I meant to write this at Christmas, but due to this and that, didn’t get around to it. But here it is, and it is an astonishing fact:
In the month between Nov. 19 — Dec. 20, I got 20 orders for Wet Goddess!
I haven’t had that level of holiday sales since 2010 or 2011, when the book was new, or still relatively new, and David Farrier did his now-notorious interview with me.
What’s even more impressive is that three of those orders were multiples, one for 3 copies, and two for 2. What does that mean? It means they don’t just want to find out about dolphins for themselves, they want someone else to read it. Total sold: 24 copies.
When you consider that the narrator (me, aw shucks) is a zoophile, this is remarkable. What message does it send, giving Wet Goddess for a holiday present? That you are a zoophile? That you are interested in communicating with dolphins and willing to invest $18.95 + S/H? That you have a streak of perverse sexuality in you?
Yes. Perhaps all these things, perhaps other reasons that haven’t imagined. “The Universe is,” as Exeter the alien from Metaluna said in the 1956 special-effects spectacle This Island Earth, “vast, and full of wonders.” I hope it always remains that way.
I may have been mostly sitting on my butt lately (it’s the vertigo), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been mentally active (I hate double negatives, don’t you?)! I’ve been reading books and watching movies, and here are my brief opinions of a bunch two of them.
The Current War
This larger-than-life story pits two 19th Century titans of industry against each other AND the forces of nature! It has the added feature of being mostly true.
On the one hand, all-American inventor Thomas Edison, whose sweatshop-cum-laboratory has given the world the wonders of the victrola and many other inventions, with direct current (DC), which usually won’t kill you but can’t be transmitted very far. Edison’s solution: what do people living in the country need electricity for, anyway?
George Westinghouse, having invented the air brake for railroads and thus made his million, sees the potential in this mysterious stuff, electricity. When his senior researcher is killed in a predictably avoidable accident, Westinghouse recruits the weird Serbian Nikola Tesla, who has been digging ditches since being fired by Edison’s lab for advocating an alternative to DC, the vastly more transmittable but also more dangerous alternating current (AC). There’s also the little matter of the $50,000 bonus Edison promised Tesla and then welched on, saying “You don’t understand the American sense of humor.”
Thus is engaged the The Current War,which lasted from about 1890-1904. Edison demonstrates the dangers of AC by electrocuting an incredible number of stray and unwanted animals, only the first of which is shown, fortunately, and off-screen. Tesla responds by letting millions of volts of AC cacade over his body at the 1893 Chicago Exposition with no ill results.
Overall, the film is gorgeously filmed and very, very believably acted by all those involved. Female characters, mostly in the form of the two inventors’ wives, are represented. It was reportedly a troubled production, with portions re-shot after a test screening at a film festival, but if so, the result doesn’t show on the screen. (Thanks, Martin Scorsese, who as a co-producer insisted on the right of the final cut!)
We take electricity and the light, warmth and power it gives us for granted. This film reminds us that we shouldn’t, that it was the work of hard-nosed businessmen that brought those wonders to us. I wish all historical films were this good!
Peter Fisher’s Odyssey: Marine Mammal Warfare
a novel by Michael Greenwood
In 1978, when I briefly worked for newspaper heiress Margaret Scripps Buzzelli, she flew me to Moorhead, Minnesota, where I interviewed a very withdrawn and forlorn Michael Greenwood. He was a civilian scientist who’d just served as a source for the influential 1977 PENTHOUSE article “The Pentagon’s Deadly Pets,”which pretty much blew the whistle on the U.S. Navy’s use of dolphins at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. (Note: I can’t find the original article on the Web. It should be. I think I have a copy in my files, I’ll OCR it and put it up here.)
Of course Greenwood, who shows remorse for his dolphin deeds similar to Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry, says the dolphins at Cam Ranh were weaponized with syringes that injected enemy swimmers trying to mine the U.S. warships with compressed air, causing an instant and fatal embolism. The U.S. Navy has said it never weaponized dolphins, finding them to be to unreliable in targeting as a weapons platform, and anyway a live enemy swimmer is more valuable than a dead one, because he can give you intelligence.
I spent a couple of days interviewing Greenwood, smoking dope to control the weirdness of what I was hearing while he consumed an inhuman amount of cheap beer. He talked about dolphins and more, about distant communication with submerged submarines using ultra-low frequencies and about being able to send them a self-destruct signal should they fall into enemy hands. And about a tell-all book he hoped to write on the subject, then tentatively titled The Dolphin Machine.
It was a very heavy interview. I still have the tapes, and I have tried to listen to them to edit them into something I can put on line. But Greenwood’s elliptical, looping, self-reflexive way of speaking defeats me every time. He is incomprehensible and hypnotic, and that’s a bad combination. I went home feeling depressed.
So now we have the promised novel, only it’s titled Peter Fisher’s Odyssey: Marine Mammal Warfare.I think it may take the cake for longest gestation time for a literary work, even beating my own Wet Goddess, which took 37 years to finish, or 24, if you don’t count the 13 years I put it aside because I was emotionally too close to the story. For the record, I think the earlier title, and probably the earlier draft, were better.
Greenwood has written a novel just like he talks — elliptical, looping, self-referential — and very confusing to read. I have gotten 81 pages into it, and I can’t bring myself to pick it up again. It’s sad, because THIS IS THE ONLY NOVEL, AND PROBABLY THE ONLY WORK OF ANY KIND, ON THE OBSCURE SUBJECT OF MARINE MAMMAL WARFARE!
But here’s what I’ve been able to glean so far: The title character is leader of a Navy S.E.A.L. team, The Hounds of Hell, doing a dirty mission in Vietnam. Then he comes home, goes to college, and asks his professor a bunch of obvious, didactic questions like “What is a scientist, Max?” Cut to Peter, now a novice professor of psychology, lecturing his first class… and he flashes back to the time years ago when he, several human collaborators, a bunch of dolphins and a couple of pilot whales, infiltrated a Chinese harbor and fucked-up a bunch of Chinese whales.
At least, that’s what I think is going to happen. Peter Fisher finishes teaching the class before he finishes the flashback, and then… he dies. This is revealed on page 84. I’m sure that his story continues somehow, because the book goes on for a total of 666 pages. All of them as self-referential as an actor speaking to the camera.
There’s an old dictum in writing fiction, or non-fiction for that matter: Don’t tell the reader what you want them to know, show them. Greenwood never seems to get this, and thus we are subjected to a novel that reads somewhat like a corporate board meeting: Greenwood clues us in on what he’s going to tell us; then he tells us; the he explains what he just told us. It’s insane and boring as shit to read, but I really want to finish the book because I know Greenwood personally (albeit superficially), I can tell he went through something traumatic with dolphins, and I admire what he was able to do and learn about them. He’s also responsible for the release of one, a female Tursiops named Dolly Phynne, from the Navy’s Key West facility, without orders to do so. For which, I gather, he got in trouble. But Dolly Phynne is a another story.
(Greenwood also tells an incredibly funny and poignant story about a dolphin’s blunt response to open-ocean work, but that too is another story.)
Well, this book has a bunch of 5 star ratings on Amazon, so I guess somebody must like it. But now that I’ve put it down, I can’t pick it up again. You try.
PUNTA GORDA, Fla., USA – “The role of the self-published author is not an easy one,” Malcolm J. Brenner said, sliding onto a dingy leather couch that might have once been white. “In addition to successfully writing one’s magnum opus, one must also bring it forth into the real world, where it will grow up to compete in a ruthlessly Darwinian struggle for readers and reviewers.”
Brenner sipped iced tea – his habitual summer drink, with the occasional hard cider thrown in for historic, recreational and religious reasons – and relaxed. He had the furrowed brow of a man who has a lot on his mind, and no wonder. He recently finished re-formatting a 113,000-word Microsoft Word file for the ebook version of his most famous, or infamous work, the 2010 autobiographical novel Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover.
“It’s basically a re-telling of a torrid love affair I had with a female bottlenose dolphin in the summer of 1971,” Brenner explained. “I just changed the names and a few details so that living people on whom the characters are based couldn’t sue me. Even though I’m publishing it as a novel, it’s much closer to Tom Wolfe-style ‘new journalism’ than it is to fiction.”
An admitted procrastinator since childhood, Brenner said that Smashwords, which publishes and distributes the ebook edition of Wet Goddess, alerted him last November that changes to their Premium Catalogue distribution system might require revising the file, which he first uploaded in 2011. “I wasn’t clear on the details of what exactly the problem was, but apparently the old file no longer satisfied the new requirements, or so they said,” he said.
The Smashwords Premium Catalog puts the book into the hands of all the large ebook distributors, including iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, OverDrive, Tolino, Gardners, Odilo, Baker & Taylor Axis 360 and more. “I’m interested in sharing my experiences with dolphins as widely as possible,” Brenner said. “They are non-human people, so it behooved me to take care of this update issue sooner or later.”
After receiving warning emails for several months, Brenner finally pulled up his socks and tackled the problem himself. This versatility, he said, demonstrates the technical virtuosity required of successful self-published authors in the 21st Century.
“If you’re an aspiring author and you’re lucky enough to land an agent or a publisher these days, you can thank a higher power,” Brenner scoffed. “I knew a controversial book like Wet Goddess would be a hard sell even for a successful author. I made a few stabs at finding a publisher without success, and an agent took me on for a while.
“She wined and dined me once at a book fair in Tampa, then, with no explanation, stopped communicating. Months went by with no word. It was only when I threatened to sue her to recover my manuscript that I learned from an irate family member she was still recovering from a near-fatal car crash months before.
“In publishing, like anywhere else, sometimes shit just happens,” Brenner concluded, with a hint of resignation. After more rejections, he responded by abandoning the idea of conventional publishing and taking on all the tasks himself. “It required me to become a jack-of-all trades, but the fact that I don’t get along well with many people actually makes that a good way to work,” Brenner admitted. “If I work for myself, I may have an asshole for a boss, but at least he understands me.”
Brenner pre-sold copies of Wet Goddess to family and friends to raise funds for the initial press run of 50 copies. A sympathetic friend contributed necklaces made from fossilized sharks’ teeth as premiums for advance sales. The worst problems came from trying to get the manuscript proofread before it went to print.
“Don’t get me started,” Brenner fumed. “I hired a so-called proofreader from a local community college, but she could only proof in academic style! Book manuscripts require what’s known as Chicago style, and besides, Wet Goddess has a lot of colloquial dialogue in it,” he recalled. “Every time a redneck character used the word “ain’t,” she flagged it – more than 300 times in the manuscript! You’d think that if she was professional she’d have called me up and asked me what my intention was, but no.”
As a result of this and other unforeseen difficulties that cost him the original author’s proof copy of his debut novel, the first press run of Wet Goddess shipped with about 250 typos in it, including one whole, and rather crucial, paragraph repeated, Brenner admitted.
“It appears very close to the, uh, shall we say ‘climax’ of the novel, and it was very embarrassing to find it,” he explained. “I hope I’ve got it stuck back in the right place now.”
For a cover, Brenner was able to rely on the talents of his daughter, Thea Boodhoo, an advertising industry professional and college-trained artist. “I was going to use a B&W photo of a dolphin that a friend in New Mexico colorized many years ago,” he said, “but Thea thought she could do better, and when I saw her finished work I knew she was right. I only made a couple of very minor Photoshop changes to the file she handed me to make the title stand out more and add the subtitle.”
A friend who owned a small desktop publishing business referred Brenner to Royal Palm Press, a nearby print-on-demand company, for production services. “I had no idea what the local reaction to the book would be, so I had a chat with Tom Lewis, the press’s owner at the time, to make sure he wasn’t blindsided,” Brenner said. “Tom said ‘As long as it’s between consenting adults, that’s fine with me,’ and that was that.” Brenner also served as his own layout artist, an experience he described as “a mad blur of on-the-job training.”
With book in hand, Brenner ventured onto the soggy ground of marketing. “Here, I got terrifically lucky,” he said. “I didn’t have the money to hire a public relations firm to distribute a press release, but I found one that had a reverse-charge policy. The media outlets who received the press releases paid for the service, not me, so my initial publicity was free!”
Upon its release in January 2010, the novel received intense press coverage due to its taboo-shredding themes of interspecies sex, zoophilic love and a dolphin character smart enough to out-think a human. “For a while it was frantic, but very gratifying,” Brenner recalled. “I was doing several interviews a week, sometimes two a day. A few of the interviewers were skeptical or harsh about what they thought might have been going on, but the majority were genuinely curious to know what happened, and to learn more about dolphins.”
Since then, the book has enjoyed sales surges whenever some news gatherer gets curious and wants to know about his experience, Brenner said. One came in 2011, when a New Zealand TV producer, David Farrier, released a videotaped interview with Brenner he’d recorded the year before. Others don’t conjure such pleasant memories. Brenner felt humiliated by shock-jock Howard Stern’s 2015 obsession with his zoophilia, and a 2011 interview with Bubba the Love Sponge cost him a gig with a local slick when its advertisers threatened to withdraw unless the magazine dropped him.
Brenner’s most recent foray into the murky waters of self-promotion was somewhat less melodramatic. “When I finally got around to looking at the Smashwords file, it said there was a problem with one of the book’s photos, but I couldn’t find it with a self-diagnostic program they offer,” Brenner said. “So I took a chance and asked Smashwords’ customer service, citing the warning notices they sent me.”
He quickly received a courteous reply from a guy named Kevin, explaining that the problem was probably due to the use of colons in his chapter titles and sub-sections. “I was glad it was so easily resolved,” Brenner said, “until I downloaded the file onto my computer to make the corrections and realized what a mess it was.”
In the interim between uploading the file in 2011 and downloading it in 2018, Microsoft had changed Word and given it a new file extension, .docx instead of the original .doc. “That one little ‘x,’ unfortunately, made a hell of a lot of difference,” Brenner said. “When I had to add a couple of pages to the print manuscript of Wet Goddess, converting the book from the old to the new file format inserted blank spaces more or less at random between paragraphs. I had to start at the beginning and re-do the whole layout, including throwing in a couple of new photos to fill some yawning blanks.”
The problems with the ebook file were similar. There, many words were unnecessarily hyphenated, and photos had to be re-aligned to make sure they didn’t obscure the text. Brenner said the process took him about two weeks, including a couple of days off when he wasn’t feeling well, but he’s glad he did it.
“I don’t have the money to pay somebody else anyway,” he complained, “so I might as well do it myself, because being retired I do have a fair amount of time. Besides, whenever I master a task like this, I improve my overall word-processing skills, which helps me find work in the freelance job market.”
In the eight years Wet Goddess has been in print, it has sold about 1,500 copies in 18 countries, mostly in the English-speaking world, due to Brenner’s unflagging self-promotion efforts. When a fan in Russia contacted him three years ago to inform Brenner he’d undertaken an unauthorized translation, the author responded by granting him permission to publish it there! “It hasn’t taken off yet, because the translator, Anton River, lives in a very conservative northern city,” Brenner said. “He’s planning to move to a better climate soon, and I hope he’ll renew his efforts to promote the book when he does.”
In addition to Wet Goddess, Brenner has written and self-published two other books.
Growing Up in the Orgone Box, published in 2014, is an unflinching memoir of his torture and sexual molestation at the hands of Dr. Albert Duvall, an “orgone energy” therapist and close associate of the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich, and the dysfunctional family structure that allowed this to happen.
His 2016 novel Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair is a more light-hearted romp through the mythology and culture of the UFO scene, told from the point of view of a young woman determined to live up to her family’s expectations of her, no matter what it costs her personally. “There is, again, inter-species sex, but since the other species is bipedal, mostly humanoid and obviously sapient, nobody should blow a 50 amp fuse over it,” Brenner said. “After all, ‘Star Trek,’ Edgar Rice Burroughs and countless other science-fiction writers have only been doing it for about 100 years.”
Sales on these two books have been nowhere near those of Wet Goddess, Brenner said, and he’s had difficulty getting them any kind of publicity or reviews. “That’s because, while they’re both sexually radical books, they’re not as radical as a man and a dolphin making love,” he said. “Somehow, that just blows people’s minds.”
Having just turned 67, Brenner hopes to see his work more widely appreciated before he dies. Asked if he thought his writing would endure beyond his lifespan, he waxed philosophical.
“My daughter might take it on, but she’s not planning to have children, so who knows what will happen over the course of time? We only know of the Greek poet Sappho’s beautiful writing because it was used to wrap fish,” he noted.
“Let us remember that from the point of view of a book, which may endure for millennia if it’s an epic, humans are fleeting things who read it at some point in their limited lifespans, devoting to it some portion of their precious time,” Brenner said, drawing on an eerie theme reminiscent of the ambiguous Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. “For this reason, books, especially long-lived books like Epic of Gilgamesh, Tao De Ching and Cattle Raid of Ulster, are grateful for the time their readers spend with them. The books try to compensate the readers through a symbiotic relationship that informs you with a novel set of ideas, or supports your need for entertainment that doesn’t require batteries, WiFi or 3D glasses.
“I think that we humans, as a species, have a lot to learn from our dolphin cousins,” Brenner concluded. “As for my writings, they will survive if people find value in them.”
Let me make something abundantly clear: Wet Goddess was not written to promote bestiality or zoophilia, although I knew if I told my story it would probably come down to that.
I wrote Wet Goddess to share my experience with a creature that I found to be remarkably sophisticated, intelligent, aware, loving and worthy in every way of the designation, “non-human person.”
And she didn’t come out of some alien spacecraft. Her kind exist here on Earth, as they have for millions of years before we appeared, surviving ages of fire and ice in the arms of Mother Ocean.
In the decades since my experience with Dolly, science has, in many ways, caught up with my impressions and anecdotal experience. Now cognitive psychologists and others have explored the mind of the dolphin and arrived at the same conclusions I did in 1971: dolphins are self-aware individuals, able to recognize themselves in a mirror, experiencing a vast range of emotions and behaviors, language users and capable of employing “theory of mind,” the ability to calculate or imagine what another creature is thinking.
We should be devoting a large chunk of our resources as a species to understanding these creatures who have survived so much longer on this planet than we have. What are we doing instead? Some nations still slaughter them en masse in tuna nets, while others conduct murderous drive hunts and butcher them with glee. Some nations take the prettiest ones and commoditize them and sell them into enslavement, where they are forced to perform stupid tricks for our amusement. And we are polluting their environment at such a rate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. I despair for their future.
My zoosexual love story with Dolly the dolphin is what has attracted most attention, but if I’d had sex with a barnyard animal or a household pet, do you seriously think I’d have spoken up, exposing a practice that most people find viscerally revolting?
Of course not. Zoophiles may still have to keep their sexuality a secret in most situations, but they are humans and accorded certain rights by law. Dolphins are considered chattel, or property, by the same system. I am advocating for changing that and giving dolphins rights under a framework that recognizes their status, as acknowledged by science.
And that, folks, is what I mean when I say “I didn’t write Wet Goddess for zoophiles, I wrote it for dolphins.”
Sorry I had to spell it out for those of you who so perceptively pointed out that dolphins can’t read.
PUNTA GORDA, FLORIDA – In a daring literary experiment, Malcolm J. Brenner, author of the human-dolphin love story Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover, has resumed publishing deleted chapters from the original first draft of the controversial 2010 novel.
“This material was originally first published several years ago on my personal blog at http://wetgoddess.net,” Brenner said. Tight finances forced him to discontinue the web page.
“With the recent claim that some scientists have taught a killer whale, or orca, to imitate a few words in English, it occurred to me that this deleted material, with a brief introduction, could be recycled of its own accord,” Brenner said. “I wrote it in 1978, and it is essentially unchanged from my original drafts. I think it is prophetic and wonderfully ironic, given what we now know about how killer whales live in the wild, versus how they survive in even the best artificial conditions.”
The four consecutive chapters will be published one at a time, starting today, on Brenner’s writing web page: https://www.facebook.com/MJBrennerwriter/
“Wet Goddess” has sold about 1,450 copies in 18 countries, and has been translated into Russian. It is available as a 341-page photo-illustrated trade paperback from Amazon. com, and as an ebook from Smashwords.com.
PUNTA GORDA, Florida – Author Malcolm J. Brenner’s latest novel, Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair, is now available as an audio book on iTunes, Amazon and Audible. The release marks the first dip into audio book production for Brenner and Eyes Open Media, his publishing company.
“Like most of my ventures, this was a do-it-yourself project,” Brenner said. “I chose to read Mel-Khyor because at just 210 pages the book is short and fast-paced.”
The audio was recorded with Brenner reading into an Optimus unidirectional mike while seated at his desktop computer in his living room. He recorded mostly at night to avoid ambient sounds outside, and even unplugged the refrigerator to avoid any trace of background noise.
“It took about two weeks to record the entire book,” Brenner said. He then spent a couple of months editing the recording to remove hesitations, fluffs and glitches. The process was interrupted by major surgery in April to repair abdominal hernias; Brenner was in the hospital for a week.
When editing was completed, Joe Seul stepped in. Brenner met him through the services of publicist and networker Tamara Patzer. “Joe took a raw recording, equalized it, optimized it and added a touch of reverb, which gives it depth and a slightly mysterious quality,” Brenner said. “All and all, he did a wonderful job with the book.” The completed recording runs a little over four hours.
Brenner was a novice at production, and it took him three tries to get the book accepted by ACX, the audio book distribution arm of Amazon.com. “The book was rejected for a minor background noise in one chapter and chapters that didn’t conform to the ordering format that ACX requires,” Brenner said. “Once I knew what they were, they were relatively easy to fix.”
Now that the audio book is available, Brenner is watching the results. “This is an experiment,” he said. “Even though the trade paperback copy of Wet Goddess outsells the ebook by about 10 to one, I know there are some people out there who prefer to read a book on their Kindle or listen to it during drive time. Making an audio book out of Mel-Khyor is an attempt to satisfy their desires.”
The author of Wet Goddess and Growing Up in the Orgone Box said he has no intentions at present to produce either of those works as audiobooks. “They’re both too long,” was his only comment.
PUNTA GORDA, Florida – If you’ve wanted to read something by Malcolm J. Brenner, now would be a great time to do so! Both Brenner’s ebooks Wet Goddess and Growing Up in the Orgone Box are on sale March 5-11 through Smashwords at savings of up to 50% off the regular $6.99 price.
“Wet Goddess” is a 1970’s-era novel about a hippie college student who’s falling in love with a captive bottlenose dolphin. It’s available at 25% off, or $5.24. Discount code: RAE 25
“Orgone Box” is Brenner’s memoir of being raised in a family that followed Wilhelm Reich’s “orgone therapy” beliefs and the trauma wrought on him when his Reichian psychiatrist turned out to be a sadistic pedophile. It’s available at 50% off, or $3.50. Discount code: RAE 50
“I’m trying to encourage sales of my work as ebooks,” Brenner said. “Right now, trade paperback copies of my writings are outselling the ebooks five to one, and I’d like to know why, especially since ebooks are supposed to be the ‘in thing.'”
Brenner is waiting to hear from Audible whether his third book, the science-fiction novel Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair, has been accepted for distribution. It’s his first attempt to market an audio book.
As part of the 2017 Punta Gorda Literary Fair, Brenner will speak on “Writing the Offbeat Work” at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 9 at the Punta Gorda campus of Florida Gulf Coast University, 117 Herald Court in beautiful downtown Punta Gorda. Admission is free. Brenner will be at the Punta Gorda bookseller’s street fair to autograph copies of his work on Saturday, March 11.