Stories We Wish We Had Published in 2017 - Pacific Standard
Our favorite stories from 2017 that were published elsewhere, chosen by the Pacific Standard staff.

Pacific Standard has been on the ground in a number of interesting locales this past year. If you've been reading us regularly, you'd have found us following Milo Yiannopoulos' book tour, riding shotgun with one of Boise's biggest oxycodone dealers, chatting with Van Jones about the politics of compassion, and reporting from Fiji and Germany during the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Yet, try as we might, we can't be everywhere at once. Some stories slip by and find their way into other outlets and publications, eliciting grunts of both envy and admiration from our newsroom. So, in the spirit of competition and self-reflection, our staff picked some of their favorite stories from this past year—ones that were somehow published elsewhere. 

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"Into the Vortex: Megacomputers and the Quest to Understand Superstorms," by Brantley Hargrove (Wired)
I kept waiting for the Twister reference the first time I read through this piece. It never came, but that's probably for the best: These real-life stormchasers are far more daring than Bill Paxton or Helen Hunt were in the 1996 film, risking their lives to collect data that is now—finally, thanks to advances in supercomputing—being put to use to help us better understand storms. Just in time for climate change. Nicholas Jackson

"The Digital Ruins of a Forgotten Future," by Leslie Jamison (The Atlantic)
The computer game Second Life launched way back in 2003, and its cultural moment came to a close shortly thereafter. Back then, in the days before widespread social networking, most of us delighted in the idea of starting over, of creating a new self in pixel form—and then we moved on. Leslie Jamison visited this world of glossy avatars and perpetual sunshine for the first time just this year, and returned with a compelling portrait of the people who never left. Nicholas Jackson

"Outside the Manson Pinkberry," by Rachel Monroe (The Believer)
Rachel Monroe. Charles Manson. A resurrected Believer, now owned by the Black Rock Institute in Las Vegas, which is injecting new life into this once must-read bimonthly from the same folks who brought you McSweeney's. All of these things point to yes, and Monroe delivers, with a fascinating snapshot of the ongoing fascination with America's most infamous cult leader. Nicholas Jackson

"Promethea Unbound," by Mike Mariani (The Atavist Magazine)
In general terms, Mike Mariani's profile of child prodigy Promethea Pythaitha—who started college at age eight—is about the high-wire acts of parenting a genius, and parenting in poverty. But it's the specifics of Pythaitha's life in Montana with her mother, and of the destructive attention she attracts with her intellect, that give this story a near-mythological scale so appropriate to Promethea's self-chosen name. Elena Gooray

"What Bullets Do to Bodies," Jason Fagone (HuffPost Highline)
One of the strongest cases made for gun control this year was not made in Congress but in HuffPo Highline, with Jason Fagone's "What Bullets Do to Bodies," which provided a difficult-to-stomach front-row seat to the trauma inflicted by firearms, and the lengths that medical professionals go to to try to patch shooting victims back together. Jennifer Sahn

"The Addicts Next Door," by Margot Talbot (The New Yorker)
Margot Talbot's "The Addicts Next Door" from The New Yorker offers an astonishing look at the havoc wreaked by opioids on rural America, with deep reporting from a West Virginia town at the heart of the epidemic. You can't not see this as a public-health crisis after reading Talbot's harrowing story. No one is left unharmed by the poisonous affects of addiction rippling through this town. Jennifer Sahn

"An Incomplete List of Things That Are Not Men's Fault," by Rebecca Solnit (Literary Hub)
Something that put more wind in my sails per word than anything else I read this year was Rebecca Solnit's "An Incomplete List of Things That Are Not Men's Fault" from Lit Hub, a smart accretion of words that is a searing reality check and a triumph of truth-telling. Jennifer Sahn

"The Curse of the Bahia Emerald," by Elizabeth Weil (Wired)
Nobody dies and little light gets shed on the mystery at hand, but as far as crime tales go, Elizabeth Weil's "The Curse of the Bahia Emerald," a character-driven piece of gemstone intrigue from Wired, is a mighty fun ride and educational too. Jennifer Sahn

"The Nationalist's Delusion," by Adam Serwer (The Atlantic
Serwer methodically debunks many of the media cliches that purported to explain Donald Trump's victory, and convincingly argues that his candidacy was all about racial resentment. Americans like to believe racism is a thing of the past; Sewer shows it is not only still with us, but strongly influences our electionsTom Jacobs

"The New Tiffany & Co. Needs Women," by Chavie Lieber (Racked)
I loved this story on how Tiffany's is trying to adapt to the idea of women buying themselves diamonds, instead of hinting at straight men. Francie Diep

"The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness," by Michael Hobbes (HuffPost Highline)
This story about the health inequities gay men face is an example of how affecting good science journalism can be, deftly layering personal stories, public-health research, and cultural insights. Francie Diep

"Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them," by Kathryn Schulz (The New Yorker)
Is the Yeti more likely to exist than ghosts or giants or angels? It always seemed obvious to me that it was, but this article explains how psychologically and analytically complex answering that question really is, and why other people may disagree with me (incorrectly, of course). Ben Rowen

"The Day the Fire Came," by Skip Hollandsworth (Texas Monthly)
In a particularly devastating year of hurricanes and wildfires, I kept returning to the question of why someone would stay in place to brave a natural disaster. This harrowing feature, about a group of Texas ranchers who confront a wildfire, gets at exactly why, and follows the tragedy and courage of their final day. Ben Rowen

This story is ostensibly about the wildfires that ravaged the Panhandle, but really it says so much more: on the state of ranching, on death and love, on economic inequality. All that in a story that reads like a dream—well, a nightmareMax Ufberg

"A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof," by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah (GQ)
I thought this story was incredibly well-reported and moving, and I really admired the writer's decision to center the emotional center of the piece on Roof's victims, and not just Roof himself. And man, that ending. Max Ufberg

More important than the Anglin story. Ghansah gets closer than any writer I've read to capturing the unknowing complicity of the family. "I don't know what happened, I just know that the boy wasn't raised that way," his father tells Ghansah. But it's pretty clear he was. Ted Scheinman

I cried twice while reading this. And then I cried when it was over. It is the definitive story of the Charleston church shooting. Morgan Baskin

"The Uncounted" by Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal (The New York Times Magazine)
A chilling report on a topic that too many Americans (and American news outlets) ignore. As Khan and Gopal explain, in the fight against ISIS, the number of civilians killed by coalition forces "is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history." Ted Scheinman

"John Boehner Unchained," by Tim Alberta (Politico)
This is easily the best political profile I've read in the last two years. It's sympathetic and a little self-deprecating, funny as hell, wry and insightful. Morgan Baskin

If you think a profile of John Boehner sounds like a total snooze, we share something in common. But Tim Alberta's "John Boehner Unchained" is not your grandmother's political profile. It's packed with chain-smoking, boner jokes, and wine-soaked confessions. And, in Alberta's hands, Boehner's story becomes about so much more than its star: the decades-long fracturing of the modern Republican Party, the hyper-polarized state of American politics at large, and the emotionally fraught task of leadership. Ryan Jacobs

"Sadiq Khan Takes on Brexit and Terror," by Sam Knight (The New Yorker)
There is Sadiq Khan and then there are the possibilities Sadiq Khan represents. Sam Knight's comprehensive and tense profile of London's first Muslim mayor handles both these forces masterfully against a backdrop that ranges from United Kingdom's Brexit vote to this past year's Grenfell Tower fire. Varun Nayar

"How to Get Away With Murder in Small-Town India," by Ellen Barry (the New York Times)
Ellen Barry's final story as the Delhi-based bureau chief for the New York Times investigates a horrific murder in a small town in north India. Her writing is precise and cinematic, but there's also something very special happening here. Toward the middle of the story, Barry paraphrases a question she's been asked numerous times in her years reporting abroad: "Who are you to come here and tell us what is wrong with our system?" She lets the question hang over her reporting and interrogates her moral position as a foreign correspondent just as much as that of the systems she orbits. It's a level of self-reflection that's often hard to find in the Times' reporting on India. There's no doubt that Delhi will miss you, Ellen. Varun Nayar

"Somerdale to Skarbimierz," by James Meek (London Review of Books
Though ostensibly about a chocolate factory, this piece might be the best encapsulation of the bizarre logic and cruel outcomes of neoliberalism I've ever read. Jack Denton

"The Instagram Poet Outselling Homer Ten to One," by Molly Fischer (New York, The Cut)
An exemplary "hang 'em by their own rope" takedown that still manages a defense of its target and her fans, with beautiful writing to boot. Jack Denton

"Inside Trump's Cruel Campaign Against U.S.D.A Scientists,” by Michael Lewis (Vanity Fair)
The depth of reporting and accessible insights into a labyrinthine government department is what we've come to expect from Michael Lewis. It's essential that readers understand how different aspects of our government function and how that functionality is essential to our way of life. This piece dives head-first into a department whose own members aren't aware of the full extent of its responsibilities, and it does so masterfully. Ian Hurley

"Into the Woods: How One Man Survived Alone in the Wilderness for 27 Years," by Michael Finkel (the Guardian)
This story of the hermetic Christopher Knight, who lived in the Maine wilderness for 27 years, is a dynamic and stark piece of writing. It captures both the inspirational aspects of Knight's existence, as well contrasting that with the deep psychological trauma that is inherent in his story. The story opens the mind to what a truly isolated existence is comprised of, and how society has little ability to reintegrate the people who have thrown off its bounds. Ian Hurley

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