"A strange relief mixed with a high gravity dread."
Watching a pandemic unfold spacetime, human beings as animals, cyborgs and trans memoir, and the advent of early spring.
Today in Philadelphia it’s overcast and bright, with a forecast high of 61ºF…but now that the sun’s come out it’s currently 63º. Yesterday it hit 71º and was sunny all day, and I spent a goodly portion of it out in the park, and after at the pizza shop catching up with a friend over french fries. In the background the mounted TVs ran back to back coronavirus and stock market crises updates.
Here’s to all the takeout food beer stores that have seating and TVs.
My thoughts have been very scattered the past couple days. Daylight savings and 7pm sunsets, a gorgeous beaming full moon, a Mercury rotating all the way through its retrograde loop, an inundation of breaking news content from across twitter and liberal state media, instagram full of mutual aid calls and fund raising for community efforts to prevail their circumstances.
My hands are cold in the house and I can’t find my little fingerless mittens. Spring seems a month early. Cherry blossom season is typically at the end of March, was typically mid April. I remember Easter being a holiday where I would be cold all day because of being made to wear a frilly girl’s dress and thin little white stockings with matching thin patent mary janes (and by the end of the day both would be covered in grass stains).
watching a pandemic unfold spacetime
I’m bringing alcohol wipes to barbell club and going to check in if we’re all being cautious about hand washing and hygiene etiquette (not willfully exposing ppl if you think you’re sick, mostly). There is such a fantastic media focus about this novel coronavirus right now, at least the coverage that’s made itself available to me, and it’s ringing the panels of my memories watching pandemic/outbreak movies of the 1990s. The hysteria/hype vortex generated by these movies back when I first saw them, it’s what I’m feeling now watching/listening/ingesting all this minute-by-minute coronavirus news.
Of course it appears now like a beautiful fountainhead, rising out from within the gathering mass of all our existing, increasingly taut social struggles. My speculative brain/nerd’s imagination is feeling unusually still. Water still. Bell still. I’m in the middle of wrapping up arc 1 of my All That’s Left manuscript. It’s 35,752 words at this point. I never have dreamed of writing this many words all for one thing. The more it accrues and the further this story unfolds, the stronger its hold on me becomes—it meaning the story’s ability to demand my focus. I want to be rid of it, is the other thing. I need to get it out of me. I’m tired of holding on to it. Then, you can have it.
In the tradition of last letter, let me share a few research/inspo pics from the chapter I’m currently scratching out.
Abandoned Trailer Home, Mississippi River, near Dow Chemical Plant, Plaquemine, Louisiana, 1998
[image description: The bend in what seems like a creek or river. It’s very foggy. The shoreline is piled up with large pieces of trash and debris. In the back is a narrow trailer house up very high on stilts.]
[image description: a screencapture from a website introducing a biological definition of the word hermaphrodite. It shows an annotated diagram of organs, presumed intersex genitals from a white person, and a small white infant wearing pink princess clothes]
Daniel Shea, found on [defunct?] Triangle Triangle
[image description: a faraway view of a McMansion style oversized home. It sits surrounded by two winding driveways and some decorative trees and shrubs. The huge grass lawn surrounding it looks dry. The horizon is lined with the edge of a forest. The cloudy sky rises behind the forest and you notice the massive refinery stacks churning out vapors]
But yes I’m afraid the news cycle has me tapped and it’s very frustrating. We, all my likeminded twitter mutuals, sit streamside and commentate on what all keeps going on. I talked to my mom on the phone yesterday afternoon and she reiterated my own feelings, that I can worry about what’s in my control. She also said that times have been worse than this and for longer than this before. I hear her and at the same time my mind races over the forming beast of this age, that to me appears like a new wave crashing on us from the Industrial Revolution, which came crashing from the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, which came crashing from the European ‘age of exploration’ slash Colonization, the wave before that the enclosure of the commons by barons and kings through the holy wars all the way back to the fall of Egypt and the ransacking of knowledge by a rising Greek empire… Like, what a fucking spiral.
Yesterday in the park, my friend read me their zine born from a freestyle poem about surviving and loving. They make a reference to being human, and I asked if they thought being a human was something special. We agreed that it wasn’t. We’re animals. They brought up being human versus being machine. I brought up technology as something animals do. We nodded and stared out while behind us the children of the playground hovered around a concrete cowboy who had brought over his shaggy beautiful horse for $5 rides.
Today my twitter feed turned up Leah Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Half Assed Disabled Prepper Tips for Preparing for a Coronavirus Quarantine, and reading that finally prompted me to write this newsletter. Part of the dread I am steadily tugging through the stillness of my water-laden chamber brain is that this virus is serious and we only have ourselves to rely on in responding to it. Rather, we begin by acknowledging its potential for harm. I said on an IG story the other night that I’m prone to respiratory illnesses more than any other type of cold virus or what have you, and I do not want to play around with exposure to something that has the potential for permanent respiratory damage. Air quality and toxicity exposure from climate change has been been been on my mind for a long time. To me this virus signifies our crossing the threshold into a different era, and I think a lot of us have been experiencing the crossing of this threshold too. Not even from this virus, and maybe for generations already.
the model and the reality
I told my mom on the phone about how my chagrin and disillusionment over these looming global issues and struggles, came in a particular way, from watching and reading so much dystopian Hollywood blockbusters, comic books and manga, anime, and eventually the hallowed cyberpunk authors themselves, Neal Stephenson and William Gibson and that lot of speculative economist white guys. The other day @realms.manifest posted an IG story about Gibson’s latest novel Agency, lamenting how Gibson continually disappoints, and that compared to me, Black Quantum Futurism, Metropolarity, or Octavias Brood, Gibson feels like being at an IDEA TedTalk. Since I was @’d, I reposted it adding that you’re not the only one. Gibson seems to love following commerce and imagining its continuation and never its end, I said.
It’s true. The state loves science fiction. Here I am rubbing testosterone gel on my body every morning because I exist thanks to a warmongering society and this nation’s technology is developed first and foremost for warfare. (I tell ya I couldn’t stand Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto when I first read it, but now I get it. I get it and…I still feel annoyed.)
Speaking of annoyed, my friend lent me the selected diaries of Lou Sullivan: And We Both Laughed in Pleasure. I did not know who Lou was, but their diary connects their 13yr old self through the steady realization that they’re a trans man attracted to men, and living his life unpacking and realizing that until his untimely death. I liked it and value it. But as I read the book I wondered about trans & transmasculine memoir that wasn’t about a white person from a stable financial background. The annoyed part stems from me connecting Lou Sullivan’s diary to the biography of James Tiptree Jr, The Double Life of Alice Sheldon and James Tiptree Jr. I consider it a trans memoir, even though it’s a biography written after the author’s death. I’m annoyed because there is a whole huge literary fandom and an award built around Tiptree, and yet possibly zero public discourse or conversation or WHAT about Tiptree being trans. It’s incredibly evident in the biography. There are diary excerpts, there are letter exchanges with Ursula K LeGuin and Joanna Russ, who famously wrote The Female Man (which I’ve still yet to read), there are chest reduction surgeries and lifelong depressive episodes and troubled yearning. And the whole reason I myself don’t desire to raise awareness about Tiptree is because the person who wrote as Tiptree was very wealthy and part of the CIA, and while I have personal sympathy and a desire to understand their life, I really don’t wish to uplift a white CIA agent. Would I be happy if I ever won the damn literary award? Yeah, I want the professional accolades. It’s funny how things are without an MFA.
Meanwhile I continue to spend my days writing.
in the tabs
Well all these long hours at the writing desk I’ve been marathoning the radio shows Music to Ease Your Disease, Mild Animals, and Dave ID's, all from from NTS, a station hosted online. Sometimes the shows are annotated with the tracklist and sometimes not, but I am now listening to REZZETT thanks to one of the annotated shows.
A handful of people sent me this NY Times article Take One Last Look at the (Many) Plastic Bags of New York, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This is because I have a fondness for plastic bag designs and run a side instagram account featuring them @serviceappreciation. Submissions are welcome.
Vice published a clean-cut, easy to read, 101ish/easy to understand (IMO) article by @thotscholar called How to Be An Ally to Sex Workers, which led me on to re-reading Pluma Sumac’s A Disgrace Reserved for Prostitutes: Complicity & the Beloved Community from LIES Journal.
In cyberpunk-meaning-economic-and-technology-related-news-reporting, I was eager to read through this article Why All the Warby Parker Clones Are Now Imploding about how venture capitalists and direct to consumer brands are unable to sustain themselves cause hilarious (to me) naive economic pitfalls. Before that I read this Financial Times interview with Gibson on his latest book, titled William Gibson — the prophet of cyberspace talks AI and climate collapse. It tied in nicely with this read about how Shell Is Looking Forward to rebrand itself through climate change, and the subsequent Fast Company article I read about This startup wants to help smart cities. But they don’t know where its data comes from.
Meanwhile, in the time I cook & clean when I decide to listen to a podcast (like many of my visual artist friends are able to do while they work), it’s been Citations Needed, especially the more recent episode about the notion of ‘common sense’. I appreciate their thorough connect-the-dots overviews of how certain concepts, message posturing, and popular language used in politics, journalism, and media coverage come to be. It’s very important to understand that ideas come from places and times, and have not simply existed, even if they have been ideas in your life since you’ve been alive.
Lastly, some of my neighbors started up a movie podcast whose name I love for poetic reasons I won’t go into: Cerise and Vicky Rank the Movies. Their intro bangs, and the first two shows are titled The Lesbian Romance Episode and The Universal Monsters Episode, and I enjoy their caustic sense of humor. I’ll be appearing on their third episode, about working class uprising type movies. :)
Ooh bonus: a scathing and beautiful jawn, this virus, from Anne Boyer.
My website is updated. There is now…a curriculum vitae and link roundup sub menu if you hover/tap About in the main menu. Plus updated news, but perhaps nothing much new if you’ve been keeping up with me here.
VENUS SATURN SQUARE submissions! I am still accepting them. If you were working on something and stopped, please just send it along. I have to reread the 9 or 10 submissions I got since Feb 29th, plus put finishing touches on my own piece for the zine. So you’ve got time, too.
I’m also thinking of a zine project compiled of people sharing stories about the honorifics they get called by strangers in public. This was inspired by an IG story from @rrlew about getting ma’am-ed, who said they would certainly contribute. Would you be interested in contributing to such an effort? Let me know. No strong emphasis on text, either, as with my other projects, but just know I love the interview/storytelling format a lot.
And here is the ongoing reminder for my short story collection, TRANSITIONAL TIMES TRANSITIONAL BODY, which you can purchase direct from me via DHD215.com.
Till next time.