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Roger Keen on Metacrime and Metahorror

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

My colleagues at Darkness Visible have conducted this with interview with me, concentrating on the metafictional aspects of Literary Stalker and also touching on the broader aspects of ‘self-knowing’ fictionality in film and literature, citing some of my favourite examples:


 

Roger’s new novel Literary Stalker is a psychological crime thriller with horror overtones, but it’s also metafictional – that is, it has self-awareness about its fictionality – and Roger has used the terms ‘metacrime’ and ‘metahorror’ to describe this tendency within the genres the novel occupies. So, we thought we’d ask him explain a little bit more deeply about what he means, and give us some other examples.

Darkness Visible: Literary Stalker involves Nick, a writer who is composing a novel about revenge murders. Is it this layering of novels-within-novels that gives rise to the meta dimension you talk about? And how is this different from a novel taking place in the real world, as oppose to a fantasy, for example?

Roger: Yes, the layering is part of it, certainly, but only one aspect. And Nick indeed does inhabit the ‘real world’, but that ‘reality’ is constantly being called into question by what he does and thinks. As an ‘unreliable narrator’ Nick is in a league of his own! He’s writing his novel – The Facebook Murders – where the characters are effectively his real enemies (he even keeps the same names for the purposes of a first draft), and he gets his alter ego narrator, Jago, to murder them in stylised ways, as in the movie Theatre of Blood.

So his novel is a projection of his wishes, a realisation of the revenge he desires in real life. And as the story progresses, the lines blur, fiction and reality interchange, as Nick is progressively ‘taken over’ by his novel. Which is a very ‘horror’ idea, but because it’s ‘psychological’ rather than ‘supernatural’, it still retains ‘real world’ integrity – at least for most of the time. But throughout there are these ‘nudge-wink’ moments, and towards the end the metafictional undermining and rug-pulling gets stronger, till the twists at the climax which leave you wondering what exactly is ‘real’ and what isn’t.

Read more on Medium.

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Roger Keen Interview: “I find the best kind of inspiration comes from unexpected things”

October 27, 2017 Leave a comment

Huge thank you to Hannah of The Dorset Book Detective for interviewing me about my writing and some of the ideas surrounding Literary Stalker.

The Dorset Book Detective

Roger Keen Author PicRoger Keen, filmmaker and psychological thriller writer, discusses his work and the influences behind it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards writing thrillers?

When I started writing, I was initially drawn to literary fiction, particularly American countercultural writers such as Kerouac, Burroughs, Henry Miller and Richard Brautigan. But I also liked classic crime and noirish fiction, ranging from Poe and Conan Doyle to Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell. Later, I decided to write dark horror-type short stories, because there was a market for them in small press magazines, and literary stories were harder to place. The types of stories I liked to write were more psychological rather than supernatural, and more rooted in the real world than in the realms of Gothic fantasy. I was always interested in aberrant psychology and read about it widely, including true crime books…

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Literary Stalker, a Novel by Roger Keen

Literary Stalker CoverThree years ago, in the autumn of 2014 – and extending into 2015 – I experienced a kind of creative fugue, which resulted in my entire ‘novelistic memoir’ approach to past, present and future extended works being rebased as pure fiction – but of the metafictional kind. As a result, Literary Stalker – an old idea from the 1990s – got a new lease of life, and The Empty Chair, my next intended novelistic memoir, got recalled to the workshop.

As a psychological crime/horror novel, Literary Stalker would seem a large and radical departure from that novelistic memoir direction, and in some ways it is, but not in others. I did write psychologically-orientated crime, horror, fantasy and noir fiction back in the ’90s, having short stories published in various (now largely forgotten) small press magazines such as Psychotrope, Threads, Sierra Heaven and others with similarly freakish names. I also wrote two or three novels running along the same lines, which never saw the light of day, though one came close. This whole authorial thrust petered out in the late ’90s, and though I continued writing articles and reviews concerning weird and genre fiction and film, I lost the inspiration for actually creating such fiction myself. Instead, amongst other projects, I pressed on with more versions of the semi-autobiographical novels that would eventually be (almost!) de-fictionalised as The Mad Artist and The Empty Chair.

Though nominally a memoir, my previous book, The Mad Artist, is based as much on my attempts to turn its material into novels as it is on the events – the psychonautic adventures – themselves. That’s what gave me the incentive to write it in the form that I eventually chose – a self-begetting narrative with nested versions of itself and strong metafictional overtones. The Empty Chair also follows in that direction, but is taken much, much further. My creative journey of September 2015 onwards involved applying these same techniques to a piece of actual made-up fiction rather than assemblages of autobiography. And the ‘Literary Stalker’ project, which came from my horror-writing days of the ’90s, proved an ideal vehicle.

What made the idea work, content-wise, was my rediscovery and multiple re-watching of a favourite hoary old horror movie of the 1970s: Theatre of Blood, staring Vincent Price as the deranged Shakespearian actor Edward Lionheart, who compiles a hit list of the critics who’ve given him bad reviews and then murders each one in a different theatrical setting taken from a Shakespeare play. My idea was to make Literary Stalker a pastiche of Theatre of Blood, where the narrator, Nick Chatterton, uses the plots of classic crime and horror films as the templates for the revenge murders of his enemies. But he’s not actually committing these murders, he is writing them up in his novel The Facebook Murders, and the story of Literary Stalker is the story of the composition of that novel-within-a-novel.

The Facebook murders are actually being committed by Jago Farrar, Nick’s alter ego and narrator, and Jago himself is writing a novel – Social Media Avenger – based on his murders, which is narrated by Miles Hunniford…Etcetera! This might remind you of the wonderful model village in Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds, which contains a model of itself, and a model of the model, and a model of the model of the model. And indeed it’s also like that sublime movie Synedoche New York, about an autobiographical playwright who gets to workshop his own life story, eventually needing to dramatise the workshopping itself, and then to dramatise the dramatisation of the workshopping, and so on infinitely, with actors playing actors playing actors…

So, in a sense Literary Stalker marks the completion of a circle or loop or Möbius strip between my old ’90s horror/crime work and the later meta-memoir tendency. The narrator, Nick Chatterton, is gay – for reasons which become clear as the novel progresses – and his creation was something of a challenge for a straight author…but that’s another story. I will be penning more pieces – and perhaps making some films – about the gay, homicidal and metafictional aspects of the work, so stay tuned.

More details about Literary Stalker can be found on the publisher site here: Darkness Visible.

An excellent review by Noel Megahey appears here on The Digital Fix: Geek Life.

It is available as a paperback and on Kindle in the UK here: Amazon.co.uk

And in the United States here: Amazon.com. Also on other Amazons worldwide.

The Cult of the Novel

A Literary Context For Contemporary Entheogenic Visionary Experience

What do you do if you’ve undergone a profound, like-changing mystical revelation and you want to articulate it in a way that’s workable, comprehensible and will make people take you seriously and not simply dismiss you as a headcase? Unless you already have an appropriate platform in place, it’s not an easy one. Within evangelical churches, most everybody is a visionary and their visions have a uniformity of focus and topic. Outside of such accepted institutionalised frameworks, highly vocal ‘visionaries’, perhaps infected with manic zeal—that certainty that the whole outside world must be automatically tuned into your special wavelength—and publicly acting out accordingly, might well find themselves being dealt with under the Mental Health Act. Labelling religious zealots as ‘lunatics’ has proved doubly convenient for societies throughout the ages, since the visions can be written off as ravings and the subjects can, if needs be, contained through incarceration, medication or both. And if the visions happen to be drug induced, then this is an even greater reason for their rejection by the world at large.

In the autumn of 1979 I underwent a three-week epiphany, an elevation into a higher, cosmically connected visionary space as a result of two medium-dose psilocybin mushroom trips taken close together. I imposed a Zen Buddhist, neoshamanistic context on the experience, as they were my preoccupations at the time. So in those terms I had achieved satori, become enlightened, attained a foothold in Ultimate Reality, which was the same as ordinary reality since the Cosmos had become an undifferentiated whole. In a more conventionally religious context, I could be said to have ‘found God’. Looking at the state from a psychological perspective, it was anything but ‘psychotic’, in fact quite the opposite, being super-connected, high functioning, exuberant, ecstatic. In this it had something in common with mania and hypomania, though it never tipped into the delusion, irrationality and destructive behaviour that often accompany true bipolar disorder. Though I was extraordinarily, superlatively high—‘on top of the world’—I hadn’t relinquished the frame of my ordinary life and in myself I felt basically healthy. Read more…

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