"Manuscripts don't burn"
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Something tumbled off in the distance. Not too distant, the hold wasn’t immense, but it didn’t feel immediately close. Then again, the echoes of the chamber were deceptive with regards to noise.
“Mr. Mo?” Jim tried to shout, but found that his words were coming out in a feeble whisper.
He heard a clank, like something metal or wood striking the deck, followed immediately by a squishy sound like a bag of peeled oranges being dragged across the floor. Jim shrank to the deck like a turtle retreating into its shell. The noise recurred. He was not alone in the hold.
“Captain?” Tuan Jim said, a little louder this time, “Mr. Mo? Anybody?”
His voice sounded pitiably small in the dark chamber, but it was certainly loud enough to draw the attention of…whatever. A clank followed a squish, then again. Step. Drag. Step. Drag.
Slowly, pressing his hand to the wall, Jim forced himself to his feet. He pressed his back to the bulkhead and backed away from the sound (or what he perceived to be away from it…who could tell?) and snuck along the wall taking special care not to step hard.
Step. Drag. Step. Drag.
Tuan Jim paused mid-step and listened to the empty silence so hard he could feel his ears flaring. In a way, he almost wanted to hear that telltale moan pierce the air so he would at least know what he was dealing with. A little tiny part of him held out hope that it was an animal or one of the regular crewmembers pulling a hazing prank on him. Not enough that his hackles were lowered any, but enough that he had a distant outside hope in his heart that he might not be about to be devoured by some infernal man-devil.
But there was no moan. No sound of breathing, labored or otherwise. No scratching or pecking of an animal. Just that infernal step followed by that endless drag. Step. Drag.
Jim decided there was nothing for it. He plunged his hand into his pocket and fumbled around until he came out with a small cardboard box of matches, the windproof/waterproof type that cost a little extra but always turned out to be worth it when a squall was blowing out everybody else’s pipes and cigarettes. He only had three matches left. He didn’t want to do it, didn’t want to signal his invisible enemy, couldn’t, knew it was death to do it, a guaranteed death sentence from anything that wasn’t a hoax, but he had to know, it was eating at him, gnawing at him, he couldn’t die without knowing, he’d rather know and die than anything else and suddenly he struck the match.
Two tiny glittering green eyes reflected the matchlight deep in the black of its pupils. Jim was mesmerized by those eyes, but they weren’t the dull, gray, empty abscesses of a walking corpse. In fact, they were bare centimeters from the ground and…
“Shit!” Jim shouted and jumped back, although the rat darted off in the opposite direction.
So it wasn’t rabid. Thank God for small favors. It did drop the morsel it was feasting on, though. A human trachea. Jim wouldn’t have recognized the tube for anything more than an organ if a bit of a skin wasn’t still attached revealing an Adam’s Apple, like the whole throat had been gnawed away and ripped out together. Jim bent over and, with a shaking hand, plucked the gruesome vermin delicacy from the floor. The dried, rotting skin still bore a recognizable tattoo, a butterfly.
“Mr. Papillon?” Jim said.
A puff of air on the back of his neck alerted him to the presence of the creature. He did a quarter of a somersault away and saw Papi, his throat gouged out and teeth outlined with dripping ichor, desperately and violently attempting to groan in triumph without a throat. In the same instant, the flame reached his finger.
“Ahh!” Jim shouted, dropping the match and waving his arm wildly in the air to ward off the pain.
The blackness closed back in like the ocean claiming a castaway. Jim felt Papi reach out and clutch at his clothes. He fell almost totally backwards, and grunted as he fell on his coccyx. Then the horrible sound of the step-drag began again, and for the first time Tuan Jim knew what it was: the Papi-thing throwing his crutches forward and then dragging his desiccated leg along with it. Without a leg, the creature was incapable of regular ambulation, or even of Papi’s crippled movement, but it had found its own brutish way of pursuing what prey was down there. And right now that prey was the poor swabbie Tuan Jim.
Jim felt the thing’s hands, stronger even than Papi’s had been in life, scrabbling and clawing at him. It caught a good lock of his hair and began to pull. At first Jim began to shout, but thought better of it, deciding it wasn’t a dignified way to die, even for a simple swabbie like himself. Breathing deeply he reached out, felt the twisted bamboo of the former Papi’s crutches and with a swift kick knocked the crutches out from under it.
It was the worst pain he had ever felt in his life. The creature fell with the full weight of its carcass, but it refused to let go of Papi’s hair. He reached up and felt his scalp bleeding, a big chunk missing. No time to worry about that now, except inasmuch as the trail of blood would no doubt attract the creature. And the rats. But, then again, the creature was fully hobbled now and would be easier to deal with.
Jim took a few steps in what he assumed was a safe direction and lit another match. The Papi-thing was on the floor, lunging like a swimmer trying to use one leg to kick itself forward, and pulling itself with its arms. It continued to gnash its teeth and attempt to hiss, but no noise emerged from its empty palate. Finally watching how much was left of his match, Jim looked around, trying to survey the situation.
Just outside of the circle of light his match was generating, dozens of little eyes glowed. Jim shuddered at the thought of all those rats feasting on the meager stores they had gathered from the island before leaving and fishing since. They were going to starve because of these unwanted stowaways. And speaking of unwanted stowaways, Papi seemed to have given up on his theories of a sunbaked island paradise and snuck aboard.
As the match began to flicker, Jim chocked up on the shaft (if choking up was the right word for a shaft so tiny) and began to look around for something to use. There was hardly anything except their long term stores. Nothing really headsmash-worthy. Mostly tropical fruits, some edible grasses and salted fish and crab. He was actually standing next to the last of the canned stores from the Sulaco.
The match went out. All but silent, Papi was still scrabbling along the floor. Jim sighed deeply. His next match was the last. He took in a long breath, knew his composure would be fine, and lit it. Papi was scrabbling at his shoe. He grabbed a jar of peanut butter out of the last of the Sulaco’s stores and scooped about half of it out onto Papi’s head and into his gnawing mouth and along his missing neck. He glanced at the rats.
“All right,” he said, “He’s all yours.”
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Nodding, and lowering the pistols he had been so gungho to carry only scant moments before, Candiru ducked and bobbed back down into the hold. Martigan returned to check on Mo. The mechanic seemed to be falling into what Martigan would otherwise have described as shock, but there seemed to be no physical malady. Great. Now his crew would be terrified and no good to defend themselves, he had to dress down his first mate in the middle of a supernatural pirate attack, and his chief engineer was a vegetable.
“Things are looking up,” Howling Mad Martigan said to no one in particular.
One of the creatures, a Hawaiian shirt-clad former tourist with what seemed to be an old broken camera around his neck, staggered to the front of the line, clutching at Mo’s shirt and pressing his pulsing black tongue against the inside of his jar. Howling Mad leveled his pistol at the thing’s head, cocked his head to the side to avoid the ricochet, and squeezed the trigger.
Martigan dropped the empty pistol to the deck and snatched the flare gun out of Mo’s caught hand. He had to actually grab the creature by the collar and use two fingers to separate the glass jar from the creature’s skin to leave enough room to jam the flare gun into the gap.
“Stand back!” Martigan yelled, shoving Mo back harshly.
The flare went off and the captain had to jump away from the heat, leaving the flare gun jammed within the creature’s jar.
“Damn it!” Martigan snapped, sucking on his finger.
The creature stood there, holding a scrap of Mo’s shirt. The flare burst inside the jar, presenting the two sailors with a magnificent fireworks show in a bottle. The creature seemed to be screaming or howling, trying in vain to follow the swarm of spiraling flame red sparks as they flew about in the contained maelstrom around its head.
Its eyes melted, literally melted before Martigan’s eyes, spilling out of their sockets and leaving a trail of white mucous down the creature’s slowly heat evaporating cheek. The inside of the jar turned black with carbon, and for a split second nothing was visible, until the jar visibly cracked and exploded outwards in every direction. Martigan grabbed the mechanic and pulled him down to the deck, throwing himself over his crewmember to shield him as the glass tinkled down around them, an out-of-season snowstorm in a strange tropical summer.
Looking up, Martigan saw the creature’s head was on fire, flames licking the horizon like Ghost Rider, and tiny, slowly caramelizing shards of glass forming a criss-crossing network of now knobs, now warts all along its face. Then, finally, either a glass shard pierced the skull or the fire finally sucked all the oxygen out of its brain, and it collapsed to the ground in a spent, sooty heap.
Martigan looked down at the man he was straddling.
“Well,” Mo said, “That’s two down.”
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Monday, October 4, 2010
That being said, I'll be out of the loop with the podcast until at least until November 2. And once November comes around, you know what time it is. Anybody joining me for NaNo this year? My handle will still be Redleg. I expect a few updates to the blog during November, but, alas, still no manuscript burning, just a few how-ya-doins regarding the month of Hell. To be fair, I'm kind of looking forward to it. I've hardly written anything this year. I've concentrated on querying, and that's more soul-sucking that anything I've ever been able to imagine. I did start working on a little remake of "The Seventh Seal" but I kind of got stuck on the big lightsaber battle between Antonius Block and Death (and if you think there's any hint of tongue-in-cheek in that statement, then you don't know me at all.) But, alack, "The Eighth Seal" is not a novel, but a screenplay, and novels must as the devil drives. I've got a few ideas on tap, and if you are so inclined, you can tell me what you would most prefer to see exist come the end of November. Although, as usual, decision will be made by fiat and not in any kind of democratic fashion.
a) The Ghoul Archipelago - the story of a freighter that gets caught up in the internal politics of a zombie-worshiping trading nation established by pirates in Maritime Southeast Asia.
b) The Party - a group of Dungeons and Dragons players decide to take up baseball bats and fireworks and go off for a real adventure, to walk the earth and help the hopeless.
c) American Bolshevik - the early adventures of Sidney Graves, the man who liberated Puerto Rico and established the People's Militia of Central Pennsylvania in the wake of the Second American Revolution.
Or, just spitball your own ideas. What the hell. I've never written a novel-for-hire before. So, hey, we'll see you all again in November. Thanks for sticking by me.
Friday, October 1, 2010
That must be the magician.
Dat’s me. You men should honor your bargains. Now instead you die and join my army. I t’ink maybe you civil war become my doll factory.
You saying he started all of this?
Kill the son of a bitch.
The Bokor growls and staggers forward, faster than the average zombie. In a flurry of shots, the Bokor falls to the ground dead. After a moment, the two old enemies exchange a glance and step outside. Zombie corpses litter the streets, but it seems as though the threat is over. Miguel falls to his knees and takes off his sombrero.
It’s over. It’s finally over.
Suddenly there are loud explosions off in the distance. Miguel stands back up.
It sounds like artillery.
You mean there’s a battle going on?
There is a pregnant pause.
You know, Miguel, I’ve been thinking. When Taylor got up, and your man Bernardo…the magician wasn’t there. Maybe he doesn’t need to be there. Maybe now that his spell has started, anyone that dies…
Don’t say that. Don’t say that. He’s dead, so the spell is broken. Just be happy it’s over.
Suddenly, a gang of zombies, all former Union soldiers, staggers into town from one direction. Miguel and Denver pull their guns out. Moans from behind them draw their attention. They turn, and a gang of Confederate soldier zombies staggers into town from the other direction, led by the zombified version of Denver’s wife, Grace.
Denver falls to his knees crying. Miguel tries to shoot at the literal army of zombies, but to no avail. They are overwhelmed. Denver looks up lovingly as his wife looms over him. He holds out his hands to stroke her face. Baring her teeth, she lunges forward and smash cut to black.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Denver wraps his arms around Miguel’s chest and forcibly holds him back.
They’re already dead!
Bernardo muerte? Bernardo muerte!
The zombies take notice of them and began to swarm around them. Firing a few shots, and pulling Miguel, Denver re-enters the saloon.
Monday, September 27, 2010
That’s the last of them.
Have you seen any women?
A few. Why?
My wife…nothing. I just hope that she made it out of town alive.
Tentatively, but with a true compassion born of the brotherhood of combat, Miguel puts his arm on Denver’s shoulder.
Denver, I’m sure she did.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Vazquez shakily holds his cross as the three half-nude zombie advance on him
You are ungodly creatures. And you seek ungodly acts. No doubt. But I will not be tempted.
The zombies moan non-committally. Vazquez backs up to the ladder and struggles to climb down one-handed. Suddenly he stops as zombie Chapelle, with his neck distended so far that his head flaps against his shoulder, wraps his arms around him. Vazquez screams as Chapelle bites into his shoulder, using his free hand to push his head into the proper spot, since it won’t move on its own.
Vazquez presses the cross against Chapelle’s forehead, which causes the zombie to fall back off the ladder, truly dead. Vazquez lets the cross drop and dangle around his neck, breathing hard and struggling to hold on to the ladder. Suddenly, the three topless Petticoat zombies reach down and grab him, struggling, pulling him up to the water tower.
They devour and rip apart Vazquez on top of the watertower, although to an untrained eye it would look quite a bit like a lovely orgy. When the screaming stops, one of the zombies rips off Vazquez’s cock and balls and holds it aloft.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
What do you think?
I don’t know if we can take them.
They stand back to back as zombies pour out from every nook and cranny of the town.
Never thought I’d die back to back with a wetback.
Fuck you, gringo.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Denver and Miguel start shooting at the zombies as they stagger towards them.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
On top of the watertower, Vazquez looks down on the town with consternation in his face. Chapelle pulls himself up alongside him. He has a big smile on his face.
I say, this is quite bracing, isn’t it?
I don’t think that’s the word I would use, Mr. Chapelle.
A loud moaning comes from behind them. A look of utter shock crosses the faces of both men simultaneously. They turn and three topless beauties, a la Petticoat Junction, emerge from the water tower. The waterlogged zombies reach towards them, half maliciously, half lasciviously.
Chapelle staggers backwards against the rickety wooden guardrail, which instantly gives way. He tumbles to the ground and lands face first, twisting his neck into a horrendous curve.
Vazquez holds up the cross he wears, which causes the Petticoat zombies to hiss and back away slightly.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Father, you’d better wait up there until the fighting’s over.
God be with you, men.
Vazquez starts to climb up.
What about me?
Denver looks him up and down with disgust.
Better take Asshole, Esquire with you, padre.
Quite right. Bon chance, gentlemen.
Chapelle climbs up after the priest. Denver takes a deep breath. The four gunslingers walk abreast down the streets of the town. A tumbleweed blows by. A zombie gunslinger emerges. The four shoot him down.
Miguel! Come with me. We’ll check out the saloon. Taylor, Bernardo, cover us.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Denver looks up.
You were a thousand miles away.
Denver looks down at his remaining bullets, laid out before him. Some have crosses carved into them. He picks one up and begins carving a cross into it.
Sorry, just picking cotton, I suppose.
Taylor and Bernardo are also carving crosses into their bullets. Miguel kisses each of his shotgun shells and makes the sign of the cross over it. Chapelle comes up with a canteen full of water and hands it to Vazquez. Vazquez begins to bless the water. Miguel holds out a pistol to Chapelle. Chapelle pushes it away.
Thank you, I don’t like firearms. The only weapon I like to employ is this one.
Chapelle points at his head. Miguel shrugs.
Hold out your weapons.
The four gunfighters hold out their weapons towards Vazquez.
May God forgive me for this.
Vazquez sprinkles the weapons with holy water and blesses them.
Now we’re holy warriors.
Come on, let’s find the army.
I’m afraid we’ll have to go through town for that.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Same flashback. Now the new couple is in their bedroom. Grace, still in her wedding dress, is sitting on the edge of the bed crying.
I don’t understand! Why do you have to go fight those men? Just come with me on our honeymoon and forget about Miguel Diaz and his gang.
I don’t expect you to understand, Grace, but this is something I have to do. I can’t let those monsters kill in everyone in this town because I wanted happiness for myself. There’s responsibility that comes with this tin star.
There’s responsibility that comes with this wedding ring, too. If you go…if you face those murderers…I won’t be waiting for you when you come back.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The graveyard. A zombie vulture is perched on a tree. It flaps its skeletal wings. The church doors open and the gang steps out. They are arranged like a mass processional. Bernardo is out front, holding a silver cross out trepidaciously. Behind him come Miguel and Denver. Denver is holding a salt shaker and his gun. Miguel has a rosary wrapped around his gun. Chapelle is holding a torch. Taylor is carrying a gilded bible, and behind him comes Vazquez, unarmed, but in his most formal vestments and carrying a plate of wafers and a chalice of wine. The zombies begin to stagger towards them.
Here, here, open it boy.
I don’t know, reverend…
It’s father. And just trust in the Lord. Hold the book open.
Taylor holds the book open for Vazquez. Vazquez begins saying the communion.
Denver shoots a zombie and then sprays salt in its face. The zombie falls over dead, his face bubbling like a slug.
In the name of the Father…
Miguel shoots one of the zombies and it dies.
And of the Son…
Miguel shoots another zombie and it dies.
And the Holy Spirit!
Miguel shoots a third zombie and it falls. Miguel holds up the rosary he had wrapped around his pistol.
So do holy objects.
Bernardo presses his crucifix to the forehead of a zombie. The zombie falls down, with the form of the crucifix burned into its forehead. Chapelle strikes a zombie with his torch.
Oh. Terribly sorry.
Chapelle lights the zombie’s rags on fire. The flaming zombie staggers away, and lights a few other zombies in his wild flailing.
Got a light? (chuckles) Hey, I lit this zombie on fire, and then I asked him if he had a light? You see, as though I wanted him to light to my cigarette, but really he was on fire.
I’m going to shoot him.
Don’t. Not yet, anyway.
A zombie staggers towards Taylor and Vazquez. Vazquez is still saying communion. Taylor starts to panic.
Be firm, my son.
Vazquez continues. Taylor continues shaking, but does not run. Chapelle is still burning zombies. Some of them stagger through the doors of the church, and the church lights on fire.
Oh no…no, no!
Chapelle drops his torch and runs inside to try to stamp out the fire. Miguel is firing two fisted, with a rosary wrapped around each pistol. He seems to be enjoying himself, and going a little nuts.
Go to Hell you undead motherfuckers!
Even Denver is feeling a little better.
Denver sprays some salt on a zombie that was about to eat Miguel.
Miguel shoots at Denver. He wasn’t actually shooting at Denver, but at a zombie right behind him that was just about to eat him.
Now we’re even.
Suddenly a zombie grabs Miguel’s shoulder. Miguel turns and tries to shoot, but he is out of bullets. He takes one of the rosaries and jams it into the zombie’s mouth. The zombie turns, staggers away, and explodes into flames. Miguel holds up his rosary and begins singing “Ave Maria” and the zombies begin to run away from him. The zombies are about to eat Taylor and Vazquez. Vazquez has finished the mass.
In nomine Patre et fili et spiritus sanctis! We’re done, boy.
Taylor slams the book closed and holds it up to the nearest zombie, which staggers away. Vazquez sprays wine on the zombies and they begin to die. He presses a communion wafer into the mouth of one of the zombies and it dies.
The power of Christ destroys your evil!
Denver shakes his salt shaker at a zombie, but he is out of salt. Miguel helps him by putting his rosary around the zombie’s neck. The zombie dies. Taylor looks around. All of the zombies are scattered around, and destroyed.
Where’s the Bokor? We didn’t get the Bokor.
Suddenly, a huge flame burst out of the church. The church is really burning down now. Chapelle staggers out, covered with soot and coughing. He collapses into Vazquez’s arms.
I’m sorry, father. I tried to stop the fire.
It’s not your fault, my son.
Vazquez helps Chapelle to the ground.
What do we do now?
I think if we kill the Bokor, all the zombies will disappear.
So, what? You want to go hunting for that Bokor? With what? There’s no kerosene. I’m out of salt.
And we don’t have any more holy objects. The church is gone.
We have only one chance. We have to get to one of the armies. Maybe an army could hunt down that Bokor, but not us.
Ok, fine. We go to the armies. But how we going to get there? We got nothing to defend ourselves with.
I have an idea. We can make your weapons holy.
“Iustum enim est bellum quibus necessarium, et pia arma ubi nulla nisi in armis spes est.”
“Because a necessary war is a just war and where there is hope only in arms, those arms are holy.”
Chapelle sits up.
Normally, I could not in good conscience bless a weapon. But I think God will make an exception in this case.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
They all enter the church.
Is anybody here? Padre?
Miguel shrugs. They close and bar the door.
We should be safe here. This whole place is holy. We’ll just wait it out here.
No, we can’t stay here. We’ve got to the warn the army.
Which one? There are Northerners and Southerners camped out there.
It doesn’t matter. What will the army do? They can’t do any more than we can do. They’ve got the same bullets we do.
Well, what do you suggest, Miguel?
Simple. We wait in here until morning. I bet the daylight kills them.
Yeah, he might be right. I think I heard that zombies can’t go outside in the daylight.
You think? You think? And what if you’re both wrong? What if they’re just a little uglier in the daylight? They could be in Arizona by tomorrow morning, and by next week they could be in New York. We’ve got to go tell the armies, either one, or both of them. They’ve got to know.
Come on, Denver, even you’re not stupid enough to believe that will help. We stay here tonight.
Denver pulls his pistol and sticks it in Miguel’s face. Miguel puts his hand on his own pistol, but knows better than to draw it.
Listen, you fucking spick…
Stop swearing in church!
You fucking spick! You don’t give the orders around here! And you don’t to talk to me like I’m one of your greasy bandito fuck buddies!
You’d better stop screaming and start thinking, Denver. You think either the Rebs or the Yanks will believe your crazy story about the dead coming back to life? I don’t even wholly believe, and I was there. They gonna call you crazy, they gonna call you a spy, then they gonna shoot you. I agree with you something should be done. And when the armies see the zombies for themselves, then they do something. But for us, the only safe thing to do is to camp out here, where we know we’re safe.
You mean where we’re sitting ducks. Look out there.
Denver points out the window. There is a graveyard around the church.
There are going to be a lot of those things pounding on the doors soon.
They can pound all they want, but they won’t come in.
You think they won’t come in! You guess they won’t come in! But what if you’re wrong?
Maybe I am wrong! But I know for a fact that you’re wrong!
Denver cocks his pistol. Suddenly the priest, FATHER VAZQUEZ, comes into the church from the rectory, carrying a candle.
What in the name of God is going on here?
Bernardo crosses himself. Denver grudgingly lowers his pistol.
Forgive us, padre.
Listen, reverend, I know it looks bad, but you don’t understand. There is evil out there…
The only kind of evil I see is in here! Men trying to hurt one another! That is the only kind of evil there is! And in the house of God. You men should be ashamed of yourselves. Ashamed!
Miguel takes off his pistol belt and hands it to the priest. Denver grudgingly holsters his own pistol.
Padre, I would like to confess my sins. But there is someone in the booth.
They all look over at the confessional. Vazquez walks over and opens the door. A man tumbles forward out of it. He was apparently hiding and leaned up against the door to eavesdrop on them. He is extremely well dressed, tall and skinny, wearing a derby and a pinstripe suit. He stands up and dusts himself off. He tries to act dignified, but with little success. This is MR. CHAPPELLE.
Look at all these people in my church. Why don’t you people ever come out on Sundays?
And who the hell are you?
Oh, uh, my name is Mr. Chappelle, I am a lawyer from Pennsylvania. I was educated at Harvard law. Mr. Immanuel Port hired me to come out West and protect his interests from the squatters on his property.
Port. You mean that fat robber baron is trying to make it legal to shoot the settlers where he wants to put his railroad.
Well…yes. And it’s perfectly within his rights, I might add.
But is it right?
Well, who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong?
What are you doing in my church? What are all of you doing in my church?
Well, my wagon was overturned and my driver was killed. I thought at first that it was bandits, or even Confederates, but when I got out I saw that it was these…creatures. They looked like humans but…
But not breathing.
Well…yes. Dead men. Eating. My driver and the horses. I ran from them and I kept running until I got here and they wouldn’t follow me into the church.
I told you.
You men…saw the same thing?
I saw one of my deputies get shot and keep walking. I saw him get stabbed and keep walking. I saw him get decapitated and keep walking.
Bernardo is looking out the window.
Then there is no way to kill them?
You can’t kill what’s already dead.
There are ways to stop them. Salt…fire…holy objects.
Reverend, do you have any salt or kerosene?
I may have a little. But there are holy objects all around here.
I’m not going to use that religious mumbo jumbo unless I have to.
You think the Lord is some kind of joke?
No, I don’t think there’s a Lord at all. But I do know there are dead men walking and killing, and we need to burn them.
You gringo son of a whore…
Miguel pulls his pistol from the belt that Vazquez is holding and points it at Denver. Denver draws his own and points it. Vazquez jumps in between them.
Stop this! Now!
They all stop and turn to look at Bernardo.
They’re waiting for us.
Slowly, the others move towards the window. There are several empty graves and zombies staggering around with shovels, digging up the graves. The Bokor is standing there, and so is Brainfree. The Bokor is looking, with quiet malice, at the men in the window. He hands Brainfree a shovel and Brainfree begins digging up another grave. The Bokor licks the edge of a knife so that he leaves blood on the blade. Then he sprinkles the blood onto the grave Brainfree is digging up.
That must be the Bokor.
We’d better…do something.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Miguel, Bernardo, Denver, and Taylor hurry breathlessly into the desert.
Stop, stop. We don’t know where we’re going, we don’t know what to do.
What the hell are those things? What the hell happened to Bob?
You ask me like I know.
Well you seem to know more about this than I do. You knew how to deal with those three things.
Yeah, I know how to fight when something’s trying to kill me. Doesn’t mean I know what I’m fighting. I never saw anything like it before. I must’ve unloaded two pistols into each of them and they didn’t stop coming.
I cut off Bob’s head and stabbed him and he was still alive when I left.
They’re not alive. I don’t know what they are, but they’re not alive.
I know what they are.
Everyone stops and looks at Taylor. Taylor is white and shaking. Clearly shock has set in.
Well, talk, little boy.
Miguel slaps Taylor. Denver grabs Miguel’s wrist and holds it hard.
Don’t you ever touch him, spick.
I’m trying to help him. Trying to snap him out of it. He’s dazed, see.
Miguel snaps his fingers several times in front of Taylor’s face, eliciting no response. Denver goes up to Taylor, sits him down and throws his coat around the boy. Miguel and Bernardo gather around.
It’s ok, James. You can talk.
Taylor swallows. Obviously it is a great effort for him to speak of this matter.
I heard these stories, growing up in New Orleans, from the Haitians. They said there were these magicians back in Haiti that could do lots of things. There were good magicians that did things like cast out demons or heal the sick. But there were also bad magicians called Bokors and they…they…
Miguel is loading his gun.
They raised the dead. I’ve heard this story, too.
Miguel snaps his revolver together. Taylor swallows and nods.
They’re called zombies. A zombie will be the Bokor’s slave as long as he’s alive, but if the Bokor dies then they just kill. They kill and the people they kill become zombies. It’s like scarlet fever. I never believed in zombies, but…I just saw it.
Did they ever say how to stop these zombies?
Fire…salt…holy things. The Bokors hate God, they hate him with a passion. They always kill missionaries.
So we’ll be safe there?
They all look up. Bernardo points to a gorgeous Catholic church.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Hey, gringo, truce, ok?
Sounds good to me. Where are we going?
To church, man, to church!
The four former enemies haul ass down the street and disappear. Meanwhile, Zombie Bob manages to pull himself out of the dirt, but the bowie knife is still a big part of his anatomy. He grabs his head and staggers down the street where he meets the other three zombies. The four of them stagger into the saloon and walk up to the bar. The saloon is pretty well full, and the bartender is wiping down the counter. The bartender seems not to notice that they are zombies and that Zombie Bob is carrying his head.
Well, good evening, gentlemen, what can I do for you?
The zombies growl. The bartender suddenly starts to get scared.
How about some beers?
The bartender puts four beers down on the counter. The zombies all take them and begin drinking, including Zombie Bob who must pour the beer into his mouth. The zombies begin wandering around the saloon, killing people and drinking their beers. As the people die, they too become zombies. After a little while, the bartender whistles sharply.
Last call. I don’t care where you go, but you can’t sleep here.
Groaning and mumbling angrily, the barful of zombies staggers out into the street and begins terrorizing the populace. The bartender bolts the door.
Friday, August 20, 2010
About a second away from becoming zombie chum, Miguel finally clicks his revolver together and starts firing at the two zombies marching towards him. They look at each other, then look back at Miguel and swipe at him, but he ducks out of the way under their arms, and out into the street. From the street, he fires two more shots, one at each of them, but realizes quickly how pointless it is. He turns and sees Bernardo shooting at Juan’s corpse. He rushes down the alley, cold-cocks the zombie, grabs Bernardo, and drags him out into the street. The zombies laboriously pursue them.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
Are they shooting at each other?
Sounds like it.
Why the fuck would they…
Taylor starts screaming as the zombie Dylan grabs his arm and twists it like a pretzel. Denver steps forward, kicks Zombie Bob off of Taylor, and puts a rifle shot into his face. Unperturbed, Zombie Bob starts to get up again.
Taylor, give me your knife.
Horrified by his shattered arm, Taylor stands there, hyperventilating.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Juan! Juan! Over here, man!
Juan turns, sees them, and staggers towards them. When he finally gets there, he stumbles into Pacifico with his arms out (the way zombies tend to do.)
Hey, don’t try to hug me, man.
All right, you big goofball, give me a hug.
Pacifico throws down his pistol and hugs the zombie Juan. Juan hugs back, and starts to crush Pacifico.
Juan takes a big bite out of Pacifico’s face and then snaps his back. Bernardo, spooked, jumps back and starts firing his pistol at Juan. Juan drops Pacifico’s body, and keeps coming, despite the bullets ripping his flesh apart.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
You son of a whore!
Miguel starts going wild, firing down the street, forcing Denver and Taylor to jump out of the way down an alley, with the body of Dylan. After a minute, Miguel runs out of ammunition, but keeps clicking. He turns around. Tuco and Benedito have both stood up, and, although they have gaping holes in their chests, they seem all right.
Tuco! Benedito! You’re alive!
Tuco and Benedito suddenly bare their teeth, stick out their arms and lumber towards Miguel.
Miguel struggles to reload his pistol, but it is especially tricky as he has been spooked by the two zombies. He drops some of his bullets and has to bend over to pick them up.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
JOHN DENVER, an aging sheriff, looks out of the window of his office and sees Miguel’s men walking down the street. His office has no light except for a single candle. Denver is well-dressed, almost like an Easterner, but still a down-home boy. He is like the typical sheriff about ready to turn in his tin star when he is drawn into the business once again. He is obviously prepared for Miguel, as he is holding a rifle in his hands. He stands up. He turns to his two deputies, JAMES TAYLOR and BOB DYLAN.
Well boys, they’re coming. It looks like we’re a bit out-numbered, but we’ve faced worse.
Dylan is composed and professional, but Taylor is jittery and nervous.
Let’s do it.
Denver and Dylan both walk towards the door. Taylor is kind of fumbling with his pistol.
Wait, now, uh, maybe we should see what they do first. Maybe I’ll just wait here.
If you want to be here alone when they get here, be my guest.
Spooked, Taylor jumps up and follows the other two out. Out on the street, the banditos stop. The law and the outlaws stare each other down from opposite end of the street. A few of the townspeople in their pajamas are watching the showdown.
Miguel, I think you’d better saddle up and ride back to Mexico.
Miguel strokes his moustache as if in thought.
No, sheriff, I think you ride out of town. Maybe back East where they appreciate pussies like you.
Denver steps forward.
You’re asking for it, spick.
Blow me, gringo.
The two sides open fire. Juan is killed almost instantly. The rest of them duck into cover and continue firing at each other. Juan stands back up.
He’s still alive! Shoot him!
All three of the lawmen shoot at Juan, and although they hit him several times, he keeps walking forward. As he stumbles forward, rigor mortis begins to set in and he moves gradually slower and slower.
What the fuck…
Distracted, Dylan is suddenly struck in the head viciously by a bullet. His head snaps backwards and he falls.
Bob! You bastards!
Denver walks across the street, stepping into full view, full of rage, and shoots at the banditos. He hits Tuco and Benedito, killing them both.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
(I'm allowing time for you to panic, Glenn Beck style.)
Yes, that's right, if you're an ordinary civilian you have no idea what i'm talking about, but if you are a member (real or aspirational) of the publishing industry you are nodding in grim agreement. "Too true," you're saying, "I've read countless stories about the death knells of the book as a thing." And right you are about the phenomenon, and far be it for me to have an opinion on the matter, but here's my opinion on the matter:
I think it's bullshit.
Now, if you know me in real life (or, indeed, really even from this blog) you know that I'm a contrarian. But in this case I'm not being contrary just for the hellz of it. I just think it's kind of a stupid concept. The basic conceit is this: with the advent of e-readers, due to basic pricing and access realities, people will no longer buy "dinosaur" books from brick and mortar "stores." Furthermore, since people just plain don't read anymore, at least, not books, the novel is dead and only super-ridiculous bestsellers by Dan Brown will ever be published again.
I'm exagerrating a bit, but if you know what I'm talking about, you know what I'm talking about, and if you don't, that's the Reader's Digest version. ("Reader's Digest version?" What a quaint and soon-to-be-archaic expression!)
So, here are my thoughts. First of all, I don't think the publishing industry is dead or really even dying, but just changing. And not like, to a solely e-books distribution system, that's bullshit. "Real" books will be around forever and not because of their inherent value or any kind of reason of their mystique, but simply because they fill a niche. Now, don't get me wrong, that niche is changing. As recently as, say, twenty years ago, you had three or four options for entertainment at your house: read a book, watch TV, play a video game, or do some knitting or some other crafty bullshit. That was what people did. So books sold like gangbusters. It was like 1/4 of what you could do at home.
Now the computer has eclipsed virtually all of what you can do at home. If you're in my generation you probably spend more time on the computer than almost anything else when you're at home, including watching TV, which used to be your baseline level of entertainment for idiots. Back then there was a preconception (tell me your parents didn't tell you this a hundred times a year) that smart people read and stupid people watched TV, given a choice. Now smart people and stupid people use the internet and there's just not much time for reading at home. Even if you want to, the new idiot's lantern will suck you in as soon as you sit down with a book.
"But, Redleg," you're saying, "Doesn't this all just prove the party line? That nobody reads anymore and publishing is dying and blah blah blah?" Quiet with your leading questions, straw man. That is true, but this is leading me into a greater point: radio. "Radio isn't a point," you reply, "It's just a word." Shut up, straw man, I'm trying to make a point here. What did people in the '30s do at home? Pretty much listen to the radio or die of cholera. Nowadays, when was the last time you listened to the radio at home? Quite possibly never. I don't think I even have a radio in my house. But when was the last time you listened to radio PERIOD? I'd wager earlier today, if not right now. Because, if you're reading this at work, you've probably got a radio on in the background, and if not presently, you almost certainly listened to the radio during your commute this morning.
So what does any of this have to do with anything? Simple. Books are the new radio. Everyone said when television came along that radio would just disappear. Well, it didn't, because it still had a niche, filling our cars and workplaces with smooth oldies and mindless DJ blather. Similarly, books still have a niche. When was the last time you took your laptop on the beach? Or a plane? (Well, okay, maybe you did, but God, what a sad person you are if that's what you do.) Books are just going to shift to the left a little bit.
"Well, okay," you're saying at this point, "I get why maybe the novel isn't a dead art form, because it's like a modern day radio and people still want it, only in different place. But what about the way you get it? Won't everyone just get e-readers?"
Well, first of all, I want you to ask yourself a question. When was the last time you met someone who owned an e-reader? Okay, truth be told, if you're a publishing industry professional, you damn well may know someone like that. But a real, regular, honest-to-God person who just went out and bought it? I don't know anyone like that. Do you? Probably not. And here's the reason:
WE ALL HAVE OUR HEADS SO FAR UP OUR OWN ASSES WE THINK THAT EVERYBODY CARES ABOUT E-READERS
Sorry. This is really the point of the whole article here. If you're a blogger or a writer or an agent or whatever, you've spent so long over the past year or so worrying about e-readers that you probably didn't notice that nobody in the general public gives a shit. And you know why? For the same reason the Kin failed. It's so specific it's useless. Nobody wants one. Nobody owns one. Sorry to burst all your publishing industry myths, there, guys. People might buy e-books when they can get it on their iPhones, but as it stands right now, why are you going to carry around a Nook, a Kin, a GPS, and a cell phone for a bunch of individual functions when your smart phone can do it all on one?
So, sure, e-books will take off to some extent. To the extent that people love fancy new technologies and will buy anything. But when you get down to brass tacks, have you ever bought your uncle a software download for Christmas? Have you ever gone to school and the teacher said, "Open your .pdf files to page 7?"
Anyway, that's my useless opinion and you're all welcome to it. Back to the story on Friday.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I’ve missed you so much. I can’t live without you. You know I would damn my soul to Perdition just to see you again. Why don’t you talk?
Port’s wife doesn’t talk but she leans forward and they kiss. Suddenly, Port’s eyes get wide. She is biting his tongue. Port tries to scream and pull away, but when he does, she has bitten off his tongue. Port scrambles out of the bed and tries to scream, but, once again, no tongue. His wife lurches after him, her lips spattered with blood. He locks the door and hurries out into the mansion. He rushes into his room where there is a glass guncase. He fumbles for a key, but can’t find one, so he just shatters the glass and pulls a rifle out of the case. He hurries back to his wife’s room, but the door has been broken open. He looks around, and there is a bead of sweat rolling down his face. He tries to talk but, once again, no tongue. Suddenly he sees Boston, and he relaxes. He runs up to Boston and embraces him. Boston turns around and he is blind and brain-free. There is also a gaping hole in his chest where his heart was torn out. Port struggles to escape the zombie’s embrace. Boston (now Brainfree) staggers after him. Port sees the Bokor. The Bokor is holding something that looks like an apple. He polishes it against his shirt, and it leaves a bloody stain. It is actually Brainfree’s heart. The Bokor takes a big bite out of Brainfree’s heart and grins at Port. Port shoots the Bokor and Brainfree several times. It does little to them but he runs past them. Port leaps out of his house, and stumbles, then regains his footing and runs back to his stable. It is dark and so Port lights a lamp. Holding up the lamp he sees his horses, all eerily quiet. He goes to the stall of his favorite horse, but the horse has been gruesomely decapitated and the head is lying in a pile of horse blankets. Going into shock, Port turns around and sees that his wife, Brainfree, and the Bokor are all coming in the barn. He starts shooting them wildly, and although he hits them fairly often, it has not effect except to slow them down. He runs out of ammo. He backs up to the stall of his dead horse and kneels down. Suddenly, the decapitated horse kicks his head off and his head goes flying out of the roof of the barn. In the pile of blankets, the horse’s head grins. Port’s head flies through the air, through the window of his room, and lands in his bedpan. A cock crows and the sun goes down.
Monday, July 26, 2010
A shallow grave is the right place for you, my savage friend.
Boston continues digging. Unbeknownst to him, the corpse of the Bokor stands up and staggers forward. Boston hears it, then turns around. As soon as he does, the Bokor jabs his two fingers (which have been worn down to the bone) into Boston’s eyes and pulls them both out. Boston screams and staggers around, waving the shovel around wildly.
I’m blind! I’m blind!
The Bokor greedily gobbles up the two eyes. Then he grabs the shovel out of Boston’s hands and promptly knocks the top of Boston’s skull off. He walks over and begins gobbling Boston’s brains right out of his skull.
Friday, July 23, 2010
One t’ing you remember before I start. I cast dis spell, it bring your woman back. But I gotta stop it. I don’t, and bad t’ings happen.
Are you threatening Mr. Port?
No. I just say, I don’t stop spell until I get paid.
Extortion is a rule in this business. Don’t worry, you’ll get your money. Now stop stalling and do it.
The Bokor grins ominously. He begins to do an arcane ritual. As he dances and chants, the storm clouds get worse and worse, and skulls and spirits begin to be seen in the clouds. When the Bokor stops, all three of them look at Port’s wife. Nothing happens. Port begins to turn purple.
He’s a fake! Kill him!
Boston pulls out a pistol.
No, no, patience!
Boston shoots the Bokor, and the Bokor falls to the ground. Suddenly, Port’s wife takes a deep breath, arches her back, and then sits up. She looks around, confused, unsure about her surroundings, sweaty and sickly. Port forgets about everything around him and walks up to his wife. He is disbelieving, until he takes her hand. Boston looks at the Bokor, who, though dead, is still grinning.
Hmm. So he did tell the truth. Sir, the Bokor never broke the spell…
Shut up you idiot! Leave me alone with my wife. And take that thing with you.
Port gestures at the corpse of the Bokor. Boston silently grabs the corpse and leaves.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Come on, let’s get out of here.
Butler and his men drive off.
Monday, July 19, 2010
A room inside the mansion. PORT, a porcine capitalist in a pinstripe suit with a pencil-thin moustache is kneeling before a bed. There are candles all around, almost as though they are in mourning. Port is holding the hand of his wife, a ghostly beautiful woman who is hardly breathing at all.
My love, my love. Hold on just a little bit longer. Help is on the way.
Boston opens the curtains which serve as a door to the room. He enters.
Mr. Port? Colonel Butler is here, with the…gentleman you requested.
Butler bursts in and points his pistol at Port. Boston is stunned, but too cowardly to do anything.
Where are my guns, Port?
In the stable, round back.
Butler turns and leaves.
Sir, honestly, why did we have to employ that odious man’s services?
Boston, do you think you could get through Confederate lines, to Haiti, and bring someone back?
No, sir, unfortunately.
Where is this witch doctor that cost me so much anyway?
The Bokor enters. He is somewhat impressed with the room. He sniffs the air, and puts his palms against a wall. He runs his fingers through the flames of a candle. Port finally stands and looks at the Bokor. The Bokor cocks his head slightly and observes Port. We get the feeling that if Port didn’t speak, the Bokor would simply stand there all day observing.
Can you cure her?
The Bokor looks at Port’s wife, much in the same way he has observed everything else in the room. She is not a person, so much as an interesting toy or bauble to him.
She almost dead, boss. I not a medicine man.
PORT (growing red with fury)
You promised me…
The Bokor holds up a hand.
I no power over dis life. But she ain’t gone be dis life much longer. She crosses over, I bring her back.
You can bring back the dead?
Sir, you can’t believe this…
Shut up, Boston! Tell me, can you really bring back the dead?
The Bokor grins.
Bringing dem back, dat’s da easy part. But it ain’t dat simple.
What do you mean?
Sometimes dey come back good. Sometimes dey come back bad.
No earthly medicine can save her. But I can’t live without her. Do it. Do it now!
She not over da line yet. I can’t bring her back from where she ain’t been.
Port goes up to his wife, takes the pillow from under her head and suffocates her with it. He turns away from her body in disgust. The Bokor grins and walks up to Port’s wife.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Suddenly there is a great clattering. All the soldiers look up to see a covered wagon driving up along the side of the line. The soldiers try to get a glimpse of the passengers, but the wagon is completely sealed.
Who do you think that is?
I don’t know, but I’ll bet he’s rich.
The wagon clatters along and passes by the entire line of wounded. There are two passengers, one is the Confederate soldier COLONEL BUTLER. Butler is a typical Southerner, dedicated, loyal, a bit racist, with a leisurely drawl. The other passenger is extremely peculiar, especially in his surroundings. The second passenger is a BOKOR, a Haitian with doctor. He is a black man, dressed in outrageous ornaments, bones and a variety of colorful adornments. He is carrying a magic wand with feathers and a bird skull on it. The Bokor looks out the back of the covered wagon at the dying Confederates. The Bokor grins.
Il n’y a pas d’important.
Butler grunts, uninterested and unimpressed. The wagon clatters on down the path. They pass the line of Confederates and come to the mansion of a fat railroad baron. Waiting outside, his hands clasped in front of him, well dressed like an Easterner, is MR. BOSTON. Boston is wearing spectacles and his hair is greased back. He is little more than a glorified lackey, but he takes himself extremely seriously. As the wagon approaches, Boston walks up to the back, trying to peer in, but only Butler jumps out.
Butler absent-mindedly tips his hat.
Where are the guns? I don’t see any guns.
Mr. Port will deliver the weapons to your troops as soon as you hold up your end of the bargain. Is he…here?
Yeah, he’s with me. Hey, you. Come on. Allez, allez.
The Bokor emerges from the shadows and makes Boston jump. Boston quickly recovers his composure.
Well, if this man is everything you’ve promised, you’ll have your weapons by the end of the day, colonel.
The end of the day! I need them now. Don’t you understand my men are out there dying, fighting for their freedom this very instant! Every second they don’t have those guns means another life!
Mr. Port is interested in only one life, that of his wife. If this…witch doctor…really can heal her, then you’ll have your arsenal. If not, you’ve wasted your time.
Boston turns to leave. Butler growls, and draws his pistol to point it at the back of Boston’s head.
You’d shoot an unarmed man?
No, but I’ve got no problem putting down a mangy dog. My men are dying!
And you want weapons so they can kill more men. Perhaps you should concern yourself with getting medicine to save the wounded.
Butler cocks his pistol.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get you your supplies even if I wanted to. Only Mr. Port knows where they are. Now I can take you to him, or you can shoot me.
Butler reluctantly holsters his pistol.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Anyway, time to quite the fussin' and a-feudin' and put a real manuscript back on the chopping block. This one, and it's sister project, are quite similar, and, truth be told, all three are quite similar to The Neighbors Are Zombies. I'll be frank: I'm not very original. HELL AND BLOOD was a different animal altogether, but, hey, let us never mention that again. Dead and buried.
Much like the subjects of our next manuscript. (Brilliant segue!) To nippilate your tipples and scrantalize your totums, I will leave you with a list of brilliant but failed alternate titles for the forthcoming EPIC...A FISTFUL OF ZOMBIES. Posts begin in earnest on Wednesday. And no complaining about the obvious similarities between concepts. Unless you want more undergrad philosophy posts.
For a Few Zombies More
The Good, the Bad, and the Zombie
The Good, the Bad, and the Dead
High Plains Zombie
High Noon…For Zombies!
The Outlaw Zombie Wails
The Undead Outlaws
Paint Your Zombie Dead
How the West Was Dead
How the West Was…Zombie!
Dances With Zombies
Zombies of the Purple Sage
Zombies Ride Again
She Wore a Yellow Zombie
Undead and Unforgiven
Friday, July 9, 2010
(SPOILER ALERT: There were three cursewords in the previous sentence. Ask the little ones to leave the room before you read this blog post out loud.)
So, here's my idea to better the writing community as a whole. Instead of giving you positive, helpful, upbeat advice, I will tell you what I find to be shitty advice that you should ignore. This may be a recurring segment, if I find a whole lot of shitty things out there, but maybe not. Also based on participation. So here are two old warhorses that need to be put down.
1.) "Write what you know!"
God damn. This is the ultimate writing advice. And not just the ultimate, pop-psych bullshit, but also the tritest, tweest nonsense ever promulgated by middle school English teachers.
Now, don't get me wrong. I understand what the idea is behind this little chestnut, and that idea is not bad. Probably better advice, probably what originally sparked this terrible little sentence would be better expressed as, "Write what rings true." Because you should. You should find the emotional core of your characters, and express that. And if their actions seem like something that real humans wouldn't do, then it will ring false, and be shitty writing. Or, at the very least, pulp.
So what's wrong with the actual "write with you know" business? Well, let me put it like this. You know when you go to a party and you get stuck in a corner chatting with that guy you don't really know and just to make small talk you ask what he does for a living? Then you spend the next hour hearing about all the vagaries and vicissitudes of financial planning and you finally just mention casually that you need to go get a beer and then never come back? Well, imagine reading a book by that guy.
Writing what you're passionate about is boring. You're boring everybody. Stop boring everybody! But do take the kernel of truth in this old maxim and write what's true to life.
2.) Actually, I had a number 2 planned for this, but I'm too exhausted to write it right now. Also, I wasn't really happy with how number 1 turned out, so I think I may need to do this at a different time. So, depending on audience interest and participation, this column may recur. At least once. The end.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Judy: Kant. He was from the 18th Century, right? So was he an empiricist or a rationalist? After all, those were the two main epistemological theories of the Enlightenment?
Etienne: Well, Judy, I am most impressed to hear a lay scholar such as yourself use vocabulary like “epistemological.” Yes, you are correct that empiricism and rationalism are the two main theories of the Enlightenment, however, Kant actually belonged to neither. The empiricists believed that all knowledge is gained through experience. Locke, Berkeley, and Hume formed the so-called “Empiricist Triad” and although Kant admitted that he owed a lot to Hume, he was not strictly empiricist. The rationalists believed essentially the opposite, that all knowledge is gained through the faculty of reason. The great rationalists were DesCartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza.
Etienne: Yes. Well. Kant didn’t fit neatly into either of these categories. He did not believe that either of these explanations could explain everything in the world. He believed that certain a priori knowledge, namely ideal space and time, was necessary to have experiences. He basically tried to bridge the gap between empiricism and rationalism.
Judy: So what was he?
Etienne: He was a Kantian.
Elroy: So Kant had this whole theory about the structure of the mind going? What were the main parts of the mind that he talked about?
Etienne: Well, Kant believed in three main faculties of the mind: sensibility, understanding, and reason. Sensibility is the faculty through which we receive sensations, or intuitions (Anschauungen) as Kant called them.
Judy: Wow, your knowledge of German never fails to impress.
Etienne: Thank you. The understanding judges sensations, thus making a cohesive whole out of what would otherwise be disjointed Anschauungen. And the reason regulates the understanding. Kant liked charts and graphs so let me draw it on this cocktail napkin for you:
Faculty Operation Form of Operation
Sensibility Intuition Space, time
Understanding Judgment 12 forms of judgment
Reason Inference 3 forms of inference
George: Oops, sorry I spilled that bourbon on it.
Etienne: That’s ok.
Judy: Now let me get this straight. Kant thought that information does come in through the senses, but that in addition to what was coming in, sensations (intuitions) had features that were due to the “form of our sensibility itself”? What are the forms of sensibility?
Etienne: Well, Judy, I’m glad you asked. I actually wrote a WHOLE PAPER in my class on this subject, so if you guys are really interested, you can go back and read the paper I ALREADY WROTE on the subject. But for now, let me summarize it. I mentioned before that Kant believed that ideal space and time were a priori concepts necessary for sensibility. These are the forms of sensibility. Time and space to Kant are not things out there in the real world, but they are created by the mind for the purpose of being able to comprehend sensations. Since space and time are created by the mind, they are necessarily ideal. Synthetic a priori knowledge is grounded in the ideality of space and time – like mathematics. Without a conception of time, we would have no linear number system. And without ideal space, how could we have geometry?
George: Wow! This Kant sounds like a real “spacey” guy.
Jane: Oh shut up, George! Go and get us some drinks, or a snack or something. So how does the understanding get into the picture? What is its job?
Etienne: Well the operation of the understanding is to synthesize the intuitions. The sensibility gathers random intuitions and the understanding synthesizes them into a cohesive whole, through the use of Kant’s twelve categories of the understanding.
Jane: Wow, Steve, you really are brilliant. I don’t think we need to ask you any more questions, and I’m certain that Professor Ward will give you an A for your class.
Elroy: Wait, mom. Does Kant have anything like innate ideas?
Etienne: Yes. Kant believes that we all have these twelve innate ideas, or pure concepts of the understanding. Luckily I committed them to memory for Dr. Ward’s class. They are broken down into four sets of three: Quantity, which consists of unity, plurality, and totality; Quality, which consists of reality, negation, and limitation; Relation, which consists of inherence, cause/effect, and reciprocity; and Modality, which consists of possibility, existence, and necessity. Using these twelve categories, the understanding catalogues and codifies experience.
Judy: It sounds like he is an idealist – all there really is is thoughts and mental images. We are all just aware of our own subjective “inner world.”
Etienne: That’s a negative, good buddy. The truth is that Kant believed that there were real objects in the world, called noumena. However, when the world is filtered through our perception, we don’t see things as they are (noumena), rather we see things as we perceive them, or phenomena. Kant believed that there was no way to pierce through the divide between the phenomenal and noumenal worlds, making knowledge about the noumenal world impossible to attain. However, he did not deny that there were objects out there. So he is not an idealist in the Berkelean sense.
George: What did I miss?
Jane: Everything, George! As usual.
George: So give it to me real simple. How would you sum up Kant’s basic contribution to the history of philosophy vis-à-vis metaphysics and epistemology in a sentence or two?
Etienne: “The understanding does not derive its laws (a priori) from, but prescribes them to, nature.”
Jane: That’s neat. Boy you sure are smart. We’d love to keep talking to you about Kant and all. But we have to go home to study for our Chaucer midterm. George! Get up off the floor!
George: Leave me alone! I was just analyzing the ground for the possibility of my experience.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
"Oh, Edward," Bella said lustingly, "I want you in me so badly. I mean your love. In my love. And yet we never can be."
"True," Edward replied, ripping his shirt open to reveal his sparkling, manly areola, "How ironic."
"Ironic, indeed," Bella replied, referring to her own situation, "And yet, in a way, your 106 year old love for me consitutes statutory rape in any civilized country."
"Civilization," Taylor Lautner said with a snarl, "Who needs it?"
"Indeed," Edward agreed with his rival-cum-wolf and his fleshy lover, "What irony."
"I don't need civilization," Taylor Lautner continued, rubbing creamy brown muscle oil onto his well-oiled musculature, "All I need is the wind at my back, some Pacific Northwest scenery, and a 16-year old child to kidnap and attempt what amounts to bestiality with. I mean, love. Pure, chaste love."
"I, too, was referring to love," Edward was quick to pipe in, as he stared endlessly at Bella's perfect neck, because he loved her, and not because of any desire to actually do anything about the aforementioned love.
"Love," mentioned Bella.
There was nodding all around.
It was a dark and stormy night when Taylor Lautner took his shirt off. His shirt had been off since he had been in wolf form right up until the very moment when he turned back into a human with just his tight jeans and shirtless. And then, since it was raining out, he was also glistening with rain. And also sweat. Because he sweated through the rain because of his fur.
"Bella," Taylor Lautner said, "I need you to rub me down with this anti-vampire lotion. I need it to, uh, ward off vampires."
Bella turned to look at Edward for guidance. (Edward, incidentally, was also shirtless, and applying his anti-werewolf lotion.)
"I'm so tormented," Edward said, "Dark and tormented. But I will always do what is best for you, Bella, because of my insatiable (yet chaste) lust for you. Do it, if you must. Taylor Lautner must have his anti-vampire lotion rubbed all over his manly, steaming body."
And so Bella began to rub down Taylor Lautner with the glistening body oil, in full view of her actual boyfriend, which was kind of creepy and voyeuristic when you think about it, which they didn't.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
In German class earlier this week, learning about German history, my teacher asked the class what cuius regio, eius religio meant. I knew it had to do with the delineation of religion in the German provinces during the Reformation. Drawing on the minimal Latin skills I had acquired from my Latin class, I replied that it meant “the religion of the people is the religion of the prince,” to which she replied, “No, I think you’ve got that backwards.” I immediately thought back to my nominal philosophical training and got annoyed at my teacher. She had claimed that my statement was wrong, but in fact she was thinking nonsensically. “The religion of the people is the religion of the prince” is the exact same statement as “The religion of the prince is the religion of the people” because the “is” works like an equals sign. In a way, the Romans had one up on us because in their language, syntax doesn’t matter, because it’s a case language. In Rome, cuius regio, eius religio means the same thing as eius religio, cuius regio or any other combination of the four words. I think Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein probably would have liked Latin for that reason.
In any case, by the synthesis of my three courses, (and isn’t the synthesis of variegated subject matter the goal of education, after all?) I can say that the cuius regio policy of the German princes was a tautology. As I understand it, tautologies are true, but unnecessary to state, as in a=a. Wittgenstein believed that propositions of logic are tautologies. Because language is a form of logic, a logical statement about logic is unnecessary, though true. On the other hand he believed that propositions of factual language are pictures. This leads us to Wittgenstein’s picture theory of language.
I gather that Wittgenstein’s picture theory is how Wittgenstein views both human psychology and the nature of reality, although I think that he would not believe in psychology at all. Nevertheless, a lot of what he has to say is about how the human mind works, not as a result of chemistry and experience but inherently. The human mind makes pictures of facts. The picture is a representation of a fact, but it is in fact itself a fact, independent of the fact that it depicts.
For instance, moving flags around on a map is how we represent a battle, but the map is still a fact and the battle is still a fact. Mentally (I still say mentally, although I think Wittgenstein would say it’s not a mental process, but just a fact of reality) we combine the elements of our picture to represent the fact. However, it is not necessarily a perfect representation. I may picture a battle exactly as it occurred. Perhaps I was there and my mental representations are absolutely perfect. Still, my representation is a fact, but not the same fact. And, if someone tells me, “I was far away from my pretty girlfriend,” I may picture a blond because I equate blond with beauty, when, in fact, she is a brunette, and I may picture them as being in different countries when in fact they were only a few miles away, because my concept of “far” is different from the fact. But, still, he told me a sentence, or maybe wrote the sentence down, and the sentence has a physical form as ink on paper or notes in the air, so the sentence, too, is a fact, but not the same as my pictorial representation in my mind and not the same as the original fact.
How do the facts hang together to create representation? To address this I must now address form. Wittgenstein says that the combination of elements is the structure of the picture and the possibility of this structure is the form of representation of the picture. Wittgenstein regards form as the ruler against which we measure reality (but is not reality itself.) In order for a picture to be a picture it must have form, it can't be a random assemblage of facts. The important thing is that a picture has the identical form of the fact in reality. If reality has Wittgenstein hitting Popper with a poker, then the picture in my mind of that fact must have the identical form (i.e. Wittgenstein hitting Popper with a poker) even if the particulars of my picture are not entirely accurate (i.e. Wittgenstein hits Popper's ankle when in reality he hit his arm or Wittgenstein in my mind is fatter than he was in reality.) So form is what makes pictures useful in representing reality, hence Wittgenstein's comparison of form to a ruler.
I’m going to have to step back and re-evaluate my perspective. I’ve given a simplistic (and, considering the complexity of those last few paragraphs, it should be clear how Byzantine Wittgenstein’s work is) account of his analysis of representation in pictures. Let’s re-prioritize. Let’s talk about reality. Reality is the totality of facts, and therefore the totality of all true thoughts. If I have a thought, a picture, I must check it against reality to see whether it is true or not. Going back to my example of my friend who says he’s far away from his pretty girlfriend, let’s suppose I’ve made a picture in my mind of a blond girl in Germany. A cursory analysis of reality would show me that it’s really a brunette in Harrisburg. I could only really tell from analyzing reality, because, after all, if he told me another sentence to correct my original false one, I could make another false picture in my head. The only way to have a true thought is to check it against reality, not against other pictorial representations (i.e., spoken or written propositions.) Ergo, I can have no thought that is true a priori, because I have to check every thought against reality, and reality is only the totality of true thoughts.
(In fact, in a way, that negates this whole essay. Dr. Ward could be reading the ink representations on this page and think that each of my sentential representations was false. But, in fact, the problem is that he is forming inaccurate pictorial representations in his head, and checking them against the paper instead of reality. He might think I was writing a C- paper, when in fact, I am writing an A+ paper. In the interests of getting a perfect score on this paper, I must say this: reality is the sum total only of true thoughts. If this paper is a part of reality, it must be composed entirely of true thoughts. Ergo, it would be impossible to find fault with a paper that can not by definition be composed of any false thoughts if it is real, and my paper must, therefore, be perfect. See Appendix A. Or, if I may take another tack, if Dr. Ward finds any problems with this paper, as Wittgenstein would say to Russell, “you have simply misunderstood me.”)
Anyway, having employed philosophy both to accomplish a goal (i.e. get an A on this paper) and having furthered the interests of philosophy by developing my own new metaphysical law, based on Wittgenstein’s work (i.e., no paper can ever be imperfect) I regard this paper as almost complete. Only one further matter remains to be resolved. What were Wittgenstein’s general motivations behind this analysis? What insights did he hope to obtain? Primarily, I would say that the most important point Wittgenstein makes with his picture theory is that there is no a priori thought. This is not a novel idea, the empiricists had been defending it for hundreds of years. But it is the end, or the goal, of the picture theory, in my opinion. However, it is not the sum total of the picture theory. Just as in a+b=c, c is the result, but c does not capture the whole essence of the equation, so does Wittgenstein’s conclusion that there is no a priori thought not encompass the entirety of the importance of the picture theory.
The picture theory is the beginning of Wittgenstein’s attempt to break down conventional thought and replace it with a better method. What I mean is this: people have been thinking a certain way for thousands of years, and Wittgenstein sees this as a false way of thinking. If philosophy’s goal has been to attempt to know the unknowable, and science’s goal is to know the knowable, then Wittgenstein would say that there is no philosophy, only science and false propositions. Philosophy, then, in Wittgenstein’s outlook, is to only state what is known, and on the rest to remain silent. The picture theory is a vital factor in developing this view of the world. Facts as pictures, the checking of pictures against reality, and the dismissal of all false pictures – this is what Wittgenstein wants us to do. The rest is silence.
Tractatus Logico-Philosophocus II: The Wrath of Wittgenstein
8 Every scholarly report must be given a grade of 100%
8.1 Every report exists in reality
8.01 A report that does not exist, does not exist, and so can not be spoken of.
8.011 A report that can not be spoken of can not be graded
8.012 Even if a report is not turned in, it can not be evaluated, because it can not be spoken of
8.2 The world is a totality of all existing elementary facts (see 2.05)
8.02 A thought is a fact, whether true or false
8.3 A report that exists in the world consists entirely of facts, whether true or false, else it would not exist
8.03 Even if every sentence in a report is false, every sentence is a fact itself.
8.4 Evaluation is meaningless
8.04 Evaluation is a judgment, not a statement of fact, and therefore meaningless
8.05 In order for evaluations to have meaning they must be regarded as short-hand for some other fact
8.051 To give meaning to academic evaluation, we could regard a grade of 0% as shorthand for the fact, "This report does not exist."
8.052 To give meaning to academic evaluation, we could regard a grade of 100% as shorthand for the fact, "This report consists entirely of facts."
8.5 It does not matter whether the content of a report is false or not, it still must consist entirely of facts, and therefore must be given a 100%
8.6 A teacher who tries to evaluate a report as other than existent/non-existent is thinking metaphysically
8.06 Metaphysics are meaningless
8.07 A grade other than 100% for an existing paper and 0% for a non-existing paper is meaningless
8.7 This report exists.
8.07 This report must be given a 100%