This week the world became a less interesting place.
Steve Kostecke is dead.
I don't know the details but I know it was too soon. Steve couldn't have been older than 45 or so. I met Steve a decade ago at The Underground Literary Alliance's Amato Opera House Show in New York City. It was one of his rare times on his native country's soil. He spent most of his adult life overseas, usually in Asia, seeking a freedom that he thought was extinguished in the USA. His travel adventures were documented in a series of travel zines. Over the years, I have read thousands of zines. Most of them I donated to libraries or gave away to other people. A select few I kept because I wanted to read them again someday.
I kept Steve's zines.
I hold in my hand a copy of Auslanders Raus!, which tells the story of Steve's time living in a tent in the woods in Germany while working at Burger King on an American military base.
Steve didn't write fiction. He didn't have to. His life was a novel.
It was a good read too for those of us who got to experience it secondhand through his zines. In addition to Auslanders Raus!, I also have Destination: Absolutely and Third World Blues, chronicles of his adventures in Asia and the South Pacific.
I was looking forward to reading more of Steve's zines someday.
Steve would probably say in response to that something like "That's what you get for looking forward instead of looking at where you are."
In any case, I'm glad I got to read the ones I did, and that I got to know Steve.
Most of my correspondence with Steve was via email, usually in the context of planning some Underground Literary Alliance (ULA) event or other undertaking. It was always interesting to see which Asian country Steve would be emailing from this time. He taught English and used the language as his ticket to explore Asia.
Steve was the editor of the ULA's group zine The Slush Pile and was hoping to publish a greatest hits collection from it as a book. The project was continually getting shelved due to infighting in the ULA (I lost track of Steve when I quit the group a few years back, though my exit had nothing to do with Steve; in fact, one member even accused Steve and I of being in league against him, something Steve and I had a good laugh over via email since we both liked that member and weren't in league against anybody), publisher difficulties, and even Steve's conscience (he pulled the book from one publisher because he thought the ULA and the publisher were a bad combination). With Steve's death, the long-delayed book is probably dead as well, since if he couldn't shepherd it through to publication, no one else could likely come close (arguments within the ULA could literally become barroom brawls--thank goodness, most were conducted safely via distant email).
I love self publishing but one hazard is that when the zinester or self-publisher dies, without an ongoing publisher to keep the work available, her or his work often passes as well. It would be great is Steve's zines could be more available, but at least some of his work is available on the blog Pat King and I edited for the ULA. You can read "Hi, I'm Jack" and "Decades Of Debauchery And The Human Animal", both by Steve to get a feel for his writing.
I'm sorry there will be no more of it, but at least his last work, a translation of Plato, is available (in fact, it just came out and I wondered if the news of Steve's death was just a hoax to help promote it, but that's just vain hope).
I was also happy to be published alongside Steve in the ULA's Books line, but Steve's zines are a better read than that book, so please don't judge his work based on it.
Steve, I'm sorry I never got to drink another beer with you, and to hear more of your wonderful stories in person. The next beer I drink will be raised in your honor. Cheers!
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