FICTION AND REALITY

Stories and Speculations by

Michael D. Winkle

keep it flying

Kolchak: the Night Stalker page -- Monsters You Never Heard of -- The Mothman Annotations -- the New, Improved Eyrie -- the Andre Norton page -- The Wild page

JUNE 2009

Well! Some things are forced upon one!

In case you haven't heard, Geocities is shutting down its free web-page hosting. So it looks like "Fiction and Reality" is on the way out, anyway.

Perhaps it was time to move on. F&R has been on the Internet for nearly a decade, and parts of it haven't changed from the experimental pages I created for my HTML class in 2000. It's a good excuse for moving to a "real" web-site and an opportunity to overhaul what's good of F&R and delete what's not up to snuff. For the moment (pulling out the rationalization I've been using for years) I've got several things on my plate, including night classes at college, major reviews and editing of my fiction, and coming up with bi-weekly (more or less) essays for "Ghosts of the Prairie." Eventually, though, the best of Fantasy and Reality will rise again.

Where? Only time will tell.

DECEMBER 2008

It's not such a bad little tree -- er, web-page . . .

Below I promised to drop "Fiction and Reality" and jump to a real web-site. Part of the reason is that, supposedly, publishers are impressed if you have a web-site -- but not by one hosted for free (this one, of course, comes to you courtesy of Geocities and Yahoo). So I'm working on a "proper" web-site. F&R, however, I might leave for book reviews, The Night Stalker, Andre Norton and other interests -- and keep the "real" web-site for "serious" work.

Not that everything on F&R is just for fun. I've put quite a bit of effort into "The Mothman Annotations" and "Monsters You Never Heard of," for instance. However, my efforts at a writing career will go elsewhere.

I've spent a month or so examining stories, articles, and web-pages, one per night, to see if they can be improved. Egotistical as it sounds, I've been impressed by my own writings, and I can't believe I just set things on a shelf and forget about them for years at a time. I'm getting around to Fantasy & Reality at last. Things will start happening around here soon -- really!

'Til then, Happy Holidays, and here's to 2009!

AUGUST 2008

You'll note that not much has happened on this little web-page for quite some time. In fact, I recently clicked on a page that had just updated after 8 years, and I decided I didn't want that to happen to Fiction and Reality.

I could say that I've had financial, medical, and family problems . . . I could say that I've gotten bored with it all, or that I have too many other projects to work on, or that life had become depressing . . . and there would be some truth to all of the above, but that would not be the whole story.

Actually, I have launched another web-site, which I hope will be far more elaborate than this one! Eventually large chunks of F&R will reappear there -- and I may keep at least the links of F&R going, as, to my surprise, there are numerous sites out there that actually link to parts of Fiction and Reality!

For the moment, however, this other site is a bit of a secret. I'd like to have a substantial part of it done before the Big Reveal. So be patient; a bigger, better site is coming, and, once F&R and it have consolidated, I hope to update all the old sections, from Kolchak and Mothman to the Eyrie and Andre Norton to the book reviews and the Silver John pastiches.

JANUARY 2008

Speaking of disasters, the ice storm that struck Oklahoma last month was the strangest with which I've had any first-hand experience. During the days before, the TV news warned people that the streets would no doubt be icy, and we Okies are notoriously poor at winter driving. They say that every winter, however, and we usually put up with a bout or two of freezing rain.

It rained and rained, and the temperature fell. Ice built up on trees and phone lines, and people expected a few cracked branches and some interrupted service. But it kept raining, and it kept freezing. There was not a breath of wind, which would have shaken part of the moisture from the limbs and wires to the ground.

That last detail aided the destruction and made it the strange experience it was. I went to bed with the reports of car crashes, falling limbs, and power outages echoing in my ears. I barely slept. My little apartment sits atop a high hill, and in the summer I can look down on the nearby neighborhoods and their forest-like expanses of trees. Throughout the night the sound of snapping branches, boughs, and, yes, tree trunks echoed weirdly through the night. It sounded like fireworks going off -- not Black Cat crackers on the sidewalk, big displays, with even that low rumble of distance. Saplings, old growth, deciduous, evergreen -- nothing was spared. CRAAAK -- THOONCH -- snapt -- BRR-RROCK -- shaashhh -- the crushing and splintering went on all night.

The next morning, when I dared look out on the land below -- the thickly-wooded hillside resembled a field of high grass, brown and frosty -- after many large vehicles have driven over it. Just about every tree was crushed halfway to the ground, if not all the way.

Stepping outside was a weird experience, even in broad daylight. All around, totally randomly and totally without warning, ice-laden trees would collapse. Three fell apart around me while I was scraping ice off my car. And I do mean fell apart -- limbs did not just fall. Trees split in halves or thirds vertically, all the way to the ground. Or the upper halves would snap off and crash down. Or they would topple right at ground level, as if they were some sort of stage props with no roots anchoring them. (One of these last nearly got Julie Chin, a local TV news personality, as the cameras rolled.)

The randomness and silence was dangerous as well as strange. The limbs breaking didn't give that cliched falling timber sound you've heard in the movies. You just heard a riflelike CRACK and a second later a THUNCH as several hundred pounds of wood dropped straight to the earth. The whole countryside seemed to be covered with giant deadfall traps.

When I could finally drive around a bit, I kept shaking my head. Tulsa -- northeastern Oklahoma -- looked like pictures of the Tunguska Event or Mount St. Helens -- shattered tree trunks and piles of splintered wood everywhere. Someone from another state told me he started seeing signs of the disaster about halfway across Missouri. Someone coming from the opposite direction said it reached nearly to Oklahoma City.

People compared the mess to a hurricane, tornado, flood. But one understands such events. People flee, find shelter, cower before the raging forces of nature. But this occurred during one quiet, eerie night, a silent catastrophe no one expected.

You probably saw TV footage or read stories of the hundreds of thousands who went without power for weeks, and we all give thanks for the hundreds of linemen, electricians, and debris-removal workers who arrived from all over the country to help. Now if we can only get FEMA to change its mind . . .

But out in the scrublands, the hillsides, the woods, there are uncountable tons of limbs and twigs, lying beneath or tangled in the crowns of hundreds of square miles of trees. This year they'll dry out, and the usual wildfires will begin -- and there'll be more than grass this time to feed them.

AUGUST 2007

Sometimes the best intentions come to naught. Take all the recent fuss over global warming. Even if everyone came together to prevent cars and cows from giving off greenhouse gases, it may not help, due to an interesting fact uncovered in February 1993.

At that time a team of geophysicists led by Donald Blankenship (University of Texas) and Robin Bell (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) were flying over the Antarctic ice sheet south of Marie Byrd Land. Three hundred miles in from the Ross Ice Shelf, they noted a four-mile-wide depression. They flew back, using radar to prenetrate the ice, and discovered a 2,100 foot mountain. They measured the peak's magnetic field and found "the strong signal characteristic of iron-rich volcanic rock." In other words, there was an active volcano beneath the Antarctic ice -- probably more than one, as the area is a rift valley, like the infamous Atlantic Ridge.

Oddly, the problem is not that the icecap might melt. Not even a volcano could do that. But it could melt the lowest layer of ice, which would then mix with the sedmiment base, which would erode away. The western ice sheet might then collapse into the sea. According to science writer Robert Naeye, "if it did, the global sea level would rise about 20 feet, and coastal cities will be flooded."

This is not to say we should let greenhouse gases spew into the atmosphere at our hearts' desire, but . . . Someday I intend to move from my present tiny apartment, and when I do, it will be to someplace inland. And high.

Naeye, Robert, "The Strangest Volcano," Discover vol. 15, no. 1, January 1994.

Meanwhile: I'll update the path to my online stories, but for now here are two tales of Manly Wade Wellman's John the Balladeer: "Away Down the Road a Piece" and "Moon-Eyes".

MARCH 2007

Starting about 1999, I pulled these curious "re-boots" of life. I'd put all my books or DVDs or some such in closets, and "discover" them one at a time. Once I even cleared everything out of the tiny spare bedroom and fell asleep in there with only my underwear, socks, and glasses -- trying to become symbolically reborn, I guess. The only thing that ever took was something I started on 1/1/2000: I declared to the heavens that anything I'd ever read, heard, or watched before that date "didn't count," that anything I looked over or listened to after that, I was experiencing for the first time.

This really was some sort of re-boot. I chose the books I felt I least likely wanted to read and snapped them down. I yanked the bookmarks out of 60 or 70 volumes I'd started and bogged down in, then started them fresh. I listened to every CD and tape I had, I re-read comic books, and I finally started in seriously on my 1100 or so magazines. (Magazines were always low on the priority list for me. Books had top priority, comics didn't take that much time, and when I tried to get through a 'zine -- it was time for a new one to come out!) As I have mentioned -- (or will mention, don't worry) elsewhere, though, AD 2000 turned sour about halfway through, and the next several years bit the big one.

Now, however, the move to a tiny apartment forced me to divest myself of half my possessions. I bought a new printer for my birthday (another landmark), and I'm getting down to business. I think I'll start by acknowledging a fun page of mine called Monsters You Never Heard of.

I'm starting a semi-reboot of reading. I plowed through some hefty items in the past few years that I don't want to tackle again, such as The Iliad, including 50 pages of commentary, Moby Dick (twice!), and the uncut Mysterious Island, with all its introductions and glosses. Life's not that long! So old information quantum-tunnels in from the Before Time. I am, however, re-visiting old favorites as if for the first time: The Time Machine by Wells, A Study in Scarlet by Conan Doyle, E. A. Poe's stories, and my favorite book in all the world (at age ten and before), John Ostrom's Strange World of Dinosaurs. Looks like fun to me!

JANUARY 2007

It's all very nice to bring back old sections, but it would be more interesting if I updated them. Still, with the new year I'm embarking on a new adventure -- adventurous for me, at least. I'm moving from a parentally-owned condo to an ordinary apartment. A very, very tiny apartment . . . but perhaps it will focus my energies in a way the condo never did. I did the bulk of my writing in an equally tiny set of rooms back in the '90s, and it seemed my productivity sank to zero when I settled in here.

There were other physical, psychological, and sociological reasons for that, of course (such as goofing off on the Internet), but when I had *too much* space I had the strange urge to fill it with Stuff -- most of which I must now dump. As it is I'll have to stack my books and magazines like cordwood in closets and the outside storage area. Maybe with less distractions I'll return to the old mode.

What a time that was. I wrote at work (when they weren't looking), I wrote when I ate, I scribbled on notepads when visiting people; I wrote for recreation, I wrote for fun, and I wanted to write for a living. I was very impatient with any activity that didn't have to do with writing. I've have a few stories published, but novels have had a time getting off the ground. That's a whole different story, however.

I just watched a special on The Carpenters on PBS. Richard Carpenter explained the genesis of the song "Good-Bye to Love." He was watching an old movie starring Bing Crosby (Mr. Music?) about a songwiter who can't recapture the magic of his greatest success, an effort called "Good-Bye to Love." Though the characters refer to this wonderful hit throughout the picture, they never play it. Richard Carpenter liked the title and decided to create the song. It was a hit (for The Carpenters), of course.

A lot of my energies over the years went into pastiches, tales that are sequels to or set in other authors' literary works. Actually, as far back as I can remember, I never read a story or saw a TV show that I didn't immediately plot a sequel for. (Someday they'll all emerge in one Ultimate Epic, but no need to go into that now).

Often I'll read other attempts at pastiches and find them adequate at best, terrible -- maybe even blasphemous -- at worst. Yet once in a while something strikes me as just perfect. Richard Carpenter providing the song for a movie made a quarter of a century earlier stuck that chord. Another example I can think of, off the top of my head, is the M. R. James ghost story "There Was a Man Lived by a Churchyard." This is supposed to be the story that the young boy Mamilius is telling his mother Hermione just before she is arrested under a charge of adultery in Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale." I just thought it was perfect the way one literary giant finished off a fragment started by another.

H. P. Lovecraft has had many poor imitators, but it's hard to imagine the Cthulhu Mythos without a few stories by others: Long's "Hounds of Tindalos" and "The Space-Eaters;" Bloch's "Shambler from the Stars" and "Shadow from the Steeple;" and a few more by R. E. Howard, C. A. Smith, and the "Lovecraft Circle." The best of the Sherlock Holmes pastiches -- and there have been more about the Great Detective than any other character -- is, in my opinion, Cay Van Ash's Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, which concerns Holmes and the infamous Fu Manchu. If one must "pastiche", here are items to emulate.

Somehow I ran from the music of The Carpenters to Cthulhu. Time to sign off.

NOVEMBER, 2006

What happened to October? Oh, well. WIRED magazine asked a number of SF/fantasy writers to come up with stories only six words in length. Unable to resist a challenge, I had to scribble some of my own:

Cockroaches. Dinosaurs. Mastodons. Humans. Cockroaches again.

Molecules – cells – brains: Universe, Know Thyself.

“We come in peace – AAACHOO!” Genocide.

Nostradamus’ Predictions for 2020: (Blank pages.)

“EXTRA! Hiroshima Destroyed!” “Oy,” said Einstein.

Gollum, falling: “Hey! This is brass!”

Armstrong, Aldrin, Conrad, Shepard, Cernan. Next?

"Humans? No such thing," said Bigfoot.

"Holmes!" "Elementary, Watson. Jekyll was Hyde."

Cthulhu groaned. "Again with the Necronomicon?"

“I’ve captured the God Particle!” Silence.

1984 has passed. Big Brother stayed.

“We are the Martians!” “Well, duh.”

Kong wins! (Godzilla took a dive.)

“Don! We forgot Dr. Smith!” “Who?”

“You okay, Mister?” “Shaken, not stirred.”

“Stormtroopers? That’s your answer to everything!”

“Time ended – yesterday!” “Sorry, not original.”

And now that we're finished with that silliness, here's the return of the Kolchak Papers!

We were saddened to hear that fortean researcher John Keel had a heart attack recently. We hope he recovers to wrangle Mothman and chase Black Cadillacs for years to come!

Speaking of which, November 15, 2006, marks the 40th anniversary of the seminal Mothman sighting in the TNT Area near Point Pleasant, West Virginia. What better time to bring back The Mothman Annotations?

SEPTEMBER, 2006

Return of the New, Improved Eyrie! May not look much different, but it's ready for the XHTML future. Now, if I can just edit some of the issues themselves . . .

August, 2006: Our first (new) expansion: the Andre Norton Page!

SUMMER 2006

Well. If you've visited this web-page before, you're probably disappointed at seeing this. For that matter, if you've never clicked your way here before, you're probably also disappointed. Hopefully that will change, if, hopefully, you click your way here again.

I ignored the Internet (like I ignored most things I didn't have and couldn't afford) until the year 2000, when I jumped online on the symbolic day of 1/1/00. A year later I took advantage of free Internet pages (thus the ads you have to remove first). I looked forward to the future, and it turned out to be really crappy.

I'm an introspective fellow, however. I reviewed my own reviews of my life and decided I had no more use for such behavior. I needed an upgrade -- as did my web-page. This time around, however, there will be more pictures!

the author, and one of those on my right is my brother
The author, circa 1976 at the Dinosaur Park in Arkansas. One of the fellows on my right is my brother.

A peek into recent HTML books revealed more technical reasons to upgrade: the HTML and XHTML languages have changed considerably. For now the computers that make up the Internet support old codes, but someday . . .

Anyway, old writings, references and hyperlinks will return one by one, hopefully re-written and updated for the XHTML era. Some may give up the ghost; others will be conflated, and there may even be new pages. Time will tell.

An Oldie But Goodie

Summer, 2002

That's a nice broad title. I could add updates here for months.

AUGUST: I watched the old SF film X -- The Unknown a couple of years ago and saw bits that had to have inspired Monty Python's Flying Circus. When people are shown facing the camera (and the radioactive blob from the earth's core), they scream and sink out of view (melted by the monster). If you ever see the movie, be sure to yell, "AAAH! The Blancmange!" at these parts -- referring, of course, to the "Blancmanges of Andromeda" in the "Science Fiction Sketch." Another scene, of a scientist being lowered into a fissure in the earth's crust reminds me of a scene in which some stuffy British Secretary for something-or-other falls through the earth's crust. . .

I bought a video of Hammer Film's The Lost Continent, which came out only a year or two before the first season of MPFC. The video contains the original theatrical previews, and the previews alone seem to be the major inspiration for "Scott of the Antarctic," with the bizarre Sargasso Sea monsters menacing the beautiful women aboard the stranded ship. The slobbering, blocky giant crab is a dead-ringer for the Man-Eating Roll-Top Writing Desk.

There is another major influence in the movie: The ship gets trapped in the Sargasso Sea, the crew sees funky monsters and man-eating sea-weed, and at the center of this unearthly realm, what do they find? THE SPANISH INQUISITION!

And only a couple of weeks ago I found any number of Pythonic influences in a single episode of The Avengers, an early one featuring Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, entitled "The Little Wonders." It's about an organization of criminals who masquerade as priests. A padre caught at an airport with guns, knives, secret compartments in his luggage and stolen pearls in his clerical collar reminded me of Eric Idle as a priest at an airport in MPFC. A thug in a "doll hospital" looks exactly like Michael Palin's Mr. Liugi Vercotti, down to the wrap-around sunglasses and ever-present cigarette. And the muscular, scarred, thug-like ministers are very reminiscent of the ones seen in "The Bishop," and indeed one fellow is called simply "Da Bishop" throughout the episode.


Some of my Favorite Things

Some may wonder why people bother to give lists of their favorite books, movies, etc. I admit that I sometimes use such lists to screen sites. If I agree with just a few items on the favorites lists, I'm likely to continue clicking through. On the other hand, I'm even more likely to decide that a site isn't worth my while if I see a lot of books, authors, whatever, I don't care about. Hey -- my time is valuable!

I'll probably devote a page to lists of ten or twelve of my favorite books, movies, etc., soon, but for now:


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