Ghosts in Chicago

The Red Lion Pub on Lincoln in Chicago will be closing its doors for complete renovation, opening again sometime in 2008. The Twilight Tales Writers' Group, of which I are one, will hold its Monday Night readings at Mix: The Lakeview Lounge at 2843 N. Halsted, starting October 8 at 7:30 PM. The Red Lion has always emulated the great pubs of England, like the Cheddar Cheese around the corner from Hodge and Dr. Johnson's house, but the timbers of boomtown Chicago are not the oaks of England and nostalgia ain't what it used to be. The floor tilts crazily, and whoever imported British style plumbing was no friend of the working man.

The Red Lion is one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood, having gone up when Lincoln Park was just a field on the outskirts of town. The upstairs lounge, where the writers meet, was a hook shop in the 19th century, kitty-corner from the Biograph alley where Dillinger met his end. There are ghosts, at least three, who presumably will learn the new floor plan after renovation. I have an unsold story about one of them, the ghost who sometimes jams the upstairs ladies' bathroom door. Sadly, the market for toilet ghosts is rather more limited than I'd anticipated.

One of the Twilight Tales writers, Mary, has posted some photos of the creaky old place as was, here, including pictures of Eric Cherry, Martel Sardina, the Other Michael, and others. A last big blowout is planned Monday Night for insomniac, night driving authors and others.

Why Wayne's E-Mails Get Opened First

At 09:05 13-8-2007, jonalgiers@ wrote:
My name is Wayne Allen Sallee and I see several books reprinted in Dutch that I am in (YEARS BEST HORROR). I would like to purchase copies of anything you might have with my work, as I was never informed of the foreign sales.
Thank you in advance.
Wayne Allen Sallee

In a message dated 8/27/2007 3:00:40 P.M. Central Daylight Time, Kees Buis writes:
Dear Wayne,
According to my information I have two anthologies with a story of you in it.
"De beste horror verhalen van het jaar" published by Loeb in 1988 with your story "De ballentent"
"De beste horror verhalen van het jaar" published by Loeb in 1989 with your story "Bloed tussen de regels"
Freely translated the first story would be something like "The Tent of Balls"; the second would be "Blood Between the Lines".
With kind regards,
Kees Buis

In the name of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, can anyone tell me what story I could POSSIBLY have written that freely translates as Tent of Balls? What, when, how.....? These crazy foreign editions, especially the ones I don't know exist and never got paid for.....


A Brief History of Collateral Damage

A lot of civilians are being killed in this crazy little thing that Bush calls a war. The U.S. military is measuring out other people's lives with coffee spoons. If an American soldier risks killing civilians, up to thirty deaths are acceptable, so long as the strike was against military targets. In the Iraqui war, which even its most ardent lovers admit cannot be "won" by military means, thirty civiian deaths would be counterproductive, if those thirty corpses leave one or two very angry survivors; certainly if my own loved ones were killed by a well-groomed aviator listening to headphones, I'd be dead or in Guantanamo before i'd stop hunting. Why do we expect better behavior from the fellaheen than we do from outrselves?

Time was, with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other, you could see the face of the poor bastard you shot, and be sure of your mark. War sure has gone downhill since Napoleon's brother added state terror to his conquest of Spain, and the outgunned Spanish responded with tactics that were given the name guerilla, "little war". The French hussars thought a little shock and awe would cow the Spanish into submission, and of course it did-- only for so long as they kept the eye on weeping fathers and screaming women. The moment the big guy's back was turned, survivors started thinking up homespun ways to make a technologically superior force die very slowly, and very old.

This is a fundamental problem in the use of air force and massive strikes that has never been publically debated in a society that claims to have civilian control of its military. its origins lie in the biplane-era theories of an Italian aviator, Giulio Douhet, who thought you could bomb an enemy into submission by destroying his infrastructure and taking civilian lives. They thought he was a crank during the First World War, even court-martialed and threw him in jail, but starting in the 1920s, when The Command of the Air was published, he found an audience, with Guernica the first experiment.

The first part of Douhet's theory-- that you could destroy an enemy's war-making infrastructure from the air, and force him to surrender-- proved to be true as far as Germany was concerned. In Japan, the atomic bomb forced Japanese civilians to force the emperor to force the military to surrender-- but a close examination, as in the Pacific War Research Society's Japan's Longest Day, proves, beyond the wishful thinking of my gentle pacifist brethren, that the Japanese military was still not going to surrender even after Nagasaki. It was our good luck and a civilian revolt against the samurai generals in charge that forced the emperor to concede. The second half of Douhet's premise has never been openly debated, except in our war colleges. It may be that American civilians, seeing their military adventures as fundamentally altruistic, cannot imagine there would be any organized revenge for an accidental killing.

The 14 Japanese researchers that make up the Pacific War Research Society must be lonely men, since so much of their work puts the lie to dearly held cliches on both sides of the Pacific. You might even find out that the Japanese were working on their ownatomic bomb project at Hungnam, Korea, under Yoshio Nishina at the Imperial Japanese Army's Riken Institute.

In the case of Vietnam, the infrastructure was bombed "back to the Stone Age" many times over, with neutral Cambodia and Laos bombed for good measure, but it did not yield the results described by the Douhet: the Vietnamese simply hunkered down and toughened their resolve. The Luftwaffe could have told them that; Hitler's bombing of Britain did nothing to "weaken the resolve" of the civilian population, but only pissed everyone off and made Arthurian legends out of the teenagers who went up in Spitfires during the Battle of Britain, the firemen memorialized near St. James Cathedral, and Winston Churchill's sad guilty poking through the ashes of Canterbury.

And what is the emotional effect of modern American air power, for those unlucky enough to be standing under it? Are their first thoughts, "Gosh, we'd better surrender", or "Come close enough, you bastard, and I'll put a Stone-Age cap in your high-tech ass"? American audiences, who gasp at the atrocities inflicted on downed Americans in Somalia, apparently lack the imagination to see a Blackhawk helicopter from the Somali's point of view. Americans want always to be loved, and always perceive themselves as acting out of good will, like the Abominable Snowman hugging Bugs Bunny, and are always astonished, hurt, and then angry when they face rejection by the other.

If we are willing to as the Romans did, "make a desert and call it peace", then bombing and collateral damage will suffice; but there are no guarantees about what happens later, when the few survivors grow to manhood.

Poor Tom's A-Cold: King Lear and Empathy

Isak Dinesen told Truman Capote that she judged people by what they thought of King Lear, which is pretty damned intimidating, if you ask me. If actors think of the play as a mountain to be climbed, how much more of a wilderness for us Sunday climbers, who might never make it over the top but become lost in the brambles and ankle-turning boulders around the base of the mountain? Maybe she just said it to scare visitors, or start a conversation.

This is occasioned by the arrival in New York of Ian McKellen and Trevor Nunn's production of King Lear, which is mostly getting good reviews. I'd follow these guys most anywhere: Trevor Nunn's film of Twelfth Night is my favorite Shakespearean movie, being less melancholy and easier to bear repeated viewings than Zefferelli's beautiful Romeo and Juliet, and in interviews McKellen "gets" things that most actors miss.

For most of us peasants, the whole last century was a bloody meditation on just the implications of the "flies to wanton boys" speech. Millions were having our wings pulled off and more than enough signed up to do the pulling, whether for Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and Pinochet, or on a smaller scale, for Reagan and Kissinger in Latin America. Dinesen hid her Jewish neighbors (Denmark was the only European country to not lose a single Jewish citizen) in plain sight, posing as household servants when the Nazis came to call, "hiding them like winter apples in the cellar", but then in the face of syphylis, failed crops, inconstant lovers and plane crashes, she seems to always have had more style than the rest of us (when the apocalypse comes, I'm standing next to her).

By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end-
Methinks it is no journey.

Myself, I've always been a Tom O'Bedlam/Edgar, not old and never powerful enough for Lear, although of late I've begun to understand all too well Yeats' "Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad?" I've worked for all too many Gloucesters, the difference being I'll be damned if I rescue them. I dated Goneril, or was it Regan? And Edmund is in charge of Republican strategy and most athletic programs in this country. McKellen says that Lear's a talker, always showing off verbally or muttering in argument with the gods, so maybe I'd better watch my ass.

If you pinned me down to say One Big Thing, with the stipulation that no one's ever done re-reading these plays, I'd have to say this: that the sympathetic characters, whether ragged or royal, Cordelia and Edgar and the Fool, all posess the trait of empathy, an ability to make emotional connection with others. Some of them even come around to forgive the people who drove them off. The villains all have one frightening trait in common: there is not a trace of fellow-feeling or empathy in them. They are as casual about digging out someone's eyes or disposessing an old man or hanging their own sister in prison, as those gods and wanton boys are with the rest of us. And this problem of empathy-- why some have it, and others don't, why some Join the Party in order to escape the demands of empathy for others, why others embrace the world and accept the broken heart that goes with it-- is essential to humanity.

Phillip K. Dick wrestled with this a little in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, with the metaphor of androids identical to humans in every way, except for their demonstrable lack of human empathic reactions. This makes them a danger to others, a lesson learned in the aftermath of a nuclear war and the almost complete extinction of animal species (one of the ways androids and humans are tested for empathy is to note their reaction to animal cruelty.) The Hollywood ending of Blade Runner, with the Rutger Hauer android suddenly growing a conscience, runs contrary to the rest of the story and the evidence of the past century, where Nazis can shovel children into a pit and that same evening weep at their daughter's violin recital. How else explain Jeanne Kirkpatrick, as a diplomat under Reagan, dismissing the rape and murder of Maryknoll nuns because they were "sympathizers" somehow with The Enemy? How else explain the willingness of people to use indiscriminate bombs in warfare, whether strapped to their body or from the air-conditioned comfort of a fighter plane?

Maybe I could have bumper stickers printed up: If You Think Empathy's Not Important, the Next Time There's a Holocaust, Call a Psychopath.