All we are is story

All we are is story

an update about location and getting ghosted

For a few weeks now I've been getting updates from various bloggers I follow about leaving substack because of the platform's response to an open letter sent from a number of writers about substack's position on Nazi content. Substack has had a trans problem for a while, so the response to the letter and general concerns about platforming nazis was underwhelming but not unsurprising and while I'm not inclined to chase purity politics [1], I made the decision to go to ghost after a friend put the decision in front of my face. The migration process will be felt mostly by me, not by you. What you may notice is the name change. I decided to use daanis rather than stick with aambe, because daanis[2] is my website, twitter, and blue sky. Might as well stay consistent.

So here I am on ghost, trying to figure it out and if things look wonky or something just be patient with me. I do appreciate my friend putting the question in my face because while I'm not a fan of just divesting myself of all the bad things, which isn't even possible, there are times that you have to make choices.

Anywho, let me catch you up on my writing.

We've finished our series about Fanon, which I think was an important exercise for me and I hope you enjoyed it. Maybe enjoyed is the wrong word to use with Fanon but I hope you found it interesting. I haven't come across many books that made me want to sit with it as long as I sat with Fanon. Maybe my obsession with Elite Capture comes close. Both of these are smallish books by the way, there's just so much in them or maybe what is in them touches so many things. I don't think I'll be repeating that kind of deep dive into a particular book for a while, though I hope to stay more consistent. Getting essays out almost every week y'all!

I'm not a big fan of paywalls, but a girl has to eat [3] so I do have a paid subscriber option, you can come along for free, or we can be friends with benefits or even besties, which along with the good vibes you get with a paid subscription also allows you to ask me questions, reflections on current writing projects, and besties can make book or topic requests.

All we are is story. That's something that Richard Wagamese-baa [4] wrote in one of his books and it shaped a podcast conversation a couple of years ago about his fiction writing. Aurora Levins Morales has said something similar about history that I've cited before, history is the story we tell about the past to make sense of the present. We can say that certain things are facts, but all we have really have are the stories we tell about those facts. The stories we tell about science, ourselves, the past and the future and that's what this blog is about. What the book I'm working on is about. Examining those stories through the writing of people that I come across.

Right now I'm reading Routes and Roots: Navigating Caribbean and Pacific Island Literatures. The author, Elizabeth M DeLoughrey, is a white woman and I appreciated the time that she took at the beginning of the book to locate herself, so that we (the readers) understood something of the perspective that she came from. She talked a bit about her own history and relations and various social connections that she has. She told us her story to provide context for the larger story that she is telling us, and while I'm not going to go into what she says about these literatures (I'm barely 1/3 of the way in) what I did want to say was how my own book, provisionally named A Thousand Worlds, is not at all like this one.

She's doing some real literary analysis here, looking at tropes and motifs and all these things that are very important. But I don't have a Fine Arts Degree and although I find that stuff interesting it isn't what I notice when I'm reading. I remember somebody going on about M Night Shyamalan and his use of red in one of his movies and how it symbolized something and what? Ok, it probably does and all you film geeks can go ahead and feel smarter than me because I don't get it. I probably do at some level, my brain making those connections and knowing I'm supposed to feel a certain way like when I hear the tinkling sound of a spoon stirring a teacup I get a little twitchy now. But that's not the kind of writing I do. That's not the project I'm working on.

What I'm working on in this book about Indigenous literatures is a lot like what I'm working on in this blog [5]. I'm interested in what these stories we tell make me think, how they make me feel. What they remind me of even if the connections don't seem obvious. DeLoughrey and others can unpack the mechanics of how that works, but that isn't my strength and we should always play to our strengths.

I'm going to leave you with something to think about from that Routes and Roots book. We know that the Polynesian people were extraordinary navigators. They didn't travel by hugging shorelines, they ventured off into the great big blue. And while it's true that you can navigate by stars, that would mean travelling mostly at night and who wants to do that. Have you been on the ocean at night? That's some pretty dark darkness. Also, people sleep. We aren't a particularly nocturnal species, which means navigating during the day and doing that on the ocean means doing it without conventional landmarks. So among other strategies, they developed this system of navigation that she hasn't really explained yet because I just started that chapter, but one thing she did say was that they conceived of moving islands.

The boat you're in becomes the centre and you navigate the islands that are coming towards you.

That's an amazing way to shift the centre isn't it? Not to make yourself the centre of the universe in an ego kind of way, but to imagine yourself as one of many centres. Ego says that your centre is the only one that matters. Humility recognizes your centre as one of many. Relation is in those layers of overlap where the influence of your centre engages with that which extends from others.

Think about that. You stay still, and the world comes at you. So it isn't that you are trying to get somewhere, you are trying to be in the right place for when it comes to you.

Which. I mean, obviously I'm not explaining this well because I haven't read that chapter yet and just the little bit that she put into the introduction but it begins a pretty profound shift in how we think about the ways in which we move through the world. We're so used to thinking of ourselves as lords of the earth, striding hither and yon on our way to the things we discover and make our own. But what if we're actually still and these things are moving towards or away from us?

I mean, don't try that on the highway.

I think some video games worked that way, or maybe they do from a design standpoint. I don't really know how video games are designed but I seem to remember that the driving games were like that. Your car moved side to side while the obstacles come towards you. The holodeck on Star Trek probably worked that way too, entire worlds existed in what was really a pretty small room so that must be how that worked, the people in the holodeck stayed in one place while everything took place around them giving them the illusion of movement, but it's an interesting way to think about navigation. Much different from how the west thinks of it.

What's coming at you right now? What are you hoping for, so that you need to make sure you're in the right place when it gets here?

And what stories are you telling about the worlds swirling around you?

See you next week.

  1. purity politics is dumb. Seriously. It suggests that if you just remove enough things from your life you will not be complicit in any wrongdoing, and the problem with that is that it simply isn't possible to achieve that kind of purity. Alexis Shotwell, in her book Against Purity, suggests that we look at these things as relations rather than impurities which is a powerful and generative way to think about it. What is my relationship to substack and X and other places that have questionable if not terrible policies around harmful people. It's something I think about a lot. ↩︎

  2. daanis just means daughter in Anishinaabemowin. A dozen or more years ago I was at a sunrise ceremony and as we were concluding the circle and greeting each other, when the elder who conducted the ceremony came to me he said n'daanis, which just means my daughter. And I wasn't the only person he said it to, but in that moment it felt like a name. So even though my father called me Wabanan Anangonkwe, daanis felt different. Names are weird. When you think about it, the expectation that we'll translate our names for you is also weird. Who walks around saying "my name is Patty and it means nobility." ↩︎

  3. ok this isn't really about eating. But I'm sure you can imagine that a blog about books is going to cost money. And one of the down sides of the ghost platform is that I have to pay up front for the service. Substack is free but it takes a percentage of my subscriptions. Ghost is not free, but I get 100% of the money you pay. Most of which gets spent on books which is why besties can make requests. ↩︎

  4. the "baa" is an Anishinaabe convention that slightly alters the person's name after they have died. People continue on their journey and if you say their name, you may call them back or distract them. ↩︎

  5. My newsletter? I used to call this my substack but it sounds weird calling it my ghost. I guess I could just call it my newsletter tho that sounds a little pedestrian. My serial? My digest? My little magazine? yes I do have the thesaurus open. I could stick with the ghostly theme and think of myself haunting you with my thoughts. ↩︎