Litquake concluded over the weekend, after a full week of literary events. I didn’t make it to even a fraction of the readings or panels I would have liked to have gone to, because I started feeling overwhelmed last week. So, I did what I needed to, listened to my own needs, and took time to tune out and rest when I needed.
The Zoetic Press Presents Mythmaking on Saturday at Double Dutch was fabulous. Allie Marini MC-ed with literary trivia and marvelous introductions. My fellow readers, Daniel Ari, Brennan ‘B-Deep’ DeFrisco, Rosemary Tantra Bensko, and surprise reader Emily Rose Cole, were all fabulous, each offering works with unique spins on old tales. My own reading of three poems also seemed to go well; I felt confident, at least, while reading.
The Zoetic Press reading was livestreamed and there’s a recording for anyone who wants to check it out.
What I’m Reading
My personal reading time continues to be focused almost solely on articles and fairy tales for the Brainery Workshop. So, progress on Celestial Inventories by Steve Rasnic Tem remains slow, although I’m continuing to enjoy the collection.
I have All the Rage by Courtney Summers checked out from the library right now and I need to start reading or it’ll end up overdue. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this one, so I’m excited to get started.
What I’m Writing
Um, just jump ahead to the Brainery Workshop section and you’ll get the idea.
Goals for the Week:
- Finish workshop draft before class.
- Continue editing the Sleeping Beauty and/or the Iron Henry inspired stories (this is going to start stacking up, I can tell).
- Get one Twelve Dancing Princesses prose poem drafted.
Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Three
Pretty much everyone in the Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales workshop group was challenged by last week’s story topic, “The Frog King, or Iron Henry” fairy tale with a connection to robots/cyborgs. For me, the problem was that I couldn’t connect to the princess and frog story line, but I was fascinated by the character Iron Henry, a seemingly minor character in one version of the original fairy tale. Iron Henry is a loyal servant of the prince, who is so heartbroken when the prince is turned into a frog, he wraps three iron bands around his heart to prevent his heart from breaking.
Partly drawing on the idea of that romantic gesture and partly influenced by the beauty that is the novel Rupetta by Nike Sulway, which envisions a clockwork automaton from the 1600s, I started to think of Iron Henry in terms of a clockwork/steampunk setting.
But it wasn’t until I read How to Queer Ecology, a beautiful essay by Alex Johnson (part of the recommended reading provided by our teacher Jilly Dreadful), that the story began to have a focus. Johnson explores a number of elements in ecology writing, including the things that often get left out of the genre — such as the many iterations of queer in nature and the ways in which humanity interacts with and changes the natural world. He writes:
“Any writer who chooses the more-than-human world as subject must acknowledge both the complexity and paradox contained within the subject of nature, as well as the contradictions wrapped up within the writer’s very self. Such a writer will write about the parking lot and the invasive knapweed and the unseasonably warm weather and how he or she is undeniably mixed up in the complications.”
And there it was; I knew I wanted to write about these kinds of complications, the beauty of the natural world and how humans interact with that world and clockwork and how science can be a part of both humanity and nature.
Thinking about the interaction between humanity and nature brought to mind the concept of grafting, in which a branch from one fruit tree is bound to another either to improve the yield of fruit in the tree or to combine two varieties of trees into one. My google research of grafting revealed an amazing creation by Sam Van Aken, The Tree of 40 Fruit, an astounding act of art and conservation involving the grafting of 40 varieties of pit fruit over the course of five years.
And another piece of the story was revealed.
Even with all these pieces in place, thought, entry into the story evaded me. I didn’t have any sense of a beginning middle or end, no plot revealed itself, just a few intimate moments between two men. So, instead of trying to write a complete story, I treated each scene as a poem and just wrote the imagery without trying to worry how they all connected.
When I presented these fragments to the workshop, I was concerned that there wasn’t enough. But I received some amazing feedback from the group, who told me that I didn’t necessarily need to fill in all the details. A writer can trust the readers to
Jilly Dreadful brought up the concept of the magic in the gutter, as presented by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics. The idea is that between each illustrated panel, in the white space known as the “gutter,” the human mind internally fills in the detail of the missing action. She explained that the story could use the white space between each of the scene fragments to let the readers fill in the detail for themselves — an amazing revelation for me as a poet turned fiction writers, because I’ve always felt that my work has lacked the coherent connections between scenes. While those connections are sometimes important, I’ve now learned that in certain stories, they can be left out all together.
All of this is a very long way of saying that last week’s Iron Henry story was incredible difficult to get into and it’s also the one I’m most emotionally attached to so far. The story has not left me since Thursday’s workshop and is started to come together into what might be (I preemptively declare) my favorite story from the class.
This Thursday’s class will focus on Jack and the Beanstalk with a connection to invasive species. I’ve latched on to images of towering kudzu plants, which I find incredibly creepy.
- Margaret Atwood on Vampires, Gene-Splicing, and Talking Turnips — Regarding climate change, “I see a lot of positive signs. Some of them are on the city level. Some on the level of provinces and states. Some of them are on a national level. Some are on the level of individual choice. We are no longer in a position in which most people are unaware of the problem. But we are still in a position where some people are denying the problem. The governor of Florida for example recently said people in public office are not to use the word climate change or global warming. They would call it “nuisance flooding.” This kind of thinking is like saying I don’t believe in the law of gravity. You can claim to, but it won’t change the facts on the ground, or help you when you walk off a cliff.”