‘The worry is not whether the work will end, as in the old model of the dis-astron, but whether the world is already happening, or whether perhaps it might have already taken place.’ – Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects…
‘…was he then to allow this monster to roam…’ – John William Polidori, The Vampyre.
1816 went down in history as ‘the year without a summer’. Climate abnormalities, severely dropped global temperatures and the coldest Summer in Europe on record. Evidence suggests a ‘volcanic winter’ – the residue of eruptions blocking out the light of the sun. Not a natural season in the yearly cycle, then, but the disruptive imposition of another, out of place. A knotted dialogue between extremes, surprisingly intimate, entwined in cause/effect. Hot and cold, fire and frost. The results included a sprawling chain of harvest failure, famine, disease and floods. It was a year of darkness, uncertainty and death. It quaked (and quakes still) with the warning that we – even we – are fragile and contingent. Our day-to-day is a delicate equilibrium: small shifts in the balance of our world can amplify to the apocalyptic. Moreover, this world we call ‘ours’ – that we think we have tethered with language – we share with things and systems whose significance is more enormous than we can see from our particular and fragmented perspective, that we can’t hold in our hand but are actually caught up inside. Climate. Time. Fear. Need. We retreat to safe places, but we can never stand entirely outside of the weather.
1816 is an uncanny anchor of the Gothic in more ways than one. In the gloom of its summerless-summer, the seeds of our most enduring ‘monsters’ were germinated. The story goes that Lord Byron and friends gathered together in a Villa on the edge of Lake Geneva as the rain fell and the darkness persisted. Trapped indoors, they told stories to capture their fears. This was the birthplace of the modern vampire – a figure of treacherous social charm, manipulative intelligence, culture and thirst – via John William Polidori’s story The Vampyre. And – appearing in a first early draft – of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus – the scientist and the so-called ‘monster’ he creates then despises, pursues then abandons then pursues, in a tale where creator and created become perpetually entangled in a cycle of questions about knowledge, responsibility and monstrosity, beginning with the fire of life and ending with a circling chase around a landscape of ice.
Conjured from the stuff of death along the paths of ambition, drawing dark maps across sublime climates and histories beyond our mastery, more intelligent and complex than anticipated, disappearing in one place and erupting unexpectedly and catastrophically in another, three steps ahead of us, finding us in our homes and the ‘safety’ of society, threatening us not simply with malice but with need, in which we can’t but recognise ourselves, like winters bursting, latent, into summers, these ‘monsters’ spoke to the deepest part of us. Ever since 1816 they have returned and returned, renewed and remade, in our collective imagination, the faces we’ve given our greatest (ecological) fears.
In a chilling twist of timeliness, this issue speaks out from the close of Summer 2023 – a season that has stunned, displaced and terrified so many of us, laying waste to the complacent familiarities of leisure with ‘abnormalities’ and ‘extremes’ of climate, at a time when many are looking for something or someone to blame, and many are wondering if we’re already inside an ending, when (as it happens) the human story behind the first atomic bomb is the must-see blockbuster of the season. Not to mention in a weird echo of Mary Shelley we birth a plastic glam homunculus as a champion of contemporary feminism. And inevitably we see the mob with the online torches and pitchforks in response. We’re not sure if it’s comedy or tragedy. Probably both.
Abridged 0-1816 looks back to the atmosphere and echoes of an uncanny and fateful year in human and environmental history, inviting poetry and art that speaks to weather, fear, ecological vulnerability, the threats and uncertainty of darkness, and the question of where, why and with what consequences we make monsters. You can send up to three poems and four pieces of art. Art should be 300dpi or above. Please note that this issue is A5 landscape shaped. Send submissions including a short bio to email@example.com on Word or similar format. Please put your name and address on your submission otherwise it may end up and Spam and we may not see it. Deadline for submissions is 07th October 2023.
Image by Peter Bjoerk -‘ The Kinnitty Pyramid II’ https://peterbjoerk.com/
Abridged Is Supported By The Arts Council Of Northern Ireland.