I came to Elissa Washuta’s ‘The Sun Disappears’ thinking it was an essay. That is the term she uses. Canadian Art filed it under fiction. Intentional or not, it’s an illuminating incongruence. The piece opens with:
Men never send dick pics, only sunsets. The view from my balcony, they say. Texted gold-and-black horizons, Tinder photos of built glitter against mountains. A sunset is harder than a dick. Because what do you even say to that? Meteorologists say it’s the particles that make the scarlet: smoke from a burning forest, gaseous volcanic sulphur, engine soot, industrial gas. Light scatters: violet the most, red the least. Our earth-wrecking makes the sky so good and ’grammable. But that’s not how you respond to a man’s sunset.
How do you respond to this? Not as fiction, because what is spoken throughout is real and true. The graphic sexual entitlement of men is as predictable as a sunset; the potential violence of men is constant; the Earth rotates ever closer to a greater-scaled catastrophe. These elements aren’t placed in a fictive context—they are themselves. The arrangement of text into something more impressionistic, lyrical, or abstract does not always cross the threshold into fiction.
I’m likely too hung up on genre here, but this incredible essay reaches me through that lens. It brings me back to listening to Washuta on a panel on “speculative nonfiction” and feeling the very ground underneath my understanding of genre shift into something more mysterious, more active. This essay is that mystery, that action.