“The Argument here redefines Marx’s class struggle in the terms of a “politics of being”: that is, one waged over what is to be the descriptive statement of the human, about whose master code of symbolic life and death each human order organizes itself. It then proposes that it was precisely because of the above political dynamic—which underpinned the Darwinian Revolution, making it possible—that it was also compelled to function as a half-scientific, half-mythic theory of origins, at least as it had to do with the human.”— Sylvia Wynter, “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom”
They released their debut for the label back in September, mixing up slow-motion house grooves with atmospheric electro-pop of a Radiohead bent; now they’re turning heads with a gorgeous new single, “A.M.,” featuring remixes from Ewan Pearson
We caught up with them to find out more about their lush, aquatic sound; read on for the tag-team interview.
Can you tell us a little about your background? Where did you guys grow up, how did you meet, and where are you based now?
Graham: I was born in Belfast and moved to Montreal when I was eight. So my formative teenage/academic years were spent here in Montreal, and although I consider Montreal as “home,” I still have lots of memories from Ireland and I try to get back when I can to visit family and see old, but familiar places from childhood. Although I left young, I was still old enough to have developed a lasting memory of the city, and going back keeps that spark alive. I met Kosta through the Montreal club/pub circuit. I was looking to work with new musicians, as was he, and we got together and it worked from day one.
Kosta: My story is similar to Graham’s, but I moved from Athens to Montreal when I was six. Unlike Graham, there weren’t as many “troubles,” but there was the warm sea, lots of sunshine, olive groves, red wine, and Mediterranean cooking. So my family decided that they had had enough of all that stuff and decided moved to Montreal where they didn’t speak the language and where they would have six months of sub-zero winter temperature… I also try to get back whenever possible.
How did come to start working with Buzzin’ Fly and Ben Watt?
Graham: Kosta and I had been making music in various forms for several years, and it was the “band-sends-demo-via-email-to-label” approach which got the ball rolling. Although it sounds relatively straightforward, and although it may have been, there was quite a bit of music/artist history before the email and the story goes something like this (and this is all true)… As a fan of Everything But The Girl, my TemperamentalCD had been skipping in my car, so I needed a replacement CD—yes, this was the mid 2000s when CDs were still being purchased. So I ordered a copy and received it in the mail, and when I opened it, a Buzzin’ Fly insert fell out. Although I had known of Buzzin’ Fly, it never occurred to me to send a demo. I went to the website, saw that they were accepting demos and I sent through a couple of musical pieces. All instrumental—no vocal.
About six weeks later, I saw an email reply from Ben in my Hotmail junk folder stating that he liked the music but that it might sound better with vocals. So that was the ironic bit… Without telling him that I was a “singer,” we recorded a vocal part for an early demo and sent it to Ben, without telling him it was my voice (for fear of rejection). Luckily, Ben liked it. That was spring 2008. Needless to say, it would take another year of writing and soul/genre searching before Ben was ready to take it to the next level. Ben finally decided to release an EP, and, luckily, I was in the UK for one week in late 2009, and I was able to meet up with Ben and “hand deliver” the contract, which was a rite of passage of sorts. But again, we then had to write and record an album’s worth of material, which was challenging and exciting.
Finally, Ben partnered up some of our tracks with Ewan Pearson, The Revenge, and Fred Everything to help add a bit of “sparkle” to our music, and it was a great idea. We are not “pure” DJs, so it was refreshing to take our tracks a certain distance and then hand the wheel to someone else to drive. It was an extremely fun process to write something “artistic” and collaborate with these great club DJs who, in turn, created their own works of art on top of our songs.
What was your creative process when it came to writing / producing “A.M.”?
Kosta: The idea behind A.M. was the main riff. I had been fiddling with the settings and editing on my synth for several days, and when Graham heard it he knew instinctively that he could work with it.
Graham: The time signature is a bit unorthodox, which is something we liked too, as it flips the 4/4 around a bit. I lived with the music for a couple of weeks until I was confident I had a story and melody of interest. We then added some piano, which we had never done before.
You’ve been playing some live gigs in Montreal - how’s the transition gone for you from working in the studio to live performance?
Kosta: The transition has gone well so far. The gigs in town have been in the “clubbier” venues, so the emphasis has been on a club aesthetic. However, the house-oriented tracks are only a part of our identity.
Graham: The album will feature quite a lot of organic material with an electronic crossover, so we are looking forward to incorporating that aspect into the live set.
Do you have plans to play in Europe or the UK in the near future?
Graham: We would love to play in Europe and the UK and anywhere else for that matter. At the moment, we are focusing on finishing up the album and then we’ll take it from there.
How would you describe the sound of Flowers and Sea Creatures?
Graham: I think we have settled on experimental electronic alternative. There are no anthemic choruses, but we try to mix melody with mood and welcome the meeting of underground and overground. We like to write for ourselves, but we also write with an ear to what is going on around us.
Do you currently have a favorite piece of gear/software?
Kosta: Arp Odyssey (the white one), Juno 106, I’m also getting really creative with some VST plugin synths that I’m currently using.
What piece of software/gear do you hate but use anyway?
Kosta: Cubase, Protools, Ableton… I don’t really “hate” them, but I’m much more of a hands-on musician, so it becomes very tedious having to worry about sound cards, drivers, plugins, MIDI in/out etc… I should invest in more hardware, but it can get very expensive…
So far you’ve titled tracks “At Night” and “A.M.”—are you guys morning people or night owls?
Graham: Morning person. I would love to work from 6am until noon. Unfortunately Kosta is the tech guy, and he likes to work from 11pm until 3am. So that situation remains the most challenging of all.
Kosta: Night owl. I would love to work from 11pm until 3am. Unfortunately, Graham is the lyric vocal guy, and he likes to work from 6am until noon. So that situation remains the most challenging of all.
A question for each of you: Which record do you wish you had made?
Graham: “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye.
Kosta: Saying I’m probably not the only one would be an understatement. Side B of the Beatles’ Abbey Road.
When you’re not listening to electronic music, what do you listen to?
Graham: Jazz FM radio and talk radio through a 1974 Marantz receiver with intermittent static.
Kosta: Django Reinhardt style jazz and some Paco De Lucia guitar.
When you’re not making or playing music, what’s your preferred pastime?
Graham: A long walk followed by a long stay in a pub with a newspaper.
Kosta: Looking for vintage gear, preferably vintage synths, and reading artist biographies over a glass of red wine.
If you weren’t musicians, what would you be doing with your lives?
Graham: But we are musicians…
Kosta: Living in Greece, tending to my olive trees. Seriously!
i’ve been angry for awhile. some days i try to write it down. things like ‘i’m bloated with salt water’ or ‘there is a sink in the middle of my chest and it’s flooding.’ 11 million people in the horn of africa are thirsty. and hungry. and dying. 11 million people. i chew on the insides of my cheeks until i draw blood. the spit in my own mouth humiliates me. there has not been a drought like this in 60 years.
when language becomes inappropriate, i can only use water to describe the lack of water. a reporter on the tv says ‘the famine in somalia is biting’. my mother holds her face in her hands. my stomach hurts.
someone leaves me an anonymous post with the word ‘drought’. all lower case. the word stares back at me. i don’t know what this person meant. a taunt, a reminder or a fragile shallow attempt at depth? my anger is tidal.
a few weeks ago a tipsy guy leaned into me after a reading and asked ‘so where are you from?’. when i tell him, he says ‘you know, of all the africans to be in the UK, that one is the worst’.
an eight year old boy at school calls my six year old sister a ‘smelly somali bastard’. she comes home crying. i taste copper in my mouth. press my face into her hair, she is a small beautiful thing with curls down to her waist.
i read a comment online under an article about the victims of the drought and famine ‘there’s so many of them anyway, it’s not like it’s going to wipe them all out’.
i am twenty two years old, my whole existence my country has been suffering. for twenty two years i have been an immigrant, a refuggee, i have been elsewhere and homesick, i have been in mourning and defending everything that i am.
‘why don’t they get the money from their pirates’ and ‘they done this to themselves’.
i’m heart broken. i’m resentlful and i’m angry and the only way to explain it is by using language about water. but there is no water, just tears pooling in the hollow of a collar bone. my friend calls me and says ‘where have you been, how are you?’ and i say ‘i’m just so angry leyla, i’m angry all the time’ and she says ‘good, you care, when you care, you must feel something’.
in somali when we see injustice we say ‘dhiiga kuma dhaqaqo?’ which translates into ‘does your blood not move?’.
dear (name of every person who does not care) when the rain fails you, i hope the world does not do the same.
She is a mother, writer and activist. Her publications include the novel Moons of Palmares as well as an essay in the anthology Strong Women’s Stories: Native Vision & Community Activism. Most recently Amadahy has contributed to In Breach of the Colonial Contract by co-authoring “Indigenous Peoples and Black People in Canada: Settlers or Allies?”<!—more—>
While this article is not perfect, Zainab says lots that is important, especially regarding the contradictions that exist between our traditional indigenous spiritual practices and ceremonial ways which root so many of our struggles against imperialism, white power, settler colonialism and capitalism and white “leftists” who often look down on them, or at the very least attempt to segregate them out of the struggle. That is why I am posting it.
Inspired by artists, academics and activist colleagues who have rolled their eyes at the spiritual beliefs of their Indigenous counterparts as well as protested the inclusion of prayer and ceremony into political, academic and artistic activities, I have decided to share my thinking on some fundamental differences in values and knowledge ways that impede relationship-making across our communities.
While I can’t generalize about what Indigenous or other racialized peoples mean by the words “decolonization”, anti-racist or “anti-colonial”, I can certainly observe how SOME philosophies and action strategies employed in leftist movements relegate anti-colonial and anti-racist struggles to the periphery.
Furthermore, concepts of “decolonization”, as they are talked about in many Indigenous and other racialized communities, are not always compatible with what are essentially Eurocentric philosophies and actions strategies.
The following are issues for all activists to keep in mind when working to build relationships.
At its heart, socialist-, Marxist-, and anarchist-informed activism centralizes the class struggle and workers rights. These are considered the core of “the struggle” all other struggles get “included” into that framework. This has required people from a variety of social locations (women, people of colour, differently-abled people, Indigenous folks, etc.) to function within a worldview that is not always intrinsic to or based in their cultural identities, community values and historical or personal experiences — even when they are resisting colonization.
Nor does this framework always address the aspirations of racialized communities, which in the case of Indigenous peoples involves recovering a specific Earth-informed, spiritually-infused culture and worldview. In this sense, leftist philosophies are like a one-size-fits-all dress that only a very small minority feel comfortable wearing. This doesn’t mean that such frameworks can’t be useful but they are not our historic starting place and that matters.
Leftist philosophies are theoretical frameworks that were initially developed BY MEN in Europe. European-descended women and racialized peoples from the rest of the world took up that central philosophy, critiqued and developed it. While we honour the works of many who have added to the body of theoretical work, we still need to understand that these theories basically started with a patriarchal, Eurocentric, colonial-minded framework. That framework informed everything that came after. Much like in the pages of a colouring book, you can colour outside the lines, select unconventional colours, draw your own illustrations elsewhere on the page, etc., but the book’s drawings dominate and, to a great extent, define whatever appears at the end.
Struggles of Indigenous and other racialized people (as well as those from other social locations) become adjectives or appendices in a feminist, anti-racist, green, anti-colonial class struggle that (sometimes) includes differently abled people. While we can acknowledge that there are various approaches to “inclusion” (and some approaches work better than others) we will never get away from the necessity of having to be “included”. We will always be the recipients of accommodations or adjustments to theory and practice. (Even though indigenous and other racialized peoples together comprise the majority of the world’s population.)
Marxism, socialism and anarchy do not address relationality, that is the inter-relatedness and inter-connectedness of all life — past, present and future. Such theories still operate under the assumption that we two-leggeds are separate, differentiated individuals. As a species we are still considered to be superior to rather than inherently part of the other life forms on this planet and beyond. While lefties (and others) are increasingly shifting towards understanding that the “environment” is part of our bodies, that we cannot harm another without harming ourselves (based, in part, on emerging scientific knowledge), new analyses are still being tacked onto or integrated with or assimilated into larger leftist frameworks. Relationality is inadequately understood and still seen as an appendix to existing theory, rather than a legitimate and viable worldview in and of itself.
Some leftist philosophies are antagonistic to, uncomfortable with, or otherwise look down on Indigenous cultural beliefs and practices. Many activists who attempt to respect those cultures would still like to see spirituality as separate from political work; something to be done “over there” rather than to be infused into or inform our work. They often generalize about their negative and oppressive experiences with colonial/imperial/institutionalized religions and apply them to belief systems that are Earth-informed and relationship-centred. This rationalizes their desire to compartmentalize spirituality and deny how it infuses and informs Indigeneity.
Decolonization is often seen as a process in which only Indigenous and racialized people need to engage. Many lefties do not understand the need to shift their frameworks, change their mindsets and alter their actions. They do not always see that we are all in this together, impacting each other in a web of life processes that inter-relate. Remarkably some lefties see decolonization as a process whereby Indigenous and racialized groups simply shed one Eurocentric framework only to adopt another. Consequently, lefties can also become “missionaries”, encouraging or requiring assimilation into their own worldviews.
Indigenous and other racialized peoples have their own cultural and/or spiritual and/or wisdom traditions in which two leggeds are neither “centralized” nor “included” but are, instead, interwoven into a complex set of relationships with the Earth and all the life it supports, past, present and future. These frameworks of relationality inherently provide a critique of both capitalist and left-wing ideologies. If the aim of decolonization is to rid ourselves of colonial mindsets why not centralize our own wisdom traditions and use class analyses or other frameworks if and when they enable us to think and act in ways that support our communities (including Mother Earth, Our Relations and the Great Spirit)?
Relational frameworks served Indigenous and other racialized peoples for millennia before colonization. Remarkably, these ideologies and life ways are still alive and evolving, despite brutal colonizing efforts. Idealizing pre-colonial cultures and assuming that life was problem free before the coming of Europeans is neither true nor helpful. However, pre-colonial knowledge and values were and are perfectly viable and sustainable in these times. In fact, they might be crucial to getting the human species out of the mess we now find ourselves in on Mother Earth. Besides, don’t we all need to connect with who we are and where we come from before we can successfully move forward?
Taking on someone else’s ideology is like wearing someone else’s eyeglasses. If they aren’t made for your specific vision problems they can do harm. As indigenous and racialized peoples our eyes have been damaged, our worldviews stolen from us through the process of colonization. But in our case, the glasses we choose can either promote our healing or they can leave us dependant on lenses crafted by others.
That isn’t to say that glasses can’t ever be useful. No one philosophy or worldview is going to enable us to see everything that needs seeing or explain everything that needs explaining in our lives. One single worldview cannot inform ALL of our strategies for change. It might be necessary to wear bi or tri-focals from time to time and use the part of the lenses that provide us with the clearest view of what we want to see. But of course, the best of all options is to heal our eyes so we can see clearly for ourselves.
“As a black woman, Gilda recognizes situations that put her in jeopardy. As a vampire she has power to overcome these situations, but she knows that other people don’t have that same privilege. She experiences life as a black woman, but she has privilege as a vampire…”
Author, poet, playwright and activist Jewelle Gomez (JG) was born and raised inBoston, MA and has been a longtime resident ofSan Francisco. Her books include: Don’t Explain, Oral Traditionand Forty-Three Septembers. 2011 marks the 20th anniversary ofThe Gilda Stories (a new edition has been released by Firebrand Books). The Gilda Stories (TGS) is a double Lambda Award winning novel that follows the life of an African-American lesbian vampire through the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries. Two chapters of TGS were commissioned for performance by the Urban Bush Women Company and toured thirteenU.S.cities from1995-96. TGS continues to be taught in colleges and universities worldwide. Jewelle is currently at work on a second volume of Gilda stories. She has also written a play based on the life of James Baldwin, Waiting 4 Giovanni, opening in August at theNewConservatoryTheatreCenterinSan Francisco. This interview took place at the Horizon’s Foundation where Jewelle is the Director of Grants & Community Initiatives.
SB: Let’s jump right in. What do you know about Gilda now that you didn’t know about her in 1991?
JG: I know that Gilda has more emotional conflicts about her early life than I imagined when I wrote the first novel. I conceived Gilda as a feminist superhero. As I am writing the new Gilda novel, I am more aware of Gilda’s emotional flaws and how these flaws shape her relationships with people and politics. It’s hard being a child who was abandoned, whether you were put in a foster home or because your parents died in slavery. I wanted to show the toll that sexism and racism take on Gilda as she moves through time and as she sees these oppressions enduring.
After twenty years I am also stunned how vampire mythology has endured. Of course I knew the allure of the genre because I did tons of research. But even so, you’d think that younger people would move on to something else. But clearly not.
SB: What is the pull of this genre?
JG: Humans have always been afraid of death. We don’t know what will happen. Not knowing makes us anxious, so we’ve invented religion and we’ve invented vampires to understand death–to cheat death. The attraction may also be that many contemporary vampire stories emphasize the romantic and de-emphasize the horrific acts that a vampire does. The idea of the vampire as a serial killer gets underplayed and the forbidden love between the mortal and the immortal is highlighted. We can look at Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story or any of those interpretations of forbidden love. Young people can’t resist these stories because they embody the anxiety they feel simply due to their hormonal growth. Older people, I think, can’t resist the hope this type of story offers.
SB: How do you perceive TGS in the canon of lgbt literature?
JG: Gilda is a direct descendent of the lesbian feminist writer Joanna Russ who wrote The Female Man and other groundbreaking, transgressive fiction. The Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s was fueled by speculative fiction writers who imagined a world where women had power to change things and to change themselves. Gilda is also related to the work of Chip Delaney; not in style, but again, Gilda embodies that queer concept of remaking oneself that has been core to lgbt literature over the past four decades.
SB: At the time TGS was published we weren’t as saturated with the vampire narrative as we are today.
JG: I worked on Gilda for ten years, and I read nearly everything that had been written about vampires. Before TGS was published I read at various events. Following Gilda was akin to following a soap opera. Still, I didn’t quite know enough about the genre and the fandom. Then, in 1995 Urban Bush Women Company commissioned Bones and Ash, based on the TGS. When the play was touring many Goth vampire fans showed up. I realized then that I had tapped into a huge fan base. People didn’t care if the protagonist was a lesbian, or was black. If it concerned vampires, they wanted it.
SB: Let’s talk about the vampire as one who cheats death. Even though vampires potentially can live forever, at some point most will choose the true death.
JG: Well, the first Gilda says, “I can’t take another war. I’ve seen enough killing.” The first Gilda had lived for hundreds of years; she had seen and been through so much and was ready to be done. We see that with people who are ill and who decide that they are ready to end their lives. This choice is denied a lot of people. I see this as similar to taking the true death.
In many ways the second Gilda is a parallel to the United States. The U.S. is a young country. Most of us have no idea of an enduring history. When I was in the Southwest last summer I went to Chaco Canyon where there are structures that have existed for a thousand years. Native Americans certainly know way more about history, because their history on this land is centuries older. The second Gilda has to come to terms with her naïveté; she has to understand that she is young and privileged. She is privileged to see the world change over time. Still, I didn’t want her to get so overwhelmed that she would want to prematurely take the true death.
As we were producing Bones and Ash it was difficult to get the dancers/actors to understand that true death was an absolute end, that there was no heaven or hell. Gilda’s taking of the true death wasn’t her going to join the ancestors or anything like that. Surprisingly, the actors had a tough time imagining such an end. Once we came to the understanding that there was nothing after death, the song that the actors sang to guide Gilda to her true death was harrowing.
SB: In most vampire novels the vampires are read racially as white. In TGS the skin of this vampire cannot be ignored.
JG: The second Gilda being black is core and informs how she makes meaning of her world, and how she is responded to. Gilda understands the various ethnicities of the girls in the bordello. She knows that Bird is a Native American. When Gilda visits Sorrel’s salon in Yerba Buena, she understands that people look at her askance because she is black. As a female, Gilda knows she is vulnerable on the road alone so she dresses as a boy. It is from Gilda’s perspective that we learn these things. For me, people of color and women are the center of the universe; it’s natural. Assuming this centrality allowed me to address people’s racism without having the racism take over the story.
As a black woman, Gilda recognizes situations that put her in jeopardy. As a vampire she has power to overcome these situations, but she knows that other people don’t have that same privilege. She experiences life as a black woman, but she has privilege as a vampire.
SB: So that night in 1919 when Gilda is attacked by two white men she could have easily killed them. Yet she is bound to a moral code, an understanding of the use and abuse of power. Vampires in TGS take blood, but they also leave something with the person.
JG: As a feminist it is important to have a moral center and I think it is impossible to measure the worth of your life without a moral compass. Unfortunately, the more that capitalism subsumes our lives, the more vacant our moral center seems to become. The heroic vampires at the center of my novel have this too. It’s what separates them from the average murderous, sometimes guilt-ridden vampires in literature and movies.
SB: Your vampires have strong connections to mortals. The second Gilda seems particularly fascinated with mortal life.
JG: Gilda has her feet in both worlds–it’s part of her maturation. Gilda consented to be a vampire but like all the vampires in her family she shares the love of mortal culture. To vampires, mortal life is like daytime television. They need this connection to continue to respect mortals. Gilda comes to understand that it is the emotional connection to mortals that feeds her, not just their blood.
SB: Integration is key to maintaining their moral code. The vampires practice their code through relationships with mortals.
JG: If your moral code becomes too abstract it becomes useless. During the Vietnam War, our soldiers got drummed into them this idea that the Vietnamese weren’t fully human. The Vietnamese were much smaller than the Americans and they wore clothing that soldiers called ‘pajamas.’ This objectification encouraged American soldiers to commit atrocities against the Vietnamese people. For my vampires it is important that mortals not become abstract.
SB: I was surprised that the vampires in TGS moved freely in the daytime. I was also struck by the importance of the native soil. Is this native soil part of traditional vampire lore?
JG: I kept some traditional ideas and discarded others. The native soil, a traditional concept, was compelling. Usually a vampire would sleep in a coffin lined in their native soil. I was not fond of the coffin motif, so I shifted my vampires onto futons. You can fill a futon with soil–who is going to know? The native soil also speaks to the sense of being rooted. The vampires need to be rooted in something to keep their lives in perspective.
I got the idea of having the soil on their person from Chelsea Quinn Yarbro who has written a beautiful and brilliant series about the Count St. Germain vampire. Even still, these vampires have limitations. Just as the circumstances of mortality shape mortals, the vampires also have to make accommodations; these accommodations shape who they are culturally.
SB: The soil represents the land, rootedness, and the place of return. Bird leaves the second Gilda to return to her native soil. The soil speaks also to Africans taken from their native soil, who spent so much time working the soil throughout the African Diaspora. For the second Gilda there is also the trunk that contains among other things, her quilt, her knife, and her cross. With each move she brings these small items of her history with her.
JG: We all carry a core part of us wherever we go. If we are healthy, we discard the things that don’t work, and hold on to those memories, habits, and ideas that nourish us.
SB: As a vampire you would have to be selective. After hundreds of years you could be quite burdened by the past.
JG: It was one of the reasons I wanted a methodology for what a vampire does when they kill a mortal. The chance that a vampire might kill is high. But, you can’t just kill and walk away as if that life meant nothing. If a vampire had to take a life, I decided that she had to be able to always recall the face of the person killed. As the person was dying, the vampire also had to find something positive inside that person, and hold on to that as well. They could perhaps live without the bitterness and regret of being a killer or without becoming a vampire that enjoys killing.
SB: If you have to hold the memory of even one life it becomes more difficult to take a life in the future.
JG: You need something to keep that discipline in place. When I wrote a scene where someone was killed, I experienced an adrenaline rush and I think I understood a fraction of what one might feel when he or she killed someone. That rush is addictive. It helped me understand that there’s something vital to learn about how killers come to be and, by extension, the discipline a vampire has to maintain to not be predatory to humans. The disregard for another’s humanity gets drilled into some people; all they see are small people in pajamas. That’s what I believe killers experience. We have not resolved how to interrupt that behavior and retrain people so that killing does not become their sport.
SB: Let’s talk about the ending chapters, the ones taking place in the 21st century. These chapters seem to set stage for the next volume of Gilda Stories. Gilda is now in the reader’s future. A new energy emerges as we move into speculative fiction.
JG: The stories do take on a different tone–an apocalyptic quality. I had written the chapter where the immunological and ecological systems had disintegrated just before the AIDS crisis. I realized that I had been reflecting this upcoming epidemic in my novel. The future was catching up with me. That is where science fiction can be really insightful. You think about how to project where the culture will be in the future. You can come pretty close.
SB: Will the new Gilda stories be set in the future?
JG: The first story will take place in 1910 New Orleans. Gilda returns there searching for Bird. The other chapters are the alternate decades that were explored in the first book. There is at least one story that occurs in the future.
SB: Give us a preview of what we can expect from the new volume.
JG: The new stories are more psychologically complicated. They are more about Gilda’s psychological and emotional growth. Gilda will be dealing with the hurts she has lived through. Her relationships with mortals are more complicated. She has important lessons to learn about longevity. She will make huge mistakes. Gilda will face a moment when she believes she should take the true death because of these mistakes. Is she a failure as a vampire?
SB: Lastly, Jewelle, How have you changed/matured as a writer over these twenty years?
JG: I hope my writing has gotten better! I’m still as disturbed by social injustice but I have a more global view. I see how repression of lesbian voices is connected to busting up unions in the Midwest, trafficking children in Asia, and the endless landscape of oppression. I also understand that the work of social change is not just something that you do when you are in your teens and twenties. Keeping the fire going at sixty is sometimes a more conscious effort, and I can’t stay up as late, which is hard for a vampire writer!
I understand why mystery writers stay with the same character over multiple books. I feel really lucky with Gilda. It’s exciting to have a character that you can grow up and deepen over time.
I also finally accept that mainstream publishers still don’t really see lesbians of color as potentially universal. They think that not enough people want to read our work for it to be worthwhile to market. They’ll market a novel about an elephant saving the circus or a mute person living with dogs in the woods, but lesbians are too far out for them. But I just keep writing Gilda and all kinds of people keep buying her.
“A monologophobe (you won’t find it in the dictionary) is a writer who would rather walk naked in front of Saks Fifth Avenue than be caught using the same word more than once in three lines. What he suffers from is synonymomania (you won’t find that one, either), which is a compulsion to call a spade successively a garden implement and an earth·turning tool.”—The Careful Writer: a Modern Guide to English Usage
Freedom From Freedom Freedom from freedom From the liberty Of the land Where destruction’s light Is the land.
Freedom from the decree of freedom From the liberty Of the land of destruction Is the decree That can truly save Those whose freedom Is a burden and a shame What price freedom that despairs? What glory freedom that destroys?
In a sense, if there is no black culture, or no longer black culture (because it has “succeeded”), then we need it now; and if that is true, then perhaps black culture—as the reclamation of the critical edge, as one of those vantages from which it might be spied, and no longer predicated on “race”—has yet to come.
“I begin, a sentence lover. I’m forever delighted, then delighted all over, at the things sentences can trip and trick you into saying, into seeing. I’m astonished—just plain tickled!—at the sharp turns and tiny tremors they can whip your thoughts across. I’m entranced by their lollop and flow, their prickles and points. Poetry is made of words, Mallarmé told us a hundred years back. But I write prose. And prose is made of sentences.”—Samuel R. Delany - The Semiology of Silence (1983)
I wrote this for Clyde Woods earlier this week. Thank you Laura Puildo for reading it to him on July 5. Many worlds were opened up by CW which tells me that our sadness and loss, and our futures, will always be bound up in the bluesy energy and the activist-intellectual life he shared. Everything is praxis.
Clyde: You have inspired my thinking on blackness and music and location. Thank you for this, for a new politics of spatial expression. Thank you. I hold your research and writing close. Black Geographies has this unstoppable future as papers and discussions unroll from that little collection of big ideas! For me, it is your insistence on imagining new worlds and paying tribute to the practical practices of reconstruction (found in across your works) that has kept these black geographies intellectually alive and unrolling. Thank you for this. And with this comes an appreciation other kinds of work: I remember visiting you at University of Maryland, as we were preparing to put the Black Geographies collection in order, the students were lined up. All black students. All waiting for your word and mentorship: a moment I will cherish as it confirmed that a large part of surviving in and struggling with the academy—an institution that was not set up to honour black life—is sharing knowledge and speaking with. Thank you. My first sighting of you was when I referenced Development Arrested in an AAG paper on slave auction blocks; how delighted I was that you were in the house! Later we argued about The Black Atlantic. We were in LA. I loved seeing you at that panel, I love you for that argument, and I love you for much much more.