On Process and Discernment
“Astrology, like science fiction, is a negotiation of the imagination. Negotiating the imagination is a political project but it’s not just a political project—it’s also an erotic, spiritual, and material one.” —Alice Sparkly Kat, “Astrology is Science Fiction”
At some pre-COVID point in 2020 I dreamed that I was working on a new scholarly project about time, ephemera, and the archive. I dutifully recorded the dream in a notebook upon waking, and mostly forgot about it until today, when I unearthed an old google doc of creative ideas for a planned, but never completed, zine project and the dream bobbed to the surface.
I wanted this zine to be an inroad to my own creative process. I thought that maybe if I moved indirectly towards it, my process would be less likely to startle and freeze. Instead, I found that the more I worked on this particular zine, the less able I felt to coax anything out of my mind and into the materiality of language.
It’s not that I think the format of the zine is inherently difficult as a medium. But, for some reason, what I kept coming up against was a lot of difficulty navigating what, exactly, I wanted to share, and what I wanted to keep to myself. Something about deciding to work on a zine, for me, came with all these preconceived notions about what that meant—creative freedom, punk/DIY aesthetics, the freedom of constraints and using what’s already at hand.
I felt myself going full-on confessional, and while that’s great for journaling, it’s not necessarily something I’d like to share with even my closest people, let alone the general public.
Here’s a secret that might not make it into the final draft: I always write out my newsletter posts in google docs as a first draft, before porting them over to substack and revising them. Perhaps there’s a fear of accidentally publishing them too soon. Right now, typing this as a first draft, I feel like I’m sitting on my own shoulder, splitting my own consciousness as an internalized other; I cannot just write. This is a strained, forced writing. It’s often like that, at least in the beginning.
I return to this writing, nearly a month later, after giving up and closing my laptop with a frustrated sigh. Turns out it’s rather tricky to write something this meta; a piece of writing about the discernment that goes into writing itself, written expressly for an audience whose gaze I’m unsure how to meet.
There are some things I will not tell.
There are some things I might not tell, and some things that would be perhaps unwise to tell. But how am I to reach that part of myself that is wise in the waiting?
Thinking about discernment—about feeling into what I do and don’t want to share—leads me back to the reasons I started writing Archive Fever Dream in the first place. When I began this newsletter back in October, I wrote that I was thinking about “writing and the speculative together as a measure of what we shape and what shapes us, the possibilities that emerge from that, and what is left behind.” In continuing to consider this, I am indebted to queer of color astrologer Alice Sparkly Kat, with whom I had a (frankly revelatory and nourishing) birth chart reading earlier this month. In the piece from which this edition’s epigraph is taken, they write about astrology as a “mythmaking practice,” where “astrology is being done when aesthetics shape materiality and when relationships change society.”
I’m also thinking of a quote I had flagged earlier for that yet-to-manifest zine, from one of queer theory’s preeminent foremothers, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. She writes, “I don’t like the idea of ‘applying’ theoretical models to particular situations or texts—it’s always more interesting when the pressure of application goes in both directions.”
In discerning what I would like to share and what I would like to hold secret and close, I am in a process of conversation with you, the person reading this, whether directly (if you hit reply, and feel free!) or indirectly. We are shaping this consensual reality—the pressure of application goes in both directions.
That dream I had, the one about time, ephemera, and the archive…that’s this project.
What possibilities might come out of this writing, of your reading, of our relationship to each other and to one another?