At Treasure Island, a humanly made island in the San Francisco Bay, a performance troupe dressed in hazmat suits articulate gestures that resemble toxic remediation. As they become more attuned to the site and to its history and ecology, enigmatic presences infiltrate their spacetime. Are they from the past, the present, or the future? What is the significance of their sudden arrival? What happens when historical and geological eras converge?
Meanwhile, elsewhere, various earth scientists at sites around the globe search for the “golden spike”: a telltale geologic marker that synchronously indicates a definitive time change in the strata—a change from the Holocene epoch to the Anthropocene. Within their data is Earth’s biography, but how is humanity insinuated within this chronology?
Throughout Presence, encounter and contact are the major elements of consequence, action, implication, and resounding significance. Encounter and contact between timeframes, cultures, ecologies, persons, intuitions, ways of living, and worlding. At these junctures are the moments of possibility—of violence and/or of budding community.
Here is a completely unique, genre-defying, anti-apocalypse story. It is sprawling in scope, pushing the limits of language and narrative to imagine futures beyond our wildest dreams. Iijima is both a poet and a theorist of our frightening yet fascinating contemporary condition—and she does justice to our capacity to change and discover new ways of being in the world.
—Elvia Wilk, author of Death by Landscape
Stories of a devastated multiverse, told across scales and spaces. Presence
is a speculative novel soaked in ecological theory and full of the ‘amphibious dayglow mushrooming creatureliness’ that makes it fizz.
—Daisy Hildyard, author of The Second Body
A brainy and marvelous meditation on time and trauma, Presence
tells the story of an alien invasion in which the others in our midst are not from another planet but from another time. Just as these beings are caught between temporal zones, Brenda Iijima’s vibrant novel also lives within multiple crossings and layers, emerging from the interstices of ecopoetics, performance art, philosophy, geological science, and social justice to boldly make contact with pasts, presents, and futures both familiar and imagined. A breathtakingly epic project.
—Megan Milks, author of Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body
Equal parts modern myth, warning, prophecy, amplification, dream, reckoning, and rebalancing, Presence
is more than an invitation to be present, but an invitation to embody all presents simultaneously, to shape-shift at all levels, and awaken into the fact that the past of our future is the present, and our presence is what will ultimately change everything. Iijima is a prophetic, attuned, ultra-aware writer. This novel doesn’t simply speculate on the future, it expands the present moment into a profound spaciousness where understanding at its deepest level is itself taken apart and re-photosynthesized. What is everything we are connected to? And what is everything we have lost, continue to lose? The novel tells us: 'We are splintered fragments of a larger whole that is undergoing a vast metamorphosis,' and the text indeed reflects as one jewel of Indra’s net that reflects every possible reality and also very specifically this one, one in which we survive catastrophe to find that joy and desire yet coexist in the cracks of our judgments and fears. Presence
is aware of time as kaleidoscopic, waveform, and like any great work of art should, this text will rearrange every atom in your being until you, too, evaporate and become air for bodies to breathe or soil for plants to root in.
—Janice Lee, author of Separation Anxiety
Witness: a brilliant deluge of a novel in Brenda Iijima’s Presence
, which maps traces—geologically, psychically, radioisotopically—of the human presence on this planet and the havoc we’ve wreaked. A multitude of voices (performance artists, biochemists, geologists, a naval conscript, etc.) form a chorus singing of our natural abundance and yet warning like Cassandra of the peril to come. This is sprawling wonder of a book collapses so many boundaries: plot is as literal as the soil from which plants grow, all life is sourced, and is consecrated in a scene worthy of Lispector.
—Anne K. Yoder, author of The Enhancers
Brenda Iijima in Presence
investigates the ghostly peninsulas of psychic crime. She invigors a chirality that measures itself via measures of psychic wisdom that spins off and creatively measures the settler’s psyche as it attempts to stun by means of an ersatz parallel blinding dominated as it is by chronic mental foreshortening fomented by the dazzling vapor that issues from Iijima's penetrant insight.
—Will Alexander, author of The Coming Mental Range
There are so many riveting sentences here. Some are recorded in post-apocalyptic communal ledgers, some are messages from spiders, soil samples, and plants, and some are spoken by a troupe of site-specific performers in hazmat suits. ‘We are desirous of we.’ These are sentences to hold on closely. Everything converges on the Bay Area’s radiated landfill site called Treasure Island, a geologically uncanny place of Indigenous, military, scientific, and artistic thrumming. Hold on as Iijima’s Presence
takes you through ‘splintered fragments of a larger whole that is undergoing a vast metamorphosis.’ Hold on to these stories that present new rhythms of terrestrial solidarity.
—Joshua Schuster, author of What Is Extinction?
With hypersensitive attunement to interbeing, Brenda Iijima’s Presence is a vitally necessary vision. Amidst the harsh realities of existence on a devastated planet, its polygendered residents cultivate communal pleasures of mutuality and empathy. Its characters speak as We, engendering alternative biomes and new forms of kinship. Their society finds ways of flourishing, like mutant flowers blooming from the toxic ruins of Chernobyl.
Strangely and wondrously, Iijima's characters develop new perceptual abilities, as if around a phantom limb of extinction. They express themselves telepathically. They sensually forage. They commune with extinct mosses and flowers. They touch light. They cultivate synaesthesiac intensities.
As temporal tectonic plates shift and collide, mysterious beings appear in each other’s dimensions. The past and its afterlives vividly penetrate the present, and the futures that will emerge from them. Multiple temporalities overlap and time exists as an infinite present, demonstrating that we cannot escape the reverberations of the past, and therefore our present, our presence, matters.
—Marianne Shaneen, author of Lucent Amnesis