On The Body Politic
Guest Blog by Octavia Cade
I don’t write flash fiction. Not often, anyway. I’ve had over 50 stories published, and I think two of them have been flash. This is the second.
I find flash monstrously difficult. How can you crowbar so much into so few sentences? Stories are meant to be levers, strong enough to shift the world even if only by a little. The need for a shift seems increasingly apparent. Fascism, that spoilt-brat ideology of spite and desperation and cowardice, of plain, pitiful ignorance, is on the rise yet again, because apparently the fucking thing’s like a virus that just won’t bloody die.
Well, words are vaccine to that. Short words, even, which is fitting as fascism is so often associated with them. Short words spat out as slogans, scrawled over walls and posters and political broadcasts. Propaganda. Sound bites. All the shallow phrases.
No wonder I wanted to flip a mirror on it. Short for short, but substituting complex for simplistic, imagery for ill-will. And I thought, so much of what fascism is, is centred on the body. You can’t control anything if you can’t control that first. The body is reproduction. It’s identity. If you can strip those from it – or, if you can stamp the idea of reproduction and of identity so very deeply into flesh that it can’t be removed, or transformed – then you’ve got a start on fascism.
That, I think, is what you’ve got to look out for. That’s the key to recognising the thing as it once again drags itself out of the pit of the pathetic, and pretending – always pretending – to be something that it’s not. The attempt to reach out and control the body. The burning desire to control it, actually, the complete rejection of the fact that the body is for more than order and (selective) vivisection.
So that’s what my story is. It’s a small story. It’s mostly vicious. It’s a story about flesh and recognition and absence, and what happens when what you recognise starts to affect what you are.
Octavia Cade is a New Zealand writer. Her stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Asimov's, Shimmer, and a number of other places. A climate fiction novel, The Stone Wētā, was recently released by a NZ publisher. She attended Clarion West 2016, and is the 2020 writer-in-residence at Massey University.
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