Heroes Never Rust #64: Surrender in Vietnam and the Loss of the Real America

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Heroes Never Rust #64 by Sean Ironman

Surrender in Vietnam and the Loss of the Real America

The beginning of issue three of Born shows various images from the Vietnam War: bombs falling from planes, a bridge filled with pedestrians blown sky high, American soldiers setting a Vietnamese village on fire, Vietnamese men and women dead in a ditch, and children burning at planes drop napalm. An unseen narrator comments on America being unable to give up just because America must show the world that they can’t be messed with. “Though we make the world despise us…Though we do things that will stain our souls forever…Though America eats its own intestines over this, cities riven with unrest, leaders inspiring loathing and distrust…We cannot lose.”

Born 3The war has been lost. Readers have seen that in the previous two issues. Frank Castle is the only one left at Valley Forge who cares to strike out at the enemy. The other soldiers wait out whatever days they have left getting high. It’s unclear who is speaking in the opening. It could be Castle, but it could be Goodwin or just a nameless narrator. I don’t think it matters. The opening does a its job—it presents the idea that there really is no reason why America doesn’t just call it quits. It’s all chest pounding. Just a bunch of men refusing to give up to show their strength, even though they no longer know why they are fighting.

Both of the main characters of Born, Goodwin and Castle, are forced to challenge their reasons for their actions. The first line of dialogue in the issue belongs to Goodwin. “Why can’t we stay out of the rest of the world?” Goodwin wants to keep his head low and get home. He doesn’t care for the war, but understands a man like Castle is needed. He spends most of this issue with his friend, Angel, who has given in and is constantly found in the drug den of Valley Forge. An hour before dawn, the two friends watch the rain. Goodwin lays into Angel about getting high. Goodwin tells him, “We shouldn’t have gotten involved here; all we’re doing is making an even bigger mess of the place than it was already. And we’re screwing up our own country. We’ve been tearing ourselves apart over this for the last five years.” Goodwin wants to focus on what he calls “the real America.”

Born 3 detail 1This isolationist idea has been around forever. I hear it from time to time in today’s world when U.S. soldiers are sent overseas. Recently, I watched HBO’s John Adams miniseries and the same idea was discussed when England and France were at war. In Born, Angel shuts Goodwin up. “I keep hearin’ you talkin’ ‘bout this idea you got—this real America? It’s a fuckin’ dream, man. It belongs in the thirties. The twenties. Fuck, the Wild muthafuckin’ West. That’s the real America right there: back when you was shootin’ each other, rapin’ red Indians an’ callin’ me nigga…”

I wrote about this idea recently in a post about Captain America. The past is viewed as a simpler time. It seems like everyone throughout history is trying to make things like they were in the past, even if the past wasn’t so great. Maybe as children we see the love and goodness the world has to offer, and then we become adults and have to make concessions to our beliefs. The past, then, is viewed as pure and wholesome, but as children, we only see one side. Angel wants Goodwin to wake up, not to accept the reality of their situation in Vietnam, but to accept that this perfect America Goodwin dreamed up never existed.

Castle is in a similar situation. He comes close to tossing a grenade into a latrine that his commanding officer is using. The officer had just told Castle that he stopped requesting supplies and just wants to wait out the rest of the war and not draw anyone’s attention. He stops himself, but later he questions that decision. Castle has been changed by his three tours in Vietnam. Some readers have raised the idea that the voice talking to Castle is supernatural, like Satan, but I don’t buy it. There’s no other supernatural element. I believe it’s his conscience. He questions how he could “kill at the drop of a hat.” At first, he tells himself that it’s about the other men at the base. But he throws that idea away. The war has made him a killing machine. “That’s what’s got you worried? That urge you have, to give every motherfucker in the world exactly what they deserve?”

Born 3 detailHe seeks out Goodwin, and their talk quickly becomes personal. Castle tells Goodwin about his family. He has a four-year-old daughter and son on the way. “I sometimes think they might be my last chance.” Castle is afraid of himself. This scene comes directly after he questions his motivations for wanting to frag his commanding officer. I spoke in my first post about Born that this comic is supposed to be the real origin of the Punisher. That he was the Punisher long before his family was killed in a gangwar. But maybe Castle was always the Punisher. Maybe he just never had the means to kill. Just going to Vietnam doesn’t make a person the Punisher. We’d have a lot of Punishers on the street if that were true. Maybe Vietnam is just one of many events in his life that pushed Castle over the top. Maybe like Angel tells Goodwin, there never was this perfect time in Castle’s life. Vietnam didn’t destroy the good America, and it didn’t turn Castle into the Punisher. Do we really change so much from one event? Or do we just reveal more of ourselves? I believe that one event is not enough to completely change who a person is, but a series of events can. Like waves splashing against rock will, over time, corrode the rock. The issue ends with a Vietnamese army attacking Valley Forge. One more event they have to survive, and if they do, will they think one day that everything was so perfect before this battle, that they had no problems? I think they’d just be lying to themselves.

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Sean IronmanSean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

Buzzed Books #14: Beyond the Pale Motel

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Buzzed Books #14 by John King

Beyond the Pale Motel

Beyond the Pale MotelFrancesca Lia Block (Episodes 30 and 64) is best known for her work in YA literature, as a revolutionary author whose bohemian gypsy sensibilities meshed with punk rock aesthetics and gave two generations of disenfranchised youth something beautiful and aching and honest to hold onto. Her fans are profoundly loyal. I discovered that work as a middle-aged man and adore it.

Her latest novel is entirely adult in nature. Gone is the occasional magic of the Weetzie Bat stories and the gorgeous, gauzy mysticism of her last adult novel, The Elementals. Instead, Beyond the Pale Motel is a mash-up of dark genres of fiction: a pulp horror novel, an erotic novel, an existential novel, a mystery novel, a serial-killer procedural novel. Overall, the effect of so many genres is that the story itself feels unpredictable. The short, staccato sentences make the pages turn, despite how Beyond the Pale Motel is so startlingly honest in its loneliness and alienation.

The novel is about Catt, a recovered alcoholic whose life unravels when her husband leaves her for the famous lover he has impregnated. A serial killer is hard at work in Los Angeles, curating portions of anatomy from his beautiful, female victims. Catt begins drinking, after sexual misadventures fail to keep the desperation of her emotional vulnerability under control. Considering the intrinsic cruelty of the world, anyone could be a psychotic murderer at heart, especially when coincidences from the murders start to insinuate themselves into Catt’s life.

Sometimes, the dark impulses of her own lust make her doubt her own mental health, long before she unravels, before she falls into the hands of The Hollywood Killer.

At that point even if I thought he was dangerous, I might have decided it was worth it. The possibility dangled by that monster, Love, was better than the slow agony of psychologically hemorrhaging to death alone.

Catt retrospectively explores her family history, the façade of her marriage, her yearnings to create a family of her own, or live vicariously through the family lives of friends. Such vivid reflections while observing the nature of her alcoholism and her extreme erotic responsiveness glimmer without hindering the plot.

The book reads slickly, yet the substance and surprises of this story, of this character, rise well above the normal book of guilty pleasures.

The problem with most serial killer stories is that once the killer is identified—once the last act is set into motion—the pleasure of reading is reduced to a binary joy. Will the main character survive, or no? Will the serial killer survive, or no? (In the case of the killer being killed, there is one more question—if the main character kills the killer, then to what degree is main character herself now a killer?) These limited questions seldom deepen the complex stories they are telling, or at least resonate with psychological depth.

Francesca Lia Block wisely eludes the grind of such a conclusion by making this last act sudden, and unforgettable.

Pair with: Seltzer.

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1flipJohn King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

In Boozo Veritas # 64: Adventures in Halloweening, Part 3

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In Boozo Veritas # 64 by Teege Braune

Adventures in Halloweening: Part 3

Horror Movie Poetry Night Teege Braun Howls

This week I broke my finger. Or jammed it; I’m not really sure. If it isn’t better by the time this blog goes live, I’m going to have it looked at. I finally bought a splint, and now it’s starting to look a little more normal and regain some movement. Earlier in the week, not taking my injury all that seriously, I was working, typing, and using it as well as I could, but the swelling, bruising, and discoloration were actually getting worse instead of better. My finger had turned the bloody purple, grave green, and putrid yellow of a decaying, bloated corpse. It actually looked a lot like this grub.

Grub

Read “Taxidermist in the Underworld” by Maria Dahvana Headley in Clarkesworld Magazine. The story’s protagonist Louis is kidnapped by the Devil and taken to Hell for the purpose of mounting and preserving Satan’s exceptional ghost collection. Though Louis protests, the Devil calmly explains that he is the best taxidermist in both worlds and won’t be returning to the surface until he finishes. The descriptions of Hell (Satan travels around using pneumatic tubes) and struggles Louis has with the ghosts (“One must pet the ghost and pose it, and one must not disregard the ghost’s opinions, or one will risk ghost venom dribbled from tentacles, as well as luminous toxins, barbs, and boneless slither,”) are both inventive and humorous, but when Louis’s lover Carl arrives from Earth to help him complete his task some truly bizarre twists and turns occur until the unexpected ending, which while not exactly scary, on the contrary, comes at the reader like a joyous benediction.

I participated in two incredible readings at the Gallery at Avalon Island this week.

Gallery At Avalon Island

I was not originally scheduled to read at There Will Be Words, but blackmailed Ryan Rivas into giving me his spot. As per our agreement, I obviously cannot tell you what information I used to blackmail Ryan, so please don’t ask, but I will say that I’m glad I did because I have never before been to a reading that was so consistently spooky, creepy, and unnerving from beginning to end. You can listen to the entire thing right here at The Drunken Odyssey.

Afterwards, we went to Burton’s where we drank multiple pitchers of beer. Amped up by the spirit of Samhain we got into an altercation when some toughs claimed that Valentine’s Day is a better holiday than Halloween. Well, I may have broken my finger, but we ripped out their beards and stomped them into the pavement of Washington Street.

Horror Movie Poetry Night

Later in the week, the illustrious host of the world’s greatest literary podcast (you know the one) gathered us back at Avalon for a horror movie themed poetry reading that brought together some of Orlando’s best prose writers stepping out their comfort zones and demonstrating their versatility alongside some of Orlando’s best poets just so us prose writers could see how the craft is really meant to be done.

Watched Hell Baby, written and directed by Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, the guys who created Reno 911 and were founding members of The State long before that.

Hellbaby

Like other screwball horror spoofs, some of which I actually enjoy, Hell Baby exploits the tropes of scary movies, but transcends the genre by not merely relying on cliches for laughs. Starring the always funny Rob Corddry, this time as the straight-man, and Leslie Bibb as a couple who has recently moved into an old house with a sordid past. Is the house possessed? Or is the wife Vanessa simply carrying the devil’s child? Well, you find out the answers to these questions, but the plot is really less important than the characters’ enthusiasm over po’ boys, their puke-fest at photos of mutilated therapist Dr. Marshall (Michael Ian Black), and the comings and goings of the intruding neighbor F’resnel (Keegan-Michael Key). The movie has as many groans as laughs, but it is, nevertheless, worth throwing in the middle of your Halloween marathon, maybe late at night after everybody’s already had a few drinks or made a couple passes with the pipe.

Jenn and I went to Horror Business Theater’s performance of Children in Heat Vs. The Teenagers From Mars, a musical that tied various Misfits songs together with a science-fiction/horror storyline about a small group of criminal gutter-punks locked in interplanetary battle against a team of extra-terrestrial jocks who are attempting to conquer Earth by impregnating teenage girls with their alien seed and killing everyone else. While the micro-production had no real set to speak of and felt like little more than an excuse to sing Misfits standards, there’s really nothing wrong with that. The costumes were fun, the songs executed fantastically, and the leading man, billed as Rodney Attitude, sounded preternaturally like Glenn Danzig himself. Furthermore, the constant barrage of beer cans and profanity slung at the cast throughout the duration of the performance, created a damned lively atmosphere. It was also the first play I’ve ever been to that had a mosh pit. Jenn and I stood (there was no seating) near the back with some other older members of the audience, but sang along to each number with the same enthusiasm as everyone else. At one point I looked over at the guy next to me, and he was the same creepy, ugly zombie I had seen at Zombietoberfest a couple weeks ago still lurking under that hat and trench coat.

“Getting as much use out of that fancy makeup as you can this Halloween season, huh, man?” I asked him snidely.

As usual a slight nod was his only response. I planned on talking to him after the show to tell him I really did admire his disgusting makeup and find out if I actually knew him under all that face paint, but he slipped out at some point near the end of the performance. I asked the people I was with if any of them knew who he was, but no one else had even noticed him.

Yesterday, to celebrate our sixth anniversary, Jenn and I went to the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. Making multiple loops around the pavilion sampling just about every pescetarian-friendly dish available and sipping numerous, though modestly-sized glasses of wine, beer, and various cocktails, taking breaks in between to ride Spaceship Earth and watch Captain Eo, does not necessarily qualify as a Halloween adventure, but it was a blast all the same.

Captain Eo

After we got home, to get us back in the spirit, we put on another Francis Ford Coppola film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a movie I watch every Halloween, but never get tired of.

Dracula

Brimming over with gothic decadence, its balance of sex and decay perfectly poised, even the intentional anachronisms contribute to a film that feels almost dangerous in its indulgent delights. Gary Oldman remains the greatest Dracula in the history of cinema and leads a fantastic ensemble with one glaring exception but is made up for by including Tom Waits, no less.

Renfield

I know I’ll get hate mail for this, but I think the movie is even better than Bram Stoker’s Victorian classic.

Tune in next week for this year’s exciting final installment of Adventures in Halloweening.

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teegenteege Teege Braune (episode 72episode 75episode 77episode 90episode 102, episode 122) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.

Shakespearing #17.1: More on Merry Wives of Windsor

Shakespearing #17.1 by John King

More on Merry Wives of Windsor

Pardon my commandeering David Foley’s wonderfully textual Shakespearean blog for one week, in order to prolong the magic of the discussion of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Adolf_Schrödter_Falstaff_und_sein_PageI have read Merry Wives, even though I probably have only read a little more than half of Shakespeare’s plays. What is more, I have taught Merry Wives in an undergraduate Shakespeare course. (If you were in that class, accept my belated apologies.)

David is entirely right that the wordplay grows tiresome on the page, and that there is a looseness and grossness of comedic effects that we seldom associate with Shakespeare. Hamlet’s filthy, punning mind is always counterbalanced by his spiritual urge for perfection and mental clarity.

There is something deliciously punk-rock, however, about Shakespeare being bidden by the queen to produce a play about “Falstaff in love” and instead his producing a play in which his wannabe knight is essentially an unrepentant gigolo wooing married women. Elizabeth wanted Falstaff to be other than what he was, which means that she wanted Shakespeare to be other than what he was. Shakespeare could apologize much more easily than he could change what he saw as human nature. Perhaps he would not have lasted in the production processes in Hollywood.

shks_boydell14If Shakespeare’s Richard III can be seen as an enhanced and humanized version of a vice character from Medieval morality plays, then Falstaff is sort of a super-vice character’s enhancement. His braggadocio, cowardice, vanity, and base morality seem so compelling, like Jack Sparrow, but Sir John Falstaff is quite fat and incapable of actually winning any fight or struggle, apparently. The pull of such deep foibles is strongly felt by audiences. We laugh at him, but we are all to some degree like him, if we are honest with ourselves.

But what I want to talk about most when I talk about Merry Wives is how much fun the play is, and how funny, it is, in performance.

sign

Carlin Park, Jupiter Florida.

In 2005, I saw The Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival perform it gloriously. The setting of The Garter Inn was interpreted as a roadside motel in the rural American south during the late 1970s. The stage was exposed (no curtain). A dumb-show preceded the first act, like an opening credits scene, in which the disco music got louder, and the actors, in character, congregated by the small pool and the bar. I had to struggle not to leave my seat and join them up there for a drink.

Kevin Intro

Kevin Crawford, actor and director, with a pre-show announcement.

The actors mostly affected southern accents, which sounds like a terrible idea, but sounded shockingly apropos for the pastoral setting. The actors, Krys Parker in particular, made it work wonderfully.

Kevin Crawford (whom I interviewed on Episode 4) portrayed Falstaff in a fat suit, with a pompadour and white disco suit. He did this in Florida, in July. Miraculous.

As Falstaff in 2005's %22The Merry Wives of Windsor,%22 with Megan Ford as Pistol and Kelly Ainsworth as Nym

When the married women prank Falstaff with their “fairy” revels in the woods, the true effect cannot be managed in the text—it must be seen. In this case, a stagehand held over the top of the inn a long pole with a mirror ball that radiated over the audience.(Michael Ditsua, the actor whose job it was to hold that pole, noted that the bugger was immensely heavy.)

Dreaming of fairies and seeing fairies can seem much like the same thing, and one can feel, like Falstaff, the horror of transgression when it seems to cause the fabric of the world itself to rupture.

This production ended, however, with a kiss upon Falstaff’s head, which was such a sweet, an amazingly powerful gesture, that suggested that if Falstaff was most in love with himself, that he was still lovable. This swerving from the text is what I imagine Shakespeare might have wanted, if he thought Elizabeth would have tolerated it.

Trio

John King, Maria Fadiman, Taco Reus.

The play is exquisite fun, especially when enjoyed by friends.

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1flipJohn King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

Episode 122: There Will Be Words Fourth Annual Flash Fiction Spooktacular!

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Episode 122 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I share a recording of a Halloween show in Jesse Bradley’s prose reading series, There Will Be Words, in which I was a reader.

The There Will Be Words Fourth Annual

Flash Fiction Spooktacular featured

KAREN BEST
KEITH GOUVEIA
MATT PETERS
REBECCA SWAIN VADNIE
JOHN KING
WHITNEY HAMRICK
BRETT PRIBBLE
TEEGE BRAUNE
JARED SILVIA

Karen Best

Karen Best (Photo by Leslie Silvia).

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Episode 122 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #61: Black Sabbath

The Curator of Schlock #61 by Jeff Shuster

Black Sabbath

(The band was named after the movie, smart guy.)

Black SabbathI’ll admit it. I had a bit of an obsession with Boris Karloff growing up. Not so much for his portrayal of Frankenstein, but for the Universal Monsters classic The Mummy. Imhotep. That was his name if I recall. He didn’t spend too much time in those bandages, but he did wear a fez. Anyway, I wish my eight year-old self had known about Black Sabbath, the 1963 horror anthology from director Mario Bava. Karloff serves as our ghoulish host of this screen adaptation of Chekov and Tolstoy horror stories.

Black Sabbath 2Our first story is called “The Drop of Water,” a tale about bad things happening to a bad people. Let me explain. This master medium lady dies in the middle of a séance or she was in a trance or something to that effect. Anyway, her nurse, Helen Chester (Jacqueline Pierreux), shows up to the scene to prep her body for the inevitable funeral.  The medium’s corpse is quite hideous, not the sort of thing you’d want to be left alone in a room with. Oh, and the medium said that anyone who stole her property after she died would have a terrible curse placed upon them. So naturally the nurse decides to steal the gold ring off the corpse’s finger.

I don’t get people sometimes. Don’t steal the corpse’s golden arm or pocket the silver dollars that was keeping its eyelids shut or carve out the corpse’s liver so you have something to feed your ill-tempered husband for supper when he gets home from work. These stories never end well. The corpse will come to house late at night to do you some damage. And they tend to mess with you first before dealing the final blow. Don’t be greedy. Let the dead take it with them.

The next story is called “The Telephone,” and it’s about a telephone that tends to ring from time to time.

Black Sabbath 5Some guy named Frank keeps calling some woman named Rosy (Michele Mercier), commenting on what a “beautiful body” she has.

Black Sabbath 1Now I want to make it clear that we here at The Museum of Schlock do not condone obscene phone calls. Prince-Albert-in-a-can calls are okay. Anyway, Karloff promised a ghost in this story, but we get a deranged maniac instead. Maybe he was possessed by the ghost of Frank or something. I don’t know. We’re moving on now.

The last story is called “The Wurdalak,” and it’s about vampires, Russian vampires called wurdalaks. The main difference with these vampires is they tend to go for the blood of family members.

Black Sabbath 4

So when the patriarch of the clan by the name of Gorca returns from the wilderness deathly pale and complaining about insatiable hunger, his family naturally takes him in despite the fact that they know the countryside is swarming with vampires. It doesn’t help matters that Gorca is played by Boris Karloff! Anyway when Gorca is offered succulent roast lamb only to push it away in disgust, you shouldn’t take that as a sign that he’s suddenly gone vegan. When he orders the first son to shoot his favorite dog, this isn’t some test of loyalty where he’ll intervene at the last minute to stay the canine’s execution. When he starts drinking the blood of his family members, you shouldn’t take that as a sign that he’s a vampire…oh wait. Nix that last one. Boris Karloff playing a vampire. The circle is now complete.

Five Things I Learned from Black Sabbath

  1. Creepy corpses sure like rocking chairs.
  2. Better sell that cursed ring to the pawnshop before sundown. This way the corpse should go after the pawnbroker.
  3. If your caller ID says Frank, ignore the call.
  4. Don’t let a vampire into your home even if he’s your grandfather.
  5. A disembodied talking Boris Karloff head must have been a sight to see on the big screen.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida

The Lists #3: Likely Kanye West Masturbatory Fantasies

The Lists #3 by Dan Lauer

Likely Kanye West Masturbatory Fantasies

  1. That blonde girl. The singer. He can’t remember her name. But just before he finishes she interrupts, but keeps promising she’ll let him finish.
  2. A pornographic parody of A Room With A View starring the original cast of Night Court. Particularly John Larroquette.
  3. The fundamental historical differences between Romans and Greeks.
  4. Perfectly buttered croissants. Yeah, just like that.
  5. He’s the world’s best astrophysicist. At least he would be, if THEY weren’t holding him back. Also, there are tits everywhere.
  6. Jim Jones’s final, glorious moments on Earth.
  7. Watching self, watching self, watching self masturbate. While masturbating.

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Dan Lauer

Dan Lauer (Episode 63Episode 71Episode 75, Episode 81, and Episode 93) is without academic achievements of any stripe worth mentioning. He makes his living as a technical writer. He drinks Scotch whiskey exclusively.

Heroes Never Rust #63: Lost in Vietnam (The Punisher’s Platoon)

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Heroes Never Rust #63 by Sean Ironman

Lost in Vietnam: The Punisher’s Platoon

In the first issue of Born, readers were given two points of view: Stevie Goodwin and Frank Castle. Readers only get Goodwin’s viewpoint in the second issue. Frank Castle remains as the main character. By showing him through Goodwin’s eyes, the reader can be guided into the difficult story.37_83328_0_PunisherBorn2BornThe first act has Goodwin attempting to keep his friend, Angel, off drugs. Many soldiers at Valley Forge have given up. Castle and his platoon are the only ones who still patrol. When Goodwin drags Angel out of a drug bunker, Castle approaches and asks if Angel is clean. Goodwin says yes and Castle walks off. Many readers might view Castle as a hard commander, but I don’t. He doesn’t reprimand Angel. He doesn’t argue with the men still in the bunker sitting around high. What soldiers do doesn’t matter to him. If they can shoot, then they can shoot. If they can’t, then they are no good to Castle.

Goodwin and Angel go out on patrol with Castle. Goodwin tells readers that he doesn’t have to go out with Castle’s platoon. He says he’s only there for Angel, but that doesn’t make much sense. If he let Angel get high, Angel wouldn’t be out on patrol. Goodwin wouldn’t have to look after him. “Some of us are here for our brothers, some of us for our horror stories. Some of us even still believe in duty. Americans through the looking-glass, lost in Vietnam.”

Born 2.1Goodwin is lost. There’s no right or wrong in Vietnam. Neither side are angels. No one is a war hero in Born. When the platoon comes under attack, snipers shoot down American soldiers. Goodwin and the rest of the platoon hide. Castle is the only fighter. He stands tall in the wide open and fires a sixty into the trees, taking out the snipers. As the enemy is killed, Castle doesn’t smile. He takes no joy in this. He’s shot in the arm, and to take a line from Predator, he doesn’t have time to bleed. He’s emotionless. When the Vietnamese are dead, Castle stands over their corpses. Goodwin thinks, “The black pig-iron in his hands falls silent. Try as it might, the world cannot exhale.”

American soldiers find a Vietnamese soldier, a woman, bleeding out but still alive. Goodwin and the rest stand in a circle as one American pushes the dying woman onto her stomach and rapes her. Where is the good America that Goodwin spoke of in the first issue? The American solider who rapes the woman is unimportant. A minor character introduced just for this scene. He could be any one of those soldiers. Any person who has lost their sense of morality.

Born 2.2Castle shoots the Vietnamese woman in the head and tells the American, “No rape. We’re here to kill the enemy. That’s all.” Then, he walks off. When no one is looking—well, except Goodwin—Castle drowns the rapist. Castle, in his own mind, has not lost his sense of morality. He only sees the world in black and white and will never see the gray. At the end of the issue, Goodwin states that he is scared of Castle. “Because this place is hell and we need a man like him to lead us through it, and what that says about us in unthinkable.”

Born 2.3Goodwin stays quiet, instead of telling the other soldiers. He might not like Castle, but he needs Castle. In that last scene, Castle is only shown in shadows. When he says he wanted to punish the rapist, he has no eyes. Only darkness. The cover of the second issue shows an American solder’s skull in a cracked helmet. Worms and plants cover the head. If Goodwin wants to get out of Vietnam, he needs to stick close to Castle. That’s why he goes out on the patrols. That’s why he stays quiet. Americans in Vietnam need a leader who is willing to damn himself so that right can be right and wrong can be wrong and those that do wrong can be punished. Goodwin needs to believe that right and wrong still count for somebody.

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Sean IronmanSean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

In Boozo Veritas # 63: Adventures in Halloweening Part 2

In Boozo Veritas #63 by Teege Braune

Adventures in Halloweening Part 2

The Halloweens of my childhood were more magical than Christmas. The magic of Christmas was solely in the command of Santa Claus who could dispense with it as he saw fit. I could do nothing but wait and behave as best as I was able in the hope that it would be enough to appease St. Nick so that he would bless me with his individual power. A connoisseur of presents, I did indeed value Santa Claus and his magic very much. That being said, there was a reason why Halloween and not Christmas was my favorite holiday. During Halloween, I didn’t depend on another person or entity for the magic to arrive. Far from it, the crisp, Autumn air itself was imbued with a raw energy, and anyone could access it if they only knew how. Moreover, you didn’t have to be good to participate in the spirit of Halloween. If anything, being really good seemed counterintuitive. Nevertheless, acquiring the full power of this magic required more than simple misdeeds. The means of achieving it were esoteric, and I, for one, could not have told my fellow Halloweeners exactly what was required of them, but I had a sense that there was a simplicity to its vaporous effervescence. That perhaps the secret had something to do with little more than loving Halloween. She who loved Halloween enough could be like Gilda Radner’s titular character in Witch’s Night Out and make everyone’s wishes and nightmares come true. Every year I strove to love Halloween a little more than the year before. Perhaps this year, I thought, will be the year it really happens. Perhaps this will be the year I finally turn into a werewolf. No matter how hard I tried, every year the magic of Halloween felt a little further away.

Last week David Lynch announced that he was working on season three of Twin Peaks. Season two of the weirdest, creepiest, most wonderful television show of all time left its protagonist Special Agent Dale Cooper in peril and the fate of the troubled citizens of Twin Peaks unknown. That’s a hell of a twenty-five year cliffhanger, but as tidy endings have never been Lynch’s trademark, most of us had learned to accept the ambiguity even if we never really got over it. Fire Walk With Me, while a masterpiece of a prequel, only toyed with our wounds and did little to assuage the pain. My friends’ enthusiasm for a new season of Twin Peaks saturated my facebook wall just as I was sharing “Adventures in Halloweening: Part 1,” but I didn’t care because I have never been so thrilled to be overshadowed before in my life.

Read Usman T. Malik’s short story “Resurrection Points” in Strange Horizons. The story opens with the graphic depiction of a corpse’s dissection, is narrated by Daoud, a boy with the unusual gift of a healing, life-giving touch that he has inherited from his father and mentor. Caught in the middle of a conflict between the Muslims and Christians of his community, Daoud has more power and heartache than his young age can process, and the unexpected and ambiguous ending leaves the reader with a sense of both disaster and catharsis that is spellbinding. I’m not sure that the story can properly be called horror or even fantasy, but it handles its examination of both the regenerative and destructive abilities of faith with a supernatural edge, foggy genre lines, and a literary finesse that is a thrill to read. I’m excited that Malik will be reading in Orlando for Functionally Literate along with Jeff VanderMeer next month and look forward to seeing this incredible writer in person.

Participated in a Halloween-themed Literocalypse that also included readings by Kristen Arnett, Lauren Reilly, Bekki Charbonneau, and Jack Fields. One of the highlights of the evening was Dolly Lambcock’s totally bizarre reinterpretation, à la Sharon Needles, of Lambchop’s Singalong. I closed out the night by reading an alternative ending to “Rumpelstiltskin” and my short story “Sick Fair” about a little boy whose experience at the carnival is less fun than he had anticipated. Having suffered from night terrors my entire life, the story is based on a dream I had when I was a little kid that scared me so badly I never forgot it. I had a good solid wine buzz by the time I went onstage to read that thought I saw in the back of the audience the creepy zombie wearing the same hat and trench coat from Zombietoberfest last week. He got up and snuck out the door halfway through my story. After the reading mingling in the lounge eating Halloween oreos and drinking even more wine, I saw a guy milling around in a hat and black jacket.

“I loved your zombie makeup,” I said to him. “Why did you wash it off?”

“Uh, what are you talking about?” he asked me. “Nice story, by the way.”

“Weren’t you at Zombietoberfest last week?” I said.

“What the hell is that? Sounds like fun,” he said and walked away.

I poured myself another glass of wine thinking, I probably need to drink a little less at these sorts of events.

Watched the classic hag-horror film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.

Baby Jane

Surprisingly I’d never seen this truly disturbing glance at one of the most dysfunctional families in cinematic history. Jane Hudson is one of the greatest villains in the history of horror, the credit due entirely to Bette Davis’s performance of her psychological deterioration, leaping from hateful sadist to obliviously aged, naive starlet with uncomfortable fluidity while tormenting her sister Blanche in the name of the jealousy that eats her alive. It’s nice to still be shocked and wowed now and then, especially when I start to feel like I’ve run the gamut on the scares Hollywood has to offer.

Scoured my book Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural searching for a story I read a few years ago, but of which I now can’t remember the name or author.

Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural

Narrated by a young child, the story unfolds as a family awakes in utter darkness, and as they attempt to find a light, they discover that they are trapped in some kind of otherworldly, pitch-black dungeon without exit or escape. The utterly hopeless nihilism of the story’s conclusion is unnerving to no end, but it soon became clear that it was not in the anthology I believed it to be, though the cover does have a wonderfully odd Edward Gorey illustration on it and in the process of looking for it I read some great stories like “The Professor’s Teddybear” by Theodore Sturgeon, “The Faceless Thing” by Edward D. Hoch, and “One Summer Night” by Ambrose Bierce. If any of you horror fiction fans or scary story aficionados are familiar with the tale I’m referring to, your input would be greatly appreciated.

Finished with the week with the annual staple Beetlejuice, because it’s just not Halloween without the ghost with the most. Prepared for There Will Be Words fourth Flash Fiction Spooktacular tomorrow night in which I will be subbing for my dear, overworked friend Ryan Rivas.

Finally, on Saturday The Drunken Odyssey’s Horror Movie Poetry Night will bring you a cast of fantastic local authors and their literary interpretation of their favorite scary films.

Horror Movie Poetry Night

I’m in charge of werewolf movies if you haven’t already guessed. Both readings will be held at 7:00 at the Gallery at Avalon Island, the spookiest art gallery in downtown Orlando.

Gallery At Avalon Island

The days may be upwards of eighty degrees, but the nights are filled with chilling current of Samhain!

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teegenteege Teege Braune (episode 72episode 75episode 77episode 90episode 102) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.

Areas of Fog #33: The Season of the Soul

AREAS OF FOG #33 by Will Dowd

The Season of the Soul

I love to take long Sunday morning walks in October when the wind is crisp and the leaves are tumbling down and every twenty feet or so you have to step over the viscera of a shattered pumpkin.

fall 1

This morning I was almost run over. I was distracted by a dozen crows screaming in an oak tree. It might have been a crow funeral (they do that). Anyways, an ultramarine minivan blew through a stop sign (they do that) and missed my foot by a foot.

Afterward I spent a long time fiddling with my iPod, trying to find a song for the occasion of not being flattened. I thought of Nietzsche, who preferred his music “cheerful and profound, like an October afternoon.”

Nietzsche

Nietzsche had an autumn problem. For ten years he wandered Europe like a hypochondriac Goldilocks looking for a warm, but not humid, autumnal climate. He finally settled on Turin, whose impeccable grid of paved streets allowed him to take walks despite his failing eyesight. “Wonderful clarity,” he wrote upon arriving in Turin, “autumn colors, an exquisite feeling of well-being spreading over all things.”

Of course, it was on one of these morning walks when Nietzsche encountered a broken-down carthorse being whipped. He flung his arms around the animal, sobbed violently, and never regained his sanity.

I didn’t see anything this morning to make me lose my sanity. Just some roses on their deathbeds. Just the sun, low in the sky, sliding its meager warmth like a final offer face down across a table.

RosesBut I do keep thinking of that close-call, and how my ancestors, every last foremother and forefather, survived without exception to bear children, and how those children in turn survived to bear children—an unbroken chain of human beings who never ate the wrong berry, who never missed the snake in the grass, who never misjudged the strength of a branch—or their own strength in the waves, who were never the friend drowned in the creek, always the friend who ran home, dripping, to tell about it, who were never the mourned, always the mourning, forever, all the way back, pin balanced on pin, the ultimate winning streak, the inconceivable, astonishing luck of it.

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Will Dowd Author Photo Autumn

Will Dowd (episode 91episode 104) is a freelance writer based outside Boston. He received an MFA from New York University and an MS from MIT. His writing has appeared in Barrow Street, Post Road, Skeptic Magazine, and NPR.org.

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