Dry-Humping a Machine Gun

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Every once in a while it’s fun to go off a nutritious reading diet and pick up a cheesy adventure novel. You just kick back and turn pages.

Recently, I found myself in the mood for some fluffy reading dessert, so I was excited when I stumbled upon two books by John Ringo: Under a Graveyard Sky and To Sail a Darkling Sea. They are the first two installments in a quartet (Black Tide Rising) about the trials faced by the straggling remnants of humanity as they try to rebuild their world in the aftermath of a Zombie Apocalypse.

I mean, who doesn’t dig the zombie thing? From Romero to The Walking Dead, zombies have been the basis for some of our best horror entertainment. And from The Stand (Stephen King), to The Road (Cormac McCarthy), to Lucifer’s Hammer (Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven), tales of reconstructing civilization after some sort of global disaster have found approving audiences, on and off, for decades. So, yeah, I was kind of revved up when I found these books.

Mr. Ringo’s lengthy tale contains all of the traditional fluff ingredients: hyper-masculine heroes, ridiculous action sequences, puddle-deep psychology, and gore (though it never, sadly, crosses the PG-13 line). But it contains something else, too, which I wasn’t expecting, or frankly, in the mood to eat.

What these two books (and presumably the next two, which I did not read) relate, is less a story about rebuilding society, and more of a lengthy advertisement for the beauty and perfection of a military state.

I have since been informed that, had I been more familiar with Mr. Ringo’s fiction, I would have had no further expectations, but alas. That same informant steered me to some material about Mr. Ringo and his work, where I learned that right-wing genre dorks are man-crushing all over the guy. And it’s no wonder, since Mr. Ringo seems to get a stiffy over all the same things that give wingnuts stiffies.

Before I get to those stiffy-makers, though, here’s a quick few words on the plot.

A man-made virus gets loose and infects most of the worldwide population, turning them into rabid zombie-like monsters. (They aren’t true zombies, since they aren’t undead, but why quibble.) The Smith family—dad, mom, and two daughters, aged 13 and 15—get advance warning of the coming disaster and escape on a boat. Eventually, they locate a bigger boat, and clear it of zombies, followed by an even bigger boat—a ship—this one containing stranded American marines. And then we get about 600 pages of boat clearing, interspersed with Papa Smith’s attempts to enforce military discipline upon the ever-increasing number of survivors. And the survivors are so grateful they vote to designate Papa Smith “Commodore” Smith, which, every single time it came up, made me think of Commodore Schmidlapp from that 1960s Batman movie.

The Smiths’ easily navigate the end of the world because they were “preppers,” members of that weird sub-culture who both fear, and deeply desire, a complete societal collapse, and have diligently “prepped” for it. Dad was a college teacher (military history—but only with an MA, since among wingnuts a masters is quite enough book learnin’), and a former Australian soldier. Mom is an engineer. And the daughters, in addition to being staggeringly beautiful, are weapons experts, skilled martial artists, and clever combat tacticians, who still find time to yearn for stylish dresses, because, you know, no matter how good they are at killing, girls just wanna be pretty.

But anyway… Let’s get back to the wingnut wood.

Wingnut Parenting 101

Wingnut Parenting 101

In the world of these books, people are only worthwhile if they are 1.) former military or have had military training; 2.) malleable enough to receive military training; 3.) willing to follow orders; 4.) knowledgeable in some mechanical skill necessary to keep the military up and running. No one else serves any purpose, and wind up in the category “losers and sods.” And despite the planet-wide devastation, the Americans, the British, and the Australians are decent, honest, and brave—provided, of course, that they fit one or more of the above-mentioned criteria. Meanwhile, the French are assholes and pussies, and the Russians are gloating rapists, deceitful wannabe dictators, or just plain crazy. (Ringo must’ve written these books before the screwball right declared that Vladimir Putin is the only world figure worthy of emulation.)

Mr. Ringo also finds plenty of space to go after the usual groups and individuals who populate the Catalogue of Wingnut Loathing. They are all depicted as clowns, or thugs, or dangerous simpletons, and are therefore deserving of contempt, abuse, and/or death. Here are just a few examples:

  • When the zombie virus first breaks out, it is assumed to be the product of environmental terrorists. A spokesperson for Greenpeace goes on TV to defend his organization, stating that there is no way an environmentalist smuggled canisters of zombie-juice into Earth’s major cities. Why? Well, because no environmentalist would transport such a virus in a non-biodegradable container.
  • Wingnuts despise Facebook*, so it is unsurprising when a caricature of Mark Zuckerberg shows up, in all his unmanly nerdiness. This Zuckerberg is also a degenerate pig who is eaten by zombies.
  • And Hollywood is fully represented, in the form of a (stereotypically Jewish) studio mogul. This asshole whines and bitches and cries, until he is forced to change his ways through the application of threats, beatings, and military reeducation.

It is women, though, who get the full wingnut fantasy treatment. Real women, here in Wingnut World, all share several qualities. They are drop-dead gorgeous, lethal with any weapon, admirably unsullied, or glowingly pregnant.

Take, for example, Commodore Smith’s wife. She isn’t a soldier, but an engineer, which is all that saves her from being completely worthless in the ZWO (Zombie World Order). She had previously fulfilled her primary female obligation by pumping out a couple of daughters, and is now kind of doofy, bespectacled, and outfitted with a wide (and therefore unattractive) ass. The woman is all but nonexistent, popping up only occasionally to mutter soothing, wifely platitudes when her hubby is feeling out of sorts.

And then there is the Russian woman, rescued from a gang of rapists. She is the perfect wingnut woman. First, she turns out not to be Russian at all (thank goodness, because Russians aren’t human), but is a Ukrainian-American who grew up in the Midwest. What did she do before the zombie apocalypse? Yep, she was an international super-model. Oh, and guess what else! She loves guns! Loves them! Guns—get this, guys!—make her horny! In a scene that I think was intended to be either erotic or humorous (yet is merely cloddish and disquieting), she finally gets to play with a real gun—a .50 caliber, deck-mounted machine gun. She is so enthralled by the thing that she loses control of her urges and, as titillated men watch through binoculars, she dry-humps the gun until sated. I am quite certain that this fantasy is a big part of every wingnut’s spank-bank. They know that no supermodel will be humping them anytime soon, but a supermodel humping a machine-gun-dick is the next best thing.

But it is the subject of pregnancy where we find the most bizarre aspects of the way women—and men, for that matter—are understood within this freakshow of a world.

As mentioned earlier, most of the narrative is taken up by endless descriptions of well-armed bad-asses boarding ships, clearing them of zombies, and delivering survivors back to the safety of the flotilla. Said survivors are usually found behind the locked doors of cabins and storerooms, where they have been trapped since the outbreak. In some cases, their confinement has lasted several weeks.

And sometimes, men and women got locked up together. Can you imagine? Oh my!

So, yeah, almost all of the women who were imprisoned with men are, upon rescue, pregnant.

Right. I get it. If you’re stuck in a tiny room with a member of the opposite sex for days on end, with nothing to look forward to apart from death, there is every possibility that the Beast with Two Backs might want to have a frolic. However, would such circumstances really result in such a massive rate of impregnation? Yes, it certainly would, here aboard the Good Ship Crackerpop.

When under duress, real men, Mr. Ringo seems to think, exist in a state of unrelenting arousal. And their out-of-control boners require immediate attention. Which means the guys spend a lot of time jerking off, right?

Oh, puhlease!

Rub one out? Flog one’s own bishop? Have you lost your mind? A real man’s beef bayonet will not—can not—be satisfied by Madam Palm. A real man’s fleshy Excalibur must have a vagina!

This infantile view is fully illustrated in a section that, in terms of creating revulsion, outdoes any of Ringo’s tepid zombie action.

One of the trapped groups was comprised of Navy sailors—several men, but only one woman. Locked away, the men soon began sporting unmanageable meat scepters. The lone female was having none of it, though, and the men suffered. They suffered until they could suffer no longer. Erect and miserable, they confronted the woman and informed her that they were desperate for her mommy parts. And, being gentlemen, they offered her a choice. She could either give them access to her hoo-hoo, one at a time, on a rotating schedule, or things were gonna get rapey. They didn’t want things to get rapey, of course. Absolutely not. But things were gonna get very rapey indeed, unless the woman ponied up her honey-pot. Didn’t she understand? The men had been locked up—those poor bastards—for almost two whole months. And among real men, you see, sixty days without plowing a field is—let’s face it—a lot like being water-boarded.

The Perfect Wingnut Woman

The Perfect Wingnut Woman

So, the woman agreed to the rotating schedule, and all was happy inside the compartment. The woman got pregnant, of course, because real men, in addition to barely being in control of their rapey selves, don’t pull out.

But anyway…

Before I wrap things up, let’s set Ringo’s Paleolithic worldview aside, and focus on a few more basic matters.

  • First, there is the phrase “Barbie guns,” which is used to describe any firearm that lacks the necessary stopping power to wax a zombie. This four-book series could easily have been a trilogy, by the simple expedient of omitting even half of the roughly 787,000 instances of the phrase “Barbie guns.”
  • Second, there is absolutely no discernable suspense or build to be found in these books. Part of the problem is that every action sequence reads exactly like every other action sequence; over, and over, and over again. On top of that, the characters never fail at anything. No matter what happens, their training and brass balls save them. Every time.
  • And, finally, the prose in these books is lifeless, dull, and uninspired. It reads as if words only exist to get from one number on an outline to the next as quickly as possible. And it was probably a really good outline, because these sorts of writers aren’t actually writers. They are plotters.

I know, I know. I wanted to read some fluff. And that’s what Mr. Ringo delivered. Fluff doesn’t get any fluffier. It is weaponized fluff. Too bad all of the weapons are Barbie guns.

Cheers.

[* Or so I’ve been told by several far-right conservatives. But why wouldn’t they hate it? It must be a deflating experience to log on every day only to be told again, and again, and again how wildly unpopular your ideas are, and to be shown, with the same relentless frequency, that the people who lead the Tea Party often say some of the most idiotic things ever produced by the human throat.]

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