On December 3, 2011, the Mischief + Mayhem publishing collective, in conjunction with the New School’s Graduate Writing Program, will mount TRANSMISSIONS, a one-day symposium dedicated to the literature of the first thirty years of the AIDS epidemic. The event features two panels and a reading, as well as video and visual-art installations. Beginning in the early 1980s, as HIV claimed millions of lives and left an indelible mark on tens of millions more, writers of all stripes and sensibilities responded to the epidemic with anger, elegy, courage, and terror. The lasting impact—and ongoing challenges—of that groundbreaking body of work will be celebrated, discussed, and debated by novelists, playwrights, poets, journalists, and editors on Dec. 3, as part of the myriad of events commemorating the 30th anniversary of the epidemic.

Much of the first writing about AIDS was published in the gay press—the New York Native, Christopher Street, the Advocate—and other small newspapers and magazines, was gathered in anthologies or story or poetry collections, then began appearing in full-length works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Larry Kramer’s “1,112 and Counting,” often cited as the first essay about AIDS, appeared in the Native in 1983; in 1987 Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played On… gave the epidemic its first history and became a bestseller as well, registering the fact that AIDS had entered the national consciousness. The following year a spate of books in multiple genres—among them Robert Ferro’s novel Second Son; Andrew Holleran’s essay collection Ground Zero; Paul Monette’s poetry collection Love Alone: 18 Elegies for Rog, Edmund White and Adam Mars-Jones’s joint story collection, The Darker Proof, and George Whitmore’s Someone Was Here: Profiles in the AIDS Epidemic—added an aesthetic component to the political and medical exigency engendered by the catastrophic spread of HIV.

This urgency produced thousands of poems, stories, plays, novels, and performance pieces through 1994 and 1995, which was when the first wave of the so-called “new drugs” radically extended the lives of those who had access to them, and, perhaps inevitably, diffused the intensity with which most people—writers as well as readers, politicians as well as voters—confronted the epidemic. Though many important books continued to be published, and to reflect the changing global and medical demography of the epidemic, the concentrated energy that had marked the first decade and a half of the literary response to AIDS was clearly over.

Much of that early work has gone out of print or gathers dust in libraries and private collections, in danger of being forgotten or overlooked, while more recent writing about AIDS is often marginalized by a widespread complacency about the disease, at least among citizens of prosperous countries who have valid insurance policies. TRANSMISSIONS hopes to bring that early, vital work to the attention of a new generation of readers, and to explore ways in which writers can and should continue to chronicle the epidemic and its impact on individual lives and the global community.

The symposium’s first panel will discuss writing from 1981 to 1995, and features David France, Michael Denneny, Larry Kramer, Sarah Schulman, John Weir, and Edmund White. The second panel explores work from 1996 to the present, and features Rabih Alameddine, Gary Indiana, Zia Jaffrey, Amy Scholder, and Max Steele. Both panels will be moderated by Mischief + Mayhem co-founder and School of Writing faculty member Dale Peck.

The day closes with a reception for participants and guests, after which a distinguished group of writers, editors and other artists will read their work or the work of artists who have died from AIDS. In addition to the panelists, the reading will also feature theater artist John Kelly and filmmaker Jennie Livingston.

Additionally, Dan Fishback’s “thirtynothing” and David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” will be available for screening throughout the day, as well as excerpts from the ACT UP Oral History Project. Selections from Visual AIDS’ Broadside series and Archive Project will also be on display.


Saturday, December 3, 2011 from 11 AM to 9 PM.

• 11 AM TO 1 PM. THE LITERATURE OF AIDS FROM 1981 – 1995 with David France, Michael Denneny, Larry Kramer, Sarah Schulman, John Weir, and Edmund White. Moderated by Dale Peck

• 2 PM TO 4 PM. THE LITERATURE OF AIDS FROM 1996 – 2011 with Rabih Alameddine, Gary Indiana, Zia Jaffrey, Amy Scholder, and Max Steele. Moderated by Dale Peck


• 7 PM TO 9 PM. READING with Rabih Alameddine, Michael Denneny, Gary Indiana, Zia Jaffrey, John Kelly, Larry Kramer, Jennie Livingston, Amy Scholder, Max Steele, John Weir, and Edmund White


65 West 11th Street, 5th floor, New York, NY
Free; no tickets or reservations required; seating is first-come first-served

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One Response to “Transmissions: A One-day Symposium on the Literature of AIDS.”

  1. DIRK VANDEN 29 November 2011 at 6:04 PM #

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE include the book AIDS & THE DOCTORS OF DEATH; QUEER BLOOD by Alan Cantwell Jr., M.D., Aries Rising Press. My lover, Herb Finger, “Sacramento’s Celebrity Chef,” died of AIDS in 1987, as did all of our friends who gave blood at those Hepatitis B clinics in the late 70s; their clinic was in San Francisco, but there were similar clinics nationwide. I am 100% convinced that all of those Gay men who so patriotically volunteered to help find a cure for Hep. B, were deliberately infected with the HIV Virus, and GAY HOLOCAUST began — significantly shortly after we were given our “rights” as non-criminals. California granted us legal status and then suddenly we started dying of “The Gay Plague.” I’m the only one of all our friends, including our Gay doctors, who didn’t give blood; i’m afraid of needles, and that phobia saved my life. Herb and i had stopped having sex by then. It would have been relatively simple for a couple of Fundamentalist Christian Right Wing Nuts, like Mischelle Bachman’s PrayGayAway husband, to decide it was God’s Will to get rid of the Queers and Niggers, the “bad guys” who were keeping the Second Coming from happening. Think “Christian ethnic cleansing.” it would have been relatively simple to contaminate all the needles that would eventually be packaged and shipped to all of those clinics, assuming that Gays and Blacks fucked only each other, never dreaming it would spread to black and white and brown Bisexuals and Straight teenagers . Think of Oliver North in a lab coat and a Germ Warfare experimental drug that came from Green Monkeys in Africa….and the rest is history. They expected to kill us all, but didn’t, not quite. They missed people like me. Dr. Cantwell documents all this in his books. PLEASE READ THEM!!! Somebody needs to do something to whoever killed 2 of my lovers and all of my friends! Dirk Vanden/Richard Fullmer

    ps: for the record, i think they have a cure for it, somewhere in a secret government lab somewhere, just in case some of their own got infected – accidentally. They can’t admit it because that would lead to a huge inquisitiona and they’d have to admit the whole thing. Don’t let it die here! Find those damned Good Christian Fundamentalist(s) who started GAY ARMAGEDDON and let the world know whose fault it really was.

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