Projects, Practice: Speculative Worlding

I’m shamelessly stealing the title for this site from Alexis Lothian’s short essay “Speculating Queerer Worlds” in the 2012 “Speculative Life” issue of Periscope, the online dossier for the journal Social Text. The issue’s contributors draw connections between the racial, sexual, and gendered logics of late capitalism and the heterotopic, speculative modes of cultural production currently being practiced between the fannish and the pop cultural. They reclaim “speculation” from its financial connotations in order to argue that “speculation means something else for those who refuse to give its logic over to power and profit. To speculate, the act of speculation, is also to play, to invent, to engage in the practice of imagining.”¹ Lothian’s essay specifically engages the kinds of queer worlds that Samuel Delany’s 1974 novel Dhalgren makes it possible to imagine, worlds uneasily encapsulated by tidy progress narratives or clean-cut moral categories. As Lothian shows, Delany’s work depicts ways of living that don’t fall apart when confronted with erotic, ethical ambiguities; his are queerer worlds that need not be inhabited according to the rigidly normative. The phrase “queerer worlds” signals hopefulness about becoming differently, not a desire for a “better” life to arrive out of nowhere and rapidly collapse spaces of possibility.

I begin with Lothian’s invocation of the queerer worlds Delany’s oeuvre enables because I discovered Dhalgren in my second semester of graduate school and have been slowly (agonizingly so) working my way through his books for four years. Admittedly, I latched onto his work because I was desperate to prove to myself that I could be in a PhD program and still have the time and energy to read something as frivolous and as fun as science fiction. But it soon became obvious to me that Delany was exemplary of the kind of work that I was craving and that seemed so frustratingly absent from academia: deeply personal, unabashedly sexy, materially dense, politically saturated in a way that refused didacticism, poetically queer. It was precisely the way the speculative pervades his books, including his autobiographical work, that allowed me to remember that there are more loving, imaginative ways of living than those prescribed by the professionalism of the university–that the critical and the creative can (and do, and should) live together in the same world, could even rub up against each other in perverse public copulations.

This blog is an attempt to keep reminding myself that the queer products of critical-creative intimacies are forms of worlding: they are world-building projects that have the capacity to sustain life. To practice worlding remains an ongoing project only so long as we continue to give our attention to multiple worlds, so long as we remember that practice doesn’t make perfect but only begets more practice. To practice worlding, speculatively, is to keep ourselves close to failure, befriend it, make it a partner that we know is not always or only productive.

This blog is a project about projects and about practicing. It’s a little world where queer things can live. It’s a world of my own making (which is not to say that it’s not undertaken in the spirit of recognizing and needing and love-hating collaboration). Like all worlds, it is in the making, not finished. This blog is a speculative workaround for being stuck, a detour through the impasse of negative self-criticism and energy-sucking arguments, a wormhole to somewhere else. This blog is a mode of necessary and entirely worthwhile procrastination, even idle showboating.

This blog is not: a way to create more work for myself, a place to feel guilty, an excuse, a buzzkill, a timesuck, a drag, a waste, a way to always be right.

1. Jayna Brown, “Speculative Life: An Introduction”, Periscope, 1/4/12.