But Wait, There’s Still MorePart of why Negative Capability works for me is because I discovered it by accident and have always had the ability to keep contradictory ideas in my head at the same time. The fact that I didn't discover the deeper meaning until well after my first issue came out is probably more fate than chance, if you believe in that sort of thing. I remember back when I discovered the original meaning I e-mailed the copy to myself to use someday. Well that some day is today.
John Keats on “Negative Capability”
Keats thought of the artist's proper relationship to the external world as essentially passive, and his role as that of an onlooker. Where for the neoclassic poets, the word “poet” meant “maker” (as it did in Greek), for Keats the poet's ability to see and feel is more essential. In his letter of December 21, 1817, to his brothers, he identifies one of Shakespeare's qualities as, “Negative Capability”—“that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason”—and goes on to cite Coleridge as one who “would let go a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge,” which is perhaps a little unfair to Coleridge. Nevertheless, the distinction he is making is important. The most obvious example from his own poems is “On Looking into Chapman's Homer,” where “stout Cortez” and all his men, seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time, look at each other with a “wild surmise,” but stand silent. Likewise, when Porphyro finally creeps out of his hiding place in Madeline's chamber (in “The Eve of St. Agnes”), he does not take action but instead does everything he can to prolong the anticipation of her waking.
When I did my audiozine [now available as a free download] I recorded some of the unused titles I came up with for the zine. The last track of OCDs that I did was for the name Negative Capability and I have decided you can hear me explain the name by clicking here.
But Jøsh, what does it mean to you? I will tell you later but first click here to see what Wikipedia has to say about it.
To demonstrate how my mind works I would like to show you the thread that connects my zine to its inspiration, a zine from the 90s called XYY. I have written about that zine before but I discovered zines when I picked up a copy of XYY in a record shop in Westchester, NY. I thought it was a cool, funny and original magazine but it had all kinds of weird stuff that felt out of place. At the time I heard heard about XYYs from my interest in serial killers. As you should know, you get the XX chromosome from your mom and if you get an XY from your dad, then you are born a boy. If the sperm is XX, you are a gril. Now I don't know how this relates to people that are trans or non-binary but in the course of my research, I learned about some men who were born with XYY genes. XYY syndrome occurs randomly when a sperm is developing. There aren't a lot of symptoms and most people that have XYY syndrome are unaware of it. There was a school of thought that theorized that people with the syndrome would be taller, stronger and have acne. Some scientists postulated that serial killers or anti-social, hyper-masculine people would be more prone to anti-social behavior or violence. No real evidence was found but it was a stereotype that persisted.
I became friends with John Kelly, the creator of XYY and he told me that he liked the simplicity of the name and that it was open to interpretation. Sometimes in my head I see it as YYZ, which is the airport code for Pearson Airport in Toronto and it is also the name of a famous instrumental by the band Rush. They would usually play it towards the end of the set and it reminded them of going home because they are from the Toronto area.
So John Kelly did a zine that references people with XYY syndrome. His approach to doing a zine (be honest, be funny and don't do the same thing twice) helped me figure out how to do mine. I got the name of my zine from the movie Alien3, the directorial debut of David Fincher. The premise of Alien3 is that Ripley's escape pod from Aliens crashes on a prison planet called Fiorina "Fury" 161 that serves as a mineral ore refinery. The men who are serving time there are murderers, rapists and other maximum security prisoners. The prisoners are said to have XYY syndrome, which makes them unsuitable for parole, so being sent to this prison planet is the last stop in a criminals life.
I was inspired to make a zine by the zine XYY and I was inspired to choose the name Negative Capability from the movie Alien3, which features a cast of people who have XYY syndrome.