Foreigners, and Other Familiar Faces

Mark Rich  - published June 2003

No.5in the Small Beer Press chapbook series is Foreigners, and Other Familiar Faces — written and illustrated by Wisconsin writer Mark Rich. Each of the nine stories (three of which are published here for the first time) is illustrated by Mark.


“This chapbook of nine stories by Mark Rich offers a fine selection of some truly imaginative fiction. The stories fall open without warning, speaking their own languages with unfamiliar cadence, insisting that you give them your full attention if you plan to attend to them at all. Mark Rich has a little bit of Richard Brautigan in him, something magical in his sentences that charms, even when you don’t understand where they are taking you. My love affair with fiction has become complicated since I finished grad school, and I am heartened when I discover stories that remind me of the inherent beauty of language, and the way it can sparkle when used in the right hands (his are the right hands).”
— Xerography Debt, no.12

“There is some interesting stuff here. He seems to do best with stories that involve gardening.” — A Reader’s Guide to the Underground Press, no.20

“Rich’s confident and compact prose is spiked with sci-fi quirks that veer in unexpected but ever-rewarding directions.”
— Broken Pencil no.23


Wrong Door
Mrs. Hewitt’s Tulips
Take Me
Ashes of Penis Thrown to Sea
Kiss of The Wood Woman
On the Collection of Humans

“Speculative fiction as it should be, without fear of boundaries or consideration of catagories. Each story is absolutely true to itself and utterly unique.”
— Richard Bowes

“Mark Rich is the only writer in existence who can make my mouth fall open.”
— Michael Kandel

“Humor, surrealism, a unique world view — Mark Rich’s short fiction is refreshing, original, and wonderfully written. Any new Mark Rich collection is highly recommended.”
— Jeff VanderMeer

Mark RichWho is Mark Rich?

Is he A) The jaunty, offbeat stories of Mark Rich have appeared since the 1980s in venues ranging from small humor and literary zines to the slick pages of science fiction monthlies. Since the appearance of his first collection of stores, Lifting (Wordcraft of Oregon, 1991), he has published three books about toys, including the dictionary-style compendium Toys A to Z (Krause Publications, 2001). He writes a multitude of columns about toy history for collecting magazines, pens the occasional drawing, such as the ones found in this chapbook, and leads the rock band Mad Melancholy Monkey Mind, which performs in the central Wisconsin area where he makes his home with partner and fellow musician Martha Borchardt. They have no pets.

Is he B) Mark Rich first wrote stories as a child in Colorado in the 1960s. He began publishing occasional poems and reviews in newspapers and zines in his teens, and started two speculative poetry zines before entering college. In some ways, entering college meant the end to his early writing efforts, although he did win a poetry prize and edited the campus newspaper during this time. He earned a degree in music from Beloit College in 1980. In the early 1980s he made his income from a combination of music, artwork, and writing, more the first two than the last; and as a secretary and occasional house painter and cleaning person. His income never rose above the poverty level for fifteen years. In the ’80s he co-founded The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, with Roger Dutcher; managed the Turtle Creek Food Co-op in Beloit, Wis.; worked parttime as editorial assistant and arts reviewer for the Beloit Daily News; participated in local art exhibits, with awards including a Juror’s Award in a regional show; and formed the short-lived bands Auto Da Fe and the Glass Doves. His first collection of short stories, Lifting,appeared in 1991 from David Memmott’s press, Wordcraft of Oregon. Though a small book, it won the Leslie Cross award from the Council of Wisconsin Writers. Afterwards his fiction began appearing in the professional press, beginning with Amazing Stories and Bantam anthology Full Spectrum 4. In the mid-1990s he became a regular contributor to Analog; and he published the letters-oriented zine Kornblume: Kornbluthiana, focusing on the life and works of Cyril Kornbluth. In the late 1990s, he began contributing columns about toy collecting and toy history to collecting magazines, and since then has published three books on toy history. In 2001 he established the band Mad Melancholy Monkey Mind with his partner in life and music, Martha Borchardt. The band’s first CD, Drive, appeared in 2002. Now a five-piece ensemble, the band performs in the central Wisconsin area.

Or C) Mark Rich’s life has been largely unsatisfactory, from the point of view of those who measure accomplishment by the bottom results of a balance sheet. He has, however, provided some help to a few prairie plants and miscellaneous amphibians; has published a few verses; has published a few drawings; has bought people a few beers; has put together and taken apart a few bands; has published a great number of photographs, mostly of toys; has published hundreds of thousands of words about toys; has helped out a few souls in meager literary ways; has published a few stories; has published a few books; has published a little literary criticism; has rescued a few earthworms; has cooked some good meals; has mixed some fine classic martinis; has drunk some excellent beers; has gone on some excellent walks; has provided a source of worry to his family; has read some good books; has grown a few longs hairs; and has grown a few gray hairs. This is his second collection of short stories.

Or some combination. Or all three. Or something else entirely??

Here’s his website, where you can find out more about the man, the music, the toys, oh yes, the toys.

Mark’s art was featured in LCRW 11 and on the cover of LCRW 5. His short story, “Delivery”, appeared in LCRW 9.

Mark’s been writing for years, and has been published in Tales of the Unanticipated, Analog, Amazing Stories, Science Fiction Age, The Silver Web, Keen Science Fiction, Plot, Palace Corbie, Nova 5, and the anthologies The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Eleventh Annual Collection, Universe 3, Full Spectrum 4… etc., etc.

Some of the stories in Foreigners, and Other Familiar Faces were previously published in the following places:

Ashes of Penis Thrown to Sea, Stygian Articles (No. 11, October 1997)
Exfoliation, Talebones (No. 1, Winter 1996)
Foreigners, Full Spectrum 4 (Bantam Doubleday Dell: 1993).
Idiosynchronicity (as Idiosynchrasies), SF Age (3:3, March 1995)
Mrs. Hewitt’s Tulips, in Tales of the Unanticipated (No. 20, August 1999)
On the Collection of Humans, appeared originally in Nova (U.K; 1993) and Year’s Best Science Fiction 11 (St. Martin’s: 1994)

Take Me, Wrong Door, and Kiss of the Wood Woman appear here for the first time.