Five To One in Summer of Lovecraft

Dark Regions Press is taking orders via Indiegogo for their summer offerings, among them Summer of Lovecraft, an anthology of 1960’s era cosmic horror, which features my latest offering, Five To One, a story about a student protest on the Miskatonic University campus that goes horribly awry.

Image may contain: 1 personI love these ‘decade’ books Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass put out (Atomic Age Cthulhu was the preceding book, and I think there are still rumblings about a 70’s era antho if this one works out).

Other stories include –

Night Trippers by Lois H. Gresh
Operation Alice by Pete Rawlik
The Summer of Love by C.J. Henderson
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Sullivan by Lee Clarke Zumpe
Dreamland by David Dunwoody
Lost In the Poppy-Fields of Flesh by Konstantine Paradias
Keeping the Faith by Sam (Samantha) Stone
Mud Men by Sean Hoade
Misconception by Jamie D. Jenkins
No Colors Anymore by Joe L. Murr
Shimmer and Sway by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Short Wave by Stephen Mark Rainey
The Song that Crystal Sang by Tom Lynch
Through a Looking Glass Darkly by Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons
The Color from the Deep by William Meikle
The Long Fine Flash by Edward Morris
Just Another Afternoon in Arkham, Brought to You in Living Color by Mark McLaughlin and Michael Sheehan, Jr.
Crystal Blue Persuasion by Jeffrey Thomas

For Five To One, I knew right from the announcement that I wanted to do a student protest at MU, and tie in the Timothy Leary tune in drop out movement somehow. The turbulence spreading across American campuses in the 60’s was surely a thing MU would have experienced, and Arkham as a college town felt like an angle I hadn’t personally seen before.

I also played with the idea that a lot of the same family names would turn up again and again.

Here’s the opening…..

The jeep squealed to a stop at the south end of the Miskatonic University campus, just ahead of the National Guardsmen of Battery B of the 101st Field Artilley.

Lt. John Iwanicki watched the column of inky smoke rising from the west half of the quad.

He had done all he could to get away from Arkham, from a drunken, brutal father. Now here he was, back again, about to march on his old alma matter.

Iwanicki shaved twelve men off to hold back the pressing crowd gathered there so the rest of the men could pass through. It was a mix of camera-faced press and rubberneckers, with some campus administrators and students.

Past the dormitories and athletic fields the campus dipped into a grassy, tree-lined depression in which Armitage Commons was centrally located, with the administration building and lecture halls to the north, and various specialty buildings clustered all around. Down the hill, across the quad and to the west, the brick ROTC building was awash in streaming flame. The crowd of students held back a respective distance around the old bronze statue of Professor Armitage. A team of Arkham firefighters were bustling about their engine, attacking the fire with a deluge cannon to little effect.

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“Goddammit, the little shits used napalm,” Sgt. Pasternack said, snorting the air. “I can smell it. Don’t those dumbass yokels know water ain’t gonna put it out?”

Pasternack was a veteran of Korea who’d done two tours in Vietnam and then entered the Guard when a leg wound had kept him from re-upping for active duty again. He spent all his off time cussing at the rec room television. When the priests who had marched into the draft office in Catonsville and burned all the draft cards had been on the news last May, the MP’s had had to stop him from taking his .45 to the TV. He was a crew-cut John Wayne type, only a few outbursts shy of a Section 8.

Despite his leg, Pasternack scooped up his M1 and vaulted out of the jeep before it had completely stopped. He tucked the strap of his campaign hat under his boxy jaw and barked for the men to form up, pointing to the burning outbuilding and the multicolored cluster of young protestors. Orders were to make a buffer between the students and the firefighters.

Captain Bishop had issued twenty M-79 grenade launchers, and Iwanicki noticed Sgt. Pasternack pulling the men carrying those aside and forming a separate column to the right with a few riflemen.

He got out of the jeep and went over.

“What’s this, Sergeant?” he demanded.

“Just getting a jump on the secondary objective, El-tee,” he said.

“What secondary objective?”

“Once the fire’s out, the Captain’s gonna order us to kick those pinkos off campus. If we send the main body down,” he said, slashing a knife hand toward the flaming building, “we can maneuver a line of bloopers behind them up Garrison Street and down Church, using those trees and buildings as cover. We’ll have ‘em on two sides that way, and when the time comes, we can drive ‘em right back the way we came.”

There was no denying it was a solid plan, but Iwanicki didn’t fully trust Pasternack to initiate the push without busting heads. He was here to kick hippie ass. When they’d gotten Governor Sargent’s call last night he’d practically run ahead of the convoy all the way from Danvers.

Image result for 60s college protestsAbout five hundred students had walked out of class onto the MU quad yesterday afternoon waving the Youth International Party flag. The leader of the local Yippie movement, an Economics major named Daniel Elwood, had read a prepared speech condemning the Defense Department’s announcement that 24,000 troops were being recalled to Vietnam for involuntary second tours. They’d held a funeral for a copy of the Bill Of Rights and marched with the document pinned on a makeshift bier down to the Miskatonic River, burned it on the shore, and scattered the ashes.

Just Yippie posturing, really. They’d sung a few songs and dispersed to the local bars.

The trouble had started when drunk students and, Iwanicki thought quite possibly, a good deal of out of towners in for the protest, had stumbled out of the taverns and begun breaking shop windows and flinging beer bottles at squad cars.

The local police found themselves overwhelmed pretty quickly. The mayor had gotten the Governor on the line, and he had called them in to quell the whole shebang.

Of course Captain Bishop was back at the temporary command center at St. Stanislaus Church, ostensibly holding two squads in reserve to help the Arkham Police keep order in the town and to jump in if thing’s got hairy. He was a Cambridge-taught REMF, the son of the mayor of Deans Corners and a cunning draft dodger who wanted no part of this hornet’s nest, particularly with all the media attention.

Iwanicki was standing there with his hands on his belt looking down through the bare cherry trees at the crowd chanting “Pigs off campus” down on the Commons where he’d spent many lunch hours reading, when, as if out of memory, a familiar figure came rushing across the field with one of the men, Private Carter, in tow and looking flustered as the older man repeatedly slapped his hand away from his elbow.

The man was in his late sixties and dressed accordingly, with a long, aged face. Wisps of cobweb white hair clung to his balding head. He smiled a broad set of too-uniform teeth and held up one liver spotted hand.

Iwanicki found himself smiling too, for the man was his old psychology professor, ‘Old Wing’ Peaslee.

“John Iwanicki, is that you?” he called, slapping Private Carter’s hand away yet again.

“What the fuck is this, Carter?” Pasternack growled, taking a step forward to intercept the spry old man. “Can’t you keep an old man behind a goddamned line?”

“I’m sorry sir, he….”

“I was insistent,” Peaslee finished for the blushing young man. “Please excuse me. I recognized an old student and I just had to say hello.”

Pasternack reached out and grabbed the old man by his scarf, but he shrugged out of it with a mumbled ‘thank you,’ and put his hand out to Iwanicki, as he came on.

Peaslee had been a bit of an eccentric, known to go off on wild, sometimes strange tangents in his lectures, but he had always found the old man fascinating even in his most rambling pontifications. He had been friendly with Iwanicki’s Uncle Jim, the pastor at St. Stanislaus who had practically raised him after his father had stumbled out one morning and drowned himself in the Miskatonic. Peaslee and his uncle had been chess rivals, and his recommendation on Iwanicki’s application had gone a long way towards convincing Admissions to overlook his financial hardship.

“Hello, Professor,” Iwanicki smiled, taking the old man’s hand as Pasternack flung the scarf down in the grass and scowled behind his back. “I’m half surprised you’re not down there with the Yippies,” he said, nodding over his shoulder at the crowd singing down on the Commons.

“It’s them I’d like to speak with you about, if you can spare the time. I tried to see your commanding officer but was turned away.”

Sgt. Pasternack insinuated himself, cradling his M1.

“Lieutenant should I remove this civilian?” It was more of a suggestion than a query.

Maybe the presence of his old professor bolstered his confidence.

“No, Sergeant. Just wait over there a bit.”

“That fire crew’s looking kind of anxious, sir,” Pasternack insisted, not budging.

“You’re right,” he said. “I’ll tell you what. Take the men down there as we discussed. I want all weapons locked. Treat this like a peaceful demonstration, nothing to get excited about. Pass the word down the line.”

“Sir?”

“You said yourself the fire crew isn’t going to put out a napalm blaze the way they’re going. I want you down there advising them,” he said, squaring his shoulders at Pasternack. “Understood?”

“Yes sir,” Pasternack said, pursing his lips and looking like he’d like to take a bite out of his nose.

He wheeled and stabbed a finger at Carter.

“Get your ass in gear, Private.”

Iwanicki watched Pasternack holler orders at the men, and pretty soon they were marching down the hill through the rustling autumn leaves toward the fire.

The twenty men with grenade launchers watched them go, fidgeting.

“Listen, Professor,” Iwanicki said. “If you’re here to impress caution on me, believe me, I’m doing all I can.”

“I’m afraid it’s graver than that, John. Do you know who’s behind all this unrest?”

“Yeah, the administrators gave my CO a name. Elwood. Some student activist.”

“Mr. Elwood has organized much of the peaceful arm of the demonstrations, it’s true, but neither he nor any of his followers had anything to do with setting fire to the ROTC building.”

“Who did?”

“Have you ever heard of Traxton Olney?”

Iwanicki had read all about Olney in Time magazine. He had been a psychiatric researcher for the Kaiser Family Foundation and had spent a few years abroad in Cambodia, doing field work with some kind of entheogenic substance used in ritual worship by an obscure hill tribe; an hallucinogenic compound called Liao, which he claimed was more potent than LSD. Upon returning to the US he had worked under Timothy Leary at Harvard as part of their Psylocibin Project, but after falling out, he’d struck out on his own, championing the benefits of Liao over acid.

He had overseen a series of rehabilitation experiments with Liao on Arkham Sanitarium patients and achieved a good deal of success and attention in 1960 when he wrote a book called The New Lotus Eaters: Adventures In Supernautical Exploration, detailing his own use of the drug. He’d been in a tent at the big hippie gathering at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, hosting Liao ‘in-peditions.’

“Sure,” said Iwanicki. “The Liao guy. Wasn’t he lecturing here at MU a while back?”

“He was,” said Peaslee, his tone and demeanor darkening noticeably. “Just after you graduated in ’65. He was apprehended by campus security trying to abscond with a rare volume from the library’s reference collection and dismissed. He took some of his followers among the staff and student body and formed a kind of neo-pagan group. They set themselves up in a commune at a certain cottage overlooking Olney’s native Kingsport. They call themselves NASA. Nedon’s Astral and Supernautics Amalgam.”

“Nee-don?”

“Olney claims it’s the name of their spiritual guide.”

“So what does Olney have to do with all this?” he asked impatiently.

Over Peaslee’s shoulder, he saw the line of soldiers tramping down to the fire, helmets and muzzles bobbing. The students were recoiling as though they were one organism reacting to the introduction of a foreign virus.

“While he was employed here, Olney professed some rather radical notions,” Peaslee said. “He believes in sharing the dreams of the Black Lotus with mankind whether they are receptive to it or no. During one of his lectures he exposed his students to Liao fumes to observe the results. Thankfully none of the class pressed charges. Most wound up joining him.”

“You said you knew who started the fire,” said Iwanicki. “Are you saying it was Olney?”

“I saw him myself early this morning, along with some of his followers, loitering about the quad, very near the ROTC building before it caught fire.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes,” said Peaslee. “I saw him clearly from the window of my office. By the time I came downstairs, the fire had already started. I have no doubt it is a distraction, meant to keep your soldiers occupied.”

“What do you think he intends?”

——————————–

Kick a buck here – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/horror-summer-sale-2019-from-dark-regions-press?fbclid=IwAR0_aVJlP3hpNQAYb9lVUju5ka6un2MncEWrHUs7BALtr7UMz_BC6TbybMk#/

 

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M. Wayne Miller’s Interior Art for Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel

While I’m plugging away at my John Conquer novel and trying to sell this weird western wuxia book, I thought I’d pop in here and show you guys one of the pieces M. Wayne Miller did for the interior of the forthcoming Merkabah Rider: Have Glyphs Will Travel, which ought to be out in a month.

Here’s a look at the art for The Mules of The Mazzikim, which features Lilith and her boys come to pay The Rider a visit.

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Published in: on July 11, 2019 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Pocket Guide To Nazis

While I was home in Indiana this past week digging through old photos for the family ofrenda we’re building, I came across this pocket guide to Germany which the war department issued to GI’s in the latter days of World War 2. This one belonged to my grandfather, who died in his Sherman during an attack on the village of Elbeuf.
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There are some nuggets of wisdom worth repeating this 4th of July, when tanks rumble through the streets of Washington DC at the behest of an unworthy civil servant, cracking the foundations of the monuments we have erected to principles we hold so dear.

Nazi Vacuum

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To an American, used to the freest press the world has ever known, it seems impossible for a nation to have been almost completely shut off from all external news for four years or more, especially since the perfection of radio, but that is what has happened in Germany.

Every since the advent of Hitler, and especially since the war, the German people have been living in a vacuum as far as the truth and real news is concerned. Into that vacuum, the Nazis have pumped only such news as they wanted the people to have, and such lies or misstatements as they thought necessary for the survival of the Party. They tortured and killed as they pleased in ordered to keep themselves in power and to carry out their plans of world conquest. The suppressed all political opposition. They herded hundreds of thousands of innocent people into concentration camps. The people were forbidden to listen to any foreign or domestic radio broadcasts except those controlled by the Nazis.
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Where this state of affairs concerns you is in the irritation that will naturally arise in you when in the normal contact of occupation you try to tell the Germans what the score is, and they reply with their parrot-like repetition of – “All lies. All Democratic propaganda.”

Don’t argue with them.
Don’t try to convince them.
Don’t get angry.
Give them the “Okay-chum-you’ll-find-out-soon-enough,” treatment and walk away.

By NOT trying to convince them, or to shout them down, by the assumption of a quiet demeanor, you can help to create a genuine longing and thirst for the truth and real news in the German people, and break down their resistance to it.

IN CONCLUSION

This booklet has hit the highspots of Germany’s recent behavior, in order to add knowledge to your military equipment for the job you are assigned to do. It has not been the aim of this booklet to sing a ‘Hymn of Hate’ against the enemy, or to make you practice as revenge his fanatical creed of intolerance, with its untold cruelties and brutalities.

One of the tragedies in Germany’s recent history is her own betrayal of her past gifts to civilized life. The country has produced great writers, philosophers, scientists, artists, and musicians. Her people possess great energies which at times have been used to benefit rather than destroy mankind. In the peace to come it is hoped that those energies can be more consistently employed to benefit the world, more than they have been in the past.

You, as an individual American soldier, have the responsibility of living up to what the United Nations are out to win in this War…a world at peace, on decent terms.

Let your attitude in Germany be:

Firm –
Fair –
Aloof –
and above all,
Aware of the things this booklet has tried to tell you, so that the honest mistakes of an older generation may not be repeated, and so that, to apply Lincoln’s words to the fallen men of our armed forces in this war, “These dead shall not have died in vain.”

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Published in: on July 4, 2019 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy Father’s Day

My grandfather Eddie Erdelac was killed in a tank in France in August of 1944. I only have this picture of him, taken outside his barracks, probably in Ft. Knox, Kentucky. There’s another one of him holding my infant father.
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I know that he did some boxing (but, I was told, he quit after fighting an Irish guy who kept getting up after being brutally knocked down over and over), and I know he once handcuffed Harry Houdini at a show at Navy Pier, and there’s a pic of him goofing around with his pant leg rolled up on the running board of a Model A a la ‘It Happened One Night.’  I’ve seen letters from him to my grandmother where he would cover the envelopes in drawings of things he saw in Europe, churches, cottages, etc.

My dad and I never knew him.

Before he shipped overseas he recorded his voice to a 7 inch vinyl record via the Pepsi Cola ‘Your Man In Service’ promotion. Pepsi sent mobile recorders, I guess like the 300lbs RCA recorders folklorists like Alan Lomax used, to military bases across the country. Servicemen would record for a minute long message, pack it into a cardboard envelope, and mail it to loved ones.

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My grandfather recorded one of these, and my dad had it for decades, but was always afraid to play it or send it off to be recorded, for fear it would be destroyed. We felt out various places over the years, Chicago NPR, various local stations, but never really got anywhere till this year, when I contacted a place called Summit Video Services in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, whom I found via a local news story about a woman with a similar record getting hers played.
record_jacketMy parents drove down to Lee’s Summit from Indiana this past week and my dad heard his dad’s voice for the first time. Thanks to Chad at Summit for recording them so I could see it happen.
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Audio’s a little scratchy given the age, but he says;

“Hello sweetheart. How’s my baby boy, Jerry? I hope you both are in the best of health. I miss you both very much. How does it feel hearing Daddy’s voice? Please [write him?]. The army is OK but it’s you and Jerry, [sweet dear], that keep my thoughts turning back home.  Remember sweetheart, keep your chin up and I’ll be with you. Whenever you get lonesome, just play this record over and over. I’m sure it will cheer you up.  I love you, sweetheart. God bless you and Jerry.  Your loving husband, Eddie….Hullo Mom and Pa, how are you?  I miss you very much. I’m glad I had a chance to talk to you too. Take care of my loving wife and my loving son, Jerry. I’ll try to talk to you again some time. Goodbye now, and take care of yourselves. God bless you both. Your loving son in law, Eddie.”

Published in: on June 16, 2019 at 8:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Cover Art for Merkabah Rider 3

Hey all, just popping in to give you an advance look at Juri Umagami’s cover art for Merkabah Rider: Have Glyphs Will Travel, the third book in the reissue of the series.  As with the other covers’ homages to classic westerns, I asked her to base it on the famous promo still of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Back in eighth grade my parents and I took our first trip out to California and stopped by Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, where they had one of those gag photo booths at the back end. They superimposed my face on Paul Newman’s body and my dad’s on Robert Redford’s. I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for this pic since then, and I’m happy to see it here.

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A Stroke Of Lightning In The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias from LVP!

Lycan Valley Publications is set to release their new anthology The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias, edited by MJ Sydney, with interior illustrations by Luke Spooner and a cover from Kealan Patrick Burke.

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From the publisher:

Phobias are defined as an irrational and extreme fear to something. It could be anything as long as it causes an intense and debilitating fear.

What happens when these irrational fears/phobias become reality? When the irrational becomes rational and there’s a reason to be scared? Find out in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias.

We’ve created an A to Z phobia list and elevated each one to a new level of fear. These stories come to life in ways that will make you want to sleep with the light on, double check the locks on your door, and think twice before dismissing your fear as irrational.

A — A TOUCH OF MADNESS — Tim Waggoner
B — IT CAME FROM THE GRAVE — James Pyne
C — ENTWINED — Colleen Anderson
D — DESTINY’S ROAD TRIP — Jay Troy Seate
E — MORBID DREAD OF THE DAWN — Philip Athans
F — MUTUAL POSSESSION — WT Paterson
G — RIGHT OF CROSSING — James Chambers
H — PASSING JUDGEMENT — Chad Lutzke
I — THE CLINIC — Asher Ellis
J — NOT JUST DESSERTS — Jonah Buck
K — THE MAN WHO FEARED THE SKY — John Skipp
L — CHILDREN OF BLOOD — Greg Chapman
M — THE YEARNING JADE — Hank Schwaeble
N — THE CEMETERY MAN — JG Faherty
O — WHITE TO BLACK — Michael Bailey
P — THE HUNCH — Richard Chizmar
Q — FIVE IN THE SIX — Sephera Giron
R — THE TOXIC MAGICIAN — Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel
S — FEEDING THE ORISHAS — Gabino Iglesias
T — MUNCHAUSEN — Max Booth III
U — TRUE CONFESSIONS OF THE HAPPIEST PISTACHIO — Mehitobel Wilson
V — BEAUTIFUL WOMEN — Ray Garton
W — A BOLT OF LIGHTNING — Edward M. Erdelac
X — HALFPENNY — Steven M. Vance
Y — TOO HOT IN BOILERTOWN — Jill-Hand
Z — THE CATALYST TO GROW SOME GUTS — Kerry Lipp

My contribution, A Stroke Of Lightning (a nod to Ray Bradbury’s ‘A Sound of Thunder’), follows a grad student buried under a mountain of debt seduced by a fantastically wealthy entrepreneur into participating in a radical time travel engineering project and explores the niggling fear of such an endeavor actually coming to fruition, with all its attendant ramifications.

Here’s an excerpt:

On Thursday, November 16, 2018, Martin Emmet finally solved the equation that would make time travel possible.

But he didn’t share it with anybody.

He’d been a twenty four year old physicist at Berkely finishing up a doctorate with a pending application at CERN when the wild-haired, white bearded Dr. Gavan Columbarius had burst into his lab like some eccentric Gandalf in tweed and scuffed Oxfords firing off a volley of rapid-fire questions about altering the mass and gravity of harnessed microsingularities utilizing a hypothetical electron injection manifold.

Martin had been amused and played along, thinking the bizarre old man part of some prank put on by his colleagues. After some engaging back and forth, Columbarius had pushed a plain business card into his hand and offered him a place on an independent research team in Chicago for five times what CERN was paying.

Skeptical, Martin had shown Columbarius’ card around Berkely.

“Sure, Columbarius,” said one of his colleagues, looking over the business card. “The guy’s some kind of independently wealthy nutjob. Got booted from, I think it was UIC particle physics, years ago. What he does, he insinuates himself into the lives of exceptional young scientists and coaxes them from legitimate avenues of study into his crazy pseudo-scientific experiments. He’s a good way to make a quick buck, if you’re not above bilking a senile old crackpot.” He’d handed the card back.  “Ask one of the professors.”

He had.

“A scientific Bluebeard,” said his instructor, rather over dramatically, Martin thought. “That old man’s a serial killer of reputations. He baits gullible theorists struggling under college debt with dollar signs and then strangles their best years with his dead-end navel gazing projects. If you’re smart, you’ll forget about him.”

Neither of them knew exactly what his projects were, however, because upon further questioning, both had admitted that they’d actually never been personally approached by Columbarius.

The man was eccentric, sure. Martin had pegged him as that from the first, unexpected meeting. But despite his perpetually frazzled appearance and his unsavory reputation, Columbarius had known what he was talking about, which was not something Martin could say a hundred percent of the time about his peers.

And there had been the money.

Martin had more than student loans to worry over. Jay, his eight year old kid brother, had terminal cancer and his mother was struggling to ease the boy out of this life as smoothly as possible on a substitute teacher’s wages. Chemotherapy, nurse visits, escalating medical bills, maybe Columbarius wasn’t as prestigious as CERN, but he could wipe a good portion of that worry away. It would mean leaving behind steady employment and cutting short his studies, but after his brother Jay died he could always return, and debt free.

The next time he took Columbarius’ card out of his wallet, it was to call and accept the position in Chicago.

Columbarius’ lab was located in a palatial house on Sheridan Road in Kenilworth, a wealthy North Shore village bordering Lake Michigan, about a half hour north of the city proper.

Columbarius had introduced him to the rest of the team, which read like a list of Bermuda triangle victims. They were respected names who had mysteriously dropped out of the scientific community over the years.  David Eccleston, applied lasers, from Princeton, nuclear physicist Anna Wells from Stanford, Taniguchi, the genius engineer and designer from the frontier sciences department at University of Tokyo, a few others. All of them had been lured to Columbarius by money, though, he found, they universally asserted that they had stayed for the stimulating nature of the work.

And what was the purpose of that work?

“A time machine,” Columbarius had told him in his rich, wood paneled office looking out on the lake after Martin had made the rounds, seen the extensive research lab, and settled in the leather chair before the old oak desk. “Specifically, a temporal tunnel generator, a projector, utilizing elements of the Tipler cylinder theory. I’m calling it a Merlin Tunnel. It’s the right of the man with the money to slap a name on the end product, and it’s so much less of a mouthful than Columbarius Tunnel, don’t you think? Have you ever heard of the Garden of Joy? It’s from Arthuriana, a magical forest planted by the wizard Merlin. Via the Garden, one could step through a hedge and emerge in any forest in the world. That’s what we’re building here, really. A time travel station. A hub that will allow us to pass through any point in time. “

Martin had chuckled, but the old man had met that response without a hint of mirth.

“Stop there,” Columbarius warned, holding up one hand. “We’re in the latter stages of producing a working protoype, Mr. Emmett.  What we need help with is building a computer that can calculate gravitational field fluctuations and make corrective spatial navigational decisions instantly. Time can be traversed, but we have to account for the movement of planetary bodies, else our first chrononaut will step out of the Merlin Tunnel into a space along our planet’s orbit which the earth unfortunately no longer occupies. It would be like jumping from a bridge onto a moving train after it’s already passed.  I’ve enlisted you to work in tandem with Dr. Taniguchi in fine tuning a gravity sensor of his design. I’ll also ask you to assist from time to time in contributing calculations to the development of that manifold we spoke of on our first meeting.”

Martin had stifled his instinct to grin, remembering what they’d said about Columbarius at Berkely. This was how he was going to earn the money to help his kid brother.

“That’s….a lot of variance in work,” he managed.

“I believe you’re capable of it,” Columbarius said, “and I’m paying you a great deal. You may live here at my estate. A suite’s been prepared. If you find that disagreeable you may elect to stay elsewhere nearby and I will send a car for you each day, but I will deduct your rent from your pay accordingly. Do you need to make any arrangements for direct deposit or anything like that?”

“Well,” Martin had said, “I would like to have a percentage diverted to my family back home.”

“Of course. Biola, California, isn’t it?”

Martin hadn’t bothered asking him where he’d found that out. Any reasonably proficient web surfer could have learned that in five minutes.

He had nodded.

“I’ll have someone take your bank information.  Are you ready to get to work?”

Really, he hadn’t expected much from the work. He’d imagined the other researchers were daily engaged in a high stakes game of a distraction to keep themselves on staff, a long running con. He expected humoring Columbarius would be challenging given the old man’s learning, but ultimately it would be possible to drag the project out indefinitely given the extent of his delusion. He had already spent millions of dollars outfitting and staffing a state of the art facility dedicated to his obsession, after all.

Time travel.

But after a few days working with the team, Martin had realized they weren’t just taking advantage of the old man’s limitless resources. They were all quite sincere.

And more, they truly were working towards a real breakthrough.

It seemed fantastic at first, but the proof was there. The calculations were solid, the engineering radical but sound.

Eccleston proudly demonstrated an elaborate emitter that could project a focused, visible blue beam at the lab’s mascot, a white rat called Dorian. At first the beam appeared to disintegrate Dorian, then, miraculously, reconstitute him. But a second look at the process via video played back at a slower speed showed the rat aging rapidly to the point of death and decomposition, and then, somehow, reversing its course, flesh and fur regenerating at an astounding rate.

“We can even make him younger,” Eccleston had said proudly. “This is just an offshoot of our research. We only threw it together to impress the noobs. We’re calling it a Chronal Pulse Ray till we can come up with an acronym that won’t be confused with Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.”

Martin had come away more than impressed.

He’d come away terrified.

Pick it up here!
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1645629511/

An Inner Darkness Kickstarter: Last Chance!

Hey gang, Oscar Rios, Brian Sammons and Golden Goblin Press have put together another winning Lovecraftian anthology, An Inner Darkness, centered around social injustice in the 1920’s with a dash of cosmic dread. My own offering, By Unknown Hands, sees an unscrupulous conman murdering Osage Indians for their oil headrights in Oklahoma. He gets more than he bargained for when he targets a reclusive Osage woman….the anthology is a mere eight hundred bucks away from happening, so if you’re reading this, head over here and kick a buck as we’re in the final two hours.

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Here’s a taste of By Unknown Hands….
I never set out to kill no Indians. It was just something I fell into.
After the war, I came back to Tulsa County to find my old maw dead and gone, and our Sooner land sold off to the oil company. I don’t know who they paid for it, but it wasn’t me. The house was just gone, which explains why none of my letters were ever answered.
I worked for a while as a wildcatter, but that got to feeling too much like being back in the Army. Most jobs did, when you got right down to it. I had brought home a deep unease with me that I just couldn’t shed. Thunder made me jump inside, and open spaces made me fret. I had little patience for men, women, and beasts. Though I had cropped my hair short since I was a boy, it was like somehow they could smell the Indian in me. Maybe it was all that sun from working outside. I left a lot of them bleeding.
In late summer ’21 I drifted west, headed for California, but got tripped up by the Osage Hills and wound up on a ranch on the west edge of the big Indian reservation, manning a 500 gallon copper still for a fellow named Henry Grammer, the world steer roping champion and the biggest bootlegger around.
There were some rough customers among Grammer’s bunch, many who had been bank and train robbers in their day.
One of them, a wind-burned older fellow with nickel blue eyes and an easy manner named Casey Matheson approached me one day while I sat smoking under the blackjack.
“Where are you from, boy?” he asked.
“Berryhill,” I answered, “and leave out that ‘boy’ talk.”
There was threat in that, but he didn’t seem to mind.
“You ain’t no moonshiner,” he went on. “What’d you do before?”
“All kinds of things.”
“You was in the Army though.”
“How’d you know that?”
“You just got that look about you. Makin’ shine don’t fit your pistol, does it?”
“Nothing much does anymore,” I said, tossing my butt away.
“I bet you don’t like sleepin’ in that bunkhouse neither.”
All Grammer’s employees slept in the ranch bunkhouse off the main house, cowboy and moonshiner alike. It was drafty, and the Negro handyman was stingy with caulk, boards, and nails.
“You see that car over there?” Casey said, pointing to a grey Bearcat I had seen about the place once in a while. “That’s a thirty nine hundred dollar automobile, and I got it for a day’s work.”
“Running shine?”
He laughed.
“Hell no. Killin’ Indians.”
He watched me for a minute, gauging my reaction. I tensed for a fight, but said nothing.
“You know how to drive?” he asked.
I did.
“You wanna take a ride?”
It beat squatting over the still.
My hands shuddered on the wheel till we left the gravel drive behind and hit the pavement. I opened her up and whipped those 6-cylinders to galloping, leaving the blackjack hills behind. I hadn’t moved this fast in years. The wind blew over me, roaring in my ears, and those big empty plains of bluestem and spiderwort flew past. I lost my hat, but I didn’t care.
After a bit, Casey waved for me to pull over so he could be heard.
He lit a cigarette, offered me one. I saw he was missing the last two fingers on his left hand.
“Meanin’ no offense, but you got some Indian in you, don’t you?”
I took the cigarette, stared at him. I had a great-grandfather on my mother’s side who was Choctaw.
“Berryhill,” the old man mused, when I didn’t say anything. “What’re you? Quarter Cherokee?”
“Eighth Choc,” I allowed, waiting to see if I’d have to lay him out.
He nodded and waved his cigarette across the big empty prairie, trailing smoke.
“We’re on the Osage reservation now. You notice anything?”
I put my foot on the running board and looked. I could see far, to the towns northeast; to Fairfax and Grey Horse. In between were clunking derricks, laboring like giant metal picks rising and falling on the earth.
“Just oil.”

“That’s right,” said Casey, grinning. “That’s sharp. Most folks’d say ‘nothing.’ Government shuffled these Indians around, stuck ‘em on the barest, rockiest patch of nothing they could find. Only they didn’t figure on what was underneath it. Devil’s tar. Lakes and lakes of it. The Underground Reservation. And the lawyers fixed it so every full-blooded member of the Osage tribe got headrights. Six hundred and fifty seven acres, every man, woman, and child, and mineral rights for leasin’ to the oil companies.” He spat. “Devil must’ve been runnin’ the government back then. Come on, Buckwheat, let’s go into Pawhuska. I wanna show you something….”

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An Update: I just got word that this project funded! Thanks to all who supported it. I’ll have a link up to the actual anthology as soon as it becomes available, so watch this space. Ia! Ia!
Published in: on April 14, 2019 at 6:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name Is Now Available

Book 2 of my Merkabah Rider series, The Mensch With No Name, is now once again available in paperback and Kindle.

In this installment, The Rider discovers the nature of The Great Old Ones he’s been hearing so much about, and begins to question all he has been taught up to this point.

In THE INFERNAL NAPOLEON, The Rider and a young traveling strongman rally a group of cowboys in a showdown with a gang of half-demon outlaws in a remote desert town.In THE DAMNED DINGUS, The Rider is robbed of his mystic Volcanic pistol and teams up with the infamous Doc Holliday to track down the thief, but must contend with a strange, invisible menace.

In THE OUTLAW GODS, a group of Apache recruits The Rider to combat a two hundred year old menace plaguing their tribe, and bring him face to face with the mind bending horror of The Great Old Ones.

Finally, at the edge of death, The Rider descends into Hell itself to confront the Adversary Lucifer and learn the full scope of his master Adon’s betrayal. But can there be any return from THE PANDAEMONIUM RIDE?

Featuring cover art by Juri Umagami and interior illustrations by M. Wayne Miller.

Follow the link –

Published in: on April 2, 2019 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

#Batman

It’s the 80th birthday of Batman and the 1000th issue of Detective Comics!Related image

I grew up watching the campy Batman of Adam West and the Super Friends who guest starred on Scooby Doo once in awhile. I didn’t really get into the serious iteration until The Dark Knight Returns and later, the seminal Batman The Animated Series.

One thing I’ve always felt about Batman….OK, I love his rogue’s gallery. It’s the best bunch of nemeses in comics. Only Spider-Man’s comes close.

They’re so great that, for me anyway, Batman himself has kinda paled in comparison in terms of interest.  Of course they don’t exist without him. He’s the linchpin that brings them together. But I’ve always been a bit bored of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his nocturnal, perennial one-upper persona (at least, as he seems to be portrayed in the last decade or so).

So I got to talking about this just for fun with my buddy Elliott McMillan – how could one make Bruce Wayne more interesting?Image result for batman bruce wayne

We live in an age of instant gratification and internet pseudo-celebrity. People can make a living and get famous opening boxes of toys on Youtube or ‘influencing’ a bevvy of followers into buying some company’s latest shoe or scent, or scented shoe, whatever. Thousands of people can be herded to a remote island and fleeced without facilities simply because a model pursed her lips on a beach.Image result for the shadow unmasks

Now the original inspiration for Bruce Wayne/Batman and Lamont Cranston/The Shadow and a bevy of other moonlighting capitalists has always been  the 1919 All-Pulp serialized adventure novel The Curse of Capistrano, later republished in the 20s under its more well-known name, The Mark of Zorro. I’m sure there have been other characters, but Zorro/Don Diego Vega is Batman’s direct literary ancestor.
Image result for tyrone power don diego

The central and enduring conceit of the playboy turned masked vigilante was that Don Diego was something of a fop. Watch The Mark of Zorro with Tyrone Power.  Don Diego is a well-dressed, handsome, wealthy guy, impeccably groomed whom no one suspects as Zorro, because he practically faints at the sight of blood, and is quick to dab his forehead with a lacy handkerchief at the mention of violence.  How could a guy like that be the daring, swashbuckling Zorro?

This is, I think, where the writers of Batman have kinda gotten away from the concept.

Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy, is usually portrayed as more of a James Bond type than a Don Diego. He’s ridiculously handsome and charming, yes, a proven lady’s man, a world traveler, and usually the fittest guy in the room.  Everybody wants to be him.

How does anybody in Gotham not know he’s Batman?

Batman – the crimefighter, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. He would stay the way he is.

But how could you make Bruce Wayne completely unrecognizable as Batman?

The answer jumped out at me.

Make him a Kardasshian.

Image result for kardashian instagram post

Bruce Wayne is from the rich set.

What if he’s constantly posting shirtless selfies on Instagram with models in exotic locales and exclusive clubs?

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Count the sixer! #BDubya #Gettinshredded #Yolo

What if he’s an obnoxious social media guru who goes by B-Dubya, a witless narcissist whom his detractors say rode the initial sympathy over his parents’ double murder to pseudo-celebrity?

“The apple has fallen very far from the tree, Mr. Wayne.”

I’ve heard this line used a couple times, but it never quite strikes true for me. There’s usually no reason for anybody to disparage Bruce Wayne.

But what if he was that privileged, talent-less one per center everybody loves to hate? The shallow, wealth porn wastrel who seems to be on the internet 24/7 pushing products and influencing his millions of devout followers, alternately lamenting some trendy pet cause and flashing expensive wristwatches and magnums of Cristal?

Ooo you’d hate him. Gotham would hate him.

How could a guy like that ever be Batman? With all the posting he does about The Bachelor, he’d never have the time.

Image result for instagram the bachelor

Related imageExcept it’s Alfred, sitting comfily in his easy chair at Wayne Manor, putting aside the Emerson he’s reading during the commercial breaks, to tweet under Bruce’s account about Colton’s dubious taste in women.

It’s Alfred posting a set of pre-prepared selfies taken in the VIP booth of Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge with a passel of fawning starlets, perhaps tagged with mindless webspeak drafted by Bruce or young Dick Grayson, B-Dubya’s obnoxious ‘pet’ orphan, a Jaden Smith style freshman philosopher molded in Bruce’s image.

Bruce snaps a fresh from the shower selfie, duck lipping at his phone….then hands it to his butler.

“Alfred, I want the first one posted in a half an hour. The windsurfing stuff at 3:30. Spread the club shots out over the rest of the night. I’m in Montevideo, so remember the time change.”

And then he pulls back the bust of Beethoven and slides down the pole to the Batcave…

Maybe Jim Gordon is the only cop to suspect anything – because what kind of ally/foil would he be otherwise? Maybe he spots a baseball game on a TV in the background of one of Bruce’s live tweets – a game that actually aired three days ago…(WTF is Batman? #BDubya #1Luv)

Now as I said, I love Batman’s rogues gallery, so in the universe of Hashtag Batman, what are the villains up to?Image result for batman rogues galleryHarvey Dent – Bruce’s frat buddy in college. He came from humble beginnings, and unknown to him, Bruce paid his way through law school via various dummy foundations. Seen as the straight edge, the good one of the so-called ‘dynamic duo.’ The guy who stayed home at night and stuck to the books while the future B-Dubya went out partying. Eventually Bruce dropped out and went traveling for a year. Now Harvey’s Gotham’s star prosecutor….for a little while, anyway. When he goes beyond the law to prosecute one of Gotham’s worst mobsters, the guy’s wife flings acid in his face in front of the courthouse and his inner instabilities come crashing to the front.

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Harley Quinn – An in demand criminal psychiatrist, regularly called upon by Harvey to give weighed psychiatric evidence to get otherwise legally insane suspects jail time. When Harvey’s racket is exposed, she is discredited, and winds up on the Arkham Asylum staff as only Hugo Strange will hire her. Just in time to meet the love of her life…

TRelated imagehe Penguin – The second wealthiest man in Gotham, a sleezebag who made his fortune as a Hollywood producer, a salacious Harvey Weinstein running a popular garish nightspot, The Iceberg Lounge, where women parade around in skimpy penguin costumes and anything goes in the VIP areas. A blackmailer whose club is wired for sound and video. He’s got something on everybody who passes through his doors.

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Art by DanniSketches

Poison Ivy – An extreme eco-terrorist at the head of a pagan, earth worshipping movement who also leads an Anonymous-style legion of radical cyber-terrorists intent on bringing down the lumber and farming industry.  Because I’ve always felt…if Ivy reveres the life of plants, she wouldn’t be a vegetarian at all.

The Riddler – A once brilliant young video game designer (I admit I borrowed this from Batman TAS) fired and disgraced in a Gamergate-like scandal after Bruce Wayne responded to a comment on one of his Instagram posts (“Hey B-Dubya, what do you have to say about the misogynist Ed Nymga, who encourages the harassment of his female co-workers in the Triple A game company Wayne Industries owns?” “I say Ed Nygma’s fired. #BDubya #YaDoneSon #MeToo”). Now he’s been banished to the fringe of Youtube, a raving, alt-right misogynist with a personal beef against Bruce Wayne (“Riddle me this, friends! How does a rich wastrel with no formal training lord it over us all from the headquarters of a mega-billion dollar company? Answer: He spends his dead parents’ goodwill credit. But not for long!”).

Image result for the scarecrow batmanScarecrow – A legendary horror filmmaking auteur in the vein of Dario Argento, John Carpenter, and George Romero, so obsessed with instilling true fear, he’s employed hallucinogenics and subliminal hypnotic suggestion in his weird experimental films (with the help of collaborator Jervis Tetch). He was fleeced in his career by Penguin and holds a grudge. Now, he’s making a comeback on the internet with his bizarre short films. Horror acting icon Matt Hagen often collaborates with him.

The Ventriloquist/Mr. Scarface – Arnold Wesker is head puppeteer on a wildly popular children’s show, but he is implicated in a sexual scandal and cancelled, re-emerging with the Mr. Scarface puppet persona. The puppet is enamored with his former co-star now partner in crime, Baby Dahl (because how has that great character not made the jump from TAS?).Related image

Now if you’ve gotten this far, you must be wondering about The Joker.

The Joker works best when the audience has no idea who or what he is.

The Joker tells three stories about his origins.

He was an innocent man incarcerated on a trumped up charge and disfigured during a prison assault.

He was a veteran, employed in chemical warfare. When wounded and suffering from PTSD, he returned home to find his government unwilling to give him the medical and psychiatric help he needed. He found solace in the fringes of the internet and in conspiracy theories. He detonated a gas bomb of his own devising and was disfigured in the process.

He was a comedian with gambling debts who had his face slashed by debt collectors.

Later investigations by Batman turn up three individuals with matching stories. All of them were admitted at Arkham Asylum. None of them emerged. Their skeletons are found in the basement.

But what’s the Joker’s angle in the universe of #Batman?

This brings me to Jokerphish.

Image result for the joker digital justice

From Batman Digital Justice – memba THAT?

The comments sections of B-Dubya, The Riddler, and Poison Ivy, as well as various other internet celebrities, are usually rife with discussion. Then a phantom account ‘Joker’ begins trolling every major site, posting the most outrageous stuff, contrary to whatever the popular opinion of the page is (it posts liberal feminist stuff on Riddler’s page, enraging his incel followers, it posts anti-environmental stuff to Ivy’s, etc. Whatever the most contrary opinion is). This invites loads of replies, and every reply initializes a virus that displays a fish with a mouthful of human dentures and locks the system. The virus spreads like wildfire, initiating a temporary shutdown of most major social media sites.

Gotham PD investigates, and Jim Gordon turns up a room of dead hackers, their faces slashed into bloody smiles.

The next day The Joker hits television. He rants about his dislike of the internet and its shallowness, its celebration of mediocrity.  To prove it takes nothing at all to achieve fame there, he demands to be made into the top trending topic on every site, or he will murder ten people a day every day he isn’t trending. His catch is, he won’t set foot on any website. “After all,” he says, “I’d never join a club that would have me as a member. HAHAHAHAHAHAAH!”Image result for joker fish

And the deaths start happening, because Jokerphish has downloaded the personal info of every respondent. Thousands of users have replied. Each one is found dead with a smiling fish on their corpses…

Anyway, happy 80th, Bats.

Monstrumfuhrer Reviewed

I like to draw attention to exceptionally insightful reviews, and this one of my Holocaust horror novel Monstrumfuhrer from The European Review Of Speculative Fiction definitely counts. Give it a read. Stuff like this is salve for a writer’s soul.

Book Review: Monstrumfuhrer

Published in: on March 1, 2019 at 1:13 pm  Comments (3)