It’s Hugo Awards nomination announcement season, so you’ve surely seen more than enough tweets, toots, and statuses about the rad people and things that have been nominated. I have spent most of the announcement day geeking out about the news, because among all the rad things on the ballot, FIYAH is nominated for Best Semiprozine!
(content warning: discourse of intimate partner violence)
In a poetry session with some kids in early March, we transition from conversation about International Women’s Week into talk about keeping young people, especially women and girls, safe from harm. A boy challenges the numbers, swears up and down that really it’s almost impossible for a woman to ever really find herself in these kinds of dangers. The question shifts into the question of how many people in the world actually seek to be given power and social capital by insisting on their own harm, and I, perhaps kind of stupidly, shift from there into the story of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.
I admit that part of it is because these kids are smart, and I’ve already told them from the first session when we were just humouring eager debates about school uniforms and writing poetry about our favourite pastimes that they are here not to gain something they don’t have, or to prove to anyone that they do or can have it, but because they’ve already earned the right to be here because they want to be here and are capable of challenging themselves. But the other part is, selfishly, to make sense of that kind of thing for myself. To hope that in a space of genuine, eager debate, even about the nasty stuff, I could shift some block in the way of all of our understanding, even my own, because if teenagers are smart (and they are), then there’s no reason they can’t teach me something in their own learning.
So, the givens: at the end of Amber Heard’s relationship with Johnny Depp, she accused him of an entire hidden world of physical and emotional violence that catalysed her decision to leave and find safety. But recently, months after her presence in the #MeToo Movement and her new, presumably safer relationship with Tesla mogul Elon Musk, Depp fired back through a lawyer’s statement suing Heard for defamation, asserting among other things that there was in fact abuse in their relationship, but Heard was the true aggressor—a question the entertainment blogosphere had had for just about as long, as they more frequently recounted Heard’s alleged history of violence in other romantic relationships than they did Depp’s.
Now, neither of these people are my friends. I can’t say one thing or another about what actually happened, although I have my own suspicions, as well as my own frustrations—like the fact that a lot of what I saw online at the time seemed to be not the attempt to genuinely assess harm, lead harmed persons toward healing, or even help abusers grow out of their tendencies, but to defend one’s fav above all else, regardless of the truth.
But I guess I should say the one thing about the story that stands out to me: this is the point where I have spent so much time wondering how much of any discussion about abuse and domestic violence actually matters to anyone or anything at all in our world. Not merely “what can we do to change this culture?” or “what is responsible for the aggression and disregard that blossoms in these relationships”, but… at what point are we all just talking so people can see our mouths moving and think that’s the work?
Nothing about this piece makes sense. It is an exercise in a kind of art-critical self-dialogue, an awkward attempt at apophatic discourse about what poetry does, or can do, and why it’s important to reason with that thing deeply, even when we may be wrong, but especially if we care about audiences as not just people who enjoy text, but as people who live in the world and have complex attachments to the real.
That discourse opens with Toby Martinez de las Rivas.
Another year brings with it another crop of radical stories worth reading from all across the speculative fiction landscape. It’s also been a kind of a hard year for all of us, one where what we read and write has become in a lot of ways the truest shape of extolling who we want to be and rebutting who we are afraid of becoming.
A lot of that has particularly come from many of the things that I’ve read, which I want to turn into another post where I can truly talk about the length and breadth of good SFF that came out in the year 2018.
It’s also been an intensely busy one for me creatively. Lots of things were either published or cooking this year, which I’m somewhat glad for. If I’m being honest, it’s rather ironic that I wrote so much in a state of such mental and emotional flux that today, in another one of those valleys, I find it hard to just write the blog post about the stuff I wrote so people can read them and possibly consider them worthy of a statue. But ultimately, I’m proud of my output. That I can use my work as a channel for some of those valleys, and at least work slowly through the words when the valley fills with water, is a marked improvement from just last year. And ultimately, I came out with some things that I’m really proud of, and I hope I can make more things like those next year.
But since I should also mention the things themselves, here are some stuff that fell out of my brain this year:
Hello there! I’m Brandon O’Brien. I am a performance poet, science fiction writer and teaching artist living and working in Trinidad. This is my blog, where I share work, talk about my process, and generally geek out. Never miss out on new stuff.
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