None More Black. We Are The Road Crew. Lemmy Approves.
None More Black. We Are The Road Crew. Lemmy Approves.
One of the very rare times Rest Area has had a camera inside the truck. Me with iPhone and hand-held theatre lamp; S.J bringing the ruckus.
On the way to Yarraville, finding our way by taking turns that look right. Rest Area done; tomorrow Stone Tape Theory begins.
Same truck; different position.
“I want you to come in, to lie down – to hold me, just for a minute.”
The reason I’m in Australia for the first time in a decade, and in Naarm (Melbourne). Once again Rest Area, the first work I did with Onyx Carmine / S.J Norman. (Also Stone Tape Theory, which is next week and for another post.)
The truck of Rest Area will be parked out the back of Arts House at North Melbourne Town Hall for the first week of FOLA Festival of Live Art. Onyx and I will be Door Bitch-ing and in the bed from Wednesday until Sunday, joined by a pack totalling seven, including Virginia Barratt and Carly Sheppard (whom I last saw in Peckham, London at Take This, For It Is My Body).
I want you to come in, to lie down – to hold me, just for a minute.
Rest Area is the invocation and repetition of a familiar desire and a familiar gesture. In the back of a stationary truck, discover an unlikely bedchamber, where you’re invited into a stranger’s embrace.
In a moment of fleeting closeness, audience member and performer enact a fundamental human desire: to hold and be held in the arms of another.
A much-loved signature work originally performed by Norman themself, Rest Area enters its second decade of life re-scored for a cast of diverse bodies. Simple and profound, Rest Area is a one-to-one meditation on longing, comfort, and the melancholy eroticism of loneliness.
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
4–10pm, Wednesday 14 March
4–10pm, Thursday 15 March
4–10pm, Friday 16 March
4–10pm, Saturday 17 March
12–6pm, Sunday 18 March
Duration: One-on-one sessions for 15 mins
Tickets: $20 / $15
This is when Strada Bianche became the classic it always was. Everything I love when I ride: cold, wet, snow, rain, mud and gravel, cobblestones, hours of enduring suffering, becoming one with the earth and weather, winter and spring. And watching women’s racing excel in the last couple of years.
I loved this. A fat slab of a book with pages to keep me deep in the story for days. Enough of a story that me — being out of practice with reading lately — couldn’t keep straight all the characters and peoples and factions and histories. The last novel I read like this was Saladin Ahmed’s brilliant Throne of the Crescent Moon, which seems very unlikely to be getting a sequel, as he’s off doing mad words for comics these days — which, for anyone who remembers his long Twitter dives into Golden Age comics, is probably his true home anyway.
Cairo, Djinn, the Ottoman Empire, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, the Amu Darya, Afghanistan, East Turkestan (yes, I know that last one is awkward), Islamicate worlds where Europe sits far on the fringe, barely mentioned beyond the first chapter where it is already an “away, over there”. This was one on my list, along with a number of other authors, as part of an irregular, waxing and waning effort to read science-fiction and fantasy by non-Anglo-American women and non-binary authors. As usual, no idea where I first saw it, possibly the monthly New Reading list on io9, or maybe on the Twit. Well, I failed with the non- bit, cos S.A. is a white cisgender USA-ian.
I read G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen a few years ago, and (from memory) thought it slipped into awkward orientalism, and there’s a tendency for white converts to Islam (I kinda prefer to say ‘returning to’, but for the Anglo-American lot ‘convert’ is more apt) to be hella strict in going for Arabic, Sunni derivatives, like that’s the only Islam there is, and wrapping themselves up in a holier-than-thou Hijab. Fam, Islam don’t gotta be like that. S.A. doesn’t rock a hijab. Truth, when I saw her name, I thought, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and I live for the day that one ever writes sci-fi or fantasy.
S.A. spent time in Cairo, has done the study, speaks clearly about understanding her place as a white American woman writing Islamic fantasy and history, and her acknowledgements were filled with names that would know what she’s writing about. All that, plus interviews I’ve read with her, plus just how she wrote this story before I knew all these details, I believed it. It brings me a small joy for a story to begin with such unremarkable inclusion of Adhan call to Fajr (that’s the call to dawn prayer, or Sabah namazı), to have Islam so fundamental to a story — not as signifier of whatever white culture wants to denigrate, but a mundane thing which is lived in the world daily. It’s her debut, and frankly a banger, so I’m going to refrain right here from the usual high-class and bourgie criticism-ing I do — except please print it on better paper stock, she deserves so much better. Oh! And it’s the first of a trilogy. I’ll probably have read this again before the second part comes out.
I’ve been reading Charles Stross’ The Merchant Princes series since — I think — when I was in Zürich and had run out of available Iain (M.) Banks, and read Stross’ Accelerando, Singularity Sky, and Iron Sunrise, all of which predates when I started blogging about what I was reading. The original six-book series had definitely “Fantasy 4 Chicks” covers, and even by the standard of that mid-’00s cover-art genre was pretty awful. Nonetheless, nothing left to read and apparently it was the same Charles Stross, so off I went down that lot, the first two or three anyway — the last wasn’t published until I was safely back in Europe and living in Berlin.
And then they got a reprint and rewrite, turning the six into three, making those three the first half of a six-part series, with cover-art safe enough for The Menz who make up a large part of Stross’ readership. Empire Games was the first of the continuing trilogy, book 4 in the series, released early-2017; Dark State came out at the beginning of this year. Obviously I still buy Stross, pre-order even, but I haven’t enjoyed much since 2013’s Neptune’s Brood, the sequel to Saturn’s Children, largely because he’s been devoting the majority of writing time to his Laundry Files series, which he really needs to retire, but probably won’t cos it’s mad popular.
I’m not really in the “write 3000 words on every book you read” mode lately, so, yeah, solid but unremarkable middle book of the second trilogy. A lot of things happen, but primarily as set-up for the next and final novel, so nothing much gets resolved. Stuff happens in Berlin too, which, as Onyx said to me when I was blabbing about J.K. Simmons (aka Schillinger Tenzin — I swear knowing the Nazi from Oz is also the Airbender Tenzin messes with my head) in Counterpart, “The last thing I need to do it watch shows set in Berlin, talk about trigger warning. It’s like looking at an ex-girlfriend’s facebook.” Me: “They do ‘moody post-wall reimagining of 70’s Berlin noir spy thriller’ and I’m all oooosexy! and ‘Berlin why u not treat me like that?’” I just find something a bit off and troubling in his work these days, and not just the egregious stuff like when he played a trans woman for laughs in The Nightmare Stacks. When I first read this series, and Iron Sunrise and Singularity Sky, as well as some of his later books, I felt like him writing women was really believable, like he got it. These days it feels like he’s loudly blabbing queer and trans and brown women characters (including one in this novel who throws on a hijab to ‘pass’ as a Turkish woman in Berlin while on the run) but all I see is a white man. I keep reading him though, familiar but oh so problematic.