Essay: Invasive/Invading by Justin Lawrence Daugherty

A painting supposedly produced before 1945 that contains traces of strontium-90 and caesium-137 is most likely a forgery: these isotopes do not occur naturally and are produced in nuclear explosions, dispersed through nuclear tests, including the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and forever altering the soil and plants used to create pigments.

Invasion of an ecosystem seems to be possible when a place is similar to where an invading species evolved.

Judith Butler: “Baptism is an act which is ‘initial’ or ‘primal’ only to the extent that it imitates the original Adamic act of naming, and so produces that origin again through mimetic reiteration.”

The baptized person as extension of the name, as infected by the name.

Water as both object of horror and baptismal in film.

A disease vector in epidemiology is an agent that transmits a pathogen from one organism to another.

Hunger as the vector transmitting the desire for another.

The vector in the introduction of invading species is usually human.

Red food often stimulates hunger.

Red plates, though, suppress it.

Somewhere on a Kinsey scale, an ecosexual person might masturbate under a waterfall or orgasm in a stream.

The writer imagining the zombie as passive, non-hungry extension of climate crisis, imagining the eco-vampire as sapping a redwood’s energy.

The redwood trees remove and store up to three times more carbon from the atmosphere than any forest on the planet.

Some are adamant that to make climate change matter to people, we need to make it more present and personal, and they cite the redwood, iconic image of the natural world, as a possible object in establishing that link.

An early Japanese work of erotic woodblock art, The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hokusai in 1814, depicts an ama, a pearl diver, engaged sexually with two octopuses, one performing oral sex and the other fondling her mouth and nipple.

Joyelle McSweeney writes of the necropastoral: “The Necropastoral is a strange meetingplace for the poet and death, or for the dead to meet the dead, or for the seemingly singular-bodied human to be revealed as part of an inhuman multiple body.”

Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens tell their “pollen-amorous” love story of the Appalachian Mountains in the documentary Goodbye Gauley Mountain, and part of the film focuses on the mining industry, where many mountains are blown apart to get at coal, the stripping of the surface to break deeper, coal dust in the lungs.

The human body, too, as interembodied with nuclear fallout.

Humans alive between 1945 and 1963 evidence the Bomb Peak, cells and bodies alight with elevated levels of art forgery-illuminating isotopes.

I almost step into the ocean for the first time at thirty-two at Mendocino Point, the westernmost point in the continental United States, but even in July it is too windy and cold and the water too volatile, and what I remember most are the cattle nearby, so close to the ocean.

The final scene of 2006’s Children of Men sees gunshot and dying Theo, a civil servant taking cash to get Kee, the first woman to become pregnant in 18 years, to safety on a shaky rowboat on their way to uncertain futures.

Some scholars write that The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, in referencing stories of the Edo period the Japanese would have been familiar with, depicts consensual sex, unlike future depictions in the genre.

For whatever reason, I find myself writing the iterative act often lately, the naming of things as either redemptive or destructive.

Quint survived in the shark-infested waters for days following the bombing of the USS Indianapolis before being torn apart by the shark in Jaws decades later.

Sometimes-X-Man Sunfire is at one point dying of radiation poisoning caused by his own mutant ability to absorb and weaponize solar radiation.

In one alternate future, Spider-Man’s radioactive body fluids give Mary Jane, his wife, cancer.

McSweeney: “The Necropastoral is also, then, a method of reading for resemblances, for uncanny channels and doubles which leap across the supposed sureties of national and linguistic and formal boundaries and break literature’s affirmative and humanist contract, exhibiting obscene and impolite qualities and pouring out illimitable occult energies.”

Some tentacle porn creators say they create in this way to avoid obscenity laws.

Sea monsters are often mistaken sperm whales, whose blubber in death separates in featureless masses in a strange decomposition.

What is an absence of hunger?

Satiation is not right—not the act of becoming full, but the lack of desire for fullness.

The image of feeding in film is often either absent or grotesque: the feeding man devouring a piece of meat, red juices pouring down his chin, teeth tearing at sinew and flesh, an inverted desire as a sort of ravenous horror.

The “butterfly effect” is a large effect in a simple system initiated by a small cause.

Example of the butterfly effect: a sign from God scientists would later claim was a meteorite streaking through the sky would lead to Constantine’s victory over Maxentius and the later Edict of Milan, which led to an widespread dispersal of Christianity.

We poison the water that we then drink and become poisoned/poisonous by the act.

Fog, on the decline due to climate change, is perhaps the primary giver of water to redwoods on the California coast during the dry summer.

It is perhaps human nature to attribute a single deterministic cause to explain events.

The extinction of a keystone species might lead to the extinction of many other species of animals.

The bee, a signature keystone species, should be an obviously crucial part of the eco-machine, yet it seems we need reminding unless we let a primary pollinator of over 250,000 plant species die off and vanish.

Cascading failures occur when one part of a system fails and causes the failures in other parts of the system.

The cascade as fallout, as disease vector.

House mice, invading tiny Gough Island, gnaw and feed on baby nesting birds, some of whom have evolved on the island without natural predators and so are eaten alive over a number of days.

Injury or impairment of the amygdala results, in some reports, in reduced fear and aggression and increased submission.

Imagine the horror film in which a disease, passed along from person to person, impairs the amygdala, and how different, then, the experience of horror.

Where is the membranous disruption between fear and desire?

The French term l’appel du vide has no single-word translation in English, but is used to describe the desire to jump from high places, the urge to the void when one encounters the edge of things.

Psychological studies have shown that when people experience racing heartbeat or rapid breathing—the horror of horror films—they tend to search for environmental cues to attribute as the cause.

The fear of the water monsters of mythology as fear not just of being consumed, but of simultaneously drowning.

Crucial to the fear of drowning is the fear of falling.

At the height of the fetish in film, in the 1960s, 1 in 35 Hollywood movies featured people, often young women, sinking slowly or drowning in quicksand.

There is certainly something to be said for the fallout of fear in some manifestations of desire.

Crucial to the experience of the horror film is the enjoyment of horror.

The final girl as the lone survivor in horror films left alive, ostensibly, to tell the story.

Butler: “…the connection between silence and survival for women is but a part of the fallout of a system whose absolute law is death.”

The spinning whorl of Charybdis, the enchanting song of the siren luring ships to wreck upon the rocky shores.

To talk of sexual aspects of horror films is a whole other writing.

Though estimates claim it would take 300-500 piranhas to strip the flesh of a 180-pound human clean to the bone in 5 minutes, piranhas might only eat humans or other large animals if they are already dead or gravely injured.

Teddy Roosevelt is perhaps partly to blame for the myth of the piranha’s hunger.

I finally touched the ocean at 33, swimming in the warmth of south Florida waters.

Reports cite that contamination levels in tap water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were 240 to 3400 levels times those allowed by safety standards and contributed, between 1953 and 1987, to the heightened occurrences of later cases of liver cancer, kidney cancer, and ALS.

From a Reuters report in December 2016: there are at least 3,000 places in the U.S. with lead contamination levels twice what they are in Flint, Michigan.

Invasive species in the United States cause billions of dollars in damage annually.

In an effort to eradicate the invasive/invading python in the Florida Everglades, there is an annual snake hunt where thousands of competitors track and kill Burmese pythons for cash prizes.

Aging fetishists who grew up in the 60s still comprise a small quicksand fetishist community—creators make a living specializing in the production of fetish videos for these consumers.

Thirst as the desire not for filling but saturation, immersion.

Butler: “Desire is intentional in that is always desire of and for a given object or Other, but it is also reflexive in the sense that desire is a modality in which the subject is both discovered and enhanced.”

Tantalus standing in a pool of water that recedes each time he lowers himself to drink.

The ecosexual movement focuses on the production of pleasure through sustainable sexual practice.

Beth Stephens on ecosexuality: “We’re trying to shift the metaphor from ‘earth as mother’ to ‘earth as lover.’”

“We are the earth,” Annie Sprinkle says, citing connection to the environment and place—an interembodiment, a necropastoral shifting of boundaries and crossing of membranes.

McSweeney: “Even in works which do not have an overtly ecological focus, the outlaying of a distressed and metastasized aesthetic field which forces up motifs and affects and spectacular mutant growths for the sake of bringing into aesthetic immanence a suppressed political event is the signature of the Necropastoral.”

Invasive species wreak particular havoc on islands, where biodiversity is often densest.

An image: the aedes aegypti, carrier of the Zika virus, alight on the skin of a pregnant mother, a camera’s eye shaky and invasive/invading, closing in, waiting for the sink of the mosquito’s proboscis, the skin of the woman a trembling surface, then, a shimmer and a burst of sun.

The act of sinking as submission.

One symptom of lead poisoning is pica, the eating of things that are not food.

In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Pip nearly drowns at sea, rescued at the last minute, resembling a man who has lost his mind in, as Melville writes, his communion with the unknown, seeing “multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs,” and he utters a madness of God, and “[s]o man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.”

The absence of hunger as the resistance to naming.

I hope to swim in coral before they are only rumor of color, afterimage of shape.


Justin Lawrence Daugherty lives in Atlanta and is the Co-Publisher of Jellyfish Highway Press. His first novel, You Are Alive, is forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms in late 2018. 


One response to “Essay: Invasive/Invading by Justin Lawrence Daugherty

  1. Pingback: Nouns XXXIV | Meghan McClure·

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