trumpIn the long run, Trump will probably be the only one from our time who will be remembered. When archaeologists 20,000 years from now dig up the rubble of what was once American civilization. all they may find are pieces of the buildings he built that have his name on them. They may ponder who was this great man who had his name on so many edifices?

And what were those buildings? Churches? Were these structures holy places, temples, where they worshipped the Great God Trump? Was he some sort of ancient deity? They may stand there in awe, like that traveler from an antique land, who looked on the statue of Ozymandias, and read the ancient words: “Look on my works ye mighty, and despair!”

A sobering thought, isn’t it?

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Just want to remind everyone that Flying W Press is my own little self-publishing outlet. We’ve been around several years now. So far I’ve put out five books, all in different genres, but all in the category of what I’ve been calling neo-pulp. I’ve seen that term pop up in various places. I don’t know if I invented it, but I first used it in an essay that appeared in Amazing Stories years ago about the Neo-pulp Electronic Revolution.

I’ve got titles that fall into the weird western, space opera, space-noir, and now sword and sorcery genres. They’ve all been critically well-received and continue to sell. Here’s a list of the titles. You can check out the descriptions and reviews as they appear on Amazon.

First, Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto, the Mordecai Slate novel: https://www.amazon.com/Vampire-Siege-at-Rio-M…/…/B00FQYIZY8/

Next, Hunting Monsters Is My Business: The Mordecai Slate Stories: https://www.amazon.com/Hunting-Monsters-My-Bus…/…/B00PWQ8TBY

The Big Shutdown, a space opera serial novel, https://www.amazon.com/Big-Shutdown-John-Whal…/…/B017ME7YXC/

This Ray Gun for Hire, space opera with a darker tone. https://www.amazon.com/This-Ray-Hire-Other-Ta…/…/B06XNP3TSS/

and the newest offering,

Tragon of Ramura, a sword and sorcery novel. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FF6J8QW/

Check them out when you get the chance. You might find something you like.

John M. Whalen
Springfield, Va

dark

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of the season I offer the latest Mordecai Slate short, short story, as it appears in A Dark and Stormy Night, the fabulous collection that Scott Harris published earlier this year. 52 writers contributed stories all beginning with the prompt “It was a dark and stormy night.” If you like westerns this is one you shouldn’t miss. I sent in this eerie little tale, which I personally think, as short as it is (500 words), contains the essence of all the Slate stories that have been published so far. It’s pretty representative of the world of Mordecai Slate. Enjoy.

 

The Relay Station

It was a dark and stormy night. Rainwater cascaded off the brim of Mordecai Slate’s hat and poured down on Dutch’s neck. The buckskin nickered irritably but plodded steadily along the muddy trail. Up ahead were the dark outlines of a couple of unlit buildings, barely visible in the rain. One of the buildings was a barn. There was an empty corral next to it. The other building was little more than a shack. A relay station for an abandoned stage line, Slate figured. There were no lights.

He rode past a well set a hundred yards from the buildings. Dutch’s ears twitched and Slate thought he heard something. The horse stopped and Slate waited but heard no sound other than the rain. The barn door was open ahead and they went in.

Slate unsaddled the horse and found him some left over hay. He kept his slicker on and went over to the shack, carrying his saddlebags. When he got to the door he heard a sound again. He was sure it came from the well this time. Like a child moaning. He dropped the saddle bags and strode over to it.

Down inside it there was only black.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Anybody down there?”

“Help, mister,” a young voice cried.

There was a bucket on the end of a rope and Slate lowered it.

“Can you climb out?” he asked.

“Yeah,” the voice said. “But hurry. It’s in the house.”

“What do you mean?”

“My Pap threw me down here,” the voice said. “He didn’t want it to get me.”

There was a bright flash of lightning and loud thunder rattled Slate’s teeth.

“Stay there,” he said and ran back over to the shack. He opened the door and found a room with a table, benches, and a wood stove. Rain hammered the tin roof. There was a man spread-eagle on his back across the table. His chest was ripped open wide. There was blood everywhere. Slate heard something eating over in a dark corner.

He turned. Large, dark leathery wings spread out wide. Talon-like hands held a human heart up to red dripping fangs. Slate drew his Peacemaker. The thing flapped its wings once and flew across the room at him. Slate fired but the force of the impact knocked him off his feet, spoiled his aim. The revolver flew out of his hand.

The thing reared up over him.

Slate reached for his boot. He pulled a silver-plated stiletto and plunged it into the thing’s abdomen.

There was a terrible, inhuman screech and the room filled with a sickening odor. But it was no good. It had him, hovering over him raging. Then five shots flashed and roared. Five silver bullets tore into the thing and it fell. A young boy about 10, soaking wet, stood there holding his smoking Peacemaker, his eyes flooded with tears. The hammer kept clicking down on an empty cylinder.

“Pap?”

Slate got to his feet. “Come outside, boy,” he said.

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If you liked that one you might want to try some of the other Mordecai Slate stories. Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto is a full length novel. Hunting Monsters Is My Business is a collections of stories of varying length from short-short to novella. Click on the titles to order. Have a happy and safe Halloween.

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Some of Rod Serling’s closing narrations on “The Twilight Zone” seem to have more relevance today than they did some 60 years ago. This one from the episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” seems like it could have been written today.

“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout,” Serling wrote. “There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”

Hatred, scapegoating, persecution of people because they are different are nothing new. We’ve seen it before. We saw it in Europe in the 1930s, along with the rise of nationalism. We’ve seen sporadic outbursts of it here over the years. There have been lynchings and bombings, and mass murders before. But we’ve never seen it so widespread. We’ve never felt the kind of hostility, never felt the threat of violence hanging in the air the way we feel it now. We’re becoming nervous about turning on the television and seeing a report on the latest atrocity committed by some deranged individual, inspired by some even more deranged ideology. Hate is on the rise.

Serling named the current malady in few lines at the close of another “Twilight Zone” episode called, “I am the Night. Color Me Black.” It was the story about a morning in a small town where an execution was scheduled to take place but for some reason the sun didn’t rise. The execution had to be performed in darkness. According to Serling, the problem was caused by a sickness, a sickness that soon spread over other parts of the world.

“A sickness known as hate;” Serling wrote, “not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ – but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in the Twilight Zone – look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether.”


 

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It’s interesting to watch how the transit of Saturn, the Truth Planet, in square aspect (Challenge) to Donald  Trump’s natal Neptune, the planet of illusion, is being played out.

Saturn’s square to Neptune is growing closer to being an exact square between Halloween and the Nov. 6 election. As a result, Trump is turning up the fog machine big time at all of his rallies. The media is reporting that most of his statements at these rallies are lies. He says there are MS-13 and “middle Easterners” within the caravan of immigrants heading to the border. So far none have been found. He’s promising a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class that nobody in the White House or Congress seems to know anything about. He’s sending mixed messages about the Prince of Saudi Arabia and the death of a Wash. Post reporter in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey, while praising a politician who body slammed a reporter.

Neptune’s ability to create publicity based mostly on fiction is getting a heavy workout as it is forced into this confrontation with the Truth. What effect this will have on the election is hard to forecast. Will Trump’s base help keep Republicans in control of Congress and the Senate because his fear campaign worked or will the majority of Americans go to the polls and express their dissatisfaction with the current level of confusion and chaos?

It is a defining moment for America. But when the election is over, and the fog lifts, no matter what the voting public has decided. the Special Prosecutor, a living manifestation of Saturn, will start to lay his cards on the table. Trump is likely to be dealt a difficult hand. Will he have enough fog left to deal with it? Stay tuned.

“May the wings of liberty never lose a feather.”  -Jack Burton

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Stay tuned to the news. Trump has only a few weeks at best to enjoy his Kavanaugh victory. The third and final square of transiting Saturn to his natal Neptune is about to occur. His delusions will be challenged by cold, hard reality and a strong dose of the Truth. What does Mr. Mueller have up his sleeve? It will be an interesting Halloween. The masks will come off.

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The Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination has created a situation very similar to the kind of thing Rod Serling wrote about in some of his teleplays and movie scripts in the 1950s and ’60s. Serling, before he had to compromise his searing moral vision by writing Twilight Zone in order to stay active as a writer in television, often presented stories in which characters faced moral dilemmas. The plots usually involved a character who had to make a choice between doing something he or she found morally wrong in order to prevent a greater wrong, or doing nothing.

Case in point is his script for Seven Days in May (1964), in which Marine Colonel Kirk Douglas, discovers evidence of a coup d’etat being planned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff led by charismatic Air Force General Burt Lancaster. In order to prevent the coup Douglas teams up with trusted advisers including Edmund O’Brien, an alcoholic Southern Senator. The two main plot lines involve Douglas trying to dig up dirt on Lancaster that he can use to stop him, and O’Brien going down to Texas to try and find a secret base from which the plotters plan to launch the coup.

Douglas visits Ava Gardner, who had been romantically involved with Lancaster,  and obtains some love letters the general wrote to her. Frederick March is the president and he has been informed of the situation and gave Douglas the go-ahead with his effort, but when he finds out about the love letters, he balks. He dislikes the idea of using dirt that would smear the general that way. But he knows that if Edmund O’Brien can’t find physical evidence that the coup and the secret base actually exists, he may have no choice but to use what he has.

The story builds dramatically to the point, where it looks like the President will have to forsake his moral code and go for the jugular. But at the last minute he’s saved from making that choice when the evidence O’Brien was looking for is found. The last scene, after a brilliant speech by Frederick March warning the nation of the lure of tyrants and their glib promises, he goes to the oval office and tosses the love letters in his waste basket.

Now the question is what would Frederick March have done if the evidence of the secret base hadn’t been discovered? Would he have used the letters? You could say that was precisely the situation the Democrats in Congress, and in particular Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) found themselves in when they realized they could not stop the Republicans from confirming Kavanaugh. Feinstein had a letter from a California professor claiming the judge tried to rape her at a party when they were both teenagers  Feinstein kept it under wraps and it appears she only sent it to the FBI when it no longer seemed possible to stop Kavanaugh any other way.

Obviously Feinstein and the Democrats believe they have morally upright grounds for letting the accusation go public. They could argue that letting a man like him sit on the court could end up being a disaster for the country. And they might be right. It was a desperate move, born out of frustration. First the Dems are angry that Barack Obama’s nominee to the court was never even given a hearing by the Republicans. The Kavanaugh hearings have been rushed in order to get him confirmed before the November mid-term elections. And, most important, they have classified thousands of pages of Kavanaugh-related documents, which the Democrats say they need to get a clear picture of where he really stands on issues. They obviously feel he and the Republicans are hiding something.

The Republicans however want Kavanaugh’s accuser to face their questions at a public hearing– a hearing in which both she and the judge would have to state their cases under oath. It’s already too late to prevent the trauma both accused and accuser are facing. The accuser is already getting death threats and had to move and Kavanaugh, even if he is confirmed by Trump’s rubber stamp Senate, will always be a major league player with an asterisk after his name. Not likely ever to be a Hall of Famer. Neither the professor or the judge come out a winner when it’s all done.

So, life is not like the movies. Morality is not as black and white as it seems on the silver screen, and easy last-minute solutions rarely happen. But one thing Serling had right. The cost in human terms, the loss of humanity, the loss of integrity,  as compromises to public morality continue to be made, have a payoff down the road in terms of real heartache and pain.

 

 

 

 

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It’s another one of my movie reviews showing up on Cinema Retro. You’d think they’d have better judgment. This time I dig into SINGING GUNS a Trucolor western starring Republic Pictures most famous cowboy star. . . (wait for it). . .VAUGHN MONROE! Wut? Who? Read it here.

HOOPER

BURT REYNOLDS, 1936-2018

I’ve got a strange story to tell you about Burt Reynolds. Back in 2016 I wrote a review of Burt’s movie HOOPER for the Cinema Retro blog shortly after it was released on Blu-ray. I loved that movie. It was basically a love poem to the Hollywood stunt man,  which Burt had once been when he started out. He continued doing his own stunt all through his career.  In his old age he came to regret all the falls and leaps and jumps he did for the movies, ending up in his seventies barely able to walk. But it never seemed to dampen his spirit or turn him bitter. Appearing on various talk shows on occasion, he showed the same sense of humor he’d always had.

Cinemaretro ran the review and it got a pretty favorable reaction. After it came out I wondered if Burt would ever see it. Thought he might get a kick out of reading it.  At that point his career had hit a lull. There hadn’t been any movie offers for a while. I wondered if he was on social media. I checked on twitter and found the twitter account @burtf*****grey listed. At first I was kind of shocked he’d go on there under that name but then I figured, well, why wouldn’t he? He was always a fun-loving guy who didn’t mind giving the world the finger every so often.  His twitter page had a cartoonish picture of himself with moustache  and a recent photo,  but he seemed to have only 30 followers! That made me doubt it was really his twitter page. Probably some Burt Reynolds wannabe imposter.

But I scrolled through the few tweets and saw that Adam Rifkin had tweeted him. Rifkin is a movie director who was about to do Burt’s next movie,  THE LAST MOVIE STAR,  a film written specifically for him. So I figured I’d give it a try. What did I have to lose. I tweeted Burt and sent him a link to the HOOPER review and waited to see what would happen. A couple days later, somewhat to my surprise, he tweeted me back and thanked me for sending him the review. Well, now I was really curious. Was it really him? I wrote him back. “Is this really the real Burt Reynolds? How come you only have 30 followers?” He said: “I’m afraid the twitter crowd isn’t too familiar with me.” In another tweet to somebody else he said he was having trouble figuring out all the touch pad “and autocorrect shit, I aint all young and millennial like you.” He said he was on Twitter at his grandkids’ request.

I was half convinced this really could be The Bandit. But I wanted to find out for sure. I decided to test him. Back in the sixties when he did a lot of TV work he appeared in an episode of ROUTE 66 called “love is a skinny kid.” (The titles were always in small letters.) It was an episode guest starring Tuesday Weld as a girl named Miriam Moore. In the story she gets off a Greyhound in a small Texas twon wearing a blank mask with no features and stirs every body up when she walks out to her mother’s house, the house she grew up in. She’s come to confront her for sending her to a mental institution when she was little, because they thought there was something wrong with her. In reality she was a super smart kid way ahead of everyone else but no one  understood.  (Aint that always the way? At least it is in any good Stirling Silliphant script.) Burt played one of the local townspeople, a hillbilly named Tommy. He and George Maharis have a couple of edgy scenes together.

So I tweeted @Burtf*****grey a test question. “What part did you play on Route 66?” I thought by now if it really was Burt, I’d probably annoyed him to the point where he either wouldn’t answer or he’d tell me to go to hell. Or if it was an imposter, he’d tweet back and try to fudge it somehow.  But a couple of days later he tweeted back. “Tommy,” he said. “And I still have the mask that Miriam Moore wore somewhere in my basement.”

I was floored. It really was him. Either that or a hoaxer who knew more about Burt Reynolds than Burt did. Gave me a weird feeling. If it was him, he was really a man out of time. A stranger in the cyber world of the 21st century, with only 30 followers, willing to correspond with a stranger who liked his movies.

I tweeted him a couple more times, sent him some other reviews and articles that he seemed to enjoy. But after a while he stopped tweeting. He got involved in the making of THE LAST MOVIE STAR (originally titled DOG YEARS) and probably gave up on social media. I’m glad.  Glad he got busy and had a good time over the last two years. There are now a total of 114 followers on his twitter page. Not much of an improvement. But who needs twitter?

I guess I’ll never know for sure if those tweets really were from The Bandit. I think they were. At least I’d like to think so. Anybody else out there know anything about @Burtf*****grey?

 

 

INFINITY

Finally got a copy of Avengers: Infinity War. Had a store credit at Best Buy so I didn’t have to pay money for it. Glad. Didn’t like. While it had its moments, they weren’t enough to make it worthwhile sitting for two 1/2 hours while endless fight scenes crash and bang all over the screen, leaving you sort of numb and confused.

It was thrilling at first to see so many Marvel characters introduced in various cool action scenes, but what followed didn’t live up to the intro. After a while I couldn’t wait for it to end. Visually it looked great on my 55-inch 4K TV and the sound was great and all that type of stuff. Bread and circuses.

Although they plan to complete this story in another sequel (imagine 2 1/2 hours and they couldn’t really end it), I think that may be the nail in the coffin for Marvel movies. (I know I’m crazy. The movie made a fortune). But for me the whole comic book superhero phenom has had its day. Movies have degenerated over the years so badly. They used to be made from great novels, or plays. Or original, intelligent screenplays. We lowered the bar years ago to the comic book level. What’s the next trend? Hey, maybe movies about people who can’t fly!

It’s the dumbing down of movies to the comic book level that disturbs me. When a society reaches that point it inevitably elects a Donald Trump as its president. The results become catastrophic.

It’s not just a US phenomenon. It’s world wide. Look at all the authoritarian regimes rising up around the world.When you believe that the answer to problems is to consolidate power, the final result is an iron fist that smashes opposition. It’s comic book-level thinking, (Hulk SMASH) which is quickly becoming the only way that people think, if they can think at all.