Guest Post: ‘Light sticks’ | implements for generating sparks or flame

Reviewing the archives this weekend, I’m looking to bring some life back to old guest posts here at DK, and today, I’m resharing an old post about ‘intrigue.’


Breakout groups at DK’s event, ‘The State of Publishing’ / Photo by Dipika Kohli, Durham NC 2012


This is how it happened. Like always, when I have a question about something, I reach out to my friends and acquaintances who’d have a fresh angle on it, and a current one, too. I loved The State of Publishing, for example, back in Durham NC (see pic above). It was me inviting everyone I knew in publishing and all the social media contacts from twitter, mostly, in those days, that could potentially be interested in an open format dialogue on the topic. ‘What is the state of publishing, right now?’ People I hadn’t seen for 10 years were there, people who worked in newspapers, magazines, as artists and photographers, writers, and editors. The cool part was just seeing it come into shape. This jam is the best part. Experientially learning, across all walks of life.


What is intrigue?

I had asked a few friends to comment on this topic, of ‘Intrigue,’ way back in the days before I had a zine. I asked a free jazz musician from Oslo. I asked a couple of my then-acquaintances in Phnom Penh. One of them answered with the essay below.

Making this exact quailty of S P A C E continues, but in a new way. Now it’s a weekly, that we make with others more regularly to design virtually, and to co-create, with Atelier S P A C E. The collaboration is the jam, now, much more than the substance of the things we say when we meet, talk, discover, and converse.


My first conversation salon in Phnom Penh was ‘Origin,’ way back in the days I just got here. This is a photo from that time / Akira Morita, Phnom Penh 2014



The guest post was published in January, 2016.

Here’s the original post.

TODAY, A GUEST POST from Eric Chuk, who took me up on my challenge to write an answer to the question, ‘What is intrigue?’ 

This originally appeared in the final issue of the INTRIGUE sequence in our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.


Light sticks

By Eric Chuk

A MATCHSTICK IS COMMONLY composed of a small piece of wood and an ignitable coating at one end. When struck against a suitable surface, heat generated by friction causes the coated end to catch afire.

This simple mechanism is actually the result of centuries of development, not counting the preceding usage of flint and steel or the later advent of portable lighters. These implements for generating sparks or flame make it easy to focus on the accomplishment — the activities that require a greater source of light or heat than a match. The substrate itself is often overlooked.

Yet ‘what is to give light must endure burning.’ If ignition can be a metaphor for all that inspire and impels, why not the kinds of things can be burned? Why praise the fire of creativity but not its fuel, intrigue?

By some considerations, artistic activity depends on creativity as the energy that sustains it, and intrigue is thought of more as the spark. But to define intrigue as a momentary thing, bright but so quickly expended, is to ignore the need to sustain attention even after the original impetus is gone.

What makes a story?

AS AN EDITOR and writer, I am especially intrigued by the following—one is a technique while the other is an open question about the nature of storytelling.

In writing, the technique of ‘showing,’ or describing using concrete facts, is known to be more effective than ‘telling,’ which is to rely heavily on adjectives and adverbs.

Of course there is subjectivity in all writing, even so-called factual writing, because writers choose which facts to include and thereby bend them to their purpose. So this implies that given a representative, well-sourced collection of facts and subjective observations, the reader is supplied with enough fuel to be intrigued, to read and form an opinion about the issue or the writing itself.

What makes a story? It is the difference between hearing that ‘the king died, and then the queen died’ versus ‘the king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ as explained by the novelist E.M. Forster. Although he calls the former a story (chronological sequence of events) and the latter a plot (causal, logical structure connecting events), the point remains–causality is intriguing, but more specifically, cases of human actions or occurrences causing a significant and relatable effect on some world-state.

I would say that grief, although a specific emotional implication in this example, can be generalized as the matchstick that begins to burn once we think about the relationship between the story characters and the people in our own lives who mirror them.But regardless of whether matches or sparks deserve further contemplation, my hope is to have outlined intrigue in terms that might lead to an even more universal definition; it is a force that focuses imaginative attention, not only on whatever is at hand but also toward vistas we have never before reached, with distant campfires waiting to be lit.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.