Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chapter Three of Dangerous Rabbits (In Albuquerque)

(Here's chapter three of Dangerous Rabbits (In Albuquerque). For more on the book, go here. Or just drop over to Amazon where you can find it here:


I'm told that people react to Tasers in different ways. Some folks simply freeze up. Some suffer extreme pain. Some have a heart attack and die. Lucky bastards.

Me…I'm a flopper. I flop around a lot. And flip. Basically, if you want to envision what happens next in our little story, trot over to Youtube and watch any video available in which a large and meaty fish of some kind, perhaps an Ahi Tuna, is pulled aboard a fishing boat and allowed to expire. Energetically. If not gracefully.

Now, swap the fishing boat for a café. And in place of the Tuna, insert moi.

Got the picture? Thought you might.

So, there were two electrode darts projecting out of my chest. And I seemed to be flopping about. One foot managed to overturn a table. The other drop kicked the waiter guy in the knee.

"Because you're going to jail, you son of a bitch!" I heard her yell, distantly, somewhere on the other side of Taser-land.

She was standing up in front of me. She had the Taser in one hand. Long wires were snaking down from it to the electrodes. "Are you getting all this?" she asked camera-guy.

"Couldn't be better."

She turned back to me. "You loathsome son of a bitch. Where is she?"

I responded with a cheery, if non-verbal, series of flips, flops, and semi-somersaults.

"The Taser," waiter-guy reminded her.

"Oh, right." She took her finger off the trigger. "Now, where the hell is she?"

"I don't..."

"Right!" Down went the trigger.

Flippy, flop, flop…I replied.

In fact, that sort of characterized our conversation for the next few minutes. She'd ask questions or make statements. And I'd flop. Or flip. Depending.

"If you've hurt her, so help me God!"

Floppy, flippy, flop flip.

"You despicable piece of shit."

Flippy, Flipsy, Flop.

"Hateful, pathetic excuse for a man!"

Flopsy, Mopsy, Flipsy, Floppsy.

"And you couldn't even come up with a decent fake name! Sewell! Jesus! What kind of it an idiot do you think I am?"

Floppity, flop, flip.

About that time I got a break because waiter-guy picked up my wallet from the table where'd I dropped it and started going through the contents. After a second, he looked up. "It isn't him," he said.


"It's not him. Not the right guy."

"Not. The. Right. Guy?"

"No. His driver's license says he's Maxwell."

"It's a fake."

"No," he held my license up in the light. "Looks legit. There's a social security card, too."


The next thing I heard was somebody yelling "Cut" And then there were all sorts of people running around. And somewhere along the line "Veronica" remembered she was still pressing the trigger and that I was still doing the yellow fin tuna routine on the café floor.

She let up on the trigger. "Marty," she said to the heavy-set guy I'd seen before, "you told me this wasn't going to happen again."

"Hell," chubby-guy replied. "How was I supposed to know? He was in the apartment. He matches the description."

"But that's twice in six months, Marty. Do you know how bad that looks?"

"Nothing made it on the air."


Chubby-guy remembered me. "He's not…dead, is he?"

She looked down at me. "You're not dead, or anything. Are you?"

I said, "Wheeze, gasp, pant, wheeze…"

"See? He's fine."

She dropped the Taser on a table. "Well," she said. "I'll let you sort it out. I should check my email."

"Don't forget," Chubby-guy said. "Your fans are expecting tweets tonight."

"I'm on it." Then, with a sniff, she was gone.

I realized that green apron guy was bending down over me. "Are you…are you okay?"

I wheezed out something that sounded terribly reassuring I'm sure.

"Should we call an ambulance?"

I heard chubby-guy react to that. "No. No. No! That would mean cops. Publicity. We'd be on the news!"

"But, he might be having, I don't know, a stroke or something."

"Let him have it someplace else."

"I think we really should…"

I held up a wavering hand and watched the fingers moving about, apparently all on their own. Nice to know that you've raised your appendages to be independent thinkers. Minds of their own and all that. "Just help me up," I told them.

Green apron guy gestured and then there seemed to be a whole bunch of young people around me. More interns, I assume. Anyway, I noticed that several of them were wearing either baseball caps or t-shirts, or both, emblazoned with the image of a big, nasty-looking bird, maybe a vulture, and the words, "Three Furies Productions."

Then it hit me. I knew what I'd stumbled into. Even I have heard of the Three Furies.

To explain, there is a cable TV network called EssEnEm Inc. That's S and M. It used to stand for the "Science and Music" Network. It started way back in the early 1980s and its original goal was to be (and here I'm quoting from the Wikipedia entry on them) "the commercial counterpoint to Public Broadcasting." It offered a rich selection of culturally enriching items—educational programs, symphonies, lectures, classic movies, etc., etc., and, of course, etc.

Great stuff. Only one problem. The public didn't give a Flying Fluggie At A Rolling Donut about educational programs, symphonies, lectures, classic movies, etc., etc., etc.  So, around 2000, Science and Music got new management and a new direction. From hence forward, announced a press release at the time, the company would provide "edgier content," that would be "aimed at a younger demographic," who were "interested in the issues of today." And it would do nothing but Reality Television.

Their first great hit? "Truck Stop Hookers: Highway 2 Hell On Wheels."

And EssEnEm (or S&Mtv) has traveled merrily down that same Highway ever since. Among the network's many successful productions and co-productions are such well-known titles as "Hillbilly Trailer Trash Does Dallas," "Fire, Lace, and Steel: Real Ladies of the Ku Klux Klan," "Crazy Crackers Of The Deep Woods," "Red Neck Nazis Go Hawaiian," and, of course, the ever popular "Daddy's Little Lolitas: Keeping It In The Family."

But all of these hits, despite their success, pale before one particular program. To wit: "The Three Furies Detective Agency." These are the adventures of three female detectives who, each week, accept a case from a "concerned viewer." This might be, for instance, a wife who fears her husband is cheating on her. Or, it might be someone who has been robbed and seeks some kind of vengeance. Or, well, you get the point.

I've never seen an episode of Furies, but Sam has, and he tells me there is a regular pattern to it. Each week, we meet the detectives, two of whom are supposed to be colorful and tough Southern Women of the Steel Magnolias variety. These two, "Bobby-Jo," and "Betty-Jo," are older …i.e. somewhere in their forties…and are the founders of the detective agency. The third woman is younger. She's supposed to be a recent hire and the other women are mentoring her. They teach her the arts of the detective and the ways of being a woman. A tough woman. A very tough woman.

Also each week, the three Furies encounter a villain…always blue-collar and always dumb as a brick. Or dumber. Then, over the next sixty minutes, we watch the Furies use a combination of their awe-inspiring street smarts, skill in physical combat, and (when necessary) feminine wiles, to bring down the Bad Guy.

Sam tells me that in all the years the program has run, the Three Furies have never failed to solve a case. Which strikes me as interesting. Given the fact that this is "reality television," and in reality the good guys (or girls) don't always win…well, that is, you know, you might suspect the data got just a wee bit skewed somewhere along the line.

But that's another story.

Anyway, Sam also tells me that after five successful seasons Three Furies is coming to an end. The two older detectives, Bobby-Jo and Betty-Jean, want to focus on other, more personal interests. Specifically, Bobby-Jo has a line of cosmetics, "Bobby-Jo's Black and Blue Beauty Basics," that needs her constant attention and management. Similarly, Betty-Jean has authored several successful cookbooks and plans to start a commercial baking operation—"Betty-Jean's Awe-Somely Bad Ass Biscuits. Ask for them at your grocer's."

As a result, Sam tells me, the producers of the Furies have penned their hopes on the third and youngest detective. She will be taking over the show, which is to be re-titled simply Fury: The Avenging Angel. It will have the same formula…the same dim-witted villain and the same inevitably happy endings…but the focus will now be on the single detective.

Oh, and the name of the woman in question? The detective? Well, of course, it is Veronica Eisenfist.

A.K.A., Veronica Smith.

So, if I'd only owned a TV and watched it regularly, I would have been able to save myself considerable trouble and Taser-time. Let this be a lesson to you, kids. When Mom and Dad say stop with the TV and read something, ignore 'em. Do yourself no end of good.

But, anyhoo, I found myself propped back up in my chair in the café. Green Apron guy had gotten me a glass of water and Chubby-Guy was sort of hovering near-by. He had one of his damn consent forms in hand. "Now," he said, "just an accident. Bygones be bygones. Right?"

"Say what?" I said.

"I mean, Fred, we wouldn't want to hold grudges, would we?"

"It's Sewell," feeling a vague sense of déjà vu.

"I mean, Fred, this was just an honest mistake. You understand, of course."


"So, Fred, if I could just get you to sign this little consent form."

"It's Sewell."

"It would be so helpful.

"Twenty-five thousand dollars."


"To make it all go away."

He stared at me with the same general affection that you might bring to a rabid hyena in heat. "Twenty-five thousand dollars!"


"Are you crazy?"


"But twenty five!"

"To make sure I don't go to the press."

He froze. For once in his life, he'd been genuinely surprised—not something, I could see, that happened to him very often. He'd been expecting me to threaten to sue. And being sued held no terrors for him. His company had lots of big nasty lawyers with big teeth and fangs and a deep desire to remove various of my more important organs and use them for a spirited game of volleyball. Or volley-lungs, -heart, and -liver.

You see, he knew, and I knew he knew, that America guarantees justice for all… who can afford it. If I took him to court, he and his legal staff would happily bleed me to death.  Even if I could find a lawyer who'd take my case on a contingency fee basis (doubtful), then I'd be looking at years and years and years of delays, evasions, and appeals…and even if I won I'd end up passing most of my ill-gotten gains to the lawyer, assuming that is I hadn't already quietly croaked of old age.

But the press…that was another matter entirely. He was having visions of me on TV, me talking to someone from the Albuquerque Journal, me being cited by ambitious Congressmen about How The Media Is Out Of Control.

"You wouldn't," he said.

"I would," I replied, with a warm and friendly smile.

"But that would screw us."

"I know," I said, cheerfully.


"Good to know we understand each other."

We then got down to bargaining in earnest. I was actually bluffing, naturally. I didn't want the press involved any more than he did. It would have been …inconvenient. A reporter looking into my happy Tasing over coffee and cookies might also get interested in little things like who the hell I was. And why I was in Albuquerque. Questions, in other words, neither Sam nor I (and particularly not Sam) really wanted anyone asking.

When it all got done, I was $15K richer and he was calling me You-Despicable-SunOBitch-I-Hate-Your-Fucking-Guts. But in a nice way. Very comradely. Affectionate even. The earthy but friendly exchange of two old soldiers recalling the common battle.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I learned that his name was Martin G. Sneiderman and he was the executive producer of Fury. The young guy, the one I'd been calling Green Apron Guy, was Robert ("call me Bob") Garcia, and he was the associate producer. I got the feeling Garcia was actually the Showrunner, i.e., the individual who actually did most of the work. But Sneiderman supervised. Oh, yes. A true manager was our Mr. Sneiderman. A credit to his MBA.

When we finally came to agreement, Sneiderman told Garcia "handle it." Then he stomped off toward the manager's office where, I gather, further negotiations, apologies, and check writing would be required.

"It's been kind of a long day for him," Garcia told me.

"Yes, I suppose it has been."

Garcia produced a consent form and a checkbook. "If you'll just sign this," he passed it to me. I waited until he'd opened the checkbook and started writing. "Your full name?"

"Sewell Arthur Maxwell."

He filled in the "pay to the order of" line. "Sewell Arthur Maxwell…" He laughed. "S.A.M.  Not many people have initials that spell another name."

"I'm blessed," I agreed. He handed me the check. I handed him the signed form.

I stood and shook his hand. He walked me to the door. We made small talk—the weather, what life was like in the broadcast industry, that sort of thing.

"Oh," I said. "One last thing."


"This guy you're looking for. Hastings?"


"He was the previous tenant of my apartment. That's why you got me confused with him."


"He left a few documents behind. I've read them."

Now he got very interested.

"Couple of things," I said. "Pretty sure he dealt drugs. But you probably knew that already."

"Yesss…" the voice was uncertain.

 "I found a notebook. I think it is some kind of customer list. Lots of addresses. Also dates and times. Maybe it's a schedule of deliveries. I don’t know."

His eyes were round and staring. "Would you…could we see it?"

I smiled. "Well," I said, "if someone asked Pretty-Please. With a cherry on top."

"I see."

He put out his hand. I shook it. Then I left.

Outside, the late afternoon sun was red and low. It was, I realized, nearly evening. I glanced at the mountains to the east, the Sandias. It was August, which is what the city residents call "monsoon season." Albuquerque doesn’t get much rain, but what it does receive frequently comes in late summer. It can be quite exciting then, particularly in the mountains, with powerful storms sweeping in from the east.

 As I watched, the thunderhead turned black. A moment later, there was a bolt of lightening that streaked all the way from heaven to the microwave towers on the mountain peak.

Damn, I thought.

Because there is nothing I loath as much as when God does foreshadowing.

It's so bloody hard to miss the message.

More about Dangerous Rabbits...

Here is a new development. We have just published our very first mystery novel. Which is also a comic novel. Which is also kind of a sad novel. Which is also about a man, a woman, and a giant imaginary white rabbit …who's a trained assassin.

It's called Dangerous Rabbits (In Albuquerque) and it's by T.J. Wise. And believe it or not, it all actually makes sense.

That's no small feat given the subject matter.


Dangerous Rabbits tells the story of Sewell Arthur Maxwell and his best friend Sam, and their encounter with the beautiful star of a "reality" TV program about detectives. Sewell seems like an ordinary albeit down-and-out resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sam…well, Sam is his "imaginary friend."

He's not, he assures the reader, "really" crazy, just a little odd. And besides, he says,  "… think about the number of guys who play Fantasy Football. They've got whole damn teams of imaginary friends. I've just got Sam…So, in terms of numbers alone, I'm actually doing pretty good."

Sam and Sewell happen to meet the lovely, talented, and tough Veronica Eisenfist, who is supposed to be a detective. Actually, she's the star of a reality TV program in which she and two other "detectives" hunt down various minor offenders.

I'll spare you how she comes to meet Sewell. Suffice to say that it involves a case of mistaken identity …and a stun gun. (In fact, we'll be posting chapter 3 in a moment. So you'll be able to see the whole thing in glorious color.)

Anyway, Sewell and Sam are witty and funny, and Sewell's attempts to woo the TV detective are appropriately clumsy. At first it seems there's no more to the book than that…a tale as fluffy as Sam the rabbit's backside, and just as immaterial.

But then…things change. And not for the better. First, there's a murder. Maybe more than one.

Second…we learn a little more about Sewell. To be precise, we learn that his history is horrific.  It begins with a childhood crowded with abuse and neglect, and then goes down (if such a thing is possible) from there.

Yet, through it all, as he struggles to deal with corruption and murder (and assist his lady-friend, however indifferent she is to his attempts at help), he maintains a kind of honor. Indeed, even in his wounded madness, he is an old-fashioned gentleman, trying to make his way in a world that has no use for gentlemen or honor … and still less, for innocence.


So, give Sewell and Sam a read. You may find the two of them amusing. Sad, sometimes, but always witty, brave, and true. There's something endearing in those characteristics.

In other words, Sewell may be mad as a March Hare, but maybe that's just the sort of fine madness this sad old world needs. Or, as Sam might say, let's seek a moral victory though…Hare Power.

(Sorry. Just couldn't help myself.0


On that note, check out chapter Three of Dangerous Rabbits (In Albuquerque), by T.J. Wise. It will be in the posting above.

Or, just go to Amazon and see the whole book. It is here:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Something wonderfully goofy! A man, a woman, and a giant rabbit

And now for something completely different...

From Dangerous Rabbits...(In Albuquerque)

       Sam is my imaginary friend.
       No, I am neither four years old nor am I suffering from severe mental illness. I'm a little crazy, yes. But not big league crazy. Not hard-core Fly Over the Coconut's Nest crazy. I'm not some sort of Three Faces of Eve Q. Sybil type with multiple personalities who talks to aliens and garbage cans on a regular basis. I'm just, well, call it "eccentric."
       But, anyway, a few decades back, I went through a kind of difficult period in my life. And I didn't have a lot of friends so I thought I'd invent one. And so, Sam...
      Stop looking at me like that. I said I was odd. And before you start casting stones, think about the number of guys who play Fantasy Football. They've got whole damn teams of imaginary friends. I've just got Sam.
      So, in terms of numbers alone, I'm actually doing pretty good.

Sewell is just an ordinary guy. A bit nuts, yeah. But not so much as you'd notice. Just enough to have a Giant White Rabbit as his best friend.

But then Sewell met up with the beautiful pretend detective …and a very real murder. And all of a sudden Sewell's craziness looked downright sane.

Fortunately, when the chips are down, you can always count on your BFF…even if he is a wisecracking killer rabbit with commando training.

'Cause, after all. Sometimes a hare's gotta do what a hare's gotta do.

"On one level this is a witty, romantic, and light-hearted mystery comedy of a book," says Stewart Arthur Ravelin (author of The Kind And Gentle Fascist), "but on another, it is quite serious. It is the tale of a man so horribly abused that he has become something of a monster. But a monster determined to be on the side of the angels."

Dangerous Rabbits (In Albuquerque), now on Amazon at:

Our first venture into books of poetry! Lucky Pennies!

Lucky Pennies & A new and luminous voice in American Poetry!

Belfort and Bastion is proud to introduce W. L. Kasperek's debut collection of poetry in e-book form, Lucky Pennies. In this remarkable work, Kasperek proves herself to be among the best of the new voices of what has been called the post-postmodern age. Her works firmly reject the cheap cynicism and cheaper irony that have been all too often the hallmarks of recent poetry. In their place she offers an unblinking realism but a realism firmly tied to a strong moral conception of what the world could be and should be

"Kasperek's work shows that reports of the 'death of the aesthetic' are greatly exaggerated," notes Victor Storiguard (author of Singular Encounters and Hydra). "Her poetry proves beyond question that there is still a place for beauty, morality, sentiment, and justice in the world of the artist."

Lucky Pennies includes some of the best of Kasperek's recent work. The poems here range from the haiku-like evocations of the natural world (for example, "The Lake Is A Mirror,") to wonderfully comic meditations on the passing scene ("Please Save Our Drive-Inns"), to the deeply personal and touching ("A True Hero").

Lucky Pennies is available as an e-book on Amazon now at:

About W. L. Kasperek

Kasperek was born and raised in southern California. She then launched into a career that includes military service, music, and motherhood.

As for her poetry, she notes, "creating poems is a healing process for me …As I move on in life I will continue to share what I see in this world of mine, good and bad and right or wrong…"


Thursday, August 22, 2013

From The Kind And Gentle Fascist

The following is an excerpt from The Kind and Gentle Fascist by Stewart Arthur Ravelin. For more on the book, see the previous posting in this blog.

From Chapter Two

It all happened because our club…the "Thursday Discussion Circle," we call it, because that's when we meet. Anyway, our club tried to sponsor a conference of Left- and Right-wing Radicals in one of the years toward the middle of the 1990s. Grey was one of the many, many people we'd invited.

I had seen his byline in some of the little political journals I read. We'd exchanged email once or twice. He'd come across a couple of my articles on my web site – specifically "Eurasian Unity and Social Destiny" and "Towards a Nationalist Revolutionary North American Ideology: Beyond Liberal and Conservative" — and he wrote me a very nice note about them. I must confess, I was rather flattered.

So, about a year later, when we . . . that is, the Discussion Circle, we've run it from of my house ever since my wife moved out . . . when we decided to hold a conference on the works of Maurice Bardèche, I emailed him an invitation.

I didn't hear back from him. But that, alas, did not make him unique. Our conference was a bit of a disaster, I'm afraid. We mailed or emailed, or phoned, nearly a thousand different organizations on the Revolutionary Right and the Revolutionary Left all over the world. We, or rather I (it was on my Visa card. I was supposed to be reimbursed by the Club. But I never was) had rented a conference room at a downtown hotel. We put up fliers around the schools — Harvard, MIT, BU, BC.  We promoted things as best we could.

But, for all that, we got hardly any response. The Europeans were the worst.  No one from the National Alliance, the former Italian Social Movement, came.  No one from the French Front National, that is, Le Pen's people, came. There was some faint interest from some German fans of the Conservative Revolutionaries, but they could come only if we could pay for the plane tickets, and we couldn't. We did get a couple of gentlemen who said they were Dutch Third Positionists, but later I wasn't sure what group they were really with. If any. Except maybe the S&M Liberation Front. They came to the meetings wearing enough black leather to start their own motorcycle gang.

 We did better among the Anglos. We had two Brits who said they were followers of Mosley, and one who said he was a member of the Black Front. A few Scots separatists showed up, and we had one fellow who said he was an Ulster Nationalist . . . in other words, a Northern Ireland independent of both the U.K. and the South.

Then there were our fellow Americans. We had some National Bolsheviks from Arizona and California and an Integralist from New York City. There was a man who said he was a Falangist from Alabama, but I think he was really more of a Francoist or Social Catholic. He spent most of his time passing out anti-Abortion pamphlets in the back of the hall. And urging everyone to Pray the Rosary.

And we had some Communists. We'd invited members of the Russian Party, but none of them came. And we'd tried to get a speaker from the CPUSA, but they didn't answer. But we had six or seven Maoists and Trotskyites. Mostly they were academics from the schools.

All total, I think we got about one hundred people. That is, bodies in the room. Unfortunately, not all of them were real Radicals, either Right or Left. I'd say maybe half were. The rest? Ah. I'm afraid I have to quote my friend Theo, who said to me later, "A crock pot potato soup of warmed over Ku Kluxers and Latter Day Nazis poured over a base of Ronald Reaganoids, Ayn Randies, and Laissez Fairies."

Alas, he was woefully correct. We were up to our up lower lips in Libertarians. With the typical willful stupidity of their block-headed breed, they'd misread our flyers and posters. They seemed not to realize that we were the NON-Capitalist Right. They showed up in full fledged Ayn Rand drag . . . that is, the men trying to be John Galt with steely jaws, the women in capes and being very, very serious behind cigarette holders the length of knitting needles.

But it was amusing to watch their eyes goggle when they got to the conference room and found we'd decorated it with posters of Che and Trotsky. So I suppose they were worth something.

Oh, and we had a large number of Radical Traditionalists — John Birch types. Bloody fools, the lot. But you can deal with them, easily. Just make some off-hand remarks about international conspiracies and Illuminati, and they're perfect lambs.

The other problem we had was far worse. That is, the Racists. Quoting Theo again (he so damn quotable), "they killed Fascism the first time, they're doing their best to do it again." 

In fact, on the third day of the conference, I thought they were going to slaughter us right then and there. Among the people who'd showed up, uninvited, was a prize fool who called himself "Colonel Junker." He really had been in the military. He'd been a corporal or something in the National Guard while he was avoiding the draft in the '60s. Anyway, he showed up wearing a sort of fatigue uniform outfit. And he came with a flotilla of six teenage skinheads in tow. All white skinny punks in boots with white shoelaces . . . which, of course, meant they were racist skinheads, red laces mean revolutionary skinheads . . .  and black jackets decorated with Celtic and arrow crosses.

He made a speech on the third day. He got up, put in a monocle (No. Honestly. He had one), and launched off into an incoherent rant about Zionist oppression of the Palestinians. Which is fine enough, I suppose. You have to admit the Israelis have done their share of that. But then from there, he got to the "Zionist Occupation Government (ZOG)" of the United States, and the "Jew-Ridden Congress, "and finally to the ATF as a "Jewish Front Organization."

We were all sitting there feeling horribly embarrassed because that's exactly the kind of thing we don't need. It gives Fascism a bad name. But finally he came cranking to a finish, removed his monocle (I think it was simply unground glass, not a lens, just for display), and goose-stepped back to his seat. We were absolutely silent. Then, his skinheads started applauding wildly and yelling at the top of their lungs. I clapped a little, to be polite, but didn't really put my heart into it.

His pimple-faced juvenile delinquents, however, were ecstatic. One of them got up on his chair and started bellowing "White Power! White Power!" and giving the straight-arm salute. Another, a nasty looking little brute with a wispy beard, unfurled a flag on a staff and began waving it about. It was red, with a white disk in the center, and in the disk a black "werewolf" symbol . . . that is, a kind of half a swastika. Swedish and Dutch Neo-Nazis use it a lot.

I saw them eyeing us and noticing that we weren't really giving their Maximum Leader the attention they felt he deserved. I saw fists starting to clinch and in their eyes the delighted, feral, bloody-minded look you see when Hitler Youth think they're going to get the chance to beat the crap out of somebody.

Then, in the back of the room, there was an awful bang. Everybody spun around. A youngish man  in the very last row of seats had stood up suddenly and knocked his chair over in the process. It had made a dreadful noise. I realized later he'd done it quite deliberately.

"Sorry," he said.

He was tall, wrapped in a long, black overcoat. It was wet, I remember. It had been raining and sleeting that day. He removed the coat and put it across another chair. Under it, he was green and black. He had a black sport coat over a green knit sweater. Black tie. White shirt. The clothing looked old, somehow. A little worn. And he was very pale and very thin. He had a long, pale delicately featured face. It was almost feminine, I can remember. There was a womanliness about it.

He walked slowly, deliberately to the front of the room, where we had a little podium. I remember he passed under the werewolf flag. Then, the skinhead who'd been saluting jumped off his chair and stood in front of him. The thin man paused . . . stared at him . . . reached into a pocket, extracted an ice pick. He held it up, almost elegantly, the way the Randian women held their cigarette holders.

The kid slowly sank back into his seat.

The man went forward, still with his ice pick, to the podium. He came to the podium, then stood for a moment, looking down at it . . . at the podium, I mean . . . as though there were notes there, and he was refreshing his memory before launching into a prepared text. But, it was empty. He read nothing but the varnished wood. And he had the pick raised in one hand, like a conductor with a baton.

Then . . . down! Down came the pick. With enormous force . . . strength far beyond what I thought him capable . . . he slammed the ice pick into the podium. His whole body twisted to place his total weight into the blow. It sank deep and remained in the wood.

Then, slowly, silently, he raised his gaze until he look at each of us. It was like  …  I don't know … like being cold. Like being caught in the beams of, say, some powerful microwave source. You cannot see it. You cannot feel it. But you know, somehow, that you are being damaged. Burned.

"I am," he said, "Jerusalem."


The Kind and Gentle Fascist, by Stewart Arthur Revelin is now on Amazon here:

The Kind And Gentle Fascist

This month we have a new and very transgressive novel to offer—The Kind And Gentle Fascist by Stewart Arthur Ravelin.

The title alone will tip you off that we've got something that treads rather heavily on thin ice here. A kind Fascist? A gentle Fascist?

Yet, that's what this novel about—a modern American who has become a "fascist," although he'd probably prefer the term "Revolutionary Nationalist," or "man of the New Right." Mr. Burnell, as our hero is named, is a true gentleman, kind and wise, who hates racism and anti-Semitism, and would die for world peace and social justice.

Yet, his political ideology is derived from the Radical Right.

A contradiction? Maybe not as much as you might think. "Fascism" is a complicated word. For most us it means simply Hitler and Mussolini and death camps and war and bloody-minded horror.

Yet, as the great historian Zeev Sternhell has pointed out, this has not always been the case. (See his Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France.) At one time, prior to the 1930s, there were currents within radical right-wing thought that were neither racist nor anti-Semitic, that opposed imperialism and militarism, and that were far less authoritarian than (for example) what was happening in militant socialism at the same time—i.e., Communism, as made manifest by Lenin, Trotsky, and, later, Stalin.

Indeed, at one time, there was a "Fascism" or "Nationalistic Socialism" (not to be confused Hitler's National Socialism, Nazism, despite the similarity of the names) that was a genuine competitor with Communism for the hearts and minds of the European workingman and woman. 

Alas, that all changed with the rise first of Mussolini and then of Hitler. "Fascism" became (with Mussolini) a tool with which the wealthy and the powerful could corrupt, control, and repress the lower class. Then (with Hitler) it became as well an obscenity…the destroyer of whole peoples, the author of genocide and terror.

And, with Burnell, author Stewart Arthur Ravelin gives us a man who is desperately attempting bring that other Radical Right back, and to bring the Right as a whole to the inclusive socialism of men like Henri De Man and the organicism of men like G.K. Chesterton.

Does he succeed? We will provide no spoilers. But we will mention that here is an additional complication.

To wit, there is a viper at his breast.


For a bit more on this remarkable new book, check out the next posting in this blog. It will be an excerpt the book.

As for the book itself, you can see it here: The Kind and Gentle Fascist

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Frighten

Today, we need talk about a book, a writer, and a Latin word.

And, believe it or not, there's connection. And something very, very important for us all.

The writer first. Robert L. Folkner is one of Belfort and Bastion's favorite authors. He's already done one novel for us, Something For Everything. It is a sort of a retelling of the Faust tale but from the perspective of a modern American age of post-industrial decline.

But, now, Folkner's done a second work for us. This is a collection of short stories entitled Pure Theatre of Cruelty.

Now, for the word: terreō

It means, more or less, "I frighten."

Which is where we get into the important part.


Terreo is one of those interesting Latin words which shows up as multiple words in English. Most obviously, of course, is "terror." Related to that is "terrible." So there's two words and two distinct concepts right there. We have terreo in the sense of cause of causing fear—i.e., "The 9/11 hijackers were terrorists." But we also have the sense of something very, very bad, either in the meaning of evil ("The Cambodian Genocide was terrible,"), or in the meaning of something awful ("That dinner was terrible.")

But, curiously, terreo also shows up in English to mean something good, as in "Terrific."  Thus we have, "She's a terrific human being."

The problem arises because the underlying meaning of "terreo" got a little slippery when it was transferred to English via Norman French. When it got grafted onto what used to be Anglo-Saxon, it took on the meaning of something which evokes the grander emotions, whether for good or bad.

That's why translating "terror" or "terrific" can get tricky. Take Czar Ivan IV. We call him, in English "Ivan The Terrible" because he was known among the Russians as "Ivan Grozny."  So we have a vision of Ivan as a tyrant, "the Terrible," a kind of precursor of Stalin.

Except that Grozny doesn't really mean "terrible" in the sense that we know it today. In Russian it is more like "strong" or "formidable,"—more, in fact, like our "terrific." What happened was that when the title was translated into English in the 1500s, the translators were looking for a word that meant something "awe-inspiring," and (at the time) "terrible" did just that. " It was only after a few hundred years that the English-term had taken on today's more negative meaning.

Which isn't to say that Ivan the Terrible wasn't, indeed, "terrible" as we use the term today. He probably was. But, as one of the founders of the Russian state, and the man who helped put down the foundations for the Russian empire in Siberia and Central Asia, he might have a rather good claim on "Terrific" as well.

But, what's that got to do with Robert Folkner? For that, we need to turn to Theatre.


Folkner is a fabulist. Or, as he prefers to call himself, "a Fantasist." His fiction weaves in and out of the real world, taking the reader from the mundane to the fantastic, and back again …all in a matter of a few pages.

His current book with us, Pure Theatre of Cruelty, includes a number of tales…all of them fundamentally disturbing. There is "Classical Massacre," which gives us a pretty "terrible" picture of what a nuclear weapons strike would be like. Then, too, there's  " Fortune-Baby," where the supernatural, the cinema, and perfect justice all somehow become intertwined. And there's "Everyone Gets What He Deserves," which asks what would happen if our juvenile justice (or injustice) system were to gain a little too much power. And, well, there's much more beyond those.

The connection with terreo? Simply this: Folkner's tales are of the same stuff as terreo. They evoke terror, but also are terrific.

They evoke terror because they deal with horrible, horrible things—the death of children, torture, the heartbreak of exile. But they are terrific, not just because they are well written (they are) but because they are warnings. They are signposts that read "here there be dragons," and suggesting alternative routes.

Take "Classical Massacre." At first glace, the reader would be tempted to dismiss it. After all, the Cold War is over. The threat of nuclear annihilation is over, isn't it? This is passé, isn't it?

Or is it? As I write this, in 2013, at least five nations possess nuclear weapons—including North Korea and Pakistan, neither of which looks like a monument to national stability. Several other states have the capacity to produce them any time they like. And there are almost certainly non-state actors— Al-Qaeda, for one—trying to get them.

Oh, and here's something else to consider. What's one of the most rapidly accelerating arms races in the world right now? Try India and China, both nuclear powers with missile programs. Just last year (2012) India debuted the Agni-V, a ICBM that can carry multiple nuclear weapons. It's called "the China killer."

Consider that for a moment.


Or take "Everyone Gets." I won't provide any spoilers but suffice to say it involved a future in which the juvenile justice system meets time travel. A simple sci-fi/horror tale, you say?

Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Consider the social trend knownas  "the criminalization of children." It's been written about everyone from scholarly journals to the New York Times. Increasingly, we treat young people as criminal, guilty until proven innocent.

Thus schools are built like armed camps. Police are now regularly stationed in every school in the country…not to protect the young people from machine gun welding maniacs, but to keep the students in line.

How long before society's "terror" of the young becomes truly deadly?


So this is why Folkner is "terrible" and "terrific." He warns us. He points at the dark places in our society…and in our souls…and says "Here there be demons."

Here, he says, are things you must avoid. At all costs, you must avoid them. If you do not, then…well…the world is threatened.

And so Folkner joins that tiny band of writers, the men and women who stand before us with magic mirrors. They present us with our own secret faces…faces that may, indeed, be terrible.

Such people, such artists, are important …as important as those who follow Caesar and whisper, "you are mortal."

These men and women follow us all. And say, "Terrific or terrible…you can be either.

"The choice is entirely…entirely!… up to you."

Let us hope to God we make the right choice.


You may see Pure Theatre of Cruelty at Amazon here:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Biopunk -- the short stories of Anastasia Leach


This week, Belfort and Bastion is proud to announce a new book, Prometheans, a collection of short stories by the talented Anastasia Leach. You can see it here.

This will be Anastasia's first book-length publication. For us, however, it will also be a major departure. This is our first book in the field of biopunk fiction.

What's that you ask? Good question. The answer we'll provide is one we've taken from the ever useful Wikipedia, "Biopunk (a portmanteau synthesizing "biotechnology" and "punk") is a technoprogressive movement advocating open access to genetic information… Biopunk hobbyists or biohackers experiment with DNA and other aspects of genetics."

You read that right. Biopunks, biohackers, and DIYbio fans "hack" the stuff of life itself. They work with the code of the cell, DNA, as computer hackers work with software. These people are real. They are serious. They have labs at Universities, kitchen sinks, and basements across the world.

Biopunk science fiction, meanwhile, considers the implications of all that.


We'll go a bit more into biopunk later. (Who knows? Perhaps, if we beg hard enough, we'll get Anastasia to write something on the subject herself.)

But, let's turn now to the book, Prometheans. It contains four thought-provoking stories and the best way to describe them is probably just to reproduce the book's cover language. Ergo:

*"Prometheans"— The good news: you may be immortal. The bad news: everyone wants a piece of you, the literal kind.

*"A Happy Place"— The Geiste are quantum minds in human bodies. In theory, they should be a thriving blend of both. In practice...

*"Colony"—There is something alive in the dark water. But, not to worry, it's only looking for a home.

*"The Mentor"— A kid with a knack for synthetic biology has a girl to impress and a bully to deal with. What can possibly go wrong?

Each of these looks at some aspect of the world that is almost certainly coming—whether it be contact with alien life forms, the consequences of the widespread knowledge of the techniques of genetic engineering, or the results of human-machine hybridization. Not to provide any spoilers, but it will give you some idea of the range of these tales that they include everything from radical human mutation to a new profession, i.e. psychotherapy for artificial minds.


And Belfort and Bastion is particularly proud to have Prometheans in its catalog. First and foremost that's because we're delighted to have Anastasia writing for us. She is simply damn good. In fact, she may prove to be that illusive thing, a major talent. (Yes, we know that's what every publisher says about all its writers. But, in this case, there's a real chance it is true.)

Also, we're pleased because she has elected to write in the biopunk genre. Oh, she isn't restricted to it. She writes other material as well. If we're fortunate, we'll get a chance to publish some of her efforts in those other fields. Stay tuned for future developments.

 But, that a writer of such skill has turned to biopunk is important. Frankly, we…and here "we" means us all, the whole human race…need such people. We need articulate, intelligent, thoughtful individuals who can direct our attention to the rapid developing world of biotech, biopunk, biohacking, DIYbio, and all the rest.

Think about it. In just the last few decades…actually, in just the last few years… we have gained the power to do things with life that were once unthinkable. We can now modify DNA. We can create living things that have never existed before, ever, anywhere, and any time. We have learned to use the fundamental building blocks of life as tools for our purposes.

Mind you, these powers…godlike and fearsome…are not restricted to the few and the mighty. We're not just talking governments and giant corporations. Small companies can do it. Small research organizations can. Small labs, too. Indeed, today, almost anyone, in any laboratory, anywhere, can do all of the above and much more.

And, everywhere, there is springing up a generation of biohackers, individuals who have learned or taught themselves the arts manipulating life itself.

Consider the meaning of that. We hear endless discussion, warnings, and Jeremiads on the dangers posed by cyber criminals and terrorists. Now and then we get news of some individual who has attempted to develop a nuclear reactor or a dirty bomb in his backyard. We read, then, many strident editorials in important publications about how We View With Alarm These Developments.

But, you don't hear much about biohacking. It is almost unknown outside of a very small circle.

Yet, which would have the greatest effect? The hacker who penetrates the firewall and humiliates a few MBAs? Or the biohacker, from whose lab comes something…whether microbe or superman…which could reshape the very nature of humanity?


So that's why need biopunk writers. And good ones. We need someone to ask right now what will important questions. What will it mean when any bright high school kid can reprogram living beings? When any halfway competent lab tech could create synthetic beings in a test tube? When any fanatic in a backroom can construct a virus more potent than AIDS, more virulent than plague?

We need people like Anastasia to help explore these issues. To confront us with them. To make us ask "What are we going to do?"

And, oh, by the way, the one thing we cannot do is avoid the world that Anastasia writes about. We can't somehow pass laws against it. We can't stop the dispersal of information. Already, the tools and the knowledge of biohacking are too widespread. The genie is not going into its bottle anytime soon.

In short, as a culture, we must remember a certain myth. We must recall the Titan who stole fire from heaven and gave it to a sad and shivering humanity. The Titan was punished by the gods, but what he'd done could not be undone. The balance of power between mortal and divine was forever shifted. The flaming sword was already in the hands of Man.

In other words, we …and particularly our Leaders…must recall that Prometheans already walk among us.

Let us hope that Anastasia and others like her will be heard. And listened to.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Something For Everything by Robert L. Folkner


This month, Belfort and Bastion is proud to announce a new book and a new writer. The former is Something For Everything and the latter is Robert L. Folkner.

So what's the novel about? Ah, that's complicated. In some ways, it's Faust. In others, though…

Well, let's just say that this is a subtle bit of social criticism. And very, very potent.


When Folkner first approached us with the book, 'twas I who got the job of shepherding the manuscript through development. As I understood the pitch, it was a of reworking of the Faust story, but with the main characters being teenagers—sort of Goethe for the Young Adult Fiction market. And that's a good thing. Every publisher worth its salt is busy looking for the next R.L. Stine.

But then I got the manuscript. And, guess what…I had completely misjudged the work and its creator. Oh, Faust was there, no doubt. Something for Everything tells us the story of two young men, Bradley Hollenger and Ricky Stromberg, living in a rust belt city and dreaming of better things, even as they are all too clearly fated for lives of dreary struggle. Then, one of them meets a mysterious pair of twins…as we learn, supernatural beings.

The obligatory deal is struck. And the fortunate young man finds his life transformed. All that was denied him is now available.

Ah, but the price, we learn, is steep.

As I say, when I first saw the proposal, I thought that's all there was to the book—an interesting, serviceable (if not particularly original) plot and well-done characters. And, both are present. Both are nicely crafted. The writing's clear and clean. The two boys are well delineated and artistically drawn.

Except, when I began reading the thing in detail, I realized that while these things are indeed present, there's a great deal more going on between these pages. Mr. Folkner isn't just telling us a story. He is presenting us with …



First, background. Folkner is one of that vanishing breed, an American industrial worker. He lives in one of the grimy, factory towns he describes. He earns his daily bread by operating a complicated machine that shapes metal. He lives with the very real threat that someday his livelihood will vanish. Such is the fate of the American Man (and Woman) in our postindustrial age.

Yet he is also an educated man…largely self-educated, but thoroughly so. He has spent decades reading history and literature, art and science. He observes his world, and our world, with a trained eye.  (He reminds me a little of that other great autodidactic, Eric Hoffer, who worked the docks during the day, and produced brilliant philosophic treatises at night. Naturally, the Learned and the Wise have never forgiven Hoffer. I wonder if Folkner will be as little loved by the Academy.)

And I should have thus seen what he was up to just from my knowledge of his biography. But, I really didn't get it …didn't understand how completely I'd misjudged Something For Everything …until I heard a quote about the book. Among of its early readers was one of Mr. Folkner's co-workers. The friend loved the book because, he said, he "identified with the Bradley Hollenger character [since he] himself grew up in a crumbling, decaying part of Minneapolis."

And that's when it hit me. Where are these people living? I mean, Folkner's characters? These two boys and their families? Not Hollywood or Beverly Hills. Not southern Manhattan or the Gold Coast. Not the centers of American wealth and power where, logically, a writer would put a Faust story (or, at least, have his characters drift towards).

No. They are in a dirty, grim, rust-belt city…where layoffs and pink slips are the norm, bitterness a given, and despair a way of life.

They are, in short, confined in that greater prison of our collective soul—postindustrial America. They are our analogs and designates, or metaphors and surrogates, our body-doubles…the boys (and girls) we were once or are now, taught to believe that the world was ours for the taking if we only worked hard enough and followed the rules, only to find that the world has (somehow) been snatched away from us at the very last minute.


Thus, you can find Bradley Hollenger and Ricky Stromberg on the streets of any American city or town…and, increasingly, on any campus. The middle class withers, jobs flow overseas or to machines, the young discover they are unemployable, and the aged become desperate.

And what takes the place of hope in such a world? When so little is genuinely offered to us? Consumer goods, of course. Or rather, the wish to have them. Day and day out, we are presented with a barrage of images…on TV or in movies (product placements) or on the web…of Things We Are Told We Really Want (but actually can't afford). Cars and watches, jewelry and clothes, electronic and other toys, these crowd in upon our consciousness and corrupt our very souls.

And in this postindustrial age of poverty and want, who are our heroes? Who are the people we are told to admire? They are no longer the creative or the forceful. Rather, they are champions of consumption. They teach us not self-discipline or wisdom, but rather what and how to buy, regardless of the cost. Somehow, by some mysterious and terrible process, the Kardashians have become our gods, the Beverly Hills Housewives are the captains of our souls…

And who are Mr. Folkner's deadly twins? The Two who come to tempt the boys? Is it not obvious? Is it not plain? They are those men and women who stand glittering and lovely on the brand new flat screen 3D display, offering us all that we desire (so long as they get to define what it is we want).

Ah, but there's the rub. If we should, somehow, obtain those goods and toys, we find they are unfulfilling. We find that they do not ease that horrible ache within us. Indeed, we find that possessions leave us desiring more than ever, like the junkie who cannot quite get enough of his injection, or the compulsive eater who can never get her fill. We feel the emptiness within us, so we buy to fill it, but those purchases leave us more hungry than before, and so we must buy more.

And so on, unto the grave.


And so we come to the deeper meaning of Mr. Folkner's book. He comes to us not just as a novelist but also a fabulist and an educator. What he is telling his readers, and particularly the younger ones, is that postindustrial consumer society is a trap. It offers everything…all the marvels of the material world…but it delivers nothing.

Indeed, possession becomes a kind of, well, possession. We buy possessions for the sake of buying, and somehow we become possessed. We are possessed by the demons of consumption. Purchasing  becomes a religious duty. The career becomes all important. The paycheck (a large one) is more vital than the self. Family, friends, artistic and personal expression, quiet contemplation, all wither before the demands of the credit card.

This is Folkner's warning. Pay heed, he says, to what really matters. And what really matters may not be what you are told you desire.

It may be, in fact, the exact opposite of what you hear on TV, of what you read about celebrities, and what appears (sparkling and golden) when you click links on Web pages.

Thus Mr. Folkner's message to the young, and, yes, to us all.

Still, there's one other point I need to raise about him. If the above was all he achieved, then Folkner would have done the reading public a service. But he goes beyond that. He is no mere Cassandra. He does not simply point out the problems of the world.

He offers a solution. To wit, he offers Voltaire.


Probably the most famous words that Voltaire ever put to paper come near the end of his Candide. You know, of course, the tale. After long years of disappointment, the young Candide realizes that only by tending to one's affairs may we achieve something like utopia: Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

What Folkner says is like that. Only, he tells us, by resolutely avoiding the temptations of excessive consumption, or grandiosity and megalomania, can we find something like happiness.

To live, we must turn our backs upon the Twins and the more obsessive aspects of consumer society. We must learn to see their offerings (their bait) as being the shining but empty dangers they really are. We must learn not to fall for their scam. Their deadly, addictive, hollow gifts.

We must, in other words, cultivate our own garden.

And there, of course, is where Folkner is at his most important. His message is vital. He tells us the postindustrial age is not pleasant. We have been badly cheated. We labored long decades… generations! make America great. We invested our talent, our sweat, and yes, our blood.

But, somehow, somewhere along the way, a tiny elite took away the value that we'd worked so long to create. Wealth was shifted wholesale from the middle class to the rich. Jobs were "out sourced" and "off shored." Our present was made grotesque and our children's futures were stolen. And then, to add insult to injury, those who have taken the most from us have announced that it was, after all, our own fault; that if only we weren't lazy and stupid, like "the 47%," then we wouldn't be in this mess.

Folkner, however, tells us…No. He says Pay No Attention To Them. He says work, yes, but work for your own well-being and that of your family, your friends, and your community. Work, but expect only small changes, little changes, and…given enough time, maybe generations…eventually that grim, post-industrial city will become once more shining and wonderful.

And the Great? The Powerful? The Twins? Those who stole our heritage and now consider us parasites and fools?

Well, one day, they may look up…look away from their toys, their Lear Jets and Penthouses…and realize (OhMyGod!) that they are utterly irrelevant. Utterly without purpose. Utterly unimportant.

And forever exiled from the Garden.

~The Editors

Something For Everything is now on Amazon here.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Re.Doubt1 is A Go

Belfort and Bastion is pleased to announce that it has just published the first issue of Re.Doubt, a collection of the new works from writers, poets, photographers, and other artists.

There will be several of Re.Doubts before all is done and said. This, the first, includes works by Elgador, Tristan Gans, Michael Jay Tucker, Robert Folkner, Jeff Russell, Jadee, Martha Trudeau Tucker, DeWayne Fisher, and Victor Storiguard.

So, check it out at Amazon.

In the meantime, here's the introductory chapter: Re.Doubt issue one.

What is it?

Briefly, Re.Doubt is a series of books, eachcontaining a number of short, evocative pieces. These may be short stories, essays, poems, photographs, drawings, paintings?

And why is it being published?

Re.Doubt is meant to be a place young artists, new artists, older artists who may wish to tread the line of transgression, and others can go to see their work in (electronic) print. We mean to offer such people a platform from which to disclaim.

Even if, particularly if, their message may have been before ignored.

And what is the significance of the name?

Partly, we are simply being silly. A redoubt is a stronghold, a fortification. And that fits with our name, Belfort and Bastion, which just happens to sound a bit similar._

And, too, we like to thing our contributors are "redoubtable" souls.

And that's all?

No. One more thing. We call it Re.Doubt because the goal of these books is to cast doubt on the official versions, the accepted wisdom, the comfortably familiar if false. We want to offer alternatives, either to prevalent interpretations of events or to the status quo of artistic expression.

But the "Re" in front of "Doubt."

Because, ironically, in this revisionist world of ours, it is the duty of the innovator to cast doubt upon doubt itself.

Come again?

Sometimes it is important, good, and moral to cast doubt upon what governments and media tell us or on what societies believe. To say that, for example, the war in Vietnam was not good, in spite of what Washington told us, was one of the great achievements of America in the 1960s.

But there are times and places where casting doubt becomes itself destructive. To deny the Holocaust, to oppose vaccines (and thus endanger the lives of not only your own children but those of others), to say that a President was born in Kenya in spite of all evidence to the contrary, to claim that the horrific murders of children in mass shootings never happened?

In those places, the iconoclast is evil.

Thus, we doubt doubt itself. We re-doubt.

And is it time to begin?

We think so.

Then hush. And we shall turn the page.

Thursday, January 17, 2013