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This piece is airing worldwide this week on This Way Out (TWO), the syndicated LGBT radio show.  Click here to listen to the entire show.

(TWO is the first international LGBTQ radio news magazine.)

 

Beautiful Aliens

A Steve Abbott Reader

Edited by Jamie Townsend

“Will We Survive the Eighties” is the hypothetical question that titles an essay written by Steve Abbott, a gay man and a leading figure in the 1980s avant-garde literary community based in San Francisco.

In 1992, when attending Naropa University’s creative writing program. I was scheduled to have a one on one critique session with Steve Abbott – but he wasn’t there. He had attended the program and had given a reading and a workshop but had to leave early because he was sick with full blown AIDS.

Nearly three decades later, in 2019, Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend was published by Nightboat Books in New York.

Abbott survived the 1980s but just barely. He died in 1992 when he was forty-eight.

Abbott was many things – a poet, critic, novelist, and poetic cartoonist – but as his daughter Alysia Abbott (the author of Fairyland, a memoir about her relationship with her father), writes in the afterward of Beautiful Aliens:

“…his work was about building community. It was about hand-illustrating posters for the readings he organized…..It was about going out and engaging young men and women in classrooms but also in the cafes, bars, and bookstores around San Francisco, sharing his vast knowledge and encouraging them to add their voices to queer culture, in whatever way they could, even if that culture wasn’t getting mainstream attention. He knew how important it was to support voices on the edge, writers that were pushing boundaries and weren’t interested in keeping their readers comfortable.”

I found Beautiful Aliens, a selection of Abbott’s writings, mesmerizing.  For one thing, there were so many overlapping areas that we had in common – queer writing conferences that were important to me, and favorite poets and writers such as the lesbian icon Judy Grahn.

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I also found that Abbott was a writer who, in so many ways, was ahead of his time, and still has much to tell us.  In his prescient essay “Will We Survive the Eighties,” Abbott writes:

“It is clear that what we are doing now … is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth’s ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that we can no longer afford to see anything – not even ‘gay liberation’ or our survival — as a separate issue needing a separate cultural or a political or a spiritual agenda.

This does not mean I intend to renounce my sexual orientation, far from it. Even in times of sadness or loneliness, it remains my greatest source of strength and joy.”

 

I found Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend, published by Nightboat Books in New York to be that rare thing – a voice from the past that addresses the present.

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

THEY Scottie

 

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on theme of “The Gospel According To Gandalf.” The service was about magic and being the hero of your own story.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

When I first learned that the service for today was on the Gospel According to Gandalf, I drew a blank. I have long prided myself on the fact that fantasy writing has nothing to do with me. But I remembered that I really enjoyed the talk on this topic last year. I also remembered that I identified with the character Frodo in that he was defiant and had no interest in power but is the hero of his own story.

Then I remembered that I absolutely loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I read it as a teen.  It allowed me to enter the mystery. I loved it so much that I wrote “Everybody should read The Lord of the Rings” in large letters with a black sharpie on the white bathroom wall in a dive bar in Trenton that I hung out in when I was a teenager. My then best friend, who died young, looked at me in utter delight and exclaimed, “I knew you wrote that. I knew it!”

What can I say? It was the seventies. I was a teen and, like all my friends, then, I had a substance abuse problem. It is something that I tried to leave behind me. I wrote one novel based on this experience and closed the book. I thought I was done. But the fact is that I have had an off again, on again relationship with substances over the years. My own story of abusing substances when I was a teen – in a certain time and place – is something I felt bad about for a long time.

Of course, I regretted how this behavior may have affected others – especially my parents. But the question that I always came back to was, “Why did I do that to myself?” After many years, I concluded that I had to do something to break out of the confines of my life, and that is what I did. So, I forgave myself. After all, the past is the past.

And while I would never want to encourage anyone to use substances, my experiences weren’t all bad. There were a few moments of breaking through to something brilliant and elusive that may have laid the seeds for the talking unicorn in my head whose words I wrote down in a novel titled The Unicorn, The Mystery which will be published later this year by Adelaide Books. The novel is based on the unicorn tapestries in The Cloisters that is part of The Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan.

 

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So, fantasy writing probably does have something to do with me – even if the talking unicorn in my head is a realist. And I may have unconsciously modeled myself on Frodo. Who knows? I do know that I have come here for a number of years – to this Unitarian Universalist church — and listened to the opening  statement that included some variation of you are welcome to bring all that you are.  It must have sunk in because here I am talking about something that I thought I was done with.

Interestingly, it wasn’t until last fall in the year that I turned sixty and embarked on a balanced plant-based diet for health reasons, that I experienced an absence of any craving – including alcohol and other products that contain sugar.  In addition to being addictive, sugar compromises the immune system – important to know during these trying times. It wasn’t just me who found that a plant-based diet eliminated cravings. At a party, I met a young woman with blue hair who had been formerly addicted to heroin but who had since gone to a plant-based diet.

We all have a past. So, I encourage you to bring all that you are here – including histories that you may not be proud of but that we can all learn from.

Remember, you are the hero of your own story.

Namaste

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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A friend lent me The Library Book by Susan Orlean and I have been savoring it. It reminds me of the Before Times — right before. This friend had joined my partner and me for a vegan lunch and it was one of the last times we went out.

One of the last places I thought of going was to our local library. I had reserved a book and it was waiting for me.  I never went. A day later the library closed its doors as we slid into quarantine.

So in this week that is National Library Week, I am reading The Library Book, and remembering what safe and holy places I have always found libraries to be.  As a practicing Buddhist, I am good at staying in the moment, but I have to admit I miss being able to go the library. It is an introvert’s dream, perhaps, being surrounded by silence and books.

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I learned a few things from the book that totally made sense — like the fact that libraries have a long history of being burned (the author found that the Nazis, among others, were known to burn books before they burned people). I also learned that  libraries have long been centers of refuge in various ways during a crisis.

I read in my library’s email, that there are many library services still available. You can go to your library’s website to find out what you can do online.  I use Hoopla — which is a national library service available through your local library — for ebooks, audiobooks and some movies and find it to be an excellent resource.

So this week and every week, remember that you don’t have to go to the library to use the library. Stay home, stay safe and keep your mind free.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

THEY Scottie

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I do a lot on Twitter, and this morning I had a lot to be thankful for.  Open Table MCC in the Philippines sent me this moving YouTube video.  And then a reader sent me the comment about my novel, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books) that I posted below for you to read.

 

It’s hard to believe that people are so ignorant that they think that hermaphrodites, gays, and bisexuals didn’t exist in Biblical times. There is evidence on pottery in Greece as far back as 10,000 yrs B.C. “They” is among one of my most recommended books, great job!

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here

THEY Scottie

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I was reorganizing my office and going through my old poetry when I came across my Easter poem:

 

Jesus is a daffodil.

 

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(This photo was taken by Barbara McPherson of a daffodil that we grew in our garden.)

That’s it. That’s the entire poem.  It’s not dated but I believe I wrote it several decades ago.

 

In my pile of Exquisite Corpses ( I published many poems in that magazine, I found a poem by Karl Tierney, whose collection Jim Cory edited (Have You Seen This Man, The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney, from Sibling Rivalry Press). The poem is below.

 

ROME IN THE AGE

OF JUSTINIAN

 

Franks to the north,

and Vandals to the south.

 

Visigoths to the west

and Ostrogoths all around.

 

But thanks to your rectitude, Justinian,
still no sign of the Vulgars!

 

 

 

 

You can read a review of Karl Tierney’s book on this blog:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/01/23/karl-tierneys-poetry-collection-airing-on-this-way-out-amreading-lgbtq/

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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“Who knows maybe God didn’t even make the serpent. Maybe the serpent was here first. Maybe the serpent created God.” – The Mother in THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders

 

I’ve noticed a surge of interest in the Gnostic Gospels. The Gnostic Gospels can help you think in new ways, critical for this time period. Consider that “gnosis” is the common Greek noun for “knowledge.” Perhaps, the reason the Gnostic Gospels are scorned is in the name: Gnostic (“knowing”). Apparently, it is heretical to know your own truth.

I’ve decided to post short excerpts of my book THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books) that were inspired by the Gnostic Gospels. When I came across a story of the serpent (who talks!) in the Gnostic Gospels, I was fascinated. So today I am going to bring you excerpts of my novel that were inspired by the serpent.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. There are some conflicting theories about when they were first written, but some historians say that they were written before the New Testament was written. The Gnostic Gospels are very different from Genesis in telling the story of how the human race was created.

The Gnostic Gospels were known throughout history – particularly in the Middle Ages – but were always banned by the Church.

Those who were known followers of the Gnostic Gospels were deemed as heretics and burned. Granted, in those days you could be burned at the stake for many things. But the last time I searched Twitter for the Gnostic Gospels – people were still saying to be careful of the Gnostic Gospels – because you could still be branded as a heretic.

So, I’m sharing these excerpts in the hope that you may also be inspired to think in new ways:

“I’ve read this story to you before, but today I want you to think about the serpent. You know what a serpent is, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mama. I’ve seen them in the desert. Some are poisonous, and some are friendly. I don’t touch them unless you say it is okay,” said Tamar. She picked up her stylus. She drew a squiggly line and looped it around in the shape of a serpent. It had a fat body and held its head up.

“That’s right,” said Mother. “And that’s a very good picture. But serpents usually have a forked tongue sticking out. This one has to stick out her tongue and hiss to get Eve’s attention.”

“Okay, Mama.” Tamar picked up her stylus and drew a forked tongue in the soft wax.

“That’s very good,” said the Mother. “Now when I read the story to you again, think about the story from the serpent’s point of view. Remember the serpent is also known as the Female Principal and the Instructor.”

“What is an Instructor and Female Prin–?” asked Tamar.

The Mother looked at Tamar as if suddenly realizing that she was speaking to a child. “Oh. What I mean is that the serpent has the wisdom of the goddess and is teaching the humans in the Garden how to live. Do you understand?” Tamar nodded and smiled. She really did understand.

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. What do think is meant by the phrase ‘more subtle?'”

Tamar looked up and gave the Mother a blank look.

“The person who wrote this might have meant that the serpent was more intelligent than the other creatures, less likely to bow down to God,” said the Mother. “Who knows maybe God didn’t even make the serpent. Maybe the serpent was here first. Maybe the serpent created God.”

Tamar looked at her mother and nodded. She was silent as she thought for a moment. “Maybe, the serpent wouldn’t let God tell her what to do.”

“Exactly,” said the Mother. She nodded her approval. “He said to the woman, Did God say You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” The Mother stopped reading. She looked puzzled. Then she said, “I knew that there was something wrong with this sentence. The author refers to the serpent as He instead of She. Maybe it’s a typo.”

“Maybe the serpent was both,” said Tamar.

“Both? What do you mean?”

“Maybe the serpent was both male and female,” said Tamar.

“Oh, I see. I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe you have something there.”

The Mother smiled down at Tamar.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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Writing is a process of going inward. This critical moment of history presents us with the opportunity to go inward.  As I recently said to friend who loves her characters but has abandoned her writing — all she has to do to spend time with her beloved characters is to listen to them and to write down what they have to say and the time to do that is now.

There are plenty of ways and reasons, that our society does not encourage us to go inward — especially to reflect and write down what we think. This could be dangerous.  If we do this, we may encourage others to do the same.  Besides, does anyone really profit from us when we go inward? Yes! We do!

The path to publication can be long and arduous but whether or not to publish is something you can decide to later. Personally, I never start writing because I want to publish.  I embark on a new project because I am curious and need to know more.

 

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There are many reasons to write. I wrote a few down in a list that I will share with you:

— To understand ourselves better and to understand others more by expanding our empathy.

—To remember important things and people like our parents and our other ancestors —
And to preserve them for ourselves and also to pass along the stories to others   (including grandkids).

—To become stronger.

—To have a sustained experience of the joy of discovery.

—To let out the devil.

—To stay in the goodness.

—To tell the stories that haven’t been told.  (There’s a good chance that only we can tell     them.)

—It’s cheaper than therapy.

—It can help others.

—It’s an amazing way to pass the time!

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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