DIFFERENT SKIES, ISSUE 2: INDEFINITE LEAVE TO REMAIN
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Different Skies is looking for submissions for its 2nd issue, 'Indefinite Leave to Remain'. Copied below is a draft of the editorial. We're looking for writing that responds to the spirit of the title and editorial rather than following them to the letter or treating them abstractly as a theme.
We recommend having a read of the 1st issue to get an idea of what kind of writing the publication is concerned with (visit www.differentskies.net). Broadly speaking, Different Skies is a home for hybrid writing, publishing texts that fall between the categories of the critical and the creative, the personal and the political, with a focus on experimental prose and the essay form. However we don't exclude poetry and we're open to writing that pushes the limits of any of these categories.
The deadline for submissions is December 10th, with a further deadline for revisions and final drafts following in early January. The issue will be released in January/February 2013.
Please email submissions as attachments in '.doc' or '.rtf' format to firstname.lastname@example.org . The word limit is negotiable and we're happy to hear proposals and ideas.
Do you remember when we watched Bicycle Thieves? When it finished we couldn't stop crying. It wasn't the same as crying at a sad film (because what you're seeing is sad). The sweet respite of catharsis was pretty much absent. Maybe you could say that some films make us believe in a fiction, whereas others show us that reality itself is unbelievable. Rather than suspending disbelief, we are brought crashing back down into it at every moment.
It's not that we were as poor as Antonio Ricci, who sells his wife's meagre valuables to get his bike out of the pawn shop, is overjoyed when he gets work as a bill poster, then destroyed when his means of transport and work is stolen, and finally humiliated when he tries to steal someone else's bike. We were obviously not in quite such a bad way. It was more about feeling only a few steps away from this situation, feeling that life was being lived on a countdown.
Someone might say that there is nothing very strange or unnatural about this situation. But what's peculiar about our world is that the natural immediacy of survival - where necessity and will coincide - has been sublimated in the pure, abstract necessity of time itself: 5 days till payday, 4 days till rentday. At a more basic level, isn't it a pretty robust indictment of our present system that it cannot keep people from starving? Of course we have a name for this - alienation, the creation of a hostile second nature.
But this isn't the whole story. What made us crack up at the end of the film was also a historical sadness. After the film, we had the feeling that the countdown on life was also a historical countdown.
Do you remember, only a few weeks ago you were in the bank trying to explain why the name on your account was different to the name on your passport. You were trying to find out where the money from your work had got to (was it somewhere in the Atlantic, condemned to endless laps of fibre optic cabling?). I remember when you were granted Italian citizenship it was such a joy and at the same time a relief - like the expectation of unwrapping a gift and opening the results of a medical examination all rolled into one. Now it was as if the cashier (poor them, it wasn't their fault) had discovered some secret clause to deny you the benefits of being a European. They kept saying that if you change your name you have to tell them. But you hadn't changed your name. But you have to tell them. But you hadn't changed your name, and so on.
And then the same night I was out flyposting when suddenly a white van pulled over and two men jumped out. They wore hoods and jeans and flashed badges that I couldn't make out in the dark. They positioned their bodies so that although they didn't lay a hand on me, I was hustled up against the wall. I had done this route several times before and not had any trouble. Even if the police stopped you they just moved you on, or 'seized your equipment'. But these ones were different. They were cruder, more aggressive, heavier built. They looked like mercenaries. In the end I thought it better to pay the fine - which was not that much - than risk running and get charged for something that really would have made life difficult.
It was only on the train home that the feeling caught up with me. Do you know what did it? Walter Benjamin. 'How well he would have integrated his talents with those of the other Institut members can only be conjectured. [...] What can be said with certainty is that the Institut was sorley disappointed and upset by his premature death.' The way the book carried on in the same academic tone maybe had something to do with it. You know how he died? He got stuck at the Spanish border fleeing from France. A week earlier and he would have made it through. He lost his life to bureaucracy and bad timing. The irony of it is that when the border guards learned of his suicide they were so shocked that they let the rest of his party go.
Someone might say that to compare our situation with his, or with the bicycle thief's, is self-pityingly macabre and makes a mockery of the unassimilable, irreplaceable loss of an individual, as much as the historical events they were a part of. In so far as these are risks, they would be right. But the real danger is when this gesture works to smuggle in the renunciation of its own historical responsibilty, by refusing the weight of its own agency in determining the outcome of the present.
Yet still we feel it creeping up on us like a premonition: the fear and the sadness, that the world is a trap, sprung and taught, ready to close around us.
If the feeling is still there, it's not in spite of the risks but because of them. And if there is anything worth holding onto, then it is precisely this risk: Our sense of danger in the present is only the dark side of our sense of hope in the future. Because we can see it for what it is - not just in its facticity, in its commonsensical actuality, but in its terrifying and incredible potentiality - so we can imagine how it ought to be, how it could be.