Permeable Press

A few facts (some may be made up) about Permeable Press. This is a work in progress.

I founded Permeable Press in the early 1990s after having ploughed through several other press names: Comet Halley Press, which came and went about as spectacularly as the comet itself did in the early ’80s; Naked Review, which published exactly one photocopied issue of a zine called (wait for it) Naked Review; and Xerotic Ephermera, the only publication of which was, again, an eponymously titled single-issue zine. Permeable Press published (as far as I can remember) 3 issues of the critically acclaimed magazine Puck; one issue (maybe two?) of a magazine called ShockWave (stories by Paul di Phillipo and Thomas _____?) and several (three, I think) issues of a magazine called Q Zine (thank gouda for google and Jasmine Sailing, whose essay “It’s a Quaintly Weird World We Live In” appeared in issue 1.2 and was voted “Most Bizarrely Schizophrenic” in the 1997 Idiot Savant awards). My, that is, Permeable Press’s, Q Zine should not be confused with Q-zine, a GLBT zine that began publishing several years after Permeable’s 1997 expiration/merger with Cambrian Publications nor with Q-Zine, which “promotes Islam from a Quranic Perspective [and] is dedicated to all who consider themselves as liberal, mainstream, moderate, Quranic or Progressive minded,” nor with Q’zine, a Queeradio show on WXPN, nor the restaurant JerkQ’zine, nor with QZine, which apprently is a science zine having to do with things that start wiht “Q” (such as Questions, one assumes), nor Q’zine, “an extension of Queen´s Alumni Review magazine–Queen’s University being Canadian and therefore above my notice (geography joke), and… well, there are plenty of Q’s on the planet. It is, after all, a lovely letter.

Anyway, Permeable Press went down the tubes. Hey, where’d my money go? Money I can live without (O! thou noble and deep-treasured dumpster), but my sanity–it was a close call. As Margaret Wehr put it in “The culture of everday venality: Or a life in the book industry” (Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 1997), “Non-profit and independent literary presses are not able to function adequately because they are day in and day out screwed by the routine and hardly-worth-mentioning venality and psychopathology of everyday American business practices”:

Here is the rap on independent/non-profit/alternative literary presses like McPherson, Semiotext(e) Autonomia, Feminist Press, Coffee House, Dalkey Archive, Sun and Moon, Permeable Press [c’etait moi], Asylum Arts and many others:

  • they’re ineptly run by visionary but incompetent people living in former doll factories in Brooklyn or quaint Ruskinesque cottages in Oregon [this sounds like a reference to David Memmot’s Wordcraft of Oregon, publisher of my novel–plug, plug–Splitting];
  • they have no money for quality production, promotion, or royalties;
  • they owe printers a lot of money;
  • you can’t find their books anywhere.

For those who speculate beyond the ready (and not entirely inaccurate) assumption that these publishers are simply terminal fools, the material cause of all of the above becomes quickly clear. These presses are what they are because they have no money (i.e., are ‘undercapitalized,’ i.e., are not capitalists).

Why are they ‘undercapitalized’? Often it’s because these presses began with nothing. The only ‘original accumulation’ these people have ever had is the impressive shelves of books which they have read and have continued reading in dead earnest since high school. So it follows that these presses are undercapitalized because these publishers are literary people and have no business skills, experience, or instincts. They don’t know how to manipulate their resources so that on one bright day, lo and behold, they could have that mythic creature, a ‘cash reserve.’ But this is all well understood: non-profit literary publishers are idealistic and poor and the only reason they’re in this game is that they don’t like what they see commercial presses doing to their much beloved books.”

Yeah, well… It’s damning but it’s true.

Permeable Press published a bunch of stuff–ink-on-paper stuff–mainly books, chapbooks, and the above mentioned magazines. Here’s a partial list with links to (seemingly) relevant web pages:

First of all, archive.org’s way-back machine can take you back to the 1997 version of permeable.com; just enter Permeable Press’s URL in the search box and click “Take Me Back.” Or get your nostalgia on here. There are a number of excerpts from books and chapbooks archived there, including an excerpt from Carolina Vegas Starr’s novella Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Lambda Award nominated Three-Hand Jax and Other Spells by the fabulous Staszek, AKA Stan Henry.

The Uncertainty Principle by Steven J. Frank, which was the winner of the one-and-only Pocket Rocket First Novel Contest. You can read a review of The Uncertainty Principle, as well as an interview with the author. Dave Langford also wrote a nice review for the British SF magazine, SFX. An excerpt from the novel is archived here.

Several book by Michael Hemmingson, including a lovely little number called The Naughty Yard.

A bazillion chapbooks, including a favorite short story of mine by Catherine Sheer; some poems by Michelle Ben-Hur, who went on to edit 51%; a wonderful story by Doug Henderson called Remote Control…. A chapbook I designed around Rob Hardin’s story “Val Demar’s Pear” is in the permanent book-art collection at the New York Public Library.

In collaboration with Cambrian Publications, Permeable Press published Paul Di Filippo’s first novel, Ciphers, which has become a bit of a cult item. There are a few reviews lying around the net, such as this one at the Center for Book Culture (and that I suspect was originally published in Review of Contemporary Fiction); and here’s the Rain Taxi review. Claude Lalumière wrote a nice article about Paul’s work in Strange Horizons. Here’s an interview with Paul from Locus, and another at Infinity Plus. Web Del Sol has published an electronic chapbook of some of Paul’s work.

Puck Magazine: sheeze, what a fiasco; “The Unofficial Journal of the Irrepressible,” indeed. Here’s a review by Di Filippo of PuckSex; and a review by Don Webb of the semi-infamous psiberPuck issue. Things were going gang busters there for a while. Tower Records sold lots of copies, and then Barnes & Noble picked it up through Austin’s Fine Print Distribution. But then Fine Print went bankrupt and the roof caved it. Fine Print went under owing me for 2,000 copies of the magazine; I never saw a dime of that. Wah.

One of my favorite books was Peter Gelman’s novel Flying Saucers Over Hennepin, which was about, hmm, let’s see, flying saucers hovering above the main drag of Minneapolis? Nah. It’s a love story from beyond the stars, told by a visionary bike-riding slacker. Here’s a review by Bill Meyers and another by Joe Gergen. Pre-Raphaelite Review interviewed Pete in “Interview Over Hennepin.” Pete’s a brilliant writer, deeply imaginative (and all without drugs, as far as I know). Checkout Pete’s novel Moonifest Destiny: The Rough and Ready Balloon Invasion of the Lunar Peninsula of Texas.

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