I never know what to say when someone dies, even 10 years on. Gala and I joked my epitaph should be, “Fuck you looking at? I’ll knife ya.” Ten years ago, Iain Banks died. Shit joke. Unequivocally my fave author at the time. I’ve read a heap since then and in that specific genre only Tamsyn Muir and Ann Leckie have come close. Yeah, a lot of other writers are amazing and touched my heart, made me laugh, but this is the you can take a tote bag of books to a desert island kind of love and it’s those three with Iain forever first.
Like so many weird subculture scenes, Iain got the attention of way too many straight white dudes. And because he was a nominally straight white dude, with a love of fast cars, whiskey and drugs, he doesn’t get much attention outside that very mediocre bubble of dudes talking. Yeah, Excession is a banger of a space opera, but have you read Feersum Endjinn? Or Whit? That shit has radical, liberatory politics all the way through. He was writing Black, Brown, trans, queer liberation and love back in the ’90s. And he always seemed like one of those so rare, genuinely good, thoughtful, fun, caring men. The kind we need a whole lot more of.
Over the almost twenty years of this blog, I’ve written about or mentioned him in the low hundreds of posts. He even has his own tag, though for that number he should be a category. Here’s some of my faves, chronologically.
Which caused me to read some of my own writing from the last decade and I’m not as shamed or embarrassed as I feared. Which might be me lacking in self-awareness of what I’m missing, but whatever.
And what caused this — I was not paying attention and February 16th was his birthday and it’s 10 years since he died — was a thread by Assoc for Scottish Literature with a bunch of links to articles and interviews I’m going to remind myself of by putting here:
Ooohyesss. My favourite favourite Hollywood jacked bro and favourite favourite film series. Twelve-ish years ago I asked Emile, “What are drifting?” and he replied, “Watch Tokyo Drift.“ Twelve-ish years ago, I watched Tokyo Drift and said it was a horrible movie. But that did not stop me reconnecting to my childhood love of hoonage. See, I can grow and learn and evolve. Me and Dasniya have a long-term movie date night relationship with Vin Diesel. We are both well-thrilled Fast X is only 3 months away.
(I don’t like to embed stuff. I don’t trust even YouTube to exist in 10 years. But if you wanna go there to watch it: Fast X | Official Trailer.)
Continuing on from my last post on the early-’90s comic She-Male Trouble, the back cover of Issue #1 is highly relevant to all the cis hysteria about us pissing where they piss. #bitchesgottapiss #utijustsayno #washyourhandscunt
The last couple of years really feels like any culture that isn’t str8wyt dudes is getting shut down. Old Gawker went from cringe and occasionally fucked decisions to the kind of proper journalism the big rags could never do. New Gawker was a tripped-out strange incoherent joy of a group tumblr. In the future, the apparent superficiality of both versions will be recognised for their deeply relevant and incisive political analysis, and for women and femmes going hard for popular culture. For now, there’s Defector, Autopian, and other post-Gawker brilliance, but it’s still sad as fuck to lose another.
Until journalism isn’t beholden to rich white dudes who throw down 1.5 million for Napoleon’s hat, or haul bathroom sinks around like it’s a meme (haha Apartheid Clyde in Dunning-Kruger National Park), whether it’s Gawker or Twitter or OnlyFans or tumblr or MySpace or Lex, the communities served by what should be public services like libraries are going to keep getting fucked over for a buck.
I was talking with a comic artist the other day and old ’90s language became a convo — shemale, tranny, chicks with dicks, heshes — and some of that connecting to transsexual sex workers in King’s Cross, Sydney back in the ’70s, where my elders tricked on the street, stripped in clubs, and worked in brothels. Which reminded me of a comic I think I got hold of in Sydney sometime in the late-90s, She-male Trouble. I think I saw an ad for it in Horny Biker Slut, where the degen sisters first appeared. Created by John Howard, published by Last Gasp, it’s pervy, exploitative comic porn, reminds me of Oglaf!, and is the direct but largely unknown ancestor of young trans femme tumblr artists from a decade ago. Would it get mercilessly shredded on the internet today? Yup. Was it actually one of the few representations of transsexuals (period more or less correct language there) which wasn’t vaguely TERFy and exoticising academic blaahs? Also yup, along with Grooby, Shemale Yum, Bob’s Tgirls, and that original world of equal opportunity internet trans porn.
Talking about me in yusra magazine the other day, and guess what turned up in my mailbox? The Special Edition came out in June last year and first attempt at sending a copy to me didn’t work out but second attempt did. Tight as fuck cover and it’s never not a thrill to see my writing in a language I cannot read. And to whoever chose the artwork for the facing page, thank you for honouring perfect boobs. When I said, “I mean, mostly I want boobs I feel their bounce of when I walk.” I meant exactly those. (And tentacles are also welcome but that’s for another life.)
And some I gave their own posts to ’cos they were utter bangers, and some I might even give their own posts, ’cos also bangers. So many books. I can only take one fiction and one non-fiction with me? Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Rehearsals for Living, and Tamsyn Muir’s Nona the Ninth. And one book of poetry? Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come For Us.
Having absorbed all the “Go Piss Girl” memes for years without context, I finally bailed into Gossip Girl at the start of season 2. And shortly after devoted half a day of hours to season 1. Is it terrible? Kinda yes. Is it transfixing? Also kinda yes. Do the teachers let down the whole show? Very yes. Do I care about the spoilt rich students? Some of them ambivalently yes. Is the slow growth of the relationship between Aki, Audrey, and Max beautiful? Yes. Also messy, but still beautiful. And is Zión Moreno as Luna La someone I want to binge everything she’s been in? Totes heaps yes. Does her aloofness resemble ’90s desexualised gays who never kissed or had relationships? Fucking yup. And when she ran off with – was carried off by farm boy Rob I was “Yes bitch, finally get some!” Because she’s beautiful and sensitive and feminine and has the power of creation like one of the old Goddesses and I know it’s not one of those shows but letting this part of her grow is something I want to see.
It was last year already, late-January, when Vass asked me to write something for yusra Magazine. I vommed a bunch of words about utopia, was well thrilled to get published in Greek, and immediately forgot to blorg the actual words. And cos I have not done anything on here this month, and for some reason (also immediately forgotten) I was re-reading it the other day, here we go. Me, slightly less than two years distant, would rewrite, reframe some of this. Doing needlework on tapestry is always specific.
For the last half of my life, no matter when it cuts out, I don’t want to be the most radical person in the room. I’m not even that radical. I want my unremarkable radicality to grow around the people I aspire to be more like. I want radicality I can feel in my junk. I want radicality that screams like a redlining 767. Car, not jet. Terrifying. Not idling in a garage blipping the engine thinking this is the journey.
I want the fuck like they rule mediocre dreary pain out of our lives. I want us to have space and time without their conditions and smallness and noise.
I want fucking joy.
I want the possibilities for a liveable flourishing life which split and separated so long ago and run in distant parallels along the flanks of hills I can see but can’t cross over to, I want these to run together again, and all those possibilities no longer requiring I give up something in return for a life. Part of a life.
I mean, mostly I want boobs I feel their bounce of when I walk.
Being very clear on what utopia requires now.
World War on Eternal Terror I and II.
I have lost count of all the wars. I recite their names like poison in Shahadah. I bear witness there is no War but War.
I go back through time, unravelling colonialism, back through those wars and wars a whole century of small empires on the tip of Asia’s north-west peninsulas churning their own lands and peoples like they plough the globe. Back past the Berlin Conference, the Race for Africa, the Great Game, the Companies and royalty and politicians drawing straight lines across us, compacting us into the land with their pencil lead and rulers. Back past Marx and give him the finger, back past Kant and his civilised philosophy of racism, fucking debating us, turn around to look forward from there as the Middle Passage streams by making a triangle of the Atlantic, see the Age of Enlightenment watering graves in all the lands I’ve lived on.
Back until it’s the Renaissance. Whose renaissance? Why? Was it perspective or Constantinople or Reconquista? Back until the patron saint of Holy Roman Emperors was a Black man in the armour of nobility named Saint Mauritius.
That’s a thousand years.
I should know this all better. I have this unfathomable itch which says, if I could just make sense of this, I’d know why. Why all of this leads us to now to our graves and how we can unstitch this tapestry woven with so many bodies they are pulled like silk into threads covering walls in those castles, vast like fields and plains.
There will be no utopia as long as stolen land and water remains occupied.
There will be no utopia as long as there are borders. As long as there is money. As long as reparations remain unmade.
This is what it looks like from the other side: a thousand years forward. What was done to one planet has been done to this solar system.
There will be no utopia.
Utopia will be used against us. Utopia will find a way to remove us because we diminish its perfection. Remove. Erase. More than kill. Prevent our existence in the first place. Genocide is a historical process moving backwards and forwards in time as it resurfaces the geography upon which it takes place.
See this happening now.
See the round hole of the mouths of people saying, “Oh. I didn’t know.”
I’m trying hard to imagine utopia. I’m trying to imagine good shit. I know all about bad shit. I wake and sleep and eat with it, see it in my eyes, know it back and forward through history and add to it each day. Choose my colours for the threads I knot into that tapestry which I read right to left and left to right, all coming together and focussing on that absent, unseeable, unspeakable centre. Follow the story, follow the warp and weft in any direction and it ends with us in a ditch in a grave.
Which us? Who us? All of us. When it is done with us being trans, it comes for us being Muslim. Done with that, for crossing borders, speaking language wrong, walking wrong, learning wrong, eyes wrong colour, skin wrong colour, bones wrong shape, history and ancestors wrong. Comes for us for our desire. Comes for us when we get angry get pissed get stroppy fucking front for being told we’re wrong.
We are never right. There is no utopia on this tapestry in which we are not stitched out of existence.
I’ll try again. I’m trying to imagine utopia.
In a utopia, a real utopia, one where we all make it, I’d still want to hoon the fuck out of cars. I’m simple like that.
Okay but that’s kinda small, eh? Like, what else? Big moment here, be fucking epic or summing.
I need Lucifer to look me in my eyes and say, “So tell me, what is it you desire?” And besides being wrecked by you, Satan … shit bro, you’re asking a lot there.
Can I even imagine a utopia when I’m busy surviving? Do I even want an idea imagined by the patron saint of statesmen and politicians? I’m more patron saint of unmarried girls, spinsters, and knife sharpeners kinda chick.
I don’t want human rights. I am drowning choking on human rights. I want consequences for meanness and cruelty and hate. Not in the next life or on Yawm ad-Din. Now. Immediate. Terrible consequences. Consequences which topple cities and empires in earthquakes and floods. Ah, but those consequences rain down on us first.
I want my sisters and aunties and old ones and especially especially the young ones to have lives undiminished by that meanness and cruelty and hate. I want to see them whole. To know they will thrive long into the future. To not worry they live one eye always over their shoulder, just in case.
Back in time again. Long time back. We walked with Goddesses. We fucked for them. We warred for them. Made justice and beauty for them. Remember that.
Forget that. There is no going back. There is no utopia arriving to save us. There are no new ideas in Europe.
Indigenous Native Blak Māori Pasifika First Peoples have been fighting to survive since before Thomas More took ouτόπiā and eὐτοπία and wrote Utopia.