Mandy-Suzanne Wong

Mandy-Suzanne Wong, “Ayuka and the Useless Speculation”

The endeavor of fiction, says Shaviro, is “to work through the weirdest and most extreme ramifications of [counterintuitive] scenarios,” “to unsettle and singularize these results, and to provide us with unrepeatable histories” of the improbable and impossible. Fabulated stories “extend beyond cognition,” he says, “connecting how and what we know to how we feel, and to how we might act: to what is it like?” So if the aim of the conference is to tarry with the inutility of thought, I would offer an ungeneralizable account of singular ramifications of a particular useless speculation. I would do this by telling you a story. An improbable fiction of my own fabulation. A story of how it might feel to know that a scientific hypothesis is powerful enough to bring hope to the whole world but at the same time utterly useless.

It seems to me that a hypothesis or “speculative extrapolation” is useless when, for whatever reason, it cannot serve as an “agent of truth”; when it has no practical utility beyond the speculative exercise; and when its very character as an idea is so farfetched as to seem wildly excessive, an almost painfully ridiculous expenditure of time and energy. But if this hypothesis were your own, how would it feel to know that as far-reaching as your speculations are, they can’t go anywhere? If you were the subject of this hypothesis, if the idea’s only possible foundation was what might be happening in your body (or not), how would it feel to learn of the idea’s existence, knowing it could do nothing to help you? How would those who thought they knew you react when a random scientist’s wild idea suggests that they never knew you? And what would all this do to the idea itself, to its speculative momentum—the willful and unconscious, emotional, imaginative, and instinctive compulsion that is thinking? Telling you a fiction of a sixty-year-old fisherwoman who might represent the next phase of terrestrial evolution won’t lead to any “new lines of inquiry.” Of what use is it, then? None whatsoever. Except to share the gratuitous and, to me, necessary joy of making stuff up.

Bermudian novelist Mandy-Suzanne Wong is the author of Awabi, the 2018 winner of the Chapbook Series Award presented by Digging Press, a New-York-based publisher. Her novel Drafts of a Suicide Note, forthcoming from Regal House in October, was a finalist for the Permafrost Book Prize as well as a semifinalist for the Conium Review Book Prize and other honors. Her stories and essays appear in The Spectacle, The Island Review, Sonic Field, Quail Bell, and elsewhere. Her latest work includes the nonfiction monograph Listen, we all bleed: Animal Sounds in Radical Art.