February 24, 2022 Fall/Winter 2021-22
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” - Arundhati Roy
Together we are sending messages through the portal - messages held in dream sequences, yeast cultures, gold heirloom hoops, groves of nut trees planted with our grandmother. We’re writing ourselves into the future and imagining ways of collective survival, leaving signals and patterns for those whose eyes are open wide enough to find them.
Arm in arm, we are leaning into the spaces left by the rupture, lingering in the pages of Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous, queer and trans science fiction. We’re imagining pathways forward and backwards that consider the warm embrace of our kinstallation, thinking of ourselves as ancestors and hoping that it might shift and soften the futures that we write.
With the words of Arundhati Roy in mind, this is how we’re stepping through the portal. Will you be stepping lightly?Prompt answered by participants.
This post highlights passages by the Winter 2022 participants of Reading into the Past, Writing into the Future, an imaginative experimental writing class taught by Ashley Jane Lewis with Carey Flack, with guest lectures by Ruha Benjamin, Ryan C. Clarke, Kendra Kreuger and Jeffrey Yoo Warren.
- Neema Githere: With imprinted fingers, I am bringing the futurity of soft touch and hard truths, well-negotiated. I am inviting bright colors and fresh water and strong winds and nimble sand to come with me, too.
- Meghna Dholakia: To the future I am bringing my slippery fluidity. My third culture kid bullshit. My otherness and my sameness. I am bringing the knowledge that there is no here, there is no supposed to be. There is no right way. If someone tells you there is, they are lying, to themselves or to you. Culture is a creation and an illusion. All the musts in the world were invented. You can choose your own beliefs. We can.
- Soleil Summer: Stepping through the portal lightly, carefully, I bring a prolonged rest. Time suspended to allow for a deep inhale (acceptance, determination), a soft exhale (release, realization).
- Syd White: I’m not sure I have the gracefulness to step lightly, but I’m okay being the clumsy one. I’ll carry the backpack of weird relics— the things that capital tossed to the side as debris because they couldn’t be extracted from. Our future ought to have things that make no sense.
- Jake Levin: I’m a prepper: I have a flashlight, matches, and food by the door. Too much to carry here. So now I prepare a new kit: openness to the possible. Courage supplements, and a pouch of radical humility. A small heart-shaped shovel to dig out conflict and catharsis. a salve against avoidance.
- Jules Kris: I’m trying to evoke a futurity in which I don’t tear myself down on either end of the portal.
- Kenia Hale: Like my ancestors, I too dream of little curly-headed dark-skinned babies breathing free. I dream of what comes after our struggle, around the table bellies full of laughter and hearty greens from the garden out back. I am moving and building and loving towards these futures, praying for sweetness.
- Dri Chiu Tattersfield: As a Taiwanese/American, imagining myself in the future requires imagining beyond nation-states. Trans-Taiwanese bodies insist on self-definition and self-determination, are fluent in liminality and contradiction. I refuse to be a pawn for empire(s), despite lying directly on the faultlines. We call us by our own names, care for each other.
- João Doria de Souza: I bring distance and memory as my futurity-bits. The kind of distance grounded in memory to help me comprehend each now and counter-balance my relentless courage and optimism. I don't know if I can do it lightly this time around — I bring hopes of knowing and leaving a little more than a name and a title.
- Lauryn Newson: My body, a vital source [rendering oscillations] of disruption. Each breath lending itself to collective possibility -- An eternal compass guiding [us] to what will be. A legacy for cultivating seeds of change that sustain embodied liberation.
- Danielle Gauthier: Through the portal I bring a sense of nullity that partially captures objects rather than impartially or through, allowing for more points of relativity and an expanse of time, speaking in tacit realms that disregard space with real gestures.
- Lara Okafor: Ursula K. Le Guin writes in The Dispossessed: “You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.” And that is it. I want to bring nothing more or less than myself and the bonds I have built.
- Dasha Tan: Mountains are sacred for my people and adjacent populations. The borders of modern nation states have altered ontological cosmologies for many, particularly for Indigenous people in the region whose ability to physically move through land is often controlled. Whilst mountains occupy an important place within how I orient myself towards the world, I’m increasingly inspired by the potentials of water as connectors.
- Kiki Amberber: after Essex Hemphill; I’m wearing giant earrings & razor grin, salt-licked skin & coconut hair, sunlight & wind; I’m sporting watery kiss on cheek, Nevada-dry hands & 13 summer months; To the dismay of some, I’m carrying, stone fruit, belly laughs, oceanic joy, an ancestral poetics; I’m carrying myself into the portal; ancient and new, wide-eyed tired, glimmer-sharp, crackling with hope.