30 April 2014

Popcorn Proverbs II


by Robert Lopresti  


 I did this once at the old address:  quotations from movies in our genre.  They are in alphabetical order by the film's title, and I will list the sources next week.  By the way, I have decorated the page with posters from some of my favorite flicks, but only one is from a movie quoted below.  Oh, extra credit: which actor is quoted three times?

And if you want a nice lesson in the difference between private eye movies and film noir, consider quotations 7. and 20.

1.  -Well, I also feel it's about time someone knocked the Axis back on its heels.
-Excuse me, Baby. What she means it's about time someone knocked those heels back on their axis.

2.  Twelve people go off into a room: twelve different minds, twelve different hearts, from twelve different walks of life; twelve sets of eyes, ears, shapes, and sizes. And these twelve people are asked to judge another human being as different from them as they are from each other. And in their judgment, they must become of one mind - unanimous. It's one of the miracles of Man's disorganized soul that they can do it, and in most instances, do it right well. God bless juries. 

3.  -If we wanted applause, we would have joined the circus. 
-I thought we did.

4.  Exactly how many laws are we breaking here?
-You don't want to know.

5.  -Your demands are very great under the circumstances.
-Why shouldn't they be?  Fat Gut's my best friend, and I will not betray him cheaply.

6.  - I'm a brother shamus!
-Brother Shamus?  Like an Irish monk?

7.  -Why did you have to go on?
-Too many people told me to stop. 

8.  Of course, you won't be able to lie on your back for a while but then you can lie from any position, can't you? 

9.  Saddam? His name's Saddam? Oh, that's real good, Bruce. Yeah, I'm gonna pin a medal on an Iraqi named Saddam. Give yourself a raise, will you?

10.  Freedom is overrated. 

11.  -Will two hundred dollars be enough in advance, Mr Reardon?
-Two hundred, I'd shoot my grandmother.
-That won't be neccessary.
-Never can tell. In my last case, I had to throw my own brother out of an airplane.

12.  There's a hundred-thousand streets in this city. You don't need to know the route. You give me a time and a place, I give you a five minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours. No matter what. Anything happens a minute either side of that and you're on your own. Do you understand?

13.  I am Nikita!

14.  -My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
-Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don't have men killed.
-Oh. Who's being naive, Kay?

15.  When you think of what they have to carry, all those jimmies and toches and skeleton keys, it's a miracle anyone ever gets burgled at all.

16.  Locked, from the inside. That can only mean one thing. And I don't know what it is.

17.  You know, this'll be the first time I've ever killed anyone I knew so little and liked so well.  

18.  Well, you take a big chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street, or sticking your face in a fan

19.  -It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
-If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.

20.  -Is there a way to win?
-There's a way to lose more slowly.


21.  At least meet her. Maybe she'd be someone you'd like to kill. 

22.   He's a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.  

23.  On TV is where we learn about who we really are.  Because what's the point of doing anything worthwhile if no one's watching?  And if people are watching it makes you a better person. 

  24.  - I need your help. I can't tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we're gonna hurt some people.
- Whose car are we gonna' take?

25.  The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

29 April 2014

Cutting Edge

by David Dean

I've been in a writing slump for several months now.  The following narrative may account for this unwelcome condition:

Certain phrases get used a lot.  They tend to go in and out of fashion with the passage of time and different generations, then pop up again.  "Cutting Edge" is one such phrase.  Others are "Groundbreaking", and "Edgy".  There are many more, and I'm sure you can think of them without my help.  Lately, specifically in the case of the aforementioned examples, I've been left wondering what they hell they actually mean.

What caused this seismic tremor within my consciousness was an event that I was wholly unprepared for--Miley Cyrus grew up.  I was happily ignorant of this important, and "groundbreaking," event until a typical morning some months ago.  In fact, I was only vaguely aware that such a person actually existed.  I think I had been under the impression that she was a character on a popular sitcom.   

Settling down in front of the television with my coffee and bowl of porridge, I found myself swept up into a debate that was hotly raging on the "Today Show."  Robin had left it on as she prepared to dress for work.  If only she hadn't.

Over the next several minutes, my bloodshot orbs were treated to footage of a scantily clad young woman grinding against various persons and stuffed animals, while using a large, foam finger in a lascivious manner.  I was informed that she was "twerking".  She may have been singing, as well, I'm not sure.  Apparently, she had appeared on a music program the previous evening and set the world afire!

While I was still pondering the stuffed animal imagery, trying to grasp its deeper significance, the staff of the show discussed the merits and meaning of young Miley's performance.  "I was in."  This is another currently popular phrase, though I may be misusing it.  Riveted by the cultural upheaval occurring before my very eyes, I was treated to the spectacle of seemingly mature adults (the men were wearing suits) tossing words like "cutting edge," and "edgy," at one another like soapy loofas.  Experts on music and Hollywood were interviewed, as well!  This was important!  My oatmeal went cold.

This was no "flash in the pan," either.  The rest of the broadcast day (which is now endless) carried the debate to other networks and cable outlets.  More experts were consulted.  Some pronounced it "performance art."  Others pooh-poohed this as weak-minded, insisting that we had collectively witnessed the "coming out" of Miley's long-suppressed sexuality.  I felt torn and didn't know which way to go on this issue.  Words failed me, adjectives became stuck in my throat.  Until I came to terms with this phenomenon (also a very popular word when describing celebrities), I could not consider myself a modern man.  No one "had my back."

In my defense, my only experience with performance art such as Miley's, had been confined to bachelor party outings.  Of course, my role when patronizing these "gentlemen's clubs" was always to be the voice of restraint.  "Anyone for a cup of coffee?" I might suggest, when the drinking got a little out of hand.  Or, "Hey, save some of those ones for the poor box, boys!"  Many of the dancers (or performance artists, if you will) were very cutting edge.  And though it pains me to say it, there were some who could have given Miley a run for her money and left her in the dust. 

Fortunately for me, the furor over this very important issue faded before any reporters made it to my front door and demanded my opinion.  I remain happily obscure, if still trying to come to terms with what has happened.  Now, when I see a book or movie review that features those much sullied descriptors, I back quietly away--the book remains on the shelf, the film unseen.  How can I risk it?  What if that "edgy" new thriller features a giant foam finger as the killer's calling card, or that "groundbreaking" film has people "twerking" all over the place?  What if all these overused adjectives actually mask yet another tired, hackneyed rehash of what's been done before and better?

It's enough to make me beat the stuffing out of some huge teddy bear.

Fortunately, since I wrote this piece, Skidmore College has added a new course to their curriculum: The Sociology of Miley Cyrus".  It was about time someone did.            





 

          

28 April 2014

The Story of a Story

by Fran Rizer


IN THE EIGHTIES

Once upon a time, a writer of magazine articles and promotional materials for entertainers read about a seminar being held at the local university.  Several big name fiction authors including James Dickey were featured speakers and would serve on panels to consult with attendees about their work.  A short piece of fiction or the opening fifteen pages of a novel could be submitted for a contest.  The writer sat down, wrote her first short story on a portable Underwood, and sent in "Positive Proof" with her registration.

Did she win the contest?  No, but an interesting thing happened. 
On the last night of the conference, one of the "big" names sought her out.  

"I was one of the short story judges," he began.

Being more in awe of successful authors back then than she is now, she replied quietly, "Yes, I know."

"I wanted to tell you that I fought for your story.  I thought it should have won first place, but I was outvoted."  He smiled.
"For some reason, they went with that usual southern memoir kind of story."
Fran Rizer in the Eighties

"Thank you," she replied and thought no more about it.  Her first fiction was no more 'southern memoir' than what she writes now. It was about the Kennedy assassination.


The writer continued selling pieces to magazines and really had no desire to delve into fiction again.  "Positive Proof" lay dormant for several years.  I am that writer, and the story of "Positive Proof" is my story.


IN THE NINETIES

After my divorce, I joined a writers' group at the local B&N.
Every time I took in nonfiction or even magazines with my articles printed in them, I heard, "Oh, that's fine, but fiction is a different ballgame.  It's a hard nut to crack."

One night the man I thought of as "the guru" (I had private nicknames for each member of the group), passed out brochures about the Porter Fleming Fiction Competition, sponsored at that time by the Augusta, GA, Arts Council.  (The contest is now in its twenty-first year and sponsored by Morris College.)  

That's the first and last time I ever paid anyone to read something I've written, but I dusted off "Positive Proof," wrote a check for ten dollars, and entered the contest.
The nineties

No, I didn't win first. That went to George Singleton, an already successful short story writer from the Greenville, SC, area whose fiction had been published in Playboy. 
George won $1000. With my prize came $500 and an invitation to read the story at the Arts Festival. I accepted both.

The reception and readings were a wonderful experience. To make it even better, George came up to me at the end and told me he liked my story and was positive I could sell it.

I sent the manuscript to only one mag, which was a big mistake because it was a mystery magazine, and that story isn't a mystery. Devastated when I received a personally written rejection letter stating that the story wasn't suitable for them, I put "Positive Proof" back in a bottom drawer. My magazine features always sold first time out. Why should I inflict this self-induced agony of rejection on myself? 


IN THE 2000s

A few years after my retirement on disability in 2001, I ventured into fiction again.  In 2006, I contracted with Berkley Prime Crime for the first three Callies.


Early 2000s

In 2012, I realized that much would be made in 2013 of the fiftieth anniversary of JFK's assassination, so I pulled out "Positive Proof," updated it a bit, and sent it off to Strand in plenty of time to be considered for publication in 2013.
I still haven't heard from them, so I assume they didn't want it.
The Fran Rizer who sold
"Positive Proof"

On a whim, I sent that story somewhere else a few months ago.  I am pleased to announce that "Positive Proof" has found a home and will be published next month.  Check back in two weeks to see who is publishing it and where you can read it.

Until we meet again....take care of you.




27 April 2014

A Novel and A Literary Detective Story

by Louis Willis

The book I discuss in this post is not a crime novel, but the history of its discovery and attempts to identify the author is a detective story.

In 2001, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,  chair of the Afro-American Studies Department at Harvard University, discovered a holograph in the Swann Galleries catalogue that would change African American literature, especially our ideas about fictional slave narratives.

The Bondwoman’s Narrative was published in 2002 by Warner Books and edited with introduction by Professor Gates. The manuscript had never been edited by a professional editor or ghostwritten by a white person as many of the fictional and nonfictional slave narratives were. If the manuscript could be authenticated and the author’s identity confirmed, the novel would prove to be the first written by a former female slave in the United States.

The novel itself and the efforts of several scholars to establish the author’s identity make discussion of this fascinating book difficult.  A detailed discussion of the novel is necessary to examine the strengths and weaknesses of plot and characterization and the historical context. So, I discuss it only briefly. The effort of scholars to verify the author’s identity is a literary detective story deserving its own critical analysis. In his brilliant and illuminating essay “The True Story of American’s First Black Female Slave Novelist” on the New Republic website, Paul Berman discusses in-depth the novel and the efforts to prove the author’s identity.

The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts: A Fugitive Slave Recently Escaped from North Carolina is the full handwritten title on the first page of this important black sentimental novel. Hannah, the literate narrator / protagonist, tells the story of her escape from a plantation in Virginia, her capture and resale to the Wheelers in North Carolina, and finally her escape to New Jersey. Aunt Hetty, an old white woman who lived near the plantation where Hannah grew up, defied the law and taught her to read. Like many slaves who learned to read and write, Hannah knows the Bible and begins each chapter with a biblical epigraph. Her tendency to philosophize shows she has read widely.

In the philosophical tone she displays throughout the novel, Hannah seemingly accepts her condition: “’I am a slave’ thus my thoughts would run. ‘I can never be great; I cannot hold an elevated position, but I can do my duty, and be kind in the sure and certain hope of eternal reward.[']”.  She is also a perceptive observer of people:  “Instead of books,” she “studied faces and characters, and arrived at conclusions by a sort of sagacity that closely approximated to the unerring certainty of animal instinct.” This talent for wearing the masks to conceal her feelings and thoughts from the masters, which many slaves learned to do, allows her to adjust to the different circumstances in which she finds herself.

The former slave clearly mastered the techniques of novel writing that made her an exceptional storyteller. She reveals the effect of slavery on master and slave, especially how supposedly kind masters supported the peculiar institution. In the preface she asks, “Have I succeeded in showing how it blights the happiness of the white as well as the black race?” My reply is a resounding yes.

The efforts of several scholars to identify the author is a detective story as exciting as the novel. As Timothy Davis writes in Salon, ink and paper experts helped Professor Gates establish that the novel was written in the 1850s. His analysis of the prose revealed the author was familiar with and borrowed from Jane Eyre and Bleak House. Unfortunately, he was unable to establish her identity. Once the novel was authenticated, the detective scholars went to work to solve the mystery: Who was Hannah Crafts?

An article in the New York Times dated September 18, 2013, claimed that Professor Gregg Hecimovich, chairman of the English Department at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, had found additional evidence that revealed the author was named Hannah Bond, a slave on the plantation of John Hill Wheeler in North Carolina. Professor Hecimovich planned to publish his discovery in a book titled The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts.

The novel is important because, as Professor Gates writes, “Holograph, or handwritten, manuscripts by blacks in the nineteenth century are exceedingly rare…” Rarer still are ones that haven’t been ghostwritten or edited by a white writer or editor.

26 April 2014

Daddy's Girl Weekend


by John M. Floyd



Sounds like the name of a drive-in movie from the 1960s, right? Not this time. The Daddy's Girl Weekend I'm referring to is an annual writers' conference hosted by my friend and prolific mystery novelist Carolyn Haines. Carolyn was kind enough to invite me to be on the "faculty" for this year's DGW, which was held several weeks ago in Mobile, Alabama. Here's a link to the conference info.


Since the Gulf Coast isn't far from our home, my wife joined me for the trip--we drove down on the afternoon of Thursday, April 3, and spent three nights and three days at the Riverview Plaza Hotel in downtown Mobile. It rained most of the time we were there, but at least it wasn't cold: I've had quite enough of the Winter of 2013/2014. Until recently, I suspected that the weather gods had confused Mississippi with Minnesota.

As for the conference itself, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and--as I do at all events like this--met some truly interesting folks. One attendee was a former writer for Saturday Night Live and the screenwriter for many of the Eddie Murphy movies; one was a New York Times bestselling author of "cat mystery" novels; one was a cardiac surgeon who'd just sold his second medical thriller; another was an author, agent, and ordained priest; several were former bookstore owners; and so on and so on. I've often heard that writers might be weird but they're always fascinating. And one of the best things about DGW is that it's a readers' as well as a writers' conference. As any Bouchercon attendee will tell you, having fans there makes a big difference.

The time passed quickly. Each night after the final session my wife and I went out for some great meals (usually seafood), and during the daytime hours at the conference I was a member of four different panels, I was moderator of another, I was interviewed by a lady from Suspense Magazine, and I signed and sold a lot of my books, all of which was fun. I also learned some useful things about writing and marketing. Actually, I don't think it's possible to spend several days in the company of dozens of other writers and NOT learn something useful about either writing or marketing or both.

In my case, and on the off-chance that this might be helpful to others as well, here is some of the information I came away with:

E-predictions

One of the panels I attended included the founder of a publishing company that deals in both printed novels and e-books. He mentioned to the group that although all of us realize that electronic publishing is here to stay, it is not necessarily "the way of the future." In fact he said sales and e-sales have recently begun to level out, and that it appears that e-books will not completely take over the publishing world as was once predicted. Disagree if you like--this was one man's opinion--but he insisted that the traditional novel will remain with us, side-by-side with its e-counterpart, for the foreseeable future.

To most of us who were present, this view was not only interesting but encouraging. I love my iPad and I enjoy e-books--especially when traveling--but it pleased me to hear an expert in the field say that the old-fashioned printed novel will still be around for a while.

Untangling the Web

In another session, a lady who spoke about blogging and social media happened to mention a place called Weebly.com, which provides a free, easy, and effective way to build a personal or business web site. This captured my attention, since for twenty years now both writers and readers have been telling me I need my own site. Deep down, I knew they were right, but I just never got a round tuit. I had several reasons not to take the plunge: on the one hand I didn't want to find and hire a webmaster and I didn't want to then have to sit around and wait for him or her every time I decided changes needed to be made to the site; on the other hand, I damn sure didn't want to take the time to learn how to design the whole thing myself. Besides, slacker that I am, I've always just pointed folks to my page at my publisher's site.

But I had to agree that this sounded good. Bottom line is, when we returned from the conference I Googled the Weebly program and decided to give it a try. As a result, I put together my own web site in a matter of hours, and at no cost. It's nothing flashy and is still a work in progress, but it's functional and I'm satisfied. If you have time, visit www.johnmfloyd.com and take a look.

Curses--foiled again!

The third piece of information that stuck with me wasn't something I didn't already know, but it's something that all of us occasionally need to be reminded of. A person who worked for a publishing company told the group that writers shouldn't be overly discouraged when their novels or short story manuscripts get rejected. She pointed out that publishing is a business. We writers tend to forget that. Publishers have employees just like other companies, and have payrolls to meet. When they decide to pay a writer an advance and produce a novel, they have to be reasonably certain that enough of his or her books will sell to exceed the amount they spend. Similarly, when a major magazine buys a story, the editors need to be confident that that story will help them sell copies, not only of that issue but of other issues in the future. If these things don't happen, that publisher or editor or product won't be around very long. The decision-makers are right when they say it's nothing personal.

Does it hurt when we're rejected? Sure it does. But rejections should prod all of us to persist and work harder. If this whole writing gig was easy, anyone could do it.

Denouement

On the Sunday that ended the DGW conference my wife and I drove back home (it was still raining, all the way), and when we got here I couldn't help feeling a bit like the traditional story character, returning to his routine after his mythical adventures, a little older and wiser than he'd been beforehand.

I just hope they invite me back next year.



25 April 2014

Crime Cruise-Costa Rica

by R.T. Lawton


Harbor at Limon, tug ready to assist
During his fourth and final visit to the New World in 1502, Columbus discovered a land he named Costa Rica, meaning the rich coast. Unfortunately, there was no gold or treasure to be found here. The place he first anchored was an island near the future port of Limon, the Spanish word for lemon.

Costa Rica is a country where Central America narrows before joining the South America continent at the land bridge of Panama. It has coasts in two different oceans while its capital, San Jose, lies in the Central Valley between the two coasts.

Our boat dock in rain forest  for the Tortuguero Canal
The Tour

We docked on the Caribbean side in the harbor of Limon, but as we had been reminded by our guide, Costa Rica is a third world country and poverty is widespread in Central and South America. We saw no tourist resort areas and therefore assumed that today's rich coast was on the Pacific side of the country. Online tourist ads seem to favor that side.

Toucan eating a piece of fruit



Our first stop on the tour took us to the Tortuguero Canals, a series of natural and man made waterways which connect Barra de Colorado and Tortuguero with the port of Limon. Here, a short boat trip on the canal showed us some of the various wildlife native to the area, such as small caimans, sloths, a variety of birds and a lizard nicknamed the Jesus Lizard for his ability to run across short stretches of water on his hind legs without sinking. Naturally, the lizards we saw and photographed didn't perform for us. Must have been camera shy.

Bird walking on water lilies





Next came a short walk through a portion of the Veragua Rain Forest. We lucked out, it wasn't raining at that moment. At the end of the walk, we entered the Sloth Sanctuary, which raises seized and abandoned wild animals until they can be released back into nature. Underneath a large net dome, we found two types of sloths hanging in trees and on caretakers, two types of small monkeys running amok up and down vegetation, a very friendly Toucan who wanted a fruit snack and several turtles in ponds. Many of the caretakers were student volunteers from Germany, Austria and other countries.

taking a break from running amok
Back on the bus, we rode a few miles to a banana plantation and packing house. All the banana bunches still on the trees were wrapped in blue canvas bags to protect them from insects. When the bunches reach the right maturity, they are cut and tied onto a cable system which delivers them to the packing station. Here, the blue bags are removed, they get water baths in two different large tubs under an open air shed and are then graded and packed into cardboard boxes for shipping. We learned there are three upright stalks on a banana tree: the mature stalk with a bunch of bananas, the  shorter stalk that will bear bananas the following season and the just growing stalk replacing the mature one cut from the year before.

The Crime

Casinos are legal in Costa Rica and while there were no laws on the books about online gambling, U.S. and Canadian entrepreneurs started setting up and operating online sports books and poker rooms in this Central American country during the late twentieth century. Not having a physical location in the U.S. allowed them to evade U.S. gambling laws, and by keeping their accounts in other foreign countries, the online gambling sites also avoided paying taxes on their massive profits to Coasta Rica. Shortly afterwards, the U.S. government passed the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 1999, banning online sports books and poker rooms. Since these operations were based in Costa Rica, the online gambling entrepreneurs thought they were safe. Their business flourished into about 2006 when they soon found they had a problem whenever they arrived at an American airport during a money run or for other reasons. Arrests were made. Then, the FBI stepped up the pressure by coming to Costa Rica to make raids and arrests. These defendants were quickly extradited back to American soil on charges of money laundering and violations of the Wire Act. In 2006, President Bush signed an even more restrictive law, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. However, it was the Black Friday Raids of 2011 that finally broke the back of the big online gambling organizations in Costa Rica.

To depict the heyday of this time period, Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake starred in a recent movie, Runner, Runner about the online poker rooms in Costa Rica. The movie showed scenes of the piles of money made by the entrepreneurs, violence between rivals, drug usage by those involved, their hedonistic life style and the coded software written by employees to cheat the online customers.

As a side note, one of my prior racquetball partners had a son who left a sports book in Vegas several years ago to work online gambling in Costa Rica. However, he was smart enough to get out of the business and out of that country before the Black Friday Raids.

Yep, we'd go back to Costa Rica, but I think we'll try the Pacific side next time.

See you in Jamaica in two weeks. That Jimmy Buffet's got some nice rum drinks there in his establishment, not to mention the one free Margarita for every customer.

24 April 2014

The Dark Side of the Moon

by Eve Fisher

There's something about great change that brings out the dark side in people.  The worst time to be a witch wasn't in the so-called Dark Ages, or even the Middle Ages.  The worst time to be a witch was from 1400-1700, i.e., during the Renaissance, Reformation, and the first Scientific Revolution.  It was as if all that new knowledge, new ideas, new applications, new procedures, new stuff, scared everyone so much that they had to run out and kill some people just to prove that everything was the way it always had been, world without end, Amen.

Anyway, during that time over 100,000 people were prosecuted all over Europe and colonial America, and 60,000 were executed, most of them women.  (The exception was Iceland where, for some reason, the majority were men.)  Why women?

File:Malleus.jpg(1) Misogyny.  Women were looked down on, especially by the authors of the 1486 "Malleus Maleficarum" ("The Hammer of the Witches), who were two Dominican monks who were obviously scared to death of women, but had never met any (some of the physical details are anatomically impossible).  Anyway, they accused witches of infanticide, cannibalism, evil spells, sexual misconduct of every kind imaginable, as well as having the power to steal penises.  (I can't help but think of Pat Robertson on feminism:  "a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."  Maybe reincarnation is real.)

(2) Fear.  Women were the midwives and the healers.  Male doctors could only be found where the money was, in royal courts, big cities, noble palaces.  Everywhere else, women did the job.  So, if anything went wrong, you could blame it on witchcraft:  I mean, these women could heal you with their weird potions and incantations, so obviously they could also harm you with their weird potions and incantations.  It had to be witchcraft, right?

(3) Ageism.  Many of the supposed witches were old women. Old women have always gotten terrible press, and still do. Women are supposed to stay young and beautiful and sexy, and when they don't, and get wrinkled and bent and gray and toothless, no one wants them around.  Especially if they get crabby with it.  (And no wonder they get crabby...)  Today they're told it's their own damn fault they're so unsightly.  In the 17th century, they could get burned.

File:Giles Corey restored.jpg(4) Greed.  In Salem Village, in colonial Massachusetts, while the very first accused witches were old and poor women, most of the rest of them were women of property.  And by being convicted and executed for witchcraft, all their goods were forfeit - to the village, to the church, to the minister, who all gained a great deal of money and land.  This was why Giles Corey, for example, refused to plead guilty or innocent and submitted to being pressed to death:  that way, he had not been tried, and his property could not (and was not) confiscated.

But what I find most interesting about the whole literature of witchcraft is this:  the reports of the witches' sabbaths and the behavior of the devil are all strikingly similar to the reports of current-day alien abductions. The narrative is largely the same:  Abduction/seduction (which usually takes place at night, in a remote area, away from other people), levitation/flight, strange but humanoid figures, a place (witches' circle or spaceship) and a ceremony, probing with cold instruments (please use multiple definitions of this word) here, there, and everywhere (there is a real obsession with genitalia), inexplicable paralysis, inexplicable time lapses, the bewildered return, the strange places on the body that either experience a chronic ache or no feeling whatsoever, the post-event depression and/or confusion - it's all the same.  True, the devils of that time looked completely different from the aliens of modern times, but people in the 1400-1700's in widely disparate countries described the devils and demons pretty much exactly the same, just as people in modern times in disparate countries describe aliens pretty much exactly the same.  (In neither group is anyone seeing, say, a pink rhinoceros with tentacles.)  I repeat:  The narrative is the same, in character and plot.  Only the costuming changes.

So, what's going on?  Is this an interesting reaction to times of great scientific and social change in people who are (more or less) fragile and disturbed to begin with?  Is this Carl Jung's collective unconscious?  Is this what happens when forbidden desires, despair, frustration, alcohol and/or drugs, hormones, and/or sleep paralysis, combine?  Or is this really happening, and all that's happened is that the devil had changed his look?  Or have the aliens changed theirs?

       


Just something to mull over in those late night hours.  Pleasant dreams.