It’s taken far too long, I know.
But: this past November US voters signalled “thumbs down” to George Orwell’s perpetual war. . . . Maybe these three (anonymous, internet-circulated) sleeping Marines will live long enough to vote in the next election? That would be my prayer.
(Interesting, that these 21st century American men at war seem more comfortable with homosocial intimacy than the anonymous soldiers of 100 years ago I found last week in a forgotten photo album in the basement of the house I grew up in. . . .)
ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR TWO
For over three years now I’ve been extremely hard at work “escaping” from the unfathomable horror of Orwell’s famous book 2004 come to life by researching the relatively less horrific topic of military homoeroticism v. homosexual panic in Nazi Germany. (Less horrific if only because it’s 60 years past.) This book is my first *commissioned* project -- in contrast to my first five books, it did *not* begin as a labor of love. And yet as the manuscript takes shape I’m ever more amazed at the *overlap* in underlying themes--
For better and for worse, Germans were at least 50 years ahead of the English-speaking world in the study of human sexuality per se, to include serious, widely read literature exploring the key role of homoeroticism in military life. (Most of which has never been translated into English, and very little of which is know even in Germany today. Between Brownshirt book burnings and Allied area bombing, much of it went up in flames. And then came the harshly hyperconservative 1950s. . . .)
Anyway: please wish me luck in completing my first of at least two volumes -- it’s far and away the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced; the topic is too serious to cut any corners; and last week my funding was cut! After three years of full-time research (on something that for me is anything but a personal “kick”) I’ve endured too many nightmares to NOT see it through.
LIFE DURING WARTIME: YEAR 5
To all my buddies -- Army and Air Force men I knew in the former West Germany, and one man I came to know 10 years later -- who helped me with photos, supplemental interviews, and most of all with friendship: please accept my apology for the unforeseen circumstances that at this writing continue to necessitate postponement of BARRACK BUDDIES *SECOND EDITION*. Namely -- once again -- you guessed it -- the war.
Strange but true: I was brought up to believe that making money off of war is ... wrong? Given that my first book was set against the backdrop of the First Gulf War (... not to mention the fact that, in the years since, more than a few young men have written me that reading my books inspired them to enlist!), how can I in good conscience peddle a deluxe illustrated new edition at a time when--
At a time when I can barely stomach watching the news from Iraq.
But then, I’m the type of person who does not slow down to look at car accidents, and who -- blah blah blah -- finds the 11 o’clock news more obscenely exploitive than a lot of adult video .
PORN UNDER PUNCHES
Offhand, I can’t immediately cite other authors and editors who, as Alex Buchman and I, have been singularly distinguished in an award-winning adult videomaker’s mass-produced prurience -- with not only prominent product placement, but also porn star protaganist pronunciation of passages from a serious work of non-fiction erotica, in this case BARRACKS BAD BOYS: AUTHENTIC ACCOUNTS OF SEX IN THE ARMED FORCES VOLUME II.
A year ago today, Dink Flamingo of activeduty.com was being out-pornoed by regional TV news smut-hounds stirring up a sweeps weeks scandal -- indignantly reporting live from his front lawn that when they had peered into the windows of his home they had seen people inside but upon ringing the doorbell no one came to receive their intrusion.
To date, the only non-developmentally disabled journalistic account of the scandal is my friend Mark Simpson’s DETAILS story.
Dink is my friend, too. (His trilogy of confessional accounts taped, transcribed, carefully cross-checked and edited by yours truly into three respectable chapters -- over more long hours than some authors spend on entire books -- is the veritable backbone of BARRACKS BAD BOYS.) Alex Buchman was a real-life (good) bad boy Marine; I am (or so the critics of THE QUEEN IS DEAD agree) a doomed “chaser” of military bad boy strays. . . . But Dink -- for better and worse -- has taken his parallel passion to a point beyond, say, MILITARY TRADE.) One secret we have in common is that both of us -- for longer than fleeting seconds, but less than tortured months of sleepless nights -- seriously toyed with the idea of becoming Army chaplains.
Anyway, Dink is contributing to Alex Buchman’s third and (according to Buchman, adamantly:) final installment. But he’s one of a half-dozen contributors (truth be known, myself included) still struggling with his definitive chapter in a book titled BATTLE BUDDIES, compiling authentic accounts of men getting physical in wartime.
What’s the hold up? My publisher is impatient, does not -- cannot -- understand. . . . Here too: thanks, more than I can say without sounding hokey, for your understanding.
“WHY DO YOU THINK THE NAZIS WORE BROWN?”
Everybody loves you (/hates you) when your new book is out and getting attention. . . . When my first book was in press and my Senior Editor commissioned COMING OUT UNDER FIRE author Allan Berube to write the Foreword, I was on cloud nine. . . . When Allan and I met, it came as a shock that even after *big press* success and with a film deal in the works he was still struggling to make ends meet -- after he’d devoted TEN YEARS OF HIS LIFE researching a definitive history of gays and lesbians in WW II! Four or five years later he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant to research the book he’s been working on since -- free of worry about funding his next meal. . . .
My book on homoeroticism in Third Reich Germany may or may not lead to a $300K endowment permitting me to work on the next volume free of worry about paying for pet food. But I believe that I can now understand and admire Allan Berube better than I was able to in 1992; more importantly, I can truly view him as a role model. Given the gravity of his project then and mine now, what should come first?: rushing the most difficult/sensitive, astonishingly wildly nuanced, potentially most valuable of writings to just get paid -- or researching/writing as I have for three years, in the interest of going all out to realize my own untapped potential in delivering a book that can be the most substantive possible addition to “the literature” and at the same time an exceptionally “good read”?
Jeez, was that an embarrassingly rhetorical question-- Again, wish me luck.
TANGIBLE PRODUCT: CD, PHOTO CD, TAG TEAM SIGNED O O P BOOK
For those of you inclined to smirk at -- or admire -- my “ueber-80s” author headshot on the back of BARRACK BUDDIES (the so-called Flock of Seagulls pic -- actually taken in late 1991!), the above video capture is me in 1981, live on cable TV with my first band Zyklon. (Awkward name? Not if you have the patience to learn our youthful philosophy in adopting it.)
Industrial Music a la Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, and to a lesser extent something resembling early Joy Division at their most electro-Brechtian -- those are the simplest reference points for the 25th anniversary reissue of THE HEARTLAND by grim-records.com. I did the artwork and wrote the liner notes. And for those of you who know my story ... well, Zyklon ceased to exist 25 years ago this month, on the day I left Michigan in pursuit of my first soldier lover in Germany. But if your iPod playlist is unacquainted with any variation on the genres *noise*, *industrial*, or even Kraftwerk, this is a CD worth purchasing as a collectible, probably better left unplayed.
Of surer interest to fans of my military interview books and/or visitors to this page attracted by images of military men:
- TWENTY [make that 18 --sz] copies of the 200 signed, limited edition SEADOGPHOTO photo CD-R remain available.
- THE QUEEN IS DEAD: JARHEADS, EGGHEADS, SERIAL KILLERS & BAD SEX is a collection of transatlantic personal letters (and small but high-resolution photos) between me and my closest writer buddy, Mark Simpson -- before he became internationally famous for coining “metrosexual”; before the clock turned 2000 and nobody, not even us, persisted in old-fashioned pen palship *on paper*. Published in the UK in the year 2000, QUEEN garnered glowingly positive reviews in prestigious places -- including top British newspapers such as THE GUARDIAN and THE INDEPENDENT (who named it one of the “books of the year”). That was all well and good, but now, finally, this improbably successful book is where I first pictured it: like an obscure import album on vinyl ... out of print ... *rare* and getting rarer by the day. You can probably still find a copy used or even new for under $20. But I have 15 [make that 14, thanks DG --sz] or so new copies autographed by Mark Simpson that I’m adding my inscription to and alternately donating to libraries and offering to supporters on a first come basis for $50 by check or PayPal (to order, click on the above image to the “old” link for the Photo CD, and simply change the amount to $50 -- I’ll cover postage, even internationally).
There’s more, much more to report--
But only so much fits on a postcard.
PS My health? After this year alone racking up $10,000 in outstanding bills for medical testing (given my “pre-existing” lung problems I’m uninsurable), my new pulmonologist says that I look “young” (!) “and healthy,” but he wants me to obtain a follow-up CT scan just to make sure a new “area of consolidation measuring approximately 4.5 X 4.5 cm not noted on the prior exam” is not, at worst, a tumor but hopefully merely an “acute process compatible with” my bout with pneumonia back in November. . . . Meanwhile, I’ll send a free CD, photo CD, or copy of QID to the first person who knows Latin well enough to (WITHOUT GOOGLING!) translate three words on my radiologists’ report that echo my adopted personal motto: ABNORMAL BUT STABLE.