May 13th, 2014


The Scariest Part: Michael Martineck Talks About THE MILKMAN


Welcome to this week’s installment of The Scariest Part, a recurring feature in which authors, comic book writers, filmmakers, and game creators tell us what scares them in their latest works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense. (If you’d like to be featured on The Scariest Part, check out the guidelines here.)

My guest is author Michael Martineck, whose latest novel is The Milkman. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In Edwin McCallum’s world, nations are no more. The world’s assets are divided among three companies. When one of those assets is murdered, it’s McCallum’s job to figure out what it means to the bottom line. The bottom line’s on filmmaker Sylvia Cho’s mind, too. Who’s footing the bill for this documentary? And who’s the subject, this so-called ‘Milkman’? Systems engineer Emory Leveski knows and it looks like it might cost him his life.

With no governments, there is no crime. Any act is measured against competing interests, hidden loyalties and the ever-upward pressure of the corporate ladder. It’s a tough place for those who still believe in right and wrong. And for these three, it just got a lot tougher.

When Michael told me what he wanted to write about for this feature — man-on-man sexual violence — I was skeptical. Unfortunately, rape, regardless of the genders involved, is a topic that is rarely treated sensitively in horror fiction. More often than not, it comes across as exploitation, titillation, or a joke. Kudos to Michael, then, for handling this subject matter responsibly and respectfully. And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Michael Martineck:

Exhilaration in writing comes when a story takes off on its own. I love when the characters come alive and steer the plot, seemingly without me. In these moments I don’t write so much as watch and record. The result is a natural, flowing story. It is wonderful…until things go wrong.

The Milkman is set in a post-government world. I aimed to write a science fiction novel in which economics was the science being fictionalized. I wanted to see how the world might function relieved of state shackles. Sovereignties are the great counterweights in our economies. Without them we are free. Free from everything.

I don’t think we want to be free of everything, though. As with oxygen, humans require just the right amount of freedom to function properly. Too little and we have no lives, too much and, well, we go nuts. Social structures are our defense against cheating, stealing, assault, and sexual violence.

For some it is easy to forget that rape is not a sexual act. It is cruel anger, and most often an act of control, forcing submission. Most of the victims of this horrendous crime are women, and many writers and filmmakers use it as a shortcut to show a character is a “bad guy”. It so frequently objectifies women, stands in place of character, and proves to be lazy writing.

The Milkman includes a group of incarcerated men with little supervision. They develop heir own, violent micro-society. Rape kept making its ugly, ugly existence felt. I thought and fought its inclusion. The rape of men in fiction — when it shows up at all — is used as a way to remove a male character’s masculinity. It is a symbolic method of making him a woman — as if that’s something less than a man.

And so my struggle: to let the darkest parts of my imagination loose on my main character. To share the story of his victimization, avoiding the hackneyed and the misogynistic, and reveal a vital, heroic character. Can I show that a man — that anyone — is no less for having the crime of rape committed upon their person?

It started as a book about economics. Of course, economics is another topic so easily misunderstood. It is not the study of money or finance. It is human nature interacting with human nature. We all exchange through markets, formal and not so much. We all try to better ourselves, our positions and our stations in life. We want to get ahead. Dominate, if necessary. For some of us that might mean physical domination in the worst of ways.

The characters of The Milkman put their various motivations into play in a society in which only the laws of economics (and physics, of course) apply. And while many of the paths are conventional — the struggle for love, happiness, success — some of the techniques the characters used to achieve these results put me ill at ease, left me uncomfortable — freakin’ chilled me along my spine because, no matter how much it felt like my characters were real, all the nastiness still came out of my head and were my responsibility.

Not that it’s all misery. We, the people, can also be great batteries of compassion, endurance and heroism. While writing The Milkman, I never forgot that either. Humans make things work, regardless of how bad the backdrop. Which brings me to what may be the scariest concept in the book: a world in which only the bottom line matters is not that different from our own. My story took off, flew through a dystopia weird and wholly imagined, and landed in a place all too familiar. Frightening.

Michael Martineck: Website / Twitter

The Milkman: Amazon

Michael Martineck has been writing in some form or another since he was seven years old. More recently, he has written short stories, comic book scripts, articles and a trio of novels. DC Comics published some of his work in the ’90s. Planetmag, Aphelion and a couple of other long-dead e-zines helped him out in ’00s, which is also when he published children’s books The Misspellers and The Wrong Channel. Cinco de Mayo, a novel for adults, is now out from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, which is also the publisher of The Milkman. He lives in Grand Island, NY with his wife and two children.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.


R.I.P. H.R. Giger


The renowned Swiss artist H.R. Giger has died at the age of 74, as a result of injuries sustained in a fall.

As you probably know, Giger created the seminal designs of the classic 1979 film Alien, including that of the alien itself. Later, he would try to replicate that success in his design of the alien life form in the 1995 film Species, but he didn’t even come close. It just wound up looking kind of like the other alien but with dreadlocks and boobs. Perfect for the film itself, I suppose, which is all about men being scared of women and sex, but the creature design is nowhere near as iconic. I haven’t seen Prometheus, so I can’t judge, but I did see Jodorowski’s Dune, and I can tell you his design work for that film-that-never-was looked absolutely stunning.

But Giger was more than the movies he worked on. He was an artist first and foremost, and numerous Giger art calendars graced my walls in the past. His work was fascinating, a mix of the organic and mechanical, and often sexual in nature, sometimes overtly, sometimes in a more Georgia O’Keeffe kind of way. He painted album covers for the likes of Debbie Harry and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He was so influential that Giger-themed bars opened around the world. (One was scheduled for New York City, but alas, it never came to fruition. If it had, I would be there daily.*)

Giger was a colossal talent. His death is a loss to the world of art, the world of science fiction, the world of music — hell, just the world in general. I’m sorry we won’t get to see any more of his beautiful and nightmarish “biomechanics,” but his impressive body of work remains for us and future generations to enjoy.



* I stand corrected! The NYC “Giger Room” did exist from 1998 to 2002 at the Limelight!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.