All posts by K. M. Alexander

About K. M. Alexander

K. M. Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native and novelist living and working in Seattle with his wife, two dogs, and two rabbits. His work explores nontraditional settings within speculative fiction, bending and blending genres to create rich worlds and unique approachable characters.

Free Wonderdraft Symbol Sets Now Available

Free Wonderdraft Symbol Set Now Available

Occasionally I get emails from people asking about my brush sets and the map-making software Wonderdraft. It’s a great piece of software with a vibrant community of creators, one I’ve always wanted to support. But converting ABR files into individual objects has always been daunting, so I haven’t been able to support it like I wanted.

Until today. Thanks to the efforts of Richard Moyer, ten of my sets (nearly 4000 objects) are now available for Wonderdraft users! Like my Photoshop and GIMP sets, these are free to use for personal or commercial projects. No attribution required. You can download them and start using them immediately. The button below links to the set on Cartography Assets, a fantastic online resource for Wonderdraft addons. It includes details and advice on how to use these sets, so be sure to read the Overview.


Huge thank you to Richard for putting in this work. It’s a monumental endeavor and one that should be recognized. He even when the extra mile by including versions of the objects with opaque backgrounds to allow for easy layering. It cannot be said enough; this is a generous undertaking. So if you like these sets, don’t just thank me, thank Richard as well.

Happy map making!

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

Raunch Review: Blade Runner

Raunch Review: Blade Runner

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

Raunch Review: Blade Runner
Raunch Review: Blade Runner
The Author: Hampton Fancher & David Peoples
Work in Question: Blade Runner
The Profanity: “Skin job”

Dehumanizing or bigoted slurs have been prevalent throughout history. And they’re still with us today. Even in recent dialog, we’ve seen the powerful employing precise language in a manner to strip away someone’s value. It’s not a new phenomenon. I believe the best fiction serves as a mirror forcing those engaging with it to confront some of the uglier sides of humankind.

Blade Runner’s existential questions surrounding life and humanity and its fundamental question of “what makes us human” is why the faux-profanity “skin job” works so well. In concept, it combines that existentialist question with the bigoted language and aims it at the android replicants in the story.

Like “prawn” from District 9, “skin job” is born from fear and designed to dehumanize. This is why we see it wielded by the powerful to imply that replicants are less than human. Language is a powerful factor in creating “the other.” It allows our brains to trigger differently. It’s why we nickname enemies; it’s easier to kill a nickname than it is to kill a human with thoughts, dreams, and desires. By calling replicants “skin jobs,” one can logically make the leap that they’re disposable and easily replaceable.

Abusive language quickly leads to dehumanization, and dehumanization leads to atrocities. We see that in Blade Runner as much as we do in the world at large. It’s why “skin job” works so well, and it’s why it stings to hear it spoken out loud.

Score: Half Swear (4.5)

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews

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

Visual Inspiration: Syd Mead

Visual Inspiration: Syd Mead

On Monday, the legendary Syd Mead—easily one of the greatest illustrators/futurists of our time—passed away. He was 86. Normally, I use this series to highlight artists who I think need more attention. But I thought to take a moment to recognize someone who’s work influenced not only me but a generation of designers, artists, filmmakers, and architects to look forward and envision a better future.

“We don’t go into the future from zero, we drag the whole past in with us.”

—Syd Mead

Mead left an incredible impact and his legacy is enormous. So many speculative fiction properties were shaped by his neo-futuristic style: Blade Runner, Tron, Short Circuit, Star Trek, Star Wars, even Gundam and think how many of those have gone on to influence a new generation of creators. There’s a wonderful vibrancy to his work and it continues to resonate.

The city of Lovat in my Bell Forging Cycle, was heavily influenced by my experience with Mead’s paintings as a student—especially his work on Blade Runner. Something about his cramped and claustrophobic street scenes inspired me and they stayed with me years later when I set down to write. I’ve shared some of my favorites pieces below, perhaps they’ll inspire you as well. As always, you can click to view them larger.

You can see so much more of Syd Mead’s work on his website. There are several great art books that gather his work in the movies and as a futurist. I’d recommend starting with The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist or Syd Mead’s Sentury II.

Rest in peace, Syd. Thanks for everything.

If you like Syd Mead’s work, be sure to check out some of the other artists who I’ve found inspiring in the past. While there’s certainly a theme to the art that inspires me, you’ll find lots of different styles, tones, and moods.

Happy 2020

Happy 2020

A new decade dawns, which makes this year more conspicuous than standard new years. With the passing of the old year and the last decade comes reflection, and that reflection has me thinking about life and legacy and what we choose to do with our short time here on earth.

In her poem Good Bones after lamenting on the shortness of life and the state of the world and the people therein, the poet Maggie Smith ends with this reflection:

“Any decent realtor, walking you through a real shithole, chirps on about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.”

No doubt, you’ve heard me harp on “making the world a better place.” (I’ve mentioned it in some of my map posts.) It’s been a personal goal of mine for the last few years, and one I try to apply in everything I do. Sometimes those efforts are merely humble, and that’s okay. The key is to try—I might not always be successful, but at least I’m moving forward.

I’m carrying that mantra into 2020. This world is a rough place enough place, and it can often be terrible. But there are good bones here. So, I continue to persist. Throughout 2020 and beyond, I’ll do my part and work to make this place beautiful.

Happy New Year, folks. Happy New Decade.

My Reading List for 2019

My Reading List for 2019

The next decade looms. But for now, it’s time for reflection. It’s been an exciting year full of amazing experiences. Plus, I did a ton of reading! So, as I do every year, I’ve compiled a list of the books I’ve read over the last three hundred and sixty-five days, and I’m here to share them with you all.

Overall, I’m thrilled with my reading for the year. It contained several firsts for me. I read a plethora of great books—my most in a single year. (Forty-seven!) I Did-Not-Finish’d my first book ever. (It’ll remain nameless.) I quit listening to the news/sports during my commute and have now switched over to audiobooks one hundred percent of the time. (Those are labeled with the 🎧 emoji.) I beta-read three upcoming novels—my most in a single year. And, on top of all of that, I managed to read a bunch of great short stories and got to spend more time reading graphic novels as well. So yeah—it’s been a great year of reading.

This list correlates with my Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge but always includes a few extra since Goodreads doesn’t let me count beta reading and I don’t list comics or short stories over there. Remember, this is all strictly reading for pleasure—I typically forgo listing any research/history books. Since this list is always enormous, l skip reviews except for my top three in each category. However, I’d invite you to follow me on Goodreads, where I do occasionally leave other reviews.

As before, all links will go to Amazon through my affiliate account by default. If one of these books sounds interesting to you, I’d encourage you to skip Amazon and instead visit your local independent bookstore and purchase through them. It’s essential for your local economy to buy local whenever you’re able, and always good to build a relationship with your local indie bookshop.

Okay, to the list!

📚 Novels

  1. Tomorrow’s Shepherd (The Verdant Revival #2)
    by Michael Ripplinger
  2. Beta Reading (Fantasy)
  3. Promise of Blood (Powder Mage #1) …again 🎧
    by Brian McClellan
  4. Mapping the Interior
    by Stephen Graham Jones
  5. Authority: A Novel (The Southern Reach #2)  🎧
    by Jeff VanderMeer
  6. The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade #1)
    by Seth Dickinson
  7. ‘Salem’s Lot  🎧
    by Stephen King
  8. When You Reach Me
    by Rebecca Stead
  9. The Scorpio Races
    by Maggie Stiefvater
  10. Nine Princes in Amber (The Chronicles of Amber #1) 🎧
    by Roger Zelazny
  11. The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1)
    by Bernard Cornwell
  12. The Haunting of Tram Car 015
    by P. Djèlí Clark
  13. Beta Reading (Sci-Fi)
  14. The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville 🎧
    by Shelby Foote
  15. Butcher Bird …again.
    by Richard Kadrey
  16. House of Furies
    by Madeleine Roux
  17. A. Grimsbro, Warlord of Mars (Futhermucking Classics #2)
    by Matt Youngmark
  18. I Am Providence
    by Nick Mamatas
  19. The Compleat Crow
    by Brian Lumley
  20. Orconomics: A Satire (The Dark Profit Saga #1)
    by J. Zachary Pike
  21. Beta Reading (Fantasy)
  22. Four Roads Cross (The Craft Sequence #5)
    by Max Gladstone
  23. The Reality Dysfunction (Night’s Dawn #1) …again 🎧
    by Peter F. Hamilton
  24. The Grand Dark
    by Richard Kadrey
  25. The Forever War
    by Joe Haldeman
  26. Vermilion
    by Molly Tanzer
  27. The Terror 🎧
    by Dan Simmons
  28. The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad Trilogy #1)
    by S. A. Chakraborty
  29. The Black God’s Drums
    by P. Djèlí Clark
  30. The Warehouse
    by Rob Hart
  31. It: A Novel 🎧
    by Stephen King
  32. City of Blades (Divine Cities #2)
    by Robert Jackson Bennett
  33. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
    by Kij Johnson
  34. Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) …again 🎧
    by George R. R. Martin
  35. Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1)
    by Seanan McGuire
  36. Carry On (Simon Snow #1)
    by Rainbow Rowell
  37. Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles #1) 🎧
    by Anne Rice
  38. Agents of Dreamland
    by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  39. Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse #3)
    by James S.A. Corey
  40. Imago (Xenogenesis #3)
    by Octavia E. Butler
  41. Punktown (Punktown)
    by Jeffrey Thomas
  42. A Lush and Seething Hell
    by John Hornor Jacobs
  43. Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon #1) …again 🎧
    by China Miéville
  44. Uncanny Collateral (Valkyrie Collections #1)
    by Brian McClellan
  45. United States of Japan
    by Peter Tieryas
  46. A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) …again 🎧
    by George R. R. Martin
  47. Grass (Arbai #1)
    by Sheri S. Tepper

🏆 Favorite Novel of 2019

A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor JacobsA Lush and Seething Hell
by John Hornor Jacobs

The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky was one of my favorite books last year, and when paired with its counterpart, My Heart Struck Sorrow, the two quickly merged to become my favorite book of the year. Connected via theme (and set in the same world), both novellas tell intense stories within stories unsettling accounts of humanity and history, obsession and turmoil. This is the new weird at its most exquisite. As unsettling throughout as it is enthralling. Phenomenal.

🏅 Favorite Novel Runners-up of 2019

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham JonesMapping the Interior
by Stephen Graham Jones

Jones is a modern master of horror and always approaches the genre in unique ways; Mapping the Interior is no exception. Told from 12-year old Junior’s perspective, the story is one part family-struggle and one part ghost-story all woven with a heartfelt earnestness that’s easy to believe and hard to shake. It’s a book about childhood, family, heritage, legacy, and the cost and ramifications of all four. The ending devastated me.

The Terror by Dan SimmonsThe Terror
by Dan Simmons

At first glance, this would appear to be a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage. But there is more to this than historical account—much of this book delves into the psyche of survival while interspersing elements of the thriller and horror genres to weave an extraordinary and sometimes supernatural tale—Darkly disturbing, severely bleak, and utterly unforgettable.

🎈 Honorable Mentions of 2019

As I did last year, I wanted to highlight a few other books. These honorable mentions are books that resonated with me long after I had finished them, and they deserve a callout. In no particular order…

  • The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey
    A diesel-punk reflection on the ramifications of war. Kadrey’s best work.
  • Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey
    The 3rd entry in the incredible Expanse series.
  • Tomorrow’s Shepherd by Michael Ripplinger
    Giant machines and power armor continue the battle for Verge.
  • Punktown by Jeffrey Thomas
    New weird sci-fi anthology about the citizens living in a city on the frontier.
  • It: A Novel by Stephen King
    Um, it’s It. And It is so very, very good. Except for that one weird scene.
  • The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville by Shelby Foote
    Detailed history of military campaigns during the first third of the American Civil War.

📜 Short Stories

  1. Ours
    by Randy Ribay
  2. The Farm
    by Charlie Jane Anders
  3. A Catalog of Storms
    by Fran Wilde
  4. Bull Riding
    by Richard Kadrey
  5. 13 Ways of Destroying a Painting 🎧
    by Amber Sparks
  6. Hell is a Parade
    by Nathan Crowder
  7. Artificials Should Be Allowed to Worship
    by Steven James
  8. The Three Stigmata of Peter Thiel
    by Brendan C. Byrne
  9. Space Angel (Denim Superheroes)
    by Lee French
  10. Beta Reading (Horror)
  11. A Study in Emerald …again
    by Neil Gaiman
  12. Beneath Their Hooves
    by Katharine Duckett

🏆 Favorite Short Stories of 2019

The Farm by Charlie Jane AndersThe Farm
by Charlie Jane Anders

A short yet striking tale of a terrifying future that cuts too close to home. A reporter named Roy struggles to maintain his journalistic integrity while trying to keep advertisers happy. Anders is a great writer, and her tight prose works wonders here. The best short stories can alter how one views the world and as I watched the news cycle play out throughout the year, The Farm was never far from my mind.

🏅 Favorite Short Story Runners-up

Hell is a Parade by Nathan CrowderHell is a Parade
by Nathan Crowder

A violent little story of a parade that quickly shifts into a scene of horror as one young woman allows obsession to send her down a dark path. The descriptions are wonderful, the emotions hot and raw, and the parade personified as a living beast whose glamor corrupts as much as it enthralls. A wickedly subversive warning on the dangers and ramifications inherent within vengeance.

Artificial Should Be Allowed to Worship by Steven JamesArtificial Should Be Allowed to Worship
by Steven James

My favorite short stories dress modern struggles in fictional costume—Star Trek excelled at this—and this piece continues that tradition. Written as an op-ed, the piece pleads with the reader to understand and empathize with artificial individuals seeking a place to worship. The set dressing might be different, the plight fictional, but one can’t miss the echoes from the modern efforts towards equality.

💥 Graphic Novels

  1. Monstress Vol. 1
    by Marjorie Liu (Author), Sana Takeda (Artist)
  2. Saga Vol. 7
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Fiona Staples (Artist)
  3. Paper Girls: Book One
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Cliff Chiang (Cover Art, Artist), Matthew Wilson (Artist)
  4. The Promised Neverland, Vol. 1
    by Kaiu Shirai (Author), Posuka Demizu (Illustrator)
  5. Die, Vol 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker
    by Kieron Gillen (Author), Stephanie Hans (Artist)
  6. Blackbird Vol. 1
    by Sam Humphries (Author), Jen Bartel (Artist)
  7. Through the Woods
    by Emily Carroll (Author & Artist)
  8. Gideon Falls Vol. 1: The Black Barn
    by Jeff Lemire  (Author), Andrea Sorrentino (Artist), Dave Stewart (Artist)
  9. Gideon Falls Vol. 2: Original Sin
    by Jeff Lemire  (Author), Andrea Sorrentino (Artist), Dave Stewart (Artist)
  10. Uzumaki
    by Junji Ito (Author & Artist)
  11. Trees Vol 2.
    by Warren Ellis (Author), Jason Howard (Artist)
  12. Gideon Falls Vol. 3: Stations of the Cross
    by Jeff Lemire (Author), Andrea Sorrentino (Artist), Dave Stewart (Artist)
  13. Death or Glory Vol. 1: She’s Got You
    by Rick Remender (Author), Bengal (Artist)
  14. Skyward Vol. 1: My Low-G Life
    by Joe Henderson (Author), Lee Garbett (Artist), Antonio Fabela (Artist)

🏆 Favorite Graphic Novel of 2017:

Uzumaki by Junji ItoUzumaki
by Junji Ito

Kurôzu-cho is a coastal town haunted by uzumaki—spiral patterns that infest everything, distorting the village and its inhabitants. Everything starts simple enough, but as the chapters breeze past the effects of the uzumaki becomes more and more profound. With engaging characters and an incredible premise, this is quite easily one of the great horror comics ever written.

🏅 Favorite Graphic Novel Runners-up of 2017:

Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, Dave StewartGideon Falls
by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart

This nearly took the top spot from me, and for a good reason; it’s an amazingly told tale. A young man becomes obsessed with a conspiracy theory found in a city’s trash, and elsewhere a priest becomes entwined in the rural legend of The Black Barn—a strange building that appears at random throughout history, leaving death in its wake. And then things get really weird…

Through the Woods by Emily CarrollThrough the Woods
by Emily Carroll

This creepy anthology horror collection was one of my favorites. It’s not “scary” in the traditional sense we Westerners expect; instead, there’s a folklorish creepiness to the tales therein. More Poe than Barker. Plus, the visuals that accompanied those spooky accounts only enhanced each tale. I read it cover to cover on a foggy October morning, and it remains a memorable and unforgettable read.

So, there is my list! A lot of reading in a variety of places I didn’t make time for last year. It was good to get back into comics and to start reading short stories. I’m considering adding a poetry section next year as well, but we’ll see. If anything suffered from this, it was my television and game systems, they’ve been lonely, but I’ve felt a lot more fulfilled with the fiction I’ve devoured. Fiction is the perfect way to step into the shoes of someone else and discover new points of view. So thanks, 2019—it’s been a fantastic year in reading. Here’s to more in 2020!

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

 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 •

Next year, why not join me? Goodreads does a reading challenge every year, and I am an active participant. First, follow me on Goodreads (leave me a review while you’re there), and once the New Year arrives, participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2020.

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

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

I’m spending the day with family, but I wanted to make a quick post wishing all of my readers a heartfelt Merry Christmas! This year wildly exceeded my expectations, and that’s primarily due to all of you. So, thanks for buying and reading my books. Thanks for telling your friends, and thank you for leaving reviews. Thanks for showing so much excitement over my little brush-set project and for sticking around throughout the year. All of that means a lot to me.

I have come to greet you

What does this weird card have to do with Christmas or the holiday season in general? Your guess is as good as mine. But we still mimic other odd Victorian customs and don’t bat an eye, so this holiday season, let’s all take a moment and appreciate this strange goat emerging from the forest to greet a child. It just fills one with holiday cheer. I think? And, hey, at least I didn’t pick murder frogs. (Yes, there are two links there.)

The Victorians were a strange breed of people.

I blame sexual repression.

Merry Christmas, everyone.