Speculations 1: Updates


It has been some time since I have updated this blog. The last entries I see here are dated 2019, and only I know that they are actually from 2016, the later dates being blogs I resurrected after I botched a redesign of the site and accidentally abandoned my many old blog posts – I cannot now recall if I only re-built my favorites, or my most recent but they do seem to have some bearing on my current intellectual concerns, if incompletely.

Here I would like to speak broadly, and give an update, while I take the time to think through a new series of blog posts. A lot of things occurred in 2016/2017 and led to a kind of crisis in my writing – which has led to a new process and a new mode of expression. Firstly, I read Delany’s Dhalgren, and I read Gene Wolfe’s The Ziggurat. My first son was born, severely limiting the amount of time I could spend in my head. I started working full time, after years of having uneven schedules and odd/part time jobs. I also began to pursue a long-sublimated passion for philosophy, and for critical creative writing studies (that latter interest peppering my old blog entries, which were vaguely suspicious of the Narrative Theory so much creative writing instruction depends on). Lastly, perhaps most importantly, I tried to write a story and do something new, something I didn’t know how to do – and I failed to write that story.

I went on to write the version of that story I knew I could write, “The Hungers of Refugees” and it was published in 2016 in Escape Pod. Soft a spot as I have for that story, it represents a failure, and a writing project I knew I wanted to leave behind. I needed to uncover a new method, one that fit my new life, and that met the literary demands I wanted to make of myself.

I have now successfully returned to that failed story, and actually wrote what I set out to write. It only took 6 years of obsessive reading and thinking. I now have a ethereal PhD in the writing of this one story.

Hopefully, I will use the same work to write many more, in a project that I’m conceptualizing as Speculative Realism.

Speculative Realism

To those in the know, this will be a familiar term – the name of a short lived “movement” in philosophy bringing together a number of different modes of thinking for the reason that they all represented a return to metaphysical speculation based on new scientific theories.

I have studied a number of these philosophies, most intensely object oriented ontology (Harman, Bryant, Morton) and new materialism (Delanda, Barad, Nail, Bennett, Braidotti and their influences – Latour, Deleuze, Haraway, Butler, and no matter what they say, Marx). I lean toward the latter set of thinkers. I will hopefully also improve my familiarity with Brassier. I have a distinct distaste for Meillassoux, though I have not read his work. One thing these thinkers all have in common (and boy do they have a lot of differences) is all of them think that realism requires speculation. Realism makes strange demands of us, in the quantum age. Conventional realism will not make the cut, not against quantum entanglement and the critiques of postmodernity.

But beyond the philosophical, I hope the phrase “Speculative Realism”, used in the literary realm, can allude to number of my influences and dig out some complex relationships.

These influences, and their intersections with the philosophy, will make up a series of likely too-long blog posts, perhaps in this order:

  • Speculations of Surrealism – A look at the surrealist movement, a new classification of them, and a look at their greatest metaphysicians. Focus will be on some selections from Aragon, Roger Caillois, and a look at the Miro self portraits, among others.
  • Speculations of the Weird – A glance at the speculative in weird horror, from Poe, through Lovecraft and writers today like Livia Llewelyn and Jeff Vandermeer. With critical commentary by Michael Cisco.
  • Speculations of Modernism – An analysis of the speculations of Woolf and Stein, especially regarding the materiality of language. There will be unabashed overuse of Meyer’s Irresistible Dictation.
  • Speculations of Science Fiction – A stop at the Delany station, for a recapitulation of his critical scifi and speech act theories.
  • Speculations of Fabulism – A nod to Aimee Bender, Julia Elliot and Samantha Hunt, who arguably set me on the track to this way of writing.
  • Other Speculations – Likely a wrap of of sorts, with a suggestive statement of the aims of Speculative Realism, comparisons to other literary realisms, and mention of any influences I could not write a full blog post about.

Truth be told, it will take some time for me to write all these up. May take me a year or more to get to them all. But I imagine it will be good fun for me either way, and hope a few people are along for the ride.