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In the Otherwise Dark

Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman

After an especially long and frustrating day, where I felt unheard and unseen, I wrote “In the Otherwise Dark.” It is one of those rare stories that comes out in a single session, where you forget to eat lunch because the words are coming with such speed and surety.

When I finished, I wasn’t quite sure what I had, but felt it was something.

If you haven’t already read the story, I hope you will do so before you continue reading this post, because I am probably going to spoil it for you here.

This post will wait, I promise.

“In the Otherwise Dark” tells the story of a world where men readily acknowledge their great deeds and empires; a world where men succeed and don’t mind that others may not. It is a world where the women have strangely faded away, have become invisible, and dare I say, mythical. It is a world where children seem to birth themselves and raise themselves, where the houses do not gather dust, where sons are elevated and daughters are surely not born because what would daughters do with a life, really.

Our protagonist is a doctor who helps the insane, those men who claim to still see women, those men who even claim to speak with them and share lives with them. Our doctor, these men do not realize, shares the same illness: he meets with his mother regularly, though this cannot be possible, given that women do not exist in this world.

I was interested in the rejections this story garnered, more so than I usually am, given the story’s nature, and the fact that most of the editors who passed on it were men. The story largely received form rejections, but also a handful that said they didn’t understand the story.

And then came Andrew Fuller, who told me he must surely have something in his eye, and he wanted to publish it. I wasn’t surprised it took a specific editor, and a specific way of looking at a story, for this one to find a home.

This is a story about our world. A world where the accomplishments of women are easily brushed under the rug. A world where women are perfectly fine for sex, but otherwise can be left to the side. This is a story about the women who pass invisibly through our world every day: our discarded women, who hold no distinction even for their relationships to their men. This is a story about the women who are not seen as women because they cannot have children. This is a story about the women who do not live long enough to be regarded as having lived at all. This is a story about the women.

My thanks to Dean Smith-Richard, who took on the task of reading this story for the audio version. “In the Otherwise Dark,” can be found in Three-Lobed Burning Eye #28.

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