Adam Parfrey died on May 10, 2018, and his death has been a mild devastation to me. I never met him in the flesh but had some online interactions with him wherein he was both very professional and very kind to me. I keep wanting to discuss his commitment to freedom of speech and to the dissemination of ideas that were guaranteed to make some readers uncomfortable – given recent societal determination to ban and censor all thought that makes anyone feel uneasy, losing Parfrey seems all the greater a loss.
But if you know who Parfrey was, you already know this. And if you don’t know who he was, the best way to explain why Adam Parfrey was so important is to just to let you see, quite literally see, why he matters so much to me and to other people dedicated to experiencing strange and frightening ideas, to supporting freedom of speech in public and private realms, to shining light on that which is hidden. I said on social media that creating I Read Odd Books, which eventually morphed into this current site, was in no small part influenced by Adam’s works: his own writing, his work with Amok books, Feral House and Process Media are present throughout OTC.
My site and my own life’s works are a small leaf growing on a twig growing from a branch on the tree Parfrey planted and cultivated. Almost every non-fiction shelf in my home has at least one title that is in some way associated with Adam Parfrey. This is just a sample of what I found in five minutes or so, glancing at my shelves.
This really is just a sample. There are likely a dozen more, at least, that I didn’t hone in on in my quick survey of my books.
Despite the clear influence Parfrey has had on my book purchasing habits, it seems a bit mawkish to me to be so upset about the death of a man I never met in the flesh. But, as I think of it, it becomes clearer why I am so sad. When I look at various elements of my tastes, I can see Adam Parfrey’s influence, even if it is a circuitous route to get from A to B. For example, I listened to black metal before Lords of Chaos was published, but the book encouraged me to seek out a few musicians mentioned because I wanted to include them in a book I was working on at the time, a book that became hard to work on after 9/11 and was ultimately abandoned. Reading that Feral House title led me to an interesting, decade-long correspondence with one of the musicians in the book. That has happened with other Feral House titles, strange friendships forming after the authors saw my discussions of their work.
Parfrey also indirectly led me to Ulver. My favorite album of all time is Ulver’s Perdition City. I only listened to Ulver after reading about them in LoC. I may have eventually given them a try but Parfrey’s willingness to publish such a book certainly got me there quicker.
I don’t know if I would have a book published were it not for Adam Parfrey. Of course my book discusses titles from Feral House and Process Media, but my discussions of such works brought me to the attention of my publisher, Nine-Banded Books, in a particularly bizarre and even more circuitous way. My site attracted an unstable young woman who tried to file false DMCA claims against my original content. When that was quickly decided in my favor, she also tried to get me in trouble with my then host by claiming I was publishing obscene content, including child pornography. She flagged my discussions of some books discussing sex, including Jim Goad’s Big Book of Sex, published by Feral House. One of the authors whose book she mentioned spoke to Chip Smith about what had happened to me and Chip contacted me about it. That led to a friendship and a decision to publish a brick of a book containing some of the more interesting discussions I wrote. My book contains several Feral House and Process Media titles: The Covert War Against Rock by Alex Constantine, Strange Creations by Donna Kossy, two passes over The Gates of Janus by Ian Brady (the second reaction clocked in at around 20,000 words), The Carnivals of Life and Death by James Shelby Downard, and Demons in the Age of Light by Whitney Robinson.
Parfrey delivered complex, interesting, creepy, inspiring and fascinating voices to those of us willing to explore roads not familiar to us. He published content he thought needed discussion, knowing full well that doing so would ensure labels that did not describe him accurately would be foisted upon him. I will always appreciate his courage to publish that which the purveying moral arbiters consider evil in some manner, raising the ire of bluenose prigs and puritans on the left and the right. I owe him a lot. God speed, Adam.