Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

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."

Monday, October 3, 2016


I don't talk about my day job very much here.  It's just...not very interesting.  But, if you'd like to know, I'm a bean counter.  I work for the U.S. Navy and I'm in charge of the government purchase card program, which means I oversee small purchases not worth drawing up contracts for, primarily office supplies.

I'm pretty good at my job.  I get regular promotions and my reviews are always positive.  It's also a pretty low-stakes gig.  Here are the stakes:

- if I make a pretty standard mistake, delivery of office supplies might be delayed or cancelled, which would be mildly irritating for the receiver

- if I make a moderate mistake, important goods might not be delivered in a timely manner, which could result in a work stoppage which would cost a few thousand dollars, or possibly result in an injury

- if I make a high-level mistake, I'm talking like Deepwater Horizon/Hindenburg/maximum level of up-fuckery possible, I might - might, mind you - be fired, and I might - might, mind you - go to jail for a few months

And that's it.  I'd be surprised if your risk matrix looks much different.  Basically, I'm not saying what I do is unimportant, but I'm not playing with lives and fortunes every day.

Now, one thing I'm not good at is sports.  I've never been very physical.  Gym class was the most despised combined hour and a half of my week in school.  I played after-school sports, mostly as a sop to my father or an occasional attempt to prepare my transcript for a military academy.  I rarely played and mostly rode the bench, and really never improved very much, except my physical condition was a little better than normal, so it wasn't a complete waste.

Even at my absolute peak of physical performance, when I was in the army working out five days a week, I rarely won pick-up games.  Now and then if I was on a strong team we might clinch a flag football win, but it was never because I was scoring the game-winning touchdown or anything.

Now I can picture a circumstance, probably in a movie made by Disney in the early '90s, where the head coach of the New England Patriots taps me as his new quarterback.  In this circumstance I'm envisioning, it's a movie probably starring Adam Sandler, where the Pats are having trouble putting asses in seats and some scummy executive decides that they're going to attract attention by putting an ordinary joe on the line.  It would probably be called "Normalback" or something equally asinine.  Sort of "Invincible" by way of "Billy Madison."

You're kind of picturing it now, aren't you?  Kind of a feel-good story, like "Rudy."  Maybe I just fuck up a whole bunch and then I realize my secret skills that I brought over from being a financial management analyst and use it to fuel one full down and then the movie ends because I've reached my potential and Meg Ryan or somebody kisses me and the sleazy executive gets found out and fired and maybe Tom Brady shakes my hand.  (Yeah, I know Tom Brady wasn't the quarterback back then, and Bill Belichick wasn't the coach, but, whatever, we're going to go with those two for this thought exercise.)

So here's the point: I am not a laughingstock in my office.  If, however, Bill Belichick decided to pluck me out of my cubicle and start me on the offensive line of the New England Patriots, nobody would be confused about my place in the grand scheme.  I would be there as a joke.  I would be roundly mocked.  It would be recognized for what it was: a stunt.  Belichick would be roundly mocked for his decision to play me as well, whatever had prompted it.  And why?  Well, let's talk about stakes again.

- if I make a pretty standard mistake, millions of fans will be disappointed

- if I make a moderate mistake, millions of dollars in advertising and revenue and hundreds, probably thousands of jobs will be in danger because football teams are huge organizations that lots of people count on for work

- if I make a high-level mistake, important, famous athletes (and millionaires) will get hurt and the entire team's fortunes will be endangered

I don't really have to explain this.  You pretty much get the difference.  I can be good at what I do, and not be ready for an intensely high-stress position that's way, way outside of my skill set.  And no one in their right minds would put a pencil pusher on the offensive line of an NFL team.

You could picture a similar situation, I would imagine, where a fairly harmless reality TV star, by some quirk of fate, managed to become the presidential candidate for a major political party.  He (or she) would be a clown, a laughingstock, an object of absolute derision.  You could make the argument that he had the skills to play a blowhard version of him- (or her-) self on TV, but if you tried to say that he (or she) was going to make a halfway decent president, you'd be dismissed as a buffoon yourself.  Defending him (or her) as a candidate would make about as much sense as defending a pudgy, thirty-something civil servant as a good choice for quarterback of the Patriots.

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