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WesternSFA


thirteen fourteen fifteen o'clock
by David Gerrold
ComicMix, $24.95, 194pp
Pubished September 2015

This is a limited release publication originally made available at the conventions David Gerrold attended. Five years ago, he had to self publish this novel because the subject matter and writing style (punctuation and capitization get minimal usage, as if the narrative were dictated into a poorly programmed Dragon transcriber)  gave publishers the willies. I like to think that in 2020 publishers would have more courage, especially in the current climate of change. Rarity of the edition aside, the content is so extraordinary that my volume occupies a place of honor with my favorites. This novel is inverted SF: instead of using a science fiction or fantasy setting as a metaphor, Gerrold uses reality as a metaphor for something fantastic. And because he is David Gerrold, he will set you laughing while he explodes land-mines in the literary terrain. 

Ex-marine, ex-corpsman, Vietnam vet, scarred, tattooed, Chase is a biker who frequents gay bars. At thirteen o'clock he has a run in outside a bar with some gay-bashers who mistake drunk for incapacitated, and find out the painful way that it is a very, very bad idea to jump an ex-marine.Two of the men he does onto as they intended to do onto him.  The third one he kisses. And the young man kisses back.  After dropping the injured two off at a hospital - this is one of funniest scenes in the entire book, as Chase messes with the doctors - Chase takes the third one back to his college dorm. The young man asks to see him again.

Neither one really expects the other to show up, but they both do, and drive off into the desert to look at the stars and talk. This becomes a recurring theme in the story: go out into the blackness of a night away from the city, look up into the sky and see what it reflects. This first time, the college student, Michael, asks Chase how he got to be the way he is. Chase's reply covers a lot of ground, but embedded in the description of how he lost a leg in Vietnam and rode a hog around much of North America, there is the one thing he has never yet found anyone who understood: these odd, momentary, disorienting  flashes that reset his perspective. It was one of those flashes that led to him kissing Michael instead of half-killing him.

Here is a small sample of how Chase talks to Michael, from later in the book:

the thing about orgies, I only learned this later, is that they're disrespectful, they're not about people, they're about bodies, they're about sensation, they're about rolling about in a frenzy of 'I'll have some of this and I'll have some of that' -but never is there the deeper appreciation that come with "i want to connect, as deep as I can, with this one single entity opposite me, I want to know who you are to the depth of your soul and let you grab onto as mc=uch of mine as you can bear to hold… I don't mind being a naked monkey, after all this time I'm getting pretty good at it-I mind being a stupid naked monkey

I wish to point something out. David Gerrold seems to be one of those wonderful human beings who loves words and their meanings, and words and meaning love him back.  If you are reading and a phrase strikes you as just the least little bit odd, not quite the standard usage, stop right there, back up, and reread it, slowly. He is probably telling you something that is indeed out of the ordinary, and he is being subtle and gentle.  - Chris Wozney

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