How Being Māori and Writing Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy are Connected: Sam Te Kani on Pop Culture, Capitalism, Non-human Intelligence and the instrumentation of Sex and the Erotic.
Samuel Te Kani is a freelancer with various interests some of which include science fiction, erotica, fried chicken and impossibly large alien sex-organs. His fiction sometimes includes all of the above, and more. But his critical work focuses on cinema, in particular how cinema functions as a diagnostic of (and productive-mechanism for) collective thinking. He hails from Northland, and doesn't like the beach. Sam has been published widely on platforms such as The Pantograph Punch and Vice. Sam also starred in the Vice series Sex with Sam.
By Samuel Te Kani
Three Pump bottles opaline with highly acidic urine
One burdened ash tray smouldering with contempt over an old newspaper heralding terrors already arrived, shelved with familiarity in a library of hellscapes
Too many half eaten bags of Doritos of flavours too numerous and carcinogenic to name
A sideways grin between the curtains, made of sunshine
That's all I can allow myself, that emancipated sliver of daylight because boyslot123 and I have an ongoing competition to see who can deprive themselves of vitamin d the longest.
He's already looking like a Romanian vampire, or the inbred cousin of a Romanian vampire. When I think vampiric seduction boyslot123 doesn't come to mind. I know because we have to share realtime pics of each other in order for the competition to exist at all. He looks like what Macaulay Culkin would look like if Macaulay Culkin was a potato.
boyslot123 and I do talk about things other than vitamin d deprivation though. Not often. But we do. It's generally avoided because he's easily offended. For example, we had a minor disagreement which escalated into a volcanic pissing contest of whose music knowledge was more sophisticated just because my favourite Nine Inch Nails album isn't the same as his favourite Nine Inch Nails album. He ended up DM-ing me a sketch he'd done of me being very graphically sexually assaulted by a dragon. After that we didn't contact each other for three days, not including a day in between where we got put in the same league on fortnite. Normally we'd open private chat and make fun of the other league and discuss funny and inventive ways to slaughter them, but that time we were both still fuming and so we just ignored each other. Our league ended up losing and it was pretty clear our feuding was the culprit because we refused to coordinate effectively and brought everyone down with us. Oops.
I figured if we were severing ties for good then the competition was up and I was just thinking maybe if it's a nice day I might step outside for my first glimpse of daylight in three weeks, but then he messaged me a weak apology that didn't feel genuine but which I graciously accepted for the sake of his alleged mental health issues. I also think he might have a crush on me because the picture he drew of me is unnecessarily pornographic. He'd obviously invested time and energy studying the pics of me I'd sent him and imagining what I look like naked, and then he went and gave me athletic proportions that if I'm honest I just don't have. He also clearly spent quite a bit of time on my eyes. It's eerie how real they look. It would've been all the harder to draw so realistically because I'm ugly crying in the sketches, presumably from having a massive reptile dick inside me.
So I definitely think boyslot123 is crushing on me. He keeps asking personal questions now, things like what's your favourite food where did you grow up etcetera. Ive never been with a guy but having not left the house in so long the interest from him is a little more than flattering. It could just be in my head of course. And there also might be some crosschatter going on between our chats and my porn tabs. At first I'd never allow our benign chats to happen simultaneous with my porn, but it's like he intuits when I'm horned up and about to search something. I'll be halfway through typing interracial gangbang and BAM, there'll be a message from him, like we're tethered at our base impulses.
At first I found it annoying but now his messages are interchangeable in my mind with the pornhub font, they have the same luminous erection-giving aura. And if he hasn't sent me chats in a few hours I'll be hanging out for them thirstily, and I know he doesn't know that's how I'm feeling but I like to think that he does and that it's a game of tease and denial. I've stopped wearing clothes now because between pornhub and fortnite, which is our regularly prearranged meeting space, I'm always turned on. I put a plastic sheet down as a practicality.
I'm really sick. I told boyslot123 and he asked what I'd been eating and I said mostly drone pizza because it's true, and he said that I should get actual groceries drone delivered like he does. He also said that if our competition is seriously effecting my health then we should renege on it. I told him that would make me sad, because I feel like we've come far together and if we aborted without naming a victor then it'll be for nothing. He showed me pictures of himself today and it's like he's made of marble, while I'm just as translucent. But he's right, where he's eating a balanced diet I'm eating shit and the differences are significant. Where he looks pale in a painted way I look defo sick. Apparently he's also been exercising because he doesn't look like a potato anymore, and that combined with his extreme whiteness makes his body look like it's plated with some kind of pure alloy. It's beautiful.
I asked him how he'd been exercising if we aren't allowed to go outside and he said his mum has a basement gym, just a cycle and row machine and some free weights which he's clearly been hitting hard because he's transformed himself in ways I didn't think possible in such a short space of time. Maybe he's catfishing me.
I'm even more sick now and boyslot123 hasn't messaged me in three days. We hadn't argued or anything, he's just not there. All my messages are untouched, he hasn't been on fortnite. Not a word. I got so lonely that when I went to order pizza tonight I selected the delivery option over the drone. I hadn't shifted from the plastic sheet for an entire day so when I got up to answer the door I had to kind of scrape it off me. I put my robe on with nothing underneath and when the delivery guy handed me my pizza he kind of extended his arm with trepidation, like some red riding hood holding a basket to what was clearly an ogre in his grandmother's decrepit skin.
In that moment I really wanted the delivery guy to touch me. I couldn't say why but it stuck in my head and made me pause while I inwardly scrambled for some legitimate reason to give him so he would stay.
"Do you wanna come inside?" I heard myself saying. He looked at me with shock, not even hatred; he was so taken aback he probably didn't have time to present the usual bravado of his threatened masculinity, being propositioned by a stranger, and another man.
"I'll suck your dick" I heard myself say almost breathlessly.
For a hot second I thought he'd do it, what with the lure of an NSA gobby. But then he just turned and left without saying anything.
I took the residue of that monumental failure back to my laptop. It enclosed me like an iron curtain. I could barely taste the pizza through it as I shovelled it into my mouth, strings of cheese and spurts of pizza grease cascading down the hairy slopes of my bare chest. I think I was crying.
And that's when boyslot123 finally messaged me, delivering me from exile. I could see the DM flagged with the little peach and eggplant emojis like radiant beacons on the sea at night.
I opened the message.
It was another sketch. There was me again, and the dragon, and again I was being penetrated. But not brutalised. If anything this leaner chiselled version of myself wore an expression of bliss and of love. Looking even closer, I could see boyslot123 had subtly changed the dragon's features to more resemble his own.
I messaged him back asking what it meant, whether he was trying to tell me something or if he was just quipping me with a novel post as penance for his unexplained hiatus. I imagined tearfully embracing his avatar, feeling the crystalline scales of his pixelated flesh under my similarly synthetic hands, whispering that all was forgiven, covering his reptilian neck with binary kisses.
But he'd gone completely offline.
I first heard 'Of Neckbeards and Dragons' earlier this year when Sam and I participated in a reading together on National Poetry Day at Time Out Book Store in Mt Eden. And honestly, I was sitting there with my hand clasped over my mouth in order to stop myself from lolling obnoxiously. It was so funny. Sam's stories combine sci-fi and fantasy with erotic fiction. They are camp and crass as well as totally intelligent and endlessly surprising. In my, I-have-an-MA-in-Creative-Writing-opinion aka personal opinion, Sam is writing some of the dopest short stories in the whole dry country. I was happy as when I reached out and Sam was keen to share some of his work and his thoughts behind his work with us at Toi Māori.
A few years ago I came across across a series on RNZ that talked about the concept/genre of ‘afrofuturism’; science fiction that draws on/parallels the African diaspora and how it might be applied to New Zealand/South Pacific writing. I asked Sam about his thoughts on Māori x Science Fiction and how, if at all, his identity as Māori has influenced his work.
“My practice isn't aware of Māori-dom per se,” Sam says, “ but only in as much as this isn't negotiated in a blatant way. Rather the disconnect between myself and heritage, from globalisation urbanisation call it what you will, is felt wordlessly and goads me to another commons where all the psychic surplus of collective hurting/desiring runs off and renews itself in different forms for successive generations.”
This commons, he says, is popular culture.
The nature of a commons (a cultural or natural resource that is accessible to all members of a society),” Sam explains, “runs counter to capitalist realism and it's regimen of ownership, so perhaps it's only right that displacement would find power in the commons of pop culture, would find a new language to suture the loss-wounds from the old one in the clay of pop's frequently pornographic hyperreality.”
“It could be said much of pop, particularly music, advocates the fetishisation of youth and a disproportionate prioritisation of sex,” Sam suggests, but adding that this makes sense to him.
“As much as sex has been a force historically manipulated to charge consumerism, so too has it been an energy so freewheeling that it's simultaneously birthed the obverse, motivating players to increasingly barbed modes of verticality. By this I mean the players no longer matter, just the flows; the flow of sex, the flow of money, the flow of forms streaming relentlessly from the orifice of a collective dream.”
“Furthermore the capitalist locus is fractal, it's edges are a confusing blur between history and memories of a future that will never happen. As far as I’m concerned the program is combusting in the fires of flows. For those who care to look, it's pretty much gone.”
“Because of this there are vitalities within popular culture's consistency, even if it's forms are traditionally generated to service a decidedly capitalist framework. It's plasticity, primed to perfectly adapt to any exogenous force or threat, has the inadvertent effect of creating that threat like subversion born in tradition, a systemic glitch a la the real function of Zion in The Matrix Reloaded.”
“That's where I operate,” Sam pinpoints, “in that space between pop's capitalist edicts and it's explosive potential for more, in the place where cultural amnesias occur from the sheer intensity and frequency of pop's lurid spawn where the subject is blissfully, harrowingly free.”
“The negative here is obviously erasure, erasure of histories and ancestral memories which handout their own productive intensities, if these were but given breath and form.”
But I believe things like hurt, pain, and culture-deep woundings exist as flows too, and can return in the newness of pop, like spells against the toad-like colonial-squatter.”
“That's why I write fantasy and science fiction, because they are 'low brow' forms littered with ready made devices to bend, break, mend, replace, and generally braid into truer and truer visages. They help me dream away from the hygienic symmetries of prescriptive living, and into the open wound of the body as it is, as it thinks and feels and hungers before it adopts the colonial-capitalist rigours of self-management as instinct. In that sense, the existing devices of genre-fiction are like a grimoire, available to anyone who might wield their magics through a lens of an accumulated wisdom.”
“My stories often bring a sense of 'natural' re-enchantment and non-human intelligences which are opaquely aligned with ancestral storying of the land, using the given tools of genre writing to refashion these notions into contemporary ones.”
“Then there's the sex stuff,” Sam adds.
“The compulsive performance of the erotic in my work is both instinctive and deliberate. Instinctive in the sense that sex-feeling as a flow is potent, widely accessible, and perhaps like pop itself is a commons embedded in a multifarious web of colonial management which still reaches up and over, straining above the mores it finds itself constrained by.”
“Sex is future-minded. To be aroused is to feel tension between where you are in spacetime and an as yet virtual-assumption of a future encounter. It moves us through the cosmos with the blunt force of fate. It holds you to life's flow, absolutely. These tensions have historically been harnessed by consumerism whereby consumer objects (including objectified bodies) become the exclusive point of sexualised desire, secularising sex's flow and reducing cosmic-erotics to linear vectors of trade."
“This instrumentalisation of sex is entirely colonial, and I feel obligated to disrupt the regimen.”
“If I didn't write," Sam jokes but it's true, "I'd probably start a sex cult.”
"My designs are very much a reflection of myself: a piece born out of different cultures" Francoise Aroha Danoy on the Art of Knitting her identities together.
By Tayi Tibble
Franciose Aroha Danoy aka Frenchie is a 26 year old Franco-Māori, (Ngāti Porou) American-Australian artist currently living in Japan. Her primary medium is knitting and her designs are influenced by her Māori and mixed heritage. Francoise is a supporter of Toi Māori Arts and reached out to us about her mahi on Instagram and we are very glad she did! Her knitwear is incredible (there definitely must been some weavers in her ancestral line, lol). She also has a very big following (nearly 30k!). We talked about her designs, feelings of displacement and creating something new and beautiful from a mix of different cultures.
“I consider myself an artist, first and foremost, who uses knitting as the chosen medium to express myself, my stories, my values, and my culture,” Francoise says. “My designs draw influence from my Māori heritage, where I transform the myths, legends, and other stories into stitches and connect them to the story of why we make.”
Francoise says that her work aims to “remember the past and strengthen the future” while “enriching the present knitting community” by being a representative for the third-space generation.
"I find that my designs are very much a reflection of myself," Francoise says, "a piece born out of different cultures to create something new and beautiful."
She says her journey into her Māori heritage started the same time that she started knitting five years ago. "When I picked up the needles for the first time," she says, "I was hit with a vision of designing my own patterns that drew inspiration from my cultural heritage."
"The idea sort of freaked me out," she continues, "growing up in the United States and France, I had been somewhat disconnected from my mother’s culture."
"Of course, I knew some words and remember some stories, but compared to the connection I had to my French side, where I lived in France, speak French fluently, studied French in college, it was really sparse."
She says however, that her art opened the door for her to connect to a part of herself that she had always shut herself off to due to fear of "not being enough.”
"Growing up I was never considered enough. Living in the States, I wasn’t American because I talked with a funny accent. To my Australian cousins, I was not really Australian. And to the French, I was way too American to be French. "
She says this isn't the first time she has shared her experience of being a third-space person; the knitting community has been very receptive to her story. However this is the first time she has shared her experience and work with audience she has been avoiding for a long time.
She asks, "Would the Māori community keep me out too?"
"Since learning how to design and establishing myself as a designer, I have learned much about my ancestry and where I come from, with this most importantly: I am enough. While I have so much still left to learn, my desire to do so now isn’t out of a need to “prove my Māori-ness” but to enrich my life and, hopefully, empower the Māori community."
By Tayi Tibble
Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho is a takatāpui artist of Ngai Tuhoe, Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Kahungungu descent based in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, they also whakapapa to Samoa, Tahiti, Ireland, Scotland and Denmark. Their work is primarily influenced by their Māori whakapapa, takatāpui identity and political beliefs.
I can't recall if I first came across Huriana on Instagram or Twitter, but what I do know is that I very much enjoy following them on both.
Huriana's Twitter is very much politically conscious and radical. It's a valuable feed to follow if you want to be kept up to date on what's happening in Māori, Polynesian and LGBTQ activism espeically.
Huriana's Instagram feed is a vibrantly curated display of their art. There's a mix of recognizable pop culture figures and heavy political imagery. The colour palette ranges from bright pop-art neons all the way through to tino red, white and blacks.
On their website, Huriana says that they "are passionate about social justice and making the world a more fair and equitable place for indigenous people, transgender people, and other minority peoples."
Huriana was generous enough to share some of their more political and aching pieces with us, and tbh, there's not a lot to say about these pieces. Honestly they speak for themselves.
By essa may ranapiri
essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa | takatāpui they/them/theirs) is a poet from Kirikiriroa / either we smash capitalism or the planet does with us inside / they have been published widely throughout aotearoa and internationally / links to their other work can be found here: essawrites.wordpress.com / essa completed an MA in creative writing from the international institute of modern letters in 2017 /essa's first full poetry collection will be published by Victoria University Press in 2019.
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