Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Panic! At the Publisher

If you were a reader between 1975 and 2006 and were into things like fake IDs, conspiracies, drugs, weapons, and overthrowing the system by any means necessary, then you were aware of a publisher called Loompanics Unlimited.

Loompanics was like the crazy cousin of Paladin Press, which actually acquired some of Loompanics’ titles when the company went out of business in 2006.  Paladin always had a very serious air about it.  (That company, which published many books on how to kill people, stopped sending me books to review  for my ‘zine because my ‘zine was too radical.  Picture that for a second.  The company that published Put Him Out! – The Combative Use of Improvised Weapons called my ‘zine too radical.  If you are interested, you can get the DVD version of that book here.)  Loompanics’ works were just more fun.

Loompanics published books like Dirty Tricks Cops Use: And Why They Use Them, Techniques of Burglar Alarm Bypassing, Practical LSD Manufacture and The Construction & Operation of Clandestine Drug Laboratories.  Don’t they sound like a good time?  Yes!  Of course they do!

I own more than a few of Loompanics’ odes to personal freedom.  They are equal parts amusing, thrilling and terrifying.  Back before the Internet taught every jackass how to make a bomb, Loompanics was one of the few places one could turn to … and then you actually had to crack open a book.  You couldn’t just watch a Youtube video.  You had to use things like bookmarks and such.  It was a crazy time, kids.

I miss the publisher.  I mean, Paladin is fine, but its crowd is so survivalist that you can’t help but think of militias, Christianity and vague interpretations of the Constitution.  Loompanics’ crowd was the Yuppies and the chaos mongers.  Paladin’s crowd flies a Don’t Tread on Me flag.  The Loompanics bunch burned flags.  There is a distinction.

There was a time Google and Amazon wouldn’t let Loompanics advertise its goods on their sites.  The books violated their policies.  We all know what barometers of morality those two companies are, but their refusal did shed light on a problem Loompanics had – people were afraid of it.  They weren’t afraid Loompanics would topple the publishing industry, however.  They were afraid of what Loompanics was publishing.  The books themselves were dangerous.  (Yes, the FBI looked into the company.  Luckily, the Feds’ interpretation of the Constitution is not vague.)

Google and Amazon are still here, as is Paladin.  None of them, however, are half as fun as Loompanics used to be.  After all, what other publisher could set you up to be tweaking on homemade meth while carrying a fake ID when you firebombed a bank with personally made explosives?  None … at least not while making you smile.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I have always sought out high weirdness when it comes to books.  Whether it is old Nazi propaganda, medical tomes on parasites that run riot throughout the body, or books on communism written by crackpots, if it’s odd, I’m interested.

Many moons ago I visited the Occult Emporium, which was located in Allentown, PA at the time.  I had always heard rumors about the place, and my initial reaction (other than that it was tiny because it was basically set up in the basement of a building) was of glee.  Scattered amongst the candles, Tarot cards, newspaper articles about people dumb enough to shoplift from the store, and Aleister Crowley’s helmet (which I touched despite the warning sign), were books and pamphlets on the occult.


I was drawn to these things like a goth to a black eyeliner sale.  Books on Satanism, witchcraft, identifying demons (as if one really needed to do that) and astral projection begged for my hard-earned money.  There was one little pamphlet, however, that really caught my eye.  I held it.  I looked through it.  I didn’t care about the price, though it was a pittance at $2.50.  I didn’t care that it wasn’t a standard paperback.  I wanted it and had to have it. 

How to Shrink Heads?  Its title a question.  Its question a promise.  Its promise peculiar.

I can, if forced, justify my purchase of it by saying I’m a writer and it is research material.  That isn’t true, though.  It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.  Yeah, I’m a writer, but the pamphlet is just so damn cool that I had to have it.  Not for research purposes, but for the holy-shit-I’m-learning-how-to-shrink-a-human-head factor.  They don’t write a Dummies guide for that.

You wouldn’t buy it?

Of course not!  What would be the point?  What would you do with it?  How often would you read it?  Who cares?  It’s a pamphlet on shrinking human heads!  You can’t find that at Target.  You don’t stumble across it at a yard sale.  It’s not the type of thing you see every day.  In fact, my copy is the only one I’ve seen, period, and I’m always looking weird shit up on the net.  What’s not to love about that?

I bought it and never looked back.  Incredibly, it’s not the oddest ephemera I own, but it is one of the more interesting.  Conversation starter?  No.  Anything that tells you how to shrink a human head is really a conversation ender.  People learn you have that sort of thing and instantly change the topic to  something less anti-social like anal bleaching.  I’m not disappointed.  I understand.  Anyone who doesn’t want to discuss shrinking human heads isn’t someone I really want to talk to anyway.  I do, however, have something I could use them for …

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Strange Relationships

I often cruise around the erotica section of Smashwords and Amazon looking at what high strangeness can be found for one’s reading pleasure.  What toDo When You Accidentally Titty Fuck the President’s Daughter Twice?; Drag QueenAstronaut and Other Stories; The Alien’s Dairy Queen: Pumping Paula; Whatto Do When a Girl Seems to Only WakeUp If She Can Taste Cum in Her Mouth?; Man& Woman Can Equal Sex, and a BabyToo; and Bigfoot and the Kinky Couple are just a few of the random offerings available for discriminating tastes that I found with just two very basic searches.  This erotica is like the Sigue Sigue Sputnik of the publishing world.  Amazing.  Garish.  Description defying.  Sublime.  Ever since authors have discovered the world of electronic self-publishing, erotica (and romance) has exploded with some of the oddest subgenres imaginable.  This is a good thing for fans of Bigfoot sex books.
That’s not to say these bold subgenres and other weird erotica didn’t exist before epublishing.  Collectors and historians need only point to the output of Sally Miller (Jersey Girl Fantasies) to prove that high strangeness existed before the world of digital.  Digital, however, has blown the doors wide open, and there is no turning back.

Major publishers, and even most of the fringe ones, won’t even consider printing some of the books currently being offered in the world of the self-published erotica genre, and it has nothing to do with the quality of writing.  It has everything, though, to do with content.  Everything from cryptid sex to incest to bestiality to forced lactation can be found, and those are the things that scare traditional publishers.  50 Shades of Boredom this ain’t.  Those terrified publishers may say it isn’t hurting their profit margins, but online retailers would say otherwise.

Amazon and Smashwords, the two biggest online retailers, both have content guidelines, and a lot of these books they offer fall outside those guidelines or are very close to going over the line.  Nothing usually happens to the authors unless someone complains (I’d love to hear some of the complaints), though Amazon does do regular purges of “questionable” material.  The bottom line, however, is that these ebooks contribute to the bottom line of both companies.  The money is nowhere near the level of the Young Adult vampire, zombie, or dystopian fiction that multiplies like herpes, but it is sizable enough to matter, and it draws people to the web pages.  Sex sells, and everybody is buying. 

Perhaps in the future traditional publishers will be unafraid of pushing the boundaries of erotica, but it seems highly unlikely.  The industry has been slow to respond to every single advancement in publishing for as long as I can remember.  It is ridiculous to think this will be any different.  Some would even argue it shouldn’t be, as a novel about dinosaur pimps just sullies the entire erotica pool. 

They would be wrong.

We progress when we push boundaries.  If boundaries weren’t pushed, we wouldn’t have things like interracial marriage or women voting.  One can say bestiality erotica is a bit different, but is it?  People want to write about it.  People want to read about it.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it doesn’t have to be.  For now, however, if you want to read a new bestiality story, chances are you’ll only find it as a digital copy or self-published paperback.  The traditional publishers, the ones who want you to think they are at the forefront of carrying the First Amendment torch, won’t touch things like that.  They live in fear, and that fear drives content. 

Maybe someday that will change … but don’t hold your breath.  In the meantime, enjoy Step Lust and the Dog.