Miskatonic Manuscript, Q&A part 1


Inevitably, some few readers of The Miskatonic Manuscript have objected to certain themes in the book. It seems only right to give Vin the opportunity to respond to them, to expand on his thinking — and to remind readers that, in Vin’s words (below), “Miskatonic Manuscript is science fiction, and science fiction traditionally has been more cautionary than prescriptive.”

This is the first part of a planned series of a Q&A with Vin. If you have questions or comments you’d like to see addressed in future installments, please post them in the comment section below. We do moderate comments, so please be civil (as if that should need to be said) — but we welcome thoughtful disagreements, and feedback of any kind, positive or negative, as long as comments don’t veer too far off topic or degrade into ad hominem attacks.


Q: Some readers may object to the violence in The Miskatonic Manuscript. Would you like to address their concerns?

A: Hundreds of thousands of people in this country are engaged in the commerce in alcohol, which is by far our most harmful drug, both to people’s health and the welfare of our families. Yet essentially none of them ever shoot or kill each other in disputes over distribution territories, or overdue bills, or adulterated product. Why? Because we gave up on alcohol Prohibition 80 years ago; it’s legal. Yet among those who engage in the commerce in banned plant extracts, an estimated 6,000 young black Americans -– I’m only counting the young black Americans, now — shoot and kill each other in our inner cities every year in just such disputes. Six thousand.

The problem isn’t the nature of the drugs they sell -– alcohol is a drug with a far worse impact on our country than marijuana or cocaine or opium or LSD or MDMA -– the problem is the War on Drugs, which leaves those young men with no way to go to court to enforce a contract, the way a Budweiser distributor can sue a Miller distributor, or a tavern owner who doesn’t pay his bills.

That’s before we talk about the hundreds of thousands of Americans locked up for half their lives in our perverse and dehumanizing prison system, for no other reason than because they bought or sold or possessed certain plants which were given to mankind by God for our use, and which were used without any big problem for thousands of years before 1933, but which were banned by politicians trying to create jobs for former alcohol Prohibition agents because those plants were traditionally favored by blacks or Hispanics or Asians.


Yes, really. Henry Anslinger and his predecessors went to Congress and said pot or cocaine gave “black bucks” the strength of ten men and enabled them to rape white women; “sneaky Chinamen” were slipping opium to unwitting white women so they could seduce them. I’m not joking; that kind of racist crap is where these laws came from, a hundred years ago.


And that’s before we talk about the hundreds of people killed in late-night police drug raids, many of them innocent oldsters murdered by police because of wrong addresses or faulty tips from desperate informants.

That’s not violence? I wrote about that wave of violence for 20 years in my nationally syndicated newspaper columns -– violence created by government, by the War on Drugs that’s turned our inner cities and large parts of Mexico and Venezuela and Colombia into lawless living hells, and the general response was “(Yawn) Ho-hum, what’s new?” Do you have any idea what a river of blood you’d see if you slaughtered 6,000 young men all in one place? You’d be awash; you’d be up to your waist in blood. Yet nobody goes, “Ooh, violence, how distasteful!” Instead they just vote for politicians who promise to take away the legal self-defense guns of law-abiding people in rural areas with lower rates of violence than Scandinavia – like that’ll help? — and otherwise would you pass the potato chips, please? Ho-hum, boring.

Yet now I write about a fictional church whose fictional leaders are locked up for multiple life terms for using plant sacraments that work, and the members of this fictional church finally get tired of turning the other cheek and instead they fight back, killing maybe 15 or 20 of their fictional oppressors, drug cops and drug judges, in a work of fiction, and that’s somehow way out of bounds? People would have been satisfied that “Miskatonic” had a sufficiently dramatic conclusion if I’d instead had all these church members get together at the end of the book and write a really pointed letter to their congressman?


That’s no more than the number of people who die in the final chapters of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, which was one of the most popular, if not the most popular, works of fiction of the 20th Century. And Michael Corleone, if you’ll remember, was getting back at the people who shot his father and his older brother because the Corleones didn’t want to sell heroin, so it was the War on Drugs, even back then.


Q: So are you suggesting that narcotics agents and drug judges and congressmen who enact drug laws should now be added to the list of people who it’s OK to kill -– at least in fiction -– along with gangsters?

A: In terms of living up to their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution, which grants the government no authority whatsoever to ban or regulate plant extracts, these people are gangsters, actually, just gangsters with badges, who make up the law as they go along.

No search warrant shall issue without a sworn affidavit, right? How many cops have ever gone to prison for lying on those sworn affidavits — or for showing so little care that it amounts to negligent homicide — when the raid hits the wrong house and an innocent person gets killed? How many judges have ever gone to prison for issuing a wad of pre-signed blank search warrants without ever demanding to see the “sworn affidavits”? To a large extent, these days, there effectively are no sworn affidavits. Ask a cop, someday, why they seized guns and drugs in that house even though their warrant didn’t specifically list those guns and drugs as things to be sought and seized. The Constitution says each item sought has to be specifically listed on the warrant, right? They’ll blithely say, “Oh no, it’s OK — the courts have said it’s OK for us to do that, now, for ‘officer safety.'” You thought you had a right to a trial by jury on any criminal charge? Not any more; not if the prosecutor promises to lock you up for only 364 days. They arrest so many people that their own mania threatened to clog the system so they just wave a magic wand and change the rules for their own convenience.

They violate the very laws and constitutional safeguards they’re sworn to uphold, every day. But more to the point, “Miskatonic Manuscript” is science fiction, and science fiction traditionally has been more cautionary than prescriptive.


Q: Can you explain what that means?


It means when Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451, he wasn’t recommending that governments should field squads of a new kind of “fireman” who should go around burning subversive books. He was warning that’s what could happen if people didn’t wake up and look at some dangerous trends that he saw developing in this country in the early 1950s, when people were getting arrested for selling books like Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, when distributors got hauled into court for screening Rossellini’s “The Miracle.” George Orwell didn’t write 1984 to encourage governments to spy on people and arrest them and torture them; he wrote a cautionary tale about where we might be headed if people didn’t wake up to a trend that was giving way too much power to ruthless, unanswerable government goons . . . sixty years ago.


The War on Drugs is a hundred years old; it’s done no good but it’s done enormous harm. Way back in 1916 people should have said, “Wait a minute; where in the Constitution is Congress empowered to enact the Harrison Narcotics Act?” Well, a century of tyranny over the human mind is enough. It’s funny how people who enforce a form of slavery over others never see what they’re doing as “violence,” but when the slaves finally revolt they express great shock and consternation at how “violent” things can get.

The kind of violence we see in Miskatonic is actually pretty small-scale. Maybe that’s actually what a few folks are reacting to. Stalin said one death is a tragedy but a million deaths are a statistic. You can play a video game where you blow up the skulls of a hundred zombies, watch a dozen Westerns where people clutch their chests and say “They got me, Tex,” and no one’s shocked. But then you screen the documentary To Die in Madrid, you get to the scene where the horse is shot and dies right on camera, people shriek and start retching and running for the exits, because they know you can’t train a horse to fake that, they know what they’re watching is real, and the emotional response is very different.


To be continued: watch for part 2 to post sometime over the weekend, and part 3 to follow next week. Whether there will be a part 4 remains to be seen — so if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them here in the meantime. We’ll try to respond to any that haven’t been covered already.


Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays! 🙂


3 Comments to “Miskatonic Manuscript, Q&A part 1”

  1. MamaLiberty Says:

    It’s not only the “unanswerable government goons” involved, of course. They would have no power to act if they were not granted authority by the general public. This seems to be changing now, with increasing velocity as people accept the use of cannabis and work to make it “legal.” Once they can shed the belief in “refer madness,” they may begin to question the “authority” of government to prohibit anything. And we are seeing that happening with guns as well.

    Do you think the “constitution” actually grants authority to government for anything? If people allow, even encourage the government to prohibit or control anything at all, from where do those same people obtain the authority to resist some of those prohibitions? Human beings either own their lives, entirely, or they don’t. Anyone can choose to subject themselves to others, of course, but the outstanding problem here is that – for most of recorded history – they insist on subjecting everyone else as well. Seems to me the prohibition of drugs and guns are just a symptom of the greater evil.

  2. Thomas Mitchell Says:

    “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” — George Orwell

  3. Leslie Fish Says:

    A quibble: actually, you *can* train a horse — or a mule, or a dog — to fake its death like that. It takes a lot of time (and a smart animal), but you can do it.

    An alternative trick is one used in a Clint Eastwood movie, where a vet injected the horse with anesthetic, then they started the cameras rolling with Clint standing beside the horse holding an unloaded gun to its head, and when the horse fell down they added the gunshot effect to the soundtrack an instant before and matted in a puff of smoke. The result was so realistic that Clint was worried that audiences might think he’d actually shot the horse.