Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Zombie Logic: The Most Dangerous Small Press In America

What makes Zombie Logic Press "The most dangerous small press in America," as NPR has reported? Many things, according to publisher Thomas L. Vaultonburg. 

For one thing, I am beholding to no one. I work for no one. I owe no one anything. I cannot be intimidated by threats, bribed by trinkets, or seduced by grand notions of fame or fortune. I do, say, write, and publish exactly what I want. And if you don't like that, tough shit.

Currently what I like is publishing the best writers from Rockford, Illinois, America's. 9th most dangerous city. But 9th clearly isn't enough danger for America's most dangerous small press, so I have chosen to locate Zombie Logic Press at the heart of the 5th most dangerous neighborhood in America. At night mutants gather beneath my window and bay at me like The Family in The Omega Man. From my west-facing window I can watch the mayor in his office at City Hall orchestrating another dirty deal that will line the pockets of his friends while strangling funding to the schools. On my block there are five restaurants serving human flesh to their unwitting patrons. The garbage dumpsters are a horror show. 

None of this phases me. I witness the discarded human detritum discharged from the various homeless shelters and homes for battered women wander confused and forsaken in the alley all day long mumbling curses and incantations that invoke demons more revolting than the human imagination can muster. I watch them, too, wander the streets, waylaying the unprepared and unsuspected east-side gawkers that spontaneously appear on the weekend to attend events they dread all week long in a neighborhood they don't want to be in. 

From here I see all this. I chose this very place for the most express purpose of seeing this. Seeing it clearly. Not a second-hand account by a reporter new to town and lost on streets she will soon forget when she arrives in Des Moines or Minneapolis. Not a dubious accounting by some Chamber of Commerce type hopeful there will be just enough truth to bullshit ratio in his speil to convince others, especially those who control the locked door to the golden public trough, to open that door and let him bury his greedy snout in the largess. 

No, that's not what I see from here. Nor do I fail to see the beauty and the spectre of past grandeur that is/was The Faust Hotel, The Midway Theater, or the old City Hall building. I know presidents and shieks and Sinatra and Marilyn stayed there, and maybe walked across the street to see a matinee. But not lately. You would also be wrong if you think I condemn the lost and forsaken I see wandering lost and discouraged on the streets. I see them. And I know in the private conversations they constantly seem to be holding with themselves they are speaking as much wisdom as insanity.

But this is no place for wisdom. Or insanity. This is a place for the quick, sly fox that knows how to scavenge. Is comfortable feeding on the carrion of those who have fallen, whether friend or foe. Knows how to bottle and sell snake oil to those who have lost their vitality and verve to face an endless sea of troubles. Rockford is one of the most dangerous places on Earth. A place where you can lose more than your initial investment in a heartbeat.

This is where I make the books. The dangerous books. By writers I have seen underneath my window wandering these streets. For five years now I have resided here, at the geographical heart of this city, watching those who cannot escape interact with those who come here begrudgingly, usually to pay homage to some phantom of a neighborhood they no longer understand or deem beautiful. 

The proposition to publish has never been a safe one. Fortunes and livelihoods have been lost over the ages by those foolhardy enough to be seduced by the passion for the printed word. Freedom has been revoked. Lives exacted as repayment for the sheer and utter indignity of insisting others have a right to see what has been written by their fellow humans. 

So, why do it? Why do it here, especially, where they show no interest in it? 

Because the field of civility can never be ceded to savagery. These posts in these forsaken places must remain attended by earnest keepers of the flame. The alternative is utter darkness. To be routed completely, and overrun by a crudity and a cruelty even the blackest of heart would dare not wish for. 

This is the place where I descend the stairs early every evening, thrust open the front door, look around and wonder "Is it safe? Am I foolish to remain here where they do not need or want me? Should I leave?,'" then cross the street and begin mumbling to myself like all the others.

Holmes Block Rockford, Illinois
The Holmes block in Downtown Rockford, Illinois, home of Zombie Logic Press Illustration by Jenny Mathews of The Rockford Illustrating Company.

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