Saturday, December 29, 2018

I'm not a fighter, I'm an ostrich.

My publisher Whisk(e)y Tit has published an interview with me about my novella, The Ice MineJon Frankel sent me the questions by email and I tried my best to explain the origins of the book and my poetic endeavors.  If you have a moment, please check it out.  You can order the book via the Tit website or on Amazon

Jon's work is also available on these platforms.  His "lo-tech noir" novels are vivid and finely-honed visions of a dystopian future both incredibly strange and sadly familiar.  He's a voracious reader and his works are a mix of pulp fiction and true erudition.  I don't know anyone with such a deep and wide knowledge of English literature, and though he doesn't whack you over the head with it, his books are filled with sly references to "the English canon".  Harold Bloom would approve! 

Jon's "blogh" is also worth a gander:  The Last Bender.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

".... the abyss between the ludicrous and the terrifying."

Hey ho!  Got a new review of The Ice Mine on Amazon by J  Frankel.   5 lucky stars:

Steven M. Adkins’ ‘The Ice Mine, “The Relation” of Ricardo Etienne Bream’ is a hallucinatory novella of a madman’s quest for a mythical place, in this case an Ice Mine. The narrator has lost his wife, children, home, and job through addiction to narcotics. He manages to kick his addiction and hopes to recover at least some semblance of a life, in the course of which he discovers among his books ‘Relations’ of other travellers who have gone in search of the Ice Mine, which may lie to the north, or the east, or the south. Most who light out to find it never return. The narrative has the feel of Browning’s strange Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, a poem he dreamed. 
Adkins’ prose is sonically rich, full of words like ‘blorp’, evoking comics as much as classic sci fi. The heart of his writing is surrealism and the great strength is his fine rendering of a marginal consciousness riven by guilt and self-hatred. He compares self-pity to the honey of bees, something he defecates at night and consumes in the morning. The story alternates between his adventures into terra incognito, encounters with mythical beasts and dangerous defiles, rocky wastes, storms and dust, and reflections on his life and the history of his people. It is a novel of alienation and nightmare, enlivened by the knowing prose, which straddles the abyss between the ludicrous and the terrifying.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A gilet jaune does not a Gilet Jaune make

I wrote this on Facebook a few days ago and reproduce it here because it seems to have been well-received....

For my friends in the US (and elsewhere), this is a weird time in France. For the last three [now four] weeks we've been in the grips of popular protest movement that has gotten increasingly violent. Toll booths have been set on fire or otherwise damaged, a prefecture was torched, a tax office bricked up. Hundreds have been hurt, including hundreds of police. Three [make that 4] people have been killed. Friends, and my own son, have inadvertently gotten tear-gassed.

It was initially sparked by an increase in taxes on diesel and other energies, but has morphed into a general anger over the cost of living, a government removed from the people, the suppression of services in the country such as post offices and schools, while politicians in Paris live like aristocrats of old, and mega-corporations like Total pay no tax. (And yet the poor like the rich pay a 20% VAT). It's neither left nor right, and not led by unions. It's hard to meet the protestors' demands because they are many and varied. They don't have and don't want self-appointed leaders. The government has announced a moratorium on the tax increase, but most suspect it's just a ploy to calm things down and they'll just put it into effect later than planned.  [The government has since announced it will drop the plan to increase these taxes altogether].

This is about city versus country, Paris versus Provence, the rich versus the poor; one demand is the re-institution of a suppressed tax on large fortunes.

[City versus country:  People in the city don't have to drive, so the concerns of the gilets jaunes are alien to them.  A student of mine pointed out that this all really began when the government reduced the speed limit on country roads from 90 to 80 kph.  In the city, you can barely drive faster than 30, so again, no problem for a city-dweller.  The move was widely seen not as a way to improve safety but a way to impose more fines and collect revenue.  An example:  I have gotten three speeding tickets in the last year, compared to one in the preceding 15!

City people also don't need to drive for basic services such as post offices and doctors.  Country people do.

Rich versus poor:  Obviously, rich folks don't give damn about the price of basics; a man driving a Maserati doesn't care if a baguette is a euro or a euro-fifty.  For people living on the minimum wage, even twenty cents is a big deal.  There are families with two salaries who still finish the month with a serious overdraft.  People "get by", but do not prosper, cannot save money, cannot take nice vacations or buy new clothes and sometimes have to get by on pasta at the end of the month.  After bills, rent and fuel for the car, a lot of people don't have anything left; indeed, they finish in the negative.  An example: I lived this way for years, and thanks to "reforms" due to kick in come January, will have to live that way again.  Note that my examples are from my own experience; take my word for it, it applies to just about everyone I know.]

This week the high-school students joined in to protest "reforms" to the Baccalaureate, and it started to affect me personally. A blocked metro meant almost an hour to walk home on Monday, almost missing work on Tuesday, a half an hour wait on Wednesday for a tram that should come every 8 minutes. Today [last Thursday] I couldn't get to work as the metro was again shut down and buses stayed away from my workplace.

Two days ago a protest at a HS in Blagnac resulted in the entryway being torched and apparently other schools suffered the same. My son didn't go to school because classes were cancelled for fear of the same thing happening there.

Now the unions are calling for strikes, including within the police (not the officers, but the canteens, admin personnel etc.) The farmers might get in on it because they suffer quite a bit.

Wild rumors are flying. I heard some groups threatened to come into Paris armed. For days the papers have not been talking of a "movement" or "protests" but "insurrection". It's a wild and tense time, with no small amount of fear of what will happen come Saturday, which have been the most violent days so far.

We shall see. Walking thru town to get home, one could hear people talking only of this and irritated at the inconvenience, yet not angry. People are in general quite supportive from what I've seen. Not all, but a lot. There's a palpable tension and I've heard sirens all day.

Anyway, despite it all, I feel safe, though I worry for my family and have advised my son to be alert once school starts back up. I've said he can go on strike if he feels aggrieved, but to stay away from anyone trying to start fires or otherwise act in a violent manner. Maybe that's wrong, but to be honest, I generally support the protest. I abhor the violence, but it has caught the government's attention. For better or for worse remains to be seen....

So, if you've seen something on TV or in the papers, this is one view of what's been going on.

[Final thoughts.  Saturday (12/8) was not as bad as expected, but from what I saw, the violence which did occur was not perpetrated by the gilets jaunes proper, who are mostly normal working-class men, and a lot of women, but young hooligans with their own agenda.  They may wear a yellow vest, but a gilet jaune does not a Gilet Jaune make.  The movement is largely trying to calm the violence and we have strong denunciations of arson and vandalism from among the protesters.

I predicted this protest would continue and so far have been proven correct.  I think next Saturday will see a significantly cooler situation.  X-mas is around the corner and it's getting colder, and the government won't tolerate another day of violence.  BTW, don't let Trump 's tweets fool you.  A March for the Climate this weekend drew more people than the gilets jaunes protests and among the marchers were several gilets jaunes.  People are not fools, they know something must be done about climate change, they just don't want the cost placed entirely on their shoulders.

Coming to Toulouse today, I passed a pretty well-entrenched gilet jaune blockade.  They had a cabin, a campfire, a friendly attitude, and seemed to be pretty chummy with the Gendarmes present on the scene.  That was very interesting to see indeed.]

Sunday, December 2, 2018

My Name is Toni

My friend Waithira Francis has published a book entitled My Name is Toni, which I intend to review on LoS when time permits.

I was supposed to read and review it before publishing for a back cover quote, but alas, I was just too busy to finish the book before she published.  I regret that!

What I can say is that it's an semi-autobiographical account of an African woman who emigrates to France and her ensuing adventures.  What strikes me is how she manages to both shed light on what it's like to be a woman, an African and an émigrée, yet touch on universally-recognizable experiences and emotions. 

Or maybe it's just me.  I'm a white, American man but like Francis, an émigré.  That shared experience makes our differences much less important.  But one need not be an expat to understand and be struck by this book.

You can send a message at this Facebook page to inquire about ordering.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tie a Yellow Jacket 'round the Old Speed Radar

Hornet's nest

1. A dangerous, complicated situation. If we do invade, I fear that we will find ourselves in a real hornet's nest.
2. A situation that produces angry reactions. The politician's off-the-cuff remark about pollution stirred up a hornet's nest among environmentalists.

In the last two weeks France has been a-buzz with the talk of the "gilets jaunes", or "yellow vests".  I, and the Anglophone media it seems, use the term "Yellow Jackets".

A yellow jacket is hornet, and the hornet is both a metaphor for anger (angry as a hornet) and trouble (she kicked over a hornets' nest).

Very appropriate then.

The Yellow Jackets are not part of France's perpetually disgruntled unions nor are they ideologically aligned.  They are in effect a popular uprising, ordinary people fed up with, well, just about everything.  The original groups were started on Facebook, like the Arab Spring.  The initial spark was the decision by Macron's government to increase taxes on diesel in order to encourage people to go electric.  This after years of encouraging people to use diesel.  There's talk of giving people 4000 euros towards buying a new car, but 4 grand is peanuts compared to the price. 

Going green, sadly, is often a luxury of those who can afford it.

While the original motive of the Yellow Jackets was to protest rising fuel prices, it has morphed into something more general; the cost of living, unemployment, low salaries, the struggle ordinary people have simply to pay the bills.

Last Saturday (11/17) over 300,000 people took to the streets to block the roads and slow traffic.  Over 2000 roadblocks were erected.  Several hundred have been injured in scuffles.  In one case a panicked woman hit the gas and killed a protestor.  In another case a man tried to force his way through and killed a young man.  In Réunion a man fired a starter pistol into the air to get thru a roadblock.

It was only supposed to be a one-day protest but it continued and this weekend it got pretty heated as thousands (8k+) of protestors took to the streets of Paris.  They marched and the "casseurs" (literally, "breakers" but hooligans would be apt) came with them

The casseurs broke the windows and set stuff on fire.  The riot police fired tear gas and unleashed water canons.  Fire and water, gas and glass.

They were even throwing paving stones, that famous symbol of mai '68, the massive general strike punctuated by Situationist slogans, which almost brought down the government, and which aging boomers look back on with such fondness, as they take early retirement from well-paying jobs to pass the next 30 years in their secondary homes while their children and grandchildren scrape by.

Probably with a pittance for a pension in store.

Famous cartoon has an old woman berating a girl:  "I was already at work by your age!"  Young girl:  "And I'll still be working at yours!"

Coming home Saturday evening from taking my son to a chum's, I looked at the thick mist settling onto the fields, swirling thru the headlights.  I noticed the local speed-trap radar had been wrapped in a gilet jaune.

On TV, Paris was engulfed in another kid of mist.

I'd been worried about my wife earlier, as I'd heard of two first-person accounts where some protestors had harassed an African woman; still another told an English woman to "go back to her castle in England".  Still another told me that her 12-year-old daughter had been harassed for being pro-Macron after not smiling at the Yellow Jackets.  It hasn't all been nice and calm.  700+ injured as of 11/21.

Come Sunday, heading back to Toulouse, we waited at a roundabout for a few minutes before the traffic crawled ahead.  Large painted signs had been erected and planted into the turf at the center of the circle.

At the next roundabout, more Yellow Jackets; two police vans with two bored-looking policemen sat pacing around.  The Yellow Jackets sat on chairs by a fire, a large shelter erected to cover their wood.  A Temporary Autonomous Zone.  The Yellow Jackets have no leader thus no rules, but they are apparently coming up with some basics:  no alcohol for example.  Not only bad for their image, but prone to incite violence.  Self-governing anarchists of a sort.

Each car was briefly stopped, then let go.  The trucks were held up a little longer.  My wife had put her yellow vest on the dashboard and as we approached, the yellow jacket at the road block gave us a thumbs up and didn't stop us.  My wife returned the gesture and let out a hoot of support.  She seemed to enjoy all of this, supporting it completely.

As we entered Toulouse, all the barriers at the toll booth had been removed.  We decided to pay anyway, just in case we got filmed.  I'm sure they're fining people who drive on thru.  A student of mine who commutes to Foix told me he hadn't paid a toll in over a week.  The Yellow Jackets just wave him thru...

I support it as well.  Everyone I know struggles financially, is overtaxed and underpaid, constantly poor or near-broke, nobody's putting money in the bank, except those like me who get it all taken away for their quarterly tax as an independent worker, going from poor-ish to precarious, starting from zero four times a year.

People are fed up with low wages, high prices, outrageous tax.  I support the movement, but the idea of having to place a vest on my dash to get through traffic evokes having to wear a certain kind of armband to avoid harassment.  Anecdotes about harassment make me uneasy.  It's a mixed bag,  a mélange of pissed-off people, and I predict it will continue, roaring back to life every Saturday, each one more ferocious than the last....

The government doesn't know what to do.  It's a grassroots uprising with wide support.  The elites in Paris, totally disconnected from the people they govern, seem to have the support of the media, if not their silence.  Macron addressed the issue today and you'd be hard-pressed to find it on the front page.  Libération has a brief article, but not much meat.  Macron said "I feel your pain" but offered no plan to reduce taxes or concrete actions to ease that pain.  The Yellow Jackets are not impressed.

In the following clip, an anchorwoman cuts off a reporter as soon as she says that the police have arrived at a protest armed with tasers and clubs.  Even if you don't speak French you can sense the urgency as the anchorwoman speaks over the reporter and "cuts off this live broadcast".  This seems to be a lot like the official position thus far.  Silence with a slight whiff of panic.

Hélas, even left-wing newspaper Libération admits this wasn't censorship, but that this local news ran out of time; the "censored" journalist herself says she wasn't censored.  Still, it looks bad, and it's been widely circulated as "proof" of censorship and symptomatic of elite attitudes towards the Yellow Jackets.

As a metaphor at least, it works....

In Italy, the gilets jaunes are protesting Europe.  In Belgium, the gilets jaunes are more like those in France; under the name Mouvement citoyen belge, they're protesting the cost of living, notably energy costs, and plan to run candidates for office to bring a voice to the people.  As in France, there's no specific political alignment. 

The principal supporters of the Yellow Jackets from the political arena seem to be voices from the far right and far left, meeting somewhere no longer on the fringes but in the dead center of the country, among people who give a fig for ideology.  They just want to be able to afford to drive to work. 

And eat.  "Let them eat cake?"  Or as Macron said, "If you want a job, all you have to do is cross the street."  Hollande's ex said in private he referred to the poor as the "sans-dents," the "toothless."  Sarkozy referred to protestors as "racaille," or "scum".  Chirac, speaking of public housing, decried the "noise and smell".

Arrogance, elitism, and disconnected from the people they "govern".

Another popular maxim floating around is "Macron takes himself for Louis XIV but will finish up as Louis XVI"....

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Controversy Is Romantic At A Distance: An Interview With Boyd Rice

I saw this interview on the morning of 11/13 in Stereo Embers magazine but by the evening it had disappeared without a trace.  I tried to contact the magazine to ask why but got no response.  So, fuck it, I got a copy and am posting it here until they tell me to take it down, or until a week passes.  All apologies to Michael Mitchell, but I was saddened to see that an interview motivated by censorship fell victim to...censorship.  I have no rights to this and hope not to stir too much shite, just want to make it available while I can....copy it if you want, it's got some good new anecdotes and I think it's a decent interview....I really hope I don't get burned for this but I just can't stand censorship.  I figure if they don't want it, the cause of artistic freedom almost obliges me to take matters into my own hands and go for it.  Sorry Michael, I hope you're cool with this.

Written by: Michael Mitchell
Photo Credits: Karen Buchbinder
Living Room photo by Boyd Rice

Written by: Michael Mitchell
Photo Credits: Karen Buchbinder
Living Room photo by Boyd Rice

There comes a time when you can see a man get kicked so many times until you have to say something. On September 5 it was announced that a joint exhibition at New York City's Greenspon gallery for the artwork (not music or spoken word) of Darja Bajagi and Boyd Rice was to be cancelled because Boyd Rice is an 'alleged' Neo -Nazi. Gallery owner Amy Greenspon was being threatened with her livelihood being boycotted and shut down.

Controversy is nothing new for Rice who has had the nazi, fascist, misogynist, racist labels and more thrown at him for the past 40 years. Bill Maher says something under the guise of comedy and everyone laughs and says, "It's ok. He's just joking!" However, when Rice says anything he's labeled everything in the book without so much as a shred of evidence. In fact, at one time he was one of the biggest practical jokers out there. Google it and you'll see. I suppose a man that doesn't smile in photographs can't have a sense of humor though, right?

I've been in music journalism a short time compared to my aging frame. Once I caught wind of this, as a fan and as a journalist, I had to do something. No one would actually go to HIM and do an interview to get his side of the story. So fuck it, here I am. The air gets cleared about this and a host of other things. Fix yourself a martini and enjoy. We cover a lot of ground and he even laughs.

Stereo Embers: Your wife did mention that you've done quite a few interviews about this already.

Boyd Rice: No, not really. A guy from Art News actually gave me his phone number and he contacted me and I spoke with him for five minutes maybe. Everybody else sent me three or four questions over the internet and I sent back answers and they didn't even use all of them. They just selectively chose what they needed for their bit and didn't explain anything that I said really.

SEM: Wow, so I guess I'm the only one pissed off enough to really want to do a good write up on this? The whole thing really made me mad.

BR: I had warned them this might happen in no uncertain terms. I said, "Listen, I only do a few things a year and don't want to spend a great deal of time working on something and traveling to New York and have you cancel the show because you get a couple of angry emails or phone calls". I tried to scare Amy Greespon straight. She said, "Oh, controversy is great. I love controversy". Controversy is romantic at a distance but when you have people calling you up threatening to destroy your existence or putting death threats on your phone, it's really not that amusing. She said, "Well, this is the New York art world we're talking about here and they're far too sophisticated to behave like this"...and she was wrong! (laughs)

SEM: Yep. No shit! (laughs)

BR: When she came in the day the exhibition was supposed to happen, she just had this shell shock look and I thought, "Oh fuck!" (laughs) These people really did threaten her. They said, "We're going to destroy your existence", "We'll have you run out of the art world". People who were her best friends. Prominent gallery owners who'd known her for years. They said, "We're never speaking to you again if you do this show", "I'm never stepping foot in your gallery again and neither will anyone else in the art world".

SEM: Outrageous.

BR: She was just terrified. Ordinarily, if somebody had done this to me after I'd talked so much about it to them, I'd be really really pissed off, but I felt bad for her. In the context of my life, this is a tempest in a teapot. This isn't going to have any effect whatsoever but to the art world this is some firestorm. It's scandalous. It was shut down sight unseen. Nobody knew what these paintings were like. I started doing them when I was 18 years old, you know? At 18 years old I didn't have any volatile political ideology or anything. I still don't.

SEM: Right. Your life experience to that point isn't a whole lot, even though at 18 you think it is.

BR: That's true, but at 18 I came up with the idea for these paintings. I started doing paintings at a highly developed level and I came up with the ideas for my experimental photographs then and I also started doing my first music then. I didn't have a lot of life experience but I exposed myself to all sorts of different things. At that time I dropped out of high school because I wanted to grow up to be an artist because artists live these interesting lives and that's what I was interested in. They're usually rewarded for poor behavior that would get anyone else in trouble.

SEM: I've always thought from reading your books and interviews that your intellect was on a different level anyway. So to be 18 and coming up with all of this I think you're kind of a step above anyway. Or maybe I'm grandstanding you? (laughs)

BR: (laughs) Not at all, you're absolutely correct!

SEM: I mean that's the way I read it.

BR: Yeah, I mean as for ideology, go look at my Instagram page and you'll see I've made these t-shirts that say, "Ideology is Toxic". I've never promoted any ideology. On the contrary, I reject the very concept of ideology.

SEM: The artist that you were going to share the exhibition with, Darja Bajagiuc0u263 , had controversy of her own in 2016 with a piece called "Bucharest Molly". Maybe because of that they said, "Hey, why don't you get Boyd Rice and do an exhibition together"?

BR: Well yeah, I think they wanted her on the bill because she was evidently popular in the art world. People were buying her stuff. They thought I had this reputation of being transgressive and so does she. I said to Amy, "These paintings (of mine) aren't transgressive or provocative or controversial at all. They're just very contemplative. They're essentially a visual equivalent of what I do with sound. It's supposed to be evocative. Very open ended, not anything with political imagery. I'm absolutely not interested in politics and haven't been since I was in high school and everyone has scolded me for it. I just thought artists are more like mystics. They just can't concern themselves with every weird ass thing on the ballot.

SEM: So was she brought into the exhibition after it was given to you?

BR: Well, Chris Viaggio who curated it has been in touch with me for a few years now trying to make this happen and I think he finally convinced Amy that it would be a good idea to have her on the bill, that it would be a way of presenting it or something.

SEM: And you liked her stuff?

BR: Yeah. Of course once this whole controversy first started, people went through her back catalog with a fine tooth comb and found all sorts of things that were questionable. They were mostly things like, "Oh, she's friends with Laibach on Instagram and Facebook!"

SEM: (laughs)

BR: Of her work that I've seen, I've never seen anything using fascist imagery or any political content.

SEM: Were you familiar with the "Bucharest Molly" piece?

BR: No, uh-uh. I've never even heard of "Bucharest Molly".

SEM: That is the one where a girl holding a teddy bear that has a swastika on it and on one leg of her pants it says "Heil" and on the other it says "Hitler" and there was some kind of like fountain thing coming out of it's stomach with black liquid. Like a multi-functional piece or something. That's what started the whole stink at that overseas exhibition. That's what made me wonder. People are calling you a neo-Nazi but she has a piece that says "Heil Hitler" and a swastika on it, why wasn't she as equally a target as you? Probably because she was a darling of the art world, whereas you've been the target of some peoples ire for so many years, "we'll just continue to pick on him".

BR: Yeah. I think it's getting to a level of hysteria now. I find it ironic that these sort of militant liberals are creating racial divisions by talking non-stop about racism all the time. They talk about it the same way that feminists talk about rape and Christians talk about the devil. They're obsessed with it and they need "the other / the opposites" for their identity. They need some boogeyman and I've been that boogeyman for the last forty years practically.

SEM: You fit in all those slots! (laughs)

BR: (laughs) Yeah! I forget where I was going with that. It's just a really strange period we're living in. Like the last few years every time I turn on the news some person is being called a racist or someone is being called a nazi and you look at these people and you go, "That person's not a racist!" This is a time tested tactic that people use to attempt to silence anyone they disagree with and it's worked for decades. It's the worst thing on earth. People lose their jobs, University professors are called racists and they just resign, you know? I've been getting that for forty years but it's been ages since anyone has said anything like this, so I was thinking, "Well, we're living in an age where everybody is called a racist and you know they obviously aren't and everybody can't be a nazi". Even the people who think they're nazi's and they dress up like nazi's, they aren't nazi's. They have no machine of the state behind them making their ideas into reality so that other people have to deal with it. Hitler may be on TV every day, but he's been dead for a while now.
SEM: Who was that guy that people kept punching? I can't remember his name now, but there was this guy that everyone was calling a nazi and he would go out and speak at these places and people would just run up and punch this dude.

BR: Was that Milo Yiannopoulous? The gay guy who had a black boyfriend and everyone was calling him racist?
SEM: No, but that's interesting. I don't know anything about that.

BR: He was banned from speaking at Berkeley and he was protested when he came here to Denver. He was in the news a lot. I mean Berkeley is the birth of the free speech movement and now it's in the forefront of censoring anybody and everybody that they don't agree with.

SEM: Isn't it kind of funny that the liberal machine who would want free speech for everyone seems to be the ones trying to censor it? Just because they don't agree with it? Not that the other side's any better.

BR: Yeah. I have this pie chart that I invented. The traditional political graph has always been a straight line, and would show the political spectrum and in the center would be the centrists and then there'd be the left and the right and then far left and far right. I've turned that into a pie chart so that now the far left and the far right kind of overlap because I think they have more in common with one another now than things that separate them. They both act the same way. They're both intolerant. They both want to take away people's rights if they have the power to do so, you know? I don't doubt for a moment that they would.

SEM: I know you aren't an incredibly political person but what is your take on the Trump administration and what's been going on?

BR: I like it because I think it's bringing this sort of thing to the forefront. People who act hysterical are showing their real nature. They're showing that if they have the power to shut him down, they'd do it in a second. The thing is, because their candidate lost, a lot of people feel powerless and helpless and there's nothing they can do to change the reality of life that they disagree with at this point but they can always go out and attack the small fry. They can always go out and attack someone like me. They can always stop someone from giving a speech at a University. So that's what they're doing. I actually love this divisiveness. I think it will ultimately result in something good. In high school when people would scold me for being apolitical I would always say, "I'll be interested in politics the day a businessman runs for office. Someone who knows how the world works and understands economies and capitalism and things like that" . There was even a brief period when Nelson Rockefeller was gonna run for President and I got really excited and Andy Warhol's reaction to it was the same as mine, he said, "I think Nelson Rockefeller would be a good President because he's a businessman and he knows how things work plus he's an art collector. He's part of the art world, he has an appreciation for that." When he was Vice President he bought a bed designed by Max Ernst and it cost something like $50,000 or $120,000 and everybody was just horrified that he would be wasting money on a bed. He was going to leave it in the Vice Presidential residence and whoever was Vice President next could have it, but nobody wanted it.

SEM: Really??

BR: Yeah. They said, "Oh, that's too weird". It had, like, a chinchilla bed spread on it. But, I'm enjoying the whole Trump spectacle. It has made the United States into this kind of reality TV show where the populace is behaving like an audience members on a Jerry Springer show. That's entertaining to watch.

SEM: You don't subscribe to any political party or have any political affiliation though do you? You just stay apolitical?

BR: I'm utterly apolitical but you know, I'm registered as an Independent because every once in a while something comes up that I think should be voted for or against so I participate to a small degree. It's not the end of the world for me, whoever is in office, because I'm an outsider and I always went my own way. I lived through the oil crisis with Jimmy Carter. Most people think he was the worst President on earth and that life was so bad for them during the time he was in office. Except for waiting in line for gasoline, my life's the same as it's always been. I can go anyplace and live under any political system.

SEM: Circling back to the exhibition, has anyone else volunteered to pick it up?
BR: Yeah, I've not vetted them but I've had a few requests. I think Darja would probably be the better one to setup a situation where the show is restaged. I would like it to be in a legitimate gallery, you know a proper gallery.

SEM: Sure because you're proud of the work. It wasn't the work that got the show cancelled. Unfortunately, it's like I think I said before, it's your perceived image.

BR: Yeah, it's my persona and that's largely a caricature created by people who don't know me or my work. I mean, if I committed a real crime 30 years ago the statute of limitations would of run out on it! (laughs)

SEM: (laughs)

BR: Even twenty some years ago, there's nothing I ever did or said that would constitute a crime I could be charged for. I've never harmed anyone. I've hurt a few peoples feelings in San Francisco but I mean you can't even carry out a normal conversation without saying something that will hurt someone's feelings, especially today. (laughs)

SEM: (laughs)

BR: If you say "midget", it's like, "Oh no, no! They're called 'little people' now". I can't switch out words I've been using since 1956. (laughs)

SEM: (laughs)

BR: Just because somebody has decided, "Oh, we can't say that anymore".

SEM: Right, that is not politically correct Boyd! You can't say that anymore.

BR: Yeah, politically correct. You know who initially used that term, right?

SEM: No.

BR: There's several different stories going around but I think it was Stalin, but it might have been Lenin. Some people now are saying Mao. But, that was actually a thing where if you had politically incorrect thoughts you could be sent to the gulag. These people today would send ME to the gulag if it was in their power to do so, but instead they can just try to spoil my life. Stop my good time, you know?

SEM: (laughs) Well do you think the air has been cleared as far as that appearance on the Tom Metzger TV show and the photo with Bob Heick?

BR: Well until two weeks ago I thought it had! (laughs)

SEM: (loud laughter)

BR: Because I mean, thirty years ago! I don't know how old you are but what were you doing thirty years ago?

SEM: Let's see...thirty years ago...I was eighteen years old, so I was just getting ready to move out of my parents house for the first time.

BR: Ah. Did you do anything that was against the law? Like drink under age or use any drugs?

SEM: Ummm...I MIGHT have done a few questionable things in my pre-eighteen year old life, sure. (laughs)

BR: Yeah, well eighteen years old is different than thirty but I mean I wouldn't expect anyone to judge anybody else by something they did'a0'a0'a0 thirty years ago. The thing is I didn't even do...I mean I was on Tom Metzger's show. I think if you watch that whole episode I really didn't say anything scurrilous.

SEM: As a matter of fact, the clip that I was able to find, I don't think it was the whole thing, I think it was only 5 or 10 minutes, but it seemed like they tried to bait you but you never said anything racist or controversial.

BR: Well the part they show that is supposed to constitute that I'm a racist, I said that there were people, critics in Europe, who were saying that Industrial Music was the first sort of, and they actually said forty years ago, that this was the most uniquely 'white' music. It wasn't influenced by anything that had influenced rock-n-roll. I thought that surf music or Heavy Metal were uniquely 'white' without any roots in the Blues or whatever.

SEM: Industrial Music was so new at the time but you were already ahead of that though.

BR: Yeah, yeah. The wild thing is that I was involved in the Art world when I was a teenager and then most of the people who formed the Industrial scene were people who'd been in the Art world. People like Genesis P-Orridge and the other people in Throbbing Gristle, my friend Z'ev. I met Z'ev at a gallery performance in San Francisco at a gallery called La Mamelle and we've had a lifetime bond. I knew him right up until the day he died.

SEM: I'm really sorry about that. He was brilliant.

BR: He was brilliant. He was the most under appreciated artist / musician I know. He stayed here after his train accident for three and a half months because his doctor told him that if he spent the Winter in Chicago he might not be alive when the Spring comes. In Chicago, he didn't have a car so he would've had to go out walking in blizzards but here, he could just stay in the warm house.
SEM: That's really nice.

BR: He was a lot better when he left. When he came here he looked like a shadow of himself. He looked like an old man, he could barely go up the stairs, he had C.O.P.D. and by the time he left he looked 100% better. So I was shocked when we were called and told that he was gone.

SEM: How long after he left did he pass?

BR: Maybe six months?

SEM: Wow.

BR: I'm not sure, yeah.

SEM: Then you've had another close friend, Adam Parfrey who passed and I'm sure that had to have been a shock too because he was so young.

BR: Well he was the same age as me! His father died when he was 61 and I guess for the last couple of years, Adam was saying he was probably going to die the same age as his father.

SEM: Kind of prophetic.

BR: Yeah. We had heard about Adam when we were at a bris in Beverly Hills. I had met Esther Shapiro , the co-creator of "Dynasty", and we were having the most wonderful time, we had gotten along so well. Then the phone rings and it was Adam's sister. She said that he was in a coma and they don't know if he is going to survive and maybe if you came up and visited him, you might stir something in him. Maybe he might come out of his coma or at the very least it will give you a chance to say goodbye to him. So we left L.A. immediately and flew up there. He'd been responsive but when I got there he wasn't. You probably don't want to hear all of this...

SEM: No, no it's fine. Please. I know he was a great friend and a big influence on you. So to hear this coming from you is welcome.

BR: Ok. So, he couldn't speak but he could understand what people in the room were saying and stuff but by the time we got there he wasn't speaking. He was just laying there. I went in on the morning of the day he died and I sat down and said, "Good morning Adam!" He turned his head toward me and opened his eyes. Then later on his sister called Joe Coleman and he really reacted to Joe he was reaching for the phone and trying to talk and he was opening his eyes a bit so I was hoping he would get better, you know? While we were there his breathing became very labored, then it looked like he was barely breathing at all, but he was. I squeezed his hand and said, "I love you Adam. I love you." and literally sixty seconds later, my wife went to go get the nurse because of his breathing and the nurse came in, took one look at him and said, "He's gone".

SEM: Oh, God. Wow.

BR: Yeah. Joe Coleman got on the airplane to come down and he was en route when Adam died so he arrived much later and I think he spent the whole evening in there with Adam's corpse talking to it and he took pictures with him with his face leaning against Adam's and it was really strangely beautiful.

SEM: His knowledge of the bizarre was phenomenal.

BR: I met him when there was an underground film showing from Germany in San Francisco and everyone in the sort of Industrial scene went to see it. He had a proposal for a book and he wanted me to write something for it and it was going to be published by Grove Press I think. I took one look at it and I thought, "Nobody on Earth is ever going to publish this book!" (laughs) It was sort of a prospectus for what became 'Apocalypse Culture' but that didn't come out until several years later. In the meantime I talked to Adam a lot on the phone. He was like the only person I could speak to who understood where I was coming from because he was coming from the same place.

SEM: Yeah, you guys were tight for a long time.

BR: Yeah! (laughs)

SEM: Do you keep up with anyone else that you used to perform or collaborate with?

BR: I'm really bad about keeping in contact with people but I'm still on good terms with virtually everybody. Every once in a while if I'm in New York I see Genesis P-Orridge. A lot of people from that time period have nothing to do with him any more. Cosey told me, "You're the last person from the old days that still speaks to Gen".

SEM: With the health scare that Gen's had, to see that Psychic TV is still going to be out and performing some shows in Europe is a great sign. I would have sworn several months back when the news came out about the illness that she would have been gone because she looked horrible.

BR: The last pictures I saw, Gen looked like Capt. Kurtz from 'Apocalypse Now' with blonde hair.

SEM: It was startling. Very gaunt.

BR: Really? I haven't seen any gaunt pictures yet.

SEM: There were some pictures, not sure if it made her Facebook page, or on her website when the treatments had started and I think she looked very gaunt. There was a shot from a show PTV did two months ago maybe and now you can't really tell anything was wrong. Kind of miraculous.

BR: Well good. People at Mute told me that the doctors were looking into various treatment options and they have to decide so that the treatments could start. It sounds like it's not absolutely hopeless. There are a number of ways it could go, he just has to decide what type of risk he wants to take.

SEM: Whatever they are doing it seems to be doing a world of good.

BR: That's good because I've always liked Gen. I was corresponding with him before Throbbing Gristle ever formed.

SEM: So how did you two meet? Was it through COUM Transmissions?

BR: He was involved in mail art, as was I. A friend of mine put out a magazine, actually a couple friends of mine, put out these mail art magazines and she put a newspaper article about me in one of them, so I started getting these weird collage postcards from all over the world. Invitations to submit art to places in South America and Europe and East Berlin and all sorts of weird stuff. It's in those books! The only people who really interested me were Cosey and Gen and these other people in Los Angeles who had a group called World Imitation, they had a band called Monitor. I had started writing Gen very early on because we had similar interests, I liked the stuff he was doing. The first time I went to London, I met them and it was right when Throbbing Gristle's first single came out. They were just starting to get really big there.

SEM: Were they familiar with the recordings you had put out?

BR: Up to that point I'd only put out my first album, The Black Album, but I had a tape of the sound in the set I was going to finish when I got back to the United States and I played it for Gen. He listened to it for a long while, very carefully, and at one point he turned to me and said, "This is very Industrial!" (laughs)

SEM: (laughs) That's great! Was there some kind of influence you made to Throbbing Gristle maybe?

BR: No, they were always more of a band doing things with conventional musical instruments and making it noisy, where I was just working with pure sound, pure noise and putting in a few things to make it seem musical (laughs) Even though it wasn't.

SEM: Do you have any plans to make further albums?

BR: Yeah, I've got a brand new one that should be coming out soon. It's called "Blast of Silence" and it's the most minimalist thing I've ever done. It's a 2 LP set and each side of each record just has a twenty minute drone. It's kind of more similar to the stuff that I visualized doing when I first started doing music. I wanted to do something absolutely minimalist and then when punk rock happened I kind of got side tracked because I could do shows in real clubs instead of art galleries. I could actually get paid for performance. So after that I started tailoring the music I was making to be stuff that would work well in a live performance situation because I couldn't go into a rock-n-roll club and just do a sixty minute drone.

SEM: You don't think that would have been too well received at the time?

BR: Well at the time my early noise shows broke out into riots. There were people who would show up expecting a punk rock band and they'd get this wall of noise. I'd have beer glasses smashed on my forehead, people were smashing up furniture. I had no persona at that time. What was controversial at that time was just the content of what I was doing in the context of a rock-n-roll milieu.

SEM: Are you familiar with the band My Bloody Valentine?

BR: I've heard the name.

SEM: When they play live, there is a song that they have called, 'You Made Me Realize" and there is a certain point in the song where everybody plays just one note and it goes into this really insane, white noise. Your kind of level, loud! People that are into them know to expect it. It can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, depending how they feel on the night.

BR: (laughs)

SEM: It's brilliant. I've seen them three different times now and I've seen a five minute version a ten minute version and a twenty minute version. Like I say, there are people that know to expect it and it's one of the things that make them so unique. It's kind of like some of your stuff where it can get hallucinatory.

BR: The new record is especially hallucinatory. It is the same sound throughout. After you listen to it for five minutes you start to hearing rhythms, you start hearing little melodies coming out and you start hearing things that I know are not in there. It's just the way your brain processes the sound after a while. It starts getting used to some things then you start noticing other things and I think my paintings are much the same. If you could show my paintings to a dozen different people they would all see different little things in there. People see skulls, some people see penises and vaginas, everybody sees something different. Each spectator's brain processes it differently than someone else's brain.

SEM: And that's one of the great things about art. The subjectivity and what you get out of it. That's the hallmark of good art.

BR: (laughs) Yeah, it's such a shame because I really do think most of the great artists were mystics and that great art can be transformative and it can really be alchemy but a lot of art isn't !

SEM: True that too! So, apart from the new album, do you have any plans? I know you said that you only do a couple of things a year.

BR: Yeah, I just physically can't handle traveling any more. I'm diabetic now. When I go to Europe even for a couple of weeks it's like being on a rollercoaster non-stop. You can't always eat when you should, you can't always take your injections when you should. I'll still do stuff but not on the level that I used to.

SEM: Are you Type-1 or Type-2?

BR: Type-2, it's that adult onset thing. I only found out about it like six years ago. Adam had diabetes too. He was Type-1. He had it all of his life, his father did too. It didn't seem to effect him any. He seemed strong as an ox, he was very active, but for me this thing has just kicked my ass. I feel like a shadow of the person I was even ten years ago.

SEM: I'm really sorry to hear that.

BR: Yeah, me too ! (laughs)

SEM: Well as long as you take care of yourself and it sounds like your wife is taking good care of you...

BR: Yeah, she's good. But at this point I probably wouldn't do as much of that stuff anyway because I have this wonderful house that looks like a set from A Clockwork Orange and a beautiful life.

SEM: You're very Mid-Century Modern, aren't you?

BR: Yeah, the kind of late sixties/early seventies Mid-Century Modern that looks like Barbarella or 2001.

SEM: Trust me, if we had the means, our entire house would be decorated the same way!

BR: (laughs)

SEM: My wife is really into it. I like it, but she's really is into it.

BR: Well if you guys are ever passing through Denver you'll have to pop in for a visit.

SEM: I appreciate that and I'll take you up on that if we ever are.

BR: Ok!

SEM: Thank you so much for taking the time with me Boyd.

BR: Sure thing. Thank you. When this controversy first happened, I'd never heard the word, 'dialogue' used so much! "Oh, then we'll have a dialogue and you'll get to talk...", it hasn't been a dialogue at all. THIS has been a dialogue ! (laughs)

SEM: Well I wanted to make sure you'd get a chance to get out your side, so did I give you a chance to do that?

BR: Yeah, I think so. And you were going to ask me about Manson. That's the reason why I was involved with the skinheads. Manson wanted me to recruit some skinheads and try to break him out of San Quentin. He had a whole plan and the skinheads had absolutely no interest in it. Then they were suspicious of me because my closest friend in San Francisco, Anton LaVey, he's a Jew, so that didn't go too well. Then Manson decided a friend of his was getting out of prison and me and this guy should hijack a helicopter from Fishermans Wharf, fly over to San Quentin and drop down when he was out in the yard.

SEM: Like Mission: Impossible style?

BR: (laughs) Yeah! So that's the reason why I was arrested going into San Quentin taking in a bullet. I was supposed to take a bullet in every week until he had enough bullets for zip guns or something and then some people he knew in there were going to help him get to the helicopter. Thankfully that didn't happen because I was caught smuggling that bullet into San Quentin and was taken off his list. I may well have died ! (laughs) Or at least gone to prison!

SEM: No kidding! I know at one point you had said you were supposed to "hold your mud" on it.
BR: Yeah and I did. Then when he died I thought, "ok I can write the rest of this" because people were asking if I could tell the rest of the story and I thought, "I'm not gonna say anything at this time". Manson had said, "Rice, you don't tell your girlfriend, you don't tell your best friend, you don't tell your Momma. Once you get in line with this I want you to hold your mud." So I said, "Ok". And I really did. My wife doesn't even know this story. (laughs)

SEM: Wow! So she'll be interested to read this!

BR: Oh yeah. I'd imagine a few people will be, but I thought when you're involved with somebody who's that big a figure, people like that cast a large shadow. I don't want to go around the rest of my life being known as the guy who tried to break Charlie Manson out of San Quentin.

SEM: Yeah really. You think you have a bad rep now?

(Both laugh hysterically)

BR: Whenever I try to explain myself it always comes out way worse than what the original thing was. But I thought we'd put that story out there because that kind of deals with the Bob Heick photo and Sassy magazine and I still love the fact that I was in a fashion magazine for teenage girls.
SEM: I had to double take a couple of times like, "Sassy magaz..Boyd....huh?"

BR: (laughs)

SEM: (laughing) How did that happen? How did that picture wind up in Sassy?

BR: Well, they were going around the country interviewing skinheads. Bob Heick called up and says, "Hey Boyd, how'd you like to get your face in a fashion magazine for teenage girls?" and I said, "Yeah! What do I have to do?" and he said, "Just dress up in uniform and come with us. They're taking us on a pub crawl, they're gonna buy our booze all night long" and I said, "Well how many people are coming?" and he said, "Fifty, maybe sixty". I said, "You're kidding? Sixty people?" He said, "Yep, people are coming up from the South, from across the Bay, there's gonna be a ton of people". Then when I show up to meet him in Union Square, nobody else showed up. Not even one member of his group! I'm the only one who showed up. The ground was damp and it was a little drizzly and he said, "Yeah, they probably stayed home because of the weather" and I said, "Bob, these are your fucking Aryan warriors? These are the people who are supposed to be the spearhead of your white revolution and they don't show up for a photo shoot because of inclement weather?"

SEM: (laughs)

BR: So it was just me and Bob. They took us all around, took a bunch of pictures. Unbeknownst to me, every adult female in San Francisco had a subscription to Sassy magazine. You know, people in their mid-twenties and thirties. Everybody keeps telling me, "If you hadn't of done that stupid Sassy magazine thing your life would be entirely different". But you know, my life hasn't been that bad. Quite the contrary, In fact. I lived out my fantasies on a daily basis year after year. I've lived by my own law, I've never backed down, never apologized and I never will. Like the Nazi thing too, Aleister Crowley embraced the idea that he was the "wickedest man on Earth". He didn't say he was the wickedest man on Earth, other people said that and overall it proved to be good for him because it would weed out anybody who was so unsophisticated that they couldn't see through that. It was a good litmus test for him and it's been a good litmus test for me too.

SEM: I was going to say, the people who get you, get you and the ones that don't, why bother with them.

BR: Well that's always been my answer. I think my audience can see through that. When people come out and attack me, it strengthens the bond between me and my audience because they know better and I've got seventeen or eighteen thousand people on Facebook who get it. I wouldn't expect that many people in the world to understand me. I certainly wouldn't have when I first started out.

SEM: And I'm one of those people! I just started doing this music journalism thing a few months ago and I went at it with the aim that, you know, I'm not going to make any money at doing this, I'm just doing it for some of the bands and artists that I like who are still out there creating and a lot of the usual press outlets will gloss over them. So when the whole exhibition controversy went down, I had contacted your wife and asked her why no one was talking about it. She said there were a couple of different articles in a few art magazines, which I read and thought, well, no one has talked to you! So I'm taking my abilities as "Mr. New Rock Journalist" and doing it. I thought that they're either going to want to publish it or they'd say, "Boyd way!"

BR: I thought this would be great because it gives me a pretext for addressing all this stuff. I mean you can't go around explaining yourself to everybody who's upset. I would have spent the last four decades apologizing for my life. But I would like to once and for all address this, cover all the different points and you this is good. So, thank you. A number of people had said, "I'm so angry. I want to do a whole interview with you about this" and it hasn't really happened but this will be good.

Between this interview being conducted and the publication, Greenspon gallery was going to have a "delayed opening" of the exhibition. Boyd and Darja declined their offer. Funny how the art world tried to save face over this. Fuck 'em. They're too good for New York. The exhibition will be staged in Paris now. Details will be forthcoming. Stay tuned.

Keep up with Boyd Rice:

Mute Records artist page:

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Girl Named Freedom: The Last of the Dreamers

My friend Alex has just published a novel for young people entitled: A Girl Named Freedom: The Last of the Dreamers.

It's now available on Amazon!  Please check it out here.  I will soon be publishing an interview with the author...I will also post a review.  Until then, procure a copy, reflect, and prepare to discuss!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

"William Burroughs meets Heart of Darkness"

Sorry for the low output on the blog in recent months, but I just haven't had anything to say.

The Ice Mine, my recently-published novella, has gotten a review.  5 stars, no less.  Then again, it was written by my mother.  Not really.  Check it out, and then buy the book.  Keep independent publishing alive.  Forgive the shameless self-promotion, but I wrote a book damnit...and I want it to be read! 

le 8 août 2018 

This first-person narrative really feels like back in the Heart of Darkness, only this time the voyage is through a futuristic terrain, and the narrator is coming off a drug addiction. The story flowed easily, with bouts of philosophical musings that were poignant and that had me laughing at times. I would have enjoyed an even longer book, as the only criticism I can think is that the novella size does it injustice. Well worth the read. Kudos to Adkins on his first novel...definitely want to read more of his books.

Monday, May 14, 2018

14th Foot washes up on the banks of BC

Another human foot washes ashore in BC.

This one is not in a running shoe but in a hiking boot.  This has been going on since 2007, and authorities once considered it could be linked to foul play, but now think they're all from people who have committed suicide.  We've followed this story on LoS, with a bit too much levity perhaps.

Ultimately, it's a strange, yet sad, story.  Not much to add, just keeping current.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Deep Space Nine: An Appreciation

This post contains a lot of Spoilers. 

I am not a Trekkie, nor a Trekker.  I don't collect figurines, go to conventions, do cosplay, or speak Klingon.  But I am a big fan of the franchise.  I know who Deanna Troi is.  And Harry Mudd.  And Jake Sisko.  I know King Hussein was an extra on one episode of Voyager, and that Iggy Pop once appeared on Deep Space Nine (DS9) as a Vorta.  I've talked for hours about the show with a lot of people like myself.  Not Trekkers or Trekkies, but fans.

I don't remember ever not knowing about Star Trek.  I was born in 1970 when the original Star Trek (TOS) was fresh off the air, but it quickly entered into syndication and has probably never been off the air since.  I'm sure I caught some episodes of TOS and the animated series as a kid.  My first real memory though, is from the time I was in high school.  We'd finish the school day at 2:45.  I'd hop into my '76 Toyota Corolla and speed home, just in time to plop down onto the couch and catch the daily episode shown at 3 PM on Channel 44 WTOG in Tampa.

When The Next Generation (TNG) was announced, I was stoked and waited with great anticipation for the pilot episode.  I must have watched it religiously at first, but I eventually stopped watching it regularly as it came out, but I would often catch the reruns late at night, bleary-eyed with beer.

I also saw the pilot of DS9 but soon stopped watching it. (Same goes for Voyager and Enterprise). At the time I wasn't particularly smitten, just kind of ho-hum.  I preferred Voyager when it eventually appeared.  Of all the franchises, DS9 was my least favorite.  I kind of even bad-mouthed it for a while and had friendly arguments with a friend with whom I'd seen a lot of TNG; he thought it was the best series in the franchise.

Fast Forward 20 years to 2018.  Recently separated from my wife, living alone with way too much time on my hands, I have access to my wife's Netflix account.  I watch a lot of stand-up and various series, before deciding to watch DS9 again.  Apparently, binge-watching DS9 has become something of a thing, but I hadn't known that.  It makes sense though, because it's the only Trek with a story arc spanning all seven seasons.  At 25 episodes a season, that's a lot of television.  But it's worth it.

Because DS9 is a station and not a ship, it logically stays in one place, which means there's a much larger chance that characters will reappear; DS9 isn't warping off to a new destination every episode, so there's a much greater need to develop that place and the characters who inhabit it.  Indeed, DS9 is the only series in the Trek franchise that has a continuous arc.  There are a number of two or even three-part episodes that must be watched together in order to follow the story.  Even the stand-alone episodes contribute to the arc, and there are many episodes that make no sense if you haven't seen the preceding episodes.  Many of the stand-alones can be watched out of the larger context and still be enjoyed, but they often nuance, fill-in, or otherwise complete aspects of the overall story arc.

There are some episodes that have nothing to do with the arc, and these are quite often innovative and funny.  Like the episode where Quark and Rom take young Nog to Earth to enter Starfleet Academy.  Some kind of temporal distortion sends them back in time and it turns out they're the Roswell aliens.  Or another time-travel tale in which the crew must capture a Klingon spy; in this episode they seamlessly integrate the characters into an actual episode from the original series.  They become background characters to the main action of the original episode and the actors in the original episode become background characters to the DS9 story.  It even has Sisko speaking to Kirk at some point.  In addition to being technically clever, there's something wonderful about seeing what happens outside of the frame, and hints at a larger "reality" beyond what is shown onscreen.

Then there's an episode in which Sisko enters another kind of reality and imagines himself to be a science fiction writer for a pulp magazine in the early 60's.  This turns out to be related to the arc, as he is communicating unbeknownst to him with "the Prophets", aliens who live in a wormhole and who in a way, created Sisko.  Turns out one of them "possessed" a woman who had a liaison with his father.

This episode deals with racism in a head-on way, and there's a scene where a young hoodlum (who in "reality" is Sisko's son) says, "Well I got news for you... today or a hundred years from now don't make a bit of difference – as far as they're concerned, we'll always be niggers."  Now, that may not seem so daring today, but remember, this is the 90's and that was a hard-hitting and bold thing to script.

Racism is addressed several times on the show, and deftly.  In later episodes Dr. Bashir creates a holographic version of a Vegas casino lounge and a Sinatra-like crooner.  The characters drink and pass time in this simulated reality in order to relax.  I remember thinking it was a bit louche to have black characters so at ease in a place where in reality they hadn't even been permitted to enter.  There's a famous story about the Sands not allowing Sammy Davis to enter.  Sinatra wouldn't hear of it and forced the issue, and no one messed with the COB.  Well, it turns out in a later episode Sisko is asked to join the team on a caper to help save the crooner Vic Fontaine, but Sisko refuses.  He explains that he doesn't want to play fantasy in a setting where in reality he wouldn't have been permitted.  It offends him to so glibly whitewash history.  But as his girlfriend explains, you don't have to forget history, and you can still play in it, not as things were but as they should have been.  Sisko does eventually join the caper, but Avery Brooks probably originally objected for the same reason as his character.  Once the issue is addressed, and people are made to face an ugly aspect of history, it's somewhat defused and we can watch the episode without a nagging sense of unease.  I certainly felt that a 60's Vegas setting with African-Americans in the casinos, as if it were historically tenable, was an affront to good conscience, and I'm not an especially PC guy.  

DS9 is set on a station orbiting the planet Bajor, a planet which was occupied by a militaristic species, the Cardassians.  The station was built by Cardassia and has been handed over to the Federation after their withdrawal and a peace treaty between the two.  This allows for a goldmine of storytelling opportunities.  To keep from being too static and limited to this one system, a wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant is discovered.  This allows for two things.  First, it makes it possible for the show to incorporate a lot of new species, friendly and not so friendly, from an unknown part of the galaxy.  It makes the inclusion of so many new species believable.  Secondly, because of its strategic importance, it puts DS9 at the epicenter of a lot of action.  As it allows the species of the Alpha Quadrant to explore a vast new frontier, it makes it quite credible that a lot of familiar species would pass by or visit the station before moving on:  Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi, etc.  There are not many appearances by the Vulcans, for some reason.

DS9 doesn't shy away from the dark realities of war:  occupation, war crimes, labor camps, genocide, terrorism, war orphans, lasting wounds both physical and psychic, PTSD, babies born of occupiers and occupied, "comfort girls", loyalty, treason, religious fanaticism, assassination, dirty tricks, sabotage, mind control, death, fear, hatred, guilt.

It's perhaps the darkest series of the franchise (the most recent, Discovery excluded), the most complex and most nuanced.  The characters are the most believable, conflicted and portrayed with faults.  Yes, they're still bright go-getters of intense loyalty who constantly put their lives on the line for others, but they're simply much more complex.

The ensemble cast is probably the one with the most character development.  Characters fall in love, some get married, spouses and loved ones die.  Nog goes from a lazy n'er-do-well to a Starfleet officer.  The supporting cast is diverse and colorful as well, with a special nod to Garak, an exiled spy cum tailor with a gift for the gab.  The Cardassians all seem to enjoy the sound of their own voices, and this is especially true of Gul Dukat, an occupation leader and former commander of Deep Space Nine, then known as Terok Nor.  His character arc is brilliant, as he goes from arrogant enemy, collaborator with the Dominion, briefly leader of Cardassia, to a megalomaniacal self-styled prophet obsessed with releasing the Pah Wraiths, who are essentially the Fallen Angels of the wormhole aliens, or Prophets.  Dukat goes from thinking of himself as a stern but fair benefactor of the Bajorans to a would-be savior, having his body modified to look like a Bajoran so he may move among them freely.  He becomes the lover of an immoral and self-serving Bajoran spiritual leader, who later exiles him to beg in the streets after being blinded by the Wraiths.  His sight is eventually restored, as is his Cardassian form, before being killed by Sisko.  Other Cardassians go from cold-blooded killers to redeemed freedom fighters working side by side with a former Bajoran terrorist.

DS9 does the most of any of the series to expand upon the galaxy: the politics, the culture, the nature of Starfleet, which is often portrayed as corrupt and beset by inner turmoil, including the nefarious Section 31, a black-ops unit that breaks all the rules of Starfleet and betrays all of its principles in order to save it.  And Starfleet turns a blind eye because they are at war.  Which is an important message.

There are darker, more complex and maybe better portrayals of war and its consequences, or of life in space and alien conflict, but DS9 is enjoyable almost down to an episode.  In the wake of DS9 I've started in on Voyager and I've already just half-watched several episodes.  There's some good stuff there as well and I like Janeway, but it's just doesn't have as compelling an arc and too many episodes are merely the "new planet, new dilemma" kind of discombobulated formula.  Their actions have consequences and past enemies return to haunt them, but every episode is pretty much a stand alone where on one day they've all gone through an incredible trauma and the next episode they're right as rain.

So, I've totally geeked out with a mediocre bit of fanboy enthusiasm, but there it is, unfiltered and still pretty much what I like about the show....

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"The Ice Mine" by Steven Adkins

I'm pleased to announce that my novella, The Ice Mine, is now available for pre-order from the Whisk(e)y Tit website.

I'm really grateful to my editor Miette for all her hard work and for her faith in my writing.  It took me until the age of 47, but it's a great feeling and worth the wait!  Please consider ordering a copy or even two; books are great gifts and supporting independent publishers is important, self-interest aside!


Ric Bream was a happily married college professor with two adoring children. But wounds from the past left him restless, weakening his will against the lure of the poppy. As Ric’s addiction gained momentum, his career and marriage collapsed.  Alone and restless, Rick attempts detox at home. After weeks of hallucinations and nightmares, he comes out clean. Now he must struggle to stay that way, in a futurist society whose priorities conflict with his values. Wrestling with boredom and lacking a sense of purpose, Rick sifts through his belongings, stumbling upon an old collection of books: the relations of crackpot explorers and madmen who have searched in vain for a mysterious society dubbed, “The Ice Mine.”

The books reawaken Ric’s interest in searching for the Ice Mine, a place of questionable existence, accessible only along a treacherous path fraught with deadly enemies—a trail blazed by alleged lunatics and liars. Follow Ric on his journey of mind, body, and soul as he encounters exquisitely detailed mythical landscapes inhabited by never-before-seen creatures, deadly forces of nature, and lurking sinister presences. Will facing his inner demons as he struggles to survive his journey lead Ric to the fabled Shangri-La or something else entirely?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

3 feet high and rising

We have probably written all there is to write regarding the facts surrounding the be-sneaker'd feet that have been washing up on the shores of Vancouver Island and environs for several years now, so we won't spill any ink on this latest, except to point out that yes, another foot has made an appearance:

Something we didn't know:
Vancouver Island is also well known for its Sasquatch sightings.
For well over a decade, residents on or near Vancouver Island have reported hearing strange howls during the day and night. Some have even claimed to have seen one of the creatures.
The Sasquatch, we should point out, is also known as....Bigfoot.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


To quarantine or not to quarantine....
100 years ago, in January, 1918, the first cases of the H1N1 influenza virus, or "Spanish Flu" were observed.  It may have started in France, or maybe Kansas, scientists aren't sure, but by the time it simmered down it had killed between 50 and 100 million people, or 3 to 5 % of the world's population, making it one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history.  And it struck almost everywhere, even the Arctic.

Why the "Spanish" Flu?  Apparently censorship in many countries involved in the Great War, e.g. Great Britain, the U.S., Germany, and France minimized early reports in order to protect morale, whereas in neutral Spain, the media reported on the pandemic more freely.  People thus assumed Spain was harder hit and hence the name.

In Spain they called it the "Naples Soldier" which was taken from a musical operetta titled La canción del olvido (The Song of Forgetting).

Such a tragedy, the Great War ended in November, 1918, but one could argue that the conditions (destroyed infrastructure, overcrowded camps, general mayhem) it created helped propagate the virus that kept on killing for another 2 years.  There were two waves of the pandemic, the second even deadlier than the first, but by December 1920, it was over.

Happy 2018.

See 1918 flu pandemic for more details