Monday, April 28, 2014
©Ernest Hogan 2014
The brown-skinned Asiatic man looked out the porthole at the heavily armed cacti that had surrounded the limo.
"How on earth did they find us?" he said.
His blonde companion screamed into the intercom at the driver, "Get us out of here."
The limo lurched into a dust-vomiting start. I was thrown back into the seat that I was strapped into. The g-forces made my headache explode. I grabbed my head; it was covered with bandages -- what had these people done to me?
Through the windshield and portholes and cloud of dust I could see saguaros firing their assault rifles, running for cover, and tumbling over the limo's hood. They were rather funny-looking saguaros -- too fat and squat to be real, but about the right size for an average-sized human to fit inside. Years ago, when I was but a child, not yet the Flash that I am now, I saw a news report about how somebody in Washington had the brilliant idea to dress DEA agents in saguaro suits along the border to stop smugglers from bringing drugs into Arizona. I laughed, but then I was young, and still believed that the world made sense.
Soon the driver was making some impressive high-speed turns through suburban-looking streets. So, we hadn't left Phoenix after all, we were in one of the mountain preserves, probably not far from the heart of town. This is the sort of city that gives you the impression of being in the middle of nowhere in certain pockets.
"Head for the freeway," the man said in his L.A. Accent.
The limo soon charged up an onramp. I imagined Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries as suitable background music. Like the helicopter assault in Apocalypse Now. Or the Klu Klux Klan coming to the rescue in Birth of a Nation. My blood ran cold, but it didn't help my aching head.
"How are you feeling?" asked the blonde woman, her German accent sounding so European and civilized.
"Awful," I said.
"Well, you are a very lucky young man," she said. "If it wasn't for us, you would be dead."
"I've always found freeways to be good places to talk," said the man, "especially at 60 miles per hour and up. Do you feel like talking?"
"I don't feel like doing anything," I said. "My head . . ."
The woman took my hand. The man picked up an oversized pair of chrome-plated pliers and aimed them at my nose.
Monday, April 21, 2014
©Ernest Hogan 2014
After a few centuries of cool, sticky darkness I figured that I wasn't dead, but somewhere, somehow, somebody was doing some serious messing around with my body and brain.
Then my mother was there, cradling my head in her lap, picking chunks of asphalt out of my exposed brain with plastic chopsticks, saying, "I always told you to wear a helmet, but no, Flash, you never listen to me. Tisk, tisk!"
Then she changed into Doc Burnout, who dug into my gray matter with a crusty spork, saying, "Nothing like a fresh pineal gland to chase those blues away!"
Then there was light. Bright, painful light. It gave me a murderous headache, but did prove that there was a little more left of me than brainpan fallout. I hoped.
"How many fingers am I holding up?" a sexy female voice asked. It had a German accent.
There were fingers in front of me. They were long, thin, soft and pink with nails the color of a TV set jammed between channels.
"Uno, dos -- one, two -- tres, cuatro," I said. "I mean four."
"How do you know Rudolph Brunhoff?" asked another voice, this one with a distinct L.A. accent.
"Rudolph Brunhoff?" I said. "Oh, Doc Burnout. He's a delivery client and sometime technical advisor to me."
The man with the L.A. voice -- who was either a suntanned Asian or a Hispanic or Native American -- nodded and said, "What do you know about Project Brainboost?"
"What?" I answered, fixing my eyes on a nearby porthole. We were in a stretched limo, outside was the Sonoran desert -- we couldn't be far from Phoenix -- with lots of saguaro cacti.
"How about the Krell chip?" asked the woman, who was a beautiful blonde with hair like a silk helmet.
"Hunh?" I said. The saguaros were moving around. Some of them were holding things.
"You better be more cooperative, or things could become unpleasant for you," said the man.
Then he pressed a button causing a section of imitation wood paneling to slide open, revealing an array of diabolical-looking medical instruments.
The things the saguaros were holding were assault rifles, and they were pointing them at us.
Suddenly, an amplified voice said, "GET OUT OF THE VEHICLE. YOU ARE SURROUNDED. RESISTANCE IS USELESS."
at 12:02 AM
Friday, April 18, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
©Ernest Hogan 2014
Death? Dismemberment? Brain-damage? I was gleefully flirting with them all at 60 mph as I kept pedaling my customized Chinese Flying Pigeon into the downhill slope of Cave Creek Road. Adrenaline spurted into the RC-Cola-spiked-with-Folgers-Coffee-Crystals that had my heart pounding a serious hyperrhythm. Since I can cut in and out of traffic, down sidewalks and alleys, etc., I can get any small package I can strap onto the Pigeon or put in my backpack from point A to point B in Phoenix faster than any motored vehicle can -- especially during rush hours.
I usually deliver disks, sometimes documents, sometimes sealed packages that I don't ask about -- hey, we all gotta make a living somehow, and there simply ain't enough time to looksee if it's legal this week. And how else am I gonna get my burger bucks AND save up for the virtual reality system of my wettest dreams?
This time it was one of those mysterious packages picked up from a nervous taser-toting Nigerian in a Moon Valley parking lot to my long-time, not-quite-a-friend Doc Burnout, who for some reason would be waiting for me in the coffee shop of the Smitty's in Sunnyslope rather than masturbating over the latest Mondo 2000 in his sleazy little apartment across the street, as usual.
Go figure. I shoulda known.
When I zipped into the Smitty's parking lot, past a faded yellow Honda that screeched its brakes as both the driver and passenger gave me the finger, I heard Burnout's raspy voice straining at full volume:
"FOR TOFFLER'S SAKE, FLASH, GET OUT OF HERE!"
And the Nigerian threatened to give me his own special electroshock treatment if I didn't get the package to Doc muy pronto. I was confused.
Then there was the sound of automatic gunfire.
I put the Pigeon into a sideways skid, pointing my left workboot to catch my fall as everything went into slow-motion. I was soon part of a high-tech Hollywood-style macho ballet, trying to kill my forward motion while the Doc and several Asian guys in expensive Italian suits blasted away at each other with Uzis. Tattooed bystanders took off to take extra doses of their medication as I lost control, and tumbled across the sizzling asphalt until I skidded on my skull into an overflowing dumpster.
No pain, not at that moment. Just a gooey blackness engulfing me as I heard:
"We can rebuild him. We have the technology."
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Another Captain America movie is raking in the bucks at the box office. We should take time to remember Joe Simon, who with Jack Kirby created the character. A good way is to read Simon's book, My Life in Comics.
It takes us back to the days when superheroes weren't corporate porperty, and comics were created by lively individuals in a mad race to come up with something new to capture the audience's attention. If they were lucky, they could make a living, too.
My Life in Comics captures this phase in the history of American pop culture, and the personalities behind it. It starts with Simon's early days working as an artist and sports reporter for the newspapers, and how he got into comic books when things changed, technology allowed for the use of more photographs – he compares it to what's happening with the internet today. We see behind the scenes of the origin of comic books as we know them today. He also tells of the struggle to keep the rights and get credit for his creations, including Captain America.
As I work on a comics/illustraton project, this book makes me yearn to be a work-a-day cartoonist. Yeah, things are changing. New media means new opportuinities. A fella can dream, can't he?
Meanwhile, Marvel, and DC are becoming faceless corporate entities, like Disney. Will they ever do anything besides reboot their creaky, old franchises?
Guess I better get back to work.
at 8:22 AM
Monday, April 7, 2014
©Ernest Hogan 2014
It was one of those dangerous experiments in things that man was not meant to know that went horribly wrong and almost destroyed the experimenter. Just like in all those cheapo black&white sci-fi flicks I watched on TV back in childhood, way back in those days before cable. My earliest role-models were Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Peter Lorre. As a boy I wanted to be a mad scientist.
Anyway, it was a different world back then when all this started, it was 1993: A man named George Bush had saved the world on CNN, everyone loved him even though the economy was in the toilet. The South-Central riots were still sending off aftershocks. My wife (the fabulous Emily Devenport) and I were impoverished, the Nueva York publishing industry didn't seem to want to touch our work with a teflon-lined ten-foot pole. Copies of my first novel, Cortez on Jupiter, mysteriously vanished, the publisher claiming that nobody bought them, even though people on three continents were seeking them out. Emily's publisher had bought a book ages earlier, and now wasn't returning any calls. High Aztech, my second novel had come out, but was not getting reviewed -- people kept telling me, "What? Your book came out? Gee, Tor sends me copies of all their books, but yours wasn't in the package." Em and I had gone back to cleaning houses for burger bucks, and were spending spare hours drinking iced-tea at midnight (a quaint Phoenix custom, which seems downright sensible during the blistering high summer) listening to friends' crazy ideas.
One of these friends was Stephen Michael Barnes (not be confused with Steven Barnes, the black science fiction writer -- this is a white guy, the anarchist publisher) who had an idea for a magazine called The Red Dog Journal. The guy was amazing. He couldn't be stopped. Just when we'd figured the Dog was a goner, Barnes would switch modes and media, and come up with new resources -- he was reading Hakim Bey's T.A.Z. and taking it to heart. The Reddog lived in mutation frenzy . . .
At one point, Stephen had helped Phil Esch with a new idea called FaxMO -- a fax-accessible information service, that included Reddog material. He asked me if I'd do some entertainment stuff, like serializing a short story or something. I thought about it.
You see, being trashed by Nueva York left me depressed, and with a horrible case of writer's block. At one point I turned on the computer, and could do nothing but weep. Why bother? Even in the magazine world, the only people who were willing to publish me were those who couldn't afford to pay. Meanwhile, Em and I has signed up as custodians for a local school district so we could afford to keep eating.
Serializing a short story seemed stupid to me, but I thought about the form of one-page fax, and a business that wanted to keep people calling. I thought of a serial. I always liked that to-be-continued stuff. It has also traditionally been used to lure consumers to new media, like newspapers, movies, radio, television . . . so why not fax?
Another iced-tea-at-midnight buddy was Rick Cook, whose Wiz novels had recently attained cult status among computer geeks (heh, don't blame me -- that's what they call themselves). Rick had explained how A.E. Van Vogt's novels were so strange because he was practically the only writer to actually use the technique of putting a mini-climax at the end of every 800 words, which ends up creating a high-speed pulp fiction pace, and at the same time disrupting and disjointing the story until it resembles something out of William Burroughs' cut-up experiments. (Someday I'm going to have to write an essay on how Van Vogt and other pulp sf writers are precursors to Burroughs.) He also had a theory that Philip K. Dick's novels were like a parlor game: A group of people could get together at a party, throw together a few random ideas, and come up with something like a Phildick novel. Hm . . . went something deep inside my brain.
I also had this title, "Brainpan Fallout," that I thought was suitably surreal and applied to life in the Nineties. In Science Fiction Eye, I had recently shot my mouth off about the need for "sci-fi that the kids can dance to" and this looked like a chance to demonstrate what I meant.
Not sure where all this was going, I started carrying around a poorman's laptop (i.e; a memo book and ballpoint pen), and like Hunter Thompson, would jot down bits of random weirdness that I saw as Emily and I rushed around Phoenix in our never-ending struggle for survival. Add some gonzo journalism to the mix, and stir. Hey, did it just move on its own?
The one-page fax format meant the disruptive mini-climaxes came about every 400 words, so pacing was faster, as if Van Vogt had gotten a hold of some of Dick's amphetamines. Fasten your seat belts. Keep your hands and feet inside the capsule. Remember, I am a professional, so kids, don't try this at home -- or at least don't come running to me because you need to scrape your brains off the ceiling.