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Skimming the Gumbo Nuclear
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-062-0
Genre: Dark Fantasy
eBook Length: 299 Pages
Published: June 2003

From inside the flap

A grand epic wasteland of surreal pandemic plague. Pollution quotient in the southern delta nether regions of the state of Louisiana, the dustbin of the Mississippi river and the nation, whose motto is the "Sportsman's Paradise" but is a paradise of colorful denizens all grappling for a slice of lassez bon temps roule, "let the good times roll", but now all are grappling for their very lives. Nature had to fight back sooner or later, and now what will happen to this tourist state gone amuck with middle-ages plague?

Reviews and Awards

"This author is definitely a rebel of the written word and has done his part in the fight to tear down convention and create a new era in alternative literature."

Review from Baton Rouge ADVOCATE Newspaper

The great Louisiana hayride was definitively over at the beginning of the 1980s, when the oil boom ground to a halt, and state coffers ran dry. Once, a high school diploma was all that was needed to land a well-paying job in the oil field. Now, even a college degree is no longer a guarantee of a middle class existence. And for many, the sprawling petrochemical industries lining the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans are the catalysts in this economic and social de-evolution. Baton Rougean M. F. Korn captures a lurid slice of the city during this particular time in his latest novel, a blend of weird science, familiar streets, and local color.

Skimming the Gumbo Nuclear opens at the end of the 1970's in a Highland Road bar frequented by LSU fraternity types. This is the best time of protagonist Ricky Harrison's young life: drinking beer, ditching classes, and flirting with nubile co-eds. But everything goes downhill after the night that Ricky takes one of these young women to the levy behind the Vet School for a moonlit parking session. There he is the first person in the world to spot a flesh-eating eel-like creature that evolved in the Mississippi River, which has become a toxic sludge due to runoff from the nearby chemical and nuclear power plants. Days turn into years, and Harrison graduates college into the tight labor market of the 1980s, and is forced to take a job as a day laborer in one of the oil refineries. Meanwhile, citizens of the state, including Harrison's own mother, contract fatal cancers at an alarming rate, and rumor has it that more of the eel-things have been spotted. To make matters worse, a camp of homeless people in Devil's Swamp have evolved into flesh-eating zombies after coming into contact with the creatures. Korn's novel captures a variety of 1980's malaise particular to Baton Rouge. The oil refineries, chemical factories and nuclear power plants loom like gothic cathedrals, their toxins breeding Lovecraftian monsters representing a generation's own spiritual unrest. Even "the manicured lawns of Sherwood Forrest" are unable to provide solace when confronted with such a beast. Eventually, the toxic atmosphere spreads throughout the city. Citizens become infected with a mysterious virus that reduces them to mindless zombies, and the southern half of the state must be evacuated until a cure can be found for this plague. All who now remain in the state are a handful of scientists at LSU, working to find a cure, some petty criminals bent on looting Cortana Mall, and a few who, like Harrison himself, believe themselves so psychologically damned that they're already beyond redemption, and they have no better place to go anyway.

In spite of the plot, Skimming the Gumbo Nuclear is not particularly gory, and readers wishing to view the city through Korn's skewed lens but squeamish about the horror genre in general won't be particularly disturbed by his descriptions of zombies and strange beasties.

Review from Amazing Authors Showcase Reviews

Definitely not for the average reader! This colorful tale of the author's view of a plague caused by man and pollution was a challenge in itself. It is truly a good fit to the audience that it was written for.

The publisher, Eraserhead Press, claims to create a new genre for "bizarre" literature. This author is definitely a rebel of the written word and has done his part in the fight to tear down convention and create a new era in alternative literature.

Our hero matches his creator's accomplishments in rebelling against what was expected all along the way. His unconventional attitudes, not to mention his very lively vocabulary, even in his thought processes, certainly added to the bizarre-ness quotient in this tome.

The ending, although predictable, occurs at the same spurt of breakneck speed that happens sporadically throughout the work. In that final moment, he mutates from the aimless, chemically-stimulated "college boy" into a hero that saves what is left of the wasted landscape and day.

This is not a light read or something that you would want to take to the beach. This book would be better read when the mood is more philosophical and the intensity dial is set to high.

Review by JoElla Lukehart

Review from Nacho Cheese and Anarchy:

It's the apocalypse. It's the end of the world. It's the all out downfall of society and humanity as we know it. And I couldn't be more pleased. Maybe it was the great R.E.M. song that said "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine" that makes me think of this book. Finally, someone is able to toy with the fact that we- as humans- are slowly destroying ourselves. And while at times it may seem a bit too slow, the process does eventually speed up and it will eventually catch up with us. The only problem is most people think it won't catch up with them in their lifetime. Well, what if it does? What if this all catches up with you in your lifetime? What if the death of you- one person- not only becomes just that, but also the death of every living thing? It's something I'm sure we all have pondered. And as M.F. Korn takes us through these pages filled with the eventual end of mankind, I can't help but get a happy feeling from it all (though I shouldn't) and reassurance in knowing that I'm not the only one contemplating the end. Not just the end of my life and my time, but the end of all life and of all time.

Skimming the Gumbo Nuclear (Excerpt)



Elward drove through the gates of the River Bend nuclear plant. The radium piles and vast cooling towers looked like huge roman structures or wheat silos and were pendulous in size. The white alabaster streaks and lines of connecting steel rod and concrete and specially treated material and steel were awesome. Angola Penitentiary was down several miles; the largest prison in the South. Elward didn't like to think about that either. He grabbed the stick shift coming out of the floor in the standard-H and downshifted over the speed bumps as the guard let him through. He could just imagine in the boiling sun brutally beating down on everything that he could smell the radiation leaking.

"Shit" he sounded through the respirator. OSHA rules. Plant rules. Nuclear fallout all around him, he envisioned. Give them their lousy mofoking wire and plastibond pipe and he'll get his ass away from round here.

The security guards were lollygagging round, amidst the beautiful structure. It was almost a modern art masterpiece. Through carefully cultivated lawns, Elward saw amidst the parking lots full of cars, his packing-slip Jimbob and the loading dock freight gate. He redlined the truck at 15 miles-an-hour in his earnest anxiety to get the hell through this. The sky was swirling like an art picture at a Catholic Easter fair. The clouds were funneled like a nimbus kaleidoscope beneath the veneer of the magical golden garden of wonderment. Here comes Elward, catfish mustache of hairs blonde, orange, yellow and brown on his upper lip. He didn't have the sense to shave the damned thing off and stop looking like a catfish in the bottom of Lake Bornge.

There came Jimmy the freight man. The man whom he could give the stuff to while the gamma rays hit him invisibly. He could smell 'em, he could feel 'em. They were piercing him, x-raying his insides. He ought to talk to Pokey about given this screwin' route to somebody else, like Royhound! Hell, Royhound thinks he can get off on radiation rays, probably. Man, you's a fool! Man, you crazy. Give Jimmy the glowing man the fuggin plastibond pipe and . . . Shit they'll probably have to use the forklift for the pipe! Shit! Maaan. He parked. He motioned to the white boy in the silver suit. Come and get dis here plastic bond pipe before I shove it up your ass.

"What 's goin on, dude?" the silver suited surfer mutant said. Blonde with dat California accent.

"Hey, how you dooin?" Elward said, fiercely hiding his displeasure at the extended wait.

"Forklift coming?" Okay. Thank Gawd in Heaven. They got it down and Elward talked to Jimmy.

"Any more weird rumors about dis here place?"

"What do you mean?"

"Bout monsters, mutant people, eels, fishes, deer . . ."


"Come on." Elward said. "I can't even stand to be here for a lil while, padnah."

"Sheitt man," Jimmy said . . ." He (pointing to the silver dude) said he saw things in Devil's swamp (landfill) like oozing green waste and stuff sloppin' around it."

"What about zombies?"


"Yeah," Elward said, sucking on his proud makeshift mustache.

"All we got is some workers home sick with radiation poisoning. They were in an unauthorized area. Got caught smoking weed under the radium piles. Said they could got kilt."

"Ma-an!" Some people just stupid!"

The sky continued to give the warning in its orange red fleeciness. Sailors take warning! Heed the zombies.

"Man, I gotta go. Y'all be good now!" Elward crashed through the gate practically, but the dude in the post had Pink Floyd's THE WALL crescendoing through his nether head. All the melancholia and despair of the work ethic; the sadness of this century. Nuclear plants are an abomination, Elward had been told by black minister fellah, Bobby MaGee. He been trying to preach and he used to admit he bought more weed enough to pay for a Cadillac. But he was saved now. Elward was getting married soon. Gonna pay the notes on that house in White Castle, right on River Road. No cancer down there, he thought.

After the work ethic was laid aside, it was the cool air of the evening wafting through the open door pushing staleness aside also. The air was being attacked and infiltrated throughout by Rimsky Korsakov's "The Golden Cockerel." The melodious eastern thematic sounds chorded around Ricky Harrison. His Bourbon and Seven was cocked sideways as he was wont to do when imbibing; that miracle of not spilling a drop. But the television was miraculously not whirling some sophisticated video but the local news was pervading the torrents of stereophonic discord.

He abruptly turned the stereo off as the grotesquely handsome newsman plowed along:

"The Biochemical research facility at LSU has found a startling new turn to the new specie of fish-reptiles found in the Atchafalaya Swamp and Devil's Swamp.

(a picture of the ghoulish thing drawn and colored in background)

They have been known for quite some time to be poisonous." He went on.

"Dr. Plaisance of the faculty of LSU medical school, what is the exact nature of the problem?"

"What we are looking at here are nests in various locales. Primarily believed to be an offshoot of the common alligator gar of fresh water variety. But this particular strain is venomous and a cure had not been made readily available at this moment. We have dissected these and they did have traces of radiation in some. Especially the nest underneath the docks at Exxon shipyards near Devil's swamps."

"So if on were bitten by one it could be fatal, Doctor?'


They went on for a few minutes detailing the anatomical nature, the origin. All pseudo guesswork. Not an inkling, thought Ricky Harrison, of late at Lamplighter apartments with bourbon in hand. Lethal does in innards, and running low on ice. The ravioli cans lay around like vestibule icons. In the land of nowhere, he thought about the buzz of gossip going round. Nationwide news now. Rumors of plagues.

He caught the last tidbit of information.

"We think these and other similar creatures are responsible for disease and spread thereof disease through the Baton Rouge parish (east and west)."

My god! Pestilence by the thronghold! Plagues like Camus's own. Almond trees with disinfecting of the dying city. Venice, New York all rotted to the core. New Orleans, French quarter smelling like defiling of rotted graves. Now the town with refineries built all round, surrounding the people. Even in the manicured suburbs, the city was toppling like Rome did for centuries of rot.

"Poisonous, disease spreading. Quarantine now mentioned." These are just the preliminaries. The blackness of the night silenced the distant shrieking of goblins and stygian caves forlorn! Here are sights and sounds unholy! Whistling steampipes. Baring of gnashing teeth like Reverend Jenkin's prophecies gone amuck. He would play it to the hilt. Soothsayer of the working class North Baton Rouge scumbags, the yuppie road killers, and the suburban trash.

Were the soothsayers right? Was Reverend Jenkins right? That very night, Reverend Johnny Joe jenkins was at his Bible Acadiana Academy on newly developed Munson Lane. Next to a nightclub where folks had seen little scion of Reverend Jenkins. Johnny Joe was saving souls in countries where they never heard of no little baby Jesus.

In the covetous wooden structure of beams and girders holding the temple of the pious figure of the working people, Reverend Jenkins came to the audience and the television viewers with a special show. It was timed perfectly with the newest twists in the monstrous dilemma for the folks who lived in a cauldron of plague and pestilence worse than bible times.

The glow of hopeful clodhoppers of ungainly status except that they were members of the fastest cable ministry, was exuding into the stage where the grand piano and flowers and stagy setting was.

Came the words:

"Them doctors. They got all that schooling . . . (amen), but they don't know what Jesus and the holy book (and he kissed it and forced them holy water tears) prophesied in the last book of the New Testament. . . In that last book! Revelations!"

The spud headed women and men gasped. The television camera focused in on one nubile creature crying in the full close-up shot of the camera. It leered and then oozed down her bodice into the Bible cradled in her luscious lap of the gawds.

Ricky Harrison was in front of the television after a bout with the Playboys and uninterrupted masturbation. The Reverend Jenkins was getting more than him. The rumors of Jenkinsís taste for chickies in Texas were bantered around. Louisiana had many dumb asses in its long lineage of hicks and hayseeds getting Uncle Earl's free lunch. Reverend Jenkins made his vast network on the hicks and hayseeds and the oily scumfolks from North Baton Rouge.

Reverend Johnny Joe Jenkins spoke to the multitudes. They were the hayseeds with tithes for the ministry and Bible College. Johnny Joe's advance men had done their research about the serpents. With venomous bared teeth, ready to lure Adam to take a bite out of Eve's apple. So he was sweating that bourbon from the night previous when he and the boys in the upper room had highballs. But Gawd, them Catholics drank their asses off. He had a ministry in the millions. He was reaching all over the world, for Christ's sakes. So the multitudes were ready for that speech for them to pray for Wayne Langlois and Cornbread (real name James Lincoln Buchanan, born 1909 in Iberville Parish). They just knew the special preaching was gonna be about them serpents from the deeps that crawled out on Land. To spite the evolutionists and Charles Darwin. And all those people were gonna get cured from cancer. That was promised to them if they sowed a seed of a thousand dollars to the Jenkinsís Ministries, and God'll get them a motor home. Many times, hung over, Jenkins would ramble to the parable of the old widow woman. Well, he had to lay off the sauce and start taking antidepressants. His wife was practically estranged from him. Making him turn to street whores in Texas. All the way down to the hotels that rented rooms by the hour.

"Some of you folks out there seem to think,? he said, with cries yawping from the orifices of holy vessels.

" . . . That we got us a cancer problem here in East Baton Rouge Parish."

"But Jezus himself is gonna cure those cancer victims rotting away." The crowd got swirling into a whipped frenzy sooner than expected. News of the moment it was.

Now a close-up shot of a woman crying, her harden leathery face with that hand hovering upward, like Jesus was lapping holy water out of her hand. And then an ex-biker who used to pull people's teeth out with a pair of griplock pliers he kept in his back seat of his Harley. When he needed a drink and this is what he could get tequila shots for. Now he was crying up a storm and all that was lifted him up. (choruses of love, lifted me, love lifted me)

"We are a gonna whip that cancerrr!" Amen, they cheered. The crowd wavered with releases of anticipation. Unrehearsed charismatic healing through the rock-and-roll religion of Reverend Jenkins.

"And these eel-thing monsters." The people cried OHH LAWRD! "They are an abomination!" PAUSE. "An Abomination! I say rebuke the satanic serpents." "There was a serpent (pause) once." "and it was in a place called the Garden of Eden."(as Ricky Harrison saw this he thought of Eve riding out of paradise on the back of a tiger). "But why are they showing up here, do ya think?"

Some lady with bandages sat next to a man who had so much chemotherapy he was blue. It was righteously gnarly. A surreal quality to it.

He pointed out that blue-faced man. "You whipped the cancer, didn't ya, Mister?"

The man raised his hand and a tear welled up in the duct on television on the big screen.

"And you were supposed to die, when?"


"Holy Jesus, Praise the lawrd! Hallelujah! Sweet Jesus," he cried. He thought of the wellsprings of gushing life it self on that whoredog in Texas. Get my mind off it Christ, dammit! Not Now!

"But about these eels. These snakes. They are a sign of things to come."

"Antichrist is awaiting to take over, and our state is the first to come. Now those scientist fellahs, (haw haw) down there say these are from radiation and pollution. We know we got refineries all over here. But some of these fellahs don't think too much about religion and good old time healing and revivals and Jesus coming down and talking in your ear . . . Hallelujah, praise the lawrd! These scientists don't know there is gonna be a plague a coming soon, and we are all gonna go to the judgment day. What with Aids epidemic a coming soon, from the sickest of sexuality, (amen brother!) to these plagues and the diseases that some scientists fellahs way we are gonna be facing while they try and clean up their chlorine and nuclear radiation." He looked at the blue man with radiation making him look like a bride to be, actually glowing. But more a putrid pallor of death turning slowly like a cadaver sitting in the ice cooler for an eternity.

The Reverend pushed the last thoughts of chickies out of his mind. He felt genuinely serious about this latest bullshit. He thought, there is gonna be a plague. He talked to God once in a while when he could get a line open. And God told him, though he was a sinner, He knew that there was gonna be a big plague. He had a vision about evacuating the city. Like those plagues in the middle ages brought upon by the rats. He told this to the masses of yokel hayseeds and trash of various varieties, "People will be sprawled about the city in ruins. It will be like the Roman empire. Decadence and radiation and pollution will be the players in this game of death."

"And you will be evacuating your houses and living in another state. For this state, known for its cultural significance and good country people, will be unfit for you good people to live in. You will move or die! Sayeth the Lawrd!"

The folks in the audience were stunned as the Reverend said this spitting into the mike like Hitler's famous radio speeches. Leering into the camera with oozing sincerity like running pus. Some lady tried to run up there full blast to offer praise and get comfort. But the Reverend didn't signal for that particular grotesque event to take place. So some hired thugs grabbed the lady and placed their hands on her head like they were giving her the holy spirit all supernatural like and it would do a boogie dance up and down her little fragile spine. "Poor soul, the Reverend winced through partial cowardice at the sudden surprise of the hayseed. "I don't mean to scare y'all so much but God done told us there would be this stuff . . . He prophesied thusly"

Then the folks came up to get that Holy Ghost in plain offering and doled out like twinkles in 20-year lifespan in cellophane. It was intangible, that holy supernatural spirit. The shrieks of tongues issued forth from the gashed mouths of wailing and circumstantial terror. It was a death dirge of the people. They fully believed everything he told them. These asses wailing in his face made it all so difficult. It just hurt him so much when his lawyers kept telling him it wasn't his money. It was the ministry's money. There were certain loopholes. The huckster hayseeds would continue to buy the troweled out sludge of his whopping record enterprise. Holy cloths, prayer blankets, payer requests at 5 bucks a head. He would be going to Bermuda with some fineass whores going down on him. Oh gawd help me, he thought. I am a sinner! If they only knew. That bitch wife o' his blackmailed him and told him so much a week a day. A chunk of money so large per diem and she wouldn't go to the presses. They were estranged you see.

The woman was trying to turn him into a celibate apostle. Like they could be reverent and bask in the good glow of the ministry. Screw that sheeit! Reverend shook the spud heads hard calloused hands that generations ago had been sitting on stumps listening to Huey Long. Or toiled as sharecroppers and canewhippers for the fallow ground. Caught the catfish and ate seafood until they wanted to burst. Ate hog, every last bit of it! The people, dumb suffrin ijuts! All of em fatheads! He would lay his hands on em and take every last screwin dime from these ugly assed people. The more they worshipped in his ministry it seemed the more they worshipped his screwin' self. And that made him sicker with disgust. Time to get my screwin' bodyguards and hole up in the upper room with some lay secretaries. Take their blouses off, unhook that bra, and play AT&T with their titties. Smooth creamy pliant flesh of the devil! Amen to that brother, pass the bottle. Move 'em on over. Make room for the horniest man after horndog women that he birddogged and scrounged for. And all the time the millions of dollars kept pouring in like piss.

He would harp on this plague shit! Oh yeah, he thought. This screwin state was for gawds sake going tits up and going to hell for sure. But he was gonna reap spud coin off these hog eating shitheads. Take their fuggin Exxon paychecks and sign it over to the Holy Ghost himself. The holy ghost had a savings account in Hibernia Bank so fat you could drown your fuggin self in the floating bond.

Did he feel any remorse? Screw, I give em what they want. Suckers! The whole lot of 'em. He busted his ass as a preacher in a little church in Texas long enough; he deserved all this money. But the screwin lawyers say it's taxable now. That he could only use the money off his stupid screwin records and tapes. That huge whopping sum of moula was the people's. Feed a couple of pygmies in Africa. Say some Spanish prayers to the screwin peons with some acne-scarred peasant translating the usual bullshit speech, standard. And he would look good enough for those screwin people trying to investigate him. As long as his Cadillac windows were tinted. And the screwin whoredogs in Texas didn't go to the screwin cops about him getting off with those scabby bitches. He would be praying his ass all the way to hell, just like this screwing state! Hallelujah and pass the bottle!

Ricky Harrison despised the dribbling shit that oozed out of this suppurating hind end of a carcass that the Reverend Jenkins was. In the phosphor glow of 19051 Lobdell Avenue, in the cavernous little hovel, lay a man thwarted by the invectives of rhetoric and pixie stick welded structures all rusting since 1937. That issued intervals of toxic liquid ooze. That seeped into the skin shankers that wouldn't go away. Suppurating lesions of melanoma. Gamma rays like they were living in a moonscape, the very atmosphere undulating with ichorous vapors of veritable insidious atavism. Ricky Harrison was maturing from those rages of blinding fury. He had made a sort of pact with the somnambulist martyr, who was now going on interviews that materialized from his good grades.

So he overcame that innermost fury of technicolored soul. There were other conundrums of sorts. His madre's death, buried in the fallow soil nest to the Broadmoor Shopping Center which now had triple coupons! The divine juxtaposition of shopping malls next to bone orchards and corridors of streets congested in the rapidly growing city. The quadrants of land festooned with yuppie growth children of American unoriginality. All that money floating around by yuppies like his older sister in her turbo Volvo 740 station wagon, couldn't stop them from eventually succumbing (the mere thought of it) to the ever present but unseeing festering sores of dripping pipes and drainage and radiation. From murdering their spoiled rotten offspring. All the ninja turtles and Metal Herculoids and Transformers couldn't make up for children with sicknesses unknown. Cloying corpses in their Big Wheel tricycles, to breathe no more.

At a yuppie nightclub were thirtyish accountants, alumni and lawyers, some rich. CPA's, doctors, engineers and on down the leveled line. All sat around like the cloned lost generation, none too brilliant but fitting in evenly to make those righteous yuppie bucks. All holding Manhattans, Whiskey sodas, wise power drinks. Scotch and sodas for men who were once fraternity boys seducing the femalia at frat parties, mixers, exchanges. To most of those, memories did not remain conscious in their progressive seriousness about women and greed. And all the other deadly sins inherited as one generation passeth into Lazyboy recliners and another generation cometh. To drink in the flowing of colored liqueurs that they couldn't even name. They didn't even know they were alive. But that was the beauty of it all. If one thought too much, one was misdirected, unfocused. The trick to the fawning of precious lust and management of money was to be unaware of oneself. But well built below the neckline and stouthearted like the split ends had to be in high school games now forgotten.