Black Tallow In The Dark Rites Of Cthulhu

darkritesI’m very proud to have my story BLACK TALLOW appearing in the inaugural book from Neil Baker’s April Moon Books, THE DARK RITES OF CTHULHU.

Neil is a fellow Star Wars What’s The Story alumn and Mythos enthusiast, and he’s wrangled some great talent for his house’s first book, including editor/author Brian M. Sammons, Glynn Owen Barrass, John Goodrich, Scott T. Goudsward, T. E. Grau, C.J. Henderson, Tom Lynch, the ever lovin’ William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Robert M. Price, Pete Rawlik, Josh Reynolds, Sam Stone, Jeffrey Thomas and Don Webb.

Lovecraft Ezine just did a midnight chat on the book which you can view here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRjmMBp7kw0

Unfortunately I had some technical issues and wound up missing it, but here’s what I WOULD have talked about -

Brian pitched Dark Rites to me as a Hammer Studios style take on the ritualistic aspect of the Lovecraftian Mythos, akin to Dennis Wheatley’s fiction (like The Devil Rides Out) and Curse Of The Demon. I latched onto the idea immediately (and had a hand in naming the book).

My story BLACK TALLOW is about a rare book translator and lapsed occultist who is called to the house of an old friend who claims to owe all his substantial worldly success to the pursuit of ritual magic. And yet, the wealthy practitioner is as yet spiritually unfulfilled, until he comes across a rare tome whose ultimate purpose is said to be to grant the occultist the greatest desire of his heart.

blacktallowThe story incorporates The Infernalius, a book which readers of my Merkabah Rider series will recognize.

Perhaps I share my character’s love of physical books, but I have to take a minute and talk about how impressed I am with the look of this anthology. As you can see, Neil distressed the cover image to give the book a very 1960′s paperback feel which I love. He’s also crafted a series of minimalist representational images for each of the stories.

Here’s an excerpt from BLACK TALLOW.

He moved to the book and removed the covering.

I leaned in close.

bookIt was an ugly little thing, less than a hundred pages. It was bound in mottled, flaking, pale leather, and rather inexpertly, I thought. Some of the pages did not quite fit, as if they were mismatched, or taken from disparate sources.  I squinted hard at the cover, which bore no markings. It was old, whatever it was.

“Anthropodermic bibliopegy,” he mumbled, very close to my ear. He was standing near, hovering almost.

“Binding in human skin?” I wrinkled my nose. Claims of book jackets made from human skin usually turned out to be unfounded. Pig skin was often mistaken for human. I had once seen a copy of deSade’s Justine et Juliette with a human nipple on the front board below the title, and another time, Carnegie’s biography of Lincoln bound in a black man’s hide.  “Not very well done, is it?”

“It was stitched together by hand. By the same hand that did the fleshing and tanning.”

“Whose hand is that?” I asked, reaching out to thumb the pages.

“No, don’t open it!” he snapped. Then, more gently, “Let me.”

There was no title, only page after page of densely inscribed text, all in various hands, languages, even hieroglyphs on what looked like brittle papyrus. There were strange diagrams inside. I knew it was some kind of grimoire, but it was impossible for me to guess where it originated from.

“What is this, Paul? Some kind of scrapbook?”

“Sort of. Have you ever heard of the Infernalius?”

“It sounds….familiar.”

“Think back to the books we heard talked about in our college days, Raymond. The books your own grandfather had from his great uncle.”

That was Great Great Uncle Warren, the man family history had always told me I’d inherited my love of languages and old books from. He’d been a Classical Languages professor in Arkham, Massachussetts in the old days, and a chum of the somewhat notorious occult scholar Henry Armitage. Upon Warren’s death in 1931, most of his books and papers had been donated to his university, though a few had been passed on to his brother.

It was the revelation that I was Warren Rice’s great great grand nephew that had started off Paul’s fascination with me in school. He seemed to buy into the old story about how Warren and Armitage had had some strange mystical dealings in Dunwich in 1928 or so.

The books my grandfather had let us peruse in his study one summer that had belonged to Warren were mainly scholarly treatises, such as Copeland’s Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation, Casterwell’s Kranorian Annals, and von Junzt’s Nameless Cults.

Then I remembered.

“The Book of Books?”

Paul smiled.

“The Book of Books. Not some idle boast, but a literal description. A book hidden among the pages of seven other books.” He held up his hands and ticked them off, finger by finger. “The Book of Eibon, the Book of Karnak, the Testament of Carnamagos, the Ponape Scripture, de Vermiss Mysteriis, and the Scroll of Thoth-Amon. Each one a rare treasure in their own right.”

“Come on, Paul. It’s a fantasy,” I laughed. “The timeline’s all wrong. How could something be hidden in an ancient Egyptian scroll and a book written in 1542?”

“You know of the Akashic Record. The ethereal library of all knowledge written and unwritten which men may tap into. And the history says that The Dark Man entity dictated The Infernalius to the Hyborean wizard Gargalesh Svidren, who dispersed the knowledge through time. Abdul Al-Hazred hid the assembly instructions in the original, unexpurgated Arabic Kitab al-Azif. They’re only visible to those who already know it’s there. A book which rewards the practitioner with ultimate knowledge of the universe.”

“I thought it was supposed to end the world,” I said, pursing my lips. “How much did you get fleeced for buying this, Paul?”

“It’s the genuine article,” said Paul. “Dr. Francis Morgan recovered it from Old Noah Whateley’s personal library in Dunwich after the affair with your uncle and Professor Armitage.  It’s been in a private collection since 1966, along with Whateley’s diary.”

“Noah Whateley kept a diary?” I said, incredulous.

Whateley’s reputation as a sorcerer was renowned, but like my own as a translator, only among certain circles. As students, we’d spent our junior year spring break in Arkham and Dunwich trying to learn all we could about him and run into a wall. I’d chalked it all up to being folklore. Paul had insisted the locals had protected us from the true knowledge.

“He did, and related his assembly of the book in 1882.”

“Finding the right copies of those books, unaltered by translation….it would’ve been impossible for one man,” I said.

“He was hired by a cult, the Order of The Black Dragon. You remember them.”

I nodded. Von Junzt had mentioned them, some sort of apocalyptic cult with origins in ancient Israel and adherents all over the globe.

“Their members gathered the required books and brought them to Whateley. He assembled them, and once the Order had performed the ritual and taken what they wanted from the book, he was sent back to Dunwich with it. Apparently it was their intention to call something forth, something that should have ended the world.”

“Well, so the book’s a fraud,” I said. “Obviously the world didn’t end.”

“The book’s purpose isn’t to end the world, but to grant the ritualist his heart’s desire. The Order wanted the end of the world. The book gave them the means. The book changes to fit the magician’s desire.”

“A book that changes? That’s crazy….”

—–

Black_candles_Speyer_1THE DARK RITES OF CTHULHU is available now in Kindle, and for preorder in paperback. Neil’s made some cool perks for the special edition of the book too, so check them out here.

http://www.aprilmoonbooks.com/#!the-dark-rites-of-cthulhu/c1q0a

 

 

A Haunt Of Jackals In Betrayal On Monster Earth

Last year saw the release of Mechanoid Press’ MONSTER EARTH, a really cool little shared world anthology whose central concept was of a world where giant monsters had taken the place of a global nuclear arsenal. A Kaiju Cold War. I had to be a part of it.

You can read about my own entry, Mighty Nanuq, right HERE.

temple-mountThe folks at Mechanoid Press have just put out the sequel, BETRAYAL ON MONSTER EARTH, which continues the story of MONSTER EARTH, introducing a new, insidious clandestine threat, the Dissemblers.  The book features stories from Nancy Hansen, Jeff McGinnis, Fraser Sherman, I.A. Watson, James Palmer, Jim Beard, and my own contribution, A HAUNT OF JACKALS.

Set against the backdrop of the 1987 Palestinian Infitada, A HAUNT OF JACKALS follows the pursuit of a fugitive Nazi scientist by a top Mossad agent, and ends up in Jerusalem, when a pair of insurgents insinuate themselves into the population after ingesting a suicide serum which transforms them into a pair of colossal, glowing-eyed jackal creatures who proceed to lay waste to the Holy City. Israel responds with its own giant protector, the living statue called The Magen, and a destructive three way monster battle erupts across Jerusalem, culminating in an epic battle on the Temple Mount itself.

Here’s an excerpt….

******

The Palestinian Ploni Almoni had been admitted into the hospital twenty minutes earlier complaining of stomach cramps.

Shimon had gathered the interns around for a simple demonstration in diagnosis when the convulsions started.

Shimon called for the nurses, but the man lashed an arm out wildly with enough force to send two of them crashing back into the interns. He shook and bent and contracted on the bed violently, and began foaming at the mouth, eyes bugging, screaming through his teeth.

Then the hair sprouted. The nose and face became distended. A fin-like sagittal bone crest rose from his scalp and his neck thickened.  Shimon watched fascinated as the heels popped and slid up the backs of his calves, bones grating audibly, feet elongating, ears sweeping back into elfin and then satanic proportions.

At the same time, the body swelled, spine hunching and sloping, bursting the seam of the patient’s hospital gown, displaying a layer of coarse, pale hair so thick it obscured his musculature. Black slashes occurred along his ribs.

American Werewolf In London. It reminded Shimon of the movie, American Werewolf In London.

All his training was fleeing from his mind at the sight of the transformation occurring before him. The man’s eyes grew yellow, and as he gasped in pain, Shimon saw his teeth were elongated, the gums distending before his eyes.

Shimon whimpered.

But something else was happening. The bed groaned and collapsed to the floor. The man was not just transforming, he was rapidly increasing in size and apparently mass.

One of the interns, Meyeroff, stepped forward once more, breaking from the mass of his screaming, cowering colleagues to try and restrain the man, or perhaps offer him some kind of help. Shimon didn’t know.

The floor shifted beneath their feet, and beds, cabinets, IV-stands, all fell over or began to roll toward the thing in the broken bed, as if it was attracting them. But no, it was the floor. God, the floor was collapsing beneath its weight.

And it was huge now! The remnants of the bed couldn’t even be seen beneath it. It’s canine muzzle nearly touched the ceiling. From chest to back, it was as tall as Meyeroff.

The intern yelled for a sedative.

Shimon laughed. What dosage would calm that thing? What would stop whatever it was becoming?

jackalHe turned and shoved his way past his students, his run for the exit becoming a climb as the floor of the room suddenly gave way beneath the thing. He heard screams of people falling through the hole with it as he grabbed the doorknob to keep himself from falling with them.

He looked back, and saw the fanged maw of the thing poking through the floor, felt its hot breath. The whole building rumbled and the door, the frame, and the wall into which it was set, buckled and gave. He shrieked as he slid along with tons of debris from the two floors above him into the things ever-expanding mouth…

*****

And I will cut off your carved images and your pillars from among you, and you shall bow down no more to the work of your hands; Micah 5:13

*****

I’m quite proud of this story, and I hope you’ll check it out. E-books are out now, print to follow.

Betrayal on Monster Earth

Betrayal on Monster Earth

Buy from Amazon

Kick A Buck: Saving Throw Over At Kickstarter!

There’s less than twenty four hours left on this project over at Kickstarter.

I only just became aware of it, but it sounds like a pretty cool project -a TableTop/Mythbusters style webseries for familiarizing people with tabletop roleplaying games.

I played RPG’s for about five or six years and it gave me a solid foundation in storytelling that I really believe helped me out as a professional writer. Elements from my gaming days have wended their way into my stories and novels. The seeds of a few of the stories in my Merkabah Rider series were planted in a weird western PBEM I ran using the HERO system (in which a friend, now a World Fantasy Award nominated novelist, was a player), and  most recently, a lightsaber gimmick I came up with in a session of West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying game when I was about eighteen or nineteen made it into the pages of Star Wars Insider via my story Hammer.  Roleplaying foments creativity.

I hear a lot of my friends talk about how D&D was looked down upon where they came from and so they never experienced it (but they wish they had), and a good many of them say they’re too old to learn it now, or still don’t know where to start.

Additionally, there is something of a leaning in worldwide geekdom toward non or mildly interactive gaming, something I kinda find troubling when it comes to my own children and the children they interact with. I love my Xbox, but the anonymity of online gaming can be isolating and a bit troubling sometimes. I really think that nothing compares to the thrill of face to face RPG’ing. It’s a healthy, fun way to pass the time, and if you’ll pardon while I wax lyrical a bit, I believe it links us directly to the far flung past of our furthest ancestors, who probably crouched around a fire as the light danced on their painted cave walls, and they entertained each other with dynamic, evolutionary make-believe.

So unplug a bit, and help take some of the ‘video’ out of gaming, and kick these guys a buck. They’re already making it happen. Help make it even better.

-Hasta pronto!

Published in: on March 14, 2014 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Full Battle Rattle: World War Cthulhu At Indiegogo

I’m involved in a new book coming from Dark Regions Press called World War Cthulhu, exploring what happens when the armed forces of various cultures and in different times comes face to face with the cosmic monstrosities of the Lovecraftian Mythos. The book is currently live at Indiegogo looking for funds, and offering some cool perks.

This fantastic promotional art from M. Wayne Miller (who also did the cover to my own Van Helsing in Texas novel Terovolas) should give you a good idea of what the book entails….

Dark Regions 6x9 SCALE TEMPLATE

The book features stories from John Shirley, T.E. Grau, Stephen Mark Rainey, Willum Hopfrog Pugmire, Robert M. Price, Neil Baker, David Conyers, David Kernot, William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Konstantine Paradias, Cody Goodfellow, C. J. Henderson, Edward Morris, Brian Sammons, Glynn Owen Barrass, Peter Rawlik, Darryl Schweitzer, Tim Curran, and Jeffrey Thomas, with three authors waiting to be unlocked.

At $13,000, ten interior illustrations will be completed for the book by Miller, something I’d really really like to see happen. Take a look at another piece he’s done already….

Dark Regions 6x9 SCALE TEMPLATE

Pretty cool, right?

My own contribution to the book is a Vietnam-era story, The Boonieman, about a squad of green berets from a remote forward firebase near the Cambodian border in the waning days of the conflict who arrive too late to save a Montagnard village from a battalion of NVA regulars, and instead bear witness to an adopted Tcho Tcho’s terrible vengeance.

apocalypse-now-08-gI think this story’s probably been brewing in my head since my first look at native Vietnamese guerilla fighters in Kurtz’s temple compound in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and was reinforced by brief glimpses of the Montagnards in the TV show Tour of Duty. The grand finale was definitely inspired by the attack on the Marine firebase Khe Sanh, and that nigh apocalyptic battle at the end of Oliver Stone’s Platoon.

Here’s an excerpt….

“Beo!” he called.

The ‘yard paused at the entrance to the village.

Jatczak caught up with him. He took out his .45, chambered a round, and gave it to Beo.

“Easy, dude,” he said.

Easy. What the hell did Beo have to be easy about? It looked like the NVA had marched through with flamethrowers, like the VC had done at Dak Son in ’67. Every hootch was burned.  Black bodies lay contorted everywhere in the dirt, the cooked flesh dripping off their charred bones.  The smell was of barbequed meat. He remembered the first time he’d come to this village. Beo had killed a pig and cooked up some chocon for them.

His belly rumbled.

Christ. He needed a smoke. He reached in his pocket and found the stone Dyer had given him. He ran his thumb over it. There was a design on there, invisible because of the dark color. A circle with a warped star in the center, and an intricate little burning eye or branching column or something in the middle. Weird shit. He put it back in his pocket and got out his Lucky Strikes.

The storehouse was still blazing. It looked like they hadn’t even taken the goddamned rice. Even the yang pri, the sacred stand of five precious sua trees in the center of the village, was burned.

He thought about Dyer’s orders to radio him about the condition of the village ASAP. The ship radio was fucked, but there was an RT secured in the back.

He lit his cigarette.

They trudged through the ruins, kicking up ash. They passed the tombs, the little totem-surrounded huts packed with offerings and the belongings of the deceased. These abodes of the spirits were untouched, and he could imagine the dinks rubbing that stinking tiger balm on the backs of their necks and refusing to desecrate them, while not hesitating to immolate anything with a pulse.  They had burned children alive with no concerns about angering any ghosts or demons.

Report anything out of the ordinary, Dyer had said. Nothing out of the ordinary here, Major. Just the ‘Nam. Bravo Sierra. 

Jatczak followed Beo to the ruins of his hut. The walls and ceiling had fallen in and were nothing more than a heap of firewood now.

“You too late,” came a guttural voice.

Three men stepped out from among the tombs like ashen ghosts. They were ‘yards, and Jatczak knew the one who had spoken, a squat man in a red headwrap and loincloth, with a black VC shirt and a necklace of weird silver spirals. His name was Rin, and he was the village be gio, or sorcerer.  A tough bastard, more than a little dinky dau.  He’d once seen Rin cut a VC’s heart out and slip it still beating into a bag for God only knew what purpose. The Gia Rai grew their hair long, because cutting the hair damaged a man’s soul.  Rin kept his head shaved. Beo had told Jatczak once Rin’s grandmother had been a Tcho Tcho, but he didn’t know what that meant, and Dyer had said only that the Tcho Tchos were Cambodians and ‘bad news.’

The two men on either side, he knew only by their nicknames, Lyle and Tector. They’d once screened the movie The Wild Bunch at the base and these two had eaten it up, hollering and hooting in the back row to beat the band, declaring they wanted to meet their deaths the same way as Warren Oates and Ben Johnson. Lyle smoked a long stemmed pipe, probably packed with koon sa from the skunky smell and the red haze in his eyes. Tector had a spread of suppurating sores creeping up the side of his face, maybe leprosy.  All three were armed. Tector had an AK-47, Lyle a homemade crossbow, and Rin a sharp, curved, Cambodian dha.

Beo sank to his knees and clawed the black dust. He sobbed.

“How’d you escape?” Jatczak asked the others, slinging his rifle.

They came closer.

“They catch me, march me through bush, but I get loose, tre bien,” said Rin. “These two, out fishing when gooks come.”

“We’ve got a chopper,” Jatczak said. “It’s damaged, but maybe we can get you back to William.”

Rin chuckled, showing his black and yellow Indian corn teeth.

“No…we stay, lieutenant.”

Yeah, William was probably the last place anybody would want to be in another half hour.

“What’ll you do?”

Mut bong pao,” said Rin.

A sacrifice. They’d adopt a water buffalo into the tribe and then kill it. Everybody present would eat some of it. The Gia Rai were big on sacrifice to the caan, the evil spirit of the mountain on which they lived. The caans slept in the rivers and the rocks and had to be appeased regularly, particularly in times of misfortune. Beo had told him once that every family killed its first born child for the caan, to ransom the spirit of the next. He’d taken it as koon sa talk as they’d been sharing a pipe of the local home growin’ at the time.

“I don’t see any animals,” said Jatczak….

*****

The book is, as of this writing, $3600 into the $10,000 goal, with 45 days left. Kick it a buck. It’s a worthy product, and again, I’d really like to see Wayne’s take on some of the stories within.

Here’s the link -

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/world-war-cthulhu-a-collection-of-lovecraftian-war-stories-with-illustrations

wwccover

Devil’s Cap Brawl Now Appearing In Kaiju Rising

Ragnarok Publications had released the Kindle version of their giant monster themed anthology Kaiju Rising, which features stories from Peter Clines, Larry Correia, James Lovegrove, Gini Koch (as J.C. Koch), James Maxey,
Jonathan Wood, C.L. Werner, Joshua Reynolds, David Annandale, Jaym Gates, Peter Rawlik, Shane Berryhill, Natania Barron, Paul Genesse, Mike MacLean, Timothy W. Long, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Kane Gilmour, Peter Stenson,
Erin Hoffman, Howard Andrew Jones, James Swallow, and yours truly, with killer interior art by Chuck Lukacs and Robert Elrod.

March will see the release of the print edition as well.

My own story, Devil’s Cap Brawl, is set in the High Sierras of the 1860′s, during the Central Pacific Railroad’s race east through the mountains. Chinese and Shoshone laborers are ordered to blast their way through a certain peak called Devil’s Cap, a promontory that houses a menace that has slept for millennium.

25032012060854pmLongtime readers will know I have a standing love for the TV series Kung Fu with David Carradine. It’s a mesmerizing piece of television centering on the journey of a Shaolin priest through the American West. I’m also a giant monster fanatic, not just of the classic 50′s B-movies America put out, but also the subsequent kaiju films of Toho and Daiei. I love the weird designs of Japanese monsters like Gigan, Megalon, and Hedorah, and my design of the giant ogre antagonist in this story, Dzoavits (the name taken from an old Native American legend) reflects that. I also have a soft spot for heroes like Ultraman and Spectreman (I missed the Power Rangers – too old) who grow to immense size and duke it out with these big rubbery monstrosities.

spectremanMarrying these diverse elements in a story appealed to me, and when I pitched the idea to Tim Marquitz and Joe Martin,they went for it, particularly as they wanted to feature a Chinese martial artist monk in their ongoing weird western series Dead West. So, the unnamed priest in this story may appear again in the future.

Go pick up the book. It’s fantastic.

Here’s an excerpt from my story, Devil’s Cap Brawl -

Dzoavits.

It erupted from the stone, doing to Devil’s Cap in seven seconds what it would have taken another eleven months for them to do with hand drills and blasting powder.

It was immense. At least a hundred and fifty feet tall. Another arm punched through the side of the rock and it extricated itself from the encasing rock like a fat man wriggling out of a barrel. It was moundish, with a huge hairy hump between its muscled shoulders, covered with spiky, quartz-like protuberances of a muddy hue that poked through its dirty grey-black hair. In the center of its chest was a hint of a head, framed by long, scraggly hair. There was an overlarge disapproving mouth that stretched almost from shoulder to shoulder, and was hung with fleshy lips and shot through with a row of yellow, serrated shark teeth. Above that maw, two bulging red eyes glowed. The thing opened its mouth, took its first cold breath of fresh air in God only knew how long, and let out a terrifying, protracted howl that washed over them in a wave that drove them all physically back in horror.
Rocks cascading off its body, it pulled itself free of its prison, revealing a pair of strange, spindly, kangaroo-like legs that ended in long grasping black talons. It seemed to rest on its massive arms, and use them for locomotion, like a great gorilla, or a man with withered legs.

The horrible thing perched atop the ruins of Devil’s Cap and surveyed the countryside, a newly emerged monarch. It sucked the air with its ponderous lungs and regarded the milling men below.

Joe tried to run, and tripped over Chow Lan, who had fallen sprawling in the snow and was groping for his spectacles. The Chinese and Indians were in full route, except for the priest, who knelt beside Tolliver, yelling in Chinese at the men who passed, apparently urging them to take him with.

Joe heard gunshots, and looked over. Several of the Indians and white men in the camp had seen the thing and had emerged from the snow tunnel. They were firing at it with shotguns and muskets. Joe almost laughed as he scrabbled to his feet.

But before he could run, the priest grabbed a hold of his sleeve.

“You must take Boss Tom with you,” said the priest.

“Let go of me, you bloody monkey!” Joe shrieked and swung at him.

It was an old prizefighter’s instinctual blow, the kind that would have knocked an untrained man unconscious had it landed. But the priest did something peculiar with his free hand, and Joe’s punch seemed to slide uselessly down his branded arm. Then the smaller man’s two fingers pinched Joe’s wrist and twisted. The pain was so intense Joe gasped and fell to his knees, all thought of struggle gone.

He found himself face to face with Tolliver, laying nearby. The man was a black and bloody mess. He must have been caught in the explosion Joe had heard earlier, the one that had awakened this thing. He had known Tolliver back when Irish muscle had done the backbreaking work, not Chinese. They had come up together. He felt ashamed at having tried to abandon him.

But they were all dead men anyhow, in the face of this thing from the pit of hell.

“Chow Lan!” the priest yelled. “Help him!”

“Where can we go?” Chow Lan yelled, having fitted his glasses back on his nose. One lens looked like a spiderweb.
The priest looked about for a moment, then pointed to the shallow western tunnel in the base of Devil’s Cap which the terrified coolies had abandoned.

He pointed.

Joe looked up as a massive shadow fell across the entire area. The air grew chill. The sky was dark.
Then were was a tremendous impact that knocked Chow Lan to the ground and sent the snow and the loose stones hovering for a surreal moment before everything crashed back down.
The thing had leapt from the summit and landed behind them.

Joe watched as it scooped up a fistful of the fleeing workmen. He saw dozens of men flailing between its huge ruddy fingers, and heard their screams as it stuffed them hungrily into its mouth.

“Let me go!” Joe yelled.

“You will help Boss Tom?”
Joe nodded, exhaling as the pressure on his wrist disappeared.

“Go then!” the priest ordered, and to Joe’s surprise, he began to strip away his shirt and pants.

“Come on, Chow Lan,” Joe urged, taking Tolliver under the armpits.

“Where he go?” Chow Lan wondered, taking Tolliver’s feet and watching mystified as the priest discarded his pants.

“Never mind him! He’s barmy! Let’s go!”

They bore Tolliver back to the shallow depression and huddled among the rubble and abandoned equipment.

The priest was bare ass naked. He sat down on the spot and closed his eyes. He was muttering something, and his fingers were interlacing in weird passes.

Tolliver groaned.

Joe reached into his coat and pulled out his bottle.

“Here Tom, here now,” he said, pulling out the cork and tipping it to Tolliver’s bruised lips. “Mother Mary’s milk, it is. You drink. I’m sorry, Tom.”

Beside him, Chow Lan gave a cry of surprise and fell to his knees, throwing his forehead to the ground.

Joe looked over and nearly dumped the rest of the firewater up Tolliver’s right nostril.

The priest was getting to his feet.

But he had changed….

Pick up the Kindle edition of Kaiju Rising here,and watch out for the print version next month all over.

Amazon.com: Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters eBook: James Swallow, Larry Correia, Peter Clines, J.C. Koch, James Lovegrove, Timothy W. Long, David Annandale, Natania Barron, C.L. Werner, Jeremy Robinson: Kindle Store

Amazon.com: Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters eBook: James Swallow, Larry Correia, Peter Clines, J.C. Koch, James Lovegrove, Timothy W. Long, David Annandale, Natania Barron, C.L. Werner, Jeremy Robinson: Kindle Store

Buy from Amazon

DT Moviehouse Review: Buffalo Soldiers

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. Today I review Gregor Jordan’s indie flick, Buffalo Soldiers.

Directed by Gregor Jordan
Screenplay by Gregor Jordan, Eric Axel Weiss, and Nora Maccoby.
Tagline: Steal all that you can steal.
buffalo_soldiers
What It’s About:
As the Cold War winds down in West Germany, an unscrupulous and opportunistic Army supply clerk, Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix), commands a booming black market trade in surplus material and home cooked heroin under the nose of his oblivious commander (Ed Harris). When a hardnosed new top sergeant (Scott Glenn) arrives and threatens Elwood’s operation in the midst of his biggest deal ever, he complicates things by getting involved with the man’s rebellious daughter (Anna Paquin).
Why I Bought It
theguysThere’s an inherent absurdity to the uniformity and philosophy of military service which the occasional work brings to light amid the admittedly more appealing fanfare and ass kicking that’s prevalent in examinations of the subject. Literature tends to get away with it a bit more. Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 comes to mind, but there are a few movies too – the adaptation of Catch 22, MASH, Jarhead, Stripes, elements of Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now. Maybe in movies it’s harder to get away with because if you want a realistic portrayal of the military you usually have to involve them in the production? I don’t know. If that were true, I doubt Buffalo Soldiers would ever have been made. But then again, it too, like Full Metal Jacket and Jarhead, was a book first.
Like Jarhead, its main subject is the activities of America’s warriors in peacetime, in this case, on a secure base in Stuttgart months before the fall of the Berlin Wall (as it unfolds on the news, several of the stoned soldiers profess to not even knowing what country the Wall is in). Like Catch 22, it focuses on the black marketeering of soldiers, in this case, Elwood and his cronies (the always great Michael Pena, Michael Wright, and later, Gabriel Mann), who use their influence as supply clerks to divert surplus into the hands of dubious German buyers and make enough to keep them in Rollexes cooking heroin on base.

tanksquashbugElwood isn’t Sgt. Bilko. He’s a manipulative, mostly amoral, but highly intelligent individual who chose enlistment over a prison stint, and whose criminal leanings aren’t overly affected by his service. He plays his commanding officer, the earnest but ineffectual Colonel Berman, like a more successful Eddie Haskell, playing the part of a loyal and attentive assistant while sleeping with Berman’s wife (among all his other criminal activities). What’s appealing to me about Elwood’s character is what Anna Paquin’s Robyn calls out about him at one point – he’s bored, and he seems to be doing everything he’s doing more out relieving that boredom rather than true malice. Instead of knuckling down at the appearance of a new top sergeant obviously there to investigate rumors of his activities, he dates the man’s daughter. When, in one hilarious sequence, a seriously stoned tank crew out on maneuvers goes on an accidental rampage that results in the death of two Army truck drivers, Elwood orders his boys to confiscate and hide the trucks full of guns rather than turn them in, and sets out to make a five million dollar deal and ‘retire.’ The tank crew is never brought to justice, or even mentioned again.
The plot is intricate and replete with enough double crosses to keep your attention. Of course when Elwood goes for the big score the noose tightens, not only with Sgt. Lee (Glenn), but also with Turkish criminals, Russian interlopers, and the base’s own gang-like military police, led by the bullying, opportunistic, staunchly vegetarian (!) Sgt. Saad (Sheik Mahmud-Bey). Seeing how Elwood gets out of his predicaments is part of the fun. There are some nice surprises, and a clever bit of table turning involving the heroin cooking and Saad’s refusal to eat meat that’s pretty cool.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMore than blackly humorous, I would say in parts, it’s blackly hilarious. There is a subplot in which Berman vies for promotion with a rival, Colonel Marshall (Brian Delate) and throws a dinner party celebrating the revelation that he’s related to an obscure Confederate war hero (The Iron Boar) to impress his CO, General Lancaster, played by Dean Stockwell. Of course Marshall’s own ancestor George C. Marshall turns out to be more impressive, and when Colonel Marshall disparages Hood by wondering aloud if he lost both an arm and a leg in some military disaster of his own making, Berman splutters “He didn’t lose the arm. He lost the use of it.” As Berman quickly learns that General Lancaster is unimpressed with fancy relations, Sgt. Lee assigns Elwood and Stoney (Leon Robinson) to man the punch table in Confederate uniforms in front of a Stars and Bars flag on the wall – something Stoney, who is black, is obviously not happy about. Elwood and his boys hide their illegal weapons in a nuclear facility on base, which Berman decides to use as a setting for a grand war game to pit his men (which includes Elwood and friends) against Marshall’s, ostensibly to woo Lancaster’s favor. Of course the whole thing’s going down the same day Elwood needs to move the guns under threat of death from the Turks, and Garcia (Pena) remarks, “If we’re not dead by 1700, we’re fuckin’ dead!” The interplay of Lee and Elwood as the investigation intensifies if pretty humorous. At one point Lee confiscates Elwood’s civilian automobile for a live fire exercise and orders Elwood to blow up his own vehicle with an M-60.

marchoverflagThe whole movie has a very slick, indie gangster feel, with a great classic hip hop soundtrack. There are some excellent compositions. An early one where the soldiers march across a Patton-esque US flag painted on the ground, and Elwood’s portentous dreams of falling (unlike most people, in his falling dream he always hits the ground) are beautifully filmed. I’m surprised this flick doesn’t have a better reputation. Apparently its release, too critical of the United States military, was pre-empted for two years following the September 11th Attacks, I guess because nobody wanted to speak bad about the military then.
I had forgotten how much I liked it.

Best Dialogue/Line:

In an early scene, when a soldier accidentally kills himself playing football in the barracks, Elwood drafts a letter home to the deceased kid’s parents, trying to put a spin on his foolish demise as Berman listens. The Colonel’s only critique -

“The word ‘resplendent.’ I don’t think that’s a good word to describe a soldier. What about….contained? In him were contained the virtues of honor and loyalty. That’s much better, don’t you think?”
“Oh much better, sir.”
“Scrap ‘resplendent.’ Don’t let that word leave this base.”

Best Scene:

I think the climactic threeway clash of Garcia and Elwood’s heroin cookers, Saad’s MP’s, and Sgt. Lee’s strike team in a room full of overcooking heroin as the fall of the Berlin wall plays out on an overturned TV was particularly cool. The fumes start getting all the combatants ridiculously high, yet they still push on with their fight, smiling faintly as they shoot and plunge combat knives into each other. Very chilling, and juxtaposed with Elwood battling the homicidal Lee as he narrates a Nietczhe quote and likens it to an inherent inability for men to avoid going to war, the whole thing in hindsight seems almost to condemn a war that had not yet begun, one which we’re still fighting today.
I can see why it wasn’t released.

Next In The Queue: A Bullet For The General

Happy Belated Birthday, Robert E. Howard

Yesterday was Robert E. Howard’s birthday. I usually mark the birthdays of my favorite writers with a post, or an excerpt from some of their work, which is the best way I think, to celebrate them.

With all the Star Wars stuff the past couple days, I let it slip by (sorry, Bob!).

Usually a writer of titanic bloodshed and brooding violence, Howard also had a fun streak which I discovered some years ago when I tracked down a copy of A Gent From Bear Creek and read the stories aloud to my wife at bedtime. I’m in a good mood this week, so I thought I’d post something from the lighter side of REH.

The simple set up is, Breck Elkins, an overgrown backwoods battler, wants badly to court Glory McGraw. But her dang it, her family keeps getting in the way….

jeffrey-jones_a-gent-from-bear-creek_ny-zebra-books-1975_132_front“Lemme handle him,” snarled Mister Wilkinson. “Git outa the way and gimme a clean shot at him. Lissen here, you jack-eared mountain-mule, air you goin’ out of here perpendicular, or does you prefer to go horizontal?”

“Open the ball whenever you feels lucky, you stripe-bellied polecat!” I retorted courteously, and he give a snarl and went for his gun, but I got mine out first and shot it out of his hand along with one of his fingers before he could pull his trigger.

He give a howl and staggered back agen the wall, glaring wildly at me, and at the blood dripping off his hand, and I stuck my old cap-and-ball .44 back in the scabbard and said: “You may be accounted a fast gunslinger down in the low country, but yo’re tolerable slow on the draw to be foolin’ around Bear Creek. You better go on home now,
and–”

It was at this moment that Old Man McGraw hit me over the head with his poker. He swung it with both hands as hard as he could, and if I hadn’t had on my coonskin cap I bet it would have skint my head some. As it was it knocked me to my knees, me being off-guard that way, and his three boys run in and started beating me with chairs and benches and a table laig. Well, I didn’t want to hurt none of Glory’s kin, but I had bit my tongue when the old man hit me with his poker, and that always did irritate me. Anyway, I seen they warn’t no use arguing with them fool boys. They was out for blood–mine, to be exact.

So I riz up and taken Joe by the neck and crotch and throwed him through a winder as gentle as I could, but I forgot about the hickory-wood bars which was nailed acrost it to keep the bears out. He took ‘em along with him, and that was how he got skint up like he did. I heard Glory let out a scream outside, and would have hollered out to let her know I was all right and for her not to worry about me, but just as I opened my mouth to do it, John jammed the butt-end of a table laig into it.

Sech treatment would try the patience of a saint, still and all I didn’t really intend to hit John as hard as I did. How was I to know a tap like I give him would knock him through the door and dislocate his jawbone?

Old Man McGraw was dancing around trying to get another whack at me with his bent poker without hitting Bill which was hammering me over the head with a chair, but Mister Wilkinson warn’t taking no part in the fray. He was backed up agen a wall with a wild look on his face. I reckon he warn’t used to Bear Creek squabbles.

I taken the chair away from Bill and busted it over his head jest to kinda cool him off a little, and jest then Old Man McGraw made another swipe at me with his poker, but I ducked and grabbed him, and Bill stooped over to pick up a bowie knife which had fell out of somebody’s boot. His back was towards me so I planted my moccasin in the seat of his britches with considerable force and he shot head-first through the door with a despairing howl. Somebody else screamed too, that sounded like Glory. I didn’t know at the time I that she was running up to the door and was knocked down by Bill as he catapulted into the yard.

I couldn’t see what was going on outside, and Old Man McGraw was chawing my thumb and feeling for my eye, so I throwed him after John and Bill, and he’s a liar when he said I aimed him at that rain-barrel a-purpose. I didn’t even know they was one there till I heard the crash as his head went through the staves.

I turned around to have some more words with Mister Wilkinson, but he jumped through the winder I’d throwed Joe through, and when I tried to foller him, I couldn’t get my shoulders through. So I run out at the door and Glory met me just as I hit the yard and she give me a slap in the face that sounded like a beaver hitting a mud bank with
his tail.

“Why, Glory!” I says, dumbfounded, because her blue eyes was blazing, and her yaller hair was nigh standing on end. She was so mad she was crying and that’s the first time I ever knowed she could cry. “What’s the matter? What’ve I did?”

Published in: on January 23, 2014 at 10:54 am  Comments (2)  
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Part 2 of Slugthrowers: An Overview Of Popular Music and Musicians Up At Star Wars Dot Com

In the immediate wake of my story Hammer in Star Wars Insider #147, look want else got published today…more Star Wars! Part 2 of my article Slugthrowers: An Overview of Popular Music And Musicians In A Galaxy Far Far Away is up on Lucasfilm’s Star Wars (dot) com.

Click here for part 1.

And here’s part 2….

http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/2014/01/21/slugthrowers-part-2/

ewokdrum (Medium)

Published in: on January 22, 2014 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hammer Time! Star Wars Insider #147

hammerMy first short story of 2014 premieres today in Star Wars Insider #147, marking my fictional return to the Star Wars Galaxy! Yep! Me! On actual, physical newsstands! Run out and grab it.

I’m always excited by the opportunity to add a bit of original fiction to a universe that’s been such a huge part of my childhood.

Hammer, which takes place in the final days of The Clone Wars, follows Telloti Cillmam’n, a troubled, envious Padawan washout regulated to the Jedi Explorer Corps who discovers an ancient Sith relic resting in a mysterious structure on the far-flung, ammonia-washed world of Nicht Ka. It also sees the birth of Malleus, an heir to the power of the glorious Sith dynasties of the past and the armor of a forgotten dark warrior called Warb Null.

Taking a page from some of my favorite fellow Star Wars contributors, Jason Fry and Dan Wallace, I thought I’d devote the old blog today to a couple of the in-universe Easter eggs and behind the scenes stuff for Hammer, and at the same time, showcase some of the awesome art Joe Corroney and Brian Miller did for the story.

nullFirstly, Warb Null was the corrupted persona of a Naddist cultist named Shas Dovos on the planet Onderon 4,000 years before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.  He appeared in the Tales of The Jedi comic ‘The Freedon Nadd Uprising’ written by Tom Veitch for Dark Horse, and was further expanded in the West End Games RPG supplement for Tales of The Jedi. I always liked the design of the character as a sort of primeval proto-Vader in gleaming, almost Satanic black armor with a huge two handed lightsaber. Yeah he looks a bit like Sauron now, but remember, this was before the LOTOR movies so actually, Sauron looks like him. He gets taken out pretty quickly a la Darth Maul in the comic, but he stuck in my mind over the years, and I was always looking for an opportunity to do more with him.

George C_ Scott PattonPart of the inspiration for Telloti’s personality was, believe it or not, George C. Scott’s portrayal of George S. Patton in the titular movie, Patton.  There’s a quote in it that sums up Patton’s character – “There’s only one proper way for a professional soldier to die. That’s from the last bullet, of the last battle, of the last war.”  This mantra is fortified when, after a political faux pas causes Patton to be removed from his battle command, he reacts to news of the Allied D-Day invasion by storming at his stoic valet, “The last great opportunity of a lifetime – an entire WORLD at war, and I’m left out of it? God will not permit this to happen! I WILL be ALLOWED to fulfill my destiny!”  That last bit sort of became the springboard for the character for me. Telloti’s frustration at having failed to become a Jedi and being, in his mind, shuffled off to a harmless profession under the direction of a warrior who has lost the will to fight. Telloti wants glory, and all around him, his opportunities are passing him by. This mindset of course, combined with his temper, wind up making him fertile ground for the corruption of the Sith.

ekimAs a reader of wookieepedia, I’m a little obsessed with seeing unnamed background characters get an official moniker. The maimed Jedi master in the story, Ekim Ryelli, is meant to be the mulleted guy pictured in this still from Episode II: Attack Of The Clones.  On wookieepedia he’s been called ‘Unidentified Balding Human Male Jedi,’ since the movie’s release, which is really a bit of a mouthful and not a very impressive name for a Jedi. So I asked Joe Corroney if he could use the guy in the arena in Episode II as a character model, if Leland Chee was OK with it, which I guess he was, ‘cause that’s him.

lumas

Lumas Etima front and center

For Ekim’s padawan, I needed another combatant in the Petranaki arena on Geonosis from Ep II, in this case, one that hadn’t made it back. I found Lumas Etima in one of Leland Chee’s blogs on the Geonosis battle, and in Pablo Hidalgo’s Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia. He’s another guy with an on screen appearance, but he one-ups his master as Hasbro made a figure of him at some point (this and bounty hunter Bane Malar make two Star Wars figures I’ve written backgrounds for – coolness!).

tellotivisionsAt one point in the story, Telloti’s mind is flooded with visions of the ancient past, in which he sees another armored Sith warrior, and hears his name chanted. This is King Adas, an ancient overlord of the Sith stronghold world Korriban. The spirit which inhabits the spellbook which Shas Dovos uses to craft the Warb Null armor is never named, and I don’t name him here, but I can’t help but see an aesthetic allusion to Adas in the design of Null’s ebony armor…

The last points are mainly trivia. Since my first contributions to Star Wars in the old Database and my story Fists of Ion, I’ve always played around with portmanteaus in my character naming, as a lot of authors I know do. I don’t feel a Star Wars piece is complete till I’ve included the name of a loved one, in particular, my children, who have become the main driving force between any ambitions I have as a writer since they’ve come into my life.

Wollwi Enan, the girl padawan who Telloti mentions as having defeated him during the Apprentice Trial, is named for my middle daughter, Willow Anne, and the Givin astrogator (Givin are my favorite Star Wars alien species) Staguu Itincoovar for my son, August Victoriano.

Welp, that’s all folks. Hope you enjoy the story.

May The Force Be With You!

Art imitates life

Art imitates life

The Searchers: Why Scar Is Played By A White Guy

013-Debbie-Cowering-In-Cave-The-Searchers-1956So this I’m posting this as a gut reaction-response whatever to something this critic said in his article on re-evaluating classic films.

The merit of the whole thing is a bit dubious to me.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2013/dec/19/why-re-evalute-films-once-great-queenan

If you think The Maltese Falcon is boring and 2001 is endless…well, OK. That’s a matter of taste I guess, though I personally question the prowess of a self professed film critic who touts Dirty Dancing over any of those (and I like Dirty Dancing).

Anyway, the thing that stuck out to me was a criticism I hear leveled at one of my favorite movies, John Ford’s western, The Searchers.

Ethan kissing his brother's wife...Ward Bond is obviously aware of the situation.

Ethan kissing his brother’s wife…Ward Bond is obviously aware of the situation.

The Searchers is much more complex then modern viewers tend to give it credit for. It’s a nuanced study of racism, with the central concern being John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards relentless pursuit of his niece Natalie Wood, who has been kidnapped by Comanche Indians. Ethan is of the school of frontier thought that posits she may be better off dead than in the arms of ‘a Comanche buck.’ While his intent seems to be clear, his main motivation is revenge against the ones who killed his brother’s wife, a woman he obviously had some history with prior to the war. He is in fact wrestling with just what he intends to do with his niece once he finds her.

Now newcomers to The Searchers often complain about the folksy trademark Ford humor not gelling with the gravitas of the rest of the film. I can understand this criticism.

What I don’t get is the near universal critique of the Comanche antagonist Chief Scar being portrayed by white German American actor Henry Brandon. People say it undercuts the stance against racism which the film portends to take.

I’ve searched the internet, and I’m amazed to find nobody saying what I’ve always suspected about Brandon’s casting.

Scar wasn’t born a Comanche.

He’s a white captive inducted into the tribe.

Blue eyed Cynthia Anne Parker with one of her Comanche children

Blue eyed Cynthia Anne Parker with one of her Comanche children

Historically, this kind of thing happened all the time on the frontier – and John Ford was an avid student of western history. He knew about Cynthia Ann Parker who was captured by Comanches as a girl, and her half Comanche son Quanah who rose to prominence as a chief of the Kwahadi band in the 1870′s. In fact, I’ve read western historians who’ve remarked on the similarities between The Searchers and the Parker story. The original writer of the story The Searchers was based upon certainly knew it.

But you don’t need to be a western history buff to see this. It’s plain in the movie.

scarScar has bright blue Peter O’Toole eyes. Of course he’s obviously a white man. He’s not supposed to be an Indian.

In a picture where every other Native American on screen was portrayed by Navajo extras and Mexicans were played by Mexican actors, not Burt Lancaster or John Saxon with shoe polish in their mustaches, doesn’t anybody think John Ford’s casting of the main antagonist would’ve been deliberate?

The notion that Scar is a white man is further born out in an exchange between Ethan and Scar after their first face to face meeting.

“You talk pretty good American,” Ethan growls, “for a COMANCH.” (Wayne’s own emphasis)

and Scar

“You speak pretty good Comanch.”

11_the_searchers__Blu-rayEthan Edwards knows Scar is a white man raised by Comanches. Scar is everything Ethan hates. What he doesn’t want his niece to become, what he himself, it can be argued, is in danger of becoming It’s foreshadowed in his reaction to the two slightly crazed white captives he finds with the cavalry earlier in the picture (women who are not crazy because they’re Comanche, but, judging from the one woman’s reaction to the doll, likely bore witness to a cavalry massacre). It’s been theorized elsewhere that Ethan has some unknown past with the Comanche perhaps prior to the war. His fringed rifle scabbard and ability to speak to the Indians or at least comprehend their language is evidence of this.

Scar being a white man feels to me has always felt like a deliberate choice by Ford which adds another layer to every bit of dialogue between Wayne and Brandon, another level to the entire movie.

Apologies if I’m mistaken and this has been posited elsewhere.

Published in: on December 20, 2013 at 10:32 am  Comments (3)  
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