Memories of a Luddite, Pt. 1

Deran Ludd, writer and activist, 1959-2018

Ludd riffing on his choroideremia — a degenerative eye disease (Anonymous)


by George Howland Jr.

A friend called with the sad news: Writer and activist Deran Ludd had committed suicide on September 9, 2018.

I only saw Deran dance once. It was 1977. Deran was frugging and laughing with Leslie Batchelder to the sounds of the B-52s “Rock Lobster.” The two of them were impossibly beautiful.

Deran had the delicate patrician features of the WASP elite. His hair was a little shaggy and he had on earrings that matched his blue eyes. His slim body didn’t hold my attention, it was his gorgeous face that I couldn’t stop looking at. My gaydar went off—but quietly. He seemed like a sweet, hippie boy.

The same year, Deran and two friends had moved to Seattle from Everett. Leslie had come down from Bellingham, where she had been enrolled in Western Washington University. Even though they were just a few years younger than my friends and me, they felt like a different generation. My utopian hopes were already under attack from despair and failure, while the Everett bunch seemed fresh and idealistic.

Deran found us through Black Feather, our anarchist zine. It turned out that he and his friends had rented a house almost across the street from Camp Blossom for Boys, our intentional community of gay, straight and bisexual men.

He went right to work on Black Feather, helping to edit and lay out the third issue. In due course, Deran submitted his first article to the zine. His subject was whether patrons should trash the rock venues they attended (Deran argued no). I read the article and wondered, “Why would anyone trash a place to hear music?” I didn’t understand.

The reason for my confusion was simple: punk had exploded in Seattle. While I wasn’t even aware of the detonation, Deran couldn’t get close enough to the blast. Punk transformed Deran: the way he thought, the way he wrote, the way he looked—it all changed. Punk killed the hippie in him.

Allen Ginsburg, Humbert Humphrey and Seattle Weekly

That was one of the reasons Deran and I were always uncomfortable around each other: I was hippie to his punk. In our 20s, we were, however, bound by our love of anarchism and our shared belief that the anti-authoritarian movement needed to embrace radical feminist and queer opposition to patriarchy.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, we also did a lot of fun, crazy stuff together.

In 1980, under Deran’s banner of Cityzens for Non-Linear Futures, we ran Hubert Humphrey for president. Our slogan: When voting or not voting is no longer enough, fill the White House with corpses. We made buttons and flyers. Much to my surprise, the campaign didn’t catch on at all.

The next year, after Deran moved from Wallingford to Belltown, he was featured along with Audio Letter’s Sharon Gannon and Sue Ann Harkey in a Seattle Weekly photo essay about the “new downtown artists.” At the time, we viewed the Weekly as hopelessly establishment. The photo spread was gorgeous and had wonderful weirdo quotes from the artists. Deran talked about hating New York and loving Seattle and its clouds. I called to congratulate him. He said, “Jesus Christ, am I going to be getting calls like this all day?” He launched into a screed against the photographer, the Weekly and fetishization of art and hipness. Properly chastised, I hung up.

Later in the ‘80s, Deran and I went to see Allen Ginsberg, the poet, peace activist and gay icon. That night, Ginsberg read a new poem about getting busted, fucking, smoking dope and generally reveling in the glorious pleasures of life. We loved the poem so much that at intermission we approached the poet and asked him to read it again. Ginsberg immediately glowered at us with the intensity of a hurricane. He paused trying to find words to express his outrage. Finally, before he mounted the stage, he spat out, “Less is more.”

Deran and I collapsed into paroxysms of laughter. We were so delighted to be scorned by the great man.

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