08 July 2015

American Underground Literature, Volume 1: Dan Buck

In days long ago, before the electronic age, there existed these things:
They were called *zines.* Amateur magazines self-published by oddballs. Most of them were terrible, consisting of horribly written tales of self-pity xeroxed and mailed out to dozens of other self-absorbed scribes in the underground fanzine world.

There were a few noteworthy exceptions, eccentric journals written by literate obsessives devoted to High Weirdness or Conspiracy. I remember one such publication titled Republicanism, Pedophilia and Negrophilia--a masterpiece exposing the *Christian* political right as high-ranking masquerading octoroons with insatiable lusts for little boys and girls. . .

But, anyways. . .after telling a sad tale or two of anorexia or bullying or date rape or losing a big wrestling match or losing a big toe in a lawnmower accident, most zine *authors* ran out of material, and then asked for submissions from anybody who could spell 'cat' to help keep their vanity presses alive. Of course, most of the guest contributions were shitty, also. But I noticed one fellow, Dan Buck, who appeared in scores of zines, with poems and short stories that were singularly affecting.

Most zine writers were shameless posers, without a genuine narrative voice, but there was nothing phony about Buck's work. In the interview below, Buck will speak of the difficulty in finding the meaning in his wire sculptures. . .the same holds true for his writing. . .you can never quite be sure what it means, but it always *rings true*. . .these are the poems and stories of a real human being trying to commit experience to paper. In this regard, Dan Buck is a far greater writer than American counterfeits such as David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon, who shit out (or shat out, in Wallace's case) thousands of pages of goofball gnostic fiction.

Dan Buck resides in the great American interior (Armour, South Dakota, pop. 699), far from the self-styled literary intelligentsia of New York, who chase their own genitals in search of the next written std to infect the reading public. Pure of Madison Avenue intoxicants, Buck's prose can disorient readers accustomed to the typical dreck published and promoted as American Fiction, but which, in reality, is the impostor literature of Manhattan blurbism.  

I thank Mr. Buck for agreeing to an interview, and for providing two short stories which follow the questions and answers.

Mr. Buck's short story collection This Day's Wait is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Buck welcomes correspondence. You may write to him at PO Box 271, Armour, SD 57313-0271.

Interview with American Writer Dan Buck

Q: How did you get started writing?  Have you always wanted to be a writer, even since childhood, or did the writing bug come along later?

A: Writing was a labor of love for me. I was forced into it, when after I graduated from college, my diabetes grew worse. I have always had an unstable diabetes, but I was getting reactions once or thrice a week, all the while my doctor kept raising my insulin injection. As this problem happened, so did the cost of staying alive and paying doctor and hospital bills. The trouble was the employer knew about diabetes better than my doctor and wouldn't hire me. So, finally, I took up writing. With my college minor in English, I thought it would be a breeze.

Q: What type of work were you looking for?

A: It's been forty years ago. With a failing memory. But, I do remember one. That was a big newspaper. The hirer told me that they'd hired a diabetic. But when they switched him to night work, his blood sugars didn't take kindly to the switch. So I was out as soon as I said 'diabetic.'

Q: Why do you write?  Is there something in particular you want to share with the reader?  Or do you write primarily for your own benefit?

A: I write always hoping that someone will read what I say. Yet, after discovering that I would never get published the way that I was going, I went insane. I became a schizophrenic. It took a long while dealing with it, before I restarted writing. . .but then writing took on the dual purpose of also being a link to sanity.

Q: Can a person *become a schizophrenic?* Or does schizophrenia overcome the person?

A: My psychiatrists have been sketchy with this question. Thirty years ago my psychiatrist said it was one and/or the other. As far as I know there are plenty of diabetics on both sides of my family tree, but no schizos. But after a few years, when I got it, my grand nephew was born with autism.

Q: Have any writers inspired you?

A: The primary writers whose writing I have enjoyed are Roger Zelazny and Piers Anthony.

Q: What is it about these writers that you admire?

A: Both Zelazny and Anthony have lots of action in their work.

Q: You live in a small town in South Dakota. How does that influence your writing?

A: Living in a small town in South Dakota has filled me with the simple dreams of life. Those dreams are my daily life bread that are spread throughout my writing.

QAre there other *artists* in your area you connect with?  Or are you *alone* when it comes to writing?  Are you considered an *oddball* because you write?

A: There are no other writers in my area that I am connected with. And, as I also learned other skills in my treatments for schizophrenia, there are also no other wire sculptors or collage artists. No one says anything. I am accepted in my small town, that is enough.

Q: What subjects do you sculpt? People? Animals? Abstract objects?

A: I wire sculpt mostly abstract people and abstract animals. Have given my dad a difficult time in figuring what the work is, besides dangerous wire.
Wire Sculpture by Dan Buck of Armour, South Dakota
Q: Can you share some of your zine experiences, good or bad. . .maybe some friendships that formed, or you got some feedback that your poems or stories inspired or helped somebody?  Was anyone ever overly-critical or negative?

A: Nobody was ever over critical. I made some good friends. And a lot of people were helpful. The trouble is through diabetes and schizophrenia I have troubles with my memory. Longer pieces of writing are harder and harder to do and get right. I am working with my memory, but a novel is out of the question. And also with doing long computer stories and blogs. The computer is also expensive and I am limited with bigger sums of money at one time, which I would have to pay coming from a small area.

Q: With the internet and all our electronic gadgets, the old paper zine is about dead, how do you feel about that?  What are we losing?

A: I regret losing the old zines. But change is a natural part of life, so I will wait and take advantage of anything good that arises.

Q: Does the electronic media interest you?  What do you make of this Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr stuff?

A: I wouldn't mind getting more involved with internet. When I visited Twitter, I enjoyed clicking onto the longer pieces of info. Quite informative.

Q: When 9/11 happened, did you think America was attacked?  Or just New York City?  By that I mean, do you think of the World Trade Towers, etc. as really being a part of America?  Did it matter to anyone in South Dakota that the Twin Towers fell?

A: In South Dakota there is a strong 'America, right or wrong' feeling. In every war South Dakotans have fought and died. But it is a poor state and people are into survival, so not much is said about feelings one way or another.

Q: What about the recent church shooting, in which a young white man murdered nine black people? I don't imagine there are many African Americans in South Dakota. . .can you understand why anybody would want to kill people just because they are colored?

A: More and more black people are coming to South Dakota--through adoption and moving to Sioux Falls.  But when I was young, there were none in small towns around my area. Still, I admire most hard-working people in the world, as hard work is looked up to in South Dakota.  And for sure I can't understand killing people who look for love and understanding in this world.  Just saying it now reminds me of the '70s.

The Literature of American Writer Dan Buck




Once upon a time in the far present there lived a troubled man, who had Schizophrenia. As he kept taking treatments, uneasy situations kept arising. Still, he held onto being better.

He fastened a lot of his troubles to himself. He never had many conscious thoughts, which presented him with using things of his past in special ways.

One such was storytelling. And in the back of his mind he was always trying to find new ways to write stories.

On one night, after getting up in the early hours, he went outside and looked up at the moon and clouds. He noticed the clouds' shapes. They began him thinking in thoughts and emotions into stories. Here is one story the clouds presented to him:


The rooster pheasant crowed in the wild weed patch. The man watched, while thunder rumbled.

In a nearby farmyard, the leghorn rooster angrily cackled at the pheasant. It moved closer to the leghorn, then edged back into the weeds. The man sighed.

Hearing the pheasant, the dog ran along the ditched gravel road. But, not a hunting dog, the canine couldn't pick up on a fresher scent from an older. He soon gave up by racing to the farm and chasing the chicken into the barn.

Just then the thunder rumbled angrily. The man walked on, scaring the pheasant into a flight. The dog saw the bird flying, and growled. It never shifted the pheasant's flight pattern in the least. The leghorn, seeing the dog's defeat, crowed fully, then flew into the chicken coop.

The man called the dog to come to him. His stomach rumbled. The dog crawled into its shed, with its tail behind it.

The man followed the clouds to the East. A farmyard appeared about a mile further on. He walked slowly.


For awhile, the cloud man thought something might come of it. But, by the quality of the story, he knew nothing would. Yet, rather than quit staring at the cloud images, he continued to think about them and form ideas.

Those he could use, later.



Listening to the Little Woman.

"What's that slithering in the grass, out of the shadows it keeps? Kill it. Kill it. Keep it away from our child. You're supposed to be the man. Do something beside drinking beer."

What's that garden size variety slithering from my foot? Seeking shelter from my stick. Not running in fear. Always coming back to bask in the sun.

Another time, after wife and child find better men, we'd be buds, greet solace from old age, not wasting our future with visions of our past. But, for now, I will run harder from my woman's screams than you will.

Meeting your daydreams is no bad fate. Maybe, in a hollow place, out of the cold, we can wrap our silence together.


  1. I'm looking for old "underground" things. Which favorite composers belonged to night-owls of 17th century Berlin? Are there books that were too stimulating for the general public, but have survived long enough to be saved online?

  2. You must seek the following text:

    "The Oldest History of the World Discovered by Occult Science in Detroit, Mich."