Adam Parfrey, a Port Townsend publisher known for giving a voice to fringe views and exposing people to ideas others were not willing to publish, has died. The 61-year-old founder of Feral House Publishing, unable to recover from a stroke April 20, passed Thursday while in medical care in Seattle.
Parfrey is best known for “putting light into what some people would consider dark corners and expanding people’s sheltered view of the world,” said his sister, Jessica Parfrey. “He was exposing people to things that they had no idea existed.”
She said what her brother published wasn’t necessarily pretty, but covered things that were real.
Adam Parfrey co-founded Amok Press with Kenneth Sweezey in New York in 1987, and later founded Feral House in 1989.
He has published more than 100 books under the label, including You Can’t Win by Jack Black, The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & U.S.A. 1979-1993 by Robert Forbes and Eddie Stampton, and Technological Slavery by the now-imprisoned Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski.
In 1992, Feral House published Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., which was adapted two year’s later for Tim Burton’s Oscar-winning film, Ed Wood.
“He had this idea something was going to get big and then a few years later it did,” Jessica said. “He always knew when something was going to happen. Adam was always early.”
While Jessica said he had a knack for knowing what was going to be a hit, he wasn’t always looking for books that would be top sellers. In many cases, he was more interested in providing an outlet for voices than he was in turning a profit.
“Sometimes he would publish books he figured wouldn’t sell well,” she said. “He certainly accepted projects [where] he knew that if he broke even on that book he would be lucky, but he still wanted to do it.”
In 2005, he and Jodi Wille of Dilettante Press co-founded the independent publishing company Process Media, which has published more than 20 books focused on culture, homesteading and practical skills.
Most recently Adam Parfrey was enjoying the raves and reviews of his newest book release, The Despair of Monkeys and Other Trifles, the English-language memoir of French singer Francois Hardy. He was also working on his memoir, A Feral Man in a Feral Land. According to Feral House, he was working on a number of projects before he passed. Feral House will shepherd them into print in the coming 12 to 18 months.
Jessica said her brother’s love of introducing people to new things started at a young age. She remembered when she was a young girl in the mid-’70s and he introduced her to punk rock.
“He wanted to share his music with us, but a kid version,” she said. That included songs such as “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s, and artists such as Blondie and Talking Heads.
“That was eye-opening,” she said. “He expanded our horizons of what was possible. Our brains couldn’t conceive that that kind of music was out there.”
Since his death, artists and fans have been reaching out to Feral House and to family. “A lot of artists have been reaching out and have been saying what a profound effect he has had on their lives,” Jessica said. “It’s been pretty moving to see.”
Writers for Vice, Deadline, and other publications reflected on his death and the legacy of his work. As Vice writer Matthew Gault put it, “For better and worse, Parfrey’s spirit lives on in place on 4chan and Reddit—at least the sections where the far right hasn’t taken over—where people still trade in strange ideas and free thinking isn’t synonymous with historical revision and Nazi sympathies.”
A version of this story first appeared in Peninsula Daily News.