by Joyelle McSweeney
- I’ve been writing fan fiction in the form of plays for about five years now. These are bladed farces, political travesties starring such figures as Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning, Lynndie England, Julian Assange, Henrietta Lacks, Abduwali Abdulqadir Muse, Louis Braille and Antoine de Saint Exupery, along with permanent celebrities like Narcissus, the Devil, a Swan and Dead Youth.
- In some ways drama is the most literalizing form for fan-fiction to take—the masks, drag, costumes, ventriloquism, unlikely/hyperlikely scenarios so endemic to fan faction are actualized in the masks, costumes, drag, ventriloquism, and scenarios of drama itself.
- I describe my plays as miswired or badly-wired allegory.
- Miswired allegories do and do not resemble the real world. Real figures and events appear to take the stage (my characters continually introduce themselves to the audience: ‘Hello my name is Julian Assange’), but something is amiss. Something ruins the parallelism and resemblance, the 1-to-1 ratio, the perfect math allegory depends on. Instead of running parallel, the wires touch, some illicit surge of affect bursts forth, shorts out the whole system, generates spectacular fatal effect.
- In a miswired allegory, affect capsizes the concept.
- That affect—call it passion, fandom, enthusiasm, erotics—is also endemic to fan fiction.
- In fan fiction, affect capsizes the concept.
- For me that affect is shame.
- The protagonists of my badly wired allegories are often figures who have effected spectacular events but who society or the media has attempted to shame, denigrate, associate with supposedly despicable attributes. Assange, for example, in the first few years of his notoriety, was continually referred to in feminized terms such as ‘platinum blonde’ as if to make him seem ridiculous, vain, and unserious by feminizing him.
- In my plays, I do not refute these charges so much as exacerbate them, creating a supercharged and ambiguous gender for ‘Julian Assange’ which puts him beyond the categories of the law; in my play he is an ambiguous but mostly benevolent mother. My plays overperform the very calumnies and perfidities culture attempts to assign to these figures, allowing the figures to ride outrageous, spectacular, dubious, short lived power surges, illicit and fatal currents. These protagonists refuse to settle down into just one thing, refuse to perform the stable categories of 21st century human-slash-consumer.
- Julian Assange allows me to out myself and my own perfidy, my own dubiety. As he announces in his final monologue:
[…] I have been reviled as some kind of reptile
the Original Wriggler, the one with no conscience.
Who only loves his own blonde hair and fame.
I mean the odd snake who’s gay and rapes women
you meet so frequently in films and not on earth.
Still, I won’t entirely refute the charges
because I love films. Though I’m organic.
I come from a blonde.
Sometimes I think I’m a little John Lennon
with my idealism, and my disappearing acts,
and my feminine good looks, and my conspiracee.
He wore those granny glasses to bring the truth to light.
But really, the truth was as plain as blacklight.
the truth was a black eye.
the truth was a bottle, blonder.
A blonde of gold and tungsten
A wiry blonde, a blonde of wiring
A nylon blonde, a blonde of laddering
A punched-out blonde, a blonde of hiding
A blonde of smuggling and a blonde of trafficking
I change my hair when I’m being followed
I’ve learned that from the movies
A blonde of dubiety and a blonde of beauty
two blonde suns would make the sky fall down
pull the universe apart with too much gravity
Everything’s Gods fault
because god is not a mother.
O Christ I’m an atheist I only believe in bad motives and mothers
And in computers. Tho mothers can have bad motives
and bad mothers can have good motives and computers
can have no motives.
Something can be itself or its opposite.
Zero can be one. The value is not significant
but the difference is. When there is no difference,
that’s where the digital collapses and gives birth to the virtual.
That’s where the virtual betrays the digital
and is a bad son.
- As the above passage suggests, being Julian Assange also allowed me to ‘out’ myself as a bad mother, and as a boy.
- FINALLY when I was writing Dead Youth, or, The Leaks, I did so as a spell of protection for its protagonists, Assange, Abduwali Abdulqadir Muse, Henrietta Lacks, and of course, the eternal ranks of the Dead Youth.
- Magic is the ultimate charge that surges through the green fuse of the badly wired allegory and lights it all on fire. Sparks it up, makes it spectacular, burns it to the ground, snuffs it out.
Joyelle McSweeney is the author of eight books, most recently the play Dead Youth, or, the Leaks (winner of the inaugural Leslie Scalapino Prize for Innovative Women playwrights; published by Litmus Press) and The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults (U. of Michigan Poets on Poetry Series). She teaches at Notre Dame and co-edits the international press, Action Books.