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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of f--ry stories.

Indeed, f--ry stories have always been radical. The particularities of any one f--ry story may differ, but the point is this: another world exists, largely invisible or obscured but right alongside our own. It is not governed by our hegemony but has its own traditions and rules. It is often older than ours, and though its existence may be denied by figures of authority, the elders—the grandmothers, the spinsters—whisper their tales of a different kind of world to the children before they sleep. If you are keen enough to sense where the boundary between worlds is stretched to only a translucent scrim, and brave enough to break through it, you will find something that takes your breath away. And though nowadays compendiums are plentiful, f--ry tales have an oral tradition of much longer standing; the democratic nature of this tradition, in combination with its content, is what led Propp to credit it with a “revolutionary dynamic.” Often, in f--ry tales, the good triumph over tyrants thanks to ordinary powers of cunning, kindness, or perseverance. In The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit makes the point that in f--ry tales power is rarely the right tool for survival: “Rather the powerless thrive on alliances, often in the form of reciprocated acts of kindness—from beehives that were not raided, birds that were not killed but set free or fed, old women who were saluted with respect. Kindness sown among the meek is harvested in crisis.” Perhaps this aversion to absolute power was another reason that Tolkien was drawn to the f--ry story. When asked if the “one ring to rule them all” was an allegory of nuclear weapons, Tolkien replied, “Of course my story is not an allegory of Atomic power, but of Power (exerted for Domination).” These stories are some of the oldest in our collective memory, and yet they continue to be told. If they did not need to be, we would stop.

Natasha Boyd

—posted 14 days ago

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Under new management.

Oh no, not me, not this. But the Queen’s house, her former house, I should say, of the former Queen, I suppose, if you look at it in the right light; the house that once upon a time looked rather like this—

No. 1: Prolegomenon

—on the cover of this, that was lost in “Deliverance” and last seen thicketed with scaffolding in “ – on pretending that – ”, well, now it looks like this:

The Queen’s house, now.

I suppose Welund and Rhythidd, the Guisarme and the Glaive, were able to find new buyers after all.

(As a bonus: Google’s streetview shows us what it looked like somewhen in between…)

The Queen’s house, somewhen in between.

—posted 37 days ago

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Via Patreon, and Pixelfed.

Things to keep in mind:
The secret of crows.

When you stroll down the street at 4:19 in the morning, and you suddenly stop—to look at two crows playing in a pine tree across whatever suburban street fate has stuck you on for the last year-and-a-half, there’s a history of crows, a tradition of crows, a discourse of crows that’s stopped you, and because you’ve stopped and are looking at them now, you can never be wholly aware of what that discourse, that history, that tradition was.

Sure, a moment on you recall the pair in the Neibelunglied, but you don’t recall the one you saw savaging a red cardinal carcass on the highway’s edge when you were five, or the one with the bilious tongue your father’s friend—Connie, I think his name was—split with a razor to make it talk, because he was under the mistaken impression that such cruelty would re-articulate the species and make of it a dusky parrot. Fiberglass curtains blew around the cage in the Harlem back window, while—its swollen tongue pink as a rose hip, holding apart its grey-black beak—the bird eyed me blackly, then looked down at the newspaper over the cage bottom, scattered with seeds and shit…

The really repressed, the inchoate, the inconue that one masks with public dragons and genre-determined strong men and women, to whom one loans one’s most cherished ideologies, one’s most committed desires, to make them strong enough to possess and hot enough to be possessable, they just don’t yield themselves up so easily as a pair of birds at play above the November sidewalk. That’s why we turn to them through genre tropes—because we don’t know what they’re really about. That’s what we need public symbols for—symbols that alone let us negotiate the unknown and the unknowable.

It’s because we can’t grasp, really, what they are to us, that, moments later, as the crows fly off above the green and orange alley, our throats suddenly fill and we are trying not to cry—

So then, angrily, we write about dragons.

Samuel R. Delany

—posted 67 days ago

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The trouble with getting people together in a room finally is then they want to say stuff to each other that threatens to derail the scene, if not the plot.

It’s coming along, the 33rd chapbook, the last installment of the third volume, the mid-season finale of season two, and my God, the violence done by that phrase, “mid-season finale,” to structure, to storytelling, criticism, language, to the passage of time itself. —Aren’t words wonderful?

Anyway, while I’m writing, while you’re waiting, now that the shape of the thing is hoving into view, I thought you might maybe like a glimpse of one of the tools I use to keep track of what’s happening when: simple, yes, almost abstract, but nonetheless necessary:


And look: I know it’s been four years, but it’s only been seven weeks: a glacially pell-mell bent for leisurely saunter into eyeblink chaos, or something. Soon enough we’ll know where we’ve ended up, and I’ll need to start working on getting us out. —Until then.

—posted 75 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of conspiracies.

Look: The pleasure we take in spinning out elaborate, unproven theories in order to “connect the dots” can skew ugly, and it has. It’s a tendency that has also underpinned the worst conspiracy theories about Newtown or even Sept. 11. I’m willing to believe that we can’t completely control these wild imaginative impulses. We’re suspicious and creative and paranoid creatures, and our interpretive energy lands on whatever we happen to be looking at, whether it’s real or fiction. And as much as I wish fans had a worthier subject than Game of Thrones to pin that attention on, it’s nice to see that faculty being used the way it is: for play and for fun. For collective sense-making. It’s deep, analytical, silly, creative thinking about a show that could use the help.

Lili Loofbourow

—posted 159 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the sermon on the way things ought to be, dammit.

Philosophy does not begin in an experience of wonder, as ancient tradition contends, but rather, I think, with the indeterminate but palpable sense that something desired has not been fulfilled, that a fantastic effort has failed. Philosophy begins in disappointment.

Simon Critchley

—posted 171 days ago

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A visitor of note.

From the epigrams to season one:

Lanak supposed.

From the vistor logs:

Lanark, South Lanarkshire.

—posted 235 days ago

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(Originally posted on the Patreon.)

Things to keep in mind:
The secret of sibilance.

It is interesting to note that the entities most usually described as “hissing,” in the early modern period as also today, are devils, serpents, and audiences.

Marjorie Garber

—posted 244 days ago

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On a dime.

So back at the beginning of October, I’d had maybe 5,000 words left to draft in no. 32, give or take, assuming an 18,000-word draft, on average: an expository acrostic to solve, and three more scenes, or four, depending, and I’d‘ve been done with the draft, and then the cutting and trimming, the buff and polish. But then, not quite four weeks later, I went and threw it all away.

(Well. Not “threw.” And not “away.” But still.)

So three weeks after that, I was right back where I’d been before, but reordered, rewritten, rejiggered, and a thousand words leaner and meaner, the expository acrostic deftly knotted up, and three scenes for certain left to write, on a somewhat firmer footing: IKEA, and not KIND bars, so Allen wrenches and Uber, and maybe one or two too many of those neatly rhyming Alan Moore transitions, that feel so good to write, but clunk a little too obviously later, when read back. But! So close, so close: I swear, it’s like pulling teeth, but when you’re pulling teeth at least when you’re done you have this handful of, well, teeth.

That was just before Thanksgiving, and now (or two weeks ago now), at the turn of the year? —19,099 read the ticker, when I tapped the last period and pushed back the keyboard.

So that’s a draft, and fifteen hundred words or so to cut. And I should probably figure out the ending of this one for real, yes yes.

A whole year later than I wanted, and even that want was late, but let’s not dwell on how we shouldn’t dwell on that.

Only one more episode to go, then, before the end of volume three, which means there’s all those decisions to finalize, reconfiguring the old paperbacks for a new, non-Amazon printer, and prepping the new; and I probably should dwell more on that.

I’ve been lighting a candle, now, when I wake up, or am woken by the cats, I should say. —I light a candle, watch the match burn down to my fingertips, and then I draw a single card; I’m currently using the Bad Girl Tarot, for reasons. Yesterday’s was the Magician, which, well, okay; today’s, as I sat down to write this post and then start setting the software up for the editing pass, today’s was the Eight of Swords, reversed:

Eight of Swords, Reversed.

A bit too on-the-nose, whoever it is you are.

—posted 249 days ago

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(Originally posted on the Patreon.)

Things to keep in mind:
The secret of reversals.

After twelve years of marriage, Wheeler had a f--ry-tale-like reversal of fortune and escaped in high style. She and her daughters snuck off to the coast and her brother sailed them to Guernsey. Her uncle, who was the island’s governor, lived in splendor in the gubernatorial mansion. He retained a French governess and teachers who taught his niece along with her daughters, and he introduced her to dukes, diplomats, and European émigrés. Charmed by her intelligence, they helped her cultivate the arts of repartee and debate. One duke, a cousin of the future king of France, courted her for twelve years, ignoring the fact that she was still married (until the death of Massey in 1820). It didn’t hurt Anna’s cause that she had matured into a beauty, with pale skin, gently curled chestnut hair, grey-blue eyes, an aquiline nose, and a mouth that was, according to her uncharacteristically complimentary daughter, “the most beautiful I ever saw, teeth dazzling as a row of oriental pearls; her smile most enchanting. Anna’s voice was low and sweet,” wrote Rosina, “the most excellent thing in women.”

After Anna’s uncle returned to England, she left the island, too. One of her son-in-law’s biographers—Rosina married the bestselling novelist and politician Edward Bulwer, Lord Lytton—says that when she left, nearly everyone on Guernsey gathered on the beach to say goodbye. She moved to Caen, France, where she became, according to her grandson, “the bel esprit of a little group of socialists and freethinkers, to the support of whose doctrines she devoted both her purse and her pen.” These were the Saint-Simonistes, named after Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon, a French aristocrat turned philosopher who proposed the formation of collectivist communities of industrial workers; his followers later developed a strain of eroticism (evident in Saint-Simon’s writings) that landed many of them in jail.

Trading Caen for London, Wheeler became a friend and correspondent of Robert Owen, the founder of Co-operativism, the leading British socialist movement at the time. Co-operators, also known as Owenites, were dismayed by the combined ravages of industrialization and increasing inequality, and envisioned a classless, communitarian world. This would be brought about, initially, by communities of mutual association, voluntary and democratically-governed settlements in which the fruits of all labor would be distributed to laborers (think: early kibbutzes). When industrial workers realized the advantages of self-sufficiency, Owenites reasoned, they’d abandon the factories and, with them, industrial capitalism. They’d also become happier and more benevolent, thus proving one of Owenism’s central tenets, that human character was formed by circumstance, not nature—a belief that made Owenism particularly appealing to women.

Judith Shulevitz

—posted 342 days ago

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