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We launched PM Press as a means to impact, amplify, and revitalize the discourse and actions of radical writers, filmmakers, and artists. The Friends of PM program provides us with a stable foundation from which we can build upon our early successes and provides a much-needed subsidy for the materials that can't necessarily pay their own way. You can help make that happen — and receive every new title automatically delivered to your door once a month-by joining as a Friend of PM Press.Read more
The Aqueduct Gazette Newsletter
Just as Aqueduct hit the 50th- book mark, another small socially-engaged press hit 100. PM Press, out of Oakland, California, has been putting out manuals, children's books, manifestos, and fiction and nonfiction books on radical history, politics, culture, and art. Aqueduct is pleased to spotlight some of the speculative work that PM Press issues and to talk with Ramsey Kanaan, PM founder.
Interview with Ramsey Kanaan
Aqueduct: PM Press is only three years old and already it has passed the hundred book mark. Can you tell me about the goals and achievements of the press, as they stood then, as they are now?
Ramsey: Our overarching goals (lofty I know, but you've got to have something to reach for) are to destroy Capital and the State, and build a better world. On a more mundane, but eminently practical level, we hope that by putting out quality books (and CDs and DVDs and other printed materials) in a variety of formats, styles, and genres, we might actually contribute, in some small way, in amplifying the ideas, and engaging in the practices that might actually help move us all a few steps closer. Making such work/idea accessible, and getting it in front of folks' eyes (and ears) would be nice too!
Aqueduct: I've been seeing your exciting and gracefully designed Outspoken Author series at Last Word Books down in Olympia for a couple of years now without knowing anything about the press. I'm excited to learn that Terry Bisson is the editor of these books, which Eleanor Arnason's Mammoths of the Great Plains is published under. Do you have any word from Terry about what's coming down the pike for this series?
Ramsey: We do indeed have some great authors lined up. The next two will be two of SF's grandparents- Michael Moorcock and Ursula Le Guin. We've also contracted Cory Doctorow, and are working on Marge Piercy ( once we've gotten new anniversary editions of her classic novels Vida and Dance the Eagle to Sleep out next year) and Paco Ignacio Taibo II.
Aquedyct: Your catalog says pretty plainly that feminism is part of hte broader vision of a radical conversation going on at PM. Can you tell me what that vision looks like on your end? How do you go about bringing questions of feminism, gender, and antiracisim to the table; waht do you look for in a book; and what kinds of discussions do these perennial questions provoke on your staff?
Ramesy: Revolutionary change is a process. And all processes have history (and herstory) and context. Excavating, and engaging is not just part of that vision, but a prerequisite. We'd like to think that our output is part of that process, and critical engagement. Questions of patriarchy, sexism, race, gender - and, of course, class, are always on the table, and part of the editorial decisions on what, and why (not to mention, for whom, and to what end) to publish. In general terms we look for two things in a book. That it is really good. And that it contributes something beyond entertainment (not that being entertained is a bad thing per se). Unfortunately, given that we haven't yet destroyed capitalism, economic questions (i.e., can we sell it) also play a part in the equation.
Aqueduct: Finally: how can I subscribe to your newsletter?
Ramsey: Easiest way to subscribe is to just sign up over our website. Though emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org would also work pretty good! Even better, of course, would be subscribing to the Friends of PM program. For as little as $25 a month, the lucky subscriber gets everything we publish, sent to their door- typically 2-5 books a month!
Aqueduct: Thank you!
Ramsey: Totally a pleasure... rock on ramsey
By Alan Ashton-Smith
13 December 2010
The Balkan region has been the subject of intense mythologisation for centuries. Although it is part of the European landmass, it’s regarded as being worlds away from the countries of Western Europe. The Balkans, if we believe Western writers and travellers, are uncivilised and undeveloped, and populated by savage types who like nothing better than going to war with each other, and committing great atrocities in the process. Although the designation ‘Balkan’ all but disappeared when the region was subsumed into Soviet controlled Eastern Europe, the legacy of communism has done little to improve Western perceptions.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening up of Eastern Europe, we have seen great changes in the Balkans. Sadly, the process of political reorganisation has been fraught, and now the word ‘Balkan’ is most likely to call to mind the wars of the ‘90s. Although the region has continued to be regarded as irrevocably war-torn, the Balkans’ return to the global spotlight has provoked numerous commentators to debunk the myths that surround this part of Europe.
Andrej Grubačić is probably the most radical writer to approach the Balkans. He does so from an anarchist perspective, and his ideas are informed by both his background and his politics. Although he is from Belgrade, which is now the capital of Serbia, he continues to think of himself as Yugoslav, despite the fact that Yugoslavia no longer exists as a country. This paradox of identity illustrates the difficulties that the changing political landscape of the Balkans have caused for people from the region. Grubačić is co-founder of the Global Balkans Network, an anti-capitalist, anti-nationalist organisation that aims to provoke political reform in the Balkans.
These ideas recur throughout Don’t Mourn, Balkanize! a collection of essays originally published in Z Magazine and its associated website, ZNet. As might be expected, the focus is largely on formerly Yugoslav countries, but Romania and Bulgaria are also discussed, as is the positions of minority groups such as the Roma. Grubačić’s most consistent argument is that the Western occupation of states in the Balkans must end. He certainly pulls no punches when discussing NATO, or the Western politicians involved in this occupation. Paddy Ashdown, the former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, is described as a ‘postcolonial Harry Potter’, abandoning a ‘region marked by unseen evils’; and Clinton, Blair and Bush are said to be bigger war criminals than Milošević.
This is not to say that there is a strong anti-Western bias in this book. Grubačić also rightly attacks Milošević, and draws attention to the criminal connections of assassinated Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjić and the current prime minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi. Kosovo is, of course, a particularly important issue, and the essays included here chronicle the period straddling its declaration of independence in 2008; Grubačić is not particularly optimistic about Kosovo’s future, predicting further war but, crucially, he believes that the withdrawal of the West is most important to its survival.
He makes a distinction between what he calls ‘balkanization from above’ and ‘balkanization from below’. The former refers to the involvement the neo-colonial powers of the West in the Balkans, while the latter entails the reform of the Balkans by the people of that region. This would involve a rejection of the privatisation of businesses and factories in post-communist former Yugoslavia; instead they would be controlled by the workers. On a larger scale, Grubačić calls for a Balkan Federation that would unify the region and ultimately provide a model for Europe. He writes that:
This Balkans, neither capitalist nor bureaucratic-socialistic, would be a transethnic society with a balkanopolitan, pluriculturalist outlook, an outlook which previously existed but was lost in its incorporation into nation-state frameworks, and outlook that recognises multiple and overlapping identities and affiliations characterized by proliferation and multiplicity, an outlook that recognizes the unity produced out of difference.
This vision for the Balkans is certainly compelling; however radical and perhaps unlikely it seems. Although this kind of unity was possible in Tito’s Yugoslavia, whether it would be now is questionable. Nonetheless, Grubačić’s attitude toward the Balkans is more enlightened than most. He points out that the goal of the West seems to be to debalkanise the Balkans and bring the region closer to the rest of Europe. The alternative proposed in this book ensures that the Balkans do not lose their very particular character. However, the enduring misrepresentation of that character must first be overcome if the West is to trust the Balkans with greater autonomy.
It may not yet be possible to set Grubačić’s ideas into motion, but Don’t Mourn, Balkanize! helps to shake off the negative way that the region is perceived, and is thus a step in the right direction.
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Dancing With Myself:
GARY PHILLIPS interviews GARY PHILLIPS
December 12, 2010
Over at Pulp Metal Magazine they've assembled a host of talent for a hell of a Birthday Party. Go along, blow out a candle and make a wish.
And Gary Phillips has just entered the building to talk to himself:
Q: Let’s start with you telling the good folks about your latest effort, shall we? A: Most assuredly. On the surface The Underbelly from PM Press is about a sometimes homeless Vietnam vet named Magrady who looks for a disabled friend who has disappeared from downtown L.A.’s Skid Row. Of course like all mysteries matters are not what they seem to be. Magrady has psychological baggage about his past failures. He’s estranged from his grown children due to abusing booze and drugs, which have also resulted in his divorce, losing his house and blowing to hell a couple of businesses he’s had. But as the story begins, Magrady is eight months sober, downtown is in the midst of gentrification, and Magrady assigns himself this task of looking for his friend as, he tells a friend, he needs a mission. Did I mention that the cop heading the Nickel Squad, the contingent of police offers patrolling the changing downtown was under Sgt. Magrady’s command in ‘Nam and there’s bad blood between them over an incident there? The Underbelly fits in with my other work, particularly in terms of my stories set in Los Angeles. I would say I try to give a flavor of a segment of the city not usually seen in other mystery novels. That there’s a certain amount of the socio-political landscape the protagonist operate in but not in a preachy way. Ultimately I want to tell you an entertaining story with characters who may not be the most sterling of individuals, but who when knocked down get back up and go to it. Anyway, if folks are interested, they can pick up a copy at their indie bookstore or get themselves an e-book version on Kindle.
Q: Why does writing crime and mystery stories interest you?
A: Maybe because in those kind of stories the main characters are often called on to do something. I don’t necessarily mean they have to sock some brigand in the jaw or parry a knife thrust, but the nature of crime and mystery calls for your characters to not be passive, to act. Mysteries call on us to be in the main character’s head and possibly a few others as well. But not only are we privy to their thoughts, we also see what they do or do not do guided by what they’re thinking and feeling.
Too, there’s a structure to the mystery and crime novel. We as humans have a certain desire for order and setting matters to right. Now this is tempered with the knowledge of a world, post Watergate, Vietnam, 9/11, yellow cake, mythical WMDs, and so on. Which is to say you’re writing for a somewhat jaded and cynical audience so there has to be a reality of acknowledging these sensibilities in your plots and characters. The trick, I think, is to balance those notions without going too gray, too ambiguous about what motivates your main character. Nothing is pure black and white, but it does seem we want, demand, even, those who strive to right a wrong or at least settle a personal scores. Now naturally if you’re main character is a crook, a thief say, well, you have more latitude in proscribing how he operates in his or her arena.
Then too there’s the puzzle aspect. Who did it and why did they do it? It doesn’t seem the readers and the writers don’t get tired of that as long as we can keep coming up with fresh ways to pique our interests. I mean, I write the stories I want to read and hope others want to read it too.
Q: Are there other sort of stories you’d like to write?
A: When I was a kid through my teenage years, I read a good deal of science fiction. From Andre Norton and Jack Williamson to Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs. H.G. Wells to Heinlein and Asimov. Fredric Brown and Asimov, to name two, wrote both sci-fi and mysteries, sometimes combining those elements. Kristine Kathryn Rusch does the same today with her Recovery Man interplanetary detective series and under a pen name, Kris Nelscott, 60’s era political mysteries with a black protagonist, Smokey Dalton – which deserve more attention than they’ve gotten.
Anyway, I’ve also stated in the past that Rod Serling was an influence on me as a writer. I’ve got a couple of anthologies of prose stories based on his Twilight Zone teleplays. Fact one of the collections are adaptations done by a good storyteller his damn self, Walter Gibson, who penned many a pulp and radio adventure of the Shadow.
In some of my short stories like “’53 Buick” (originally in Murder on Route 66) and in “Incident on Hill 19” (originally in Retro Pulp Tales), his shadow and that of those classic science fiction EC tales is pretty evident on those pages. So, yeah, I’d like to take a swing at a science fiction novel combining mystery and sci-fi elements. I’ve got a couple of ideas floating around in my head and look forward to getting them down on the page one of these days.
Q: Apparently there was a recent Harris online poll conducted among 2,775 adults in the U.S. How this sampling of adults was achieved, is not clear, but some of the results regarding who treads crime, mystery and thrillers is interesting.
A: I saw that. The big kids on the block, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, Patterson and Grisham are favs but still, it’s kind of heartening, isn’t it? 48% of fiction readers say they read mysteries, thrillers and crime novels. This stat goes up to 61% among those 65 and older. 26% read sci-fi and those respondents in the age range of 18-33, 18% read graphic novels. Women not men are, it seems, more likely to read in the mystery field than men, I guess whether the protagonist is a man or woman.
This poll gave me to an idea I’d love to try; lunch trucks. That’s right, lunch trucks. Say a truck like we have roaming the streets here in Los Angeles, the Kogi Korean barbeque taco truck has several that go about the Southland. This truck, rolling kitchen really, is so popular, they post their schedules online and the hungry can follow them on twitter. See, specialty lunch trucks are all the rage these days and I figure if I can hook up with one of these services, giving out some free samples of my books -- and various foods are always mentioned in my tomes -- to go along with the bulgogi burrito with salsa, that’s gotta build my brand.
Q: You do some work in comics, that right?
A: I do indeed. I’ve been a comic book fan from way back. Fact I became a writer since as a kid I discovered my art wasn’t going to be the best so I couldn’t write and draw my own comics, but at least I could put down the words. Currently I’m doing some work for an outfit called Moonstone. Specifically I’m writing the further adventures of a licensed pulp character they’ve acquired, secret agent Jimmy Christopher, Operator 5. The tagline being that before Bauer and Bond, there was Jimmy Christopher. With one eye on nostalgia, and a foot planted in the revisionist history camp, my first Operator 5 story, “The Faithful,” involves a charismatic “America for Americans” preacher intent on assassinating a Marcus Garvey-type figure who leads a back-to-Africa movement for black folks in Harlem. Christopher has infiltrated the preacher’s goon squad. “The Faithful” will debut as the back-up feature in Moonstone’s new Spider comic book, premiering this coming January.
I’m also pleased to be writing another espionage character for Moonstone, the zen freelance spy, Derek Flint, based on the character popularized by the late actor James Coburn in two films from the late sixties. The That Man Flint series will drop in March and be set in the swinging sixties of mods, mini-skirts and Vietnam. Paisley shirts and satellites. Afros and lasers. The Cold War is hot and the Red Chinese aren’t the only ones doing the brainwashing. Love is in the air, but everyone isn’t groovy.
Flint is an inventor, ballet instructor, editor and contributor of the revised Kama Sutra, transcendentalist and translator of an ancient Mayan cookbook, seeker of the third eye and freelance spy, is the one M.A.C.E. (Mandated Actions for Covert Enforcement) calls on to tackle their most perilous assignments.
It’s going to be fun.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: I used to clip articles out of the newspaper or magazines. Some news item, and it didn’t have to be about a robbery or a murder, though could have been. It could be about a medical oddity or a technological advancement. Now with the “internets” I still do this, only it’s mostly printing out an article I’ve read online. Take pro quarterback Brett Favre accused of sending lewd pictures and leaving voicemails to at least three female reporters. There’s also a push to have a moratorium on foreclosures. These are unrelated items but then you get to wondering, how could they be related? What could be the connective tissue between these events? When you start asking yourself that, combined with asking yourself, like, what the hell was Favre, married, a public figure, a young grandfather for goodness sakes, thinking? What’s the delusional state that sets in when a guy like that figures there’s not going to be fallout from these idiotic acts of harassment? Now we have something to hook onto for a kind of character, to be in his head.
The foreclosure debacle got me thinking about a news items I read more than a year ago where a desperate single dad chained himself to his outside water heater to prevent the gas company from disconnecting his gas due to his unpaid bill. Here’s another mindset, a man driven to do a desperate act to provide for his kids. Now what if specific events conspire to throw these two together in some sort of confrontation? Maybe too things are not always what they seem on the surface.
We’re off to the races.
Q: So how’s your poker game these days?
A: It’s never been good. It’s not as if I watch shows like the World Series of Poker and can imagine myself sitting at one of the tables stacking the chips. Naturally I’ve read various books on the game as a way to give me some insight…opening the third eye if you will.
Curiously, one of the poker books I have is this very enlightening one called The Education of a Poker Player by Herbert O. Yardley. Interesting cat. He was like something out of the pulps. As a teen, he was captain of the football team, editor of his high school paper and class president. He had a head for math and when his mom died in 1905, he inherited a modest two hundred bucks. He took to the poker tables and did quite well. By 1912 he was a code clerk in the State department. During World War I, he set up the Cipher Bureau, Military Intelligence 8 also known as the Black Chamber. You better believe I’m going to work this guy into the Operator 5 storyline.
Bouchercon, the annual mystery convention being held in San Francisco this year has a regular group of mostly writers who get together in the evening to play. I was there again, sucker that I am.
Q: You’ve edited or co-edited a few anthologies, most recently Orange County Noir from Akashic. Has this given you a different perspective as a writer?
A: It has. What I try to do as an editor is provide helpful notes or feedback to the writer to hopefully have them draw out what they’re looking to say in their story. My goal is not have them write the story like I would write it, but work with them to hone their work to be a tale that grabs the reader. The cool thing about short stories is you gotta draw ‘em in, keep them going along for a few pages, a twist or two, then resolve or at least end the story in a satisfactory fashion. I tell you, having the pleasure or reading others’ stories with both the critical view as the editor and a reader wanting to be challenged and entertained is a treat. There’s no bells and whistles, no way to dodge, to cover up parts that don’t work in a short story – it’s either humming or it’s not
Q: Speaking of ducking, is Floyd Mayweather Jr. going to keep ducking Manny Pacquiao?
A: It certainly seems so. Mayweather keeps coming up with excuses not to fight the Pacman and now he’s got legal woes though those aren’t insurmountable. Mainly he’s obviously scared to fight Pacquiao who would clean his clock. Sad really. It’s like in the comics, the Thing ultimately isn’t as strong as the Hulk, but damn that, he cowboys up and goes toe-to-toe with the jolly green giant when duty calls.
Q: With that as a metaphor, is writing, fighting as Ishmael Reed stated?
A: Heck yes. You have to know when to press your attack, when to be up on your feet bobbing and weaving, when to lay back and use rope-a-dope to let your opponent punch themselves out – but you have to be able to take the blows, the damage. You’ve got to be in shape to go the distance, baby.
By Jasmin Mujanovic
December 7, 2010
Some thoughts on an important text.
The term “post-colonialism” is a misnomer. It implies that the age of colonialism has ended. Whether speaking of “humanitarian intervention”, “structural readjustment programs” or ethnic strife engineered by colonialist policies of “divide and conquer”, for the majority the world’s people the empire is as omnipresent a leviathan as it has ever been.
Grounds of occupation, however, are also the fertile soil of resistance. It is of this fact that we are repeatedly reminded in the recent anthology of commentaries by the historian, theorist and activist Andrej Grubačić: “Don’t Mourn, Balkanize! Essays after Yugoslavia.” Ostensibly a series of essays concerning the fate of the post-Yugoslav space, beginning in 2002 after the arrest and extradition of Slobodan Milošević and running into today, Grubačić’s text is as much the political memoir of a people betrayed (by leaders both foreign and domestic) as it is the potential anchor for a new anti-colonialist politics in the Balkans—of which Grubačić is both a chronicler of and participant in."Budi mi divan, i dobro mi stoj..."
Out of the sordid headlines of war, genocide, poverty and crime, there emerges here a different account of the Balkans. To Grubačić, the Balkans are “a space of bogumils—those medieval heretics who fought against Crusades and churches—and a place of anti-Ottoman resistance; a home to hajduks and klepths, pirates and rebels; a refuge of feminists and socialists, of antifascists and partisans; a place of dreamers of all sorts struggling both against provincial ‘peninsularity’ as well as against occupations, foreign interventions and that process which is now, in a strange inversion of history, often described with that fashionable phrase, ‘balkanization.’” It this account that is at the heart of Grubačić’s text and at the heart of his political project.
He rejects the racist, colonialist conception of “balkanization” as a process by which “ancient, ethnic hatreds” lead to a process of chauvinistic fragmentation—usually juxtaposed to enlightened, Anglo-European federalization and unification. Grubačić terms this account as “balkanization from above”—Orientalist, colonialist, racist literature acting as the bulwark for the like policies advanced by the European Union and United States, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo.
He contrasts it, on the other hand, with what he terms “balkanization from below”: “I…[describe] balkanization from below as a narrative that insists on social and cultural affinities, as well as on customs in common resulting from interethnic mutual aid and solidarity, and resulting in what can be termed an interethnic self-activity, one that was severed through the Euro-colonial intervention.” The historical legacy on which Grubačić draws is that of the Balkan Federation, in his version, an essentially anarchist project: a Balkan Federation of peoples, with no nations or states, organized regionally and organically for mutual aid and empowerment, “a world where many worlds fit.”
The 90s were catastrophe for the Yugoslav space, in every conceivable sense of the term. What has followed since—colonial occupation and dispossession buttressed by ethno-nationalist quislings—has only exacerbated those wounds. There are few regions of the world so wholly subsumed by racist, colonialist narratives as the Balkans and, in particular, the Yugoslav region. We are the perennial barbarians. And whether Slovenes, Croats, Bosniaks, Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Kosovars, Jews, Roma or any other of the multitude of peoples that have called the region home, we remain savages. Peoples to be occupied, to be liberated from our own selves and our own histories, and to be taught the ways of civilization. It is in the Roman campaigns in Dalmatia that the phrase “divide and conquer” was born—this fundamentally colonialist project has remained a defining feature of this space, whether the occupiers have been Roman, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, fascist, or, as they are today, Anglo-European. The history of the Balkans has been the history of successive occupations but also successive liberations.
It is to this perennial desire for emancipation that Grubačić most astutely alerts us to. It is a lesson for all peoples, not merely those struggling under the yoke of occupation. Without minimizing the particular brutality of personal experience, it is through understanding ourselves as part of a process, a history, a tradition, as part of movements past, present and movements yet to emerge that our sense of self can be a project for liberation. As Grubačić notes, if the reality of today is not the one which desire “it follows that our duty, our only duty, is to fight to make it our reality tomorrow.”
Grubačić’s work is both an important chronicle of contemporary anti-colonial struggles in the Balkans and a critical text in shaping an emergent “balkanized” vision for the region and its peoples; an indigenous call to arms from which all stand to learn.
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By Billie Wharton