Have you heard of the Black Warrior Review? Published out of the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, a journal associated with an MFA program is not really the place you’d think to look for speculative fiction. But the BWR stakes a claim in the bizarre. On their website, the editors say:
We seek risk-taking prose that challenges conventions of narrative, language, and form. We value invention and imagination, work that pushes against the real, dismantles the world and rebuilds it different. The absurd, the hybrid, the magical, the futuristic, the stark. Make us rethink. Make us feel.
If there’s any way to prove their dedication, just take a look at the cover art of the current issue:
But the real reason you need to purchase a copy of BWR’s issue 42.2, is Megan Milk‘s chapbook “The Feels”. It’s a legitimization of slash fanfiction culture. It’s literary criticism meets fan studies meets queer theory.
Milks legitimizes queer pairings and slash fanfiction. Both are marginalized sub-cultures, but ultimately grounded in love. The love shared between queer people. The love the fanfiction author has for the source material. And Milk’s work gets better. Do you remember the bad fanfiction you wrote (or read) late at night in high school? Not the self-insert one, but the slash one, you were afraid your mother would find? Milks has found it and uses it as source material to create a series of found poems.
Their poems (or “feel extractions”) come from the story “I Don’t Want to Need You”, a Harry Potter/Louis One Direction fanfic. And chapter by chapter, Milks pull out phrases from “I Don’t Want to Need You” that use the word feeling and all its variations. The result is funny and devastating because we interpret the emotional arc and believe in the enormity of the unnamed feelings.
“my smiles don’t feel / feel his vocal chords vibrate / makes me feel so / he can make me feel so / I can’t feel anything / but it is intense”
Milks ends their chapbook with The Feels Machine: exercises from a workshop they led called “Open Channels: Slash Aesthetics and the Queer Affect”. The exercises give you the tools to generate your own “feel extractions” from a slash fanfic of your choice.
So, go on, check out the Black Warrior Review. Get writing and inventing and imagining and embracing whatever it is you love. Take the time to feel.
For more information on Milks, check out their website.