Steamshovel Press

Steamshovel Press is a zine with accompanying web page that is published in St. Louis, Missouri. Originally the Press was entirely the work of Kenn Thomas, an archivist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Steamshovel Press focuses primarily on politically based conspiracy theories, particularly those dealing with assassinations. The zine is not strictly a political one, however; UFO cover-ups are frequently examined. Thomas refers to himself as a “parapoliticalist,” suggesting one who works on the fringes of the normal realm of politcs. Steamshovel Press also regularly discusses beat literature, which Thomas sees as having ties to conspiracy studies. The magazine is not hesitant to endorse even the most outlandish conspiracy notions; its motto is “All conspiracy. No theory.” Still, the zine is highly regarded within the conspiracy community; Immerse magazine calls it “the Bible of conspiracy theory” and says it features “cutting-edge con-spiriology research at its finest.”

Thomas traces his interest in conspiracy theory back to John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which occurred when Thomas was five years old; the Kennedy assassination continues to inspire articles in Steamshovel Press and in 1997 Thomas coauthored the book Mind Control, Oswald and JFK: Were We Controlled? Paul Krassner’s radical magazine of the 1960s, the Realist, was also an influence on Steamshovel Press and Thomas’s writing in general. Thomas was working as a rock music critic and freelance journalist when he founded Steamshovel Press in the late 1980s. The publication began as a newsletter and did not adopt the magazine format until its fourth issue. Like many zine editors. Steamshovel Press was also born out of Thomas’s inability to find a market for some of his freelance work, particularly an interview with Ram Dass, a spiritual leader and contemporary of Timothy Leary. Thomas also felt there was a void in conspiracy publications; Mae Brussell had recently died and the conspiracy zine Critique had ceased publication.

When Steamshovel Press made the transition from newsletter to zine in 1992, other writers began contributing. Since then the Press has run articles by such well-known conspiracy journalists as Jim Keith, Jonathan Vankin, Jim Martin, and Robert Anson Wilson. Keith and Thomas also collaborated on the influential The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro. Since 1993 Steamshovel Press has published one or two issues a year; the issue bearing the unlucky number thirteen was never published and is referred to as the “phantom” issue. A web page was established in 1996; much of the material on the page, including a regular column titled “The Latest Word,” does not appear in the zine.

In addition to the zine and web page, three collections of writings from Steamshovel Press have been published. Popular Alienation: A Steamshovel Press Reader was brought out by IllumiNet Press in 1995; it consists of issues four through eleven of the zine along with material from the phantom issue. Cyberculture Conspiracy: Volume One (1999) and Volume Two (2000) were published by Book Tree; each contains writings from the web page.

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