Pulp Fiction

Paperback Novel

“Disch was never popular
among science fiction, fantasy,
or horror readers. His admirers
were mostly fellow writers.
And despite Disch’s remarkable
literary achievements, the fans
were right. They knew he wasn’t
writing for them. The literary
mode of genre fiction is romance—
the narrative tradition of wish-
fulfillment featuring exciting
adventure, idealized characters,
and satisfactory closure.”
—Dana Gioia, Locus, August 2008

I bought it at the drugstore, very cheap—and later I pawned it. After a while, I heard it was on the street—seen at the train station or the bus-stop.

Familiar, but not quite recognized—I bumped into it again. It followed me home and slept with me. Later it got traded and sold again. Or lost.

I bought it again at the corner drug store—a new edition and cover. At the green light—late one Saturday night, at nine o'clock. I was lonely—so I re-read it again and memorized and re-wound it. It was good as new—all “science fictiony.” Pretty soon though I found it unsuitable—out-grew it, took it apart, couldn’t understand it, pawned it again.

Then I heard it was on the street again—seen in a dream, heard in the park, seen by the light of day. I carefully followed it one night to a motel room—a young sailor and his girlfriend ended up with it. She read some of it but got bored—but then the young sailor had to catch the next train to San Diego.

This time I got serious—and took copious notes. I looked up some other paperbacks the author wrote—they were strange, and yet not extraordinary. Sad, but true. True, or exaggerated, or not so true—they were true enough. True enough to make people laugh—and the sparrows fly.

Paperback novels exaggerate things—people change, but the wars stay the same. People come and go—the lights change. Some stay—some go away. It’s night now—and things get serious all the same. The lights go on in all the homes—some one dies and it’s serious but the same. Soldiers and sailors—wait to get out of town. The busses and trains and jets—they come and go.

Like a girl knows and feels small—the same is true with me. Just as the drugstore clerk might not know why—but knows it’s true and pointless. Just as the
old man knows it’s all grotesque—but he dies all the same. As the people laugh, as the people think—as guys like me get bored and read the paperbacks in the racks and used bookstores.

It’s serious business—pulp fiction. Even though it’s all the same—exaggerated or true. Bought at the drugstore down the street—where the wind blows and the cars go by and it’s always day or night.

Bought to use as a last resort—paperback fiction is just about all I got. Bought to impress the statues in the park—the guy sitting on a bench with nothing to do. Bought at a cut rate—at the green light at nine o'clock at night.

Later borrowed or sold at a used bookstore. To get read well again. To ennoble. To prevent boredom. To entertain. To have or have not. Broken or sold. Or given away. Or read and forgotten. Or lost again.

Pulp Fiction

Down I Go
By Ben Kerr
Author of “Shakedown”

He was such a nice kid—so naïve, so stupid. Just the right type—to go down, down, down.

He was just some young guy out in the sticks—like Kansas maybe. Know what I mean—the farmer’s daughter type? You drive up one day—out there for no reason. Some dumpy little gas-station—in Nowheresville.

On your way back to LA—through Las Vegas for kicks. Just to be on the road—on your own again. That old Route 66 feeling—Highway nostalgia.

Driving some classic—piece of heavy-metal shit. Like a funky ’59 baby-blue Cadillac—with long sleek fins. And big chrome tits in front. Feeling like a rich pimp—just for the fuck of it.

Not stuffed like a crummy sardine—in some jetplane way up there. X-rayed and sniffed by dogs—stripped naked. Elbow to elbow—next to some creep for hours.

I wanted to feel down to earth again—all the way. Like a haughty ho—the skanky type I always was. So I pulled over—to this little country gas-station.

And there he was—outta the Fifties brand new. With a retro greasy ducktail—swept back like Elvis Presley. Plus Elvis the Pelvis hips—that drove me crazy.

The kind of kid—who still washes your windshield. Who’s still naturally bored—not hyped-up crazy. The kind of dumb chicken—who knows enough. But not too much—just dumb enough where it counts.

Smart enough to know—a motel after work. Next to the closed VFW—out there by the ruins of an abandoned Snake Pit Drive-In looming nearby.

Down I go—dontchaknow? I couldn’t help myself. He was the kind of kid—I liked to drag down with me. All the way down to the bottom—and back again.

Just to feel—what it felt like back then. For as long as it took—to get to know him all the way. And myself again. Enough to make him want me—maybe a little bit more.

Out there in the spectral sticks of nowhere—that’s where nowhere really is. It’s kinda everywhere and nowhere—at the same time. It’s everywhere—when there’s no place left.

I took him—for all he was worth. And then some.

I left him with a couple of C-notes in the bedroom—back in the No Tell Motel. Loaded, passed-out—the kid drained-dry to the bone.

I drove and drove—all the way back home to LA.

Pulp Fiction

The Big Lure
By William Manners

“I realized that I could do
it as a story and take the
dramatic events of the
problems of trust, betrayal,
inauthenticity, and a view
of just how dismal the world
really is, and I could make
a hilarious story of it.”
—Thomas Disch, “Disching It
Out: An Interview with
Thomas Disch,” Joseph
Francavilla, Science Fiction
Studies #29, Volume 10,
Part 1, March 1983

The lure was big—the bait was bad.

She had the hots—for both brothers. She married the older one—the one with money. The one with his own company—and plenty of dough in the bank. She wanted security—so she married it.

But she wanted more. She wanted the younger brother—the young savage boxer. She wanted him bad—because he was bad too.

They’d go to the fights. Her husband didn’t know. He thought she just liked boxing on Saturday night. But it was more than that. She wanted love.

The big lure was simple—the younger brother was hot. He was really hot—after a fight. All sweaty and pumped up. Tense and nervous—he could be had.

That’s when she showed up in the locker-room. Locking the door—behind her. She couldn’t wait—to get her lips on his sweaty muscular boxer’s body.

The lure was big—she was bad. He was twice as big as his older brother—a kinky twist in the family tree. She knew it—she wanted it. She got it—every Saturday night.

The lure was easy—he could be had. He never said no—he let her do him. She got turned on by all the violence in the ring—the way he massacred all the other boxers. It was easy—to get him hard. Hard to ignore—hard to forget.

That’s the way pulp romance is—the way it was back in the Fifties. She was desperate for it—sex was all over the place. The drugstores, the bus-stops, the lonely train stations—the paperback racks were full of it. The lure was cheap—so was she. So were the sailors and soldiers—lonely with nothing to do.

The lure was hard to ignore—her husband wasn’t clueless though. He’d been there—done that himself. Back when they were younger—falling head over heels for it. How could his younger brother—be more endowed than him. Talk about penis envy—what a freak of nature.

The lure was nasty—it didn’t last long. He ditched her—after each quickie locker-room soiree. That’s all the time he gave her—a quickie up against the locker.

And then a nice hot shower—leaving her dazed and whiney. Sniffing his damp shorts—taking his smelly jock home with her. That’s when her husband—got his reward. The lure was brotherly love.

The lure was both brothers—every Saturday night. She took turns with them—she was cheap. They were lurid—ready to go. Three-ways got her what she wanted—boxer, husband and the lure of love.

Pulp fiction romance—the only way to go.

Zombies of the Stratosphere

Zombies of the Stratosphere


I was having a nice little porno-dream—with Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols. When all of a sudden—I heard this awful CRASH!!!

My #334 apartment door swung open—and in came two of the most Rough Trade Ruffians in all of Planet Hollywood!!! Roy Barcroft and Lane Bradford!!!

I let out a Little Richard falsetto shriek!!!

It’s the Purple Monster!!! And Marex from Mars!!!

Oh honey!!! They were my two most favorite Saturday matinee serial Villains—from The Purple Monster Strikes and Zombies of the Stratosphere!!!

It was an El Primo LA Wetdream come true—how lucky can a girl get??? I was totally blown away!!!

They yanked me outta bed—threw me up against the wall. Naturally I got a Boner right away—Rough Trade always gets me over-excited!!!

Bad Guy Barcroft sneered at me—he sure did have my number!!! He was truly the ultimate sci-fi noir Emissary of Evil!!! He was my most cherished Outer Space Invader—a true hardcore Gangster from beyond the Rings of Saturn!!!

How many orgasms did I have up there in the skanky Bijou balcony—during those raunchy boyhood Saturday matinees? With all my bad boyz boyfriends back then—during Radar Men of the Moon!?!

How many times did I lose it—when The Purple Monster did me in really good down there in the dirty basement bathroom? Talk about decadent déjà vu Thrills—talk about skanky seminal flashbacks!!!

Whatever Roy Barcroft and Lane Bradford wanted—I was only to willing to give them!!! Beat me, burn me, fuck me to death!!! If this was a Dream—I didn’t wanna wake up!!! Play it again, Sam—play it for me!!!

Barcroft and Bradford were so big, bad and brawny—their smirks dripped with syrupy suspense and male mystery. They had me where they wanted me—up against the wall just a helpless nelly cliff-hanger.

I felt dem Forbidden Planet chills and thrills creeping up and down my spine—you know what I mean? I was ready for some really serious—“Monsters of the Id” sadomasochistic slam-bam-thank-you-mama B-movie neo-noir action!!!

The more they “hammed it up”—the more I wanted them. Especially handsome butch Roy Barcroft—so steely-eyed and cowboy professional. He ripped my pajamas off—and I almost fainted.

Barcroft with his bold swagger—leaning down into my face and saying with that nasal, insinuating voice of his plus all that scary arrogance of Emperor Retik, the Supreme Ruler of the Moon:

“So Jommy Yuck—you little piece of quivering no-good dog-shit!!! You trashed Sergeant Snide yesterday didn’t you? Shame on you—you little wise-ass Earthboy. You made fun of Snide—right there in his own Space Marine Winnebago Spaceship Headquarters!!! For that—you must surely die!!!”

Barcroft bitch-slapped me a couple of times—first with the back o his hand one way—and then a whack of his hand the other way. It infuriated him—that it turned me on. I couldn’t help it—he was my one and only benevolent Bijou Badguy. The ultimate gushing Godhead—of Fifties Old-Fashioned Villainy and juicy Machismo…

And then it happened again—I just couldn’t help myself. I had another embarrassing orgasm—right then and there. Accidentally I squirted a risqué runny Lob—right into the Purple Monster’s glaring Eyeball. It blinded him, distracted him—which probably saved my Life.

Disgusted with my shameless perverted Earthboy Ejaculation—Barcroft turned me over to insidious Lane Bradford the Evil Martian in Zombies of the Stratosphere. He got me good with all the craftiness worthy of a demented Chandu the Magician. His bad breath stunk like the deadly disintegrating gas of the Poisonous Orchids from The Phantom Creeps!!! I fainted, of course—swooning like a Chinese virgin damsel in distress.

Thank goodness Captain Video—didn’t come to my rescue!!! The Flames of Atoma searing my loins—as I got blasted by the Atomic Eye. The Vengeance of Vultura descended on me—I felt the Menace of Martian Mystery Meat shooting up my tight little ass. It was simply Heaven—I felt like Sheena the Queen of the Congo!!!

Not even the Radar Men from the Moon—could save me. Moon Rocket, Molten Terra, Murder Cars, Trains of Death, Enemy Planets, Mass Executions, Planned Parenthood or even Thai Take Out couldn’t save me from those exquisite Lunar Forbidden Pleasures!!!

Bodyguards of Steel—they became my Zombie Lovers from the Stratosphere!!! They were my insolent Zombie Vanguard of my Chicken Youth—I was their sullen Contraband Cargo. I was their shocking Homage to Homotopia—Roy Barcroft my smooth, slick, stealthy Human Torpedo. It was truly Man vs. Monster—them versus my unearthly monstrous lips and shameless monstrous greedy tongue. I couldn’t help myself—once I got going.

These two hunky Vandals from the Void—both Roy Barcroft and Lane Bradford. They eventually left me sprawled and begging for more—down there on the dirty linoleum floor. They’d got even for me dishing fat ugly Sergeant Snide—the tacky skanky Space Marine recruiter.

My head was spinning—my tight asshole hurt. I may have looked simply awful—on the outside. But deep down inside me—the Bad Seed felt awfully nice!!!

Radar Men from the Moon


The Purple Monster Strikes


Escape from New York

Escape from New York

“She liked to watch the soaps.
As the World Turns. Terminal
Clinic. The Experience of Life.”
—Thomas Disch, “Lies—
The Teevee (2021),” 334

“My book 334 has an ambitious,
conscious, formal structure. The
last part of it has a three dimen-
sional grid system which relates
to and orders all the elements in
the last novella of the book. But
I just couldn't resist putting the
diagram into the book anyhow.
It's meant to be a Friday's foot-
print on the sand. Nobody has
ever taken up that particular
element of the book; no one
has ever pointed to what it
does or what it represents.”
—Thomas Disch, “Disching It
Out: An Interview with Thomas
Disch,” Joseph Francavilla,
Science Fiction Studies #29,
Vol 10, Part 1, March 1983

It was just awful.

The recruiting office was a filthy dump—stuck in a back alley behind The Black Cat, a rundown old tavern.

Sergeant Snide ran the joint. Upstairs was filthy dirty movie parlor. And in the basement dark cubicles for some worn-out old has-been prostitutes—if you had enough credits left on your Food Stamp card.

But what did I expect? The Empire State Building? Some swanky Hilton high-rise skyscraper? I shrugged—it didn’t make any difference to me. What’s a recruiting station anyway? Just a place to sign on the dotted line—a chance to get out of Welfare State Dystopia. That’s all I wanted—to get outta New York City.
I saw it as a wonderful opportunity—to start over again. A doorway to another world—somewhere over the rainbow. I had no idea the recruiting office—would end up being a dumpy rundown Winnebago!!! Parked outside some dive down by the docks—next to a sailor bar called The Black Cat!!!

That’s where I ended up—ready to sign my life away. Ready to get a brand new spic and span Marine Corp uniform—and head off to Bangkok. How naïve I was.

They said they used a Winnebago—to get around as much as possible. All the bars, taverns and dives down by the docks—under the Brooklyn Bridge, anywhere young drunks might be hanging out. Who knows how many got Shanghaied—off to the jungles of Asia?

I walked through the door—and there was fat ugly Sergeant Snide waiting for me. He said with a self-justifying whine, “So you’d like to dress up in a uniform and pretend you’re a Marine, huh, kid?”

Sergeant Snide was wiping off a glob of cold cream in front of the mirror—putting the final touches on his ugly puss. He wasn’t exactly my idea of a butchy Marine recruiter—in fact he was rather fem and faggy. His Botux lips were pouty—he had these puffy rings under his eyes from the night before.

A particularly shocking song was coming through the intercom—it was Radio Bangkok from across the ocean. “Falling in love, again—I can’t help it…” It was unmistakably Marlene Dietrich—whining away like an old alley cat crying for the good old days.

Sergeant Snide didn’t even look up at me—as he turned first one way and then another. Eyeing his ugly profile in the smudgy cracked mirror propped on his desk. He was obviously vain—in love with himself.

Next came a ratty platinum wig that had seen better days. It fit snugly on his bald head—like a pharaoh’s moldering skull cap. Some of the fake silver curls hung down salaciously in front—like a skanky serpent on King Tut’s mummy mask.

“What did you say?” I asked politely. “Maybe I’m in the wrong place or something?”

“What’s the matter, pretty boy? Never seen a man wear makeup?” Sergeant Snide said, winking at me.

“Mickey!” he shouted to the corporal in back. “Bring me the kid’s file, will you? I left it in the bathroom.”

Then I realized it. Bangkok wasn’t going to be any different than New York City. There wasn’t gonna be any difference—between the welfare state over there—and the welfare state here. It was all one big lousy Welfare Planet—there was No Escape from New York.

“C’mon, kid,” Sergeant Snide said. He sensed my nervousness—it was obviously oozing out of every pore. I sat down in the chair—in front of his desk.

Sergeant Snide was the spitting image—of Java the Slut in that old Star Wars movie. The rolls of fat folding over themselves on his neck—undulating down further rolling over his stomach.

Snide lit up a cigarette—pushing aside the makeup kit and getting down to business. He wiped his hands and lips with a filthy hankie—glancing through my Official 334 File. It wasn’t a pretty picture—I suppose. But neither was he.

Snide pursed his lips—licking them. Making sure his lipstick was smudged evenly over his big Smackers. They were big puffy Lips—part-time fellatio whores I bet. Maybe even full time recruiting pleasers.

Snide giggled dismally now and then—pawing through my niggardly naughty File. Then he burst out laughing—without looking up.

“Your girlfriend, Frances Schnapps? She doesn’t seem to give good head, kid? What’s the matter, huh? Those buck-teeth of hers—got in the way?”

Without missing a beat—Sergeant Snide smiled and pushed a couple of camcorder snapshots at me across his desk. It was Frances and me last night. One look and I looked away. I should’ve known Big Brother was queer—playing Miss Voyeur with every single move I ever made in 334 housing.

I was beginning to feel somewhat humiliated—for some reason. The photos were pretty grainy and rough—but the expression on my face was pretty real. Sergeant Snide winked at me—any illusion of privacy was pretty much stripped away. Suddenly I felt sorry for Frances—I’d make it up to her.

“So you wanna leave all this wonderful sex life of yours—for boring ho-hum Bangkok nightlife, hum, Jommy Yuck?” Sergeant Snide sat there like a fat toad—as I cringed in the chair feeling bad.

Sergeant Snide shook his head—thoroughly enjoying himself. His ugly bloodshot eyeballs—slowly began extending themselves on long skinny stalks dangling from his reptilian bloated body. His nostrils turned viciously canine—sniffing me and my fear.

There was no doubt about it—Sergeant Snide was really an alien in drag!!!

“Actually, my dear” I said, “I’ve seen a lot of fags in drag. But none of them, Sergeant Snide—could be prettier than you, sweetheart.”

Sergeant Snide glared up at me—his eyebrows raised in shocked disgust. He blushed like an old whore—if that’s even remotely possible.

Suddenly he became the sniveling parody—of all my welfare queen self-doubts and dystopian fears. I could see Sergeant Snide’s stretch marks getting bigger and bigger. Ready to—pop goes the weasel!!!

Snide was starting to go into his standard Scheherazade Dance of the Seven Veils routine—one could hear flesh-flute Muzak coming in through the intercom from Planet X.

I realized then I’d be wasting my time with Sergeant Snide and the Space Marines. I didn’t wanna end up a sex slave on Titan—doing burlesque shows for the boyz working the Rings of Saturn. And only Gawd knows—what would happen to me in that wicked city Bangkok?

For a second or two—I stared at Snide. And then went outside—down the alley. The Winnebago behind me—levitated and then took off for Mars or wherever. I didn’t care anymore—for his butchy lies.

I trudged slowly back to 334—

Back to my normal, mundane, day-to-day, Dystop-depressing existence…

Young Gorilla

Young Gorilla

“He stood alone beside the
sea railing in Battery Park.
Dark waves lapped at
the concrete shore.”
—Thomas Disch, “The
Death of Socrates,” 334

“You don't use irony;
you have irony. It's part
of your world view.”
—Thomas Disch,
“Disching It Out: An Interview
with Thomas Disch,” Joseph
Francavilla, Science Fiction
Studies #29, Vol 10, March 1983

He was a young gorilla—out of uniform. But I could see stars and stripes tattooed across his forehead—as he came out of Frances Schnapps’ apartment. I felt a flash of lust—then a wave of revulsion. What I saw—that look on his face.

I couldn’t sleep that night. My body felt dead—sinking down into a lake and then floating back up again. I could feel the young gorilla on top of me—pressing his lips hard against mine. Tonguing me in the ear—biting my neck.

I didn’t want to think about it. I could feel the whole crummy subsidized slum tower—oozing down in and out of me. 334 East 11th Street—that’s where 3000 of us welfare queens lived inside 334 apartments. Elevators didn’t work—greasy stairwells full of sexual crimes and dope.

I could still see the young gorilla’s face—his young Marine buzz-cut haircut. His face all stretched out—after he’d made love to Frances. What a little animal—shipping out that weekend to Bangkok.

His face so distended—he dragged it along the hallway. And then it slid down the staircase—ahead of him. Eyeballs bugling out—after whipping Frances in the dark with his belt. Gorillas were like that—they were into rough trade.

I couldn’t help myself—I was depressed. I came with a smooth one or two jerks—and then let my gorilla lust fade away. I pretended I was Frances—nude in her dingy apartment. I let the young cute gorilla beat me—beat me, burn me, fuck me to death.

Then the Cadillac commercial came on the vidscreen—my favorite commercial. From back in the good old dayz—during the pre-Squeeze affluent Fifties.

The vidscreen flickering into life—there it was. A big beautiful black 1956 Cadillac—with Paul Birch inside. Cruising LA for virgin vampire blood—in the classic sci-fi thriller Not of This Earth.

That’s the way it was in 334. It kept all the Wrinklies in check—just douche them with a little nostalgia now and then. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief—and then the happy pills kicked in.

My name is Jommy Yuck—go ahead and laugh. I’m used to being the butt of jokes—“Yuck! Look who’s here! Yuck!!! It’s Jommy Yuck Face!!!”

Girls smirked at me—fags leered at me. Everybody could see I was hard up—the way I self-consciously limped down the hallway. Dragging my gimpy third leg behind me…

I tried to wise up—I felt ashamed of myself. It didn’t seem fair to me that I couldn’t have a girlfriend—or get married and have kids. I needed a home life—I needed a steady fuck. Just because I was a dumb unemployed sixteen-year-old—didn’t mean I wasn’t human. I needed love—like everybody else.

“Jommy Yuck”—came the voice on the vidscreen. “We saw that—shame on you. Masturbation gets you 10 credits subtracted from your Food Stamp card." A dark smirky bureaucrat entity—flickered briefly on the bedroom wall. Big Brother—didn’t miss a trick.

I wiped my hand on my sheets and reached under my pillow. I unfolded the Marine Corps shiny slick poster ad—slowly, religiously. The sullen face a lean mean gorilla stared at me. Pointing his huge gnarly phallic index finger in my face—making me swear to enlist the next morning.

I was getting tired of being a welfare queen—a public housing dwarf in the Big City. I stayed up late that night—digging at my toenails.

Frances the girl next door—offered to give me a blowjob. It turned out to be a disappointment for both of us—I couldn’t get it up. Let’s face it—I was her. Only gorilla meat—turned me on.

I told her about it—the young gorilla coming out of her apartment that night. Who was he—was he any good in bed? Could she set me up—with a blind date? She shrugged—she looked away. She didn’t like being a fag hag—she had some pills. She wanted to get laid—and run off to Mexico.

“You’re crazy,” I told her. “You wouldn’t make it past the city limits. You ain’t got no money. You’d starve down there anyway. Those Tijuana perverts—would gobble you up.”

I lay in bed—smoking a ju-ju. Why explain anything to her—she wouldn’t understand. I only felt alive—in the presence of a Masterpiece. A nice dumb piece of—Marine Masterpiece Meat.

Books, libraries, college courses on the vidscreen—that didn’t have anything to do with anything. Except getting some extra credits—on my Food Stamp card.

The only Upward Mobility left—in the Mex-Americano-Canadian world—was the fast-lane highway outta town. Either that or—enlisting in the Marines for the Bangkok War. Or Trouble on Titan—mining the lonely Rings of Saturn…

Frances started crying—she didn’t want a guy with muy macho vibes. She hated that young gorilla’s flat hard stomach—his big bulging biceps. His killer washboard abs—and tight thin lips.

She couldn’t understand—why I wanted young male magnetism. Rather than her nice smooth welfare pussy—she had the credits to get married and have kids. All she needed was me—to sign the dotted line. Isn’t that what I wanted? A happy 334 welfare kids and family?

I told Frances Schnapps I was going to enlist—she grabbed my legs and wouldn’t let me leave. She wouldn’t let go—all the way down the hallway and halfway down the stairwell.

She screamed—and cried out bloody murder. Even the dumb vending machines—blushed and looked ashamed. She loved my spumoni—she didn’t wanna give it up. She clung to my skinny legs—she would let me go.

I felt like a jerkoff—but I left her there. Handcuffed to the railing—promising me all her food stamps and happy pills. I didn’t even look back—at 334.



“The dark water,
chromed with oil,
flopping against the
buttressed shore”
—Thomas Disch,
“Angouleme,” 334

“Laughter is just
a slowed down
scream of terror.”
—Thomas Disch,
“Disching It Out: An Interview
with Thomas Disch,” Joseph
Francavilla, Science Fiction
Studies #29, Vol 10, March 1983

Great expectations—what a joke. Charles Dickens? What a drama queen, Pip shrugged. He’d become a young hustler. And Miss Havisham had become a chicken-queen.

Already Pip was stiff. He’d begun his usual moaning routine plus a little extra rhythmic pelvic protest—acting put-upon like he was struggling against the pleasure or the pain, whichever it was. As his left hand kneaded the balding head of Miss Havisham, his right hand pulling off his shirt.

The ensuing years of hustling had given Pip’s lax flesh a peculiar virginal quality—as though each time he got done it awakened him from some long drawn-out enchanted Snow White innocent sleep. He could still pull it off—the pseudo-waking up routine, acting as if he’d suddenly, helplessly just woken up, only to find himself being gummed to death by Miss Havisham again.

There was no more innocent playing cards by the fire—in the big dark moody Manor House. No more entertaining Miss Havisham in her lonely seclusion—having been stood up by her fiancé on her wedding night, much to her eternal shame and bitter embarrassment.

Miss Havisham’s only way to get even over all the past years—was to set up Pip with Estella, letting her break his heart like her heart had been so rudely broken way back when.

But with Pip—things were different for some reason. Eventually, slowly, without being planned at all—Miss Havisham found herself falling head over heels—for the cute young precocious Pip. Rather than breaking his heart—it was the other way around.

It was like a cruel déjà vu joke—reminding her of her fatal wedding night. The rotting wedding cake leaning on the table—symbolic of her scorned existence.

Except with Pip—it wasn’t angel food cake. It was devil’s food—even though it looked innocent on the outside. Miss Havisham discovered that the more she tried to corrupt him and break Pip’s heart with Estella’s help—the more she actually broke her own heart.

Pip became more than just her despised surrogate bridegroom—in his pale chickenhood, he became her true husband. She seduced Pip—wanting him more and more. Pretty soon Miss Havisham pushed Estella aside. She wanted to break Pip’s heart all right—his young male innocence smearing her lips with spluge.

There was a kind of tardy sluggish splugage shame to Pip’s demeanor—a nostalgic sort of lost innocence. It was sweet and sour sauce—except it had gotten stale like Chinese takeout gone bad after awhile.

A decadent overripe Tadzio smell that seeped from his pores—when he was having sex now that he wasn’t chicken anymore. The way maples yield sap only in the depth of winter.

Pip’s winter was now—his days of being a spring chicken were over with. Now he did it for money—not for pleasure. They called him Taromina Inc.

Miss Havisham loved it—Pip’s innocence was one thing. But Pip’s corrupted innocence was better. It was another young stealthy wicked beast altogether. She’d liked Pip when he was all goggle-eyed and embarrassed—young and virgin as the driven snow way back when.

But that was then—and this was now. Miss Havisham actually craved Pip more now—now that he’d lost his boyish innocence. Pip was a man now—down there where size queens slobbered every weekend. His rendezvous encounters—cost plenty for wealthy connoisseurs. There wasn’t any more blushing or nervousness anymore—it was just business.

Pip got sweaty in his armpits—he still got nervous but it was a different kind of nervousness. It wasn’t a virgin nervousness—it was more like getting it over with so he could get out of there.

Out of Miss Havisham’s dumpy cloying old mansion—the Manor House next to the brewery. With all the dreary drapes, dark staircases and rotting wedding cakes—plus Miss Havisham’s needy cloying lips.

Pip wasn’t naïve like he used to be—Pip was a young businessman now. The desperate lips down there below—drooling away like all the rest of his wealthy clients.

The steady sucking salvo—of Miss Havisham’s smacking and slapping and farting around down there as usual.

This, to Pip, was the worst part of their sexual trysts—especially when he imagined Estella standing on the other side of the door, unable to keep from thinking of what happening to Pip, despite the jealousy it must have caused her.

It didn’t bother Pip much though—in fact it turned him on. Estella had been so haughty and cruel in the beginning. Making fun of his big hands—and his crude bourgeois ways. It served her right—to be at the other end of the stick now. Along with old Miss Havisham.

Sometimes it was the only thing Pip could think about—the thought of Estella fuming in the hallway. The thought of her coming into the room and seeing the look on his face—as he shot a seriously down Miss Havisham’s famished throat.

Pip yawned—his hips had a bored life of their own. They had a life of their own and would only begin to pump faster if it was like toward the end.

Miss Havisham, crossing the obscene threshold between self-control and automatism—always struggling down there to impale herself on the cruel thrusts of Pip’s nonchalant young manhood.

Her hands grabbing Pip’s hips—forcing him to treat her old whorish lips like a young tart at the nightclub. Even though they didn’t much want to. She squeezed them—like a pair of bored loin-chops. Pip yawning—smoking a cigarette, looking up at the ceiling.

Crocodile tears came flowing superciliously from Miss Havisham’s eyes—but that didn’t mean anything to Pip anymore. It was just business like everything else. You trick, you make some money, you die. End of story.

Finally Pip would lose it and go spaz—smirking and looking at his watch. He’d let Miss Havisham have it—and it wasn’t very pretty. She choked on it—trying to strangle it to death. Only to gag on it—choking on the sheer greed of her self-loathing. It was just awful—awfully nice.

Miss Havisham tried to hang on to it for dear life—but there was just too much action going on. She fell off the bed—the mattress giving one last exhausted whoosh.

“Pip?” a voice called from the hallway.

It was Estella—she should have been in school. The bedroom door was halfway open. She gazed in with a look of mock-shock and disgust at Pip there nude in Miss Havisham’s bed—with nothing on except his pair of shiny black and lavender cowboy boots.

The ones with sharp shiny jiggling-jangling spurs. The spurs were still spinning—and they had blood on them too.

Pip had that stoic cowboy sneer on his lips—you know what I mean? That cheap leering Italian spaghetti-Western hustler look? That slutty “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” kind of sneer?

Pip was hanging onto the brass railing of the bed—still weak from spluging the last bit of his brains out. Estella came rushing over to the bed—trying to get her lips on the last little bit of Pip’s foolish love.

Never, Miss Havisham thought to herself, in her whole life, in her ecstasy of humiliation, down there on the floor—never had she thought a moment like this would happen to her.

Bright new blotches of blushing shame creeping across her shameless distended face—leaving her still slithering viscera writhing like a snake there on the cold floor.

Miss Havisham could feel her embarrassed feelings—escaping from her. Leaping over her—like fast herds of antelope or gazelle.

Quickly migrating across the veldt of her swollen pussy—leaping elegantly over her flopped physique.

Up and over her exhausted old body—sprawled prostrate there on the Persian carpet floor.

“Miss Havisham?” Estella asked. “Are you asleep?”

“I would be if you’d shut up and get outta here,” Miss Havisham said.

Estella had her hands all over Pip—feeling him up.

“And close the door behind you,” Miss Havisham said snidely, eyeing Pip for sloppy seconds.

Disch/Delany Dystopias

Disch/Delany Dystopias

“Twisting smoke curled
towards the ornate grill.
Broken reflections sagged
and recovered on the walls.”
—Samuel R. Delany,
Time Considered as a Helix
of Semi-Precious Stones

It’s pretty easy to see why Delany got turned on by Disch. All one has to do is read or reread Delany’s short story “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” (1969)—and compare it with Disch’s short story “Angouleme” (1972).

What resulted was Delany’s The American Shore: Meditations on a Tale of Science Fiction by Thomas M. Disch—Angouleme (1988). A detailed discussion of a Thomas M. Disch short story—which on the surface is minimally science fictional. But Delany examines how reading it as SF—shapes the reader’s reactions differently than reading it as mundane or fantasy fiction.

Both writers and both short stories are exquisitely cosmopolitan chic and Manhattan suave and tres sophisticated. Both are innocent and savvy at the same time—getting into the youth generation’s jouissance at the time. And then extrapolating about it later.

For example, Delany starts by dividing up Disch’s storyline—the same way he began dividing up his own Helix storyline: “Log ordinate and abscissa on the century. Now cut me a quadrant. Third quadrant if you please. I was born in ‘fifty. Here it’s ‘seventy-five.”

It’s a no-brainer to see how Delany does the same thing with “Angouleme”—but this time more along deconstructionist lines dividing the story into 287 Barthes-like "lexias" for individual commentary. And then elaborating insights simplified in other writings—with a style often crabbed, an analysis highly contextual, transferring insights to other texts not always evident.

Delany does this Roland Barthes type of literary deconstruction using Thomas Disch’s short story “Angouleme” text—much as Barthes did the same thing with “S/Z” based on Balzac’s novella Sarrasine.

Anatole Broyard says that “Language was both a luxury and a discipline for Barthes. He pursued a subject through language until he cornered it, until its disguise fell away and it was revealed in a kind of epiphany.”

Delany is like Barthes. Delany prods, squeezes and sniffs at language—like a chef buying fruit and vegetables. He munches distinctions. His sentence rhythms are those of a man who talks with his hands.

Disch’s “Angouleme” is like Delany’s disco “Helix of Semi-Precious Stones.” Both are hybrid short stories. They’re like neo-noir matter-of-fact boutiques of alternate lifestyles—attractive to those who celebrate sex, drugs and the right wardrobe.

The cyberpunk component of sci-fi today is already history—post-Neuromancer and post-Pattern Recognition storylines are just as outdated with the new audience of adolescent and collegiate Wi-Fi wayfarers of today. Delany’s disco partygoers were pre-cyberpunk—while Gibson’s hackers and nerds of yesteryear are history now.

But what about Disch’s young killers from “Angouleme” in his novel 334?

Disch’s “Angouleme” isn’t a dystopian hell in the spirit of George Orwell’s 1984. It’s much more nonchalant and cynical like now. The sharkpool politics of the ‘80s and ‘90s have become just the facts of life—urban squalor, global pillage, systemic criminality.

The post-Neuromancer world is much more profoundly neo-noir sci-fi ho-hum than any Orwellian double-think—money scams and Ponzi schemes by MegaCorps and UniBanks and Big Oil wars have long ago left in the gutter any hope for a Le Guin-esque New Jerusalem.

Disch’s “Angouleme” could be called Pop Despair. It’s part of a group of “fix-up” novellas about the same family moving back and forth in time. The other sections are “The Death of Socrates,” “Bodies,” “Everyday Life in the Roman Empire,” “Emancipation: A Romance of the Times to Come” and “334” (vignettes of the Hanson family from 2021 to 2025).

Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll—plus the clothes on your back. Disch throws in your hair, you skin and “the fizzy pixels on the video monitor”—these being the Generation X options enjoyed, celebrated and managed by TPTB.

According to Disch, Edgar Allan Poe is the source of our Pop Despair. His well-written science-fiction tales like The Fall of the House of Usher—ushering in the same identical surrounding dreamscape as are psyches are undergoing now. Roderick’s nervous neo-noir neurasthenia—the allegorical doppelganger of the disintegrating mind symbolic of the Blogosphere.

The bulk of the Blogosphere was huge—even before the Internet. It was like Ligeia in the crypt—some kind of Premature Burial ready to undergo a Philip K. Dick Martian Time-Slip from the future or a Ubik resurrection from the dead or a Time Out of Joint mind-fucks out of the present.

Or one of those Heinlein plot devices that allows cloning into future solipsisms—like I Will Fear No Evil (1970), Time Enough for the Stars (1973) and The Number of the Beast (1979). Heinlein’s final comic apocalypse being a sci-fi Convention—“The First Centennial Convention of the Inter-Universal Society for Eschatological Patheistic Multiple-Ego Solipsism. The purpose being to celebrate Heinlein’s “divinity”—being the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the First and the Last Source of his Sci-Fi Imagination.

In that sense, I suppose, whether it’s Poe, PKD, Disch, Van Vogt, Heinlein or Delany—it’s their Blogosphere-esque imaginations that we’re heading toward as connect each with our own Mirrors for Observers.

So that the Blogosphere is slowly becoming the penultimate Pangbornian ironic jape, jeer and jive-ass Jouissance that sci-fi itself went through—called the Golden Age of Sci-Fi during the ‘40s and ‘50s. Thanks to John Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction magazine and the prolonged Childhood’s End it went through with the Ace Double Novels and the pulp fiction paperback revolution.

The “Oulipo Effect”—made us do it. The workshop of possible fictions—like van Vogt’s Weapon Shops of Isher. Offering us different ways—to anticipate and “anticipage” the future.

The “Oulipo Effect” isn’t for everybody—the “workshop of possible fictions” engendered acronymically from L’Ouvroir de Literature Potenialle. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction credits Disch’s novel “334” as “the most successful Oulipo-related experiment in the SF field, although Disch insisted he’d never heard of Raymond Roussel the French protosurrealist. All he wanted to do with “334” was write a “welfare state” dystopia.




“Hybrids are
delicate organisms.”
—Thomas M. Disch,
The Dreams Our Stuff
Is Made Of: How Science
Fiction Conquered the World

There were nine great expectations involved in the Manor House plot—Pip, who was the youngest and from the Bronx, Bentley Drummie, Wopsie and Whimple, Biddy, Abel Magwitch, Joe Gargery, Jaggers, and of course, the leader and mastermind, Estelle, better known as Little Miss Kissy Lips. Who was passionately, hopelessly in love with Pip. Who was nearly sixteen (he would be, fully, by September this year), and pubes just beginning. Very delicate beautiful skin, like Lucite. Pip was a late bloomer.

“This,” said Mr.
“is Pip.”
—Charles Dickens,
Great Expectations

“Eat me,” said Pip.

What can I say? He was a darling boy. I had this flash of satanic Slan chic—an off-the-wall moment of sophomoric surprise. Like catching him naked—doing something he shouldn’t have been doing.

Errata, the Muse of Dissociation, jolted me out of my Miss Havisham stupor. Suddenly I emerged from the depths of my deep dark depressing Sargasso Sea of ho-hum daydreams. I’d pressed the button for Thai Food Takeout—and this is what I’d got instead!!!

Young Pip stood there before me—smirky, louche, transgressively “punk.” He exuded all the malevolent ambience of a Jommy Cross gone bad.

A bad boy Slan hustler—obviously the result of his habitually abusing an illegal growth hormone extracted from the pituitary glands of human corpses. It was a bad habit the youth had got involved in—taking advantage of the blackmarket hormonal traffic in third world political prisoner bodies used for illegal transplant purposes.

“Eat me,” said Pip.

He yawned. I was used to such insolence. In fact, I preferred insolence to the usual dumbed-down Manhattan subservience I’d been getting lately.

It was typical of the welfare state boyz and girlz coming my way the last couple of months—it’s so difficult getting decent help these dayz.

Greater Expectations Inc. tried—they really tried. But the diminishing gene-pool of unpolluted youth was getting worse and worse.

Wealthy well-to-do Rich and Famous Fags and Miss Havishams like me were having more and more difficulty finding what we needed. What we needed and wanted—to keep from being bored.

Yes, my dears, Modern Maturity can be so boring—in this Age of Cybernetic Libido Care and Ever-Life Expectations. How many filthy rich haughty old Miss Havishams like me are there left anyway? Bored, spoiled, jaded, taken care of—here in the Interzone Future of Trans-Mex-Americano-Canada?

“Eat me,” said Pip.

Pip was one of the perks I’d come to expect every Saturday night—to keep my permanent adrenaline high going. Aging perps like me needed to jack into the fast lane of Slan custom-made adolescent hustler hormones continuously—to keep our disembodied consciousness going thanks to the teenage consensual hallucination known as “Oulipo.”

“Oulipo” was only for TPTB—the rich elite who could afford the crème de la crème. Yes, psychotropic drugs and a pierced nipple or two helped—but basically it was Bad Biology that made the day. Bad Biology backed-up with risqué nasty skanky genital genetic engineering feats—that would make your mother blush.

The decadent Neuromancer neurosurgeons from Rome only too willing to dabble in the fabulously lucrative Artform—their wealthy demanding clients in the Vatican and Taromina famished for new more young and earthy equine-endowed tricks for their Sistine Chapel boudoir delectations.

Slan kept boyz—were hard to get items.

Don’t ask me—I’m not into such weird and trashy trade. Not much anyway—well, maybe once a week.

The world of “Oulipo”—appeals to my protosurrealist literary understandings but my animal intelligence IQ is rather limited. I still read the classics like Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations the old fashioned way—word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter. Patiently whiling away the hours—sitting here in my leather lounge chair by the fire with the rain beating down on the windows outside of my Central Park condo now in the year 2050.

Raymond Roussel, William Burroughs, Eugene Ionesco, Italo Calvino, Samuel R. Delany, Thomas Disch? Of course, I’ve heard of them, my dear. I’ve read them all now and then—especially when I get into a Van Vogt-esque nostalgic mood for the future. A future of “possible fictions”—a la L'Ouvroir de Literature Potenialle.”

Pip smirks at me and my literary pretensions. He calls them my “Oulipo-orgasms”—although my true tastes run toward that sleek genetically-stylized slinky limousine down between his legs.

Pip’s grown somewhat impatient with me by now—smirking at my hard-to-get, put-upon, pouty pretensions of haughty grandeur. In his nefarious neat little hustler imagination—he’s adding up the bill of a million credits per second as we play out our little game of show and tell.

Pip slips out of his jumpsuit—then pretends he’s been caught flagrante delicto in the shameless act of sheer unadulterated overly endowed exhibitionism…

“Eat me,” Pip says.

Slan Hunter Book Review

By A.E. van Vogt
and Kevin J. Anderson
272 pages,
Tor, 2009.

“There are, by now—
many science fictions”
—Thomas M. Disch,
“Dick’s First Novel,”

There are many science fictions. The new sequel version of A.E. van Vogt’s Slan, for example, shows how many science fictions can exist in one van Vogtian storyline.

One thinks of van Vogt’s The World of Null-A—and its sequels. The Pawns of Null-A, The Players of Null-A, Null-A Three and Null-A Continuum, a sequel by John C. Wright.

And so it’s tempting to think of van Vogt doing the same thing with Slan in the early ‘50s—or the possibility of a sequel being written like Kevin Anderson’s Slan Hunter.

In the first two versions of Slan (the 1940 Astounding Science Fiction serialization and the 1946 Arkham House hardcover), van Vogt alludes to how the true Slans will thwart the impending tendrilless invasion from Mars.

But then Van Vogt drops the explanation in the subsequent 1951 Simon and Schuster version. So this issue remains unresolved and may explain why many current-day reviews of Slan complain about its rather abrupt ending.

Among the many science fictions revolving around Slan, there followed the 1953 Dell paperback version (#696)—and now recently Slan Hunter (2009), a sequel by Kevin J Anderson and Lydia van Vogt.

If it’s true, as Thomas M. Disch say, that there’s many science fictions now—than surely it’s even truer that there are many science fiction lit crit possibilities that now exist to review and criticize contemporary science fiction as a genre that’s come a long ways since the pulp fiction days of Astounding Science Fiction and Ace paperback double novels.

The plethora of reviews and critical comments about van Vogt’s Slan amazed me when I first started browsing the Blogosphere in regard to Anderson’s new sequel version of van Vogt’s classic first novel. Just a brief glance through the Amazon reviews, for example, shows how intense the opinions are in regard to Slan even 50 years later after first being published. Which says a lot about—science fiction as a genre and van Vogt as a writer.

One reviewer says that “Slan Hunter is not a direct sequel to Slan. While Slan Hunter includes the cast of Slan, and the story begins only hours after the ending of Slan, events take place in a different universe—a parallel universe several 'clicks' removed from that imagined by A. E. van Vogt; where the technologies, time-lines, and explanations given in Slan Hunter are, at times, glaringly out of synch with those of Slan. Perhaps one could best describe the sequel as taking place in a re-imagining of the Slan universe.”

Another more critical reviewer gets rather trashy about Slan Hunter, saying: “For years now, Kevin Anderson has made a career of destroying established SF worlds with his own unique brand of arrogance, massive plot holes, and plain bad writing. Just before Slan Hunter he did this to H.G. Wells with The Martian War, writing as Gabriel Moesta. Since the late '90s, he's been decimating the Dune universe (unaffectionately called by me and others who enjoy Herbert's work the PseudoDune series) of Frank Herbert under Brian Herbert's watchful eye.”

“Now, working from the draft of an incomplete Slan novel by A E van Vogt, Anderson strikes again. Van Vogt's original novel Slan was hardly the greatest breakthrough in SF at the time, but it was ingenious enough to become a seminal piece of writing in that genre. Like the fan fiction writers of Edgar Rice Burroughs or L Sprague de Camp when alternately denigrating and imitating Robert E Howard, Anderson just can't match the verve and brilliance of van Vogt's work and produces a novel that reads more like an imitation of a bad Sci Fi channel movie based on Slan than on a draft of a story written by van Vogt himself.”

“Unfortunately thanks to PseudoDune, Anderson's name is out there for better or worse (mostly worse), and for that reason, he gets to bowdlerize the concepts of far better writers than he. Anyone looking at this book should avoid it and read or reread van Vogt's original. It's much better than any trash written by modern science fiction's version of L. Sprague de Camp.”

Other reviewers say:

“Major characters are so distorted as to be barely recognizable - their competence disappears.”

“Contradiction after contradiction with the previous novel occurs.”

“The very nature of the conflict between true and tendrilless slan - a major feature of both books - has changed (van Vogt states it was intentionally provoked to keep the tendrilless from sinking into complacency; Anderson doesn't know how it started). The governmental structure is changed—the world president in the original is the head of a council who got their positions through intrigue, assassination and sheer viciousness; in the new book, he is a democratically elected leader.”

“This sequel was an attempt to write in the 1940's style and science environment. It ends up being worse than the original book ("Slan"), which was very dated, and the plot is lame.”

"Kevin Anderson should have updated the science and complicated, rather than simplified, the plot. The object should have been to capture Van Vogt's intricacies, not the outdated science of the period."

“Mrs. Van Vogt makes a great deal of Van's diminished faculties towards the end of his life, when this project was conceived and executed. What a shame, then, that the resulting piece of tripe should see the light of day: on the one hand, as the record of a failing, once creative mind; on the other, as the effort of a mediocre stylist who could do nothing with whatever material may have been good in the master's sketches.”

“Van Vogt was, of course, an enormously important seminal SF writer; but it would be hard to argue that he was a good writer, in the mainstream sense. He had little flair for description, setting, or depth of character. What made him stand out in the field of early SF was the imaginative scope of his ideas.”

“Slan Hunter has all of Van's defects--wooden dialogue, flat characters, vaguely gray and unevocative settings; yet it has none of his strengths--clever (even mind-bending) ideas and interesting plot turns. But the plot of this book is pure drivel. Even the worst of modern, derivative, hack-work SF isn't this bad. In fact, the novel reads more like a tongue-in-cheek parody of 40's-50's pulp SF than the real thing.”

“On thing Van Vogt never did was to write long, drawn-out battle, chase, or danger scenes. This book, however, falls deeply into the trap of going on for many filler-stuffed pages depicting our heroes fleeing or fighting someone or something. Lots of explosions and crumbling infrastructure, but nothing to really engage the reader; lots of sound and fury, in other words, signifying nothing.”

”Also, the back story for the human/slan/tendril-less slan conflict is childishly simple, mawkish and unconvincing.”

”Yes, there is some charm in being returned to a world of 1940's technology, and its silly future-tech vision; but the novelty wears off quickly, and the whole story seems merely wildly naive.”

“I do hope Van Vogt will not be associated too closely with this garbage, because it displays none of the importance of his mature work.”

And last but now least:

“Let's just say I've been a big AE Van Vogt fan for 25 years and this "sequel" was a very poor effort. I was really hoping for at least a passable imitation of one of Vogt's books complete with his usual ultra competent loner type protagonists. This book had cardboard cutouts. If you *HAVE* to read it for goodness sakes get it at a library.”

Thus there seems to be many science fictions—and a whole spectrum of reviewer opinions about Slan. So that, perhaps, it’s time for bringing up the “gay lib” issue in regard to van Vogt’s novel Slan. Does it have a place—here in the distinguished realm of Planet Hetero? And the world of straight sci-fi lit crit?

The reason I mention the possibility of taking a little socio-cultural detour into this area of science fiction—has to do with the fairly recent suicide death of New York writer and critic, Thomas M. Disch.

In an obit piece in the Boston Review, John Crowley mentions in his opening paragraph something very insightful about Disch that probably many of his readers and critics weren’t aware of—and that has to do with his gay marriage to his domestic partner and fellow writer-collaborator, Charles Naylor:

“The poet and fiction writer Thomas M. Disch died on July 4, 2008, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was sixty-eight years old, had long been in poor health, and was threatened with eviction from the rent-controlled Manhattan apartment where he had lived for decades with his partner, Charles Naylor. (They had put the apartment in Naylor’s name, supposing that if Disch were to predecease him, Naylor, whose income was the lesser, would be able to stay on. Naylor died of cancer in 2005 and Disch had no claim on the place. One of the small, bitter consequences of the absence of gay marriage rights in New York State.)”—John Crowley, Boston Review, January/February 2009


Although Disch had been out of the closet since 1968 and had lived with Naylor for 30years—his choice of lifestyle and marital status didn’t come up in his fiction, poetry or criticism. At least not until the last few months of his life—when he used his blog to post his poetry, social commentary and thoughts about dying.

Of course, there was a bitchy edge to his criticism and there’s no doubt that a gay subtext was always there in his writing—for those that had eyes to see and ears to hear. This didn’t garnish much popularity among mainstream fiction straights—any more than Samuel R. Delany with Borders after Dhalgren came out.

Critics opine about why Disch wasn’t more successful than he was—Oh, he was just too intelligent or Well, he was just too critical, etc. But John Crowley in his Boston Review piece comes pretty close to why Disch didn’t become one of the Rich and Famous. It wasn’t because he was a science fiction author—it was because he was a science fiction queen.

The reason I detour this way into socio-cultural issues, is that Disch had a very high opinion of A.E. van Vogt—the supposed co-author along with Kevin J. Anderson of the Slan sequel: Slan Hunter (2009).

Anderson worked with notes left behind by van Vogt—when he was unable to complete a long awaited sequel to this first successful novel, Slan. He’d done this before at John Campbell’s bidding—when he published The Pawns of Null-A as a sequel to The World of Null-A years earlier.

But by the time van Vogt took up again the rewriting of Slan—it was too late. He was already in his 80’s and suffering from Alzheimer’s. The project was taken up by Anderson—and the result is Slan Hunter.

The first sentence of Anderson’s rewrite sets the tone for the rest of the novel: “The world was already falling apart when her first contractions hit.”

Anderson is no Delany or Disch—the resulting novel is, well, a rather boring rehash of the original novel. I got the impression reading it—that Anderson assumed that the reader had never read van Vogt’s original novel, Slan. The result being a sort of ho-hum “peanut-butter and jelly” rerun of van Vogt’s tight episodic pulp fiction narrative.

There’s none of the jouissance and jittery nervousness that van Vogt was good at portraying in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction. The kind of attention-getting grabbing-you and not-letting-you-go kind-of-reading action that Campbell himself said was the trademark of van Vogt’s science fiction.

Van Vogt mentions in Reflections, his autobiography, how he’d put aside his writing and sleep on it. Invariably he’d wake up every 90-minutes or so—and Bingo!!! he’d have a sort of surrealistic non-sequitur solution to a plot dilemma or storyline complication that needed to be worked out.

One can imagine van Vogt waking up during the night with some kind of dream-like oneric scenario coming to him from his unconscious—turning on the light and scribbling the new scenario in a notebook on his night table. Critics have commented on the quick sometimes quixotic as well as totally unexpected fragmentariness of van Vogt’s 800-word chapters—without knowing perhaps that perhaps the wish fulfillment process of dreams are important to writers as Freud mentions in his essay “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming.”

It’s interesting that this essay by Freud in Volume IX of The Complete Psychological Works—is a text sometimes felt to be as vulgarly orthodox within the psychoanalytical canon as Zhdanov in Marxism. But the critic Frederic Jameson relies on this central wish to be “fulfilled” as an important basis for science fiction writing in his chapter “Utopian Science versus Utopian Ideology” in Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions.

(The only problem with this writing method is that after the first 100 pages it seems like just a series of Jommy Cross (or Gilbert Gosseyn) incidents—waking up in new disorienting places or times or bodies and then someone spending an entire chapter trying to explain some new aspect of reality or metaphysics that too often turns out to be pointless subterfuge. The maze becomes the message. It becomes less like a science fiction novel reading experience—and more like slogging through Derrida.)

Whether or not there’s a certain amount of homoerotic libidinal subtext to Slan is a good question to ask—in regard to the sci-fi pulp era (1929-1956). The Astounding Science Fiction milieu was largely a male enclave. In fact, as contemporary feminists point out—all of literature from the time of Homer to that of Sylvia Plath has been a male enclave.

During the pulp era, sci-fi was so déclassé—that it was only a step above comic books. Mickey Spillane worked in the comics world—before moving on successfully to paperback fiction fame and fortune.

Disch in his essay “Can Girls Play Too? Feminizing SF” in The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (1998) goes into detail about how that era changed—how men’s adventure magazines and hard-boiled detective stories gradually entered into new domains.

The world of mundane sci-fi and much of literature underwent a revolutionary change in 1959—which was felt even in the male worlds of SF and space operas. The Supreme Court lifted the ban on Lady Chatterley’s Lover and soon the floodgate opened with books from Fanny Hill to Tropic of Cancer—creating new literary luminaries like Philip Roth, Erica Jong, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Genet.

According to Disch, the decision opened up the boom years of the ‘60s with reams of legal porn on automatic pilot:

“The real speed demons, like Robert Silverberg and Barry Malzberg, could produce entire books on a single weekend.”

Formerly sleazy, lewd and lascivious literature—opened up for the American public not for the “leer of the sensualist” but rather for the edification of the Pulitzer Prize, the Library of Congress and the New York Times Best Seller List.

This “technique of innocence by association,” as Disch terms it—opened up the subject matter of sci-fi for writers from Heinlein with Stranger in a Strange Land to Delany with Dhalgren. With Nebula and Hugo awards close behind…

Fifty years later and the issues of feminism and gay literature are still moving into new areas of violence, court intrigues and untrammeled humanoid android alien—even Slan!!!—sexuality.

Fantasy and science fiction—seem to be doing well in all the recognized sub-genres of sci-fi. Despite perhaps recalcitrant legislation and the so-called ethical demands of the academy’s political correctness qualms and the usual totalitarian propaganda.

Disch quotes Le Guin at the conclusion of his essay: “I wish science fiction were not as male as it is, but it isn’t as male as it was, not by a long shot. We have regendered a field that was, to begin with, practically solid testosterone.”

Disch mentions Joanna Russ’ The Female Man which he describes as “the best feminist science-fiction novel of all time”—though its philosophy is utterly at odds with Le Guin.

Women, feminists, Blacks, Chicanos, Indians, Asians, Third World people of color, as well as gays and lesbians—want to be empowered. And many see sci-fi literature as a strategy of hypothesizing humans in a world of the future.

Both John Varley (The Barbie Murders) and Samuel R. Delany (Triton)—have posited future cultures with elective transsexuality as commonplace as cosmetic surgery.

But Disch, as usual, seems to always have a cynical edge to these developments:

“In all these cases, the tropes of SF have been appropriated by intellectual hucksters who know that fiction can be merchandised with more success if it is repackaged as fact.”

The war between the sexes, as Disch says—is ageless, deep and inescapable. We enter and leave Women’s Country and Men’s Country—on a daily basis. The border—has its perils and inconveniences.

Sometimes, though, there’s a young outsider to both worlds—Slan boyz like Jommy Cross.

Perhaps van Vogt—was writing about him?

Jommy Cross: A Biography


“To any Slan who
penetrates this far—
there is a secret passage
into the palace”
—A.E. van Vogt, Slan

Jommy was a Slan. He was cute and goodlooking—he could read my mind. He knew what I wanted—he let me have it. It was just awful—awfully nice.

I met him in Seattle—the Jet City of Jizz. Pretty soon I was living with him—Jommy and his girlfriend.

They lived in the U-District—not far from campus. Across I-5—in the Wallingford District. On Thackeray Street—how literary can you get?

“He felt a
queer thrill”
—A.E. van Vogt, Slan

Jommy was telepathic—he could read minds. It saved a lot of time—you know what I mean? The more I got him off—the more natural it became.

Like Tom and Pat Bartlett—in Heinlein’s juvie Time for the Stars (1956). Jommy’s exquisite teenage telepathic tendrils—reaching deep into my brain.

Sex with Slan boyz—was something else. Pretty soon it was just like Heinlein said—there was plenty of time for the stars. And all the planets in between…

I fell in love with Jommy Cross—talk about pulp fiction déjà vu. Fifties Ace paperback flashbacks—nostalgic jump-cuts into the future. The way he talked to me—without moving his pouty lips. He was such a moody kid—it hurt me just looking at him.

He could be in Portland—or Alpha Centauri for all I was concerned. It didn’t make any difference—where we were. He was always there—in the back of my mind. That’s the way—Astounding Science Fiction worked for me.

That’s how the Fabulation of the Fifties—doesn’t die. The pulp fiction reality of Slan love—isn’t that what it was like back then? It’s even better now—let the jouissance flow. The way it was in noir rainy Seattle—back then in the late Sixties.

Let’s face it—I was queer for him. After the first time—I was really fucked. Talk about being— Stranger in a Strange Land. I needed a Mirror for Observers really bad—to get outta that one.

I wasn’t a butchy Heinlein Space Cadet either—I wasn’t particularly Star Trooper material. I checked the box—instead of being drafted. Viet Nam was Forbidden Planet—as far as I was concerned.

I was a lover—not a fighter. I didn’t feel guilty—about being a hippie. Late Capitalism and postcolonial jive—didn’t appeal to me.

Instead I was seriously addicted to Slan love. I didn’t have to jive my way into Jommy’s pants—he was already inside my mind. It just kinda happened naturally. If it wasn’t for Slan love—I wouldn’t be here today.

“It’s pretty good…” Kid got out,
shifted his weight, and decided
that Lanya had the right idea:
talking was silly. He didn’t come
in Denny’s ass, but in hers.”
—Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren

Three-ways help—Kimi was a Japanese chick. She loved Jommy too—the same way I did. We couldn’t help it—once you go Slan there’s no turning back.

Kimi and I let our fingers—do the walking. Whenever we’d thumb our way—through his big thick Pugetopolis Phonebook—he was always hanging out there in the Yellow Pages. Under 10” Slan love…

Kimi was a worse size-queen than me—but of course she used another pair of lips to get him off.

Kimi had a telepathic pussy—she was a Slan too. Van Vogt was just being polite—the real writhing telepathic tendrils were down there. I was a quick study—I caught on fast. How I loved—to grok Jommy’s groin. My face smothered—with telepathic snakes.

It’s embarrassing at first—knowing somebody can read all your thoughts and know all your feelings. Especially the dark ones—like wanting to make love. Jommy and Kimi laughed at me—mind-melding with them was like falling through a trapdoor.

It always caught me by surprise. I’d always end up—falling down thru space. Snapping my neck—at the end of a long rope. Sprong!!! Wiggle. Wiggle…….

It was like spraining—my neck. The ultimate ecstatic Charley Horse. All the way to Titan—and back again. It lasted forever—I had to dig my fingernails deep into the mattress & hold tight. Otherwise—I would surely slip off—into the Sargasso Sea depths.

That was back in the late ’60s & early 70’s. After the Chicago Convention—when everything kinda went crazy. Paris went revolt. Nixon was sweating and smacking his lips—on Planet TV.

Guyz were dying in Nam by the thousands—my boomer generation was being had. We were under the heel—of hardcore late capitalism. Tricky Dick and his Watergate gang—making a run for 1984 Dystop Apocalypse once again.

So somehow I ended up in Pugetopolis in 1968—talk about Forbidden Planet. The Space Needle looming up there over me—Funny seeing two moons up in the sky. But you get used to it.

I got a job in the Blue Moon Tavern—that’s where I met Jommy Cross. The first time—one dark rainy Saturday night. There on 45th—next to the Freeway. An old hangout—for Theodore Roethke. Elizabeth Bishop teaching after he died on Bainbridge Island—living there on Brooklyn Avenue near campus.

All it took was one look—and I knew the awful truth. The fickle finger of fate—got stuck right up my tight little ass that fateful night. It wasn’t just Jommy’s middle finger either—it was the whole works.

He took me home. From then on I was his—a Slan Slave for love. I woke up every morning—with Beethoven’s Nine Inches playing in my head. Funny how things work out—sometimes for the better.

Jommy showed me—his naked tendrils. The secret telepathic ones—the ones that made him a true Slan. They were down there in his pubes—down there in his wiry jet-black pubes. They were golden—tendrils of light. They glowed in the dark—they were like a nest of lucid snakes.

Both Kimi and I—were totally blown away by it. How his Slan tendrils writhed and slithered—pale neon blues and marquee pinks at night in bed. Who would have ever guessed—Jommy had a pube-patch of telepathic iridescent neon snakes down there?

The first time he let me see them—we were in bed upstairs. We’d just had sex—he was stretched out relaxed. He was smoking a ju-ju—with his eyes closed. Some sitar music was playing—sandalwood incense, Madras sheets and all the usual hippie equipage back then.

Jommy didn’t take showers—which was okay with me. He was just a freshman then—but extremely mature. After working out with the gym team—he’d come home smelling skanky. He had a naturally athletic build—his abs were worth dying for.

His armpits were the best—simply stinking with divine male pheromones. His tendrils were lurking there too—turning me into a porky pig snuffling for truffles. He smelled like a male so bad—it made me weak in the knees.

His Slan pits and pubes—they were like libido magnets for my lips. “Kiss Me, Deadly”—they whispered in my ears. He let me take him for—“The Long Goodbye.” It would have made—Raymond Chandler jealous I’m sure.

We got him off at night—when Kimi came home from work. We’d order some pizza—get loaded. Then get down to business—inch by telepathic inch. She’d drag it out—the first time. She put a lot of mileage—on Jommy’s ten inches. Then I’d get sloppy seconds—it seemed to last forever.

The more I got him—the more I wanted him. The more I wanted him—the more he let me have it. The more I had him—the more his tele-tendrils wiggled their insidious ways deeper and deeper into my no longer so laid-back hippie brain.

Without a doubt—it was Bad Seed. Bad Seed and Bad Biology. There was lots of Brain Damage—I began devolving fast.

Pretty soon—I was back in Jurassic Park. Beneath a Paleozoic moon—making love to Mosasaurs in the deep. Slan love—is serious business.

Kier Gray had plans for us—Kimi was actually his daughter Kathleen. Jommy was urgently needed—to complete the Slan agenda.

Jommy was always tense and nervous—a torrent of sibilant pulsations always flowing through him. From his toes—to the tip of his head. It was like sticking my tongue in a light socket—whenever I made love to him.

I know it sounds shocking—but it was a shame to let something like that go to waste. Afterwards, when I was at work at the Blue Moon—I could feel the faintest trembling tendrils of young Slan manhood. Slithering and oozing inside me—as I slowly started turning into a Slan too.

Jommy was a true Slan—his X-ray eyes saw right through me. I could actually feel his quick flowing nerve-and-bloodstream—flowing like the sluggish Duwamish River through me. It was something Samuel Lann discovered—nearly 1500 years in the future. I was becoming a tendrilless mutant—slightly ahead of time.

“I early observed that
identity was not an
identifiable condition.”
—A.E. van Vogt,
Science Fiction Voices #2:
Interviews with Science
Fiction Writers, 1979

Jommy always seemed like—he was acting telepathically tongue-in-cheek. That there was always something not being said—like he was holding back some secret insider-joke or non-sequitur one-liner to himself.

I suppose that’s what it’s like—falling in love with somebody from the future. You don’t have to say anything—it’s already been said. You can half-finish a sentence or thought—letting the rest of it complete itself the way lovers do.

Jommy wasn’t perfect—it seemed like his paranormal psyche was always tripping him up. He had a lot of cocky self-confidence—that never seemed to fail him.

But it was a tight-wire act most of the time—he seemed to enjoy playing it out. Keeping Kimi and me—entertained by it all. He liked the ménage à trios thing—which was okay with me. He liked it both ways—he needed both of us it seems.

I guess it goes back to mind-reading—how he got off on the both of us making love to him. He had some kind of Slan intuition and know-how—joining with both Kimi and me. They were a sophisticated couple—more sophisticated than me. I was just a naïve amateur—way back then. And still am—I suppose.

“Slow down, there, kimosabe,” he’d say. Taking his time to murder my bruised lips some more—during those shameless escapades on Thackeray. He could sense my sudden panicky slam bam thank you man angst—with me thinking each time was the last.

For some reason I had fictional John Petty—on my mind. Stealthy, sneaky Petty and his bodyguard killer—behind the wheel of that Cadillac limousine. Sam Elders the chauffeur thug—that nightmare trip along Capital Avenue. With Jommy hanging on for dear life—on the bumpy fender.

I usually shrugged it off—it was just Jommy’s mind bleeding into mine. Sometimes I could feel him—stiffen and grow taut. As if he were suddenly filled with some kind of awful rogue animal intelligence—a kind of complete Null-A obliteration flashing through his mind.

“It’s just van Vogt,” Jommy would say.