Do you have a story to tell? Is it a story about Relationship? About Relationships with Human and Other than Human People, and about Relationships with Land? Aurochs Underground Press are looking for short creative pieces up to 3000 words for inclusion in HOMECOMING, the first literary journal designed to present and promote ways of seeing and experiencing the Earth and all its Peoples from an explicitly Animist perspective.
Have you ever spent an hour imagining a better future, or daydreaming about the distant past? Do you ever spend your evenings wondering if past and future might lie underground, or over the horizon? Do you sometimes dream about a world where days and years are given names instead of numbers, and special times are identified by the angle of the setting sun slanting through a narrow opening between two stones… or wonder what it might be like to live in a place where you would not notice the natural passage of Time at all – perhaps a deep cave or a space station that has had to invent its own daily and monthly rhythms? Or do you like to play with ideas of Time that stretch over aeons or compress into milliseconds – Time as experienced by rocks, or micro-wasps? Are you excited by the Australian Aboriginal idea of the Dreaming – the world as a continuing experience of emergence?
For Homecoming 3, we are exploring Animist conceptions of Time.
We are looking for short stories, poems, and creative non-fiction pieces that play with ideas of Time in ways that get away from modern divisions of time into past, present, and future, and escape the domination of the clock. We are keen to read stories set in distant pasts and in imagined futures; re-imagined Creation Myths; memoirs that dream of building a hopeful future despite the present threat of Climate Change; poems that evoke an experience of being out of Time, or feeling Time differently – and many other things. Show us your dreams, and tell us your hopes.
Word Limits: 3000 words / 40 lines
Deadline: May 1 2024
HOMECOMING 2 : KIN
“All my relations” is at first a reminder of who we are and our relationship with both our family and our relatives. It also reminds us of the extended relationship we share with all human beings. But the relationships that Native people see go further, the web of kinship extending to the animals, to the birds, to the fish, to the plants, to all the animate and inanimate forms that can be seen or imagined. More than that “all my relations” is an encouragement to us to accept the responsibilities we have within this universal family by living our lives in a harmonious and moral manner (a common admonishment is to say of someone that they act as though they have no relations).”
Thomas King, 1989.
Who are our relations? Whom is it that we love? In a complex post-industrial society in which we are constantly reminded to think only of our individual selves, and consider perhaps a handful of people on our close bloodline as ‘family’, how do we establish and maintain relationships with our wider kin? Why should we even try?
In an Animist context, the question of who exactly we should establish relational connections with is well answered by King’s quote, which itself stands in relationship with the well known Lakota phrase: ‘all our relations’. In an understanding of reality that priorities connection over atomisation, and connection over exploitation, our relations can, and should, include everyone from close blood family to other Human people who perhaps have come to fill the role of blood family when our original kin have been, for whatever reason, lost to us; beyond them to Other-than-Human creatures with whom we share the land; and beyond even them to the Land itself, the Winds that blow across it, and even the Sky. If everything is connected to everything else – an insight found in much Indigenous and traditional thinking and suggested in some of the discoveries made by modern physics – then it can be said that everybody is, in some way, kin to everybody else. At a deep level, there is nothing that stands truly separate from, and outside of relation with, the greater world within which it is embedded.
But how do we, as ordinary people living ordinary lives, experience and express this connectedness? Perhaps we live in love-relationships with non-blood Human kin, or with non-Humans such as Horses, Dogs or Cats; perhaps we spend as much time as possible in green spaces listening to the language of the Birds; perhaps we undertake specific rituals to honour our kinship with the beings with whom we share existence. Perhaps we do all these things. Or perhaps our relationships with the Other-than-Human world go beyond these visible beings to those invisible presences that we may sense but never see: the spirits of our Human ancestors, or perhaps of peoples such as Lynx or Bear whose relationship with our present day landscapes manifests as that of ecological ghosts; or of the intangible forces that move within the world like a particular time of year, like springtime. How do we express our relationships with entities like these? Perhaps we write stories, poems, and songs, inscribe new myths by which to conjure them; perhaps we make paintings, or carve staves, or practise ceremonies to remind both us and them of the relationship between us, which is older than industrial capitalism, and stronger than Climate Change.
For the next edition of Homecoming: KIN, we are looking for stories that express this connectedness with both our Human and Other-than-Human kindred. We are looking for short fiction stories, creative non-fiction pieces, and poems that speak from your heart to ours of your love for the beings with whom you share, or have shared, your life. Perhaps you have a story to tell about a moment of dazzling connection with a passing thrush, or a love-song to write for a beloved childhood pet; perhaps you work in a capacity connected with the care or training of non-Human animals and have insights you would like to share. Perhaps you are drawn most strongly towards connecting with your Human Ancestors, and have stories to tell about your grandparents, or perhaps your non-blood family are the ones whose stories matter to you the most; or perhaps you feel that sense of connection reaching farther back into circular time when, as Romany Medicine Man Patrick Jasper Lee puts it ‘all things spoke a common wild tongue’ and the rupture of the present moment was nothing but a distant memory. Perhaps you can imagine what it might be like to feel a sense of kinship with the wind or stars, and can imagine a story about a world in which that kind of knowing – which seems to modern eyes unfathomable – might be nothing unusual or odd. The pieces can be traditional in style if you prefer, or they can be experimental, fluid, and shapeshifting – feel free to include snatches of lyric poetry, dream images, dialogues and discourses with the other, movements between literary forms if these techniques feel right to you, and you can make them work. What we are NOT interested in is anything that promotes ideas of ethno-nationalism or the racial supremacy of any group, which focuses on narrow identity politics, or is invested in division rather than connection.
Maximum length: 2000 words.
Deadline: October 31, 2023.
When you have your story ready, please submit it using the Contact form and upload the document in WORD format ONLY PLEASE. If you do not receive an email confirming receipt within 48 hours please contact admin. DO NOT SEND LARGE FILES containing images as these may not upload.
Because we are a brand new publisher we sadly cannot pay for contributions, but all contributors will receive a downloadable copy for free and will be able to purchase additional copies at cost. Selected stories will be also published on the Aurochs Press website for online readers.
The Journal will be made available for purchase in the form of a downloadable and printable pdf document, along with a number of high quality pre-printed editions available for purchase via the website and other places.
HOMECOMING 1: Homecoming (Summer Solstice 2023)
What does it mean to be Indigenous to anywhere? What does it mean to feel that your bones come from the rocks beneath you, that your blood mingles with the waters that flow across them and your breath is but one small part of the winds that blow? What does it feel like to truly belong to a Place – to live somewhere to which you belong, just as much as it belongs to you? To feel that you are participating in a meaningful relationship with a particular landscape and its corresponding ecosystem, and feel – to know, somewhere in your inner self – that this relationship is mutually upheld? It’s not the same thing as having a Tribal identity, although sometimes this might give you a keen insight into what it means; and it’s not the same thing as belonging to a particular Nation, which is different thing again. It’s not, necessarily, in this sense, an identity at all; but a much more fluid way of being.
It is not unfair to say that most people belonging to Westernised cultures do not feel as if they are in relationship the land they live upon, even if they have deep ancestry in the region that goes back many thousands of years, and even if the very minerals, proteins and liquids that make up their physical bodies come, quite literally, from their local environment. Western ways of thinking and feeling, and acting and being, are for the most part steeped in the Cartesian model that holds that land is inert, unthinking, and thereby incapable of being in relationship with anybody or anything. I think, therefore I am – and I am alone – (my italics). This way of seeing reality implies that everything that may exist outside myself is either suspect or assumed to be dead matter. Everything I encounter beyond myself is therefore nothing more than a machine. Even other humans are suspect. Animals, of course, are soul-less. The plant kingdom is mere scenery. Soil is only dirt.
Of course, this interpretation may represent something of an oversimplification – but if it does, that is, in a way, the point. What is of importance here is much less the philosophical question of whether humans can or cannot trust the evidence of their senses than the way this 17th Century Grand Idea has unquestioningly been used to justify the most horrifying assault on the other-than human world ever carried out by the human species. The assumption of the inert world denies the natural one all moral value, let alone agency: if a thing is already dead, it cannot act, and it certainly cannot be injured, and so it can responsibly be considered fit and ripe for human economic exploitation, even to the point of its utter destruction.
The Wages of Sin, at least according to Christian theology, are Death. While this idea – of sin – is certainly debatable, we are all receiving, now, the Wages of this unthinking assumption that the material world is already inherently dead: climate chaos, ecosystem collapse, landscape degradation, habitat destruction, floods, fires, hurricanes, sea level rises, desertification, multiple non-human species extinctions, miserable poverty among the poorest human populations, increasing levels of depression among the richest, economic inequality, war, despair, disease, and, of course, death. Our very best scientific knowledge accrued across multiple disciplines points clearly to the simple fact that if we are to have any future on this planet we cannot go on living like this. Carbon emissions must be reduced. Soils must be protected. Ecosystems must be protected. Lands must be re-wilded. Economies must change. Peoples must be put before profit. Non-human species left in peace. Science has saved us many times before – from cold, from famine, from disease. But it seems that science cannot save us now – because the problem is not really practical in the way that, for example, eradicating smallpox was practical, but philosophical, relational, emotional, spiritual. Believing the world already dead, we now seem doggedly intent on carrying out an act of suicide which, like a pilot crashing a passenger plane into the sea, will take hundreds of innocent others with us. The old Cartesian idea is still too strong, whether we know it or not: we cannot, as a culture, begin to sufficiently value anything outside ourselves in a way that would force us to change our ingrained, omnicidal behaviour for the better. We simply do not, cannot, care enough about the Other.
This needs to change.
Human beings are a storied species. The great religions of the world rely on storytelling to get their messages across, as do indigenous cultures the planet over. Story, not science, is what makes humans care. Think about it: when successful charities ask for donations, they don’t present columns of numbers and tables of figures, but individual stories. In the world of charitable giving, the picture of one starving child is measurably more effective than the abstract knowledge that there are many thousands of others. So it is with the human relationship with the Earth: science, with its tables and charts and endless reams of information, must give way to storytelling if the truth that science has revealed is to have the impact on hearts and minds necessary to avert global catastrophe. But this late in the day the stories that we need are not only those that will sound the alert, light the beacon, ring the bell – we also need to start telling stories that will show us the way toward a possible future which we, and the non-human life on this planet that depends on the decisions and the actions we take, not only survive the oncoming storm, but thrive despite it. We need to use imagination to dream of, and summon up, a better world for all of us.
Imagination is a powerful, and potentially a disruptive force, and for this reason majority cultures have always sought to trammel it along particular lines. Imagine a new form of technology that will make a few shareholders loads of money, yes. Imagine a new form of society in which this technology is used for the general global good instead of generating yet more wealth for an ever smaller number of human beings – not so much. This is now, slowly, beginning to change, in the face of the threat we face, but it is not changing not fast enough, or widely enough, or deeply enough. Too many people in power and in general society still hold fast to the old, exploitative way of seeing that underpins and legitimises it to get rid of it overnight. But we – those of us both want that better world and who know the power of imagination, the power of story, to change human ways of thinking, and being, can make this vital change begin to happen faster.
We can begin to tell new stories.
So I’ll ask again: how can we become indigenous to place? How can we begin to care about the land we live on, and the matrix of life that surrounds us? How can we begin to feel that sense of belonging, of being in relationship with the wider world that exists (Descartes be damned) outside our small selves? How can we begin to feel embedded? How can we come home?
This is where you come in! We are looking for stories, both fiction and creative non-fiction, that explore this idea of indigenousness. We are interested in the possibility that anyone can become indigenous to a place by entering into this sort of mutual relationship with it: that indigenousness need not be wholly determined by human heritage (whether by blood or adoption) and that a feeling of belonging both can and should be sought by people whose ancestors were by economic necessity or choice part of the majority culture, and /or who previously migrated to a certain place in search of the rewards apparently on offer there. We want to move towards the idea that developing an indigenous relationship with Place is a thing that is open to both people who have deep ancestry in a place and people who do not. We want to discover pathways towards home, lay scent-trails in the dirt, tease and play and hint at the way forward through stories that show alternative ways to be, offer different philosophical paradigms, new myths to live by.
So there’s the brief – now it’s up to you how you interpret it. We are looking for short stories, prose poems, lyric essays and memoir pieces up to 3000 words. You may want to write about your own experiences of trying to get closer to the land in your own local area, and how this changed you. Or you may want to write a piece of short fiction based around some eco-activist work you or others have done; or you might want to imagine what it is like to be a human being – perhaps someone just like yourself in the near future – who experiences this feeling of indigenousness on a daily basis. Or perhaps you can imagine being a non-human being who is already an indivisible part of that landscape. Or something else entirely. The pieces can be traditional in style if you prefer, or they can be experimental, fluid, and shapeshifting – feel free to include snatches of lyric poetry, dream images, dialogues and discourses with the other, movements between literary forms if these techniques feel right to you, and you can make them work.
What we are NOT interested in is anything that promotes ideas of ethno-nationalism or the racial supremacy of any group. Indigenousness, as interpreted here, is not strictly the property of any race or culture, and can be achieved by people who migrate to a place as well as those who have deep ancestry in it.
SO GET WRITING!
Deadline for Submissions for Aurochs1: Homecoming is MARCH 21 (Spring Equinox) 2023.
Publication of Aurochs 1: Homecoming is set for the Summer