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1997


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Charles Whitman Tower
This and more SRL images

January 1997

Austin American Statesman:

Pop Culture Press, the splendid Austin-based national music magazine, will celebrate the release of its second compilation CD (as well as issue No. 40) with an acoustic set by LOOSE DIAMONDS at Fringeware (2716 Guadalupe St.) from 6-8 p.m. Friday.

February 1997

FringeWare #11 was published on February 21st. Edited by Anita Susan Brenner. It was the Cyberlaw issue, featuring the GPS coordinates of the Supreme Court in the crosshairs of some weapon. I liked my new job.

Table of Contents

Nor punish those who deviate from it...

From the old FringeWare site:

In late February, 1997, a nationwide alert was issued to collect evidence on "freaks", after a gas-station attendant in Dallas spotted yet another rent-a-truck carrying fertilizer... On that same day, an FBI special agent named Tony Henschen showed up at the FringeWare Bookstore, demanding a copy of our "subscriber list". He left his name and phone number on a Consortium Books notepad, which featured the Noam Chomsky quote: "I do not believe the State has the right to dictate the truth, nor punish those who deviate from it..." Tony signed his name carefully, so as not to obscure the quote. He did this in front of our life-sized portrait of Josef Stalin.
It seemed that somebody who was listed in a biography on a web page on FringeWare had been accused of threatening an AOL customer via email. Austin's special "High Tech Crime Squad" had been called in to handle this crisis, and they of course passed the buck to the FBI. The FBI's only lead was to investigate FringeWare.

As it turned out:

the "threatening" email had been deleted by the alleged "victim" prior to contacting the police, which the FBI failed to mention until we pressed them.

the alleged "victim" had prior arrests by the aforementioned Austin Police Department, for unprovoked physical assault against the alleged "perpetrator", which the FBI chose to ignore.

the alleged "victim" hosts a local cable-access television show about "fundamentalist christianity" wherein he regularly rants at length about "The conspiracy between the Aliens and the FBI agents who serve them."

the alleged "viticm" has a father who is a wealthy, prominent figure in Austin, who also happens to be close friends and drinking/golfing buddies with FBI higher-ups locally.
Due to our corporate bylaws which preclude releasing any contact info to third-parties, we told Tony "no". He went away, unhappily.
Upon our follow-up investigation (after the cops left) we found that the "victim" was pranking the FBI by making a false report. Given how the "authorities" acted on hearsay from a known mental case, without a scrap of physical evidence, they probably didn't care that they were being pranked, anyway. In retrospect, for the honor of disrupting our business and demanding the violation of our customer confidentiality, we should have just told that doughnutbiter to piss off from the get-go. So much for trying to work with the government... If he shows up again without a warrant, our attorney is gonna run up one hell of a big bill at the local taxidermy.


Postcards from the Fringe by Brad King

From the Austin Chronicle: Vol.16, No. 26 (Feb. 28)

Granola Farmers meet Virtual Reality on 42nd Street." That's one of the phrases Paco Nathan, president of Fringeware, Inc., has used to describe an organization indefinable; a kind of mind-bending retail outfit where shoppers try on original thought for size along with counter-culture T-shirts. But the head honcho himself is first to admit his definition isn't quite as user-friendly as it could be, precisely why FringeWare Review -- a zine functioning as just one part of the three-tiered business -- carries the warning label, "We are persistently difficult to explain to many people in your life..." For instance, one issue of FringeWare Review might contain a compelling article detailing Timothy Leary's psychological analysis of human brain activity, a piece of cyber-punk fiction, and a news story regarding proposed legislation restricting the use of online BBSs -- this all wrapped neatly in a package containing some fake advertising (a little joke from the editors) and a mail-order catalog selling everything from the interactive "MacJesus" game (which, in the words of the game designer, gives you "an inside track when dealing with the Creator of the Universe") to less sophisticated sex games, audio cassettes, and rubber stamps ready to ink all correspondence with the message "I Grew Marijuana."

Besides manufacturing and maintaining a certain mystique about his pet company, Nathan is into the melding of real-time communities with the virtual community of the Net, and, of course, the other parts of the project -- a website (http://www.fringware.com), a retail space on Guadalupe (recently relocated from the spot they shared with vintage store New Bohemia) which now functions as a bookstore, and a tech-consulting business too. But it's the thinktank aspect of FringeWare that carries over into each of its parts, aiming to reach into the next wave of information distribution on a grand lark. Herein lies the message and it's inherent disclaimer: FringeWare's cyberbuzz is purposely left subject to interpretation. And as Nathan's seemingly nonsensical definition illustrates, fringe dwellers seeking illumination would do best to maintain a little cosmic humor.

Complete Article

March 1997

31 - Austin SRL Show with Mark Pauline

The Survival Research Laboratories show held here last Friday night came
through as a wonderful success, with several thousand people attending --
8000, according to sheriff reports.

The show began late, nearly 90 minutes after the scheduled start, due to
ticket security measures which slowed the entrances. Tensions among the
crowd standing in line nearly grew to riot proportions. However, officials
from the Church of the SubGenius, along with several anonymous drummers and flame-jugglers, acted swiftly to appease the crowd, thus averting a scene of rampant violence and senseless acts of mayhem and destruction by people other than the SRL artists.

News coverage of the event included at least six segments on local
television stations, nearly a month of morning radio updates by Gibby
Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, a variety of in-depth newspaper articles,
and follow-up by two cable/satellite networks.

A news crew from the local FOX network television affiliate refused to
attend the SRL press conference held earlier in the week, but showed up in
an antagonistic mood for the show. Contrary to the sheriff deputies on
site, FOX reported about noise damage to local residents and livestock,
calling the event a "Destruction Show which has been banned in many cities
and may be banned from appearing again in Austin" -- much to the delight of SRL crew members.

KTBC/FOX also aired excellent footage of a local blue-haired old lady irate about the show, with an erroneous subtitle from the San Diego footage of Heaven's Gate suicides, followed by an onsite interview with Mark Pauline.

One of the most remarkable points about the show was that the crowd
attending held an almost unbelievable mixture of people, from all ages and walks of life. Rednecks sat next to yuppie parents next to street-urchin teenagers next to techgeek freaks, mostly all caught in a subtle but apparent state of apprehension and fear as explosions rocked their world. Even so, only one arrest was made (due to a drunken fight) and no injuries were reported within the audience.

The show featured a mock-up of the UT/Austin tower -- famous for suicides and the 1960's mass shooting spree by Charles Whitman -- as its burning center-piece. Also, an entire cow which had died recently of natural causes, was roasted in flames as a tribute to Texas -- causing a few people attending to leave in protest and revulsion.

The jet car and the new shockwave cannon, along with the infamous V1 rocket engine, created a seismic disturbance as a backdrop for the robotic
carnage.

What is not widely known about the event is that two members of the
Heavan's Gate cult had assisted in developing the SRL web site on the
Internet. Rather than joining their cult members in the San Diego mass
suicide last week, these two individuals opted to complete the show
preparations on site and then have their bodies cremated in the fires and
explosions on the field during the show. The bodies of Matthew Bradley, 41, of Plain Falls, Minnesota, and John Novak, 58, of Vacaville, California,
were burned during the SRL show.

May 1997

2 - Mack White signing for Villa of the Mysteries #2 at the FringeWare Store, 7-9pm

10 - Human Cloning Thought Party, Sponsored by the Austin Thought Consortium

Club de Ville - 1:30-3:30 pm Central Time
900 Red River, Austin, Texas

My statement: Currently, I work at the FringeWare bookstore, where I have been more than gainfully employed for the last 9 months or so. My essential creative project over the last 10 years has been to perfect the art of "living at degree zero". Or, as I prefer to phrase it: living close to the bone where the meat is sweetest. Towards this end, I have worked in various shapes and forms of bookstores for the last 13 years, happily learning the skills to survive at minimally more than minimal wage; and, mining out the necessary time for reading and writing to the exclusion of most forms of mass culture.My interest in cloning, the question under consideration, relates to my obsession with the idea of doubling. Whether it be Borges' terrifying mirror, Mr. Hyde, Mr. Gray, Mr. Hawking's clone, or the skeleton in the closet, the double fascinates me to no end. I hope that I might offer some useful reflections upon the issue.

September 1997

13 -Austin Devival with Church of the SubGenius

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - TEXAS SUBGENIUS DEVIVAL LOOMS AS PRETENSE FOR FRINGEWARE 5TH ANNIVERSARY IN AUSTIN --

GOVT OFFICIALS DENY COVERT ACTS
TO PREVENT THE ALLEGED "RUSH FOR 'BOB'" MASS GATHERING.

DALLAS, TEXAS - August 8, 1997
At a press conference held here today, officials from the Church of the SubGenius, in conjunction with an Austin- based media collective and quasi-militia organization known as FringeWare Inc., have announced heretofore covert plans to stage a "Devival" in AUSTIN, TEXAS on SEPTEMBER 13 of this year, beginning at or around 8 PM in a nightclub known as LA ZONA ROSA. Such events are considered highly illegal and subject to decisive intervention by the authorities.

Complete Press Release

From the Austin Chronicle:

"Bob" Watches Over Us or: Weekend of Slack by Ken Leick

How long has it been since you've seen that particular palindrome peering down from the top of this column? Yes, though original Chronicle music columnist Margaret Moser was wont to invoke the name and image of the great J.R. "Bob" Dobbs in almost every installment of her In One Ear gossip page, the Church of the Subgenius ("the fastest-growing anti-cult in America") and their high epopt Dobbs have been mighty quiet around Austin in recent years. (Hell, you hear more about Maitreya these days, for Chrissake.) That all should change this Saturday, when the "new" La Zona Rosa hosts a monstrous devival featuring the Rev. Ivan Stang, Dr. K'Taden Legume, and entertainment from the likes of Satan's Cheerleaders. Look, too, for the first live performance of conceptual telephone
harassers the Christal Methodists and some permutation of Booger 9000 (their leader, the Artist currently known as President William Howard Taft, is said to be skittish at this time.)

26 - Book Reading/Signing by Robert Bingham

Robert Bingham, the author of Pure Slaughter Value, a collection of short stories published by Doubleday. Bingham is an editor for the New York literary magazine Open City, and has written articles for the New Yorker, the Cambodia Daily and Might magazine.

Robert Bingham died of a heroin overdose at age 33 on November 28, 1999, six months after getting married and five months before the publication of his novel.

From the Austin-American Statesman:

FRINGEWARE, that beyond-alternative bookstore and fetisher's haven on the Drag, is bringing New York writer ROBERT BINGHAM THIS WEEKEND. A CONTRIBUTOR TO The New Yorker and the Cambodia Daily (as in Phnom-Penh), Bingham will read from and sign copies of his book of stories, ``Pure Slaughter Value.'' Author Jay McInerney said, ``Robert Bingham writes like the bastard nephew of John Cheever.'' The signing is at Fringeware at 8 p.m. 2716 Guadalupe St. Call 494-9273. Byline: Shermakaye Bass

From the Austin Chronicle: Best of Austin: Reader's Poll:

Bookstore (Specialty) - TIE: BookWoman, Book People
Chronicle readers know their specialty bookstores well, it seems; so well, in fact, that not only was there a tie for first place but for third as well (Austin Books, Lobo) with Fringeware coming in second.

From the Austin Chronicle: Best of Austin: Critic's Poll:

Best Doorway to Fringe Culture - FringeWare, Inc. One of the first virtual corporations, FringeWare, Inc., has always been, as Bob Rossney once said, "at the cutting edge of the cutting edge." FringeWare has cultivated affinities along the technocultural borders of consensus reality, creating a true "temporary autonomous zone" and a great party online and off. The FringeWare bookstore supplanted the late great Europa Books as coolest source of human code, and the FringeWare website is chock full o' fringe goodies.

November 1997

17 - FringeWare Review #13 - Weird Texas Published

With this issue, the noble experiment known as FringeWare celebrates its fifth year of life. Some collectives are conceived in liberty. Ours was conceived in a smoky blur of designer smart drugs and habafropzipulops (a rare Tibetan herb). During the run of this journal, we've tackled all the big issues: gender in cyberspace, chaos spirituality, cyberlaw, Wired magazine, and Satanism. Despite heroic efforts, other American journals of note (Harpers and The New Yorker spring immediately to mind) continue to lag. So, safe for the moment to rest on our laurels (an old Cherokee word meaning 'buttocks'), we thought it high time to tell tall tales of our homeworld.

For a world it is, not a state or republic merely. When wayward astronauts encounter adversity, they turn to Texas in their moment of need, not some lesser state: "Houston, we have a problem". And when you consider it, what would any other city really have to say to our hapless space travelers? "Washington, we have a problem," I'm sorry, sir, 911 is busy. Will you hold? "Seattle, we have a problem." It's a latte, sir, it's supposed to have milk in it. "Los Angeles, we have a problem." We'll see if we can fix it in post-production.

Texans have been noted for their expertise in the cosmic, the metaphysical, and the just plain weird for over a century. As you'll learn in this issue, we made extraterrestrial contact in the late nineteenth century, some fifty years before those secretive New Mexicans. And exactly one hundred years ago, Bram Stoker included a lone US representative on Van Helsing's Transylvania strike force. Do you remember what state he was from? Hint: It wasn't North Dakota. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, or so they say. We'd like to think that Texas has been on the weirdo pro tour since the very first.

FringeWare, which many mistakenly think a California operation, in fact makes its home deep in the heart of Texas. For one thing, under California tax codes, we'd be classified as a paramilitary millennialist cult, when we're really more of a bookstore. For those who think that notable weirdness can only arise in states bordering an ocean, we'd like to offer this issue as a gentle corrective. Read it, and you should be returned to cognitive regularity in eight to twelve hours.

Table of Contents

December 1997

5 - Dame Darcy, author of Meatcake

A comic book published by Fantagraphics; the FringeWare folks describe her work as possessing a "neo-Victorian brand of humor, a strange sort of blending of Edward Gorey & Lizzie Borden." They also say they'll offer refreshments and such, so they want you to come early and stay late.

6 - Shannon Wheeler, creator of Too Much Coffee Man

Will be signing the new release from Mojo Press of Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: The Early Work of Shannon Wheeler. He's moving to Berkeley on December 12, so the event is also a farewell party for him.