A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, November 11, 2022

At the Eleventh Hour

... of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns in Europe fell silent at last. The United States built a wall inscribed with the names of 58,220 servicemen killed or missing in the nine years' war in Vietnam, more than twice as many as in three days at Gettysburg. The AEF doughboys engaged the Hun from Oct 21, 1917 to Nov 11, 1918 and suffered 116,516 killed or missing, i.e., about twice as many total as in Vietnam and 13x more on a yearly basis. No wall was ever built for the doughboys and no memorial became official until 2004 -- in Kansas City. A DC memorial was dedicated in 2021.
Pfc Harry F Singley,
304th Eng. AEF

Today is the 104th anniversary of the Armistice, an event nearly forgotten now, blended as it has been with veterans of all wars. Harry Singley, 304th Engineers, describes the day in a letter published in the local paper:

"It was on Sept. 26 when the big drive started in the Argonne Forest and I saw all kinds of things that I never witnessed before.  We started out on the night of the 25th.  At 9 o'clock we commenced a tank road and worked our way almost to the German's front line trenches.  At 2:30 one of the greatest of all barrages was opened.  It was said that between 3500 and 4000 guns, some of them of very large calibre, went off at that hour just like clock work.  We worked on this road under shell fire until about 3:45 and then went back until the infantry went over the top at 5 o'clock.  We followed with the tanks.  That is the way the Americans started and kept pounding and pushing ahead until the great day on Nov. 11.  ...

It was some life.  I am proud that I went through it, for nobody on the Hill [i.e., Fountain Hill, PA] will have anything on me...  I was a little with sneezing or tear gas.  It made me sick but I remained with the company for I did not like to leave my detachment at any time for if something would happen, I thought, there would be plenty of help.  I felt much better in a few days.  A small piece of shrapnel splinter hit me below the knee.  Otherwise I was lucky. ..."

Cadet Flynn (seated) Older .
brother James was in the Navy


TOF's other grandfather, Francis T Flynn (Sr), at eighteen, was in the cadet corps at Catholic University in Washington DC. As he later recalled,

So while I was working on this piece-work job [making artillery shells for the French Army at Ingersoll-Rand], the principal of the high school, Sr. Felicita, called me on the telephone and told me, she said, "I sent your credits to Catholic University and you can be admitted without a College Board or any sort of examination, provided you are voluntarily inducted.
     So this was in the month of June and away I set sail.  I was down at Catholic University then from June until New Years.  ... [W]e were snowed into taking an ME course, because they were short on officers.  They said, "If you take this ME course, you will get to Camp Meade quicker.  The seniors will go first, then the juniors, then the sophomores, et cetera, y'know.  But if you take the mechanical engineering course, you'll see action quicker than you would if you took any other course.  What I really wanted to take was Philosophy and Letters and there was only one guy who held out for that...  He later became a monsignor. 
Note that "you'll see action sooner" was regarded as an enticement. And also that he was really into Philosophy and Letters. Then, when the Armistice broke out, his parents begged him to stay in college. "We'll find the money somehow." But he thought he was much smarter than they -- unlike 18/19-year olds today -- and took the train back home. It was, he thought later, the biggest mistake of his life -- except that he married the Girl Next Door (literally) and produced my father, which from TOF's point of view was of considerable importance.

Sgt. Tommy Flynn

Since Armistice Day has become Veterans Day, let's scope out the veterans in my family and the Marge's include the following. Not all have been named.

The Vietnam War

Sgt. Tommy Flynn,
CAC team Papa Three, USMC

My father's cousin lived with villagers in the mountains near Cam Lo just a few miles south of the DMZ, and was severely wounded.  He later wrote a book about his experience, A Voice of Hope. In a review of this book, Joni Bour wrote:
"The idea was to somewhat integrate with the Vietnamese people in order to gain their trust and friendship and ultimately military intelligence that would help us find the bad guys. It sounds good, and at times it was probably very good, because the Vietnamese were helped with schools and sanitation and protection from the Viet Cong. But it was also an extremely dangerous assignment. CAC soldiers lived near a village and survived mostly on their own. It was a small compound that was flooded when it rained and was overrun several times by the Viet Cong. On one such occasion, Mr. Flynn was severely wounded in the face, neck and thigh. He spent weeks in several hospitals and then a hospital ship with his jaw wired shut, before being mistakenly sent back to the war. He was given a choice; he could work in the rear or go back to his CAC squad. He was either a little nuts, or little bit more brave than most of us, because he chose to return to his squad.
Joe Flynn was discharged as corporal

World War II

Pfc. Joseph Flynn,
5th Eng. Btn., 5th Marine Division, USMC

My father served on Iwo Jima and in the Japanese Occupation.  The photo on the left is the only time he ever wore dress blues. It was actually a false-front "uniform" used only for the picture.

On Iwo Jima, he went in with the first wave along with his captain. He was to establish battalion liaison and take the word back to his unit.

During the fighting, he had a number of close shaves. In one case, a Japanese shell hit right in front of him while he was bringing anti-tank grenades from the dump to the front, and the explosion lifted him up and sent him hurtling through the air to land on his back. He was totally numb and deaf and thought he was paralyzed. But gradually feeling and hearing returned and when he checked himself, he had not gotten so much as a scratch. He ought to have gotten a Purple Heart, but this was Iwo Jima, and you had to bleed to get such a medal.

He remembers, too, the moment they unfurled that flag atop Suribachi, from the heights of which Japanese snipers had been shooting them in the back as they pushed north. There had been a smaller flag earlier, but the commanding general ordered a larger one that could be seen from every point on the island. The impact of that flag on morale was incalculable, he said.

During the Occupation, he had the dubious privilege of walking through the middle of Nagasaki not long after it was nuked.

Afterward, on two occasions, he was offered the opportunity to be brevetted to officer and sent to OCS. This was because of the initiative he had shown on several occasions during the battle. However, he was anxious to return home and get on with the urgent business of becoming my father before my mother (a/k/a the Sweetheart of the Seventh Fleet) could be tracked down by the aforesaid admirers of her morale-boosting snapshot.

The Great War
Pfc. Harry Singley,

304th Eng., 72nd "Rainbow" Div., AEF

My grandfather on my mother's side went "Over There" and served in the St. Mihel, Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  This was the offensive in which the famous Lost Battalion was cut off and surrounded. His narrative appears at the beginning of this post. He was a combat engineer, which means he had to build things in the middle of battle. The Great War was the first "industrial strength" war and nobody at the time thought it was the first of a series. They thought it was the "War to End All Wars," so there was still a touch of innocence and idealism about the whole endeavor. None of us grandkids ever heard him talk about his experiences. Like most of the Silent Generation, he was markedly silent on the whole thing.


Earlier military engagements in TOF's family don't count.  Great grandfather, Fernand E. O. Cantrel served as a 2nd Cannon Conductor in the 12th Regt. of Artillery, Tonkin Gulf Expedition, 1884, which participated in the Bac Ninh campaign in the First Brigade (de l'Isle) and the Lang Son and Tuyen Quang campaigns in the Second Brigade (de NĂ©grier).  It's possible other Flynncestors participated in the odd Fenian rising or so in Ireland, or in the 1848 republican revolution in Germany or the earlier resistance to French invasions. Cromwell's Council issued an order to apprehend the person of Fiachra O'Flynn in 1648, describing him as armed and dangerous. But none of these qualify for US Veterans Day.

The Flynns arrived in the US after the Civil War and while the Singleys and Schwars arrived a decade earlier, none of them were in it, so far as I know. Nor do we know of anyone involved in the Indian or Spanish-American Wars, so, at this time we turn to the maternal ancestry of the Incomparable Marge!

US Civil War
Pvt. John H. Hammontree,
Co. H, 5th Tenn. Inf., US Vol.

Evacuation of Cumberland Gap
The great-great grandfather of the Incomparable Marge joined the Union Army when Confederates come into East Tennessee and told the fellas there 'you boys better be a-wearing gray come morning' or y'all be hanged.' Well, them hill people didn't cotton to that at-all, and so they lit out that night acrosst the mountains to sign up with Buell's army of the Ohio.  Nine Hammontree cousins signed up for the same company, as was common in those days.

John fought in the Campaigns of Cumberland Gap, Stones River, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Atlanta. He was shot in the left leg during the attack on Confederate positions at Resaca. He seems to have been returned to duty in time for the Nashville Campaign. After the war, he died of complications stemming from his wound.

Creek War (War of 1812)
Pvt. James Hammontree,
Capt. Duncan's Co. of Col. Bunch's Regiment (2nd Regt., East Tennessee Militia).

Margie's grandfather's grandfather's grandfather fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Creek (Red Stick) War.  This was subsumed into the War of 1812.

Andrew Jackson's official report of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (27 March 1814) mentions that "a few companies" of Colonel Bunch were part of the right line of the American forces at this engagement. The muster rolls list  some casualties from this battle in the companies led by Captains Moses Davis, Joseph Duncan, and John Houk. Other men from this regiment remained at Fort Williams prior to Horseshoe Bend to guard the post -- provision returns indicate that there were 283 men from Bunch's regiment at the fort at the time of the battle. James' brother William was also at the battle, and his brother Jacob had been in a previous militia regiment. There were a variety of more distant Hammontrees in other theaters of the war.

Later, when James had died, his widow Nancy had a heck of a time trying to collect the pension that was owed her. Bureaucracy is not new.

The Revolution
Pvt. John Hammontree,
Capt. John Mountjoy's Co. of Foot, 10th Virginia, Continental Line.

James Hammontree's great uncle John enlisted in the 10th Virginia at an unknown date and may have seen action with the 10th at Brandywine and Germantown before entering winter quarters at Valley Forge.  In January 1778, he was reported "sick in camp" and he died there on 24 Feb 1778.

Pvt. Harris[on] Hammontree,
Capt. Wm. Cunningham's Co. of Foot, 1st Virginia, Continental Line.

The 1st Virginia has a long ancestry, and exists today as the 276th Eng. Battalion of the Virginia National Guard.  John Hammontree's younger brother Harris Hammontree enlisted in the 1st Virginia on Feb. 12, 1778, after the regiment had gone into encampment at Valley Forge.  In April and June he was reported as "sick," but unlike his older brother, he survived.  He likely participated in the battle of Monmouth in June 1778 after Baron von Steuben had trained them.  Most of the regiment was captured by the British at Charlestown, South Carolina, on May 12, 1780, but Harris may not have been with the regiment at that point.  He was killed by Indians on the Virginia frontier, 25 July 1781.



Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Opening Passages VI: Moonrise at the Tatamy Book Barn

 This completed alternate fiction was rejected bt Analog, but since the main characters had their different lives in other Analog yarns, it's hard to see where else it may find a home. The Book Barn in question existed years ago, but eventually went under. Its collection became the Quadrant Used Book store in downtown Easton, PA. The old building in Tatamy, repurposed, still exists.

                Moonrise at the Tatamy Book Barn

by Michael F. Flynn


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested.

 – Francis Bacon, Studies.

The waving branches and fluttering leaves created moiré patterns across the hiking trail beside the creek. The late afternoon heavens were still pale blue, studded with high popcorn clouds, but the restless foliage prophesied stormier weather coming. The westerlies chivvied glowering black cumulus ahead of them, and the fishermen, gauging the sky, had abandoned the creek in a splashing of waders. It was a matter of luck, the locals said, whether storms would roll down the valley between Kittatinny Ridge and South Mountain.

But Cindy did not believe in luck, or at least not in the sort of luck that you didn’t make for yourself. Rain clouds drive out sunshine like bad money drives out good. She had a meal in her belly and some money in her pocket, thanks in large measure to a diner willing to accept hard work in lieu of hard cash, but she really ought to give some thought to shelter for the night. A bedroll and camping gear perched atop her backpack but there had been nothing resembling a campground since leaving that diner.

She enjoyed nights under the stars. As a child, she had dreamt of being an astronaut, and the night sky possessed for her a wistful allure. But the stars tonight seemed destined to cower behind sullen clouds and she was less eager to sleep under driving rain.

Thunder rumbled in the west like God clearing his throat.

Cindy exited the tree-shrouded trail to find herself facing a paved road. To the right, the road skipped over the creek on a brief concrete bridge to join the state highway. To the left, it curved north and out of sight. It didn’t look like there would be much in the way of accommodations either way. The fleshpots of Xanadu might be just around that bend, but she harbored doubts.

That left the big stone-and-wood building directly across the road. A large board sign above the entrance proclaimed it the Tatamy Book Barn: Old and Used Books. In the parking lot three cars and a pick-up truck, also old and used, suggested that the building remained open.

God dumped a truckload of scrap metal on the sky, which turned bright brass for an instant, and that made up her mind. Cindy hitched up her backpack and strode confidently toward the entrance – just as the heavens let loose.

Stride became run, but she was drenched before she reached the door. She ducked through and backed against it, as if the tempest would try to force its way after her. The woman behind the counter looked up at this sudden eruption, took in Cindy and her sodden appearance, and cocked a rueful smile. “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”

 (c) 2022. Michael F. Flynn

Friday, October 21, 2022

Opening Passages V:

This opening os for a fact article, essentially done, but being rewritten,

 Adventures in Mythistory

by Michael  F. Flynn

“We need to share truths with one another, and not just truths about atoms, stars, and molecules, but about human relations and the people around us.”

-- William M. MacNeill, “Mythistory”

While rightly decrying junk science in his Alternative View, John Cramer repeated junk history when he mentioned “the Flat Earth consensus that existed before the voyages of Columbus and Magellan” (Cramer, 2015:61). No such consensus existed (Consolmagno, 2016:267-8). The standard medieval astronomy text was Sacrobosco’s “On the sphere of the world.” Thomas Aquinas took the world’s sphericity for granted (Sum. theo. 1.1.1 adv. 2); and it was central to the medieval science fiction classic, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. In the latter, “Sir John” sets forth to discover new life and new civilizations, encountering alien beings like blemyae,[i] and in hard SF Analog fashion, uses an astrolabe to show how the changing inclination of the pole star at different locales demonstrates the Earth’s sphericity:

“So I say truly that a man could go all round the world, above and below, and return to his own country, provided he had his health, good company, and a ship.” (Mandeville 1983:128).

Yet the flat earth myth, concocted by Washington Irving for his fictionalized biography of Columbus, persists in popular culture. Like all myth, it serves to “reinforce the values and attitudes of the community, offer satisfying explanations of the major features of the world as experienced by the community, and legitimate the current social structure” (Lindberg 2007: 7-10). That is, the purpose of myth is satisfaction, not journalism. We are smart, the story assures us, and our ancestors were stoopid.

Mythmaking may be deliberate. Mussolini concocted a mythistory of a resurrected Roman Empire. Defeated Confederates conjured the Lost Cause; defeated Germans, the Stab in the Back. Triumphant Tudors demonized Richard III. And after Kennedy’s death, his administration became the mythic “Camelot.”

But myth can also be unintentional, caused by losing context over time, sanding off details, reifying abstractions, or fusing characters. The “Children’s Crusade” is an example. (Dickson. 2008) This erosion can require as much as three centuries before real events become grand narratives (Vansina 1985: 23-24). Thus, in common culture, certain events of the 1600s had become by the 1900s Foundation Myths for the Modern Ages: The complexities of Massachusetts Bay coalesced into The First Thanksgiving; those of Jamestown, into Pocahontas. Galileo became The Martyr for Science. Newton had an Annus Mirabilis.

Myth presents Types: valiant hero, brave traitor, cowardly traitor, old fogey scientist, iconoclastic young scientist, and so forth. Each comes on stage to strike characteristic poses and perform iconic deeds. Early SF was replete with such fables.

But to write realistic SF, we need characters with motives and purposes. Motives drive a character forward and may be unclear, even to the character. The author may unveil these motives by selectively revealing a backstory (e.g., Dickens, A Christmas Carol). Purposes, on the other hand, pull the character forward and are generally explicit in the plot.[i]

To do this, we need to know how people really behave, not how we want them to behave to advance the plot. History, biography, and direct observation help. But historical facts, the subject of this article, are prone to mythologizing.


6. Consolmagno, Guy. 2016. “Medieval Cosmology and World Building,” in Medieval Science Fiction, ed. Carl Kears & James Paz (King’s College London).

7. Cramer, John. 2015. “The Retarding of Science,” (Analog, Oct. 2015)\

8        8. Dickson, Gary. 2008. The Children's Crusade: Medieval History, Modern Mythistory (Palgrave Macmillan; 2008 edition (November 8, 2007)

16. Lindberg, David C. 2007. The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious. and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450, 2nd ed. (Univ. of Chicago Press) 

17. Mandeville, John. 2014. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, trans. C.W.R.D. Moseley (Harmondsworth: Penguin) On line:

23.  23. Vansina, Jan. 1985. Oral Tradition as History. (University of Wisconsin Press)


[i] blemyae: Headless men whose faces are on their torsos.

[i] motive/purpose. You may recognize Aristotles two causes of becoming: efficient cause and final cause.


(c)2022 Michael F. Flynn

Whoa, What's This?

adam amateur theology anthropology aphorisms Aquinas argument from motion Aristotelianism art atheism autumn of the modern ages books brains breaking news captive dreams cartoon charts chieftain clannafhloinn comix commentary counterattack crusades culcha dogheads easton stuff economics eifelheim evolution factoids on parade fake news fallen angels Feeders fir trees in lungs firestar flicks floods flynncestry flynnstuff forecasts forest of time fun facts gandersauce gimlet eye global warming glvwg headlines henchmen high frontier history home front how to lie with statistics humor Hunters Moon hush-hush hypatia in the house of submission irish Iron Shirts irrationalism january dancer jihad journeyman kabuki kool letter lion's mouth lunacon maps mayerling medieval metrology miscellany modern mythology moose zombies music new years nexus odds odds and ends paleofuture passing of the modern age philosophy philosophy math poetry politics potpourri psyched out! public service quality quiet sun quote of the day razor's edge redefinition of marriage religio reviews river of stars scandal science science marches on scientism scrivening shipwrecks of time shroud skiffy skiffy in the news skools slipping masks some people will believe anything stats stories stranger things the auld curmudgeon the madness continues the new fascism the russians are coming the spiral arm the writing life thomism thought for the day thread o' years tofspot topology untergang des abendlandes untergang des morgenlandes up jim river video clips vignettes war on science we get letters we're all gonna die whimsy words at play wuv xmas you can't make this stuff up