i recently got to hold space for an intimate conversation on octavia butler’s novel wild seed with a group of fans/geeks at solespace in oakland. i mostly didn’t document it because i was immersed in the full body thrill of being present. however i do have the list of framing questions and the closing thoughts. i share them here purely to titillate.
(from Octavia Butler Strategic Reader)
– Are you currently suppressing or hiding a skill/ability because it would make you stand out from others?
– How do we learn to apply our skills/abilities in positive ways?
– For Doro and his children, death is not really seen as a consequence for their actions – how does immortality or longevity relate to morality?
– What is the relationship between immortality and privilege? (Longevity as privilege at the expense of other peoples’ lives)
– In Wildseed specifically there’s a reliance on a gender-based binary set-up. How does this impact the story? Are there moments of gender subversion?
– This series can be read as a new Adam and Eve narrative, with Africa as an Eden. What is similar and different about this from other creation myths?
– How does this series relate to Darwinism with it’s presentation of the struggles between human vs. superhuman vs. subhuman?
(from Mkali Hashiki, conversation starter)
The piece about power. Why is it that she can only “get power” by planning suicide?
And is that power?
What is Butler saying about power dynamics in relationships here?
closing thoughts from the group – the feelings and brilliances were very much a group effort:
about the experience
i feel gratitude that an artist could be so playful and imaginative and lay stuff out that can get us so engaged. and then to come together and engage with it, to get really excited.
just reveling in embodied geek bliss
grateful for this space to rebound and geek out. i can geek out on the web and mental orgasm as i am talking virtually, but sitting together like this is awesome.
this conversation restores me.
about the book
i am aware of the relationships between art making, different communication styles, somatics, ritual and magic. of all it takes to create a pattern of decentralized networks of coordination.
i am interested in having a discussion of men on this content/book, exploring what it says about masculinity.
doro is the ultimate disassociation character. he jumps out of body as a traumatic response and continues to do so, as so many of us do, he can never stop, he can never ground and get back into himself. the question i have is: can doro be healed, is he healable?…i’m sitting with the idea that nobody ever tried, i have the feeling (anyanwu) couldn’t – but i don’t think she ever tried.
that’s the reality of so many young men of color in our communities. that is our responsibility, for young men, for everybody. i’m left thinking about survival strategies, self-preservation and agency.
it’s intriguing to talk about when to quit (and how). somatics has good practices around that.
i’m thinking about the creation myths and stories i grew up with, and the world we are in, the glittering world – what it really takes for bigger entities to quit, to give up.
neither anyanwu nor doro has much humility. why should they, they’re immortal, that’s their downfall, their inability to seek out help, change or healing. stuff is coming up for me about organizations and leaders not being able to change – we default to hierarchical structures. there are organizations that should die and don’t, there’s a lack of humility and vulnerability.
and what does it mean to quit, give up, let go, pick up…it’s deep to see her commitment as positive, her commitment to suicide…how do we do this in our movements, and personally – how do we make transitions constructive?
there are no accidents. I’m one of those people who left the movement, committed political suicide, im done, im tired, going to go do something where i am not tired. moved across country and changed my name. now in my wellness work (not healing, as i think of that as something done to someone else) its leading me back to organizing work. not an accident that my favorite author is sparking this conversation as i need it.
powerful for me as a filmmaker. i came up organizing. i remember being on the phone saying I have to step back. i was crying, cause we have been doing this so long, it takes a toll on me. it was a moment of self-reflection. i was crying out, and said i want to use my art to create change.
it is important to examine whether anyanwu was surrendering to something inevitable when she decided to die, or whether it was her commitment, her power. power or powerlessness – which was it? does it matter out beyond exhaustion? what is the distinction between these two? which had the most influence over doro? her surrender or commitment? which do we need to do – commit or surrender? fully let go of the world which can only exist in violence? or is it that we must commit to surrender – surrender our hold on the old, surrender to the unknown?
the next reading is the next book in the patternist series, mind of my mind. let me know if you want to be looped into hearing about octavia butler and emergent strategy events 🙂