Born in 1958 in Chicago, Ill., third of four children of Charles M. and Kikue Rich, who raised him there and in Aurora, Colorado.
His first small-press zine and his first published poem, in The Denver Post, date from his Colorado years, which ended during his first year of high school. After attending Ottawa (Kansas) High School, and, briefly, Ottawa (Kansas) University, he studied at Beloit (Wisconsin) College, 1976-1980, where he studied miscellaneous subjects, especially invertebrate paleontology, and earned a degree in music, with emphasis on composition. His miscellaneous jobs in the subsequent decade included arts reviewer and editorial assistant on the Beloit Daily News, food co-op manager, dance-class pianist, and poster artist. He made his first and second attempts at bands, Auto-da-fe and The Glass Doves, there. His third and fourth, Mad Melancholy Monkey Mind and Keg Salad, were formed with partner Martha Borchardt in Stevens Point, Wis. They also played in a band named Djang, with some friends.
He was a founding editor of poetry magazines The Silent Planet (1973) and Treaders of Starlight (1974-76), and was main instigator in both cases. The first was part of the circle of publications around Wyrd, a small-press fantasy magazine. For the second, Rich coined the term "speculative poetry," now in wide use. He may have been first to do so. He published writers including Jessica Salmonson, Ron Nance, H. Warner Munn, and L. Sprague de Camp. In 1984, he co-founded with Roger Dutcher The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, and co-edited it until after his move to Stevens Point, Wis., in the early 1990s. He also edited C.M. Kornbluth-focus newsletter Kornblume: Kornbluthiana 1994-96.
His first, slender collection Lifting (six stories, Wordcraft of Oregon, 1991) went unaccompanied until 2003's chapbook Foreigners, and Other Familiar Faces (nine stories, Small Beer Press). Chapbook The Sense of Falling* (eleven stories, Spilt Milk Press) followed in 2006.
His first professional science fiction publication came in the 1980s: a poem in Amazing Stories. While his first professional fiction sale was "Foreigners," for Full Spectrum 4 (April, 1993, ed. by Lou Aronica and others), "With Love from the Plague Territories" beat it into print, in the February, 1993, Amazing Stories, edited by Kim Mohan.
His essays appeared in the 1980s and '90s in Black Mountain Review, Metaphores, and The Stylus; his reviews, in Tangent and The New York Review of Science Fiction. His critical work has primarily focused on Edgar Poe and Kornbluth. He also has written on the works of John Hersey, James Thomson ("B.V.") and Muriel Spark, among others.
A columnist on toy history in Toy Shop and Toy Cars & Models magazines, from the mid-1990s until the demise of those magazines in early 2008, he wrote several books of toy nostalgia/history for Krause Publications, starting with 100 Greatest Baby Boomer Toys (2000). Toys A to Z (2001) and, with collector Jeff Potocsnak, Funny Face (2002) followed. Warman's 101 Greatest Baby Boomer Toys a revision of the 2000 book, came out in 2005.
In nonfiction alone Rich has had over a million words in print.
His artwork, primarily in ink, has appeared on the covers of The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Midwest Bioscene, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and Say..., among other publications. After exhibiting for many years at Wiscon (Madison), he began exhibiting at some World Fantasy Conventions. At Denvention (2008) he exhibited at a Worldcon for the first time.
He and Martha moved to the Coulee region of southwestern Wisconsin in 2006. In Cashton they live in a two-story Victorian, built c. 1900, which they are slowly restoring and improving, and quickly filling with bric-a-brac, literary volumes, and venerable, auction-acquired furniture. Circumstances turned them more to gardening then music, for the time being. Their Scottie, Lorna, is earning her degree in the philosophic implications of the squeak toy.