“SCI-FI AS MEMOIR IN THE REALITY OF APOCALYPSE”

(1) #SOFTTARGETS WAS A DAY OF WRITING CRITIQUES + WORKSHOPS + PERFORMANCES ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON AT THE PHILADELPHIA FREE LIBRARY CENTRAL BRANCH.

This was an day-long event held in preparation for the submission deadline to APIARY Magazine’s 8th issue and collaboration with our collective, themed SOFT TARGETS. APIARY is a volunteer-run, freely distributed literary magazine based in and featuring Philadelphia writers. Before METROPOLARITY got started, Ras was one of the fiction editors for the mag. APIARY’s staff has always supported us, and we’ve been meaning to do some sort of collaborative effort ever since. So the SOFT TARGETS issue is a sci-fi one collaboratively edited by us at METROPOLARITY, along with the standing editors at APIARY.

THE DAY CONCLUDED WITH METROPOLARITY SQUAD READING IN THE MAIN BRANCH’S FAMOUS AUDITORIUM. IF YOU MISSED IT, THANK THE COSMOS FOR A LIVESTREAM, M I RITE???? AUDIO IS PROVIDED BY NYFOLT & MOOR MOTHER GODDESS/BLACK QUANTUM FUTURISM CREW

Eighteen says: It was sooooooooooo nice to be at the central branch of the library for this event, and super starry to perform in the famed auditorium. Like a lot of Philadelphians out there, I spent a looot of time in the library growing up (Olney & East Oak Lane branches whut up). Really grateful to APIARY staff and Adam from the Library for making things possible, and very appreciative of everyone who came out to the writing critique session and workshop, and all those who stayed for the performances.

(2) THE LASER LIFE QUEER SCI-FI READING SERIES MARCH EDITION WAS FIRE

ALEX SMITH READS AT LASER LIFE

THE LASER LIFE AT LAVA ZONE
HASHTAG QUEER SCI-FI HASHTAG FUCK GOD HASHTAG FUCK LANDOWNERS HASHTAG UP THE HERETICS
#METROPOLARITY

THANKS TO ALL WHO CAME. THANKS TO JOYCE HATTON FOR THE MOST EXCELLENT DEBUT, MOOR MOTHER GODDESS FOR THE STORM, CHASKA FOR THE PERFECT AUDIO/VISUAL ATMOSPHERE & EVERYONE WHO CAME OUT <3 <3 <3 <3 IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN READING/PERFORMING AT THE NEXT LASER LIFE, CONTACT THEYAREBIRDS AT GEEEEEMAIL.

What nobody seems to have pics of is the powerful trailer for M. Asli Dukan‘s INVISIBLE UNIVERSE documentary on black speculative fiction… but check this out:

INVISIBLE UNIVERSE DOCUMENTARY (FUNDRAISING DEMO) from MIZAN MEDIA PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.

In 2003, independent filmmaker, M. Asli Dukan, set out to make a documentary about the 150 year history of Black creators in speculative fiction (SF) books and movies. What she didn’t realize at the time was that she was about to document a major movement in the history of speculative fiction. A movement where a growing number of Black creators were becoming an effective force, creating works that had increasing influence on the traditionally, straight, white, cis-male dominated SF industry. However, while these Black creators imagined better futures for Black people within their fictional works of SF, in reality, the everyday, lived experiences of Black people in the United States – e.g., the rise of massive inequality, the prison industrial complex, and police brutality – stood in stark contrast. She began to wonder if these phenomena were related.

Told through the ever-present lens and off-screen narrator voice of the filmmaker, Invisible Universe will explore this question by examining the work of Black creators of SF through the ideology of the emerging Black Lives Matter movement, which addresses the systematic oppression of Black lives. Since she began the documentary, the filmmaker has compiled an extensive interviewee list of Black writers, artists and filmmakers of SF who have been creating works where Black people not only exist in the future, but are powerful shapers of their own realities, whether in magical lands, dystopian settings, or on distant worlds. In addition, she has documented an ever-increasing number of academic, community and arts events dedicated to the work and critical analysis of Black SF, as well as building connections between the creators, thinkers, organizers and fans. In the past decade, the filmmaker has documented the cultural shift around Black SF and its explicit connections to Black liberation. This documentary explores the idea that in a world of capitalist exploitation, anti-Black oppression and state violence, Black creators are speculating about better worlds as a means of resistance and survival.

The documentary will also consider how “Black Speculation” is rooted in the history of “Black Struggle” in the United States by exploring two previous eras of Black creators speculating about Black lives through the genres of SF. The first era occurred during the nadir of African American history in late 19th and early 20th centuries, when slavery, war, lynchings, race riots, disfranchisement and segregation inspired Black writers to pen narratives about international slave rebellions, secret, Black governments and powerful, long lost, African kingdoms. The second era occurred during the 1960’s and early 1970’s, when the work of Black writers of SF seemed to extrapolate on the possible futures that would occur as a result of the successes or failures of the Civil Rights or Black Power struggles. This documentary will explore how this current moment, which the filmmaker considers the third era of Black Speculation, compares and contrasts with the earlier two eras.

This timely documentary includes interviews with Black writers of SF like Samuel R. Delany, the late Octavia E. Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor, actors like Nichelle Nichols and Wesley Snipes, cultural organizers like Rasheedah Phillips and her AfroFuturist Affair, academics/artists like John Jennings and Nettrice Gaskins, social justice workers/artists like adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, as well as numerous other filmmakers, artists, academics, archivists, and fans. This one-of-a-kind project is essentially an archive of a “Who’s Who” of Black speculative fiction.

Our most precious recurring event, Laser Life, occurred this past Friday, JAN 31 204. We livestreamed the event from our local anarchist community meeting space via Google Hangouts (¬_¬) and the result is below for your viewing pleaaasure.

OPENING W/ALEX SMITH: 3:08

MAGGIE EIGHTEEN: 4:58
RAS MASHRAMANI: 22:45
SHANE JENKINS: 44:44
MARISSA JOHNSON-VALENZUELA 52:40

ALEX ASKS US TO CONTEMPLATE “WHY SCI-FI” & ITS OVERTHROW?: 1:05:00

SUZY SUBWAYS: 1:06:07
R.PHILLIPS: 1:18:56
ALEX SMITH: 1:34:15

THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO CAME THRU & COMES AFTER/BEFORE/NOW

IF YOU WANT TO READ YOUR QUEER INSURRECTIONIST SCI-FI AT THE UPCOMING APRIL LASER LIFE, CONTACT ALEX SMITH AT THEYAREBIRDS(@)GMAIL(.)COM

One of these days we’re going to have enough time out of our day jobs and personal projects and group organizing efforts to write some beefy articles up on this chumpie, but until then we’re going to keep updating you with media from our efforts in the meatspace.

Here’s a bit of backlog coverage from two events, The Apiary Corp & The Dream Oven‘s Come As Your Madness smut reading in September 2013, and the 11th annual Philly Zine Fest in October 2013

Ras Mashramani readily reads a bunch of filth at Little Berlin in the world’s best ambivalent dial-up monotone (this is one of the multitude of reasons she is loved).

Jump ahead a month and here she is reading a piece about cyberspace adolesence and chatroom survival called The Nightspace at Philly Zine Fest 2013 At the Rotunda, October 12th, 2013

R.Phillips (also of the Afrofuturist Affair) reads from Literary Social Vision & Building Benevolent Institutions Part 1 at the same fest. If you like hard SF, do yourself a favor and get turned on here.

“Like newborns to an umbilical cord we remain tethered to institutions all our lives.”

Then she follows up, reading the excerpt “Zero Point” from the tentatively titled Slice Convergence and Non-Local Spaces. She read this at the last Laser Life and everybody’s head exploded (then reassembled by reversing the thermodynamic flow of time)

Don’t miss us. We regularly post about our upcoming events here in our Events Calendar, and more readily at our Surveillance Facebook page.

And feel free to invite us out too 😉

THE FRIDAY EVENING THE WOMB THE LASER LIFE ASSEMBLY AT THE ANARCHIST ORGANIZING SPACE IN WEST PHILADELPHIA
WE’RE SORRY YOU MISSED IT
HERE IS THE RECAP IN OUR SHORT BLIPS AND CLIPS
WE EVEN HAD CHURCH SPACE ORGAN THANKS TO SHANE JENKINS


RAS MASHRAMANI // NIGHT SPACE [coming soon]

[INSERT NON-EXISTENT FOOTAGE OF MAGGIE EIGHTEEN READING HERE]


R. PHILLIPS // THE AFROFUTURIST AFFAIR


KATIE ZALL // AND AREN’T YOU LUCKY HER WHOLE STORY IS ONLINE 4FREE RIGHT HERE


CAMAE DEFSTAR // MOOR MOTHER GODDESS


ALEX SMITH // HERALD ACTUATOR

When [R. Phillips] was done reading at LASER LIFE last night, I understood something so wholly, and completely, so finally, that can never not be true. That, beyond the colloquial euphemism of what Laser Life, sci-fi, and the speculative mean to me, that to say that one is “living sci-fi”, is for me inevitably and completely true. Her story and it’s heart rending, “gone to glory” climax made me realize that it is not only possible to live science fiction, but for me, it’s mandatory. It’s all there is, it’s all I know. Thanks, Rasheedah, for validating, confirming, making me believe.


If you are sad you missed this momentous and life-affirming gathering, it might behoove you to stay abreast of our events via our Facebook page.

We’re very busy this October and November. . .

The following was performed at the 3rd annual ROCKERS BBQ weekend. Consider it a part of our episode, the SPACE INVADERS :: Gentrification x Community issue of our Journal of Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies. Video by Kaos Blac. Feature image by House of Hayes.

So, I opened a customer’s check book, and inside, there was a pamphlet about god. My boyfriend had visited me at work, kissed me on the cheek and dashed off to an adventure on his own. It made my day. I think the three-top sitting at D4 saw this. After I dropped the food at their table, they asked me to pray with them. I declined. Fortunately, as the note they’d written on their check said, “God cares. Even for sinners such as you” . In a saner, more just universe (one with leprechauns in the Senate, one with were-dragon ballerinas as Septa train operators, one with talking lucky squirrels that spin acid jazz and jungle dub plates at barmitzphas), I would bring them back their change mixed in with shredded pieces of the Jesus pamphlet. I’d leave them a note as well. This is what it would say:

“The grid shapes us, molds us, makes us uniformly square. The binary assault on our senses has dulled us. We are trapped, thinking that our sexuality stems from some kind of intrinsic pre-determined genetic code, or that it can even be unlearned. We are all existing on levels of love, on a cosmic string that stretches across and over galaxies like electrical wires. When I lay down and kiss my boyfriend at night, I’m crossing the streams of countless eons of information, of pre-cybernetic memory, the ancient kind of memory that tells me that “I exist”. So, no matter what you write *now* on this little receipt, I’m giving you, in return, a sort of inter-dimensional banjee girl effect. I am kissing your son and husband passionately, deeply on the mouth, even now, just by writing this. I do appreciate your prayers, because I recognize that it is essential to humanity to create stories and dreams that explain the science of the world, that reassures us of our place, even as granular as it is, within the multiverse, but I also recognize that just as essential is our notion to be connected in grander ways to each other, that our holes are there for traversal and transmission and communication, and that we are portals, always and forever. So, yes, I am eternally in need of God, but only so much that god is creation and sex and fervor and life.“

(And yes, I could write all of this in-between serving customers and waiting on my other tables; sure, i’m *that* good. Plus, I keep a cache of “verbal beat down” tucked into my brain for just such occasions so it was all a matter of channeling, really)

Even in this reality, where ever “this reality” currently is, where we danced on top of DHL trucks at bonfires. Where we filled our baskets with the cosmic dawn, with the tools of the culling, marched over the horizon and struck a blow at the sun. Even here we are flying things, vast and unicorn, radiating in free effervescent thought chroma, bursts of the burgeoning universe lilting over radiant nebula, cloud and ash. We are baristas and shamans at the desks of the apparitions, the waitstaff in white gloves on the yachts of freedom ghosts with our time cards stamped until eternity.

My hands are gold and steel, wrapped up time machines. I push the button and black goo pours out in delicious crema. I stare at it as it coalesces into a filthy golden ring, a soul sapping halo of procured anti-vitamins, a sun-sucking ember extracted from a plant three thousand miles, one hundred leather straps on the back, an ocean of dead black bodies buried at sea, away. And then I pour it into the cup.

“Hello?” The pregnant white woman is holding her purse, her lips curled up in a half crescent of desire and thirst. She sees my black skin first, ignores the beading droplets of sweat coagulating on my brow. I think of the nights where we set fire to a rib shack, where we etched “death to gentrifiers” on the windows of the newest Wendy’s on Lancaster avenue, where we pricked our ankles on barbed wire and left bloody DNA tattoos on the walls of art museums. I think of the night sky opening up, afterglow sparking, ebullient rush of the wind, the party doors swinging wide and androgynous avatars announcing to the world, this is the land of the freaks and warriors and we’re taking things back, we’re busting out, we’re clearing this world, swollen on the fruit, still starved for the meat.

I wrote so many things down in those days, on the back of Spider-Man comic books, on napkins and napkin holders, on pieces of trash stuck and corroding on the side of the curb. I wrote of taking the artifacts out of the glass cases and putting them back into the ground- the sacred ground. I wrote of the ground.

“I’ll be with you in a moment,” I say, as I stir the pure brown down into the creamy liquid mass of the white white milk. Ah, an easy metaphor, I think, a clear and beautiful piece of hyperbole, consisting of the life blood of yuppiedom. I can set this thing on the counter, watch its pale beige swirl inundate the glass, cascade over the clear, nameless, not-there ice cubes, as it turns into the perfect mix of the people of the planet, of the people of Philadelphia, this great city of love, of understanding.

But this isn’t an 11th grade essay or a melting pot narrative. I’m standing behind a counter with a uniform on, the blackest beacon in a white universe, easily Google-able, so simple it is to Yelp my non- name: the star artist in this cappuccino and iced americano crazed continuum is ______. You can type my form into the entry for the café, it’s simple, and they will know who you are talking about. It’s not like we’re standing in a bodega in South Philadelphia or a five and dime in Kensington or a donut shop under the L at Girard. We’re here where the encroaching horizon of academia clashes with the shrinking border of hunger and death pangs. It’s real simple: I’m the black guy that works there.

“Are you ready for me?” she asks, as I stand staring her into her crisp blue eyes. She held her smart phone, tethered to her hand like a cyborg arm connected with nano machines. I could not tell where she ended and the iPhone began.

She is not ready to order. She is just there.

And so they all list into being, like a star-studded wikipage unraveling, falling into life and birthed in a line. They all want something from me, every inch of my black body, all that I can muster for them. They want everything except my story. A cop. A minister. A priest. A man in a Duke Lacrosse t shirt. An elderly woman with a tripod cane. A seeing eye dog. A boy in ripped jeans with a handlebar mustache. Another cop. A man with a souvenir paint brush from Milan. A woman wearing a dress made of kente cloth. A punk rocker.

I sat on the stoop outside of the café, watching children play in a puddle, the water rising and falling with their every excited splash. A police car came tearing through the intersection, slowed down when it passed the kids, rolled it’s window down. A white man in the back seat peered out plaintively, shook his head at the children then mouthed something to the cop driving and the squad car sped on.

When I’m emptying the trash, I am still a super-hero flying through the air, talking to dwarf stars and dreaming in quasars. When I’m picking up used napkins off of tables, I’m still a griot mystic, weaving light constructs from tiny threads of reality. When I’m making your coffee…

I saw the pregnant white woman on the 34 trolley. She got on at 36th street. I could feel the air sucked out of of the car from the vacuum created by the many men and women rising to give up their seat. I felt the searing heat of x-ray eyes, as the air got thinner, hotter, at 40th street station, where a black woman with three kids, weighed down with grocery bags got on. The look of disdain from the same passengers was hot enough to bake vampire flesh. I kept reading my comic book, stitched into my aisle seat.

When we reached 48th street, the sea of color had dispersed. The swirling yellow and porcelain white, the garish garments and cargo pants and Birkenstocks had disappeared. The announcer stopped announcing the street numbers. There was just us: monolithic, vast, black, and unicorn.

We realized that we should attempt to broadcast this past Laser Life (26 APR 2013), queer empowered sci-fi reading series, via Google Hangout, which permits audio and video chat in the nostalgic format of a chatroom. But on top of that, we soon discovered the frightening option to turn that Hangout into a live YouTube stream. Eighteen tested out the possibilities and the following was produced and posted to their YouTube channel in a matter of moments the evening prior:

So that when it was time for Friday night’s delights to occur, we were successfully live…

The lineup is as follows:
Alex Smith (Laser Life founder) opens.
R. Phillips of the Afrofuturist Affair at 8:21
Shane Jenkins at 19:50
Maggie Eighteen at 32:18
Alex Smith’s A R K D U S T intro & closing piece at 50:00


See past LASER LIFE videos here.
Get your very own copy of Alex’s A R K D U S T, send an inquiry to theyarebirds@hotmail.com

April 3rd, 2013 saw the Philadelphia stop of Imogen Binnie‘s NEVADA book tour, where Metropolarity crew was honored to read some intimate and non-SF type ish for the people. This was the most packed I’ve ever seen the A-Space, my neighborhood’s conveniently crucial anarchist community space. It’s a big deal when Topside Press puts out your book and you happen to be a witty and excellent trans author writing Very Important Fiction for people who don’t get to have much of anything in media reflecting their experiences.

To say the least, the atmosphere and audience was on some electric vibrating atoms in space tip, and everyone read the best stuff. Once again, all we have to show for it is my shoddy cellphone camera (footage of my opening reading is conspicuously absent *ahem* anyone else obsessively taking videophone footage out there???). ANYWAY, if you wish to peep the past, move on to the videos below. And thank Smoot for throwing it all together. And Imogen for writing a badass novel. And everyone for coming and being attentive.

Ras Mashramani read achingly beautiful moments from the realities of girlhood and other normalized traumas.

Then Red Durkin brought the deliciously enunciated laughs for all and let us know why she is professionally a comedian.

Alex Smith stepped up next with a reality you need to know. Rating: VERY FUCKING GOOD.

Then the author herself, Imogen Binnie, stepped to the plate and read several excellent selections from NEVADA. We understand why she is published.

After, we all partied quietly, as one can sometimes easily do on a chilly spring evening in West Philadelphia — with spirits & jazz cigarettes and stew and candy around a backyard fire. Oh, and some people went to Dahlak Paradise (bar). ^_~

Ohh the Zine-A-Thon! This was a good way to spend a Sunday. We sat around a line of tables piled high with crafting supplies, surrounded by books and zines in the anarchist book shop, Wooden Shoe. The crews behind Roots and River Philly and Femme Dreamboat zine had invited Metropolarity along to read as part of their cozy fundraiser. Among all the zine making there were snacks, there was some five for five pizza action, and there was a lot of really good casual radical discussion the likes of which is usually only seen on tumblr threads.


Cyree Jarelle Johnson kicked off the readings with Femme Privilege Does Not Exist, a must-read/must-listen essay that seemed to generate a minor paradigm shift online about femme-centered discussions (and even had its own follow up video).


Then R. Phillips of The AfroFuturist Affair read us a very delicious bit of spherical time travel, quasi hard science fiction…


Ras Mashramani closed out the night reading from our PILOT EPISODE ZINE, answering IS SCI-FI POLITICAL, and expounding a bit upon Metropolarity’s intentions. Then they read Web 1.0 Raises a Woman and we all wept.

Overall, a good time was had.

Check out our Calendar for upcoming events like these.


(LITTLE GIRLS DON’T DESERVE THIS MUCH ATTENTION )

It’s nice to have comrades who are also neighbors. When you get the call to mob, you know that if you rise to task the evening will turn out well. I got a text one night––there was a book party and reading of Pittsburgh poets at Moonstone Arts and Ras would be one of the Philly artists on the bill.

Since I’ve met Ras, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of listening to them read from a body of work ranging from erotic underage life on the internet to the aftermath of alien abduction. Ras often reads my favorite pieces at the Laser Life, but to date I’m the only person who ever seems to bring a recording device and my phone usually runs out of recording space or glitches itself into brick-mode before I can catch her. This is a shame because her style of reading in deadpan monotone with the occasional twist of inflection is a delicious counterpart to the underwhelmed tales of mundane tech-saturated life and adolescent sexual appetite aided by the shapeless hands of Net lurkers.

For me, Ras manages to name things from a past I forget, which only seemed to exist in fragments of chatroom logged memories until her words made them real again.


NOTE: Audio comes in at 0:04!

WEB 1.0 RAISES A WOMAN
VERBALLY DOMINANT INDIVIDUAL NEEDED FOR REGRESSIVE SHITSHOW – W4MW- 23
AND NOW, I AM THE LOVELIEST
MEME BE A MEME


Check more work by Ras here: http://www.motherwap.blogspot.com/ or just click on the post tag at the bottom.

A cellular phone with a video camera and no memory card is all we had. The performances at the AfroFuturist Affair‘s MUSEUM OF TIME costume ball were one after another solid, so we regretfully mention that all we have to show for is this sole capture of Alex Smith reading with Shane Jenkins performing audio. And yet it is plenty.

The Laser Life, founded and curated by Alex Smith, is held every other month at the A-Space in West Philadelphia. It’s more special than you know, unless of course, you have been before. It offers a platform for queer speculative fiction writers, poets, performers, and shamans, drawing a packed house every time without fail. Often, Facebook event-goers have shown up fashionably late only to discover they have made folly—the Laser Life starts on time and ends early. The Laser Life leaves you with the feeling of having watched a deeply compelling film in the theater. The Laser Life makes you feel aimless, celebratory, wild, and you empty out on to Baltimore Avenue amidst strangers and friends with no real plans but to enjoy the evening. You feel elevated.

To date, we have only filmed, sparingly, what goes on with with our cell phones . . .

The next Laser Life is this October 19th. [Facebook event]

More on the enigmatic Alex Smith can be found here.