Daring the City: a disaster gift

I believe that we need stories to make a better future. If we can’t imagine it, how can we create it? I get so much nourishment from sci-fi and speculative fiction which grapples with the world we want to make without ignoring the very real challenges that we’re facing (I want hope, not impossible dreams). Ursula le Guin’s The Dispossessed helped me think about the tensions inside anarchism from an anarchist perspective. Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2140 helped me to imagine collective power in the context of rising seas without minimising how catastrophic those seas would be.

We’re facing a global pandemic, something that none of us have ever experienced. The injustices and horrors of capitalism have become very stark: the UK government has bailed out airlines and given mortgage holidays to homeowners, but offered hugely inadequate protection to precarious workers and no meaningful relief for renters. It’s very clear who they care about, and it’s not us.

Our whole lives have changed very suddenly, and the sense of disorientation makes it really difficult to imagine the future. My housemates and chosen family and I are still figuring out our daily routines in this new situation, working through the full-body shock of it all, working out ways to rest in the context of such uncertainty.

But breakdown – without minimising the suffering that is happening and will continue to happen – creates the possibility of rebuilding something different, something kinder and more sustainable and more just. Disasters can bring out the best in us, as Rebecca Solnit describes in A Paradise Built in Hell. It’s already happening: mutual aid groups have immediately mobilised to make sure everyone has what they need for survival (honestly it’s worth clicking on that link just to feel fortified by how many of them there are!). Artists are figuring out how to sustain each other and carry on making things because we need bread and roses too.

I normally sell this zine for £3.50, about £1 of which is printing and admin costs involved in creating a physical copy. You are so welcome to download the zine for free, especially if you’ve been hit financially by the pandemic. If you are able to give something in exchange, please donate to Queercare, who are organising mutual aid for queer and trans folks. I’ve lost work but am OK financially at the moment; if you’d like you support my work you can buy my other zines.

My queer community is checking in on each other, making sure everyone is safe and connected. We’re making something new where the systems are failing us, like we’ve always done, but bigger now because those failures are having more dramatic effects and we can see them more clearly. It doesn’t solve the problem of the hoarding of resources by elites that capitalism is built on, but it’s a start. We work together and take care of each other. We protect each other. We figure out how to challenge those elites with our collective power. I don’t know if I’m ready for it, for how real it’s suddenly become, but it’s here.

Last year, working my way through a sense of panic and grief about climate change, I wrote a story about a group of neighbours in the midst of a disintegrating London, who take care of each other and make the world they want to see in their back garden, plant by plant and night by starry night. Their disaster is not our disaster, and I’m no le Guin or Robinson. But a friend told me that it helped them today, and this small thing is what I have to offer to our resilience right now: a story about the future, and how we take care of each other.

You can click the link above to download it for free – it’s a PDF of a 24 page zine, with two poems and a short story.

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