State of the Spines: February 2020

Since I have a spare moment, I thought I’d take some time to lay out the state of things on this site. Let me say ahead of anything else that this is no cause for alarm. The site is doing well by my estimation, still ably meeting its original goal of one book per week, and barring any outright disasters, I will be able to make good on that for the foreseeable future. This is simply me being transparent about some behind-the-scenes ideas and thought processes.

Review Scores

As you have no doubt seen in recent weeks, I changed final verdicts from a numerical scale over to a more general recommendation system. At first this was very much a lark, but speaking only for myself, I love how it has turned out. My logic is that if you’re going to skip over the entire body text of a review to reach a quick conclusion, you might as well get something that is immediately helpful. In my experience, numerical scales do always have some kind of internal logic, but it is always one that is highly granular, not intuitive, and usually never that great an idea to begin with. There’s nothing to argue or get confused about with thumbs up, thumbs down, big thumbs up, and big thumbs down. I plan to gradually change all reviews from before the change over to the new system, but I have not gotten around to doing that yet.


I have restructured and cleaned up the Patreon: it now has only a single $1 tier. I have always thought of being a patron (of this site specifically) as a largely symbolic act, a way to indicate you support what I’m doing that has the lowest possible impact on your wallet. Despite how comparatively little the Patreon pulls in, those funds have been absolutely instrumental in purchasing the books and paying the annual domain fee. We’re heading into 1994 and I already have all the books published that year as well as almost every book published in 1995. It may not seem like a lot, but that money holds up this website, and if you contribute to that amount, you should feel proud.

Going forward, the only material perk for patrons will be exclusive access to reviews of media and pop culture that are adjacent to Star Trek. These are something I have wanted to do since the first year, and I sort of dabbled in it when I had the presence of mind to catch Judgment Rites on its 25th anniversary, but for no real reason I’ve never done any others. I hope to change that in the very near future. Sometimes the connection to Star Trek will be obvious from the outset; other times it may be a very tenuous one. But I’ve got some ideas and I need to start making good on them.

Other Franchises?

For a time, I entertained the idea of including Star Wars in the mix. There have been some Star Wars books I have enjoyed in the past, and I thought it might shake things up a little. As of this writing, however, I have no plans to do this. The reason is simple, and perhaps a little insulting (although I don’t care): I don’t want to contend with the possibility of having to deal with Star Wars fans. In the wake of the Disney acquisition and subsequent theatrical releases, I’ve found their behavior appalling, and although I’m not under any delusion that this site gets an amount of visible feedback that would make it a foreseeable problem, I’d just rather not chance wading into those waters at all. I’m not saying Star Trek fans behave much or even any better—I’ve seen a lot of garbage takes flying around about Picard—but Star Wars is one of my personal top two toxic fandoms (the other being Ghostbusters), so there you have it.

If you think this actually is a good idea or that there’s something else I should try branching out to, feel free to let me know.

Anything I’m Missing?

I think I’ve gotten you up to speed on everything that’s relevant to the current state of the website, but the possibility that I missed something definitely exists, so if there’s anything extra you have questions about, feel free to drop a comment below.


#119: Descent (TNG episode novelization)


#120: Line of Fire (TNG-YA #2)


  1. Adam

    While I’d really like to read your Star Wars EU reviews, I get your line of thinking. That said, I’m afraid all of pop culture is now full of “toxic” fans on all sides… You have the woke authoritarian propagandists, the squealing entitled in echo chambers, the rose-colored-glasses-wearing nostalgia-driven nerds, the overly-nitpicky and soul-sucking fanatics, the MGTOW movement, etc. (I blame the internet! Ha.)

    I *guess* you could say Star Trek fans are a bit more polite and civil. However, I definitely believe there are a LOT of opinions out there regarding everything that’s happened to Trek since JJ. Abrams and Alex Kurtzman took over the franchise. It’s probably best for you that you haven’t really delved into much of that and primarily concentrate on the novels from what may now be considered a “golden age” of Trek fandom.


    As long as you set some ground rules and continue to moderate your responses, you probably shouldn’t be afraid (or should I say “hesitant?”) to voice your opinions and provide subjective analyses on genre fiction of any stripe. Don’t limit yourself; you’re a good writer doing something you clearly love. People will read your work. You just have to ask them to behave.

  2. Adam Goss

    I started supporting you on Patreon a few weeks ago, at the $3 level. Do i need to adjust that? Will it keep taking $3 from my bank account even though you only now have a $1 tier? How is this alteration going to work?

    As for toxic fandom… ugh. Like Iron Man said, “resentment is corrosive”, and it applies to toxic fandom utterly. You’re doing a great job about something you love. You just keep doing what you’re doing with whatever it is you want to review 🙂

    • jess

      If you’re pledging $3 it’ll take $3. One dollar is the stated tier amount but some give more. You can adjust it down if you want to or need to—it ain’t gonna hurt my feelings. The fact that I get support for this at all is still kinda wild to me.

  3. DanInTennessee

    Personally, I look forward to your reviews each week and I like this website just the way it is. Hilarious and insightful. Star Wars reviews would not interest me. Thank you for what you’re doing.

  4. Matt N

    I totally understand you not wanting to engage with Star Wars. I find joy and love from everything in that franchise and I have completely withdrawn from the the fandom due to how disgusting and toxic so many have become.

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