Slack Is Back

"'BOB' IS ELUSIVE," says the Rev. Ivan Stang, chief cleric of The Church of the SubGenius, of the Church's figurehead J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. "He calls on his followers to assassinate him, so that keeps him on the run. And he keeps getting killed. But he can't get into Heaven because he hasn't been baptized, and they won't let him into Hell because he's been cuckolding the Devil. So he just winds up back here on Earth."

The World's First Industrial Church ("complete with a full line of disposable saviors suitable for today's hectic pace") has been working steadily since 1979 to both promote "slack" and to smash what they've dubbed The Conspiracy of Normals. Although Stang admits the church "hasn't gotten the billions of members that 'Bob' had promised," they do claim a good-sized congregation (which includes Timothy Leary, R. Crumb, Ken Kesey, Jello Biafra, and David Byrne, among others), and they remain busy as ever. There's a mind-boggling multimedia website (http://sunsite.unc.edu/subgenius), a fourth full-length book (Revelation X: The "Bob" Apocryphon, from Simon & Schuster), a recent tour with GWAR, and now the North American Slack Crusades, which will bring Rev. Stang and his expanded entourage of SubGenius preachers, circus performers and musicians to town for the first time since the Church's infamous Walker Art Center-sponsored appearance in 1983.

Stang, who was out taking his daughter to the orthodontist when we called, lives in Dallas with his wife and two kids ("just an average American family--Mom teaches first grade, Dad works for a strange religious cult"). Among other things, he is preparing for X-Day, the apocalypse scheduled for July 5, 1998, when all followers of "Bob" will be taken up in rapture to UFO Escape Vessels--providing they've paid their $30 membership fee.

"That's the date, unless 'Bob' swings a better deal with the aliens." Stang confirms in his slippery southern drawl. "I have complete faith that 'Bob' will either come through for us--or else change his mind."

The Church of the SubGenius Slack Crusade comes to Ground Zero in Minneapolis on Tuesday; see A List for details.

HAILING TAXI

THE FACT THAT people are reading less, that nonprofits are being defunded into oblivion, and that zine culture is moving online fortunately hasn't made much of an impression on the publishers of The Rain Taxi Review of Books, who just launched their free-distribution journal from their home base in Minneapolis. The 48-page newsprint magazine devotes the bulk of its pages to reviews of small-press books, with a focus on writing that pushes at boundaries. There's an expansive Q & A with fiction writer Rikki Ducornet that covers dream power, feminist orthodoxy, and the "soothing" scent of formaldehyde; a profile of language scientist and genre heathen Karen Elizabeth Gordon; a feature review of Djuna Barnes's Smoke and Other Early Stories by Pamela Ditchoff, author of The Mirror of Monsters and Prodigies (Coffee House Press); and a critical essay on the local small-press scene by Chax Press director Charles Alexander. The writing is, by and large, an inviting blend of the smart and the personal; it's got a zine-like passion for its subject matter, but seems to prefer ideas to egos.

"Emptying our bank accounts" is how co-publisher Carolyn Kuebler (also an occasional CP contributor) describes Rain Taxi's initial financial operation; they've also received ad support from small presses and bookshops and, as a nonprofit, are angling for some grant support. The quarterly's next issue is slated for April publication; the current issue is available at local booksellers.

 
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