this is incredible

My favorite thing of last week:

Also, if you haven’t yet read Hench, by Natalie Zina Walschots, you should! It’s about a woman who works very boring temp jobs … for super villains. It turns out that even when you work for super villains, you still need to deal with bosses who are way too interested in how you are feeling, office politics, and worries about health insurance. If you like Ask a Manager, there’s a high chance you’ll like Hench. I loved it.

{ 146 comments… read them below }

  1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I *LOVE* Hench! I am totally reading this over lunch, yay!

      1. Trina*

        For anyone whose library uses Hoopla, they have both text e-book and e-audiobook, and because of the way Hoopla works you won’t have to wait on hold for it!

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        I just did also. We have 3 copies in the system, and I am #1 in line.

        Which is better than two other lines I’m in. #21 for a book that won’t be released until March. GRIN

    1. nobadcats*

      This sounds so entertaining I not only added it to my kindle, but I paid the author full price for it instead of choosing the “read it for free” option.

    2. Oregonbird*

      It’s time for the 21st century’s version of ‘The Truth About Cats and Dogs.’ Garofalo nailed the original part – Alison, who do you see playing you in the movie?

  2. ACM*

    Hench is great. Similar subject matter to The Boys–superheroes not being all they’re cracked up to be–way different execution.

    1. Melanie Cavill*

      I wonder what Alison would make of Vought International’s management practices, honestly.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Pretty sure it would be along the lines of “Your office is full of bees. Fascist bees with superpowers. Get out asap.”

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I was considering Director of Radioactive & Cyborg Llama Suppliers.

        And I’m confident the commentariat’s placeholder job titles and department names are going to be villainous for a week or so!

  3. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    Hench was one of the best books I’ve read in the last 5 years. I can’t wait for her next book. I’m DEFINITELY going to read this fic over lunch today.

    1. just some guy*

      I was very happy when I saw NZW’s Twitter response to this fanfic. It was along the lines of “I love that this exists but I can’t read it, because I’m still writing in this world”.

      The whole “authors can’t read the fanfic of their works, to avoid copyright brouhaha” bit has been so thoroughly ingrained in me that it keeps feeling weird that Alison’s able to read this one.

  4. Six Degrees of Separation*

    Worlds colliding! I have to read this. “Hench” is one of my all-time favorites!

    1. Siege*

      Same, and my favorite part is that this is fic for someone I follow on LJ/Dreamwidth (they are not active any longer, but I’ve “known” florahart for YEARS.)

      1. Florahart*

        (and Flora was recommended this fic by someone she knows in a completely different context within about six hours of its posting, which gave her some entirely bizarre moments, let me tell ya, bro. All the pieces of one’s life, colliding, during the darkest days of the year…I feel there’s a story there somewhere.)

    1. Smurfette*

      Absolutely – it’s perfect, a delight to read. A fantastic end to my first work day of 2023 :)

    2. bamcheeks*

      So much so that I C&P’d “No matter how good your HR department is, though, they can’t bribe or blackmail your wife” to say, uh, Alison, are you SURE— before remembering that it wasn’t actually Alison.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I commented in character that Joffrey should be brought to the attention of the boss SV in case Joffrey decides to use his powers to create a separate power base instead of just annoying people. Either Joffrey will suffer Doom or he’ll become the new assistant–either way, he’ll be out of the team. Win-win.

  5. Wing-N-Wing*

    I’m inundated with the paperwork that built up over the holidays. I needed this break! (If anyone has recommendations for how to deal with the coffee that I spewed all over the keyboard laughing, I’m interested…)

  6. EBStarr*

    “I know you say that other than the pay you’re happy in your current job, but worrying your boss will attack you with radioactive cyborg llamas can really affect your sense of what’s normal in a job, and as I’ve said before, staying in a job that warps your sense of normality can hurt you in the long run.”


    1. Goober*

      And “If it didn’t occur to you to secretly take both, working with a superhero is probably a better personality fit.”

  7. Lana Kane*

    Hench is on Kindle Unlimited, for anyone who subscribes to that. Just downloaded it, thanks for the rec!

    1. Alpaca Bag*

      Thank you – I have acquired it and started it on a break from work. It was VERY hard to put down and I’m sure it will consume most of my free time until I finish it!

    1. River Song*

      Yes please! I absolutely LOVED Hench and reading this fanfic was just incredible. Day made.

    1. Abogado Avocado*

      x 100! Thanks to Alison, I listened to Hench on my daily walks and noticed people looking at me as if I were crazy and it was because I was laughing out loud. Can’t wait to read the fanfic!

  8. Biology Dropout*

    Oh my gosh!!!!!! Also, y’all should read the work of Naomi (the person who posted this) as well; it’s also amazing.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Naomi is my favorite short story writer. I say this as someone who generally isn’t into short stories.

      1. MN office maven*

        Here to add this! I just finished “Catfishing on Catnet” by Naomi Kritzer and it’s great! (Also Naomi’s blog is my go-to for Minnesota politics when it comes to election time).

        1. old curmudgeon*

          I adore Kritzer’s “Catfishing on Catnet” SOOO much! The scene where the AI takes over the robot that’s teaching a conservative take on sex education to a high school class had me rolling on the floor. No surprise at all that she found this amazing fanfic and shared it!

          1. Genius with Food Additives*

            Also here to be excited about Naomi! Her election coverage is such an amazing (and hilarious) contribution.

    2. just another queer reader*

      Yes! I love all of Naomi’s work (both fiction and excellent political reporting). She’s a gem.

      So fun to see these worlds collide.

      1. merula*

        I was coming to say that too!! Her fiction is amazing (love CatNet and Little Free Library), but her local political commentary is next-level.

  9. ZSD*

    OMG this is truly hilarious. I was reading #2 thinking the post couldn’t possibly get more brilliant, but then I read #3. And the spot-on Alison-esque answer to #5 made me burst out laughing.

  10. Suni*

    OMG the answers are spot on! Just like Alison would have answered them haha. Also, I love Hench. Great book.

  11. California LTD*

    I read Hench last year at your recommendation and loved it. I may love this even more! Thank you to the writer, and can I be your friend? Or at least sidekick?

    1. Antilles*

      A few years back, people would occasionally send AAM questions about movie or book scenarios and she’d answer them (I sent one about TV tropes that got answered back in like 2017 or something).
      I wonder why that’s no longer a thing – not sure if people just don’t send them or if the growth in the readership means Alison’s inbox gets too many “real” questions which need real advice to waste time/space answering ‘work’ questions about scenarios from Hollywood.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I loved it too–my guess is that the well ran dry. Either that, or too many people sent in stuff from The Office and not enough about other properties.

      2. Sandi*

        She still does. Not super often but I’ve seen some and I only started reading a few years ago.

  12. Pinkbasil*

    Also, Naomi Kritzer’s books are really good – Catfishing on CatNet is a great place to start.

  13. Former Evil Freelancer*

    In the past, I did a lot of temp secretary work for companies which are objectively evil, and it’s amazing how nice they can be to their employees (except for the famously evil brokerage firm that insisted that women had to wear closed-toe shoes and stockings in NYC July). I’ve also had many, many freelance gigs. HENCH is very true to life in a lot of ways. The author has obviously lived the life. (I also immediately knew that she was Canadian when her badly injured, out of work protagonist wasn’t worrying about medical bills.)

  14. Phony Genius*

    Seems like Hench could be adapted as some kind of animated TV series, or something like that.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Natalie Zino did an Ask Me Anything on reddit a while back and linked a particular scene from one of the Batman animated tv shows that she found very fitting for the Hench plotline.

  15. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    There’s also an ongoing comic series by J Steven York, called MINIONS AT WORK (his photocomic predates the Minions movies), that also focuses on the daily grind of your basic employee of Evil (tagline: “Evil is not our nature; evil is just our day job!”. It was on hiatus for a while but I believe is now being regularly published again. It’s quite fun because he uses action figures and photographs them in diorama settings to create the illustrations.

  16. Regular Human Accountant*

    This is amazing. I love it!! Hench is one of my favorite books in recent years and this crossover is just *chef’s kiss*.

  17. Pam Adams*

    I do think that the lives of both the superhero assistants and the supervillain hench-folk would be improved by unionization.

    1. Kacihall*

      I’m just picturing Shrek saying ‘they don’t even have DENTAL’ now and I wish I could share the picture.

  18. mreasy*

    I loved this SO MUCH. Today is my bday so I’m going to go ahead and claim this post as my present. Thanks for posting this and the book reco, Alison!! (The last answer made me snort laugh, it’s all too good!!!)

  19. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    I got it out of the library after Alison recommended it in a comment thread in the recent past. It was really good!

  20. Fulano DeTal*

    Brava! That was pitch perfect, both in the nature and style of the questions Alison publishes, but also in the voice that Alison replies in. That’s no small feat—it easily could’ve seemed as there was no distinction between the submitter’s voice and “Alison’s.” A lot of work went into crafting this. Kudos to all.

  21. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    OMG, this is written by one of my favorite authors in the Schitt’s Creek fandom!!!!!

    1. My Dear Wormwood*

      dnlfoxx on Instagram does a series on a supervillain’s gay assistant. “So instead of Das Noctura Satanus in Gm, what if we did the sacrifice to, like, a slow cover of Toxic?”

  22. Rosyglasses*

    Oh wow — this is SO SPOT ON and now I know that my first day back at work for the new year is already tanked. [Settles in with coffee and scones]

  23. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    Allison, did you write the responses? Whoever wrote them was channeling you perfectly!

  24. Worldwalker*

    OMG! I’m laughing so hard I can’t get back to work! (I was reading this while I was eating lunch) This is *so* good!

    We need to send in supervillain-themed questions to be answered in the next installment of the fanfic!

  25. Jessica*

    SHEER GENIUS. I’m just a little worried about whether Alison’s been eaten by radioactive cyborg llamas, because now how would we know??

  26. DivergentStitches*

    I dunno … there’s no “commentariat,” “to be clear,” or “hat in the ring” to be found :)

  27. EvilQueenRegina*

    Hench has been on my to-read list since you first mentioned it, this has prompted me to make it my next read!

  28. TeapotNinja*

    Missed opportunity by not including reader comments.

    A few “you should start looking for a new job right now”s, couple of “blame the victim”s and a few completely off topic threads about morality of being evil would fit right in.

  29. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

    I haven’t read Hench (yet), but I read this fic as if it were a Venture Bros./AAM crossover, and it worked perfectly. Which just tells me I need to read Hench . :)

  30. freddy*

    I read Hench on Alison’s recommendation and loved it, but I feel like squeamish folks like me might appreciate a content warning for significant body horror.

    1. just some guy*

      Came here to say this. As well as the body horror, there are some passages with people being deliberately tormented psychologically (IIRC by kidnapping of their children and by having details of their sex lives publicised) which could be an issue for some readers. I loved it but it’s not going to be for everybody.

    2. Oregonbird*

      Can we, just now and then, acknowledge the bright red caps of context without needing someone to help us read the giant flashing warning signs? It’s a fic based in the ultraviolent world of superheros. 99% likelihood of violent/disturbing text.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        No, I think this might be a fair one for a trigger warning. One of the themes the author specifically explores is the potential body horror inherent in superpowers vs non-superpowered people (and superpowers vs superpowers) and it goes pretty far. I do not get squeamish easily and even I deliberately skimmed over some of the sections because they were getting pretty deep.

        It is mentioned in the Amazon description and some of the reviews, so the due diligence can and should be done, but it’s definitely a book that I would not recommend to a friend without a brief heads-up.

        1. freddy*

          Yeah, thing is, most contemporary superhero violence on screen is not at all graphic; it’s almost exaggeratedly light-touch. This is … not that. I found it gruesome, graphic, and profoundly upsetting. So for me, the content warning would have been a kindness, specifically because it is NOT in line with the genre’s norms.

      2. just some guy*

        I’m not a huge comics nerd, but I’ve read and watched my share of superhero stories. I found Hench a lot darker and more uncomfortable than I had expected from the premise and the back-cover blurb, even with its two brief mentions of “body horror”.

      3. Marley's Ghost*

        I certainly appreciate the warning. I am not a superhero reader or viewer, but was considering checking out Hench due to the recommendations here. It’s helpful information.

    1. My Dear Wormwood*

      I deeply loved the pseudonym selection for this one. It’s exactly the kind of petulant bs that GOT Joffrey would do in that situation.

  31. Rockette J Squirrel*

    Have read neither; can’t wait to read both! Hench is already in my Kindle via Kindle Unlimited.

    So for those who’ve read both, which shall I read first?

  32. Ida Cook*

    What is the book recommended by Ms Kritzner?
    It seems as though I have to sign up for a website to view it, and I’m really cutting down on doing that. Thanks!

    1. Ella Kate (UK)*

      Its not a book, its a fanfiction on Archive of Our Own (also known as Ao3), and due to some machine learning algorithms scraping fanfic sites for content to learn on (and then create AI works from) without the consent of users, authors have been locking their posts to members only sadly, hence the request to sign up.

  33. Littorally*

    I am so glad this went up on a day I’m working from home so I could SLAM that AO3 link.

    Also, SVOSHA is a wonderful concept and could be a rich source of further literature all on its own.

  34. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    My only TW for Hench is the description of physical injuries is quite graphic. I work in surgery and still found it a bit much.

  35. Lurker*

    I rarely comment here, but just had to express my utter delight. I read Hench after you recommended it, and this fic is just… *chef’s kiss* That last line is perfection.

  36. Curmudgeon in California*

    OMG! This is excellent.

    Now I want to see a fic with an evil boss modeled on the winner of this year’s “Worst Boss”.

    1. ACM*

      It’s funny, they recently did a Spider-Man game with a villain who gave strong vibes of That Guy. Claims to be a huge science nerd, really steals other people’s research and claims he invented/is responsible for it. Wants to be cool, the facade cracks when challenged. Bit of a psychopath. I kept on sending clips to friends going “WHO DOES THIS REMIND YOU OF?”

  37. Molly Coddler*

    I took it out at the library and spilled coffee all over it. Now I own it so I guess I have to read it, especially with all the recommendations.

  38. Lucien Nova*

    Oh my lord. This is the most amazing thing I’ve read in a long time.

    Count me in as one of the commentariat who’s now going to track down Hench.

  39. Alessandra*

    I LOVED Hench, and only heard about it from AMA! If anyone hasn’t read it yet, absolutely check it out.

  40. Dr Sarah*

    This person wins all the internets and I am totally checking out ‘Hench’.

    Also, based on your description of ‘Hench’, I also want to recommend Tom Holt’s ‘Portable Door’ series. It’s about a magic-working company but with the same sort of ‘yes, this is the stuff of which fantasy novels are made, but all the basic work stuff still has to go on’ vibe. Content warning for love potions with all associated horrible implications, and probably more sexism than I noticed when I read them (it really was a long time back, now I come to think of it), but the humour is still good.

    1. starsaphire*

      Oh, Tom Holt is AMAZING. Love his stuff! I seriously want merch with quotes from Expecting Someone Taller all over it.

  41. Rivakonneva*

    I read the fanfic and didn’t have to sign up to do it. It was ****wonderful****, and now I’m off to get Hench on interlibrary loan. :)

  42. starsaphire*

    10,000% perfect. I’d swear Alison wrote this if I didn’t know better.

    The llamas. The GoT names. The embedded links that lead to ACTUAL AAM columns. Holy cats.

    Color me thoroughly impressed.

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