I wrote an intro to this issue that I'll probably use in the future. For now, I'm having a hard time thinking of what to say given the context of this past week in the US. There are words I could say, but I don't know if I'm the person to say them, or that I even have words that feel right to use at this moment.
Events have been continually occurring where I think to myself: it's going to take some time to process this. Then, the processing seems like it's happening in other areas of my life, where the feeling is abstract and I don't always expect it. My writing tends to invoke very specific events from my life to try to express this. At the same time, I want to give space to breathe to events that don't directly involve me.
Is it true that in the past something difficult or painful would happen and I'd be able to let it play out in my thoughts over time? Was there more space for reflection? Was my body able to slow down more easily to find out what things mean to me? It's not clear. I know that I've grown so much as the world has revealed new and old parts of itself.
The pandemic has felt both fast and slow: it feels like things occur in quick succession, and it also feels like my ability to access sensation is slower at times. This may have resulted in the strange time dilation and rapid contraction experiences that I've talked with friends about. Many people seem to feel similarly.
This is what it sometimes feels like to be in crisis. Everything is moving rapidly and slowly. Adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol are released into the bloodstream. These are words for what our bodies may do. It's hard to tell what is momentary and what is prolonged when so much is lost and what remains can feel like a threat. Sometimes there is a threat.
A reaction to traumatic events or memories I've been embracing in recent years is play, which has been essential to my finding another path than fight or flight. I've learned that playfulness can be called on in any setting, and has to do with finding a way to channel it. This newsletter has emerged from my practicing playfulness. In other words, I've been hanging out in my room filled with plushies and messing around with my computer to make a record of time I can share.
Welcome to issue negative one.
Coming in first is Campus Life, which I first wrote in the late 2000s and released in 2008 in Betrayed!, a zine I made with my friends Isobel O'Hare and AEP. We sent the zine out via a Facebook group in a time when Facebook's design allowed you to direct message all members of a group with as much text as you wanted.
This version is remastered for 2022, emphasizing a horny apocalypse. Will the word "horny" land this in your spam folder? Are the algorithms inescapable? Only one way to find out.
Then there's Art I'm into lately, a column where I'll shout-out art that has inspired me recently. This time I'm covering Crow Cillers, a comic by (to quote her Twitter bio) "despised indie cult comix darling since 2008.™" Cate Wurtz.
One day I hope to be as despised as Cate. :)
My boyfriend and I were making out on the quad and I was just getting into it when I heard a loud roaring sound. He pulled back from me. I felt hurt, at first, and I stared at the grass next to him. I thought of all the things I'd done wrong. I should have been different, I should have been better at being close. It was our first night back together.
“Jody,” he said, looking up. Hearing him say my name sent a flutter through my chest that I couldn't find words for. I couldn't tell if I was turned on or scared, if I wanted to touch him or close my eyes and curl up on the ground.
"Charli, I - "
Their eyes met mine, horrified, and I finally looked at the sky.
The missiles moved impossibly slowly. As their steel doors opened and the payloads were released, the whole world slowed down and moments in time started to drop. I knew about payloads from my sister's fascination with military history. She had talked about them at length, but I'd never learned what to do if I saw them. I scanned the horizon. I couldn't tell where the missiles were coming from.
Trees blowing in the breeze became choppy, like a video game running on old hardware. Cars skipped ahead in jittery bursts and crashed into one another. The sun strobed to the slowing beat of time.
I motioned to Charli to follow me as the shining armaments passed through the air above us. Everything was vibrating. Something hit me in the back of my head, and when I put my hand where it stung it came back covered in dark red.
We passed the campus center and took cover behind a gnarled old tree. Other students ran by, screaming. I tried to keep moving, but my feet were sinking into the ground, as if the sinews holding the earth together had been dislodged. I was pulling myself free when I looked up at Charli. He looked helpless for the first time since I met them at freshman orientation. It had been a few years since then and I still wondered why he'd chosen me to talk to. He had confidence, his friends, his rock climbing group, and I could hardly think of how to reply when he approached me, smiling, with a casual "hey."
I motioned to him to follow me towards the library where we could take shelter underground.
When we got there, the faculty and staff were watching the library burn to the ground. It looked like a low budget computer animation. Artifacts of compressed information appeared everywhere and books were made unreadable by the loss in fidelity. I recognized Dr. Jacobs in his signature gray track suit, trying to recover his academic tomes from the strange fire. He looked up at me and smiled.
"This destruction won't last," he said. "It can't. Nothing does."
Before that night I never had nightmares. Maybe if I did I would have known what to do, but instead I tripped over the husks of feminist theory texts and stumbled through stray flames. Surveying the landscape, I could see that the visible exits were all blocked by rising kaleidoscopic flames, making the campus unrecognizable. We were lost and the sky was a verdant holograph.
I kept changing direction, hoping to end up in the clear. The chapel emerged from a surreal fog. We slowed down, entering a crowd of students who seemed to have given up on escaping. I took Charli's hand and walked us through the group. Students were slowly milling around with blank gazes, mumbling to each other. One student called out to me as I passed, saying something tonelessly that I couldn't hear. Something tightened inside me. I ignored them and we kept moving
The texture of trees blowing in the slipstream of passing missiles shifted to the ground. I stopped and bolted in the opposite direction as an animated ocean of foliage appeared just steps ahead. I looked back to see Charli following behind me. Buildings were reduced to twisted wrecks and crowds of students' voices became distorted as the foundations burst into flames.
I looked at Charli. He was terrified. I wanted to say something comforting but I hugged him instead, as tightly as I could. I had read something about the number of seconds it takes for an embrace to trigger the release of oxytocin.
I stopped thinking about escape. I knew we weren't being punished for our sins because I had never let myself have sins in the first place. Warped earth drew nearer as our classmates fell apart and reassembled.
I moved my mouth closer to Charli's ear to whisper to him. I couldn't think of anything to say. He smelled like freshly cut grass and earth, and I took his earlobe into my mouth, biting down gently.
Art I'm into lately: Crow Cillers
It was 2019 and it was the best and most turbulent year of my life. In the Fall, Remy Boydell indirectly introduced me to Cate Wurtz's work in a banned books library livestream where Remy mentioned Wurtz's Asscastle as an influence with "a lot of content warnings."
There's a lot of links in that first paragraph. Asscastle is indeed served by a variety of content warnings, with suicide a central theme from the first page. As Remy suggested on the panel, it is an imperfect work, though very powerful. In September, 2019 I was realizing I was trans and gay and very depressed and Asscastle was one of a series of formative pieces of art that made me feel feelings I couldn't put back in a box anymore.
Maybe a bunch of other people who attended the 2019 livestream (which, as of this writing, has 277 views on YouTube) will come out of the woodwork, like attendees of the first Sex Pistols show, and join me in proclaiming "this experience changed the trajectory of my life and now I make f*ggy art every day nonstop."
I mean, I was doing that already, but Asscastle helped me realize that I wasn't alone in making gay, evil, funny and sad shit.
By the time I learned about her work in 2019, Cate had been making Crow Cillers - her multimedia web comic starring a group of grungy, sweet and strange characters being cute and queer together on the verge of corruption and annihilation - for years. I just finished reading the first season last week and it now holds a very affectionate place in my heart. Buy the first season of Crow Cillers and please the dark lord Cate :3
In the next issue, one zero, available to all subscribers, there's likely gonna be:
- A mysterious video game that is probably haunted
- Secret and hushed previews of the upcoming Surgery Dot Com record
- I've been working on these two components and I expect they'll be ready when this issue drops on June 4th
Register now to get access to the next issue when it comes out.
Thank you to my partner BZ who provided edits and feedback on Campus Life and gives my first round of feedback on every newsletter I make. <3
The song Flowers by Khai Dreams was on loop when I was writing Judy and Charli.
If you've got thoughts, feedback, feelings, please feel free to email me at daphnis (at) daphnismxxn (dot) com.
.JOOOEL. __. _JF" (ee .Joi"ieL_ Fo) `4F_ OiF" (eo OE) EEe) (EO OE) ee (FO Oe) (EO EE) by daphnis (eE FF) mxxn (eO (ee EF) `4Fi _FF` OFO) eE "FFL_ (oF" (oEe ioFe `"""""` see you next time, space vampire