by D.S. Black

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How Gary Warne Came to SF

In the years before I moved to Kuwait-on-da-Bay, I read of the existence-daring exploits of the Suicide Club in zines published by punk surrealist G. Sutton Breiding. It inspired me to pick up Robert Louis Stevenson’s New Arabian Nights (in which the namesake story “The Suicide Club” was part of a series), a copy of which I conveniently found in the basement staff lounge of Regenstein Library, where I then worked, in Chicago. It was intriguing for someone lately steeped in Camus and Marinetti (to say nothing of Artaud, Rimbaud, Jarry, and a galaxy of other dark stars in the grimoire of rebel metaphysics) to consider the tales of urban adventures related by Gary Warne as an invitation to live each day as though it were the last. In the final decade of the Cold War, and most especially during early Reagan, this apocalyptic fatalism was a morbidly credible conceit.

A longtime reader and science fiction fan publisher, I was accustomed to receiving word of distant exploits and then struggling to get from here to there. It was a perverse constant of speculative relativity in the years before we all got online that whatever seeming cool thing came to one’s notice would have already moved on by the time one could get there. Who has seen the elephant? Or whatever iconic beast served as bait.

Arriving in San Francisco in the summer of 1983, I was thrilled to meet Gary Warne, John Law, and Don Herron at a reception for visiting Silver Scarab publisher Harry Morris. The sad news was the party I had been anticipating was already over: the Suicide Club had recently dissolved on the question of secrecy. Its public termination was resonant of the ritualized dissolution enacted by the Diggers when they celebrated the death of the hippie in the wake of the Summer of Love.

A couple months later came further grim tidings with Gary’s premature demise by heart failure during a Thanksgiving visit home to West Virginia. A couple years passed, then one of my cronies in the fantasy science fiction world reintroduced me to Herron and Law at a Third Saturday party in the Richmond.

I knew Jim Khennedy through fanzines and the amateur press since 1976. When his parties became a regular monthly event heralded by the zine desperate in the dadabase, they served as video-mad-scientist happenings for the motley scenes of mondoids, skiffy readers and writers, comics artists, Dick-heads, cyberpunks, space colonists, and other amiable mutants.

Gumshoe bibliographer Don Herron is an itinerant raconteur of Atlantean depth, comfortable in genres spanning mystery, horror, science fiction, and fantasy. When he brought John Law and Lance Alexander to the Third Saturday party in 1986, shortly after inception of the Cacophony Society, a few of us were eager to enter and revel in this coterie of adventurers in the unknown. Besides Jim Khennedy, mention must be made of noir fantasist Thomas Burchfield, who joined in many an early diminuendo of the Coda Cacofiles.

We signed on expectantly, laughing and loving — sometimes recklessly, creating experiences and interventions of an architextural design in chaos and spontaneity, in sync with the noise of time.