Sex. Scenes. Zines.
By Jack SkelleyOctober 22, 2023
In an ode to the late, amazing playwright Reza Abdoh, Artforum’s Jennifer Krasinksi recently wrote, “[L]oosed threads are charged with currents that connect this now to other nows, lighting up a simultaneity of here and gone.” Something similar—a renewal of past literary scenes into an updated vibrancy—is occurring with the appearance of my long-lost novel, The Complete Fear of Kathy Acker (Semiotext(e), 2023).
Written amid L.A.’s 1980s literary, art, and music whirrld, but never published as a whole until this June, The Complete Fear of Kathy Acker contains the uncut sex scenes of a young, stoned, horny, and dare I say hetero narrator, Jack. I had feared this last detail might cause a backlash, or worse, be ignored. Instead, today’s radiant scenesters—more numerous and less white than my ’80s gang—have warmly welcomed me into their happenings.
Now, co-editors of the queer-focused magazine SPASM, Zoey Greenwald and Sul Mousavi, have invited me to read at their L.A. edition event on Monday, October 23, at Stories Books & Café. That these cool bi/trans/whatever “kids” wanted a boomer like me to read seems like the ultimate proof of the theory of scene dissection I write about in Fear of Kathy Acker. The protagonist tests his identity against many of the popular subcultures of his time—from punks and artists to Hollywood media hierarchies—continually losing and finding himself in the process.
This invitation is especially emotional for me (SOB!) as I have a young, trans daughter. I’m ultra inspired by the gender-crossing powers at play today!
Greenwald and Mousavi are all about sexy content, plus the social component facilitated by zine culture, in a way that reminds me of my ’80s daze of punk rock and publications like Dennis Cooper’s DIY magazine Little Caesar and the L.A. scene surrounding it. “FOKA speaks to sexuality in a way that has been familiar to us largely through ‘gay’ texts,” Greenwald explained to me. “And SPASM is interested in the body, sensuality, fetish objects and perversity.”
Greenwald recalled an explicit September performance I gave at Car Crash Collective, a monthly reading series produced by Erin Satterthwaite and Brittany Menjivar at Footsie’s Bar in Northeast Los Angeles: “Brittany said you write like a woman. That sounds contradictory, but it shows how most texts very earnestly exploring sexuality and social-sexuality are, in my experience, gay. Or rather, that gays have historically had to access the power of earnestness out of necessity and are often in league with punks for that reason. Post-COVID youth are especially thirsty to radically explore desire and its social spaces.”
Co-editor Mousavi links this exploration to the repression coming from social media: “What could be more perfectly perverse right now than contact across generational lines? With the internet as the dominant repository of information, we’ve lost a vertical transmission of knowledge. But its replacement isn’t horizontal, it’s just noise and cultural amnesia. Jack’s nasty, horny self connects with us because we’re attempting to correct that generational gap.”
This is why SPASM is not available online. It’s print-only—the first edition, designed by New York–based artist Ricci Amitrano, arrives early next year, and is available for preorder now.
“Zines are tangible ephemera that can’t be reproduced via the internet and its dominating yet fleeting circulation, which is one of the reasons young subcultures are so troubled today. Other literary formats have to be canonized before they’re consumed. But zines can be direct, natural channels for youth culture,” Greenwald said.
Photo of Jack Skelley performing at Poetic Research Bureau, July 26, 2023, with video art by Lydia Sviatoslavsky, courtesy of the author.
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