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The first official review of the new book has just been posted on line. “This Ray Gun for Hire . . . and other Tales” got a really nice review from Amazing Stories Magazine. Reviewer Ricky L. Brown says: “If Quentin Tarantino wrote a western space opera, you would end up with something like John M. Whalen’s raucous “This Ray Gun for Hire . . . and Other Tales.” Not bad.

You can read the review here. 

There aren’t many films that really tell it like it is. “Man in the Wilderness” is one that does. It makes “The Revenant,” the Leonardo DiCaprio Oscar-winning film that is based on the same historical incident, look like greasy kid stuff. Read my review of this excellent film over on Cinema Retro. 

Just saw Rogue One and have to say I was disappointed. The screenwriters blew it. The first over two hours are filled with action on the ground, in the air and all over the place, but who is doing all this action and what it all means and where it fins into the Star Wars canon is not explained until the very end of the movie. And then its too late and you feel oddly guilty that you didn’t pay more attention. And your mind does tend to wonder during the movie.

It’s an odd mistake but I guess this crew doesn’t know one of the basic rules of story telling. Some writers think that withholding information keeps the viewer or reader watching or reading in order to find out what’s going on. Wrong. It only confuses and irritates the audience.

And I’m really tired of hearing about the force being with whoever. In this one there’s a new mantra. “I am one with the force and the force is one with me,” or some such gibberish. Gagh.

This Raygun FRONT high rez (3)“This Ray Gun for Hire. . . and Other Tales,” has been available now in print and e-book from Amazon for a couple of weeks. Initial reaction has been good so far. Not great, but it usually takes a while for sales to pick up– especially, I’ve found, with science fiction. My weird west stuff sells pretty well and steadily. But cracking the sci-fi market is another matter. “The Big Shutdown,” for example, has been pretty sluggish, frankly. The problem I think is that sf is such a big genre.  It’s hard to get any attention for your work, there’s so much out there to compete with. Weird West is a small niche by comparison. Easier to make a mark there.

But now that “This Ray Gun for Hire” is out a few people have asked where the stories in this collection came from. I indicated in the book that some of the tales were originally published in different e-zines and anthologies, including and, both of which are no longer in business. Here’s a little more detail.

Four of the five stories that feature ray-gun-for-hire Frank Carson were originally published in Raygun Revival,  an ezine run by Overlords Johne Cook, L.S. King, and Paul Christian Glenn that was published online somewhere between 2006 and 2012.  It was a cool publication to which some very good writers contributed. It was well thought of while it existed and it was a great place for writers just starting out. The Overlords were great people and L.S. King in particular a very good editor. Johne Cook was and is a huge “Firefly” fan, but I’ve never held that against him.

The title story, “This Ray Gun for Hire,” “Alexander the Great,” “Where the Space Pirates Are,” and “Forever Eden” all appeared in Raygun. The fifth story in the book, “The Tuqamari” has never been published before. It was almost published in Ray Gun Revival, but never made it because of a change in ownership. The new owner, some dickhead whose name I can’t remember, thought he shouldn’t publish my story since I was and had been on the staff as a slush reader. The Overlords wanted to run it but the new boss said no. Anyway, it’s all for the good, because now, finally, readers get to enjoy a new Frank Carson adventure. Three cheers.

“Forty Miles from Carbonville,” originally appeared in an anthology called– well I won’t tell you what it was called. It’s out of print now and no longer available. Thank God! It was a terrible book. Not that the stories in it were bad. But it was published and edited by a guy who had no interest in correct punctuation, formatting, or spelling. The thing was a shambles. I submitted a print copy of it to a book review editor and he laughed in my face, saying he’d never seen anything that badly produced. My contribution, “40 Miles from Carbonville,” however, is actually a pretty good story, if I say so myself. It is set in the same universe as the Carson stories, which by the way take place in the same world as “The Big Shutdown” my science fiction novel.  All these tales are sort of connected, you might say. In a way, “This Ray Gun for Hire” is kind of a prequel to Shutdown.

The three remaining stories in the book were initially published on, which was, like Ray Gun Revival, another place to find good sf stories with solid writing by quite a few good authors. Spacewesterns ran from 2006 to 2009. Nathan E. Lilly was the editor/publisher and he was really good at picking stories, and editing them. I owe him a lot for the way “The Hard Deal” turned out. He had helpful suggestions and a lot of patience through the rewrites. The result was one of my best stories. At least I’ve heard from others it’s one of my best. Maybe you’ll let me know after you read it. “Rage for Justice,” and “Green River Rain” also were in Spacewesterns. As you might have guessed, these stories are actually spacewesterns unlike the Carson stories, which I call sci-fi noir for want of a better term. I know some people might argue with that designation, but hey! It’s my book, I can call them whatever I want.

You know it’s unfortunate that websites and zines like Raygun and Spacewesterns no longer exist. It seems that, even though it wasn’t that long ago, it was a different world back then. There were more online publications, and a more open-door attitude toward what is and isn’t science fiction, as well as a more welcoming atmosphere for new writers than there is today.  I’m no expert. I can’t define SF, I’m just a story writer. But the lack of publications like these must make it hard for new writers to get into print. In the end, that’s bad for the future of science fiction.

I’ll wrap this up by saying “This Ray Gun for Hire” is a tribute to those bygone days and to the editors and publishers of that time, even the ones who couldn’t spell.


Dreams. People make a big deal out of them. Last night I dreamed I was a guest in Mitch McConnell’s house. We were watching his big screen TV and I kept thinking how much McConnell looks like a turtle. Then a young man obviously loony as a mother came in with a handgun and started pointing it at our heads, asking if we wanted to play Russian Roulette. Mitch told him to calm down. The guy put the gun in my face and I saw him squeeze off and I woke up. Sounds weird but does it mean anything? Why was I in Mitch McConnell’s house? Is there some deep pscyho-political meaning hidden in the dream?

My Grandpappy used to say dreams come from something you ate the night before. Well, before I had the dream I woke up in the middle of the night with a bad stomach ache. Ate some ham the night before that was probably spoiled. Got up, took some Tums, and went back to bed. Turned on the TV and went back to sleep. When I woke up Morning Joe was on. If Grandpappy was right I’d say the dream was probably a combination of spoiled ham, and Morning Joe on TV while I slept. For all I know McConnell might even have been on as a guest. Maybe that’s how he got in my dream. Nothing too mysterious there. But who was the guy with the gun? And why did he want to shoot us? And why RUSSIAN roulette?

This Raygun FRONT high rez (3)



This collection of short stories includes five sci-fi noir tales featuring 22nd Century troubleshooter Frank Carson. You got a job so dirty and dangerous nobody else will touch it? Get Carson.

In “Forever Eden,” Carson is hired to stop a mad scientist who has taken over a space lab so he can clone human slaves.

“Tuqamari” tells the story of a dying oil magnate who hires Carson to negotiate an amnesty with the leader of indigents who’ve been fighting to get their lands back.

A wealthy industrialist hires Carson to deliver a ransom in an extremely unusual way in “Alexander the Great.”

Also included are four other tales set in the Tulon Universe, the same setting Whalen used in his full-length novel, THE BIG SHUTDOWN.

The stories in this collection take place about 100 years before the events in the novel,” according to the author. “In a way, this book is a prequel to THE BIG SHUTDOWN.”

Exciting Sci-fi action and noir intrigue! “JOHN M. WHALEN’S THIS RAY GUN FOR HIRE . . . and Other Tales.”

Available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.


220px-donald_trump_august_19_2015_croppedIf you think things don’t look so good for Donald Trump now, you haven’t seen anything yet. As I predicted back in November Trump’s troubles, both legal and political, will not really get serious until this summer. As explained previously, Saturn the truth planet, the planet that represents the lesson of what you reap so you shall sow, was conjunct his Moon and opposite his Sun back in January just prior to his inauguration. Inklings of trouble reared their ugly heads then only to dissipate somewhat in February as Saturn, the reaper, moved on.

Despite yesterday’s hearings on the Russia connection and the alleged wire taps, most of Trump’s supporters remain in his corner, although Republicans in the House and Senate are starting to create some distance from him. But come early April, Saturn turns retrograde and makes a return visit from July through October to that sensitive area that it traversed in December. Once again the Moon and Sun will be subjected to Saturn’s withering attack. More revelations, possibly resulting from the FBI investigation of Trump and his gang’s association with powerful Russian oligarchs and power brokers, including Putin, may come to light.

The transit to Trump’s moon is ominous. The moon rules the area of his chart that the old time astrologers used to call the house of self-undoing. Most of his current difficulties are all self perpetuated. His “twitter impulse” opened up this can of worms. He himself called for a congressional investigation. Be careful what you wish for. The area of his chart ruled by the Moon also rules the danger of imprisonment. That will never happen. If he’s found guilty of anything he’ll cop a plea and just resign. But the Sun in Trump’s horoscope rules his Ascendant, the health center. It will be extremely stressed during that period as Saturn opposes. His health could suffer as a result of the stresses and pressures. It will take a great deal of strength and will power to get through it.

And don’t count him out yet. If there’s one thing we know about the Donald is that he is full of surprises. His sun was conjunct Uranus, the planet of rebellion, and shocking surprises, when he was born. Uranus is the Joker in the deck. The wildest things imaginable are possible. It’s going to be an interesting summer.

Stay tuned.

Here’s a link to my earlier blog and the November


People ask why do you write pulp fiction? Why don’t you write something with real literary merit? Real quality. Something more like real life instead of all that violence and horror and all that fantastic stuff.

To that I say, So you think real life doesn’t have violence and horror and all kinds of fantastic stuff? Ever read a newspaper? Or watch cable news? Take a look at what’s going on all around you.

Beyond that, there’s and implication in what you’re saying that you think your own life resembles life the way its shown in a literary work, rather than a pulp story. “Of course, it is,” you say. “If I could choose someone to write my life story, I’d want someone like Fitzgerald, of Hemingway, or maybe even Shakespeare to write it. My life is worthy of no less. I’d want somebody who could write an uplifting bibliography that would serve as an inspiration to others. Not some cheap, penny a word hack.”

Well, I doubt that very much. I’d bet, if you were honest about it, you’d admit your life more resembles something out of a cheap, tawdry pulp novel than anything else. Because that’s how life is, for the most part. A few significant moments in a lifetime of banality and regret. As the man said, “A tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.” But that’s alright. Keep up the pretenses. Keep on reading the “uplifters,” if it makes you feel good.

You may look down your nose at the pulpsters. But I’d argue that amidst the violence, horror and that fantastic stuff, you’ll find a kind of truth most writers don’t want to risk setting down in words. It’s a harrowing occupation.

Saw KONG: SKULL ISLAND. Meh. Terrific first hour. Second hour loses focus with too many characters and not enough real characterization.

Ending lacked the resonance of the classic original. Since this, like so many big-budget flicks today, is not a stand-alone film, but part of a bigger series, there is no real ending. Only a brief cessation of spectacle until the next installment begins. As a result there is no satisfying conclusion at the end, as when Robert Armstrong says: “It was beauty killed the beast.” As my son, J. Michael, said, every movie made today is a two-hour commercial for the next one.”

I think another problem was too many writers. Four I think. It was Kong meets Apocalypse Now. Throw in a World War II surviver still alive on Skull Island after 28 years. He was originally stuck there with a Japanese soldier, and in the film’s prologue they try to kill each other until a giant ape suddenly appears. Twenty eight years pass and the American vet (John C. Reilly) is still alive. The Japanese guy is dead. Big mistake. They should have kept him alive and every so often have him come out of the bushes to attack Reilly. You know, like Inspector Clouseau and Kato. Just a thought.

Not terrible, but falls short of the high bar set by Merrian C. Cooper and company. Oddly I saw this No. 1 at the box office movie at a Sunday 1:30 matinee in a huge Cinemark theater with state of the art 3-D and multi-track sound. Technically one of the best viewing and listening experiences I’ve had. But only 10 people in the theater.


Meanwhile . . .

Have you ever watched a movie and had the funny feeling you might have seen it before but you know absolutely, positively, you never did? Well, you might get that kind of feeling watching BROKEN LANCE, a big, sprawling western extravaganza from the 1950s in Cinemascope from 20th Century Fox. I explain why in my latest movie review up today on Cinema Retro.

Let me add a note here about a new review an anonymous reader from Brooklyn sent in to Amazon for my HUNTING MONSTERS IS MY BUSINESS. Anonymous said: “These short stories featuring Mordecai Slate are worthy of any horror story written.” That’s the kind of review writers want to hear. Makes it all worthwhile. Thanks, Anonymous.

Another reviewer (J H) recently wrote: “Worth the money.” That may be the highest praise of all, because I don’t know how many books I’ve read and wished I could get my money back. So thanks, JH.

If you’ve read any of my books and want to say something about them, good or bad, please feel free to send a quick review in to Amazon. Feedback is appreciated.