Zine Phi­los­o­phy: The Story Swal­low­ers by Star

Broken Pencil - - Ta­ble Of Con­tents - by Star

Ed Note: The fol­low­ing piece is an excerpt from Ev­ery­thing + All At Once, a zine by Toronto-based au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor Markus “Star” Har­wood-jones. The zine is a preview of their up­com­ing novel. We loved the way The Story Swal­low­ers warmly and kindly ad­vises queer creators on how to pro­tect their work.


DEAR BABY QUEER, my train­ing-wheel trans. You, born of se­crets, of sea­sons, of hid­den trem­bling hands. I have a se­cret for you.

A les­son I’ve learned a thou­sand times, one you likely al­ready know. Curl `round, hud­dle close for warmth, as even now, be­yond the re­flec­tion of our win­dow­pane, there are eyes that glint in our fire­light. They sniff us out, size us up, de­cid­ing who might best ful­fill their ap­petite. My se­cret for you, oh you, born of cold dew after spring­time show­ers, you with will stead­fast and ten­der de­sires, know this: there are those in this world who wish to swal­low your sto­ries.

On the prowl, sniff­ing out your in­no­cence, and your tragedy, they will come for you first and, then, your cho­sen fam­i­lies. They will come fam­ished, sharp smiles laced with prom­ises and some­times treats. It’s all for your benefit, a swal­lower might whis­per, just un­load your heavy sto­ries be­tween my teeth. If they’ve got you cor­nered, lis­ten closely, hear the notes in be­tween. If you dare come closer, ask a ques­tion, make an of­fer, see what you can glean. But be warned, oh young one, burst forth in the song of sum­mer sun­beams, of long grass melodies, know that once they have your scent, they’ll come again, ever hun­gry.

Among those who do the liv­ing, who make the sto­ries that sa­ti­ate, most of us try to avoid the swal­low­ers, but some learn to ne­go­ti­ate. Some­times, our sto­ries just es­cape, other times we might think it nec­es­sary to cough up our knowl­edge and ed­u­cate. Oh babe, born of warm coats and rolling auburn leaves, how rare and sweet this trade can seem can seem when we’ve been fam­ished, parched to the point that we’ll ac­cept any­thing.

Per­haps you’ve have done this dance be­fore, got­ten used to feed­ing the wolves with scraps of your flesh to keep the other car­ni­vores at bay. Trad­ing bits of your spirit so you might see a bet­ter day. Oh child, of win­ter’s cold­est night, born of dark­ness and shadow, one who learned to breathe in the snow, you know which parts you can sac­ri­fice long enough to make your way home. You born of bar­gains, borders, and bu­reau­cracy, you will learn to sell your scars, to give noth­ing for free.

They will ask about your loved ones, the names you thought were dead, the se­crets of your nu­dity, the wor­ries in your head. They will slip upon your shoul­der, voices like the sound of many wings. Like a mos­quito slurp­ing up their crim­son soup, they will suck up ev­ery drop you sing. Like a roast over a fire, hum­ming like a hive, once your story’s been di­gested they ex­crete the re­mains, birthing some­thing not quite alive. Sold as a feast, to the crit­ters and fam­ished for­agers, anx­ious for a piece. In that pit, of wig­gling worms and peck­ing birds, mud­dled, messy, meshed to­gether in a paste, the smell gets caught up in your mouth so even you can get a taste.

You may grow tired and deign to slum­ber, dream­ing of times be­fore, when our sto­ries were just for each other. Let your­self lie down, in a field un­der a half moon; bathe in the re­flec­tions of our an­ces­tors. Know that they will ask for our sto­ries but never for our lessons. They ask for our tragedies but never our so­lu­tions. They will barter for your trust, only to break it. The story swal­low­ers feed them­selves first, of this you can’t for­get. And you, if you’re any­thing like me, and I’m not sure that you are, you will learn to ask for the money up front. You will bar­gain and bat­tle and breathe long enough to tell your own sto­ries, in the end.

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