A Brief History of The Spark: A Journal of Contemporary Anarchist Thought

The first issue of The Spark: A Journal of Contemporary Anarchist Thought was published in July, 1983, and the final issue in June 1984. A total of five issues were published. A list of the writers includes:

Steve O’Keefe, editor & publisher

Patrick Michael, staff

Rosemary Fury, staff

Bob Black

Karl Hess

Kerry Wendell Thornley

Gerry Reith

Terry Epton

Tom Croft

Judy Kroll

G. Michael O’Hara

Hakim Bey (Letter to the Editor)

I moved to Port Townsend, Washington, in early 1983, with no money and no place to live. Months earlier, when I was executive director of the Libertarian Party of Michigan, I had been offered a job by Bill Bradford, a precious metals dealer and the editor of Liberty magazine who had moved to Port Townsend from Lansing, Michigan. When I arrived, the job offer had vanished, but he let me stay at his mansion until I got my bearings.

I went to work as a typesetter for Loompanics Unlimited, publishers and sellers of controversial and unusual books. The owner, Mike Hoy, used to work for Bill Bradford at a coin shop in Lansing, Michigan, before he started Loompanics. I knew Mike from Libertarian events in Michigan. Bradford lured both of us to Port Townsend, and he was not wrong: The town was a paradise of drop outs and slackers and I loved living there!

I had spent the previous four years working for the Libertarian Party while putting myself through college at Michigan State University. In 1979, I helped the Libertarians win ballot access in several states. In 1980, I worked for the Ed Clark for President campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada. When Clark got a sickening 1% of the vote, I went back to Michigan and became executive director of the state party.

In school I was studying Karl Marx and Albert Camus and for work I was reading Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek and my brain just about exploded. I became very enamored of the early American anarchists: Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, and Emma Goldman. In the 1982 midterm elections, the Libertarian Party of Michigan fielded over 50 candidates and I was “campaign manager” for 49 of them.

When the Libertarians were crushed in the 1982 election, I had enough of conventional, electoral politics. I sold everything I owned, bought a backpack and a rain suit, and spent the next month in the Grand Canyon. I followed that with two weeks camping in Death Valley, then I hitchhiked up the coast from San Diego to Seattle and took a bus to Port Townsend.

A Journal of Contemporary Anarchist Thought

The Spark was my answer to the electoral disaster of the Libertarian Party. I felt that even if they were successful, they would become “Republicans Lite,” and that’s what has become of the Libertarian Party. I felt there were almost no voices representing the right wing of anarchism, the free-markets free-minds wing. I tried to steer The Spark into that space between Lysander Spooner anarchism and Kropotkin anarchism.

The first issue had a long revisionist piece on the Declaration of Independence. It was a shot across the bow to Libertarians that the “Founding Fathers” nonsense is pure bullshit. The white, male aristocrats in the colonies wanted freedom to govern America themselves. They never believed in freedom and equality for all, and their Constitution was never put to a public vote: it was imposed upon the people.

The second issue of The Spark was on anarchy and violence. The Vancouver 5 had been arrested in January for bombing a power substation on Vancouver Island, bombing a plant in Toronto that produced guidance systems for cruise missiles, and firebombing three Red Hot Video outlets in Vancouver, British Columbia. The issue had writers defending the 5, against the 5, against violence, and pro violence.

By issue three, on inequality, we had our first letters to the editor. The issue included writing from a free-market feminist, an African-American black supremacist, and a gay rights piece addressing AIDS hysteria. Issue number four saw the birth of Bob Black’s seminal piece, “Feminism as Facism,” which really got people unglued.

Things changed rapidly for me after that. I fell in love with a woman named Storme and we made plans to move to Seattle together. I put out one long, last issue of The Spark which I had been working on for months. Called, “Redefining Anarchy,” I secured pieces from the Village Voice writer, Karl Hess; Kerry Wendell Thornley, the father, with Robert Anton Wilson, of the Principia Discordia; and Gerry Reith, the phenomenal founder of Minitrue and the author of Neutron Gun.

When Thornley delivered his hand-written submission, I mailed back a typewriter. I paid some of the writers and sent books to others. Loompanics gave me multiple copies of several books as part of my compensation for editing. When I left Port Townsend for Seattle, I donated my massive library on anarchism – perhaps 50 titles– to Mike Hoy because he had an even bigger library. He ended up with hundreds of books on anarchism and I had rights to use his library.

Seattle wore me out and I returned to Port Townsend four years later to take the job of editorial director at Loompanics. We put out about 20 new titles a year with one editor, one typesetter, and one marketing person: me. Summing up the influence of The Spark, I believe it heralded a shift away from political anarchism and toward lifestyle anarchism: making yourself free rather than making society free.

I left Loompanics in 1994 to start Internet Publicity Services for book publishers and authors. I’ve written several books since then. My latest is Set the Page On Fire: Secrets of Successful Writers (New World Library, 2019) based on hundreds of interviews. I’m still a cranky anarchist writer.

Steve O’Keefe is the author of several books, most recently Set the Page on Fire: Secrets of Successful Writers, from New World Library, based on over 250 interviews. He is the former editorial director for Loompanics Unlimited.