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LARA KAMINOFF
Rob Lowe Taught Me About American Assholes by Charles Mudede
Some of my favorite writing by Charles is when he offers a glimpse into his background, history, private life—his most personal self. In this piece, written for the Spring A&P issue in conjunction with an appearance by Rob Lowe at Moore Theatre, Charles's distinctively vivid, conversational storytelling style is on full display as he discusses his connection with Rob Lowe. LEILANI POLK

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DAVE ALAN/GETTY IMAGES
I Worked With Richard Russell at Horizon Air, and I Understand Why He Did What He Did by Todd Bunker
My favorite piece of the year wasn’t written by a professional writer but by Todd Bunker, a baggage handler for Horizon Airlines. Bunker worked with Richard Russell, the now infamous Horizon baggage handler who stole a commercial airplane and crashed it into the Puget Sound over the summer. Russell died in the crash, so we’ll never know exactly what possessed him, but Bunker’s sharp and cogent personal essay gives us a little more insight into why a man would give up his life for just one incredible flight. KATIE HERZOG

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ROB DOBI
Evicted Over $49: What Happens When Seattle's Poorest Tenants Can't Make Rent by Heidi Groover
Would you be furious if you found out that in the midst of Seattle’s housing and homelessness crisis, people in this city’s public housing are being evicted over unpaid sums as small as $49? That’s what former Stranger reporter Heidi Groover found in a riveting investigation into what happens when Seattle’s poorest tenants can’t make rent. ELI SANDERS

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LEVI HASTINGS
Death of a Kinkster by Daniel Villarreal
One of the saddest and strangest stories The Stranger has ever published, “Death of a Kinkster” is a deep-dive into two overlapping subcultures (Dom/sub roleplay and silicone body modification) and an unsolved mystery about a young man’s untimely passing. Only two people in the world know what really happened in Jack Chapman’s final hours: One of them won’t talk to us and the other one is dead. That didn’t stop intrepid reporter Daniel Villarreal from unearthing enough startling and vivid facts to begin to piece together the jigsaw. If you read this story when it first came out but haven’t revisited it since, scroll to the end where we’ve linked to updates in the case. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

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Sam Chapman
The Stranger Crashes a Gay Birthday Brunch in Capitol Hill by Chase Burns
Incredible nightlife writing about daylife. In this story, Burns slips on a caftan and attends a birthday brunch with a group of “very gay” Capitol Hill Scorpios. He describes a boozy scene full of exotic plants, wigs, a ”tasteful painting of RuPaul,” and a long conversation about “one of their favorite topics: their daddies.” It’s a shame there isn’t a Pulitzer Prize for party writing, although the number of quotable proverbs included in this piece might qualify it for the Public Service category. RICH SMITH

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JAMES YAMASAKI
The Stranger's Endorsements for the August 7, 2018, Primary Election by the Stranger Election Control Board
The Stranger Election Control Board (SECB) turns the boring (local judge races), the mundane (campaign night party food), and the dense (police reform initiatives) into digestible information that anyone can read. If you want to see the power of the SECB look no further than reporter Rich Smith getting barred entrance to Dino Rossi’s primary night election party, detailed in this exceptional (and very funny) example of SECB election night coverage. LESTER BLACK

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ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES
Facebook Will Halt Political Ad Sales in Washington State by the End of This Year by Eli Sanders
Washington is about to become the only state in the nation free from local political ads on Facebook and Google. This is unprecendented and a result of Eli's watchdog reporting. Straight up, this could save the world. Come 2019, everyone in Washington (and, hopefully, America) will be talking about this issue. Read up now. CHASE BURNS

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KATI LACKER
The Secret History of Romantic Customs by Rich Smith
Did you know that in Austria it was once customary for young women to dance with slices of apples tucked beneath their armpits? “When they finished dancing, the women would then give the sweaty fruits to their crushes as a sign of affection,” Rich Smith writes in this brief but eye-opening history of romantic customs. “While this sounds incredibly hot to us now—almost pornographically hot—it is also weird. But it’s not that much weirder than plucking a flower from the ground and giving it to somebody.” God, I better stop before I quote the whole thing. Just go read it. Rich Smith can write about anything. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

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GREG HOUSTON
Does Ted Bundy Still Haunt the Northgate Mall? by Nathalie Graham
What do ghosts, Ted Bundy, and depressing architecture have in common? I'm still not quite sure, but this first feature from Nathalie Graham is a clever, funny, and surprisingly emotional piece of writing about urban planning, murder, and the past choices that haunt us. I teared up by the end of this—and over a shitty mall! What the fuck! This is my favorite type of alt-weekly writing: the sort of stuff that takes a deeper, more thoughtful look at the trash parts of our city we underappreciate. CHASE BURNS

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Steven Hsieh
Rep. Jayapal Met with Asylum Seekers Held At SeaTac by Steven Hsieh
I wanted to include Steven’s piece, “Why Did Racist Ceramicist Charles Krafft Change His Profile Picture to Charles Mudede?,” wherein Hsieh masterfully lets Krafft hoist himself with his own petard, but that happened in late 2017, and so it technically can’t be included in this list. But he wrote plenty of great pieces in 20018, including this just-the-facts heartbreaker about first-year Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. When Jayapal found out that the federal prison in SeaTac was holding asylum-seekers whose families had been separated by ICE, she high-tailed it down there to figure out what was going on. When Hsieh found out Jayapal was high-tailing it down there, he ran down there to cover the story. I remember waking up Saturday morning realizing I should probably jump on the train and cover the story, but Hsieh was already there and reporting. In about 600 words he’s able to capture the heartbreak and chaos of that afternoon while also grounding the story in the national and local conversations. RICH SMITH

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LESTER BLACK
Tacoma Weekly’s 20-Year History of Wage Theft Allegations and Unpaid Bills by Lester Black
Local, bombshell journalism. The amount of reporting that went into this piece is astounding. From delivery drivers, to high school students, to Tacoma’s Grand Cinema, all the way to the IT guys, Lester beautifully illustrated an almost nauseating tale of more than a dozen people that a publisher allegedly didn’t pay. How much of a blind eye has been given to the Tacoma Weekly for what could amount to 20 years of wage theft? MICHAEL BELL

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Introducing Bear, a Seattle Police Dog That Can Sniff Out Porn by Sydney Brownstone
In January Sydney’s reporting put Matt Hickey behind bars for a felony sex offense and assault, the final legal result of over a year meticulous work and powerful writing. But everybody knows that. Her piece about an electronics-sniffing dog named Bear who was named after an internet meme created to make fun of pedophiles was a real winner for me. Bear sniffed out kiddie porn stashes from Subway spokesman Jared Fogle’s stash and USA Gymnastics coach Marvin Sharp. The animal now works for the Seattle Police Department. In the article, Sydney dives into the science behind dog schnozzes as she tells the heartwarming story of a pup who finds his place in the world. RICH SMITH

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THOMAS JAMES
Hunting for Rare Cannabinoids by Lester Black
I'm a huge stoner. It's one of the main reasons I moved out west. While the rest of the country is slowly waking up to legalization, the west (and now Canada, who is about to kick our ass in cannabis research) is pioneering advances in cannabis that will become the standard. This excellent piece from Lester tackles new cannabis developments that are pretty in the weeds—rare cannabinoids—and explains everything clearly and thoughtfully, introducing a new group of readers to the next revolution in the cannabiz. Lester is one of the best weed reporters in the country. Full stop. Eat it, Leafly. CHASE BURNS

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Derek Erdman
Welcome to Seattle, New Person! by Derek Erdman
This humorous piece about what it’s like to live in Seattle polarized readers: Some people thought it was deeply problematic, and others thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever read. Representative sentence: “If you’re not wholly convinced that burning palo santo can eradicate bad energy, maybe don’t mention it aloud.” Interspersed throughout are drawings by Erdman of four-way stops, Seattle’s color palette, a new Amazon technology to deliver packages directly into your backpack, and more. We miss you Derek Erdman. Please move back. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

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Chase Burns
Middleton Heights Elementary Is a Nightmare by Chase Burns
Some of us don’t have the fondest memories of our elementary school experiences, but others have more bitter wells from which to draw—and can speak from them when news stories hit particularly close to home, like the one about a group of teachers and staff at an Idaho elementary school who dressed up as racist caricatures of Mexicans for Halloween while another group from the same school dressed up as a fake brick wall with the words "Make America Great Again" printed across it… and posted pics on the school district's Facebook page. In this case, it hit really close: it literally was Chase’s former elementary school, where he dealt with some truly shit-stained classmates. This piece was fantastic Slog material, as it also included THE MOST ADORABLE photo of Chase from the era dressed up as a wizard. LEILANI POLK

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Children of Men
Seattle's Rising Dog Population Reveals What Children of Men Got Wrong by Charles Mudede
Charles Mudede can fit entire worlds in just six paragraphs. He starts with the musing that Seattle has really gone to the dogs—literally. There are dogs everywhere in this city. But, then you realize it’s a film review about Children of Men but it also takes you on a journey with Ahla, the Namibian goat-riding baboon. Somehow it works out. Mudede, and his enigmatic mind, whisks you along twists and seemingly-irreverent turns, but you wind up with a point, and an understanding, of several things you never previously knew existed. NATHALIE GRAHAM

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Joe Rocco
The Killer That Haunted My Adolescence by Dan Savage
This was, in my humble opinion, the best story in this year’s Queer Issue, not because it was by our boss, Dan Savage, but because it is such an interesting piece, successfully correlating the shadow of two serial killers—John Wayne Gacy and later, Jeffrey Dahmer—that hung over two separate periods of Savage’s life alongside the AIDS/HIV epidemic that took so many lives of gay men around the time, too. Simply stunning. LEILANI POLK

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Image from David Cronenberg's film adaptation of J.G. Ballard's novel Crash
Why Our Sexual Fluids Failed to Humanize the Car by Charles Mudede
A coworker at my other job recently cornered me, asking about Charles Mudede. Or rather preaching to me about him. “That guy, Charles, man have you read his stuff? He’s on a whole ‘nother level, man. He’s so far ahead of us—that guy is like a galaxy brain.” I laughed because it was true. Also, for some reason, thinking of Charles as a galaxy brain brings to mind that one Sprite commercial featuring Drake, which is maybe how Charles gets his best ideas. In any case, this “Why Our Sexual Fluids Failed to Humanize the Car” takes us from a Seattle Times report on road rage to a dissection of J.G. Ballard’s 1973 novel Crash, a connection that Mudede makes quite lucidly, shining a beacon of light ahead for those of us with less galactic brains. JASMYNE KEIMIG

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THOMAS JAMES
What Happened After My Boyfriend Got Sexually Assaulted in the Military by Lance Garland
A rare look at the lived experience of being a soldier who is gay, Lance Garland’s essay about sexual assault in the Navy is set in a time before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Back then, simply admitting you were gay got you dishonorably discharged. Garland found himself in quite a fix when his boyfriend, also in the Navy, told him he’d been sexually assaulted by another soldier—someone who’d also allegedly sexually assaulted other men. This story also brings me to tears every time I reread it. That scene on the ferry near the end fucks me up. But make no mistake: Garland’s gorgeous, thoughtful, unforgettable writing is a must-read. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

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Looking Back on 30 Years of Sub Pop by Dave Segal and Sean Nelson
Nothing like a bunch of intriguing facts and informed opinions about Sub Pop from two fine critics and active participants in Seattle’s music scene to celebrate the 30th birthday of Seattle’s most righteous record label. I learned some things I never knew, and was reminded of some things I’d forgotten. LEILANI POLK

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NATHALIE GRAHAM
A Note to Teen Girls and Myself: It's Okay to Love the CW's Supernatural by Nathalie Graham
I love communing with other people who grew up on the internet as intensely as I did—Nathalie is one of those people. And I totally geeked over this piece she wrote. It was kind of about a charity event for the Seattle Marathon but was more importantly—for ME anyway—about Nathalie’s involvement with the fandom of the TV show Supernatural as a teenager and her musings about it now as an adult. The strange tangy desire and seemingly endless longing that accompanies the various obsessions of teenage girlhood! The fact she was physically in the same room as Misha Collins, Jared Padalecki, and Jensen Ackles who I have seen many a time depicted in strange sexual situations in fan art on Tumblr! Nathalie Graham is a woman after my own heart with her tender recollections of teenagedom. JASMYNE KEIMIG

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BALONCICI/GETTY IMAGES
Call-Out Culture Is a Toxic Garbage Dumpster Fire of Trash by Katie Herzog
A Herzog classic. This column makes great points while simultaneously pissing off a whole shitload of people and gaining some new fans, both things Katie excels at. This was, by far, one of our most-read stories on Slog in 2018. Maybe they agreed (‘This is the best piece I have read on the internet in the past 5 years, hands down. Kudos, congratulations, Brava, and thank you.”), maybe they HEARTILY disagreed (“Boo fuckin hoo, getting yelled at on the internet is not a real consequence. No one is actually persecuting you, you’re not oppressed because you think Woody Allen didn’t do anything, you just have shit opinions.”), but they read it all right, sometimes coming back repeatedly. LEILANI POLK

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The Seattle Times Endorses Dino Rossi and I AM BOILING by Rich Smith
Rich Smith became an expert on Dino Rossi. Not because he wanted to, but because he had to. Who else would take up the mantle of covering a good-for-nothing, anti-choice, failure-of-a-politician? Rich became that man, nay, that hero, that made the race for the 8th exciting. He knew it was pivotal and he covered the shit out of that cast of characters, and, in the middle of it all, was smug Dino Rossi. He covered Dino so hard (not a euphemism) that he got banned from the Republican primary night party. They wouldn’t let him in! He did his due diligence and even went all the way to Spokane. He left Capitol Hill! For Dino! (And Kim Schrier.) And at the end of it all—the blood, sweat, tears, and the learning of Dino Rossi inside and out (again, not a euphemism)—the Seattle-fucking-Times had the gall to endorse him. THEY ENDORSED DINO ROSSI WHO IS ANTI-CHOICE, ANTI-GAY, AND ANTI-IMMIGRANT. And Rich was well and truly BOILING about it. This piece is what I think culminated his Dino coverage. After all of that coverage, that work, the Times goes ahead and does this? Well. Dino lost (again) and we got the last laugh. NATHALIE GRAHAM

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A Man Killed Five People Because He Didn't Like What Their Newspaper Wrote About Him by Sean Nelson
The greatest barrier to comprehensive gun safety in this country, besides legislation from lawmakers, is our apathy. After Sandy Hook, it seemed most of us lost the words to properly describe these commonplace tragedies, but former Stranger writer Sean Nelson had a way of finding them. He could string together pieces like this—and this 2017 piece about buying a gun after the Las Vegas massacre—that articulate America's great, sick love of firearms with sharp and exacting clarity. CHASE BURNS