That Great Drowned Atlantis, The ’90s

That Great Drowned Atlantis, The ’90s January 7, 2018

I’ve been doing a thing where I bring various periods of my life, and the people who were with me then, to prayer. So I’ll say a decade of the day’s rosary for them, and offer up for them whatever is there to be offered in the day; and I’ve also made this more fun for myself by revisiting art (/pop) that is in some way connected with that time and those people. So like, this current week will be for Riot Grrrl, and I will listen to some Bikini Kill and read me some zines, and re-watch “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains!” even though I somehow only discovered this perfect movie much later.

As you can tell from all that, I have reached the early- to mid-’90s in this ridiculous indulgence of my intense sweet tooth for the past. So last week I re-read as many issues as I could find of the zine I did with my best friend ca. 1992 – 1996. Things I noticed:

# I always say the Youth of Today don’t remember what the 1990s were like, and I usually mean the homicide rate but I do sometimes mean AIDS. It turns out that I too underremember just how inescapably everywhere AIDS was, if you were gay. I was in high school & quite privileged, so my experiences of the epidemic were far-removed: I mention in Gay & Catholic the guy in the sexual minority youth group I attended, who was maybe five years older than me and talked about nursing his lover through his last days. I was not at all in the real crucible and in a way, that’s my point: Even for people who were completely spared personal loss, if you read the gay newspaper or hung out at the gay bookstore or basically knew even slightly older gay people, you were surrounded by stories of death and hospice caregiving by people in their twenties and thirties.

My perspective, and the slice of my life that appeared in the zine, is probably skewed by the fact that I was an artsy teen obsessed with finding precedents and models for my life. E.g. my best friend and I taped up memorial posters all over our school when Derek Jarman died, and I am not exactly under the impression that the modal gay teen of 1994 USA would know or care about that. But I was just sort of listening to whatever music we yapped about in the zine and I decided to hit up some Diamanda Galas, and this played, and I remembered what it was like to be spared in a world where so many people around you were going through that specific desolation. Dying at once isolated and surrounded.

# Musical interlude: Why isn’t there more Severed Heads on YouTube? Lol this video.

# Speaking of AIDS caregivers and how you didn’t escape the experience of an epidemic by being lesbian, Rebecca Brown! In an earlier phase of this same Time Travel Rosary project, I re-read her short story collection, The Terrible Girls, and told you all how much I still love it. In these zines I got to read my own high-school fiction (HUMILITY) and I did laugh at just how quickly and completely I took to that ’90s “dark fairy tale” vibe. Like a duck to ducks, as Quentin Crisp would say. Rebecca Brown, Angela Carter, those Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling collections, that stuff is all over my juvenilia. Oddly enough, I was never able to develop it. With some rare exceptions, I didn’t start writing fiction I’d stand behind today until I started writing non-f/sf comedy.

The things I wrote obsessively about then & still hit up today: ecstasy (escape from self), “the things you long for will consume you” (it’s almost as if I knew!), hot women and the damaged chicks who like to be mistreated by them. My only genuinely good lines were about humiliation and helplessness. I guess it is easy to write well about the desire for those things–people don’t expect it, you can catch them off guard.

# Musical interlude: Speaking of darkly gleaming horror-fantasy tales…. (And speaking of Rebecca Brown, given the Lady Dr. Frankenstein elements of The Terrible Girls.) Ahhhh this thing is so glorious.

# I get very meta-Pharisaical about (again) the Youth of Today, and how yes, we were sexual amoralists and we were all about drinking and drugs but at least we weren’t self-righteous! It turns out, we were pretty self-righteous.


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