Great news: Last Act of the Circus Animals is now available for sale by Little Black Cart publishers, wherever good books are stolen. And since I like cheese puffs, and I’d like to be able to afford to buy cheese puffs, I have to convince all of you ski-mask-clad machete-wielding molotov-throwing savage-cannibal maniacs to buy copies of Last Act of the Circus Animals. So, I figured I’d share with you how Last Act got written. You know, the story behind the story.
I met Travis Washington at Toledo Corruptional back in 2006. He had trnasferred from the super-duper-max, where he had been sent for throwing an apple. Yeah, you heard that right. Travis had been sent to the super-duper-max for throwing an apple. So, when he arrived at Toledo, he generally stayed in his cell and stayed to himself.
I think it as around the holidays, we were talking while I sat in his doorway, and he asked me what it was I did during count times. He said he could see across the range and he noticed that I would appear in my cell-door window and then disappear again, over and over, all through count.
I told him that I had a habit of pacing my cell during count, so, chances are, he was seeing me as I paced up to the door, turned, and paced back toward the bed. When he asked me why I paced during count, I gave him some long, ponderous Swain explanation. Chances are, I was hopped up on several cups of coffee, the high-octane jet-fuel instant stuff. Instead of scooping it into the cup and adding water, I might as well snort it.
Anyway, I described to Travis how I remembered what it felt like to be free, and I had long ago determined that I would never get comfortable in prison, never get settled in as if I belong here, as if this world is my world. And part of that is pacing and thinking when locked down in the cell.
You know, it’s funny. You never know when folks are paying attention. Or when they’re paying too much attention.
At any rate, Travis took that conversation and turned it into something. Rather than a prison, he made the setting to be a circus. And in his story, it was a tiger asking a panther why it is he always paces his cage. Travis called the short story, “The Pacing Panther,” and since I write, he handed it to me for me to read.
Quite frankly, I was incredibly jealous. I had been writing anti-authoritarian vitriolic clap-trap for years, and here Travis took his first swipe at putting pen to paper and had come up with the most brilliant analogy I had ever read. What a thoughtless jerk. The least he could have done was write it badly so I could give him some advice on how to fix it. But, no.
In all honesty, I think I was moe excited about it than he was. When I handed “The Pacing Panther” back to him, I asked him where the rest of it was. He intended to end it right there, and I told him what a waste that was– how this story about animals in cages could be used to do so much more. So, we started brainstorming a whole plot-line that became ‘Last At of the Circus Animals.’ I did most of the writing after the first chapter, and Travis would scribble all over it and edit it, and we’d work through revisions, sometimes with heated arguments like the time– spoiler alert –I insisted we had to kill off one of the characters to stay authentic.
We sent the final version to Anthony Rayson at the South Chicago ABC Zine Distro, the foremost zinester in the world, and he cranked out our zine in 2007. I don’t know how many thousands of copies Anthony distributed, but I suspect that he’s gotten copies into just about every prison in the United States. No exaggeration.
In the ten years since its first publication, ‘Last Act’ has taken on a life of its own. It was reviewed in the U.K. and I’ve gotten mail from readers as far away as Petersburg, Russia.
In 2008, some folks who were affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front got raided by the fascists, and copies of ‘Last Act’ were found in their possession. Another reader of ‘Last Act’ started writing to me and applied to be on my visiting list before he got picked up as one of the founding members of the hacktivist group Anonymous. I’ve heard that one of the twelve original members of the Ad-Busters group that started Occupy was radicalized in high school when reading a dog-eared copy of ‘Last Act of the Circus Animals.’ And I’ve also heard that a member of the NATO 5 conspiracy still reads ‘Last Act’ to his infant child each night before bed.
Hopefully, that’s a good indication that there will be another generation of ski-mask-clad machete-wielding molotov-throwing savage-cannibal maniacs kicking a dent in the system… if we can’t topple it sooner.
At any rate, Little Black Cart is printing up thousands of copies along with material never previously heretofore included in the original zine, and in order to avoid the biggest crapitalist debacle in publishing history, I have to find a way to pander this thing.
So, if you work in the service industry, find a way to clip some rich people of their credit card numbers and order a few hundred copies for the local infoshop. Or, check out prior segments where I describe how to rob banks and how to counterfeit money. Or, you could just purchase one less pizza on the weekend and get youself a copy to read. You can get ordering information by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out the first chapter of ‘Last Act’ posted at seanswain.org.
I’m pretty excited about this and I hope I’m not alone or else folks who run Little Black Cart will have to knock off a liquor store to pay the costs of publishing this thing, and I’ll have to dance on tables for cigarettes in order to help them recoup their losses.
I hope you can help me out.
I look terrible in flower prints… and I really don’t look forward to waxing my back.
This is Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain from Warren Corruptional in Lebanon, Ohio. If you’re reading ‘Last Act of the Circus Animals,’ you ARE the resistance…