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Methods Devour Themselves Release and Launch

In lieu of having written a substantial post in quite some time here is some shameless self-promotion: my newest and co-written book, Methods Devour Themselves, is now available. I wrote it with one of my favourite contemporary SFF authors, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and it is a conversation between fiction and non-fiction, literature and essay. Specifically, the concept of this book is the following: I would respond to a story of Sriduangkaew's with an essay provoked by the story (not an analysis or review but a discrete essay inspired by elements of the story, using these elements as analogical details), Sriduangkaew would respond to the essay with another story provoked in the same manner, and we repeated the process twice.

I wrote a promotional essay about the book on Medium that explains the project and my feelings about it in detail, but since I'm of the mind that you can never have too much promotion (see for example how many promotional posts I've written about all of my work), I figured I'd write more about the book and the process behind it here.

cover image by Yto Barrada

One thing that has stuck with me in the year that has passed since completing and submitting Methods Devour Themselves is the singular joy produced by my engagement with this project. Agreeing to a writing process where I had to write something based on what I was presented with, without any pre-existing plans, was invigorating. It forced me to read fiction in a different way since, aside from the first story which I did choose, I couldn't curate the analogical matter of my chapters: I was forced to think of problematics provoked by the story and pursue these provocations. They made me write about things that I might not have otherwise written about. For example, my second intervention was a surprise: I hadn't really thought about the tension between historical perspectives within the tradition of historical materialism, the ways in which both the backwards- and forwards-looking perspectives played out in both progressive and reactionary assessments of historical motion. My third and final intervention was kind of an "oh shit" moment when I realized that Sriduangkaew's last story was making me think about the concept of necessity in a way that I had avoided with The Communist Necessity but that had informed one of the critiques of that book. Indeed, I initially tried to think of a way to avoid this question by using other mechanics in that story to pursue yet another exploration on the topic of gender and imperialism but such an exploration would be too obvious, too hackneyed, and in fact the story itself treating this problematic as a normative setting detail which would make such an intervention a gross cop-out on my part. There was, surprisingly, a line of conversation developing, and the problematic of "necessity" beckoned which meant, much to my annoyance, that I had to drag out my old copy of Hegel's Logic and carry out the conclusion to our conversation.

But it was still exciting, even dealing with that last difficult chapter, because it was surprising. It had a "pen pal" feeling to it, though one that was determined by precise literary boundaries, as I waited for responses and wondered what unknown areas they would force me to explore. And I believe the excitement of this project was evident to the first official reviewer (Devin Zane Shaw) who, in his review of the book for Symposium, joined the conversation by allowing it to provoke his own contribution.

As Methods Devour Themselves appears on the market, my next book (Demarcation and Demysticiation) is in the process of being produced and will likely be released next year. This future book, a manuscript that I delayed to pursue Methods, also begins with an analogy from a Sriduangkaew story. This analogy was imagined before Methods was even conceived, though, and in some ways encouraged me to pursue the project with Sriduangkaew. Now this other book feels as if it is a continuation of that dialogue, and that's a good thing: I would have loved for that dialogue to continue.

For those living in Toronto who are interested in this project, the book launch will be at Another Story Book Shop on September 15th, at 5pm, and I hope to see you out and ready to listen to me shamelessly self-promote more than I have already.