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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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Nine stitches saved.

I did mean to publish this here, two weeks after I published it there. One loses track of such things, one puts them off, one comes back to them eventually. Pretend, for a moment, it’s December; pretend, for a moment, the world isn’t burning; pretend—

So Thanksgiving morning I metaphorically put down the metaphorical pen: the first draft of no. 31, “ – marble sends regards – ”, was complete, at 22,675 words. —As of this morning, one week later, it’s down to about 20,000 words. Only a couple thousand more to cut?

I know I’ve said it before, “this one is different,” but, you know, this one is different. I wasn’t writing to a specific outline; I just, I knew where I was starting out, I knew where I needed to end up, and I just headed off in that direction, stopping here or there to see what I might along the way. So the first draft meanders a bit, there’s some flailing as I try to figure out what this bit’s about, or that one’s doing, or when I suddenly realize what the whole thing needs to have done already. Revision this time round mostly involves stitching those later revelations more neatly into the flow and structure of the thing, which is dimly interesting, I suppose, in that I usually front-load scenes with detail that must be pushed back, held off, removed—I’m not sure that’s making much sense, actually, outside of my head. Apologies. It’s still terribly early here. —I’ve jokingly referred to this as my Klein-bottle episode, but that’s another joke that might not make much sense in an outside voice. —Still early. I’ve had more coffee, though.

I said I wasn’t writing to a specific outline: that’s not entirely true. The first words I wrote for this draft were twelve words: six opening, well, not lines, per se, but:

The body.
The water.
The sun.
The air.
Those teeth.
The light.

So there’s that.

(Also, I’ve gotten rid of the yellow stripes. They weren’t doing anything you’d miss.)

Insofar as end-of-year what-have-we-done musings go, it’s mostly regret and chagrin. No. 30 took entirely too long to write, and no. 31 took a bit longer to write than I’d like, in general, but I’d always known it would.

There’s also the essay, half-started, that glares at me from another text-editing window: on some of the stuff roiled up by no. 31, stuff that’s been pressing pretty much since no. 2: about, among other things, the whiteness of Portland, and the whiteness of urban fantasy, and when it’s anywhere near being done you’ll be the first to see it. But it’s not. —So.

(I don’t mind a bit of regret and chagrin: like bitters in a good cocktail, they add a bit of savor and depth—but one would hardly wish to drink them straight. Look ahead, look ahead!) So! Two more numbers to write next year, and a book design to overhaul, and a third book to assemble, proof, and get to market. —More immediately: you should be seeing no. 31 in a few weeks here, just before the close of the year.

So. I should probably get back to that.

(Thanks again, so much, to all of you.)

—posted 7 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the lightning.

All this may have something to do with cinema‘s “electricity problem.” So: electricity is a major part of modern life (and continues to play a major part in cinema’s various SFnal futures). Ah, but here’s the thing: electricity is invisible. Since cinema recoils from the visually unrepresentable a convention has grown up such that “electricity” means: “sparking electrical discharge.” That’s pretty much the height and breadth of the way all electricity is represented in popular cinema, from the animation of Frankenstein’s monster, to the Jawas zapping R2D2. Much as, in The Simpsons celebrated movie gag, cows have to be painted to look like horses because “horses don’t look like horses on screen,” the movie convention for the representation of electricity is a kind of white-blue matrix of shimmering and sparking firework light-effects. We know this isn’t how electricity works in real life, but we accept the visual convention by which something internal and invisible is externalised and visualised in order to fit the representational logic of the medium. And that’s fine, just as long as we don’t confuse a representational convention with reality.

I suspect violence is like this. The thing to bear in mind is: the fact that physical violence is simpler to represent visually than other kinds of violence doesn’t make physical violence the truth of violence as such, especially in the 21st-century world. I’m not of course denying that actual physical violence happens in the world: not denying that men beat women, that people injure and kill people. But I am suggesting that, outside actual warzones, other forms of violence are more pervasive and intrusive. A punch to the gut hurts for a while; growing up female, or gay, or Black in a sexist, homophobic and racist society presses violently upon your very soul the whole time.

Adam Roberts

—posted 36 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the fabulous.

Perhaps what I am getting at are the different ways Pose speaks across generations, to what catches and holds attention. Much as I found the displays of fabulousness interesting, I was captured by the familiarity of institutional walls, waiting rooms, receiving test results, plotting a life or death after receiving test results. I am struck by Blanca’s isolation: attending the clinic on her own, navigating disclosure.

A longstanding interest in the quotidian—the ordinary—now manifests itself as an interest in work that is post- or anti-fabulous. Sarah Schulman worries that younger queer people simply have no experience of AIDS—this differs across race and income and geohistory, but still. She writes, “When the ACT UPers were in their twenties, they were dying.” And notes a generational divide marked by “suffering and trauma for some, and the vague unknowing for others.” Perhaps my premature concern is that a desire for affirmative representation in the register of the fabulous too easily—and readily—overshadows quotidian grottiness. And that in the many celebrations of Pose, the fabulous takes precedence over the barely surviving.

Keguro Macharia

—posted 44 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of drinking blood.

Lying in the hot sun today
Watching the clouds run away
Thought a little while about you
The sky was a petrifying blue
And while the geese flew past
For no reason at all
I let the sky fall
This is an empty country, and I am the king
And I should not be allowed to touch anything

John Darnielle

—posted 54 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the mist.

A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of our labour appears to us as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour. This is the reason why the products of labour become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses. In the same way the light from an object is perceived by us not as the subjective excitation of our optic nerve, but as the objective form of something outside the eye itself. But, in the act of seeing, there is at all events, an actual passage of light from one thing to another, from the external object to the eye. There is a physical relation between physical things. But it is different with commodities. There, the existence of the things qua commodities, and the value relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom. There it is a definite social relation between people, that assumes, in our eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of our hands.

Karl Marx

—posted 62 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of legitimacy.

These constraints naturally change a writer’s view of her talent. Perhaps you think of something no one has done before, a hundred things that no one has done before, you leap up and down hugging yourself and howling with laughter. You can’t naïvely assume you’re exceptional. There may be a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand writers seeing the same possibilities—they will all be told No Publisher Will Allow, they will all be invisible, and so you can’t know how many might be jumping up and down at this very moment.

Helen DeWitt

—posted 70 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of wellness.

Heather and Elsa consider good sex necessary for the revolution. It’s a vital tool, they say, for combating burnout, maintaining healthfulness, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with regard to social change and how we interact as humans.

“So many people on the political left—we’ve been traumatized, which is why we typically wind up at our ideology,” Elsa explains. “I think sex is good for your health. I think if you’re someone who is interested in sex—and I understand that not everyone is—but if you are, sex is part of self-care. They tell you that you can’t do no fightin unless you are well. Sex is a part of that good health picture.”

Mariella Mosthof

—posted 78 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of vulnerability.

Welcome to F--ryland places the man caught performing oral sex on another man, for example, alongside the trousered lesbian, the female and male impersonator, the mannish woman, the sex worker, the brothel-visiting slummer, the woman donning a scandalous two-piece bathing suit, the thrill-seeking tourist, the interracial and intergenerational couple, the surveilled migrant and immigrant, and the vagrant, hobo, and transient. Put another way, this book views them as queer, too, even if they might not have seen or labeled themselves as such.

Julio Capó, Jr.

—posted 86 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of ecstasy.

You once said you respected both atheists and religious people, but not agnostics.

That’s right.

Because an agnostic says he doesn’t know and you’ve got to decide one way or the other?

I think you should, because the question is are you a religious man or not? I don’t think there’s a good way of living in the world unless you are one of the two. You make a decision that you are a religious man, which is more important actually than a personal God, or you must make the tragic decision that we are totally alone in an indifferent universe. The true atheist belief is a noble and splendid position to take, one requiring great courage and great character. Or you must be a religious man. The fellow who doesn’t do either is copping out in both directions.

And you made the decision to be a religious man?

Tune in next week and you will hear Welles on that subject on a very small station. You know that I hate to hear people talking about God, unless they have a vocation for talking about it.

But on the other hand, you said how important it is to make a decision.

But I don’t have to inform our listeners and viewers about it. It’s not because I don’t want to tell you my views, but I think the minute you start on that there is a whiff of preaching, and I’m very allergic to that. I’m also embarrassed by expressions of religion in the movies. I hate it when people pray on the screen. It’s not because I hate praying, but whenever I see an actor fold his hands and look up in the spotlight, I’m lost. There’s only one other thing in the movies I hate as much, and I really can’t say it. But they’re doing it all the time in movies, and that’s sex. You just can’t get in bed or pray to God and convince me on the screen!

I hesitate to draw any conclusions from that, but is that an indication of the limitations of movies? Loving and praying are two of the most important things in the world. Why can’t you do them in the movies?

Because they are both ecstatic. They are conditions of ecstasy, and I think that is not to be communicated by a couple of people, or one person, or any combinations there of, unless it’s actually happening, in which case it belongs in a monastery or in a bordello. Ecstasy is really not part of the thing we can do on celluloid. Any kind of thing that gets up to that pitch of human experience.

—posted 96 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of glory.

Señor Unamuno has made his great protest in this sense.

They say that thy biography, my lord Don Quixote, was written to amuse, and to cure us of the folly of heroism; and they add that the fun-maker achieved his object. Thy name has come to be, for many, another name for mockery, a hocus-pocus to exorcize heroisms and belittle grandeurs. We shall not recover our manliness of yore until we resent the hoax in good earnest and play the Quixote with the greatest seriousness and uncompromisingly.

Most readers of they story, sublime madman, laugh at it; but they cannot profit by its spiritual content until they mourn over it…. In that jocular volume is the saddest story ever written; the saddest, yes, but the most consoling to those who can enjoy, through tears of delight, redemption from the wretched practicality to which our present mode of life condemns us.

No mockery of the human spirit, however irrational that spirit may be, ever survives the hour of its expression. Don Quixote was not a mockery, but an affirmation of chivalry and honor. Cervantes himself had no illusions left at the end of a hard life, but he knew that the sentiment of glory was no illusion, that nothing worthy was ever done that was not done for the sake of glory. But such an interpretation of Cervantes is not the obvious one; and what we will call a facile quixotism has prevailed, many fools facetiously mouthing phrases like “fair damsel in distress,” “the goodly Knight that pricketh on the plain,” and so on, for the few graceful spirits that penetrate this perverse screen of mockery to the great morality underlying it.

Herbert Read

—posted 104 days ago

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