What I’d like to see in the apocalypse

Dystopian apocalyptic fiction has been the rage for quite some time now, especially since it started playing out on CSPAN. The End of the World seems to be running in a bit of a rut, so here are a few new things I’d like to see:

In the last few moments of civilization, all the hipsters rent those little electric scooters to flee the city centers. They zip between the gridlocked vehicles and make wide arcs around the stampedes of panicked pedestrians. True to form, they maintain that complacent, perfectly erect posture all scooter riders affect. Their ennui-filled gaze is fixed straight ahead as they either escape the blast radius or are swallowed up in roiling clouds of toxic debris and fallout.

Authors have depicted the rebuilding of society by everything from rogue militias to the Society of Creative Anachronism. I’m figuring one abuela with a flip-flop could whip everyone into shape for a radius of a mile or two.

Most apocalyptic landscapes are littered with abandoned cars. Why hasn’t anyone gotten a bunch of Bubbas to push them into a ring around their sanctuary? Once they’re in place, remove tires, fill the carcasses with earth one bushel basket at a time, and build an earthworks ramp up to the next level. Repeat as necessary. Sharpened stakes and the crucified bodies of telemarketers should dissuade invaders.

I just once want to see the guys mowing the lawns after the zombie apocalypse.

You would think there would be some enterprising person who would take over a bunch of construction equipment and bury a Walmart under six to twelve feet of reinforced dirt or concrete. A Dollar Tree if time and resources are tight. Everything needed to rebuild Suburban America would be right there, safe from alien invaders and fallout.

If you are the type that likes to see a new and entertaining End Times adventure, you could pick up my latest book “The Ren Faire at the End of the World.” I set up the ultimate battle of Good and Evil, as fought by renaissance faire performers and reanimated roadkill. If you’ve seen that already, or you break out at the sound of “Huzzah”, you could keep an eye out for my latest project “Squirrel Apocalypse”. I’ll let you know who bites on that one.

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Thanksgiving in Arcanum

Gratitude is not a strictly Christian virtue, and even the vegan Wiccans of Arcanum like to gather their loved ones for a Thanksgiving feast. This is an excerpt from my second novel “Power Tools in the Sacred Grove” that shows Brenwyn’s Thanksgiving while Marc recuperates after being trounced by a invisible tentacle demon.

MARC LOOKED ON WITH ADMIRATION as Brenwyn laid out the complete Thanksgiving dinner across the range and counters. It totaled a dozen courses and appetizers in glittering cut glass serving dishes. He couldn’t remember all of the proposed items, but he recognized the vegetable trays, cream of pumpkin soup and vegan stuffing made with oyster mushrooms. Brenwyn even made a few vegan Mexican dishes he never heard of before, including something made of peppers and prickly pears.

It wasn’t just her prodigious cooking achievements he admired. For the last week and a half, Brenwyn had been wearing incredibly modest clothing: high neck sweaters, loose pants, and flannel PJs at night. Tonight, she was wearing a more characteristic bohemian skirt along with a tight bodice and a low-cut top worthy of a serving wench. The sight was definitely something to make him feel thankful.

Michael and Eleazar upheld their end of Thanksgiving tradition by sitting in the living room and playing cards. Brenwyn didn’t seem to mind. She did a final mop-up around the sink and looked up at Marc.

“Tell me again that you are not horribly disappointed with a vegetarian Thanksgiving?”

She had promised him red meat, but he hadn’t delivered on his end of the bargain. He still walked with a cane, if only for the moments that his strength suddenly gave out.

“As long as it’s home-cooking,” he reassured her, “I’m thrilled.”

Eleazar called out from the living room:

“And some hapless bird is alive because of your humane actions.”

“The corporate farms set their kill quotas on projected demand.” Michael carefully studied his cards, not looking up as he popped Eleazar’s balloon. “No matter what, that turkey’s going to die.”

“At least we will not have their bad karma to bear,” Brenwyn said with a smile and a nod. She carried the first of the serving trays over to the dining room table.

“A little bad karma is good for you,” Eleazar said. “Nothing like a hint of damnation to add spice to life.”

“Then your love life must be like Szechuan cooking.” Michael looked at Eleazar with an expression that was either disgust or exasperation. “If you were shot by an angry husband today, would you go to Heaven? Or would your soul just take the express elevator to Hell?”

“Don’t talk to me about damned for your love life,” Eleazar countered. “According to the Old Testament, decent people should be throwing rocks at you.”

Brenwyn returned to the kitchen for a second trip. She raised her eyebrows in amusement as she passed Marc. He merely shook his head, having heard this argument a dozen times before.

“Good thing for me there are no decent people here,” Michael said.

“Michael,” Marc growled in a low warning tone.

Michael looked first at Marc, then at Brenwyn, and he cringed.

“At the card table,” Michael said. “Sorry, Brenwyn.”

“No need for apologies, Michael.” Brenwyn was being especially gracious today.

“Could you cut out the Judeo-Christian dogma?” Marc asked with a shudder. “Makes my skin crawl.”

“Fear not, milord,” Eleazar declaimed. “Brenwyn’s karma will run over our dogma. It was a just a stray dogma anyway.”

Brenwyn shook her head as she ferried more plates to the dining room.

“Perhaps you could finish your game and wash up?” she said. “I shall be setting out the main course shortly.”

“Excellent!” Michael said. “Oh, I almost forgot.” Michael picked up a card and laid down his hand. “Gin! I’m going to the bathroom, now.”

Michael stood and turned to leave.

“You’ve done me in again, you varlet!” Eleazar slapped down his cards in frustration. “What do I owe you now?”

“A week’s laundry,” Michael said as he turned the corner into the hall. “No reds with lights this time.”

“I told you that was an accident,” Eleazar called after him. “Besides, you look good in pink, milord.”

Brenwyn came over to Marc and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Thank you.”

“What for?” Marc didn’t think he’d done anything worthy of her gratitude, though he would take it.

“Protecting my sensibilities. Defending my honor,” she said. “It is very sweet.”

“Chivalry is not dead—it just feels that way.” Standing for several minutes, even with his cane, had his legs and back complaining. “You’re sure I can’t help with anything?”

“You can go sit down and wait for dinner.”

“I feel so useless.” Though it sounded like a great idea to his legs, he couldn’t just surrender.

“You are not useless,” she said, stroking his cheek. “You are decorative.”

“I love you too, but—”

Brenwyn cut him off short: “But your self-worth and male ego are dependent on what you can do, not who you are. Forget about it, beloved.”

“I can’t just forget.”

“Then suppress and sublimate,” she said, “as you do with your other manly impulses.”

“I’ll try.”

“Good,” she said as she scooped up the vegan antipasto platter. “Now, sit down before I take away your cane.”

#

Brenwyn glided in with the last two trays of vegetables and set them in front of Eleazar. As she returned to the kitchen, he squeezed a black olive from the tray onto his pinkie. He waved that at Michael like a finger puppet and then sucked it off his finger with a pop. Michael looked to the heavens for guidance.

With the two ‘children’ seated to his left, it felt like a real family to Marc, with all its bad and good. Brenwyn had gone all out, decorating the table and the dining room with wheat, corn, pomegranates, and apples. Stars and Brigid’s crosses made of the wheat straw took the place of the construction paper turkeys he grew up with.

“Prepare yourselves for the guest of honor,” Brenwyn called from the kitchen.

She returned with the vegan turkey breast on a garnished tray. Six drumsticks, also synthetic, stuck out of the turkey-like object. Brenwyn set the tray down to polite applause and seated herself at Marc’s right.

“Wow, six legs,” Michael said. “You don’t get that with a farm-raised turkey.”

“Maybe a Chernobyl chicken,” Eleazar quipped.

Brenwyn pointed to the large fork and carving knife set beside Marc’s place at the table.

“Would you care to do the honors?” she asked.

“Certainly.” Marc stood to perform his Thanksgiving duties. “Dark tofu or light?”

The others started passing around serving platters and filling their plates as Marc carved.

“I hope you all like this,” Brenwyn said. “It is my own concoction. The commercial turkey replacements all taste too—artificial.”

“I’m sure it will all be most appetizing,” said Eleazar. “Pass the simulated gravy, please.”

Michael looked awkwardly around the table.

“Excuse me,” he said. “This may sound really uncool, but isn’t somebody going to say grace?”

Eleazar looked as uncomfortable as Marc felt. Brenwyn smiled, looking just the slightest bit amused.

“I don’t think I’m—” Marc started to say.

“Well, I’m not either,” Eleazar blurted.

“Well, it just seems wrong not to give thanks,” Michael said. “At least, for this terrific meal. And I’m agnostic.”

“Thank you,” Brenwyn said with a nod. “I could say a few words. If you could endure a Wiccan blessing over a vegan turkey?”

“Sounds just about right to me,” Marc said.

“Let me think for a moment.” Brenwyn put a finger to her lips in silent thought. “How about this?

We thank you Goddess for your world’s gifts:

the beasts, the plants, the sea.

For all dear friends and all we are

and the strength to be what we must be.’”

“You made that up just now?” Michael was openly impressed.

“Not my best work,” she said with a self-effacing shrug. “But poetry and casting spells, they are the same thing: stringing together words to get the desired effect.”

“Cooking. Poetry,” Michael said. “I never realized you had so many hidden talents.”

Marc started carving the main course rather than attend to another man’s unbridled founts of love for Brenwyn.

“You’d better keep an eye on her, milord,” Eleazar said with a wink and a verbal nudge, “or I might try to steal her away from you.”

Marc’s hand tightened unconsciously on the knife handle. He slipped the blade under a slice of faux turkey and flipped the tofu and sprout amalgam across the table to land on Eleazar’s plate.

“Here, eat up,” Marc grumbled, “so you can compliment her cooking, too.”

Marc lofted another slice farther down the table to land on Michael’s plate. Brenwyn held up her plate to discourage any more aerobatics. Marc placed the six drumsticks on a platter and offered it to her. Brenwyn nodded her approval.

“You’ve got to try the cranberries,” Eleazar said through half a mouth full. “They’re most delectable, milord.”

Eleazar quickly brought a hand up to catch the food falling from his mouth.

“No more sincere compliment than that, I guess,” Marc said.

“Is everything all right, Marc?” Michael asked after a long sideways glance at Marc. “You seem tense.”

“No,” Marc grunted. “No, I’m fine.”

“You were about to splinter that knife handle,” Eleazar pointed out. “That’s either tension, milord, or lockjaw’s setting in.”

“It’s just the holidays,” Marc replied. “Don’t worry about me.”

Brenwyn looked knowingly at Marc.

“Marc comes from a family,” Brenwyn explained, “whose every gathering starts with petty bickering and escalates to a drunken row over the pumpkin pie.”

“We must be related. I have the same family.” Michael visibly twitched, probably thinking about his own last family Thanksgiving dinner.

“Mine, too.” Eleazar seemed paler, too.

“I am surprised that you are not with your family today, Eleazar,” Brenwyn said.

“I didn’t know you could be surprised,” Eleazar said.

“Disappointed, then,” Brenwyn said. “Do you not think that Alice misses you?”

“Not in the least,” Eleazar replied. “As long as a significant portion of my paycheck appears in her accounts, she is satisfied.”

“You see,” Michael said with undisguised glee, “he gets to pay alimony without the messy paperwork of a divorce.”

“You could be free to find happiness with someone else,” Brenwyn told Eleazar. “Are you frightened by that?”

“I’m afraid of Alice,” Eleazar said. “She’s this unpleasant to me now; imagine what a divorce could be like.”

Marc could tell that all three men played out that scenario in their heads. A dreadful silence fell over the room.

“Well, don’t let your food get cold,” Brenwyn said to break the silence. “As my grandmother would say: ‘Eat, you look skinny!’”

The three men laid into the feast without another word.

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Halloween Treat

Just a link here to a short film that doesn’t get enough love this time of year: Michael Jackson’s “Ghosts”.  Yes, that half-hour long music video in which the late, great Stan Winston turned the late, great Michael Jackson into a white bigot with no rhythm.  A parable for our times.

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain. Climb up the walls with your favorite dead relatives.

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Pimpin’ Books Amongst Pumpkins

This is a quick reminder, just in case you forgot, that I will be signing books at Keystone Books & Gifts this afternoon as the Circleville Pumpkin Festival happens all around us.

I will be there from 1 pm to 2 pm, signing Arcanum Faire books, especially The Ren Faire at the End of the World, and discussing my upcoming projects. Squirrel Apocalypse is already under consideration by a publisher, and the Silk Empress, a Steampunk Jonny Quest on an airship along the High Silk Road.

See you there!

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Off to Lou’ville

In a few hours, Sheldon Gleisser, my literary wing man, and I will be driving down to Kentucky. This is the weekend of the fifth annual Imaginarium Convention.

Once there, we will rub elbows with publishers, editors, writers, and filmmakers. If you are not any of those creatures, but you love good storytelling, you can come on down and rub our elbows, too.

I will be doing panels on Fairytales & Folklore, the Occult, Steampunk, and Costume & Makeup for Filmmaking.  I also hope to make contact with a publisher and get some news about the disposition of “Squirrel Apocalypse”. To top off the weekend, Sunday I will moderate the Author’s Reading panel. I will get to read my favorite sequence from the whole Arcanum Faire trilogy.

Sorry for the late notice, fans and friends, but at my age getting up and putting on pants is a noteworthy accomplishment. See you all in Lou’ville! If you make it down, I can tell you how karma is like a squirrel in a blender.

https://www.entertheimaginarium.com/

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Don’t Buy My Book, Vote For My Cover…

AllAuthor regularly has Cover of the Month competitions, and my latest book is in September’s. This is not really a reflection on me, but on the great artist Philip R. Rogers and my publisher Eric Beebe of Post Mortem Press. Vote for them and vote repeatedly. You don’t have to be registered with AllAuthor to vote in the initials. Do it for the power tools, and for the anvils.

RFEWtitle

https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/2359/

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Bexley Local Author Festival

Just a reminder: I will be at the Bexley Local Author Festival this afternoon from 2 pm to 4 pm today. I will only have my “Camp Arcanum” books with me as Gramercy Books is handling all sales and more than one book for each of the authors would be more complex than necessary for such a short event. However, for those of you that have already ready the first book of my Arcanum Faire trilogy, there is good news. Gramercy books is right across the street from the library and they are in possession of “Power Tools in the Sacred Grove”, and “The Ren Faire at the End of the World”. You can whisk across the street, acquire the not-quite-sacred texts, and be back in the auditorium for me to personalize them for you.

As always, you can still get any of my books online, or from the back of the car if you catch me in the right parking lot. Hope to see you all there!

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Once More into the Breech

Next weekend, I will have the great honor of Attending the Bexley Local Author Fest with 59 other talented local authors. We will be signing & schmoozing at the Bexley Public Library, 2411 E Main St, Columbus, OH 43209 between 2 & 4pm Sunday August 26th. I will have all my Arcanum Faire books and fresh pens.

Saturday, September 8, 10 am to 3 pm, I will be in the Author Alley adjacent to Keystone Books & Gifts, 138 W. Main St., Circleville, Ohio 43113. I’ll be the mustachioed man with a hat under the Kermit green tent.

To top off the late fall festivities, I will be at Imaginarium in Louisville KY on the weekend of October 5-7. Further details will be posted on their website. The link is below:

https://www.entertheimaginarium.com/

#BexLocalAuthorFest

https://www.facebook.com/events/166823380611555/

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JFF: Underappreciated Songs about Spaceflight

If you thought off the top of you head, it would be easy to come up with a fistful of songs about spaceflight in sixty seconds. This is the list after you’ve exhausted “Rocket Man,”, “Space Oddity”, “Flash Gordon”, and “Starman”.

Beep, Beep, by Louis Prima

In 1957, everyone was crazy about space, including the guy who brought you “Just a Gigolo”.

Space Truckin’, by Deep Purple

Heavy metal space excursion by the folks that brought you “Smoke on the Water.” It should be used for wake up calls on the ISS, but they don’t.

Space is the Place, by Sun Ra

The eccentric genius of the Jazz world, Sun Ra claimed to be a visitor from Saturn. Evidently the planet is very much like Ancient Egypt and filled with funk. This is a segment taken from the Sun Ra movie.

Watcher of the Skies, by Genesis

WTF, Peter Gabriel?

Mr. Spaceman, by The Byrds

Doubling down on the classic rock space shenanigans, this is a cover of a Dylan song. Big fun as TV producers first discover blue-screen sets.

Mothership Connection, Parliament

The inventors of Cosmic Funk and frequent starship landings at concerts and Muppet movies, Parliament made it fun to be alienated.

Calling Occupants of Interstellar Craft, by Klaatu

At first believed to be the Beatles incognito, Klaatu was a bunch of Canadians that named their band after a robot space cop. This song can stick in your head for weeks.

Across the Universe, by The Beatles

A psychedelic voyage through the Cosmos with the originals.

39, by Queen

A tale of space exploration and time dilation, the lead on this track is taken by Brian May who eventually became a scientist on the Pluto probe project. Double spacey.

Humans from Earth, by T-bone Burnett

If you had enough of cosmic optimism, “Humans from Earth” is perfect as the cynical sales pitch of Terran colonists bringing progress and Manifest Destiny whether the natives want it or not.

Major Tom, by Peter Schiller

The unofficial sequel to Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, Schilling’s cosmic synthpop single captures the tension of the countdown and the spacey dilemma of the marooned astronaut. The chorus is a dangerous earworm.

 

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Readings & Royal Weddings

I’m afraid this is short notice, and it will be a short notice of it. This weekend we have two big events. Saturday, we are throwing a Royal Wedding party at the Alley. attendees are encouraged to wear their tiaras and ambassadorial sashes, fancy frocks and frock coats. I will be providing cupcakes and various liquid refreshments (cough, champagne) will be served. Once again, a proof that you’re never too old to play dress up. For details you can check out the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/events/415971332184869/

On Sunday, we’re having a little launch event for my third novel “The Ren Faire at the End of the World” at the Book Loft. I’ll be reading ,signing, and offering up chocolate undead bunnies. I’m doing a traumatic reading of my second favorite sequence in the book, with Landsknecht reenactors and Scadians squaring off against the Forces of Evil. My favorite sequence would be entirely too spoilery.

The link to that event is here, if you’re interested. It remains here if you’re disinterested:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/josef-matulich-the-ren-faire-at-the-end-of-the-world-the-time-of-sex-magik-and-power-tools-is-tickets-45455222795

Now, I’ve got to be preparing. Where is my clear vanilla extract and meringue powder?

 

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