I’ve begun writing review essays for the site The Anvil. The first piece I’ve put up is entitled Outsider Anarchism and is about the book METAtropolis and, as you might imagine, outsider anarchism in general.
My friends over at AK Press are now taking pre-orders for a book that’s coming out in January, Come Hell or High Water: A Handbook for Collective Process Gone Awry, which I’ve had the pleasure to read because I designed it (and Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness provided the illustrations, including the cover).
This book is really pertinent to pretty much anyone I know in the activist world. It’s short and sweet but somehow horrifyingly comprehensive, covering pretty much every way in which people, knowingly or unknowingly, attempt to subvert the collective process of decision making. I’m guilty of at least a few of the things brought up in this book, and can see how people, guilty of others, have disempowered me in the past. Crazy, crazy stuff.
There’re some parts in the book I’m not as into, mostly when, near the end, they stray from the topic at hand to get into various injustices that can happen in activist circles. But the authors clearly know their shit, and this book is definitely useful. And small and cheap. I’m pretty stoked that AK Press is going for making cheaper books now, and really relevant ones as well. AK Press has posted their introduction over on their blog as well, if you want to read more about it.
My biased friend Dea wrote an excellent review of Being The Adventure of One Fine Summer (which you can download for free). Dea is one of the better writers I know, and I appreciate that she gives a proper review, the bad as well as the good (in fact, her blog title, Darlings Will Be Killed, explains a bit of her propensity for such things). But here’s some of the good:
The photographs, of course, are striking- punks playing guitar and fiddle in a West Virginia family’s living room, tattooed fingers bloodied from digging in to roadkill, an abandoned mailbox at a mountaintop removal site, a tintype photographer on a shoot. The anarchist photographer and founder of Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness Distro has a knack for capturing overlooked and unusual detail.
Being The Exploration of One Fine Summer
I’m proud to release my first photo book, 52 pages that document my explorations with mountaintop removal, roadkill, and Cascadian forest defense.
I’ll make a free PDF available as quickly as possible, since of course this book is Creative Commons. But you can buy it online for $7 from CreateSpace, the print-on-demand publishers. I’m really excited by this idea, that thanks to print-on-demand I can basically make photo zines at reasonable prices.
You can download it for free from tangledwilderness.org as well! (But beware, it’s a 83mb file.)
I will be speaking at the baltimore book festival in the Radical Book Pavilion set up by those fine folk at Red Emma’s. I’m not sure who will be joining me in my presentation, although I think at least one or two of the interviewed authors will be there. But come help me celebrate the release of Mythmakers & Lawbreakers on September 27th, 2009, 3pm, Baltimore.
Ursula K Le Guin is of course one of the most respected speculative fiction authors around. And today (yesterday?) she won the 2008 Best Novel Nebula Award, which is pretty much sci-fi’s highest honor. She won it for a book Powers, the third in the Annals of the Western Shore series that I haven’t started reading yet, but it looks pretty exciting.
Ursula K Le Guin is an amazing feminist, pacifist, and anarchist. My interview with her was what started off the project that has become Mythmakers & Lawbreakers.
I’ve been reading screed after screed about the end of print recently. And by recently, I mean for the past two years. There seem to be two camps; there are those who say “print has more meaning, damn it! And it won’t die, because I love it! We will just soldier on, more or less unchanged!” and there are those who say “the writing is on the wall. The internet and the depression will eat print alive.”
I understand why people are concerned about this. I mean, if someone where to ask me what I do, when it really comes down to it, I’d probably say “I make zines.” But people started screaming that the magazines were dying just as I started SteamPunk Magazine, the popularity of which popularity exceeded my expectations by such leaps and bounds that it literally restructured my life. So I guess I’m gonna weigh in on this debate.
It’s probable that the traditional methods of book-making and distributing are screwed, or at least will be forced to change. But I think it’s a decentralization, not a disintegration. Small publishers are being hit, but not nearly as hard. People still read books. With magazines… one thing I realized is that the role of magazine as a source of timely information is an outdated one. Journals are more appropriate: when everyone else gets their news off the internet or word-of-mouth from those who do, reading about something three months later is pretty much useless. But analysis, like Rolling Thunder provides, is as useful as always. And it still provides a historical record.
I don’t want to come off as social-darwinistic or anything, but I think that the reason so many magazines and publishers are failing is that because they’re dinosaurs and they need to adapt or go extinct. So many publishers, radical or not, have fallen into complacence. You can see the fearful, baby-step adoption of the internet… anarchist publishers selling their PDFs. And they wonder why they’ve become irrelevant to modern culture… information tends towards freedom. And when a product costs nothing to reproduce, charging for it seems more and more ludicrous… particularly coming from radicals.
So where does that leave us? What are radical publishers to do? Keep costs down. Stop paying yourself so much, or if need be, at all. Don’t print massive runs… print shorter runs that you know you can sell. Sell directly online, and make your PDFs available for free; the additional readership you get from offering your digital product for free will greatly increase your print sales. Yes, yes, I’m promoting the method that I myself use. But it works.
But the reason that print won’t die is that we don’t want it to, so we’ll keep doing it. I started publishing zines by losing money, not making money, and I’m not the only one. We’ll keep at it, whether or not it pays our rent. Because people make things and they want to share them.
Okay, so some of you know that I have a book coming out from AK Press this fall. It’s titled Mythmakers & Lawbreakers, and it’s a series of interviews with anarchist fiction writers about the intersection of their politics and their fiction. Trying to explore how fiction writing can be useful, but also why we do it on other levels as well. In fact, I’m looking for help for some of the research that will be included in the appendices.
Anyhow, one of the interviews I did was with comic book author Alan Moore. And it might just be my favorite interview I’ve ever conducted. It’s been posted on infoshop for a long time now (yes, putting together a book takes a long time, it turns out), but for some reason that page seems to be defunct, only showing the first paragraph or two of the interview. So I’m reposting it here, after the break. (It has also been translated into what appears to be Ukrainian or Belorussian.)
Continue reading Mythmakers & Lawbreakers – Alan Moore on Anarchism
Just finished reading Liberation: Being The Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America, and it’s a fine, fine book. Essentially a pulp adventure story, but quite politically aware, this book is about, well, the aftermath of an economic collapse of the United States. But one of the most interesting things about this book is that it avoids traditional novel plot structure. The protagonist is hyper-capable, and there appears to be very little conflict… it’s like playing a video game in God mode or something. And yet it pulls it off as quite entertaining… the conflicts arise in the subtexts: this isn’t a book about love, but the love interests are where the tension arises. Mostly, it’s just beautiful to read.
I’m a little bit disappointed by the authors portrayal of the anarchist character, who is described as a “militant anarchist” and whose single goal primarily revolves around blowing things and people up with bombs. There is an anarchist organization mentioned in the novel as well that appears to have a similar desire… despite the author name-dropping Bakunin, it is clear that he is not at all versed in modern anarchism. There is a similar slander portrayed against the anti-industrial folks, but it is a bit more interesting, intentionally outlandish, and doesn’t pretend to connect to anything that actually exists in the real world.