Murmuration: A Festival of Drone Culture
This winter, we, Olivia Rosane and Adam Rothstein had a conversation about drones. We didn’t start the conversation; we were responding to a growing murmur of voices asking what it meant that flying killer robots were now very much a part of our world and how we should respond.
What we insisted was that the response should include art. Adam argued that we needed fiction to fully grasp the drone as a concept, since our understanding of the drone is already so informed by fiction:
The drone is a literary character–it is an archetype of uncanny and deadly technology, spread out around us in the geopolitical world in such a way that they are nearly invisible to our non-fictional sense of fact, and yet around us all the time in fiction, invisibly hiding in the clouds, with as much reality as a paranoid delusion.
Olivia insisted that we needed fiction to fully grasp the effects of drones, especially as they are used in the growing U.S. War on Terror. Fiction, she argued, frees us to empathize with its characters, to spend time in the head of another:
It is this full understanding of personhood that only fiction can provide, and that is why we need fiction about the drone strikes. We need fiction so haunting that we cannot hear a news report without thinking, “A person died in that drone strike, even though he would rather not have died in that drone strike.”
Out of that conversation grew Murmuration: A Festival of Drone Culture. We decided it wasn’t enough to talk about the need for drone art; we wanted to instigate it. So, during the month of June, we will use this Murmuration Tumblr to post daily works of music, fiction, and visual art inspired by the idea of the drone.
Now we invite all of you to join this conversation as well. We are opening submissions today, May 1, and we encourage all of you to think about your understanding of the drone, and then to create. We can offer $50 for every piece we accept. Here are the “Mission Parameters” so that you can get a fuller sense of the thinking behind the festival.
To submit, please email us the following, with the subject line: “Murmuration – Submission”:
- Your name
- Title of your Submission
- Description of Submission (300 words max)
- How does your submission engage with the concept of “drones”? (300 words max)
- Please include your submission, either in the text of the email, with a link, or as an attachment.
If you have any questions, you can follow us on Twitter @DroneMurmur or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And be sure to follow this Tumblr, where all posts will take flight, starting June 1.
There’s a distinctly gothic flavour to this anthology. What with a sinister Icelandic raven “bloody-beaked and full of eyeballs”, the “atrocious cruelty” of gannets who claim children as sacrificial victims, and the mercilessness of Daphne du Maurier’s notorious birds with their innate “instinct to destroy mankind”, it’s clear that these creatures inhabit a dark hinterland in which our subconscious fears of evil are realised. Although of varying quality, these tales exude a striking weirdness and a sense of wonderment. Close observation of a cormorant reveals “a living dark question mark, a plunge from the edge of existence into the silvery glinting silence of the future”. A seagull wheeling round his dying mate provides a “beautiful” revelatory moment exposing the emptiness at the heart of a dying relationship. Exploring “the way in which birds inhabit the border between the mundane and the extraordinary”, these stories provide a startling glimpse into a world of otherness capable, at times, of eerily mirroring our own.