Forgotten Book: Musrum by Eric Thacker and Anthony Earnshaw (1968)

The cover of the surreal 1968 book Musrum.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 196th in my series of Forgotten Books.

This week I have decided to share with you one of the oddest books in my library. Back in the late 70’s I was living in San Antonio and my friend, noted collector Willie Siros, showed me the oddest book from his library. That book was called Musrum. About a week later, I found a copy of it at the long gone and lamented Et Cetra Books near San Antonio College.

I read through it then and was fascinated. The authors, Eric Thacker and Anthony Earnshaw, did one other book, Wintersol, which I have hunted for ever since and have never even seen a copy for sale. ABE (Advanced Book Exchange) has a couple of copies, both of which are over $50.

How to describe Musrum? It’s not a novel; it is more a collection of odd ramblings about a lot of subjects with numerous bizarre illustrations and typography. They love to hide the name Musrum in the illustrations, sometimes pretty abstractly, other times in shadows.

A sample page from Musrum

I’ve included some photos to give you some idea. I have also excerpted the section titled “Columbus” below:

Columbus 

  • Christopher Columbus often related a singular childhood memory, in which he was stopped, in a Genoan street, by a man who asked the way to Chicago.
  • Columbus had a left eye of solid gold.
  • He had been credited with the invention of Faraway Places.
  • There is a religious reason for this.
  • On his voyage across the Atlantic, Columbus discovered several (some say six) mid-oceanic islands. The secret of their location died with him.
  • Included amongst his baggage as a generous bale of feathers – a gift for the birds of America.
  • On landing in the Bahamas, Columbus met a native chief with a left eye of chalcedony. They did a straight swap.
  • In the Bahamas, he frequently held converse with his kindred in Europe. They could hear each other quite clearly over this immense distance.

    Musrum a catalogue of banners

  • Similarly, being a historical figure of great stature, he was able to display to his waiting sponsors in Europe many native artifacts and treasures. He merely needed to hold the objects high above his head.
  • Columbus discovered a unique group of islands one hundred and thirty-two miles due south of New York. (See Fig. 1.)
  • His cartographer made a chart of this group, using invisible ink – whereupon the islands themselves vanished.
  • Fear dissuaded him from entering New York harbor. The place was infested with sponge-cats.
  • Musrum had fled the city some days previously,
  • Kneeling down by the waters of Lake Huron, Columbus kissed the clear reflection of the Queen of Heaven; then, scooping up a gobletful of her gentle visage, he dashed it against a rock. A small amethyst dropped to the ground. Picking this up he screwed it deftly into his right eye.
  • Gott strafe Isabelle!
  • Columbus dropped swiftly down to the sea and oblivion.
  • He kept a sponge-cat with no eyes at all. He was terribly afraid of it.
  • A page detail from Musrum

    A.D. 1505. God noticed the existence of America for the first time.

  • A,D. 1933. A carrier pigeon released by Columbus arrived in Lisbon; nobody recognized it for what it was.
  • For a keepsake, Columbus gave his flagship to a Native Chief. He remained marooned in America until 1502.
  • Any European rulers commissioned Columbus to discover new continents so as to enhance their prestige; but he was a monomaniac… He discovered America in fifty-seven slightly different versions.
  • It pleased him, in his old age, to converse with other mariners. A wide range of subjects included the sites of sea battles, undiscovered continents, and the repair of ancient islands.
  • Crabmeat; wishwater; hard sunshine; milkwet silvershard; Christobus smiling remotely.”

So, that’s three pages out of 160. Surreal and fascinating stuff. Enjoy the pictures. (The one with the flags reads “Musrum, A Catalogue of Banners.” If you stare at it long enough it makes sense.

I know Musrum will not be for everyone, but I find it a fascinating thing to dip into on odd occasions. Sort of like The Codex Seraphinianus. But you can read it and, in the right frame of mind, understand it.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Films: Reaper, Episode 1 (2005)

Reaper is a short-lived CW series you may have missed.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 175th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

During Spring Break and late March, my friends Ed and Sam came out to Alpine to visit.  During the four days (unlike dead fish, they did not stink after three) they were here, we watched a large number of films and TV shows.

Fortunately, I had lots of things they had not seen. In one of the periods when a full-length movie was too much, I pulled the first season of Reaper off the shelf and said, “I’ll bet you’ve never seen anything quite like this.” Forty-five minutes later, they agreed. It was odd and irreverent and wonderful.

Reaper’s pilot episode concerns Sam Oliver (Brett Oliver), who’s about to turn 21. He still lives at home with his folks (Andrew Airlie and Allison Hossack) with his younger brother Kyle (Kyle Switzer). Younger brother is an overachiever while Sam is not. He works at a Home depot clone and dropped out of college after two weeks. The dictionary definition of “Loser” has his picture.

On his birthday, his parents are acting weird. His mother starts to cry; his father hugs him. Odd behavior. His best friend Bert “Sock” Wysocki (Tyler Labine) comes over for breakfast as he does every day. Sock is one of those for whom the position of Loser is a monumental promotion. Burnt-out slacker with no plans for anything past tonight’s activities. He also works at the hardware store, where his goal is to make it through his shift without actually doing anything.

On the way to work, vicious dogs seem to want to attack Sam’s car. At work, he is attracted to Andi (Missy Peregrym) a college student who works alongside him. During the day, a pile of air conditioners starts to fall toward her and Sam is, somehow, able to deflect them away. But Sam says he never touched them.

Suddenly evil dogs appear in the store, along with a mysterious white-haired man (the amazing Ray Wise). The man introduced himself as Satan. Confused, Sam goes home, where he learns that as a young couple his father had been really ill. To the point that his parents made a deal with the Devil. In exchange for a cure, the Olivers had to promise that Satan could have their first son on his 21st birthday.

No problem. They had no kids, and Mr. Oliver got a vasectomy. But then Mom showed up pregnant. Seems the doctor had some gambling debts he needed gone, so the Devil asked for one ineffective surgery.

Here’s the twist in Sam’s dilemma: the Devil doesn’t want his soul. He’s got plenty of those. What he needs is someone to help capture the souls that have escaped Hell. It’s a simple deal. Sam is shown the soul in its current manifestation. He is given a specialized tool to capture the soul, which he then has to deliver to a portal that is literally Hell on Earth. For this mission, the soul collector is a dust buster hand vac. And the portal is the local DMV, where a minion is disguised as a clerk, though she does have tiny horns hidden under her bangs.

Oh, and the soul is an arsonist working as a local firefighter who looks like a MMA champion who could smash Sam with this eyelashes. Needless to say, the first mission does not go well. Sam and Sock go after the firefighter and miss, expending the energy in the dust buster.

They need to find a way to recharge their special tool and a plan to figure out where the soul will be.

They eventually succeed and the deal is done. Or so Sam thinks. Satan has other ideas. There are more souls to be captured. And the deal isn’t done until he says it is.

The ensemble works well together and the fun is clearly present. Life at the hardware store is certainly Hell and Sam and Sock still have to try and survive there. Ray Wise is so well cast as Satan, debonair and not be fooled with.

Reaper survived for two seasons on the CW. I missed it when it was on. The amazing Kimm Antell introduced me to the show later and I loved it. Just as K. D, Wentworth had introduced me to Wonderfalls and Point Pleasant, I have to try to pass the love on. Give it a try. The episodes vary in quality. The pilot was directed by Kevin Smith of Clerks and Comic Book Men fame, who knows quirky humor.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

You Got It Wrong: We Don’t Do Freudian Psychoanalysis — What Authors Get Wrong About Psychotherapists

Mike McMahon: Portrait of a metal-loving therapist.

From Dennis Lahane’s Shutter Island to Frederik Pohl’s Gateway, psychotherapy frequently pops up as an important element in genre fiction. But authors don’t always get it right. Often they  draw on an outdated vision of what psychotherapy entails or otherwise manage to distort the process. My guest blogger, Mike McMahan, a licensed psychotherapist and  heavy metal music blogger, helps set the record straight.

By Mike McMahan

When asked “what do fiction writers get wrong about therapy?” the temptation is to say “everything.” But since no one wants a dissertation, I’ve narrowed it down to two key observations.

One: If you’re in the counseling field, you learn about Sigmund Freud. Period. He is the father of the field and his influence is not to be understated.

That said, almost no one practices in what might be considered in a Freudian fashion. We all know the cliché. You go into a therapist’s office, they have you look at some weird inkblots and nod and mutter when you respond to “tell me what you see.” You then free associate about your mother and whatever prompts the therapist gives you. He rubs his beard and then gives you probing insight into your psyche and whatever underlying, twisted, psychosexual traumas are driving your current challenges.

Except it’s nothing like that. Generally speaking, therapists these days are behaviorists, though there are many specific schools of thought. A therapist will generally draw from one philosophy, which is said to be their theoretical orientation. Most clinicians these days will help you consider behaviors in your life, and ask you to think about how feelings about events impact your reaction to those events. The key figure of behaviorism is B.F. Skinner.

I often use the example of a cube. If that cube in a sequence of events, a therapist should help you put that cube on the table in front of you and help you look at all six sides. You might have been seeing one or two sides, but there are probably more (six, in fact, to force this example).

Two: A good therapist will not give you advice. I often hear/read characters uttering the phrase “my therapist told me to do such-and-such.” A therapist’s job is to help you consider a problem from multiple angles and to collaborate with you to help you make your own decision. I have encountered situations where a client says to me “you told me to do this,” but that is rarely the case. Generally, they have misunderstood something I’ve said or heard what they wanted to hear.

Think of it this way: a therapist’s (somewhat contradictory) job is for you to have no need to come back and see them. If a therapist is telling you what to do, they’re doing you a disservice. Therapists are not like accountants, who see you once a year on April 14 or so. If you rely on a therapist to tell you what to do, you could become dependent on them, thus making the goal farther out of reach.

On top of that, a therapist only knows your life via what you tell them. How can we tell you what to do? You’re the expert on your own life. We’re just here to listen.

Mike McMahan, LPC, is a psychotherapist based in San Antonio, Texas. He posts regularly on his pop culture/psychotherapy mash-up blog Therapy Goes POP. He is also a contributor to the music blog Heavy Blog Is Heavy.

 

Forgotten Book: Stop This Man! by Peter Rabe (1955)

The lurid-looking core of Peter Rabe’s Stop This Man!

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 195th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Recently I ordered some paperbacks from a Facebook acquaintance. I got 11 books, which included four Fu Manchu novels by Sax Rohmer, two Fredric Brown novels (one science fiction, one mystery and both great!), and five novels by Peter Rabe.

Peter Rabe is one of those forgotten mystery writers of the ’50’s and ’60s. He’s not quite in the John D. MacDonald, Ross McDonald, Jim Thompson, Charles Williams or Donald Hamilton class, but he is not far behind them. When the box with the books arrived, I was immediately drawn to Stop This Man! because I loved the cover, the blurb from Erskine Caldwell, and because I had not previously read it.

So, it found its way into my hands and my recliner.

Stop This Man! Is an odd novel. It deals with the theft of a 36-pound gold bar and the cross country chase to recover it. Tony Catell is a three-time loser who has just gotten out of prison. He is acquainted with Otto Schumacher, a quiet man who has a gift for planning robberies. Tony has stolen the gold bar based on Otto’s plan. Otto and his girlfriend Selma are waiting for Tony when he arrives with the bar. But, of course, there’s a problem. None of them knew the bar was radioactive. People who get near it suddenly don’t so hot. While the bar doesn’t seem to be affecting Tony, others are dying.

Otto wants to wait but Catell doesn’t. Selma is attracted to Tony’s style and decides to hang with Tony. The FBI have fingered Schumacher as a possible accessory in the crime, but when they confront him, they find only a corpse. Radiation has done its job.

With the heat turned up, Tony decides to by-pass an intermediary and go straight to the buyer, Mr. Smith, in Los Angeles himself. He dumps Selma and tells her to meet him in LA, though he has no intention of keeping that date.

Along the way he tries to keep a low profile, stealing and changing cars frequently. In Arizona, he meets a small town bully with a badge who hates him at first sight. Tony is beaten and jailed and the prospects don’t look good, but he is an experienced felon and soon has the drop on the sheriff.

In LA, Tony meets up with an old friend, the Turtle, at just the right time. He’s got less than a dollar and looks like hell, so the Turtle spots him some money and helps him find the way to Mr. Smith. On his way, Tony makes some enemies – Mr. Smith’s right hand man Topper being the worst of them. He makes a good friend in Topper’s young girlfriend Lily. He makes some corpses. And he meets Selma again. Need I mention the Feds are now breathing down his neck?

Of course, things get worse from there.

Stop This Man! is a good, short read that was reprinted in 2011 by Hard Case Crime. Thank you Charles Ardai for all that you’ve done there!

While it’s enjoyable, the book is odd. Most of the real action takes place off stage. Both the robbery and the initial meeting between Schumacher and Tony have happened before the book starts. Even so, there’s a lot of action in the 160 pages in this novel.

I’ve not read a ton of Rabe. Not like those other writers I listed earlier. What I have read, though, I really enjoyed. I know Ed Gorman was a big fan of Rabe’s work and we discussed it once on the phone for quite a while. While reading this, I thought of Ed a lot. Gone, but not forgotten.

Rabe wrote quite a few books but they are a little hard to find. If you find one, read it. Then look for more. You’ll find some of the oddest tiles on his books. Titles like Benny Muscles In, Murder Me for Nickels, Dig My Grave Deep, A Shroud for Jesso and Kill the Boss Goodbye make his books memorable.

Check him out. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  This week, however, Patti is, hopefully, accepting an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for best paperback novel and the beautiful and talented Todd Mason is hosting for her.

Moment of Wonder: Earth Seen Through Saturn’s Rings

Earth as seen through Saturn’s rings, as photographed by NASA’s Cassini space probe.

See that dot in the middle of the picture? That’s Earth as photographed through the rings of Saturn.

A recent image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows our home planet as a tiny speck of light between the icy rings. To me, it kind of looks like a speck of dust caught in the grooves of a vinyl record. Whatever your individual interpretation, it’s a reminder that we’re one tiny bright spot floating in a sea of stars.

Makes you feel kind of insignificant, doesn’t it?

Cassini shot the image on April 12, when it was 870 million miles from Earth. The robotic spacecraft — a joint mission between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana — has been orbiting the ringed planet and studying its system in detail.

That mission, however, will end later this year.

After a close pass by Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini is beginning a final 22 orbits around the planet, which will terminate with a dramatic final descent. Dubbed the Grand Finale by NASA, the probe will take a “science-rich plunge” into Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15.

Forgotten Films: The Night of the Lepus aka Rabbits! (1972)

The original poster of Night of the Lepus actually makes it look scary.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 174th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Hey, let’s try for two weeks in a row on the Forgotten Film. What a concept!

And speaking of concepts, this week’s film has one. Well, maybe half a concept: Ecology tampered with by man runs a little wild in the Southwest.

Since we just finished Easter, I thought Night of the Lepus might be a suitable tie-in film.

I remember when Night of the Lepus came out. I was a very broke college student who could do an occasional film and I thought about this one. For about two days anyway, which was when I got the report back from friends. As one put it, “This dog won’t hunt.” It was bad. For a horror film, it was not scary — a kiss of death.

And, until this weekend, I had kept that nearly 45 year streak alive.

So the plot involves rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun) whose property is being overrun with rabbits. He loses one of his best horses when it steps into a rabbit hole and breaks a leg while he is riding it. He wants the varmints gone, but he did not like previous pest control efforts which utilized poisons.

Hillman contacts the president of the local university, Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley), for assistance. Since Hillman is a big-time contributor to the university, Clark wants to help. So he contacts Roy and Gerry Bennett (Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh) who have been working with bats but respect Hillman’s request not to use poisons. They have an experimental serum which they hope will disrupt the animals’ hormones and mating habits. They also have a precocious daughter, Amanda (Melanie Fullerton), who has become attached to the rabbit given the injection. She secretly switches it out with another rabbit. Then, being precocious, she takes this infected rabbit to Hillman’s ranch, where it escapes and joins the rabbit population. Bunny breeding and mutations occur with astounding rapidity. Giant mutant rabbits begin attacking the animals and local population.

The film had good stars — some of my favorites. Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley and Paul Fix all had major roles, along with a million or so rabbits. But the human actors seem to have seen how the film was going to turn out. Their hearts must not have been in it, because their acting is marginal at best.

The screenplay, based on the novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon, a 1964 comic horror novel set in Australia, was written by Don Holliday and Gene R. Kearney. Kearney did some TV work and was nominated for an Emmy. Holliday appears to have this one credit and nothing else. The dialogue for the film is dreadful. But it’s better than the special effects. Being 1972, we have no CGI or computer assists. So we see lots of regular-size bunnies running rampant over miniature sets while costumed actors got the job of trying to appear to be giant mutant rabbits killing regular folk.

I had trouble staying with the film. I got distracted by solitaire games or pretty much anything. So, sorry for this one. Maybe I will have a better film next week. I know some people like this one for a camp effect or some such reason. I’m not going to be one of them.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

“Burma Jukebox” gets a third play

The latest place you can read “Burma Jukebox.”

“Burma Jukebox,” a short story I first sold in 2010, has received its third publication, this time in Big Pulp Annual 2016.

It was also picked up last year in M – Murder, Magic & the Macabre, another publication in the Big Pulp empire, which produces a variety of magazines and themed anthologies focused on genre fiction and poetry.

The supernatural tale — I’m still not sure whether it’s better categorized as quiet horror or dark fantasy — is a favorite of mine to read at conventions. It focuses on how easy it is to lose ourselves in music, especially during tough times.

The most recent sale brings to mind Golden Age sf writer James Gunn’s first rule of writing: “If it’s worth writing once, it’s worth selling twice.”

Or three times for that matter.

Forgotten Book: Kongo – The Gorilla-Man by Frank Orndorff (1945)

Kongo – The Gorilla Man was a strike out, even for this gorilla fan.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 194th in my series of Forgotten Books.

I am a monkey and ape fan. I say it proudly, claiming King Kong as my favorite film.

I was alerted to the novel Kongo – The Gorilla-Man by Jess Nevins, who informed a select group of monkey fans with a picture of the dustjacket and asked whether anyone of us had ever read or heard of it. No one had, but I checked out American Book Exchange (ABE) and found a copy in fair condition for under $20, including shipping. The primitive looking cover and the scarcity of the title sealed the deal.

When the book came in, I posted on Facebook and Todd Mason urged me to include it as a Friday Forgotten Book. I had been planning on returning to the FFB fold anyway, so between Robert Bloch’s Centennial and this novel, I was enticed to return.

What can I say about Kongo? I read it. If I was a sadist or horrible person, I would urge you to do the same, but I’m not. ABE shows five entries for Frank Orndorff, including two copies of Kongo, The Truth About the Bible, and two copies of Amazing Stories Quarterly, Volume 1, #1 from 1928. Other sites did not reveal any additional titles.

So, not a prolific writer. But that’s not the issue here. This novel is a mess. The plot takes  several paths, but essentially starts with a majestic white eagle sailing over the African continent with a priceless diamond around its neck. Various groups are looking for it. There’s the team of Harry Van Hall and his friend Jack, two men searching for game and the white eagle. There’s the villainous team of The Brut and The Weasel. There’s the tribe of gorillas, led by Kil. And there are various African natives, some good, some bad.

Harry and Jack kill a gorilla one day. This gorilla was Kongo-go, or “Kongo the coward” in gorilla speak. To amuse the natives, Harry dons the gorilla pelt and is performing in it when tthe group of gorillas led by Kil attacks the camp. Harry is knocked in the head and loses all sense. He believes that he is a gorilla and part of the tribe. The others notice that he smells odd, but accept him as one of their own. As the coward, he is the last to eat if he is even allowed. Harry does not remember his old life, but he understands gorilla speak. As in 2001: A Space Odyssey, he discovers the use of a club and works his way up in the tribal organization.

The Brute and The Weasel find the large diamond which has worked its way to a tribe. The king of the tribe wants to kill them, but the two use their white man’s magic to play for time and to try and get the diamond, which the natives do not value. Their only problem is that the king is not honorable and really wants nothing more than to kill them for their supplies. Still, though, he is fascinated by their magic and needs to learn it before he kills them.

Then there are the Arab slavers and the lost rich white girl who is to be sold in slavery. Not to mention other characters and stories, all of which are pretty bad. The book had obviously not been proofread before publication, because words are used incorrectly. There are also many spelling errors and sentences which do not make sense.

This book was a struggle, but I made it through. It is a young adult novel with little depth, motivation, characterization or reason for existing. It is not really a Tarzan rip-off as Harry has no real skills or jungle smarts.

Let me just say, save yourself the trouble. It did not work for me and I don’t think it will work for you.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs. 

Forgotten Films: Paul (2011)

Don’t expect Paul to match The Day the Earth Stood Still, but do expect fun.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 173rd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

It is about time I got back to watching films and inflicting my opinion of them on you. It’s been nine months and I have gone through a new job, a relocation, and the wonderfulness that is packing up a large library for months, having it transported and then trying to get it back in some semblance of normality.

Fortunately, I have learned to live with serendipity as my filing system. This simply means that if I want to watch a film, the film I am meant to see will present itself. If I want to see something else, it will hide until I have seen the other film.

I recently had some friends in to visit for four days. One of the fun things that happens in these events is that I try to show them films they should have seen but, for one reason or another, may have missed. During this time we watched The Rutles, Ex Machina, The Night Watch, Hellboy, the pilot for Reaper, several episodes of Troll Hunters… and Paul.

I had seen Paul on its original release and had enjoyed it so I picked up the DVD used when the opportunity presented itself. I had intended to watch Cold in July, the wonderful film based on Joe R. Lansdale’s novel, but it hid from me and Paul stuck out.

Paul is a science fiction film wherein Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, respectively. They are science fiction nerds. Graeme is an illustrator and Clive is a Nebulon Award-winning author. They are in San Diego to attend Comic Con and to meet Adam Shadowchild (Jeffrey Tambor), a major science fiction writer and one of their idols. Shadowchild is a dick to people at the convention but they ignore his bad behavior. Graeme and Clive are planning on touring the western U.S. visiting UFO sites. They have a rented fifth wheel. Along the way they offend some shotgun-carrying rednecks by denting their truck. In their escape, they run into Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an ET trying to escape experimentation at Area 51. He has cool powers like turning invisible, transferring all of his knowledge to you and other things. And, being voiced by Seth Rogen, he’s remarkably crude and vulgar.

The government is chasing Paul, using a variety of agents including Special Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) and rookies Haggard and O’Reilly (Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio) who all report to “the Big Guy” (a surprise guest not mentioned here because it might be considered a spoiler). There are adventures along the way, including encounters with Tara Walton (Blythe Danner) and Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig). Wiig is particularly fun, as she evolves from a fundamentalist young woman with one eye blind into a swearing, drinking, wild woman who acquires Paul’s knowledge of the universe.

Now, Paul is not quality sf along the lines of The Day the Earth Stood Still or Forbidden Planet. What it is is a film that takes nothing seriously. The hunt for Paul is a blast. The discussions about Life, the Universe, and Everything between Graeme, Clive and Paul are interesting. And, overall, the film itself is fun.

I am not a Seth Rogen fan. But, his irreverence and overall demeanor worked well for an alien about to be dissected. His outlook powers the film.

The final half hour should have lots of resonance with fans of classic sf movies. It did for me, but I am easily amused and all my taste is in my mouth.

I still say “Check it out!”

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

You Got It Wrong: Roger Doesn’t Have a Last Name — What Authors Get Wrong About the Military

This is the first of a periodic series where I ask other authors to discuss the mistakes they frequently see in fiction about their day jobs or former professions. If you write, I hope these help bring authenticity to your work — or at least point you toward sources that help you get close. My first guest, Stephen Kozeniewski, is a former Field Artillery officer and author of the novel The Hematophages, recently released by Sinister Grin Press. Be sure to check out his bio at the end.

By Stephen Kozeniewski

Stephen Kozeniewski is a former Field Artillery officer.

Did you ever dream you were falling and then suddenly, just before you hit the ground, you’re jarred awake? That’s the sensation I experience when I’m reading a book and a service member says “roger that.”

Radio discipline is something that’s hard to get right in dialogue if you’ve never actually had to do it. Roger, you see, doesn’t have a last name. “Over and out” is another serial offense. “Over” means “I’m done speaking” and “out” means “I’m done speaking and this conversation is complete.” “Over and out” is just extraneous. But, more importantly, you get yelled at if you say it.

You get yelled at for a lot of things in the military. Some are important. Most are stupid. It’s the important ones that keep you from dying, but it’s the stupid ones that mark an author as an amateur.

Another example of something that’s hard to get right is forms of address. I cringe when a soldier calls a colonel “Colonel.” It should be “sir” or “Colonel Smith” if you’re in the army. For that matter, calling an NCO “sir” or (almost even worse) “Sarge” is a big no-no. Of course, that’s all army customs and courtesies. In the Air Force it’s perfectly fine to say just “Colonel.”

I’ve done beta reads for several authors to check their depictions of the military. Honestly, though, I should really only check work that features the army between 2004 and 2008, which is the branch I served in and time frame during which I served. I worked with airmen and marines, so I know a little bit about how they do things differently, but I’m hardly an expert.

The Hematophages is Stephen’s latest novel.

You’d probably say I’m hardly even an expert in the army, with the limited length and scope of my career there. For instance we would’ve called “A Battery” “Alpha Battery” whereas during World War II it would’ve been “Apple Battery.” (Both start with an “A,” but the NATO alphabet we currently use didn’t come into common usage until after the world war.) So if you can, I’d recommend finding a service member from both the era and branch you’re writing about to see if they’ll go over your manuscript. They may only find small things, but every cringe you save a veteran will seriously raise your cool points.

Stephen Kozeniewski lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s is in German.

His latest book, The Hematophages, is the story of doctoral student Paige Ambroziak, who joins a clandestine deep-space mission she suspects is looking for the legendary lost vessel Manifest Destiny. The mission takes her to the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism infested by lamprey-like monstrosities, and she soon learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as… the Hematophages.