It features four other awesome (and local!) poets and cool fortune cookie photography by the epic Jackie Domenus (who also made the whole zine!). It includes my poems “A Monozygotic Study,” “Judith Slaying Holofernes” and “Do You Ever Noticed How Many Staples Are In A Telephone Pole?”
BONUS, you get a free sticker AND all proceeds go Audre Lorde Project to support LGBT+ people of color AND it’s shipped with the USPS!
I’ve been freelance blog writing for the Multicultural Arts Exchange (MAE) for about a year now and recently I had the opportunity to collaborate on a creative project!
The Multicultural Arts Exchange is an organization in Philadelphia that presents, promotes, and creates performing arts programming. They mostly put on affordable classical music concerts, but have run dance festivals, jazz concerts, and musicals too. MAE is a super cool organization and I suggest you check them out on Facebook @maephila or their website www.maephila.com. They’ve been hit hard like many arts organizations due to COVID-19, but they are putting on online concerts pretty consistently recently.
As part of their effort to help musicians and artists during this time, they are starting multimedia collaborations. Me included! I was commissioned to write poetry inspired by the work of MAE musicians Kaptain AtAnAm and Ray Man X, a blues/rock keyboard and guitar duo. You can read my poetry and listen to the music that inspired it in my blog “Vikings Rhapsody Continued: Three Music Inspired Poems.”
What a way to kick off the New Year! My short story is featured in Twist in Time Magazine Issue 7, the fairy tale issue. “The Nymph and the Maiden” follows a heartbroken woman after she is turned to diamond.
And by all means, check out the rest of the issue. It’s filled with wonderful and strange stories and poems. The whole issue is available for free here.
Nothing compares to the feeling you have when you discover that there is a sequel to a book you fell in love with. Double that feeling when I found out that Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer is just the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. The second book, Authority, skyrocketed to the top of my summer reading list.
BEWARE: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ Annihilation OR Authority CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK. THE FOLLOWING IS UNCENSORED LITERARY RAMBLINGS.
Authority takes place after the events Annihilation, following the new director of the Southern Reach, John Rodriguez, or “Control” as he calls himself. The survivors of the eleventh expedition, who explored Area X in Annihilation, have reappeared without explanation, the previous director is compromised, paranoid, presumed dead, and the passive aggressive assistant director Grace continually sabotages Control. What a great first day.
For me, sequels often disappoint. As a reader, I grow attached to that beloved first book and then when that pesky author tries new things in the second book, I just want to go back to the familiar. VanderMeer switches the protagonist, the setting, the tense, and I don’t even care. He hooked me with a skillful, suspenseful use of dramatic irony. In Control’s first scene at the Southern Reach headquarters, he studies three women through a one-way mirror:
“The surveyor had been found at her house, sitting in a chair on the back patio.
The anthropologist had been found by her husband, knocking on the back door of his medical practice.
The biologist had been found in an overgrown lot several blocks from her house, staring at a crumbling brick wall.
Just like the members of the prior expedition, none of them had any recollection of how they had made their way back across the invisible boarder, out of Area X.” (6)
Queue internally screaming. Having read Annihilation, I know that the biologist went off to who-knows-where in Area X and became who-knows-what, I know the surveyor and anthropologist are dead, I know that the Tower created memory fogged copies of the twelfth expedition that were also found back home without explanation, and I know that Control knows none of this. While Annihilation creates suspense because I did not know what would happen next, Authority creates suspense because I know (or I’m assuming) what’s coming. If it’s like anything that happened to the Biologist, it’s not pretty. I’m consumed by a dread and fascination that compels me to read on.
There is so much to unpack in this book that I cannot discuss all of it, but one of its strongest elements is the relationship between Control and the Biologist/Ghost Bird. The book does seem to direct the reader into the assumption that Control will follow down a similar path as the Biologist.
The first red flag is Control’s preferred name. Like the Biologist, he goes by a name that boils him down to a job, a descriptor. Instead of personalizing him, Control’s name depersonalizes. Like how the Biologist in Annihilation longs for isolation through her chosen career, Control wants to lose himself too in a way. He reveals he gained the nickname from his Grandpa, borrowing from “spy jargon” (13), and he fulfilled it in a way by becoming an agent of the government. He is a cog in a machine, like how the Biologist was an organism in a biosphere of Area X–both pieces in a larger network. Though Control’s name implies he desires to be a larger, more central piece in the network with more, well, control. When Grace sends the Anthropologist and Surveyor away without his permission, Control’s thought is, “he was going to have to take something away from Grace as well. Not to get even but so she wouldn’t have been tempted to take yet more from him” (31). The moment perfectly encapsulates Control as a character. He is in constant struggle for control and authority (Haha, I see what you did there Jeff), which makes his attraction to the Biologist, or the Biologist’s copy that is now going by Ghost Bird, stand out.
Control was the one thing the Biologist never wanted. To me at least, the Biologist wanted the annihilation of herself, to be one with Area X. They act as great foils to each other, and I would say the Biologist reveals Control’s true nature by comparison. Take for example the covers of Annihilation and Authority. Annihilation, the story of the Biologist, and Authority, the story of Control. Annihilation‘s cover features a plant, which reflects the Biologist’s status within Area X. She is a small part, but intertwined and indistinguishable from the rest. Authority‘s cover features a rabbit. Very strange choice when the first half of the novel depicts Control as the Big Director of Southern Reach, Puppet Master Spy. But as the novel progresses, VanderMeer reveals that Control is nothing more than a rabbit–a small prey animal desperately taking in information with all of its senses to stay alive in a world it can never control. Compared with the Biologist/Ghost Bird’s understanding of Area X (or acceptance that she will never understand), Control appears desperate and small minded. VanderMeer repeatedly associates Control with the rabbit. If you don’t pick up on the repeated mention of the white rabbit experiment, Whitby’s depiction of Control’s face on a rabbit is quite clear. The symbol completes itself when Control runs away from Area X when the border expands.
When considering both Annihilation and Authority together, the message seems clear–it does not matter if you accept or resist, Area X, or perhaps all of nature, is the true authority. But the story is not over! I look forward to seeing how Ghost Bird and Control develop in the final book.
Feel free to leave your own thoughts on the Southern Reach Trilogy in the comments! I always love hearing other people’s takes too.
I have never been so happy to be told something ominous and possibly horrifying. It just felt really nice, especially as a student writer with interest in speculative fiction, to connect with one of my favorite authors, even if it was for a silly and fleeting twitter thread.
So of course, I was like……how long can I keep this going? and continue it did.