This month, Birdsong Micropress is releasing the latest issue of writer and performance artist Max Steele‘s “psychedelic porno poetry” zine Scorcher.

Steele has written this experimental fiction zine since 2006. Originally self-published, Scorcher is now published and distributed through Birdsong Micropress.

The newest issue (#7: “Valedictorian”) has been three years in the making, and features contributions from poets Anthony Thornton, Kayla Morse, and artwork by Danielle Rosa and Julia Norton. Past contributors have included Brontez Purnell of the FAG SCHOOL zine.

Scorcher was recently included in the compendium Queer Zines II edited by AA Bronson and Philip Aarons, and published by Printed Matter.

Steele is a performer and writer living in Brooklyn. He has presented work at Dixon Place, the New Museum, Deitch Projects, BAM, Joe’s Pub, Envoy Enterprises, PPOW Gallery, the Afterglow Festival and the Queens Museum of Art.  His writing has been featured in Dossier Journal, Spunk [arts] Magazine, East Village Boys, Birdsong, and Vice. He has been an Artist in Residence at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange since 2012.

The following excerpt, written by Steele, is a darkly comic examination of modern queer desire and identity.

VALEDICTORIAN

Me No Doppelbanger
Me No Chicken-hawk
Me No (Me No)
Narcissus (is us)
Me No Twin
No zygote split
Me whole
I’ve got no shadow
Got No Strings
To Hold Me Up
My Clone Sleeps Alone
I know what I have to do

I think maybe it’s that actually? My temper is too long. It’s been holding me back, tethering me to the ground. My temper was so long I almost hanged myself with it. So long. I hung myself. But not anymore.

And I went off like a rocket. I spent my fuel and fell back down to earth a little lighter, and less purposefully.

I can’t stand people who remind me of myself. I want only to lose myself. I wanna get burnt up. To disappear. To never cum, to suffer endlessly.

Yeah my friends all charge their devices, wallets. We plug ourselves in and pay for energy. We renew our bodies, buffer up our batteries. Increase our capacity. People just go out and buy clones. Take a retinal scan, a picture, and make something in your image: picking up trade is a kind of playing god.

They want to fuck kid versions of themselves. Test tubes, flesh lights. I don’t blame them. How else to recuperate from the loss of your childhood, right? How else to show love for the child version of yourself. It’s logical. Let me buy a clone of myself and fuck it to death. Here; take a skin sample, a drop of blood. Cook me up a stem-cell corpse in a lab and then surrender it unto me. I’ll sign the forms. I just want to choke the little teenage version of myself. Fuck him in the ass, cum inside of him. Pretend to know how it feels. Fantasize that this makes it better. That there is such a thing as recuperation.

Today we welcome the end of porn. We’re at the funeral for porn. It’s over, we’ve killed it, we can only remember it to future generations. Recall it, describe it.

WHAT’S LOST SHALL BE RETURNED.
WHAT’S LOST GET REPLACED.

I know what I have to do. And there’s not enough time to say it. Ugh, I do not contain multitudes. But, multiple attitudes. Like, combinations? I am peanut butter and jelly already. Do you um want to be the bread?

“Do you um want to go to bed?”

FRESHMAN: Things can’t be all bad. I’m on a date with a deeply tanned Water sign. He’s into dance music and tattoos and vacations in the Middle East. He sucks my dick but keeps stopping to ask me if I like it, does it feel good when he sucks my dick. Eager for feedback.

SOPHOMORE: I’m on the other side of the planet. Here, the water flows counterclockwise. Flowers bloom at night. I’ve been waiting here, in the dark. I’m in bed with a former lover, we’re reunited. It is the underworld. The afterlife.

“Were you always like this?” He asks.

“Like what?”

He makes a motion in the air with his hand, like a hammer, or like a knife, stabbing. “So… to the point.” He says. “So… aggressive. So… about it. Were you always like that?”

“I was.” I say. “I was always like this. I’ve always been like this. (Maybe you just hadn’t noticed).”

JUNIOR: I was late to work this morning because I was at home jerking off. It was a thunderstorm, there was lightning. I thought: how romantic.

What I was actually thinking about was how lightning is magick and I was going to make a wish during the thunderstorm and masturbate to the thought of this boy I have a crush on. I thought: this oughta do the trick.

I heard her say talk about express this anxiety (write slash perform it) about not being famous, being unfamous. Right, I thought, and we can imagine, or perhaps play/posit the opposite. Now, we are all famous. We have been all along deep down but only now do we have the tools to make this known. Now we are all celebrities. Now we can all, anybody who wants to can live their life scrutinized, lit up. We have developed the technology to mine for attention, or synthesize it from simulacra of symptoms, desire and sociality. Grow it in a lab. We can provide it to whoever wants it. Finally, it really has come down to wanting it bad enough. Now, all the ambition it takes to get famous it simply assent, allowing yourself to be recorded. And unlike fossil fuels, this attention is entirely renewable, endless, abundant, and ought to be free but the old markets still charge for it.

The toxicity of stardom. The cancer of attention, like radiation. Radiation and attention are the same thing. In small amounts they’re good, they nurture life, but they can also destroy. By degrees kill, overlove. And I’ve been spoiled. I’ve mutated.

I’m like Morrissey, I want a hung DJ.

SENIOR: I see this boy standing in the produce section of the bourgie grocery store. He has bleach blonde hair and is holding a tiny dog. Chihuahua. It looks like a rat.

He’s wearing suspenders and his right arm is covered in a tattoo sleeve, paisley. The outline of a paisley print from shoulder to wrist. Like: color me in. He’s wearing suspenders, and has tucked a bottle of Annie’s Goddess dressing into his back pocket. I think that I am in love.

Erykah (Badu) and I are both obsessed with Annie’s Goddess dressing. She’s said: “I didn’t want to be one of those people, but since I had my baby I’ve become one. I absolutely worship the stuff. I eat it on pasta, on bread. Anything.” I want this boy to invite me home for dinner.

Let’s look at the results and then try to guess the experiment that yielded them. Forget story. Forget origin. Forget identity. Forget power, forget structures. Forget truth. It’s become impossible to be real. Authenticity is no longer an option. It’s not news exactly but now the word is out. No more horses running over the edge of a cliff, no.

Self-help is the new porn. The self has been under attack. The silent killer, a cancer of the self. And so tonight we lay down sword and lay down shield and take up new arms.

________________________

Scorcher will be available in New York City at the Bureau of General Services-Queer Division‎ on May 17 at the official launch event. The zine can also be purchased online here.

Cover art by Julia Norton



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  • Michael Craft

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