Spotlight on PM Press: Interview with Ramsey Kanaan

The Aqueduct Gazette Newsletter
Winter 2011(V8)

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.

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.

Aqueduct: 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 [email protected] 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