“Joy shared is doubled, pain shared is halved,” the axiom goes. But this issue won’t halve anyone’s pain. (Might even make it worse.) When we asked for work for this issue, we started with a few words from Gage Karahkwí:io Diabo: “Negative affect (or, what Sianne Ngai calls ‘ugly feelings’) ought to be taken seriously as both an unavoidable presence and a potential catalyst in and for active solidarity.”
We wanted to know, what does it mean to be good to bad feelings, or to notice how our bad feelings are good to us? How might pain, anxiety, fear, dread, and anger help us recognize and reject forms of violence, and acknowledge divergent realities? How might our bad feelings guide us to practices of integrity and care for ourselves, and with each other? What kinds of solidarities might depend on the sharing (in either sense) of bad feelings? We wanted to sit with bad feelings, rather than trying to get past them.
We were prepared to take bad feelings seriously, but we were less prepared for the breadth of bad feelings we received—over a hundred submissions from writers and artists. We didn’t have enough pages for it all. There wasn’t enough time.
Editors often feel bad about not having enough space for all the tremendous work they receive, but we felt worse than usual. Perhaps most painful was our inability to make space for all of the work we were sent on the quiet horrors of trying to access adequate medical support—for ourselves, for our beloveds—in the pandemic, with COVID (short, medium, long, infinite), and through jolts and heartaches of all kinds.
The space we’ve made here isn’t—never could be—big enough. But writers and artists featured in this issue express their bad feelings in such unexpected and compelling ways that we do feel good about sharing their work with you.
Our cover artist, Megan Feheley, protects and confers with their northern landscape through orange tarpaulin perforated with birch bark patterns and encouragements; Nura Ali turns her diamond-sharp critique into a thesaurus of Blackness; bailey macabre shares how to get through anxiety in their tender, friendly zine; and Dora Prieto gives us a disappointment no less poignant for being small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. Lurking, striding, and scampering in the margins, Kyla Boan- Mitchell’s fuzzy monsters evoke the fleeting tenderness of bad feelings.
The issue also includes an essay by Gage Karahkwí:io Diabo on Robert Arthur Alexie’s residential school novel, Porcupines and China Dolls; a conversation with Paneet Singh and Andy Kalirai on their play Dhooja Ghar and bad feelings in the Punjabi community; a discussion with Megan Linton on disability justice and her podcast Invisible Institutions; sad and funny short fiction by kurickaaa, Claire Miller-Harder, and Alexis Pooley; and poetry by MICHAEL CHANG, Faith Paré, Kaitlyn Purcell, Beni Xiao, and more.
We are so grateful to these writers and artists for graciously sharing uncomfortable intimacies within these pages; please hold them, and yourselves, gently, as you read.
Afuwa, Jastej Luddu, and Fenn Stewart