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 and two dogs. He is an avid hiker, cold-weather enthusiast, world traveler, wannabe cyclist, and a self-proclaimed beer snob. His work explores non-traditional settings within speculative fiction, bending and blending genres to create rich worlds and unique, approachable characters.

Raunch Review: Warhammer 40k

Raunch Review: Warhammer 40k

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: Warhammer 40kThe Author: Dan Abnett
Work in Question: Warhammer 40k – Gaunt’s Ghosts
The Profanity: “feth”/“fething”/“fether”

Warhammer 40k’s backstory is complicated. So, let’s set the scene. The word “feth” comes from the planet Tanith, a now-dead world in the Warhammer 40k universe. Taken from the name of a forest spirit said to inhabit Tanith’s now-deceased Nalwood trees, “feth” is generally uttered as a vulgarity by Tanith’s survivors. That usage is interesting: typically, within language, the names of deities (or names in general) tend to be uttered as oaths. Yet, that isn’t the case here, to further complicate the usage, the term is mainly used by the survivors from that dead world: a military regiment known as the Tanith First-and-Only. They’re observed combining the word with others the way one would with vulgarities, epithets such as: “fething gakhead” and “tread fethers.”

While I like the added aspect of history, that doesn’t work. It’s inconsistent with language’s evolution. The fact that a grieving unit of survivors exclusively use the word further muddies things. It’s odd that the whole group would choose the name of a forest spirit from a beloved homeland and adopt it as a vulgarity. As a vulgarity, it has no impact. If anything, it’d make more sense to be generally accepted by survivors as a compliment. The name itself doesn’t mean anything offensive. If it were used as an oath, however, “feth” would have scored much higher.

Score:  (1.5)

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.


Stan Lee

Excelsior

Yesterday, we learned that Stan Lee—creator of many of the Marvel characters we all know and love—passed away at 95. Few have profoundly shaped pop culture like him, and fewer still have instilled their values into the zeitgeist. He was incomparable, and the comics world is a lesser place without him.

My own connection with Stan Lee is tenuous. I read every comic I could get my hands on as a kid, but it was never as many as I wanted. What I did read (’80s G.I. Joe, Star Trek) wasn’t usually centered around superheroes, so I don’t have the same relationship to his creations as some of my friends. But as an adult—beyond respecting the man as a creator, storyteller, and visionary—there is also something in Stan Lee’s personal history that I’ve come to admire.

Today our culture is obsessed with the idea of young success. It’s readily apparent in the tech culture where listicles of ‘Youngest Billionaires’ and profiles of the ‘Top 30-under-30’ are standard. But that worship of young success goes well beyond the technology sector. We see it in private lives, we see it in political ones, its apparent in education, religion, and entertainment. This drive for success is heaped upon the shoulders of the next generation, they’re pushed to succeed earlier and faster than their peers. That intense pressure can be both overwhelming and debilitating.


“You know, my motto is ‘Excelsior.’ That’s an old word that means ‘upward and onward to greater glory.’ It’s on the seal of the state of New York. Keep moving forward, and if it’s time to go, it’s time. Nothing lasts forever.”

—Stan Lee


Stan Lee’s own career is an antithesis of our culture’s obsession with young success. Here’s a man who started working at Timely Comics in 1939 when he was 17. But even with mild accomplishments during The Golden Age of Comics, his career languished. It wasn’t until several decades later, after having served in WW2 and after decades of toiling away in the comic’s industry that he launched the Fantastic Four with Jack Kirby. That series transformed comics, they made superheroes people, and the Fantastic Four took off. From there his career only blossomed. Spiderman. Hulk. Thor. Black Panther. Iron Man. The X-Men. Daredevil. The Avengers. Dr. Strange. The list of his creations is nearly endless.

That is what I love about Stan Lee. He was not an overnight success. His debuts weren’t a best-seller hit. But he kept doing what he loved. He fought through those his negative emotions and experiences, and he eventually made a profound impact. But it wasn’t until his forties that he became the success we know today: a man who’s creations reshaped the entertainment world as we know it. It’s important to remember that.

I admire that grit and that tenacity. I admire the willingness to stick with one’s passions—even in the darkest of days. It’s a lesson we should take to heart. Maybe with our own creative careers, we can all strive to be a little more like Stan Lee.

Rest easy, Stan. Thank you for everything. Excelsior, indeed.

I'm Obsessed with La Machine

I’m Obsessed with La Machine

The French production company La Machine has been producing urban operas since the early 1990s, and to put it simply: they’re stunning. Using wood, leather, copper, or glass, they create enormous mechanical marionettes with a surrealist bent and a bit of a steampunk aesthetic. (This is particularly noticeable in their Elephant marionette.) The movements are precise and that breaths life into the machines. These creations are then used in multi-day operatics with light, sound, steam, music, and even weather effects. I find myself awe inspired every time they perform. But you can just see for yourself in the videos below.

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#LongMa🐎🐉, Queen of #ottawa2017 #ottawa #LaMachine

A post shared by Compagnie La Machine (@compagnie_la_machine) on

It’s so cool. New bucket list item: see one of these productions in person. This year’s show was The Guardian of the Temple held in Toulouse, France—it was an interpretation of the myth of Ariadne, who helped Theseus defeat the Minotaur. Each production typically lasts through several acts played out through a city and performed over several days.

You can learn more about La Machine on their website. (I’ll link to the English version.) Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter. They also share much more content over on YouTube and on their Instagram. La Machine has upcoming shows scheduled for Nantes and Calais in France.

I’m excited to see what they do next.


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 →

On Armistice

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short day ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCraeIn Flanders Fields (1915)


It’s Veterans Day here in the United States, Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth of Nations, and  Armistice Day everywhere else. A day set aside around the world to reflect on the ending of World War I which ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918—one hundred years ago today.

World War I is a moment in history we should all consider, and its one we should not forget. The outcome and ramifications of that terrible mess of a war influenced so much of the following century. So, if you’re in the States thanking a veteran, take some time to pause and reflect on WW1 as well.

If you want to know more about the Great War. Here are a few places to start.


📖 Something to Read:

The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I
by Barbara W. Tuchman
My favorite nonfiction books tend to read like fiction, they tell engaging stories. Tuchman is that sort of historian, and she makes the early days of WW1 as riveting as it was tragic.


🎧 Something to Hear:

Hardcore History 50 – Blueprint for Armageddon IHardcore History 50 — Blueprint for Armageddon I
by Dan Carlin

Carlin is a historian who does deep dives into moments in history on his podcast Hardcore History. I’ve been listening to him for years. He’s an invaluable resource and a dynamic storyteller. Very much worth a listen.


📺 Something to Watch:

Impossible Peace: The Time Between World WarsImpossible Peace: The Time Between World Wars
by Michael Cove
This documentary series produced for the History Channel looks into the time between the wars—only twenty years separated the tragedy of WW1 from the violence of WW2, and Europe was in turmoil.


lest we forget

Garden of Horrors: Pterocarpus Angolensis

Garden of Horrors: Pterocarpus Angolensis

Fantasy authors love coming up with fantastical names for the trees that inhabit their magical worlds, and as readers, we all enjoy learning about new species of strange flora be it George R. R. Martin’s ghostly “weirwood” or J. K. Rowling’s violent “Whomping Willow.” But our own world is ripe with plant life that sometimes seems almost fictional.

Enter the Pterocarpus angolensis a type of tree from southern Africa. It’s also known by its common name: the bloodwood. Why? Well, because it bleeds, man. It bleeds! Want proof?

Pterocarpus angolensis—the bloodwood, bleeding
Pterocarpus angolensis—the bloodwood, bleeding

Ack! I mean, doesn’t it look like this tree was the victim of a horrible crime? High levels of tannins (the same stuff in red wine) are what gives the tree’s sap its dreadful color. Because of its red hue, the sap is often used as a folk remedy for blood conditions. I mean, if it looks like blood it must be good for blood, right? Right? Folk remedies aside, the tree has been shown to have actual medicinal benefits as well. (See all its uses in this extensive PDF document.) I also found a video on YouTube of something cutting into a bloodwood, and it’s as disgusting as you’d expect. It looks like something from a horror movie.

Yuck. Funny enough the P. angolensis isn’t the only tree that bleeds red. Australia has a species named the Corymbia calophylla, a type of eucalyptus that oozes a red kino and also looks like a murder victim. That video above might be from the latter. Either way—gross.

So yeah, now you know some trees bleed red, and it makes most fictional creations seem almost tame in comparison. Happy gardening!


☠️ More Garden of Horrors


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 →