I would have written about, had I been writing about awards here for longer than five years. 
  23. I mean that in the best, least-perjorative way possible. I think it genuinely is cute and I want a li’l pet demon so bad. PRAISE IXTHOR. 
  24. also my favorite Rachel Swirsky stories are about robots. She should write about robots more. I mean, I think that’s probably true of just about everybody, but she’s especially good at it. 
  25. and, in fact, declared a rightful winner 
  26. you know, in addition to my usual avoidance of genre-classification related quibbling, which I am still not really here for. 
  27. although wait until the next one is nominated for awards, it’s amazing 
  28. real world events make it fairly obvious why this would be a recurring theme in this year’s stories. 
  29. although it’s probably fair to point out that a couple of them are well-received in ways that I didn’t receive them. 
  30. see above w/r/t me being a prude 

Rocktober Special: Every Song on The Replacements’ Dead Man’s Pop, ranked

So The Replacements have released a sort of full-bore corrective to their worst album, Don’t Tell a Soul. It’s pretty successful as that – the record really was destroyed in the mix stage, and the original mix (the Matt Wallace mix presented here) does a good job of showing how this could have been a great record.

Probably still their least-good record, but at least not a bad one.

So anyway, here’s every song on the boxed set – the remixed version of the album, the concomitant b-sides, some demos and alternate takes, and an entire contemporaneous show from the University of Wisconsin.

We’ll Inherit the Earth (Matt Wallace mix)

Valentine (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Left of the Dial (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Achin’ to Be (Matt Wallace mix)

Bastards of Young (live at the University of Wisconsin)

They’re Blind (Bearsville Version)

Talent Show (Matt Wallace Mix)

I’ll Be You (Matt Wallace mix)

I Will Dare (live at the University of Wisconsin)

We’ll Inherit the Earth (Bearsville Version)

Answering Machine (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Alex Chilton (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Rock n Roll Ghost (Bearsville Version)

Color Me Impressed (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Achin’ To Be (Bearsville Version)

Little Mascara (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Another Girl, Another Planet (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Rock n Roll Ghost (Matt Wallace mix)

Unsatisfied (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Darlin’ One (Bearsville Version)

Can’t Hardly Wait (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Anywhere’s Better Than Here (Matt Wallace mix)

Achin’ To Be (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Portland (alternate mix)

We’ll Inherit the Earth (live at the University of Wisconsin)

The Ledge (live at the University of Wisconsin)

I’ll Be You (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Talent Show (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Dance on My Planet

Talent Show (Demo Version)

Here Comes a Regular (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Born to Lose (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Darlin’ One (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Back to Back (live at the University of Wisconsin)

We Know the Night (Alternate Outtake)

I Won’t (Matt Wallace mix)

Black Diamond (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Wake Up (Bearsville Version)

Ought To Get Love (Alternate Mix)

Darlin’ One (Matt Wallace mix)

Never Mind (live at the University of Wisconsin)

I Won’t (live at the University of Wisconsin)

We Know the Night (f Tom Waits) – full band version

I Don’t Know (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Asking Me Lies (Matt Wallace mix)

Last Thing in the World

Anywhere is Better Than Here (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Date to Church (Matt Wallace Mix)

We Know the Night (f Tom Waits)

Cruella de Ville (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Back to Back (Matt Wallace mix)

Asking Me Lies (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Nightclub Jitters (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Gudbuy T’Jane (Outtake)

I’ll Be You (Bearsville Version)

They’re Blind (Matt Wallace mix)

If Only You Were Lonely (f Tom Waits)

I Can Help (f Tom Waits)

Lowdown Monkey Blues (f. Tom Waits) 

Waitress in the Sky (live at the University of Wisconsin)

The 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

It’s Rocktober! And while this space used to recognize it as such in the past 1, there’s always time to stop and yell about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees.

For the last couple of years, these annual writeups have been interrupted by the continued series where I examine all of the people that have ever been inducted, and largely yell about them as well, so I’ve got an ever-increasing sense of what’s actually going on here, and how these things go, which has given me a slightly more laissez-faire idea of how this all goes, since I’m basically inundated in how absurd this all is. 

It’s still fun to argue about though, so onward to the absurdity!

Pat Benatar

There are a bunch of people who are inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the degree of their mechanical talent. There are bands who are here for the performances of their guitar players, their drummers, and occasionally their singers. We can then presume that, as such, an enormously popular lady with an incredible singing voice should probably be in the offing. The fact I’d rather drive the handle of a spoon through my eardrum than actually listen to her music, then, seems to be secondary to the fact that it seems inertia will carry her forward into the HOF on the back of her being a good singer that people remember fondly. It’s not fair, but I suppose it’s the way things go, and I’m feeling charitable, because most of the other nominees are even worse.

THE VERDICT: Sure. Gotta let somebody in, after all. 

Dave Matthews Band

I’m old, and one of the many official signs of this is that the terrible radio flotsam of when I was an adolescent is now HOF eligible. That’s kind of a shame. On the one hand, it would be interesting to see where the HOF took jam-band eligibility from here, on the other hand, the HOF is unquestionably better off without any of them, not even this, the most listenable 2 and popular jam band.


Depeche Mode

Man, I do not have any words left to express my disapproval of the entirety of Depeche Mode’s ouevre, let alone their very existence of a band, and I certainly do not think it needs to be celebrated. 

THE VERDICT: Never in life

The Doobie Brothers

In lieu of laying out my exact case for why the Doobie Brothers were awful and should not be inducted into the anything hall of fame, I will state the following: I have always written them off as a Crosby Stills and Nash rip-off band, and I have recently discovered that in the early eighties the two acts toured together, which means that Crosby Stills and Nash are willing to lug around their own tribute act as an opening act. And not like how Wire did it in the eighties 3, but just because. Ew. Anyway, the Doobie Brothers are bad.


Whitney Houston

Above I decided that it was ok if Pat Benatar got in on the strength of her voice. Here I am going to say that it is insufficient, for a couple of reasons. The first is that Whitney Houston has less to do with rock and roll than anyone else in this here nominating class. The second is that while her voice is justifiably impressive when she bothered to use it, the strength of her reputation rests largely on the two or three times she employed it to do anything impressive. I will also point out that while “And I WIll Always Love You” is one of those impressive performances, I will also state that the giant nineties-soundtrack read on the song has always struck me as a wildly-inappropriate recontextualization, and without that, she’s not left with much of a case. So she’s out.

THE VERDICT: Not actually

Judas Priest

I do not love Judas Priest’s music, but a great deal of the music that I listen to on a day to day basis is made by people who do. It would be better for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to get onboard with some more heavy metal, given how much great rock music was made within the idiom, and Judas Priest would be integral to doing so. They sold a bajillion records, some of which are counted among the best in their genre, and they existed respectably for a long time. They belong in the Hall of Fame.



I have very similar things to say about Kraftwerk as Judas Priest. It’s not my thing – there are a good half-dozen kosmische bands that I like more than Kraftwerk – but it’s undeniably important, sold plenty, and they were a genuine expression of some pretty genuine artistic impulses right up until they weren’t, which seems like fainter praise than I mean it to. I’m happy that Kraftwerk was in the world, even though they aren’t really in my record collection.



Last year the HOF inducted a bunch of single-songs, and I, as I do every year, will say that I think “Kick Out the Jams” belongs among them. I do not think that the MC5’s body of work holds up as well. I will, however, take this moment (because I have nothing new to say here) to say that I worry that I’m harder on bands who work in idioms I like and fail to impress me there, despite my generosity above for Judas Priest and Kraftwerk. In any event, however, I just don’t think there’s an argument for the MC5 to be included.



Well, I don’t have to be charitable here. Motorhead were great in all the same ways as Judas Priest, plust they were great in enough other ways that I actually like their music! It’s a hard legacy to argue with, and certainly they should have been in the HOF long before this year. 

THE VERDICT: Inarguably

Nine Inch Nails

I’ve said in years prior that Nine Inch Nails are one of those bands whose primary argument isn’t necessarily their originality as such, but rather that they were a fairly successful synthesis of a bunch of decidedly non-mainstream impulses that they figured out how to turn into a successful, straightforward rock band, and that their influence, then, is less about people copying them than in exploring the things that Nine Inch Nails can lead to 4. Couple that with a body of work that includes very few outright duds, and a couple of works of actual genius, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good case for inclusion.


The Notorious BIG

Last year they swung for the West Coast by nominating Tupac, and here we have the East Coast shot. I do think that the Notorious BIG should be in whatever the same Hall of Fame has any given other branch of itself devoted to rap, as I think he’s one of those musical forces that’s almost impossible to overrate. He was great, and while his career was brief, it was also of a uniformly high quality, and his influence is incalculable. So he goes in, with the usual protest that he is absolutely and in no way a rock and roll musician.


Rufus featuring Chaka Khan

I really think that the disco avenue is a strange one for the RRHOF to pursue, and, as every year, I will point out that if you’re going to bring a disco group into the fold, you should probably have started with Chic. Rufus is, at least, a group, albeit one that separates their singer in their official name 5, so that’s something. Anyway, they are terrible and I can’t imagine that they inspired anyone to do anything, and I’ve run out of charity for impressive singers, and Chaka Khan also isn’t that impressive a singer, so this one’s pretty much open and shut


Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren lived an admirable personal life, produced some truly great records in his time, and wrote two good songs. That’s not really enough to get you into the rock and roll hall of fame as a performer. I’d allow him in as a producer or whatever. But his music, in addition to not being very interesting, also dates very poorly, and I’d be surprised if anyone under the age of say, fifty turned out to be a big fan. He’s a lock for the “decent dude” hall of fame, though. 

THE VERDICT: Not as a performer


They’ll have gotten in after Pearl Jam and Nirvana, which is fair, I suppose. They would also be an interesting twist in the aforementioned heavy metal problem – they’re the heaviest of the famous grunge bands 6, or at least the most “metal”. I’d like to see them in there, because they did sort of show the way through the woods for dudes that wanted to sing like Robert Plant and play in heavy metal bands but also didn’t want to be in fucking Motely Crue, which was nice for the melodicization of mainstream metal over the decade or so subsequent, and because they were a phenomenal set of musicians, taken individually. I will, however, say that I don’t remember the last time I played one of their songs for pleasure. And it was probably “The Day I Tried to Live”.


T. Rex

Proof that we live in the darkest timeline, and have for quite some time: in 1973, Marc Bolan created twenty-four of the finest seconds of rock and roll music ever written – the beginning of “20th Century Boy,” right up until the actual singing on the first verse starts. This bolt of inspiration, which seems like it should have gone somewhere, was completely wasted on the prat that received it (the bolt, I mean), who then used his one great idea to convince rock assholes that they should wear scarves. 

THE VERDICT: Obviously not. Scarves

Thin Lizzy

They weren’t thin, and none of them were named Lizzy. There. I made that joke now. Isn’t that fun? I like Thin Lizzy, but occasionally I am reminded that there is a segment of their fanbase that is bugshit ape-crazy bananaballs bonkers over them, and when I encounter these people, I go back and listen to a bunch of Thin Lizzy to see if I can pick it up, and then I don’t pick it up, but I quite like them anyway. Just, like, a normal amount of liking them. Anyway, they had popularity, they had influence, they have rabid fans, they’re basically a textbook case of a band that should be in. 



  1. and will continue to do so in the future – as those of you who noticed that I missed a post for the first time in years will have noted, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks 
  2. for an extremely generous definition of “listenable” 
  3. Wire didn’t want to play their old songs, so they hired a cover band who could do so so that people would get to hear them, and then played their regular set as Wire which is, at least, a kind-of-good idea. 
  4. Nirvana is another HOF band that’s like this. 
  5. that’s it up there, with the “featuring” and everything 
  6. I’m calling them heavier than Alice in Chains and L7 here, and I’m using the word “famous” to leave out Tad and the Melvins. I am also not opening the floor to discussions of the definition of the term “grunge”