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The Return of the Mildthing…

Some backstory here.  I was told by a respected friend in marketing, that before I embark on getting a Mildthing set of stories published, I should give people some idea of why they should care, what makes them different, why they’d want to pick up a copy of them and give up a few hours of their life to read them.  I said, “Yeah but I don’t care if they get published, I just need to sit down and get them written.  I’ve been putting this off for like… forever, and it would be fun.”.  And they said… never mind what they said… it made sense at the time, so I’m I guess… Going to publish them for people on the Kindle, and it’s mostly so I own the rights to my own characters and names again… if… that… makes… any sense.  I’m lost but I’m told all the cool kids are doing it so … what the hell, let’s light this candle!

Yay!  There’s the big announcement!  Yay! 

I was also told that since Mildthing was a brief phenomena appreciated by a very small select group of people on the internet decades ago it’s probably a good idea to give people a heads up this isn’t a Adventure, or a bad pulp hero novel, it’s not a horror like a Stephen King or a Dean Koontz, it’s not a mystery, and it’s not comedy.  It’s what it needs to be – in order for the story to work, and that’s about all I can tell you. 

It’s a “fasten your seat belts, please place your disbelief in an upright position and turn off all reality based devices” story.  It’s a take what you need from the story to make it work, and try to enjoy yourself story and those don’t work well for everyone.    sketch3

If it has even a distant cousin, it’s probably David Wong’s books… but even those are very distant distant cousins.  In fact, they’re not really cousins.  They could probably mate legally in a lot of states, but I doubt they’d hit it off at the bar.  David’s works would really need to be drunk,  and even though I have no doubt Mildthing wouldn’t care and would at least fake like they cared…  David’s works are probably looking for something more meaningful and long term than Mildthing.  It just wouldn’t work between us.  It’s not us, it’s them.  (But seriously… For a good time…check out David Wong’s John Dies at the End or This book is Full of Spiders.)

The truth is, I point this out because from time to time, people get a hold of one of the old copies of a Mildthing story that was published waaaaaaay back in the very early days of the internet and I get an email on my MikeNovember email account (yes it still exists) telling me I ripped off David Wong.  Who, btw, doesn’t actually exist – and if he doesn’t exist then I can’t rip him off now can I??  But, for the record, Mildthing predates “John Dies at the End” by a good five years.  1995 for the original concept, with his next published appearance in 1996.  So technically the nice man who’s books I like who doesn’t exist, ripped me off… if he’d ever heard of me, which I’m 99.9999% sure he didn’t – so I doubt very much anyone ripped off anyone.  But the point is, when someone makes that comment to me – I’m actually flattered.  David Wong’s style is fun and it’s always nice to see someone else who’s willing to take risks and have fun with a genre.

The concept of making fun of apocalyptic horror predates both of us several centuries.  That, if anything is the genre these stories fall into be they Wong’s or my or anyone elses work like this.  It’s that somewhat normal people always trapped looking into the endless maw of whichever apocalypse is upon us this week … and dealing with it the best they can.  “Sean of the Dead”, “Attack the Block” also fall into this kind of story. 

If you read one of these, it’s a bit of this, and a bit of that.  It’s all mongrel, very little dog.  I was told not to mention any of that to people because it would just scare them off and they’d stop reading here, and probably go buy a David Wong book, or just go watch Sean of the Dead or Attack the Block instead.

Still reading?  How was the movie??  AWESOME!!!   I frankly hate marketers and feel the average person who reads is willing to put in a bit more effort than what marketing people say.  (They also say most of the people who read stuff do so at a 6th grade education level.  And that they’re very susceptible to suggestions and subliminal and easily dominated repeated suggestions.  Really.  They do.  See why I hate them?) [Now go… Kill my minions!!!  Damn…  I pushed too soon didn’t I?  I need to wait for you be under suggestion deeper don’t  I??)] 

So anyway,  I’m glad to see you’re still with me at least for a bit longer before you go check out David Wong’s books or go watch a movie. ride I was also told I should at no point give people the idea that I didn’t care if you enjoy my stories or not.  It gives people the wrong message.  So, naturally I suppose I should say, I don’t care if you like the stories or not.  But that’s not true, I do care. Anyone who spends five minutes of their time reading something should get their five minutes of effort back and not feel like they wasted their time.  There needs to be a level of craftsmanship to the work, or you’re stealing time from someone and that’s inexcusable. 

So what are Mildthing stories?  Are they ‘crafted’?  No they’re not.  Woodwork is crafted.  The Grapes of Wrath was crafted, artworks are crafted.  Sadly, I am not a craftsman.  I’m a tradesman.  I have to work very hard to be moderate at best.  Writing is not my trade.  So, you’re kind of screwed both ways if you’re looking for that sort of thing.  But they have the one thing I can, and at least try, to give them… which is a lot of thought, care and consideration for the actual story.

Mildthing stories are meant to be dark and harsh, they don’t always mesh, the reasoning, the logic aren’t always going to be there for you unless you look for it, and there are some incredible leaps of faith needed to appreciate them.  Mildthing stories are meant to be like driving an old pickup with a standard transmission that’s missing third gear. If you were expecting custom leather interior, on star navigation, and an abundance of mental cup holders – – you will be disappointed. 

But, if you, for whatever reason, suddenly had a yearning for a drive down an old dirt road in rusty pick up in a dark place with the rain falling in sheets so thick they call up images in the lightning flashes of things in the dark, things that could not possibly be out there.  If you wanted a ride in the front of a rusting old ford crew cab truck that places you next to a scary old man in said beat up old truck without third gear, that smells like something died behind the seat and you really don’t want to look back there, the same greasy sweaty scary man that smells of dirt that you ran into a few minutes ago as you slogged through the rain and muttered under your breath how you’d sell your soul to get your car out of the ditch.  darkhandThis same scary nut job who won’t stop talking about his wife, which may or may not be departed and lying under a tarp in the back seat, her bludgeoned skull leaking slowly under the tarp as her dull eyes frozen in death stare blindly out at the tarp covering them and that may just be your imagination and it’s not that weird to have something wrapped in a tarp with a shovel and a lantern in the back seat of an old truck? Or maybe it’s just your imagination and it’s not a dead body because it’s hard to figure out because he’s drunk or crazy or both but he showed up at just the right time with a truck try to pull that pretty hybrid you were driving around out of whatever ditch you’d slid off into in this god awful rain that won’t stop and you’re just beginning to realize that probably wasn’t the thing to wish for on a dark abandoned road… well we have just the thing for you. 

Welcome to the return of the Mildthing.

Actually there’s no ‘return’ involved. Mildthing was born from a short story called ‘The Postman Shoots Twice’ published way back in 1995.  A comical assessment of a rural postal employee who’d had enough and was out for blood against cupid for having to deliver valentines day cards.

Really.  That was the very first Mildthing story.  A satirical look at love through the eyes of a maddened over worked, under appreciated, physically monstrous, mentally acute, predator out to hunt down a social myth and put an end to him once and for all.  It would be a year later I’d revisit the character and flesh him into something other than a gag joke.  I based him on a real person, a close friend who, really was a rural postal carrier from time to time… and really did go on an all out rant one night about what he’d do if he ever ‘caught that little bastard’.

MommaToldMe_Group1Who was/is Mildthing?  Is he really based on a real person??

I got the idea of the character after seeing a close friend one night driving down the street on his motorcycle at around 3 am.  Back in those days in rural Wyoming in the crime ridden city of Rock Springs, Wyoming taking deposits from work to the local bank and depositing them at 3 a.m. was not only dangerous but frankly, somewhat asking for trouble from the local criminal element.  Considering this mans background, this wasn’t so much asking for trouble from the local criminal element as it was a warning to them.  That was what it was like growing up in the real American outback.  Larger than life people were in abundance, and odd sights like a man driving down the street in a tricked out bike with a shotgun were, frequently, not that odd. 

So Mildthing – – and yes, that’s a term he was actually known by electronically—would get on his motorcycle, with a shotgun visibly strapped to it.  You could, if you were lucky, or foolish enough, see him driving through the empty streets with the early morning mists rising.  This large figure of a burly man in a leather trench coat, shotgun strapped to his side, cutting through the fog with the sound of his bike snarly and slicing like a wild animal.

The only thing missing from the visual perhaps was a sound track of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and the words, “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning…”.  DavoreBikerDeath

So for those wondering where I got the idea for Mildthing, he is as I have always said to anyone who’s asked… a real person.  He does exist.  I have actually seen him, talked with him, and shared a few beers, many cups of coffee, and had a variety of discussions on just exactly how we’d kill epic monsters, aliens and the occasional cosmic entity, should we ever come across them.  In fact, the events of his first appearance are actually based completely on a real discussion we once had on Area 51. 

So the process of turning him into something fictional wasn’t difficult.  The hard part was, in understanding that although yes, he is a real fictional person… that everything in the stories I’ve assembled are ‘real fictional stories’.  Which is to say they’re all based on something real but they’re totally fictional.  Unlike people who say, take history and provide alternate events, Mildthing stories take historically accurate fictional events and try to treat them as reality… which is kind of the same… but … not really.

Bottom line is – if you read in one of these stories (and hopefully you will) that there’s a cave in the Grand Canyon that has Egyptian mummies and a giant Buddha and demons from the depths of hell or lord knows what…  discovered in the 1900’s and kept hidden by the Smithsonian institution for whatever nefarious reasons… guess what?  According to some sources… there really is, or was.  Is it real?  Was it real?  Did it exist?  Well, for Mildthing yes, it did and it does.  In a kind of bizarre homage to the origins of Mildthing, I do everything I can to locate the most bizarre tales and ask, “What if this was real?”  or “What if we explained this … with this…”, and I try to incorporate into every story as many actual creatures, bizarre historical happenings as I can find. 

There are, frankly, endless crazy historical – quasi science – quasi mystical tales out there to draw from.  Historical stories about people who vanished or saw or did the impossible, that are actually documented.  Psychics, doors to other worlds, people who have fallen through, demons and angels named and talked with, monsters too many to mention, diseases and science so far past mad scientist terrain you’d never believe it.  Super secret sects, cults, government agencies that really do exist that … would just blow you mind. 

ShotgunWe live in a universe that’s amazingly vast.  A place where conspiracy theories abound.  If you spend any time in the territory of the Conspiracy community, you’ll find even the wackiest theories have a basis in a fact somewhere in their mythos.  That’s kind of what a Mildthing story is about as well, if you – and I encourage people to do so – dig in them, you’ll find that if I say there’s an island somewhere, or that the lore of this tribe or that says there was once a creature… it generally is.  This is my attempt to pay tribute to the concept of Mildthing that, it’s true or at least in part true, even if it’s not real. 

So, yes, Mildthing is real.  His stories are ‘real’, they’re just not true in that they never happened.  At least not here in our world.  If there’s any truth to the multiverse theories out there I have no doubt not only is there a real Mildthing but all of this has happened to him, and will happen again and again. 

Mildthing isn’t one person, he’s all of us.Mildthing

No human would ever survive even five minutes in Mildthings world.  But they’re not supposed to.  In fact, most don’t.  Mildthing is about humanity and how we survive.  In his world, he sees these threats, he fights the good fights, and even if he wins – the best he can hope for is a few people will know and the rest of the world will just think he’s a nut.   He may be covered in ooze, blood of some creature, and everyone will just want to cover it all up.  Make it as if it never happened.  Because they don’t want that world.  They don’t want to believe it exists anymore than you or I do.  They reject this insane world so he’s learned not to talk about it.  He’s very much alone fighting the good fight, and avoiding the fight entirely when he can.  He’ll run away if possible.  Which, in a way is a comment on real life. 

In  the real world our fellow humans blow each other up, shoot each other, kill, maim, and create all manner of destruction.  We as a people, are hell bent on destruction.  We’ll poison our water, land, air for money and promise ourselves that we aren’t, or it’s not as bad as everyone makes out when all signs point to us doing just that.  We’ll sell drugs to the kids in our own neighborhoods, hire people to murder our husbands and wives, we as a people – will commit unspeakable atrocities to women, children, our brothers and sisters.  We’ll hide or pretend and say, “That’s THEM… it’s not US” when us and them… are the same.  We know it. We know that there but for the grace of whatever cosmic force out there made us as we are – – in some dark part of our soul we know that could just as easily be us.  We like to believe we’re better than this group or that, that it’s an isolated incident, whoever is causing the injustice, pollution, greed poverty that those are the exceptions.  We’re not like them.  We’ll insist we don’t have a death wish driving us all to extinction and worse… when all sane levels of evidence point to that being the true reality of things.  It’s terrifying that we survive at all.   There are many days when living in a world where angels and demons walk the streets tearing the heads off the innocent and guilty alike without caring which is which, where mad scientists unleash horrors and ghostly deaths await us and forces older and darker than the universe claw and scratch their way back to our reality.  A world like that is actually less scary than the real world live in.  Our real world – is far more terrifying than that of any horror story or gore story ever written.

And yet, somehow, we, as a people survive.  Somehow, often when things are at their darkest point in history and our darkest levels as personal humans.  We, somehow, find the humanity in us.  We manage to pull themselves from the brink of the fire and sanity prevails.  Incredible compassion surfaces, and for a few brief shining moments humans make up for almost all their horrors.  We somehow, in some innocent and clear way – manage to balance our debt sheet with the universe.  We manage to stop those among us who, would destroy us all.  We manage to see our failures and mistakes and own up to them, to make amends.  We manage to be heroes.  But it takes a lot.  It takes this kind of inner rage and strength and somehow, someway, this voice inside us all says, “This is wrong!  We will not succumb! We will not go out like this! We will live!”.  If there’s one thing in every single Mildthing story – something you can 100% bank on seeing… it is that moment will be there.   

Despite the bizarre mysticisms and quantum parallel multiverse whatsits surrounding Mildthing and his world his only superpower is, if he has one at all, is that he’s all of us at that moment.  He is – to me – the living embodiment of that inner rage.  He’s that hatred that things should not be this way, that life it is patently unfair and someone ought to do something about it… and no one ever steps up to the plate.  Mildthing is not the guy, who, at least initially is going to do that.  He won’t step up to the plate willingly.  None of us ever do, and anyone who does – you watch them carefully.  They’re probably more dangerous than whatever else is out there. 

Mildthing doesn’t always do the right thing.  In fact, he frequently doesn’t do the right thing… even if it turns out that way.  Mildthing doesn’t care about you.  He doesn’t care about me.  He doesn’t care about anything.  Life has turned it’s back on him time and time again so he’s more than willing to return the favor.  Mildthing is like life in this way, he’s not doing it because he cares.  He’s doing it because to him – that’s how it should be.  If he’s hunting something down it’s personal or it’s pay or because he’s pissed and just doesn’t care anymore.  That’s when he’s the most dangerous.  When he stops caring – even about him.  When the only thing he cares about is that one final moment when he gets to rage at the universe and say, “Go Ahead and Kill Me – I’m still not going to give in.  I’m going to live even if it kills me.  Go F#%* Yourself!”. 

davisThis is reality.  This is what is real.  It’s life. Its also when real heroes emerge.  Its when so much pain and suffering wells up around them that they don’t bother to ask themselves if they’re going to survive, if they’re doing the right thing, if they should have first packed rubber gloves and a fire suit before rushing in and grabbing a bleeding burning man from hell.  Those are real heroes, and we see them daily.  We just don’t honor them. 

We don’t recognize their agony or how unfair it must be that the universe doesn’t just rain down on us, but on them too, so as broken as we all are, these heroes are also broken just like us and somehow, some miraculous way, these broken people manage to suck it up and do miraculous things that shouldn’t be possible.  They’re the one in a hundred stories you hear of the guy who did the right thing when they had no reason to – and they’re more common than we think.  Those are the real heroes. 

That’s who Mildthing is, he’s the hero who didn’t ask to be, didn’t want to be, and if given the choice won’t be.  He’s just never given the choice to walk away that many of us get to have.

 

Why now? 

I recently got a Wacom Bamboo tablet for a birthday present.    I started dragging out old drawings and sketches and found one of my old Mildthing stories which was something that a publisher friend years ago told me I should flesh out and they’d look at it.  I promised myself, and everyone I’d do it … soon as I had some time I’d write the stories, draw up some pulp novel art for it, because MildThing is also a love letter from me to Margo_orgthe old pulps of the 40s and 50s.  As a kid, I had a man who ran a book store bring up me a bunch of books when I was sick once, The Lensmen, Doc Savage, Conan, Lucky Starr, The Avenger, The Spider all these larger than life really bad pulp novels.   I’ve had a love of that genre ever since.  Those short simple stories that – were exactly what you saw on the cover.  They had these sketch like crude drawings them and they weren’t frankly that well written.  (Despite the fact I’d find out years later that “Lucky Starr Space Ranger” was written by Isaac Asimov).  That was something I always wanted to do with Mildthing, I wanted to kind of recreate those cheesy black and white art, mostly writing but borderline almost a comic but not quite books with these pictures just randomly popping up showing whatever was going on – – or – sometimes that had nothing to do with the chapter at all.  (You had to love the old pulps!)  

Anyway, a publisher buddy of mine once said I should collect them and publish them.  Even if it was just a joke and was horrible and just for fun… I should do it.

That was 10 years ago. I’ve been busy.  I’ve got time now…

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in Writings...

 

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