A few hours after posting about a feeling of resonance I’ve been missing from stories, I realized: I know a term for that!

The word is ترحيل (tarhiil), which is Arabic and has dictionary definitions of ‘expulsion’, ‘transference’ and ‘resettlement’. I first came across it in in the context of Middle Eastern music, where it was used for the act of drawing on feelings, memories, impressions and using your artistry to transfer those internal experiences into an external form. The aim is both catharsis for the artist and emotional resonance for witnesses (“Someone else gets it!”). In an ensemble performance, tarhiil can be equally important between the artists performing as well as between the artists and the audience.

Tarhiil has always been the important feature of art (stories and otherwise) for me. It strikes me as the major reason to need creative work: to work through, purge, capture, and share the things we go through which other people don’t seem to “get”. Art where I don’t experience tarhiil tends to alienate me. Which, I guess, explains the alienation I’ve been feeling lately in what I’ve been reading.

In all fairness, I don’t think most modern spec-fic writers are aiming for tarhiil. That is certainly their prerogative. I think a lot of people are perfectly happy for their stories to be a self-aware game of blending or upending tropes, or a discourse of ideas. Or maybe there’s something about the fact that I, and many of the particular people I read and engage about writing, have spent a lot of time in academia. Which encourages distance between you and the text – being critical, intertextual, meta. Not exactly conducive to connecting with the emotional core of things.