On Nun-Fiction & Sapphic Satire

“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”

Virginia Woolf

Definitions:

Nun-fiction is a liminal literary space in which fragments of non-fiction are conveyed through fictional narratives about nuns.

Sapphic Satire is satire that is Sapphic in nature.

Sapphic is anything that is inspired by the poet Sappho of Lesbos, and the legacy and lore that followed her.

Disclaimers:

The contents of this website are NUN-FICTIONAL in nature. They are a product of a nuanced, complicated understanding of lesbian existence and they are meant to be read and appreciated by readers with an interest in lesbian existence, particularly readers who possess a sense of wit and have a nuanced understanding of language or those who wish to understand lesbian history. The internal sources and real-life events by which the content is inspired is the private business of the writer.

The characters mentioned in these nun-fiction narratives are products of the literary imagination.

The nun-fiction narratives are fictional, in Virginia Woolf’s sense of the word.

While inspired by fragments of real life events, the narratives are not literal accounts of them. It is not the intention of the writer that the characters mentioned in the narratives be attributed to actual people, and any parallels that are drawn between characters and real people are the result of the imagination of the reader.

Statement from the Writer:

My full name is Jessica Lowell Mason; I am a writer, a mother, and a social justice activist. Formerly, I wrote under the name Jessica Mason McFadden. Up until 2017, I never put limits on my writing, but I now have censors who have threatened me, criminalized me, and attempted to take away my basic human right to write and engage in performance art with creative abandon.

I will not be deterred by the oily white (out) cloud of censorship that looms over my writing desk – however, I will state the obvious: the writing on this website is (nun)fiction.

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Anything I have published on this website is for the sake of art and justice. Nothing I write is meant to be taken as the 100% literal truth. The nun-fiction writing project is political and personal but it is not a reflection of my life-off-the-page. It is not a ticket into my psyche or my daily life.

I am a non-violent person with a non-violent past, present, and future. I believe in non-violence; I am proponent and a practitioner of non-violence.

The aggressive poison of patriarchy that defines this misogynistic world, I condemn and combat using my pen.

Those who tell the truth will always pose a “threat” to those who do not. Fiction is the frontier of truth-telling: the safer space for writers to speak of the world truthfully through the vehicle of their imaginations. Telling the truth, whether in fiction or non-fiction, or in the blurred space between, is not a crime. It is not an act of violence.

The suppression of truth, of liberty, however, is an act of organized violence, and writers and artists must fight against it.

The fighting I do, I do with my pen. My feminist pen. It is mightier, and more dignified, than the swords (guns and gavels) of men.

I refuse to be bullied and I will not be oppressed again.

Any implied-violence described or violent rhetoric implemented in the narratives on this blog is for the rhetorical purpose of criticizing heteronormative privilege and condemning the violence of patriarchal oppression.

The writing on this website falls into two categories: nun-fiction and Sapphic satire (genres of my invention). The writing is derived from my life experiences and my imagination– mostly from the space between where reality and invention meet and marry and have non-binaristic children, the children of imagination.

The theme of the macabre in my nun-fiction narratives and my photographic and video art is prevalent; death is a core part of human existence. Writing in a morbid style / writing about death / writing in a style of anger does not mean the writer is homicidal or has homicidal impulses. It is despicable and outlandish for a writer to be accused of homicidality because they write about blood or jest about death.

Anger is a writer’s tool. Death is a writer’s subject.

Humor that deals with death is something you will find in my writing and art; it is not a reflection of any intention of harm toward anyone. Feminist anger in my writing is an act of standing up to patriarchal oppressive authoritarianism.

Mockery is a literary device that I use as a feminist tool: the mockery in my nun-fiction essays is often applied to characters who are in power and who abuse their power to oppress and torment others. I also mock institutions.

We must laugh at the king. When we are not crying because of him.

Insults hurled in my narratives are not indications or promotions of violence. To the contrary. The effectiveness with which I am able to hurl an insult on the page is a result of my intellect and the traumas I have survived.

An act of rhetorical annihilation is not the same as an act of annihilation: just ask Edgar Allan Poe. And Lady Macbeth’s divorce lawyer.

Allow me to be modestly legalistic and philosophic for a moment in stating that to wish harm upon something is not the same thing as to enact harm upon it.

I have been hated and had terrible things wished upon me; in fact, I do know there are probably people in the world who would be pleased if I would go away forever (i.e., die). But their private wish for my demise is not the same as their trying to hurt me, and despite the unpleasantness of knowing that there are people in my life, some whom I love, who do wish harm upon me, I recognize that they have a right to their thoughts and feelings, and I would not deny them the liberty of wishing for my destruction. If those who wish ill upon me were to engage in an act of violence against me, that would be different.

If every person had each one of their thoughts publicly exposed: imagine the horrors that would be unveiled — especially about the most morally upright among us and especially about men. There must be a line drawn between thought and action, and the two cannot be equated. Not unless every man would like to be put in jail for the slightest harboring of anger toward his neighbor. Were our thoughts equated with actions, most biologically male individuals would find themselves behind bars.

Fortunately for men and their many hidden violent and sexually oppressive impulses, feelings are not crimes. Thoughts are not crimes. When they begin to be treated as such, then we know we, as a species, have become the monstrous machine that George Orwell warned us about.

No society can call itself humane and civil that does not uphold the right of its artists and writers to create without fear of persecution and prosecution.

Our private thoughts belong to us; our actions belong to public observation and scrutiny. When we assume things about one another’s thoughts, we are operating on conjecture, and conjecture is not something about which conclusions should be drawn: conjecture is not a sound basis for legal action. Conjecture is conjecture. It is like the stuff of fiction: perhaps entirely true but perhaps not at all true.

Unlike conjecture: Harm is harm.

Reputational harm is subjective, it is a gray area, but physical harm is not.

As a survivor of institutional and interpersonal harm, and as a lesbian who has experienced discrimination, I am attuned to what it means to be maligned and feared for being an out of the closet lesbian and angry feminist.

The anger I express in writing is a product of the treatment I have endured and the suffering that I have witnessed other women (especially lesbians and queer women) endure. Women have been victimized by men for centuries, and we have a right to be angry about it and a right to articulate that anger.

The patriarchy should implode. This is not a threat against men; it is a wish, a wish for the downfall of an institution of harm. Nun-fiction is a place for patriarchy to be chastised and mocked.

Thus, nun-fiction touches on death: the death of falsity, lies, denial, and injustice.

If you cannot stomach or find the literary value in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, then you will likely find nun-fiction outside of your comprehension. Toward the end of Shakespeare’s bloodiest play, Titus feeds Tamora the bodies of her two sons, ground up in a pie. She eats the minced up bodies of her sons, courtesy of Chef Titus. It is one of the most grotesque and memorable moments of violence in literary history. What is the entertainment value in this, one might ask? The creativity and the sheer absurdity: and, more, what they reveal about how power corrupts and about the nature of evil.

Titus Andronicus is art; it is not real life. Were it real life, it would not be entertainment – it would be violence and patriarchal savagery. Because it is art, it is meant to horrify, disturb, educate– and entertain.

Art allows us to go safely and freely where it is otherwise dangerous to go. When artists lose their ability to create this safer space, our real lives become endangered.

This is why it is imperative that mongrels like Donald tRump, who threaten the proliferation of our avenues to truth (through journalism, art, and the like), do not end up in positions of authority that allow them to take away the basic rights of people who mock them and challenge their authority.

A great merit of literature, of fiction, is that it is transcendent. It allows writers to go places: to say the unsaid, to stretch the bounds of the imagination using language, and to expose corruption– there is moral value in the grotesque. Shakespeare may have taken pleasure in his own writing ability, and in writing Titus Andronicus, but that does not render him debased or guilty of a ‘thought crime,’ especially not if his goal was to expose the base qualities of humanity: to make men face their evils.

A writer should aim to horrify if she wishes to expose horrors.

Do not forget: most violence in this world is practiced by men. The history of male violence speaks for itself; the assertion does not need to be defended because it is absurdly obvious and factually incontestable. The violence of Shakespeare’s era is not unique. Men commit gruesome and horrifying acts of violence today. Violence is condoned by many religions and by the military.

I am against violence. But I support the freedom of writers to write about it. What is it to ‘write violently’? It is not an act of violence. It is an act of literacy, of urgency.

I consider Shakespeare a great advocate of humanity because he wrote about the kinds of violence of which men are capable. We cannot learn and change male violence without understanding it, and fiction writers are our teachers: they teach us about what it means to be human– the good, the bad, the beastly, and the horrific.

Being a writer is not the same as being a criminal.

Does the fact that Shakespeare wrote this brutal scene make him guilty of a crime? Does the fact that Shakespeare thought of such a grotesque scenario render him worthy of a diagnosis or physical confinement?

Should Shakespeare have been confined, held down, and injected with anti-psychotics because he pushed the boundaries of convention and wrote, time and time again, about murderous impulses, slaughter, and revenge?

No. Of course not. How absurd a notion!

Even if Shakespeare had used his worst enemies (and he had a few) for inspiration for the mother-son reunion in a pie scene, that does not make him culpable.

Writing fiction is not a crime.

Were Shakespeare’s contemporaries reporting him for writing tragedies? Were those who had it out for Shakespeare filing complaints against him, having him investigated and followed, engaging in acts of harassment and intimidation against him, and claiming that what he wrote made them fear for their lives?

Did Shakespeare’s contemporaries live in “fear” of the allegory?

Another rhetorical question – intended to emphasize the preposterousness of the very idea.

Let us return to the men baked in a pie. Unless Shakespeare, himself, made an attempt to bake or very well did bake two young men in a pie, he is guilty of NO crime and it is illegal and unethical for him to be addressed as a criminal.

Shakespeare is not a criminal. He a writer.

Apply this logic to the case of nun-fiction.

The criminalization of readers and writers only happens under the watch of tyranny (check out 1984 for details).

Characters mocked in my work represent the reprehensible qualities of patriarchal imperialism (the kind inherent in the insecure, cowardly dingbat who currently calls himself “president”). This kind of transference is common among writers. In fact, most writers do this.

If you don’t understand this, you probably haven’t read enough during your lifetime and you probably are very ill with the disease of patriarchal imperialistic ignorance. Drop by a thing called a library to get some “medication,” preferably in the form of a book with stories written by Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King, or if you’re really daring maybe something written by Andrea Dworkin, and then, see if you’ve read enough to get yourself an inkling about the meaning of the word “reprehensible” in relation to yourself.

If you’re not open minded enough or up to the challenge of reading something that is meant to force you to engage in a linguistic (h)exercise that is outside of your comfort zone, then I recommend you stick with your usual Garrison Keillor column. The characters mentioned on this blog, with the (h)exception of myself, are not intended to be interpreted in any one way or as any one person. The writings on this blog are (h)exercises and (h)experiments in linguistic subversion ala “feminist substitutive linguistic practice.” The writing published here is for entertainment and academic purposes. If you take it purrsonally, that is your choice and I am not necessarily implicated by virtue of that choice.

There are people who deserve to be figuratively baked in a pie, to be sure. But each writer must weigh the risks and decide for herself how to confront literal evil via figurative means. Each reader, too, must make a choice about what to read.

If you do choose to read my writing, do it with an open mind, a bit of sense, and a crumb of morality. If you cannot do so, your cognitive attention would be better directed elsewhere– perhaps toward an old, preserved, very stale, entirely-though-questionably intact but ultimately-and-undoubtedly flavorless vanilla wafer.

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© Jessica Lowell Mason