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?
from pascal emmer:
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.
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.
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.