Queers in Love at the End of the World

Prompts Against Anxiety #34 | from Milwaukee-based writer CJ Scruton. A PhD candidate in literature and cultural theory at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, they are a founding member of the Milwaukee Queer Writing Project.

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In some ways, this is a prompt towards anxiety. As a basis for this prompt, I’m referencing Anna Anthropy’s beautiful text-based video game Queers in Love at the End of the World, which you can access and play here. You can still follow the prompt directions below if you can’t access the game or don’t want to play it right now! Without explaining too much, it’s a game set in the final moments before an apocalypse: no matter what decisions you make in those 10 seconds, the beginning and ending are always the same.
 
So much anxiety lives in this space: not just envisioning a worst-case scenario, but cycling through all the many imagined ways we could arrive there, all the ways a new worst case could appear once we’ve narrowly avoided the old one. There’s something peaceful about Queers in Love, though, a sense that if we wiped out all the uncertain dread of those spirals, the sense that surely we’ve gone wrong somewhere, we would have nothing but possibilities. Anxiety is so much a physiological impulse and reaction, and one that seems beyond our control much of the time. Anthropy gives us back some control by giving us so many options for other ways we can interact with our bodies and thoughts, even in the worst circumstances.
 
So for this prompt, I’m asking you to write some thought spirals with me. Maybe we can use them to give voice to anxieties we didn’t want to confront. Or maybe we can remind ourselves of all the scenarios that could turn out well for us.

STEP ONE: Write a first line that reflects a desire: something you want, someone you like, a feeling you chase or often wish to come back to. (These lines can turn into a poem, story, essay, song, whatever you feel like working on.)
 
STEP TWO: Write a last line that transforms the object of desire, or the desire itself. Maybe you lose it. Maybe you keep it but it looks different. Maybe the object isn’t even the same one as you first imagined. What are you afraid will happen to it? What are you afraid won’t happen to it?
 
This last line might be best- or worst-case scenario, or something in between, depending on what you need right now. Follow your gut.
 
STEP THREE: Spend some time playing and exploring all the many options of Queers in Love at the End of the World. Sit with how all the possibilities unfold from each other, and coexist.
 
STEP FOUR: Write at least three distinctly different drafts that move from your first line to your last line. What happens? What do you do with that time you’re giving yourself? What seems important?
 
Looking back at the options, why do you think they unfolded as they did? How did their differences manifest?  Do you want to tell this as three separate stories, or do you want to blend them together? What possibilities were eventually created that you didn’t think of in your first attempt at connecting beginning and end?

Prompts Against Anxiety is sponsored by Milwaukee Public Library, an anchor institution that helps patrons read, learn, and connect—to our resources and our community. Now more than ever, stay connected, stay home, and stay safe. 
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