In 1970, at the age of twenty-five, Shulamith Firestone wrote and published The Dialectic of Sex, immediately becoming a classic of second wave feminism across the world to this very day. It was one of the few books that dared to look at how radical feminism could and should shape the future; and one whose predictions (the cybernetic revolution, for example) proved startlingly prescient of issues today.
Published by Semiotext(e) in 1998, Airless Spaces, Firestone’s first work of fiction, is a collection of short stories written by Firestone as she found herself drifting from the professional career path she’d been on and into what she describes as a new “airless space.” These deadpan stories, set among the disappeared and darkened sectors of New York City, are about losers who fall prey to an increasingly bureaucratized poverty and find themselves in an out of (mental) hospitals. But what gives characters such as SCUM-Manifesto author Valerie Solanas their depth and charge, is their the small crises that trigger an awareness that they’re in trouble. Some time later, after I had moved to St. Mark’s Place, I saw Valerie in the street. She asked me for a quarter, and I saw that she was begging. She had lost her apartment, and presumably her welfare. Later, a friend of mine who ran a store on St. Mark’s Place said that Valerie had approached him for shelter. She was covered with sores, and wearing only a blanket to beg in. She had been out on the street approximately three months without shelter. Not long after that, she disappeared from the street entirely.