GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘Googling Literary Lesbians: On Carson McCullers and the Erotics of Incompletion Sarah Heying Asks “The Sappho Question”‘

“In the study of lesbian history, the desire for proof is generally one the researcher doesn’t expect or even want to have satisfied. Queer research can feel like a secret club, where evidence is stored only within the blood that rushes from our bellies to our cheeks and is exchanged via intuition and rumor. When Shapland finds her proof, several years into researching McCullers, she’s overwhelmed by the verification of that which she’d known all along. Her girlfriend doesn’t share in her sense of shock. “‘Isn’t this what you were looking for?’” she asks. “‘Well,’” responds Shapland, “‘I didn’t think I’d actually find it.’”

…Which is to say, proof might be relevant, but it’s not the point. Often, the act of writing a biography is one on hand an attempt to uncover some previously unseen truth about a person, and on the other an effort to establish narrative or analytical meaning to the messiness of life. For Shapland, it’s more about finding a way to accept the mess in all its absences and utterances and to be honest with herself and her readers about what it is she wants from the archive. Ultimately, Shapland’s book aims to behold a woman she’ll never meet and to love her without laying claim.

The act of piecing ourselves together through each other shows up again and again in lesbian literature. Sure, it can fringe on enmeshment when done possessively and without regard for one’s own motivations, and that’s a stereotype that makes for a handful of easy punchlines. But all jokes aside (cue joke about humorless lesbians), what so often gets overlooked is the great possibility in considering self-creation as a collaborative work of love in which we carry the bodies of others within our own….The woman that the narrator loves is dead, but not. The narrator is the woman that she loves, but not. When we continually re-make ourselves and each other through intimacy, we’re never done becoming.”


The Bleak Futures of Octavia Butler

‘Throughout her fiction, Butler seems unable to conceptualize human beings as we currently are surviving. Whether it’s intervention from an extraterrestrial species or developing traits that allow us to evolve beyond our humanity, we have to become something unrecognizable in order to survive. Then the question becomes: if that is the requirement, did humans really survive? Or are we fated to self-immolate? When I read the news, I often feel that Butler was sharing a truth with this observation–but I don’t want it to be true. I want humans to be capable of collectively overcoming whatever impulse there is inside us that causes us to want to destroy one another.’

Sci Femme

Books discussed in this essay: Parable of the Sower (1993); Parable of the Talents (1998); Lilith’s Brood(2000); Fledgling (2005); Seed to Harvest (2007). Some spoilers.

Octavia Butler had a bleak outlook on the future of humanity, judging by her forward-looking science fiction novels. The dystopias portrayed in Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, and Clay’s Ark (part of the Patternist series) depict a complete regression of civilization and are marked by senseless violence and brutality. In the Xenogenesis series, humanity has been all but wiped out in a global nuclear war.

When Butler looked ahead, she seemed to see only one thing that could save us: a transcendence beyond our brutal human natures. What we would become in these visions may no longer resemble human beings–and Butler seemed ambivalent about this–but it might offer the only hope for our salvation.

1415945710943494543Each of these series posits such…

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