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Excerpt for C. C. Blake's Sweaty Space Operas, Issue 2 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

C. C. Blake's Sweaty Space Operas

Volume 2


By: C. C. Blake


Blake's Take


We are living in a world devoid of a little bit of color, right now. It might not seem like it, but since my first issue hit the world a huge tragedy befell the reading world. Harlan Ellison is with us no more. I knew him only through convention appearances, can't say much about the man himself. However, his fiction was a well-loved treat. I particularly loved the juvenile delinquent stories in The Deadly Streets or Gentleman Junkie and Other Tales of the Hung Up Generation and the stuff he wrote in his collections like No Doors, No Windows or the two volumes of Honorable Whoredom at a Penny a Word. Less fantastique and more about the gritty grotty day-to-day stuff. The low lives and the gangs . . . It left a mark on my own work.

Of course, his speculative fiction is pretty dynamite, too. "A Boy and His Dog" is one of those novellas that is impossible to forget, and the source for a challenging yet fun flick. Subterranean Press just released the long awaited Blood's A Rover, which combines the novella as well as additional Vic and Blood material, including the script for a pilot to a seventies post-apocalyptic television series that never came to be. I just finished reading the thing, and it's a hell of a story. What's more, I think Don Johnson (who played the boy Vic in the original movie) is just old and witty enough to be the antagonist in the screenplay, if it were to be made today. He slipped right into the casting in my mind's eye and it would be a hell of a thing to see on Netflix or the big screen.

Ellison's screenplays are little gems, really. Reading them is little different than reading his fiction. The images are solidly realized, the emotions are honest, and the tales themselves are one hell of a lot of fun.

Ladies and gentlemen, a write has left the world. His epitaph is already making the circuit about how he was here for a time and for a time he mattered, but that's so much horsehockey. He continues to matter, living through his own works as well as the works of those he inspired. A giant, despite being the self-described little man. Farewell, Uncle Harlan.

#

Before jumping off into the idea of publishing a monthly like Sweaty Space Operas, I had to make sure I had some stories in check. The content for the first six issues are pretty well set at this point. Some minor tweaking and whatnot will come into play, but the stories themselves are done, and the sixth issue is going to be an extra-long issue complete with a novel that brings some of my characters together.

When I was going through the old manuscripts, I found some things that needed to be changed. IN the case of the second Rick Cave story, it was the entire damned story that needed to change. When I was writing these things for the magazines who were demanding them, I played around a bit to keep my edge sharp. In the case of "The Beauty Snatchers" (apologies to Jack Finney), I told the story from the third person. All the other Rick Cave material as well as most of the other Cave material (Chuck Cave and the World War II stuff) were done first person. It lent immediacy to the prose and a hardboiled quality. I was maybe aping the stuff I had read from crime writers, but whatever.

However, the second stories for both Chuck Cave ("In the Clutches of El Diablo") and Rick Cave ("The Beauty Snatchers") were done third person. One because I think I read somewhere that third person was the best point of view to write about (maybe it was so for that writer, but I found it to be so much bullshit) and the other because I started the story with my protagonist gut shot on the floor of a bar and wanted to keep the tension that maybe he would croak. If it was first person, well, he obviously did not buy the farm so plenty of tension is drained from the story.

Needless to say, the Rick Cave story was the one that featured the gut shot protagonist. In order to bring it more in line with the other stories, I have gone back and rewritten the thing. This was not just a Find and Replace exercise of He with I, of course. I actually revised the story to fit into the universe that subsequently sprung up around my hapless rocket jock and his bizarre adventures. Some faces from Burn Job stories will appear here, notably Fuhrer Brett and his AstroNazis.

Odd to think that Nazis were kind of out of the limelight when I was writing about them. They were more often than not sad little white supremacist footnotes in history, throwbacks to a war we through we had won who populated back waters, burning crosses and tormenting families of color or queerness. Now, they've taken hold of at least public consciousness again and are a country-shaping force of bigotry and hatred. In short: Evil. Punch them hard and punch them often. Punch the motherfuckers the way our ancestors did in the old war days.

Let me be clear. I do not assume all Germans or folk of German ancestry are Nazis. In fact, so many of the bastards running around waving the white supremacist flag are without a lick of German in their ancestry at all. It's the idolatry that is evil, not a national identity. Germany is not Nazi land any more. It hasn't been for over seventy years. Nazism is like a cancer, spreading throughout the world's nations. It has no seat, and it has no care. Sometimes it calls itself nationalism, and sometimes it calls itself a brotherhood of racial purity, and often it couches its ideals in "friendly" #WhatAboutWhitePeople language.

To hell with them. They preach evil, and they perform evil. To hell with them and all the puppet politicians who don't condemn them outright and for all time.

Anyway. When I was writing about Nazis, there was no seeming chance for them to make such an upswing. So much in the world has changed in the last ten years. So much.

So, "The Beauty Snatchers" has been reworked from the ground up and joins some other tales in my anti-Nazi spine which is building through these first six issues. I like it better now, and will leave the original version of the tale out there in its own eBook format for the curious. You can grab a copy everywhere eBooks are sold.

Thank you for supporting this strange journey of mine. I hope you have some fun.

And if you see a Nazi-supporter, do me the favor of rapping your knuckles on his head.

Blake out.


The Beauty Snatchers


There is nothing quite like getting a bellyful of buckshot to make a man rethink his life choices. As I twisted on the floor of the bar, one hand holding my insides together while the other shuddered on the floor, beating out a rhythm-less drumbeat, as I lay there listening to the mad laughter of the jackbooted thug who left me in this condition, I realized how much I longed to mash his face under my soles. I longed to have stayed in the Navy, to have someone to back me up when I made the stupid decision to stand against a trio of AstroNazi thugs in a girl bar like Svetlana's place on a planet like Piotr's World. I longed not to be stupid enough to go and get myself shot.

"Vell now, Mister Cave," the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan son of a bitch in brown shirt and dark slacks said, bending at the waist to leer down at me while the scattergun mounted inside his arm band smoked through the barrels positioned over his knuckles.

"Captain," I whimpered. It was so ingrained I couldn't not say something.

"Vat's dat?"

"I am," I said around a mouthful of blood, "an ever-loving Captain, you egomaniacal cock splotch."

He frowned, now. His script was broken. "Ve'll see you in hell," Kurt said. The nametag over his left breast announced his name for anyone who could bother to read. He stood back up again, as though slapped. I writhed a while, wishing he would drop dead of a spontaneous heart attack or maybe just go out of his head bonkers from syphilis. The kind of crazy that led a man to cut his own head off?

Instead, he wheeled around and goose-stepped toward the door, making a spectacle of the big bad brown shirts. Join up, his march said, and you'll be able to gun down mouthy bastards like this with impunity, all with the snazzy little leather band that enclosed left arm from knuckles to elbow and held a slim line, sawed-off scattergun.

Across the room, his two compadres were holding the girl, a lovely Asiatic girl with body made for loving and hair made for pulling, who was screaming her head off for help that would never come. Sveti's was a fine place with great stock in both bourbon and whores, but it was short on compassion for compassion's sake. Instead, it prided itself on the oldest profession: Everything was for sale, but you had to pony up the money to get what you wanted.

The AstroNazis stepped out, taking the girl with them, and Sveti herself came over to me. "Dead yet, Cave?"

"Not yet."

"Feeling like you want to be, though?"

"Da," I said. A belly full of pellets had ripped my guts to pieces, letting juices that were never intended to evacuate the bowels dribble into my body.

Sveti was a classic madam, a dyed blonde with a body that displayed sweet curves under the clinging black gowns she adored. She smoked Hessian cigars through cigarette holders and had nails so long they curled back upon themselves. It was obvious that Sveti had been a luscious piece in her prime working girl days. Now, she was leathery-skinned around the face and wrinkled around the eyes and mouth. Still gorgeous to the kind of man who knew how to appraise a woman for her real assets instead of getting blindsided by youthful vigor, but she was dangerous too. No one crossed Sveti and hoped to live. She could cut a man's throat and then watch his lifeblood leak out, all without blinking or flinching.

"You still have a marker here," she said. "Any reason not to cash it in?"

"No reason," I whispered. "Can you fix me up?"

Everything was for sale. I had done a good deed for the place, getting some Slav troublemakers to back the hell off and Sveti had offered me a marker. Anything I wanted or needed up to a life taken. I sometimes wondered if she was hoping I might cash it in for a night with her. She was the kind of woman with things to teach any red-blooded heterosexual male.

To me, she said, "Of course." Then she looked up and away. "Fix him," she said, and a man with a noticeable hunch and a pair of glasses with lenses black enough to swallow all passing light made his way out of a back room. It was Sveti's cut man, a former sports medicine man with a drinking and coke problem, who now made a living tending to Sveti's girls and special clientele.

"Reused parts?" the man in the dark, dark lenses asked.

Sveti considered this. I could see the desire to say "Of course," playing across her face. Then, she resigned herself and decided, "For Captain Cave, make them new, Sergei. And give him painkillers before you perform surgery. Antibiotics and more painkillers after. He is a close friend of the house."

Sergei Khutoryansky adjusted his lenses, though they had not fallen even half an inch, and then bowed his head in proper servility. "As you say." He and a pair of bouncers who had done nothing to stop the AstroNazis from grabbing the girl I had come in with picked me up off the floor and carried me out of the main room to a backroom clinic. It was the sort of place that saw more abortions than life-threatening service, but at least it smelled clean. Or at least it did when I had come back here without my nostrils clotted with the stink of my own intestinal contents leaking out of me.

"You must be a trusted man," Sergei said as he shoved a mask down over my face. The stuff he pumped through it smelled like the recycled air on my medium tonnage spaceship HotTicket after three months out of port. I took in three greedy lung-filling breaths of the stuff, eager to wink out of existence for a while. "This stuff is nyet cheap," he finished his thought with a grin that showed off some ugly teeth set in inflamed gums.

In those dark, dark lenses of his, I saw my future. It was not a happy sight. The sort of inky, empty afterlife promise the satanic sex workers and proselytizers from Lucifuge made. Then, I winked out as I had wanted to and knew nothing but dreams for a time.

Of course Kurt was in those dreams. So was the girl.

She had reached out to me for a meet up. An Asiatic model who called me Rick. I had thought she was Miho finally coming back from her jaunt with my old army pal. After I had squared off to get her free of the clutches of a madman, Miho had promised to return to me once her doctor-master was safe. She had not yet done so.

Greta was no Miho. Her eyes had a similar almond shape, her body was just as compact, but she was no combat nurse. She had no heart of gold. She was a street worker who had attracted the wrong sort of attention and was seeking her way off world. When I asked what kind of attention, she let me know it was the sort to buy off a pimp and use him as an information source. While we sat at one of the corner tables, she reached down between my legs and offered up a squeeze to convince me to help out. It had been a while since such contact had sent the shivers of anticipation coursing through me.

Until Miho showed me the error of my ways, I had operated on a no-questions-asked policy. The answer to any queries about Greta's troubles materialized when Kurt and his pals made their way through the door. She squeezed down low onto the table and stopped squeezing me. I came back to my senses in time for the three brown shirts to show up.

The dreams did not play out like reality. Instead of me standing up, punching Kurt in the nose and then getting a bellyful of buckshot like I did, I took one hell of a nightmare beating. There was nothing I could do to stop it either. I raised a hand and all strength left me. The boots stomped down on me while their lord, the terrible Fuhrer Brett materialized in a pulpit behind them, sieg heiling in front of a wall of hellfire. It was the sort of symbolic bullshit psychoanalytic headshrinkers gets off on analyzing the hell out of.

I woke up seventeen hours later with a replacement belly, surgical staples and Super-Hard glue holding me together, and a headful of chemical pain killers. High as a kite, I was. I am not sure if Sveti did show up in my room wearing sassy scarlet lingerie and read to me from the Russian Orthodox Bible or not. I liked her accent, even though I only understood every other word or so. That might have been hallucination.


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