oakland sci-fi, july 2013

these four pieces were generated and shared at the last octavia butler sci-fi session in oakland.

the prompt, in honor of the book mind of my mind, was: what is the pattern that will liberate us?

enjoy 🙂


from pascal emmer:

Love Song

It came from a dream I once had. I don’t recall where this apocalypse story began, but I do know that suddenly we found ourselves thrust into a world that was being colonized rapidly by beings from the far reaches of the universe.

The colonizers’ strategy for dominating our planet was quite simple: erase the memories of all of the world’s pop stars. With the stars’ music eradicated from collective consciousness, the world would be far easier to take under colonial control.

A group of friends met to discuss what we should do, and from our conversations emerged a simple solution with a complex plan.

We decided to organize a gigantic karaoke extravaganza, which we invited all of the pop stars to attend. Each one of us was responsible for performing our favorite song to our favorite pop singer. In this way, we were teaching these stars their own songs to them, thus restoring the creative memory that had been lost.

In order to actually reactivate the pop stars’ memories, we had to go one step further. After singing a given song, karaoke-style, back to its creator, each of us then had to tell the story of how and with whom we had learned to love this song and all of its lyrics. For some, it was their grandmother, a lover, an estranged friend, or a warm stranger who appeared singing alongside them in these stories.

As the latticework of memories condensed in gentle strings around the enormous auditorium, we knew that we had found the key to thwarting the attempted colonization.

By the end, when the last song hung in the air, the space felt warm and sheltering like an incubator. What exactly was incubating could not yet be determined. But for the moment, it didn’t actually matter.

from Manish Vaidya:


Fools, Shaktintara thought-spoke to herself, tracing hir finger-pads over the crystal-projection of a bay window.

They were so impractical in the Gray Earth days, zie mused. This glass felt smooth yet uneven, thicker at the bottom, as if that part was trying to escape from the other half of itself. Glass was strange. Humyns relied on it to sight-sense the space between outside and inside, back when that sense was the most developed of their tragically limited five.

Their rudimentary science had some simple brilliance, though, and Shakti needed to understand this if zie was to serve hir purpose well.

Shakti exhaled brusquely, inhaled triple-lung, slow-exhaled, continued the training.

The lesson started to unfold: Gray Earthers developed glass, a liquid that functioned as a solid precisely because glass dripped too slowly for the humyns’ impatient sight organs.

Perhaps if the humyns had slowed down instead of running like hamsters on an orb, they would have birthed more creation and less destruction. Perhaps.

So this was why Grandparent One, before hir body became soil, wrote this lesson. Sight orbs trickling like the brook running from the back yard de-sal, zie etched into the crystal box The End Days, Lesson One: Remember. For the Grandparents, it seemed every box was about the end days.

For Shakti’s parents, the end days were the beginning days, too. Hir parents–15, 18 and 23, respectively–were not fighters in the Final War; they were healers. But Mother-Father 2 used to say healers were a type of fighter: healers tilled soil, saved seeds, grew kale and turmeric to shrink cancers; they taught yoga in sub-terrain bunkers, risked their lives (and Shakti’s, zie supposed) bartering at the Speakeasy Clinics with the poets and comics who came to tell stories while ancients pricked neighbors with needles and clay-fired baubles.

Technically, healers were criminals–illegals was the official term, though they preferred undocumented. The only healing permitted was to occur by Empire Doctors at the Official Healing Centers. Those times were brutal. Even an ED caught volunteering at an underground clinic could be enslaved for life in a Behavior Correction and Rehabilitation Center. Anyone caught in a clinic raid–a poet, tea brewer, erotic companion–anyone could be imprisoned. They were hiroes.

They were hiroes, sharing with each other, healing each other, coming together to de-escalate conflicts amongst themselves to the best of their ability, with slow precision, precisely because the Emperors were running too fast, out-violencing each other, running on Gray Earth ever faster until they had nothing left to do but collapse.

Yes, they needed each other: the healers, the artists, the wisdom-facilitators, the spiritual guides, the tea-brewers, the astrologists, the scientists,…everyone needed each other. And everyone needed healing. Even the Emperors.

Shaktintara exhaled, inhaled, wrapped hir arms around this lesson, around the memories that were as much hirs as they were hir ancestors’, as they would be hir neighbors’, hir children’s.

Shakti would keep these memories etched into hir life-force, would ask the others to upload their crystals, would download hirs.

Shaktintara smiled. The Pattern would need more crystals.

[end of Lesson One: When Shakti became Webmaster]

from Jai Arun Ravine:

in which we are seen as who we are, as whole people, without judgment or assumption–

one that allows us to relax and rest and have ease–

a spacious pattern–

an open pattern where we can draw our own lines of connection–

a pattern that can be sewn or woven by hand, that is mutable, mobile and porous–

a pattern with a versatility of functions–

a pattern with a multitude of exits–

a pattern with a multitude of ways in–

a pattern with comfortable spaces to curl up in–

a warm pattern–

a pattern that is continually being built–

a pattern we can wear or try on or pull close to ourselves–

a proximate pattern–

a pattern of intimacies–

a pattern that breathes–

a pattern that tunnels, hovers, skims, scatters–

a pattern light, like electricity, or lightning–

from adrienne maree brown:

she raised her head from the bloody mess before her, having heard the sound that meant she’d have to fight soon. she was tired, she was full, she needed to carry the carcass back to the children’s den, and that was an hour’s journey.

but the footsteps were close.

bella? bella!

humanoid. they tended to fear her, try to kill her, rarely over the food. she didn’t know why they needed her to die. she couldn’t understand it since she’d never seen them eat.

the footsteps crackled closer and she made a choice, leaving the warm wet body where it lay and dashing behind a bush. she licked her paws, letting the iron taste flood her senses with the memory of new flesh in her mouth, dividing up the kill in her mind for her little ones.

bella! bellaaaa!

the footsteps came close and seemed more frantic, bursting through the brush to her left. and then a groan, a chaos of grieving roars sounded from the humanoid mouth.

oh bella no. no! no, no bella, no.

the humanoid fell next to her kill, lifting the lifeless head in its hands. buried in each other, blood on those human hands, face wet and broken.

there were moments then, time passed as the humanoid’s body heaved and breath came and went. and then the humanoid looked around, brow gathered, aware again of the woods and the coming night.

she felt a need to name herself to this creature who showed such feeling as she only knew for her babies. she slowly stepped into the small clearing, head lowered, jaws closed.

the humanoid looked up, and there they were. it stood up, brushed its hands against its pants. they looked in each other’s eyes. of this world, this same world, tired and full and lost and needing to go.

the humanoid looked down once again at bella, and then turned, slowly and quietly moving into the wood. she waited until she could hear nothing of it before tenderly lifting bella by the neck, and dragging her body home.

learning to see myself

yesterday i was on a plane and looked across the aisle at a beautiful woman. she was round in every way a woman could be, a round soft chin, round breasts pillowing out of her shirt, round thighs pressed into leggings, round tummy. her hair was curled and sort of floating around her head.

and she looked just delicious to me.

i couldn’t take my eyes off her. when she picked up on me seeing her, i reduced my attention to sneaking glances, not wanting to send the wrong message. i wasn’t flirting, just observing something, and having a visceral reaction.

she looked beautiful.

and she looked like me.

this has happened to me more and more lately. my head is being turned by new bodies, genuinely turned. i am not stretching to see the beauty – i am being struck by it. the curves are immensely pleasing to me, i see an inspiring soft that i know for a fact to feel good.

i also know it is possible to be round and healthy and do yoga and eat right. to be losing weight and be beautiful already.

i was sent an article recently on america’s forgotten pin-up girl, a ‘zaftig’ woman named hilda. her arms, the proportions of her small feet and hands to her plump arms and calves, felt familiar and, again, pleasing.

i was sharing all of this with a dear friend last night and she said, it is a retraining of the eyes.

yes, i thought, exactly that. i have spent several years building up my capacity to see myself. taking pictures. sharing those pictures. looking in mirrors. not looking away. and realizing that this is a political act. because women who look like me are not presented in the mainstream, or most streams, as beautiful.

and now it isn’t just a capacity to see myself, which is in and of itself a revelation, a freedom, and a falling in love iterated with stolen glances. but it is also an authentic joy that i am now able to see this wider realm of beautiful bodies. it feels like a jailbreaking of my mind. the life and strength, resilience, the sweet weight of life in other bodies and in my own – it has taken my whole life to learn to see myself.

and, somewhere between a mantra and a reality i can say: i am a beautiful woman.

5 years

five years ago my life changed. it was dramatic, and it wasn’t.

my nephew was being born 3000 miles away from me. i reached out to see if i should come, if i was needed. my laboring sister and my emotionally brilliant mother gently held me off. i heard about his birth in a phone call, everyone breathless and overjoyed.

a week later, i flew out to meet him. when i held him in my arms those particular tears came into my eyes, the kind that indicate the bonding of fates. i felt joy beyond words, beyond sounds. holding him felt purposeful, and he..fit. i sang him sam cooke songs in the darkness, and couldn’t take my eyes off of him all day.

i fell in love, immediately and thoroughly and unconditionally.

actually, maybe more precisely, i learned another realm of love was possible. i understood with more humility the way my parents love me. that love isn’t rooted in debt and discipline, but unparalleled opening. an opening to another human being, full of immense pleasure, with a guarantee of pain.

and discomfort, sacrifice, tension, exhaustion, laughter, delight, learning, breakthroughs.

i understood why i wasn’t invited to be near that birth – i was addicted to my work, surviving my non-profit leader life, surrounded by brilliant people who i preferenced over my family with my attention. i spent much of our family time on my phone or computer being an important person, and then drinking or getting high for the wrong reasons – to escape from the overwhelming to-do list i was managing. i wasn’t happy, i wasn’t healthy. i felt like a victim of my life.

it slowly occurred to me, over years, that something else was possible, and that a way to measure that was in how i showed up as a daughter, as a sister, and in my relationships.

in the past five years i have transitioned my life towards the sort of happiness i want to model for these babies – the full realization of my potential. not safe, but liberated. not stable, but abundant. not perfect, but practicing. which for me looks like being an auntie, facilitator, sci-fi scholar, writer, creator, with space for the spontaneous and unknown and ever changing.

i have learned the path of a doula and applied the lessons to the birth of my sister’s youngest child, as well as my facilitation work.

if i am on the phone or computer now during family time, they know it’s for love or creating. i have a sangha of people i am in practice with, being vulnerable, landing in my body, loving.

these babies fill me up – i know they give me the spiritual energy to return to detroit during this bankrupt time feeling generative, creative, still seeing the love and future in the complexity and hardship.

i may be less important in the political world…there is, blissfully, almost nothing urgent in my life these days. but i am very important in a little house in central minnesota. and i have the same conversations (food and environmental justice, gender presentation, health, power dynamics, race, detroit’s future, love, etc) at a different scale.

i have both learned and remembered how to love by loving finn, and then siobhan, and then mairead. i am still learning to turn that tenderness, patience, unconditionality and passion towards my own heart, my own development.

getting to be in their lives, especially at the abundant level my sister and brother-in-law have granted me, floods me with gratitude.

yesterday finn turned five.

so did i.