In The Diary of Anna Comnena, or The Very Political Adventures of a Transgender Byzantine Princess in African Elevators, Zamler-Carhart impersonates the 12th-century Byzantine princess and historian Anna Comnena as she comes out as trans and tries to write her father’s imperial biography, The Alexiad, while in exile in contemporary West Africa.
Outside the Empire, categories become fluid and elevators stop on strange floors. Prose slips into graphic poetry, medieval Christianity into mystical Sahelian Islam, Byzantine chronicles into erotic gore anime. Anna’s first-person diary careens down a series of sinister African elevators and intersectional magic spaces. She is an outcast of the Empire but also a product of it, exploring the dynamics of contemporary African textile production, vernacular theatre, animal husbandry, jihad, urban design, television, and coin metallurgy from the perspective of a 12th-century trans Byzantine engineer.
The Diary of Anna Comnena initially adopts the same Empire-centric perspective as the historical Alexiad, but the dystopian confrontation with African reality forces Anna to reflect on what it means for her to be specifically in Africa, and not just in a generic outside space. Together with the author’s previous work, The Diary of Anna Comnena forms a gelatinous ongoing treatise where seriousness is an emerging property, and the distinction between speculative fiction, design theory, and political philosophy is probably just matter of scale.