Interview with Rich Dana of OBSOLETE!

We caught up with Rich Dana at OBSOLETE!, another publishing outlet for the intersection of punk and SF!

Tell us a little about your press and zine?

OBSOLETE! The zine came first, in 2009. I was inspired to do an old-school underground tabloid newspaper, and the first 8 issues were printed in that format, echoing the radical tabloids of the 60s and 70s. Working with my friend and creative partner Blair Gauntt, we worked to tap into the science fiction/political commentary crossover, à la the “New Wave” SF writers if the 60s.  A year or so into the zine, Austin poet W. Joe Hoppe approached me about doing a book, so we did it. Then came a “best of…” anthology, then the AnarchoSF  anthology of anti-statist science fiction, and next thing you know, we’re publishers!

What was the inspiration for starting the press?

I’ve been a zinester since my childhood in the 70’s when I pumped out radical screeds on the ditto machine in the junior high school library. I’ve always loved books. My dad was an english professor and my mom a librarian. I guess it was in my blood! The motivation to do print now, in the 21st century, came out of my frustration with the digital ghetto of the web. I’m not a luddite, I love technology as much as anyone, but I just love print. Reading as a physical act. Books as artifacts and sacred objects.  There is nothing sacred on the web!

The name for the zine and the press comes from an episode of the Twilight Zone called “The Obsolete Man.” In a future totalitarian society, a librarian is deemed obsolete by the state, and sentenced to die. It is a story that stuck with me all my life.  I relate to that librarian!

What was your interest in solarpunk and how do you see the solarpunk movement complementing your press?

Ironically, I was a professional solar installer, as well a first-gen punk. I’m a life-long SF reader and fan, and came of age in the cyberpunk era. I wondered why there were all of these other lame iterations of “…punk” prefixed genres popping up. Elfpunk? I mean…really? I wondered why there was no “solarpunk.” It seemed like the one natural outgrowth of cyberpunk to me. I started writing stories with that in mind, and lo and behold, I later discovered, via the wonderful wonderful web, that others are thinking the same thing! I have no idea how,if or when solarpunk will gel into a real movement, but I’m a 100% supporter of the loose-nit, open source way that it is happening. And of course, the environmental and social justice elements are right in line with the OBSOLETE! ideals.

Do you think speculative fiction needs more punk? What would you like to see?

I agree with the solarpunks that dystopianism is getting worn a bit thin.  Sadly, it never goes out of fashion, because it is still a relevant and real concern. I would argue that there is no punk without the backdrop of dystopia, but T.X. Watson of Solarpunk Press makes the case that revolting against convention is in itself punk. I’m willing to concede that my black leather vision of punk may be outdated. At the advanced age of 54, I’m happy to have my assumptions challenged. I was afraid solar punk might be “one punk too far”,  but I have the feeling that it is only the proto-stage of something bigger to come. A newer New Wave.

For me, I would like to see a return of satire to SF. I’m re-reading Pohl and Kornbluth’s “The Space Merchants” and realized I do miss that biting social commentary. Maybe some people like Scalzi are doing it, but I would like to see people turn a lot more of the current tropes on their heads- the whole gang of Hugo awards lame-puppy space marines need to have their assumptions challenged and SF needs to leave that fascist horseshit behind for once and for all. I think solarpunk might be a significant player in that movement.

What suggestions do you have for people submitting to your zine?

Hey, anyone is welcome to submit. I love to have original work, although I can’t afford to pay pro rates. Previously published work is welcome too. Fiction under 5000 words works best in the zine format. Black and white artwork is good, though I usually run a few color pages too, so that’s cool. Comics, one pagers,poems reviews and essays- check out the free stuff we have on line to get a feel for it.

We are working toward a 2nd volume of AnarchoSF, so if you are of the anti-statist political viewpoint and write SF that reflects that, send it our way.  We are also doing an issue of futurist poetry, so there’s that on the way as well. No deadlines just yet, but I encourage people to send stuff our way asap, and watch the website and FB page.

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