Serpent's Tail/High Risk Archive
Language of Materials
High Risk Books was founded in New York City in 1993 by Ira Silverberg and Amy Scholder as an imprint of Serpent's Tail Press in London. Dedicated to publishing challenging, innovative, and progressive literature, High Risk Books transcended the traditional boundaries of publishing to provoke and inspire a new generation of writers and readers. While connected by a certain subversive impulse, authors as diverse as William S. Burroughs, Kathy Acker, Tim Dlugos, Diamanda Galas, Robert Gluck, Gary Indiana, June Jordan, Cookie Mueller, Lynne Tillman, Pagan Kennedy, John Giorno, Sapphire and many others are published by High Risk. As a small press, High Risk played a crucial role in providing a space for writers, many just beginning their careers, who would otherwise have found it difficult to get published in mainstream houses. In January 1997, the High Risk office in New York closed. Serpent's Tail Press continues to publish from the United Kingdom.
High Risk Books was founded in New York City in 1993 by Ira Silverberg and Amy Scholder as an imprint of Serpent's Tail Press in London. Dedicated to publishing challenging, innovative, and progressive literature, High Risk Books transcended the traditional boundaries of publishing to provoke and inspire a new generation of writers and readers. Ira Silverberg told The New York Times in a March 13, 1994 interview that he and his co-editor Amy Scholder wanted to "catch an area of the market that's being overlooked by mainstream houses. . . . We're working with a lot of gay men, lesbians, and African Americans, because the voices of under served communities tend to shed more light on societal conditions than the voices of the people who have the franchise. That's not to say we won't publish straight white men." While connected by a certain subversive impulse, authors as diverse as William S. Burroughs, Kathy Acker, Tim Dlugos, Diamanda Galas, Robert Gluck, Gary Indiana, June Jordan, Cookie Mueller, Lynne Tillman, Pagan Kennedy, John Giorno, Sapphire and many others are published by High Risk.
As a small press High Risk played a crucial role in providing a space for writers, many just beginning their careers, who would otherwise have found it difficult to get published in mainstream houses. Anny Patty, editor-at-large at Crown Publishing, complimented Ira Silverberg for "publishing a kind of book that's very hard for corporate publishers to get past committees, which tend to homogenize things. He's able to publish non-homogenized writing and to sort out those who are posing from those who really have something to say." Ira's larger agenda for High Risk Books can be summed up in his statement to The New York Times: "I hope we'll be seen as the diamond in the coal bin that publishing is right now. I want to prove to the world that literary publishing has a future".
In January, 1997, the High Risk office in New York closed. Serpent's Tail Press continues to publish from the United Kingdom.
Folders are arranged alphabetically by name/subject within each series. Oversize materials are separated into their own container.
The files are grouped into six subject oriented series.
- Series I: Author Files
- Series II: Business and Administrative Files
- Series III: Manuscripts
- Series IV: Production Files
- Series V: Publicity, Photographs and Sales Catalogs
- Series VI: Miscellaneous
- Accretion 2011 - Series VII: Cookie Mueller Materials
- Flat Box - Series I: Author Files
- Flat Box - Series V: Publicity, Photographs and Sales Catalogs
- Flat Box - Series VI: Miscellaneous
Scope and Content Note
The Serpent's Tail/High Risk Archive is a part of the Downtown Collection at the Fales Library, New York University. The Fales Library is the primary special collections division of the NYU libraries, housing over 167,000 volumes of English and American literature from 1700 to the present. Strengths of the collection include the development of the English and American novel, with an emphasis on the Gothic and the Victorian novel. The Downtown Collection, of which the High Risk Archive is a part, is a comprehensive collection of author and business files, printed materials, manuscripts, photographs and other materials related to the Downtown New York scene from ca. 1975 to the present.
The archival portion of the Serpent's Tail/High Risk Archive is comprised of the correspondence, manuscripts and contracts of authors who published with High Risk Books, press binders on High Risk and Serpent's Tail authors, business and administration files, production files, publicity, reviews, photographs, sales catalogues, posters, ephemera, and some audio/visual and printed material. The Serpent's Tail/High Risk Archive contains a comprehensive collection of High Risk Books files during the years of its operation. Ira Silverberg's original organization of the archive was preserved as much as possible.
Series I (Author files) subseries A contains four boxes of High Risk author files. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by author and includes information on appearances and events, contracts, royalty and sub-rights, correspondence, author data, production, publicity, and reviews. Series I, subseries B contains three boxes of Serpent's Tail author files, arranged by author and further subdivided by title. Also included are authors/titles published collaboratively by both Atlas Press and Serpent's Tail.
Series II (Business and administrative files): Contains five boxes of editorial and general correspondence, as well as correspondence with the U.K. office, Atlas Press, and Consortium Book Sales and Distribution. It also includes business files pertaining to customer accounts, advertising, events, trade shows, the High Risk website, marketing research, academic and review requests, publication schedules, permissions, and budgets.
Series III (Manuscripts): Contains five boxes of manuscripts found scattered throughout the collection. This series also includes versions of texts that reflect the various stages of production (from manuscript to advance uncorrected proof).
Series IV (Production files): Contains two boxes of production materials, sometimes with manuscripts. All galleys were removed and catalogued for the Fales Downtown Collection.
Series V (Publicity and Promotion), subseries A contains three boxes of promotional materials, sales kits, and material removed from press binders and put in folders for the collection. Series V, subseries B contains author photographs and slides of authors and cover art. Series 5 subseries C contains sales catalogues from High Risk, Serpent's Tail, and Consortium Book Sales and Distribution.
Series VI (Miscellaneous), subseries A contains subject files on Paul Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, and Richard Tremblay, a.k.a. Rick Trembles. Series VI, subseries B contains printed material. Series 6 subseries C contains ephemera. Series 6 subseries D contains computer disks from the High Risk office.
Accretion 2011 - Series VII (Cookie Mueller Material): contains manuscripts, newspaper and magazine publications, and drafts of Cookie Mueller's writings. It also contains personal photographs, drawings, and other materials belonging to Cookie Mueller.
Flat: There is one flat oversize box that contain oversize materials from series 1, 5 and 6. Posters of William Burroughs from series I are located in the map case.
Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections, email@example.com, 212-998-2596.
Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-998-2596.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Serpent's Tail/High Risk archive; MSS 086; box number; folder number; Fales Library and Special Collections , New York University Libraries.
The Serpent's Tail/High Risk Archive was donated February, 1997 by Ira Silverberg. The initial organization of the collection was done by High Risk staff as they packed the materials for shipment.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Born-digital materials have not been preserved and may not be available to researchers.
There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.
About this Guide
Processing Information note
In March 2016, boxes from Series II through Series VI and Accretion 2011 (Series VII) were renumbered to numerically follow boxes in Series I. Researchers with citations to previous box numbers may contact email@example.com for assistance with identifying new box numbers.