Leigh Alexander

The day the mermaid washed up in the Thames, the docklands light railway was down, leaving everybody stranded on the Isle of Pigs. A long summer drought had revealed the riverbed, stinking of silt and dotted with old debris. Laurel’s gaze wandered among the eldritch shapes, wondering if they hid treasure beneath their fuzzy algal coats.

She had been on her way to school, but turned back when she saw a riot of suits all around the station. …


Watching old commercials is like watching a sleeping America dream about itself

Photo: Frank Okay on Unsplash

Much has been written about my generation, the one suspended “between Gen X and Millennials” like an incomplete thought. Analysts have long groped for our defining traits: We are old enough to have morosely watched “Nirvana Unplugged” when it aired on MTV, but not too old to post Instagram stories about sheet masks. Ours might be one of the first generations to watch the fashions of our teen years return while we are still just able to pull them off. I’m a freelance writer who’s occasionally had to exploit her personal experiences to cultivate an audience in a rapidly diminishing…


I wonder a lot about how Jane ended up. When we were small we did everything together. “She’s just like you,” Aunt Cissy kept insisting, and Jane was, in that her birth parents were, for the most part, out of the picture. We also both liked fantasy books and hated afterschool, but honestly, that’s where the similarities ended. Jane was a weirdo.

“In what way was she weird,” Dr. Carla asked me, clasping her hands.

“My uncle said Jane couldn’t tell fantasy from reality,” I said after a pause.

“But your uncle still performed care for Jane,” someone in the…


An ‘algowave’ short fiction

Photo by Daniel Hansen on Unsplash

For the past few weeks, I’m pretty sure I’ve been seeing another me. Wednesday afternoon I left my apartment to walk to the train and I saw her — me — crossing the intersection at the top of the hill, walking briskly. Then over the weekend I was washing dishes and staring out the window, just spacing out, and she was crossing the park, a shape appearing and disappearing among trees. I couldn’t get a good look.

I know you’re thinking it can’t be, that it must just be someone who looks like me. I’ll admit that none of the…


On stock photography memes and the illusion of reality

Around 2013, a relatively new meme format went mainstream. Stock photography juxtaposed with lines of surprising text was suddenly comedy gold, as Redditors proved — particularly when they took the benign and made it dark.

But there’s a lot of life in stock photo memes besides rude subversions. The “distracted boyfriend” meme will probably turn out to be among 2017’s most recognizable, as users assign the role of disloyal man, offended girlfriend, and “other woman” to all kinds of concepts. …


The Unearthing is a piece of fiction written in 2014 about that year’s public excavation of Atari games that had been infamously buried since 1983, and which I, working at the time as a ‘game journalist’, did not actually attend. All events and persons here are invented except for Ian Bogost, who is extremely real. I’m thrilled to republish this edition with beautiful illustrations by artist Tom Humberstone.

I’m talking to a magazine editor about attending a funeral for someone neither of us know.

Robert Phelan wants me to do a magazine feature about the big desert dig, with…


When your lived reality is repeatedly denied, why not believe in a harmless crystal or two?

Photo: Dimitry Posudin

This is going to sound strange, but bear with me: I think a lot about witchcraft and computers, specifically the concept of magic in digital space. Common assumptions hold that the world of technology is rational, scientific, a business, while magic is insubstantial fiction — but virtual spaces have long been sites of mystery and resistance. Sites of magic.

This column I’m writing here at Medium is about those rare times when the internet still feels capable of magic, in every sense of the word — undiscovered regions, unusual entertainments, underground cells. Do you ever imagine virtual space as a…


Massive on YouTube, these viral videos are colonies of forms and formlessness in rainbow hues

I can spend hours watching disembodied hands inject silicone molds with clear or tinted fluids. Sometimes syringes of glitter are involved, or gelatin. Often, there is slime. Coca-Cola features prominently, injected into the kind of membranous and fragile balloon you make from a tube of goo. Or there’s kinetic sand in the perfect shape of a soda bottle. The backgrounds are always white. Charmless unlicensed music plays. People speak softly, if at all.

“Satisfying videos,” as they’re called, are massive on YouTube, viral colonies of forms and formlessness in rainbow hues. It’s impossible to tell who originated them. Faceless…


Illustrations by Nick Norwood & Ana Vasquez

I’m putting less energy into social media and more into creating physical artifacts from my life. It’s an act of political rebellion and joy.


I am an American woman who has decided to marry an English man. Wow! I’ve got lots to say about this. I mean, I have a lot to say about it. I’m really trying to hang onto my own speech patterns, but it’s tough. You might laugh when I say this, but Britishness is a battering ram that very few people can hold up against.

Leigh Alexander

I write about the intersection of technology, popular culture and the lives we’ve lived inside machines. I’m also a narrative designer! leighalexander1 at gmail

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