In Their Own Words

Anne Boyer's “Science Fiction”

Anne Boyer sitting beside a large houseplant

Science Fiction

Chapter I

One imagines that one can escape a category by collapsing it, but if one tries to collapse the category, the roof falls on one's head. There a person is, then, having not escaped the category, but having only changed its architecture. Once it was a category with a roof, now it is a category in which everyone is buried in the rubble made of what once was a roof over their heads.

Chapter II

In the history of all hitherto existing societies there is fantasy and there is fantasy. The unpredictable, heaving plurality that is not really men is no fantasy. But the category of men provides the same show every day. Someone says "Would you be better if the show were a little different?" And you say yes yes yes yes yes yes, you are merely bored, you tell him, you are weary, you tell him, you have seen the show so many times, but it's not really too bad, maybe just a few changes

But you can see some other things, like what they say is a stage is the actual heaving everything of the human everyone. It requires no separate class of actors upon it.

You watch the form of men as they act with each other in ritualized opposition to create the illusion that the actors upon the stage are in fact the scene. They've been playing at the same struggle for a long time: to keep the struggle theatrical fixes power.

But there is another, real struggle: it's not between actor and actor. It's between the actors and the stage.

From Garments Against Women (Ahsahta Press, 2015). Reprinted with permission of the author.

On "Science Fiction"

There is so much missing here. First, it might be important to tell you that this poem was once a novel. The novel is now missing, of course, and the missing novel begins with this missing quote by Hannah Arendt: "the freedom to call something into being, which did not exist before, which was not given, not even as an object of cognition or imagination, and which, therefore, strictly speaking, could not be known." Another quote, from a book review by someone whose name I did not write down, is also not there: "Here, one has to ask whether it's not the poet who is capable of creating figures that expand the bounds of sense, or reconfigure the relation between voice and sense. How does the political theorist do what she wants her to do, or is she asking the political theorist to be a poet?" Gone are the parts about the mindfuck of internalized political violence, gone is a consideration of the problem of feeling like you want to die when you don't actually want to die but because someone else wants you to, gone is any mention of the dissonant feeling of knowing that the feeling you are feeling has been done to you. I removed the description of this as "an ambient kind of deathiness, the default setting of the controls," also removed "this is some messed-up anti-ontological ontology / your being is also your pretty-much-not-being too." I deleted the parts about being a corpse in the streets and a corpse in the sheets. There was once a lot about Linda Zerilli's Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom and books related to it, but it's so gone now that I don't think you could ever tell.

This is one of those poems in which the title is ordinary looking but important. That "science" in "Science Fiction" is also supposed to be "science" in the Karl Marx kind of way, like the rigorous and unsentimental critique of society way, like the kind of science he says there's no royal road to, which is Marx's way of saying knowing what we need to know isn't easy. The "fiction" is the organization of the world as it is right now. The work is a formal fiction, too, and that it is presented as a poem is obviously deceptive. It's a formal fiction about political science, also trying to exist as science toward the fiction that's ideology. It might be best described as a story made of nothing but moral. In this it is a very true poem. There's practically nothing left.

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