Stephen King and the Construction of Authorship

as a Mass-Mediated Practice


Despoina N. Feleki

A dissertation submitted to the Department of American Literature and Culture, School of English, Faculty of Philosophy,

in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki


July 2015

Dissertation Committee: Approved

Tatiani G. Rapatzikou, Adviser ______

Michalis Kokonis, Co-Adviser ______

Domna Pastourmatzi, Co-Adviser ______


Abstract ______v

Acknowledgements ______vii




Chapter One: Literary Traditions Re-visited and Contemporary Gothic

Shifts ______3

1.1 Re-positioning the Gothic in ’s Lisey’s Story ______4

1.2 Textual Explorations and the Physicality of the Written Text in

Duma Key ______34

Chapter Two: Re-inventing the Narrative Process ______51

2.1 Media Perspectives and Remediated Writing Forms: Polyglot

Narration in ______52

2.2 The Visual versus the Media Turn in Duma Key and in Lisey’s Story __ 76



Chapter Three: New Literary Landscapes for Stephen King ______89

3.1 New Media and Literary Convergences: Stephen King’s Ventures

on Digitality ______90

3.2 Re-mapping the Literary Landscape: The Case of ______104

3.3 E- Space as Remediation of the Printed Page: StephenKing.com _____ 119

Chapter Four: The Digital Experience: Discordia ______141

4.1 Stephen King’s New Paradigm: Discordia between Narratology

and Cinematography ______142

4.2 The Discordia Computer Experience at the Intersection of

Multiple Practices ______152

4.3 Discordia: A Multi-Sensory Experience for Gamers ______173




Chapter Five: Stephen King’s Popular Digital Production______189

5.1 Stephen King’s Experimentation within Popular Culture ______190

5.2 Stephen King’s Pop as a Commodity and a New Cultural Space _____ 208

5.3 New Relations Arising – A New Consumer Consciousness ______220

Chapter Six: Popular Authorship Reconfigured ______237

6.1 Repositioning the Author: Stephen King’s Authorial Persona

in New Media Culture ______238

6.2 Authorship on the Move and Stephen King as Brand: “King’s Empire” 253

EPILOGUE ______265

Works Cited ______272

Biographical Note ______288


This dissertation undertakes to investigate the connections between textuality and technology within wider literary and socio-cultural contexts. explores the various implications of a constantly mutating media culture with regard to Stephen King’s twenty- first century popular production, which flourishes both in print and in electronic environments. For this reason, it studies the literary and technological convergences that have emerged from the digital revolution in the late twentieth century.

In an effort to revise traditional theories of horror writing, I highlight King’s literary departures and media shifts that have contributed to the re-invention of his writing craft. My project examines the diverse effects of King’s media turn and reading practices as well as on authorial roles and intentions. Focusing on the potentials and constraints of electronic media and their interconnection with the content and form of King’s fictional works, I explore the different types of relationships that bind King’s authorial team and active audiences in the formation of an amplified literary experience within the context of present participatory culture and under the pressures of an insatiable entertainment industry.

Then, I undertake to shed light on the latest marketing practices of the book and entertainment industries (with regard to King’s production) in favor of new transmedia franchises and the creation of a new consumer consciousness.

In this dissertation, I focus on a selection of King’s printed novels and novellas of the twenty-first century, such as Lisey’s Story (2006), Duma Key (2008), and Ur (2009). I also examine Discordia (2009), King’s online interactive computer experience, as well as other electronic projects King creates for his readers on his official website

(StephenKing.com). I aim at explaining the dynamic relations that arise and the new possibilities that open up with King’s authorial practices and his oscillation among different expressive modes and writing textualities. I depend on Narratology, New Media and

Videogame Studies, Cinematography, Popular Culture, and Marketing Studies for the formation of an enhanced literary theoretical context. My intention is to facilitate the understanding among different disciplines and to contribute to a constructive dialogue among variable discourses, regarding popular fiction, the popular writer, and his constant readers in an electronically-mediated world.


During the years I have spent working on this dissertation I have been employed as an English educator in Greek Primary and Secondary Education and have offered my assistance in the teaching of undergraduate courses in the School of

English, in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) in Greece. My teaching in all levels of Education and the interdisciplinarity of my research interests have contributed to the development of this doctoral project.

I am grateful to all my teachers and colleagues who have commented on this work and challenged my ideas. They have contributed to my understanding of the ever-evolving new media culture and helped me formulate my arguments. First and foremost, I would like to thank my Ph.D. and M.A. supervisor Dr. Tatiani G.

Rapatzikou for showing me the way. The support and inspiration she has offered open-handedly all these years have helped me immensely. I am thankful to Dr.

Michalis Kokonis for his presence and constructive interventions in all the “Research

Day” events organized by the School of English, AUTh, as well as to Dr. Domna

Pastourmatzi for her constructive comments.

Professor Michael Joyce deserves special mention. My ideas on Authorship in electronic textualities began taking shape when he honored our School with his presence in Fall 2010. Thanks to Brian Stark, the graphics designer and active member of Stephen King's authorial team, who has helped me understand the intricate workings in King's fictional and real-life world. I am also thankful to the

Administrators of King's Message Board for their immediate responses to my questions and requests. Early versions of the sections “Stephen King’s New Paradigm: Discordia between Narratology and Cinematography” and “The Discordia Computer

Experience at the Intersection of Multiple Practices” appear in Writing Technologies, the online journal of the Nottingham Trent University. The main ideas that are expressed in Chapter Five have been based on my essay contribution to the Special

Issue of Authorship Journal of Gent University. Many thanks to all the editors whose guidance and tips have also helped shape this doctoral dissertation.

How can I forget all the members of our Multi-Modal Group for their cheerful support and feedback? Knowing they were there has meant a lot.

The greatest thank you is for my loving husband Dejan, who has always stood by me and never stopped believing.

I also want to thank my dearest children and Nick, who have waited patiently and hugged most affectionately. Soon they will understand.

Last but not least, I want to thank my parents who have supported me in every way possible. Their love has meant the world to me.

Feleki ix


The intrusion of computational technologies in the infrastructure of developed

Western societies has led to the digitization of all types of information. We detect the staggering increase of human interaction with electronic media that are used as vehicles for access and distribution of diverse media content. Also, noteworthy is the increasing tendency towards active participation in the creation and distribution of this new media content. Bearing in mind these developments, this dissertation commences an investigation into the technological, literary, and cultural intricacies that have affected the recent writing endeavors and commercial policies of Stephen King, the hugely popular American horror writer. By using as primary sources several of his popular works that have been published after the turn of the twenty-first century, I undertake the task to theorize about the irreversible effects of the new media revolution on popular fiction writing as well as on the writing and reading practices carried out by the writer and his audience respectively.

The updated entry in the fourth edition of The Concise Oxford Companion to

English Literature under the name of Stephen King writes:

American horror and fantasy writer, born in Maine, the location for much of his

fiction. Initially, after (1974), he wrote as —a clash of

identities exploited in (1989). In (1978; as by

Marvel Comics 2008–) he shows ordinary Americans in physical and metaphysical

confrontation; other themes include relationships between writers and audiences

(, 1987), and childhood friendships (, 1982, filmed as Stand by Me,

1986) [ . . . ]. King has subsequently published some works solely in digital format,

for example (2000, serialized online) and Ur (2009, for Amazon Kindle

e-book reader). (385) Feleki x

By choosing to move beyond conventional categorizations of King as a horror and fantasy writer, I examine King‘s works and media presence from the turn of the twenty-first century onwards and argue that his experimentations with literary traditions and writing formats both in print and in online environments account for his redefinition as a writer as well as for the re-invention of his craft. They can also explain his immense popularity. By approaching his writing technique from a completely new perspective, my aim is to highlight the need for a transition from a conventional theory of popular fiction writing to a technologically-and-culturally-informed one and mark out the terrain where a fruitful dialogue between different discourses can commence.

Henry Jenkins is the media theorist who has been studying the multiple effects of new media on contemporary popular culture and its participating agents (producers and consumers of media content). In Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture:

Media Education for the 21st Century (2009), Jenkins defines participatory culture as one

―with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices. In a participatory culture, members also believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another‖ (xi). His words summarize the essence of a new electronic culture that credits its members as active participants in education and in other novel experiences, such as the creation and dissemination of information and artistic expression.

Concerning literary developments, the challenges of the electronic era have resulted in a sea of changes in authorial practices. A new writing reality has sprung from the new roles allocated to writers and readers of diverse texts. In turn, literary texts are defined by the specificities of the certain technology that carries them and are affected by the materiality of the medium of expression. Thus, authors have to adjust their narrative Feleki xi structures and schemata accordingly. Words and images, appearing on new writing spaces, acquire new meanings that leap out of complex interrelations. As the importance of readers is re-discovered through the participatory roles that are assigned to them, all three mediating parts, writers, readers, and texts make up a new powerful unity, affected by and affecting a new media culture that is departing from traditional formations.

The side effects of this digital saturation have created the need for a re-positioning in recent popular cultural studies. By espousing the term popular, this research project accepts two dominant interpretations and aims to underscore its latest manifestations. On the one hand, popular is connected with folk power and stories that emphasize the power of people to create literature for people. As such, the term popular acquires new extensions and adaptations within present participatory culture that allows the shift of focus from readers‘ reception of literature and art to their active participation in them. On the other hand, popular connotes mass-consumption, corporatized profit, and standardization as a result of technological dominance. As I argue, it is determined by the powerful corporations of brand that credit commercial profit as the primary variable that drives the production of popular cultural products.

The diversification in the means of enunciation, production, and dissemination after the introduction of film, television, video, and, lately, new media technologies have promoted cultural plurality and the democratization of products, bringing them closer to the recipients. The free flow of online information has democratized the social media and has eradicated all barriers. This has led to a new consumer consciousness, which book and entertainment industries have hoped to formulate and manipulate. In the new media culture, control over cultural spaces has meant the re-location of power among traditions, genres, and technologies; as a result, new correlations, hierarchies, and structures characterize institutions, education, and entertainment industries. Thus there is a need to re-direct literary Feleki xii and cultural studies and to redefine the role of the author and the reader in contemporary

Western culture in order to fully appreciate the consequences of an already maturing electronic age.

The origins of a media turn in literary studies can be traced in the early 1960s to

Theodor H. Nelson‘s Xenadu Project, which proposed the creation of a storage system that could support the ―‗true‘ structure of texts‖ being all part of a ―[l]iterature [that is seen as] an ongoing system of interconnecting documents‖ (―Proposal for a Universal Electronic

Publishing System and Archive‖ 445). Nelson explains how ―[l]inkage structure between documents forms a flux of invisible threads and rubber bands that hold the thoughts together‖ (446). His conception of the hypertext as a computer-based system that would enable the flexible connection among ideas laid the foundation for the electronic organization of information. At around the same time, Marshall McLuhan‘s views on media technologies are expressed in his work Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

(1964), where he speaks of the supremacy of the materiality of the medium over the content that it transmits, because it can affect the human sensorium and people‘s perception of the world. Since the early 1990s the hypertextual architecture of the World Wide Web and the new digital platforms that have been launched have provided new spaces for diverse corporate or individual creative activity.

As media and content correlate, affecting human activity and perception, multiple convergences have been under way; the convergence of fiction writing with digital technology constitutes the focal point in this investigation. ―Convergence‖ is a key notion coined by Jenkins in order to describe the complex workings within this emergent new media culture. For Jenkins, ―convergence [entails] the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of Feleki xiii entertainment experiences they want‖ (Convergence 2). Latest technological applications directed by strict marketing laws have affected writing techniques and practices, while also creating fertile ground for the redefinition of literature. Therefore, taking technological, cultural, and literary parameters into account, it is the primary concern of this research project to investigate the interaction of digital media with literary tradition and focus both on the creative potentials of this convergence as well as on the constraints of particular media.

Due to new media shifts at the start of the twenty-first century, popular artists have had to reconsider their roles and potentials. Even though they often manage to achieve financial success and evanescent popularity due to the visibility that mass media generously offer, the literariness of their works is frequently questioned. What used to constitute qualified fiction writing in the twentieth century in America must now adjust itself to recent technological developments and live up to the expectations of an ever-growing and fast- mutating reading public. Moreover, the proliferation of ―transmedia storytelling‖ practices, which imply ―a transmedia story [that] unfolds across multiple media platforms with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole‖ (Convergence 95-96), has changed the rules of production in the book and entertainment industry. Writers and publishers nowadays have had to come to terms with an evolving reality and with the needs of contemporary markets. So, another question that is immediately raised pertains to the qualities that make a writer stand out within contemporary cultural and technological reality.

Such considerations regarding qualitative fiction writing become even more complex when it comes to Stephen King‘s case. One of the top-selling American contemporary popular writers for over four decades, he has had to meet the challenges posed by the new electronic era in order to remain competitive. Although his printed books Feleki xiv and latest contributions to mass and new digital media have had tremendous commercial success, he has frequently received negative criticism for his writing techniques and marketing choices; his literary work has been subject to both positive and negative critical analyses by the academia. For instance, despite King‘s long list of book awards and nominations,1 some of King‘s harshest critique comes from S. T. Joshi, a novelist and reviewer of fantasy fiction, who regards most of King‘s best-known works as bloated, unconvincing, and ―susceptible to influence from film‖ (―Mavens of Horror: Stephen King and Dean Koontz‖ 225). Furthermore, Harold Bloom ―does not [see King] to be a borderline literary phenomenon.‖ Bloom sees King as being ―consonant with our age of virtual reality‖ (1), merely a by-product of contemporary visual and electronic culture. Such commentaries lead to an imperative investigation of King‘s latest writing and marketing practices since the turn of the twenty-first century2 so that a transition from conventional positions in criticism is achieved. By approaching discussions concerning King‘s literary practices from a new direction, this project challenges the generalizations which maintain the literary canon and sustain the imaginary binary between high and low culture. Actually, it investigates King‘s phenomenal success in the context of contemporary literary production by taking into consideration the changing cultural, technological, and marketing parameters that have re-defined his writing at the turn of the new millennium.

Specifically, King‘s prolific writing career commences long before the age of the

World Wide Web. He has displayed his writing resourcefulness since the 1970s3 with the production of a diverse array of literary works which deny closure; they keep on bifurcating, providing material to film and TV producers, and to his authorial team for

1 An extensive list of Stephen King‘s most noteworthy awards and nominations can be accessed in his official website StephenKing.com under the title ―Awards and Nominations.‖ 2 As the investigation will bring out, the publication of King‘s first e-book in 2000 is acknowledged as the first major turning point in his writing career. 3 King‘s first published horror novel is Carrie in 1974. Even before that time, he experimented with his writing techniques and different genres through short story contributions sold to men‘s magazines, such as Cavalier, while still at college (King, ―On Becoming a Brand Name‖ 16-28). Feleki xv further experimentation.4 By examining King‘s writing techniques and prolific production in a fast-evolving world that manipulates information, image, sound, and word (for the production of a new wired culture and an online consumer consciousness), we can also investigate the more general cultural, economic, and marketing parameters that characterize popular production in the twenty-first century. It will become clear that King‘s resourcefulness can be traced in his writing skills and narrative techniques; it is also located in his marketing choices, as he walks on the tightrope laid by the book and the entertainment markets and by his insatiable need for new writing surfaces, techniques, and formulas.

In his introduction to the essay collection Fear Itself: The of

Stephen King (1976-1982) (1982), fiction writer enumerates the reasons for

King‘s successful writing career. He explains that he is ―a serious storyteller [who] put[s] himself wholly into his books [and] [spreads] himself throughout the book to get between the reader and the narrative‖ (10). Both this volume and the next collection Kingdom of

Fear: The World of Stephen King (1986) deal with King as the phenomenal representative of the horror genre, who has managed to make the horror story popular again. Indebted to literary traditions, he has never turned his back on his predecessors and literary fathers. As the essays reveal, after respectfully waving at his forefathers, such as Edgar Allan , H.

P. , Robert Bloch, and Richard Matheson among many others, King has managed to revitalize the genre by getting rid of all the bankrupt elements, and by giving his writings a new twist.5

4 A long list of King‘s film and TV adaptations is provided in the ―Library‖ section in StephenKing.com. 5 An interesting study of weird fiction production since H. P. Lovecraft‘s time and the 1970s as a by-product of mainstream horror fiction is attempted by S. T. Joshi in The Modern Weird Tale: A Critique of Horror Fiction (2001). Joshi marks the path of the weird fiction genre and its deterioration as ―a spectacularly marketable phenomenon‖ (1). In particular, in his essay ―Stephen King: The King‘s New Clothes,‖ he discusses King‘s indebtedness to Lovecraft and the genre, while cruelly criticising his writing skills, bankrupt supernatural tropes, and marketing ploys in an effort to explain King‘s tremendous commercial success. Feleki xvi

Being influenced by the great repository of traditional horror fiction writers of the nineteenth and twentieth century, King oftentimes makes this fact conscious to the readers through the mediating voice of the narrators in his stories. I choose to examine the narrations and depictions that King constructs in his latest artworks in order to bring archetypal fears to the fore and connect them to the present consumer society. King explains that he has manipulated childhood fears and nightmares so as to widen his marketing choices and achieve the desired recognizability. Writing about the publication of

―Boogeyman,‖ a story first sold to Cavalier men‘s magazine in 1973 and re-published in the story collection Night Shift in 1978, he explains: ―The story takes a childhood fear and saddles an adult with it; puts him back into that dreamlike world of childhood where the monsters don’t go away when you change the channel, but crawl out and hide under the bed‖ (―The Horror Writer and the Ten Bears‖ 11, italics in original). As I propose in the present study, King has always pushed writing and commercial tactics to extra-ordinary limits in his search for new means of expression and success.

King‘s writing production has increased amazingly since the eighties and so has criticism about his writing techniques. His horror writing has aroused controversy about the nature and function of the American society and family. Alexandra Heberger, in her study

The Supernatural Depiction of Modern American Phobias and Anxieties in the Work of

Stephen King (2002), regards his writing as a meaningful critical reflection of and insight into contemporary American society. As for the cruel way in which women are depicted in his stories, it instigates a lot of disagreement, as Karin Elizabeth Gardner discusses in her book, Domestic Violence against Women within the Horror Literature of Stephen King

(1998). Joe M. Abbott analyzes King‘s fascination with the dysfunctional family unit in his work, Family Survival: Domestic Ideology and Destructive Paternity in the Horror Fictions of Stephen King (1994). In addition, Steven Bruhm‘s essay ―Picture This: Stephen King‘s Feleki xvii

Queer Gothic,‖ published in Punter‘s volume A New Companion to the Gothic

(2012), analyzes instances of queerness in King‘s work, equating paranoia with homosexual panic. In the hundreds of novels and short stories published by King in the last four decades and in the numerous works discussing them, the plethora of issues raised proves King‘s ability to sense contemporary social tensions and disclose them through his stories.

In an effort to highlight the technical aspect of King‘s inventiveness, Sharon A.

Russell‘s Revisiting Stephen King: A Critical Companion (2002) takes up an analysis of the writing formulas adopted by the writer. In particular, Russell tries to explore the secret tools found in King‘s ―toolbox‖ (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft 104), a metaphor that King maintains in his non-fiction essays. More importantly, Karen A. Hohne‘s essay, ―The Power of the Spoken Word in the Works of Stephen King‖ (1994), provides an enlightening account of King‘s dialogic elements in his characters‘ utterances, which demonstrate a game of power relations between official knowledge and unofficial otherness.

King has always experimented with many different genres. Since the publication of

The Dark Tower I: in 1982, the first book of his best-seller, eight-volume epic work inspired by Robert Browning‘s poem, ―Childe Roland to Came,‖ and J. R. R. ‘s works, the novels in the series exemplify the successful practice of combining fantasy, mystery, science fiction, gothic, and epic. His effectual merging of different writing styles and his storytelling desire to build multiple narrative threads could justify the success of such a publishing endeavor. Yet, what seems to differentiate King from other popular fiction writers is his incessant search for new ways to divert from established writing as well as from publishing norms and conventions. He clings onto the strong literary tradition of horror at a time when a digital turn within the world of literary production is already evident. This dissertation investigates King‘s writing conventions and formulas in an attempt to explore those elements that keep his readers‘ interest alive, while Feleki xviii promoting high-figure sales. As the analysis of King‘s writing will show, his language games, cross-genre, and multi-vocal narrations are rooted within the Gothic and horror tradition. Yet, they evolve as he sets off to explore other mediums of expression.

All kinds of natural and social transgressions have been depicted in Gothic works.

For Punter, the Gothic constitutes ―a contested site‖ (―The Ghost of a History‖ xiii), due to its ―resistance to canonization‖ (ix). This is evident in texts that deal with a wide array of issues, such as social divisions, political struggles, and inner dilemmas.6 In the early nineteenth century, an explosion in female readership is witnessed after the publication of

Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein (1818), which led to the further popularization of the genre.

Since then the genre of Gothic horror, on both sides of the Atlantic, has given shape to the fears and anxieties of its readers. In the first half of the twentieth century, it gradually moves to other literary and media forms, such as the gothic scenario in films and the gothic drama on stage. A few examples are the classic film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, produced in 1922, the different film and stage adaptations of Dracula (1897) and

Frankenstein as well as adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe‘s works (Kermode, ―The 10 Best

Gothic Films‖). So far, cinema and TV have managed to capture the excess of feelings distilled in the Gothic. For a century, their emphasis on visuality and the image has shaped the most horrid fears of the intellectual mind.7 However, towards the end of the twentieth century, the introduction of new media has facilitated a flourishing of the Gothic culture in other fields of cultural production, such as video games and graphic novels for young readers, feeding the entertainment industry with transmedia franchises.8 It is the primary

6 The Gothic (2004), edited by David Punter and Glennis (in the series Blackwell Guide to Literature), provides a comprehensive list of both British and American Gothic tales as well as critical analysis. 7 The two volumes of The Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day by Punter, with first and second supplemented editions have offered an extensive account of definitive perceptions of the Gothic genre, ranging from the Romantics to examples of contemporary American Gothic. 8 Gothic depictions have flourished in videogames, such as the series Gothic (2001) by Piranha Bytes, or Vampire: The Masquarade-Bloodlines (2004), to name only a couple of examples in a long list of titles, while Dracula and Frankenstein have also been adapted into graphic novels. Feleki xix aim of this study to explain the formation of a re-invented visualized popular Gothicism through which renewed anxieties can be expressed, as evidenced in King‘s latest writings.

While under the pressure of an emerging convergence culture, in which technology, literacy, tradition, and commercial profit seem to be intertwined, cultural phenomena, literary products, and marketing choices need to be explained anew. More specifically, the entertainment industry has been promoting specific types of literary writing and cultural products in an effort to control public taste.9 Advertising, book clubs, bookstore chains, and

Hollywood productions are all parts of a well-organized marketing mechanism that makes the most of popular writers and their works, ensuring at the same time that everyone gets paid. ―Book-of-the Month Clubs‖ in the U.S.A. or the U.K, are only a few of the strategies used to mold taste in the reading public and help big conglomerates secure their existence.10

The industry promotes the role of popular authors as celebrities through marketing policies in an effort to reinforce the market. As Joe Moran puts it, ―[i]f celebrity authors hardly rival their counterparts in film, television and popular music for column inches, they are still a significant cultural phenomenon, one well worth examining critically‖ (1). Critical attention not only to the literary work but also to the writers‘ authorial personae and to what each represents adds incremental value to both. Understandably, the marketability of the image of popular writers ensures the marketability of their products and the sustenance of the market. At the same time, Hollywood companies enjoy the profits from the new markets created via the adaptations of book titles into filmic productions and, recently, into new media artifacts. As soon as existing markets are exhausted, the opening up of niche markets follows. New cultural products, such as graphic novels and videogames, have come into

9 Joe Moran, in his study Star Authors: Literary Celebrity in America (2000), illustrates that the seven conglomerates in the U.S.A. control production and distribution of all printed and recorded works, characterizing this kind of cooperation as ―synergy‖ (39). 10 Since 1997 and up until 2013, BarnesandNoble.com allowed King‘s fans the space and the freedom to creatively and critically discuss plot and character creation as well as comment on the author‘s writing and marketing policies; since then this webpage has permanently been out of operation. Feleki xx existence, making sure that constant consumer demand follows constant production. Moran claims that,

[t]he encroachment of market values on to literary production, while clearly having

a major impact on literary celebrity, has not occurred in a vacuum─it forms part of a

complicated process in which various legitimating bodies compete for cultural

authority and/or commercial success, and regulate the formation of a literary star

system and the shifting hierarchy of stars. (3-4)

Due to the pressures exercised by the entertainment industry, writers who wish to affect literary production have to secure their position within the industry, and, at the same time, pave their way through compromise and redefinition.11

In the introduction to her book, No Logo (2000), Melanie Klein explains that company mergers have turned business conglomerates to totally new directions, as some of the most successful corporations worldwide systematically give the production part of their business over to contractors and temporary associates for the creation of novel marketing ideas (xvii). As Klein demonstrates, the concept for a product precedes the actual product; it even replaces it, as the product itself is not important any more. Hence, I hereby suggest that similar practices determine policies chosen by the book and entertainment industries as they try to create new production opportunities that will accommodate new ideas and writing formats in shrinking markets. One of the main arguments of this dissertation is that after the book industry has reached out to other markets (such as those of film and video games) it can also turn to the flexible spatiality of the World Wide Web. The Web provides the necessary room for the transmedia storytelling potential to grow. This new electronic space is explored not as virtual (as a parallel cybernetic universe people imagined once) but

11 As regards film and TV productions, J. T. Caldwell analyzes policies, such as ―network meddling‖ (198) and ―‗house‘ mode production‖ (199), in order to show how big film production constraints affect the directors‘ work and film choices. Despite dealing with a distinct market, the commentary Caldwell‘s study provides offers an insight into the workings of the entertainment industry and its liaise with the cultural scene. Feleki xxi as actual space available for production, distribution, participation, and creative expression.

In this respect, I examine the World Wide Web and the new media platforms as the vehicles for a new kind of content to be released and as the space for new relationships to be forged.

In of the above, I explore within the context of the current research project the new creative writing directions that King chooses to take.

Initially, this dissertation concentrates on examples of popular fiction writing produced in the first decade of the twenty-first century by King for the print medium.

Taking into consideration the galloping technological developments after the introduction of the World Wide Web, I choose to explore the new and innovative mediums of digital enunciation and distribution. After tracing King‘s departure from traditional writing forms and textualities, this project turns to the digital environments of the personal computer and other electronic reading devices. I study the re-configuration of King‘s popular novels and sequels into electronic books, electronic gaming experiences, and online projects, adjusted to the hypertextual structure of the writer‘s website. By creating links with the past and points of departure for the future, this study will, eventually, help readers appreciate the emergence, development, and gradual maturing of digital media that have already been directing developments in the literary world for three decades.

Through an incessantly mutating and evolving writing process, King manages to re- invent his writing techniques every time and secure his popularity. In this dissertation, I study the ways in which he readjusts narrative conventions and traditional literary genres, and takes advantage of all the means currently available, both for the production of printed novels and for the creation of fictional worlds in electronic environments. More precisely, I look into the ways King recruits print, visual, and digital media as the means through which he constructs his fictional world and brings it to life. My investigation aims at pointing out the ways through which King takes advantage of the mass media and the hyper-mediated Feleki xxii technological applications available nowadays in order to re-invent his writing techniques and keep his insatiable reading public satisfied, perpetuating thus his popularity.

King‘s own account on what makes a good fiction writer, in his book On Writing: A

Memoir of the Craft (2000), has worked as one of the primary springboards for this investigation. Its confessional style, combining autobiographical elements with simple literary theory, elaborates on the dos and donts of contemporary fiction writing. Through a combination of belief in a mystical source of inspiration and puritan ethos of hard work and self-discipline, King wishes to instruct as well as inspire modern readers and future writers.

As he admits, ―good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together to make something new under the sun. Your job isn‘t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up‖ (25). However, within the scope of this dissertation, such a romanticized notion of fiction writing, coming about from an unknown well of imagination, has proven insufficient to explain the writer‘s phenomenal success and the complicated processes involved in recent cultural production. Rather, I argue that it marks the end of an era when the writing of qualitative─as well as sellable─fiction constituted the main criterion for considering somebody to be a successful writer. Research into King‘s selected print writings from the first decade in the twenty-first century, as well as his gradual shift towards the electronic medium, will allow me to trace the writer‘s recent developments in his writing career. By following King‘s recent omnipresence in electronic media, my investigation will reveal the ways in which his literary writing and prolific creativity intersect with the latest technological advances. These are orchestrated by the advertising mechanisms of the

American publishing industry, which hopes to boost sales and solicit readers‘ responses.

For the study of King‘s new media configurations, I depend on David Bolter and

Richard Grusin‘s theory of the process of remediation, meaning the representation of old Feleki xxiii and new media in one another, as explained in their study, Remediation: Understanding

New Media (1999). I employ their concept of remediation as the theoretical basis that can explain the transformative processes which bring together language, code, media, and texts in the new digital era. Bolter and Grusin propose that the ―double logic of remediation,” that is western culture‘s need to ―multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation‖ (3, italics in original), manages to account for the complex processes of redefinition that writing technologies as well as older and new media have been undergoing as a result of the digitization of the information unit through the two opposing forces of ―immediacy‖ (5) and

―hypermediacy‖ (6). The concept of remediation will help me explain the more general redefinition of reading and writing processes and account for the roles that both writers and readers have to accept as creators and consumers. Yet, because of its limitations, the theory of remediation cannot explain why the processes involved tend to maintain existing hierarchies and reduce new media formations into mere re-articulation of former expressions. Therefore, there is a need for a more complete theory of the aesthetics and politics of digital formations on electronic spaces.

N. Katherine Hayles, in her book My Mother was a Computer: Digital Subjects and

Literary Texts (2005), employs the concept of ―intermediation‖ (7) in order to include the more complex processes of human agents correlating with digital coding and texts, as they emerge in computation and literary processes. Finally, Lev Manovich‘s milestone, The

Language of New Media (2002), which studies the characteristics of new media within the history of visual media of the last two centuries, serves as another stepping stone for this project. These recent and invaluable theoretical contributions are essential for the creation of a new poetics that will allow contemporary media users to appreciate visual digital culture for what it really is. I employ them in order to explain the inevitable merging of new and old conventions, disseminated through new and old media technologies; they contribute Feleki xxiv to a fruitful re-appreciation of new media emanations in tandem with the new roles of the participating authors and readers.

This project also examines the formation of the concept of authorship in today‘s popular culture and the way authorship functions in King‘s works. Refusing to adopt a nostalgic outlook on authors as cultural icons, this dissertation directs the interest to new types of collaborative authorship, examined as ―new relationships between producers and consumers, and new distribution models, thus acting as a (sic) the avant-garde of the culture industry‖ (Manovich, ―Who is the Author? Sampling/ Remixing/Open Source‖ 1). Taking into account the fact that the popular author is gradually caught in the gears of digital mass production, I examine how King is transformed into a marketing brand, while his signature and name work as the cultural signifiers that carry the semantic overload. Though more popular than ever before, the writer is captured standing further away from his products, while new relationships, hierarchies, and balances are formed among the participants in the communicative process of reading and producing a text. His fans, faced with constantly new instances of literary and cultural production, have to redefine their roles and relationships.

They have to adjust to the literary text‘s constant redefinition and to rethink the function of literary writing and reading. Therefore, by examining the cultural, literary, and technological parameters that have helped formulate my theory of King‘s artistic creation and production, I hope to explain recent trends and developments in popular cultural production.

Taking the literary tradition as a metaphorical space surrounding the writer, I regard

King as a modern literary cartographer, a ―pattern maker,‖ to borrow Janet Murray‘s term

(―Inventing the Medium‖ 11). I see him as a writer who moves around, creating new maps or links with the literary scene. If we accept that contemporary authors in general, and King in particular, are themselves the creation of Western consumer society, we must naturally Feleki xxv ask who is doing the writing. Established literary theories, which question the authoritative power of writers as the originators of texts, acquire new meanings in the electronic environments where digital cultural production thrives. Roland Barthes‘s monumental theory of the ―Death of the Author,‖ published in Image, Music, Text (1977), deals with the detachment of the author from the work at the moment of its creation, while Michel

Foucault, in ―What is an Author,‖ appearing in Language, Counter-, Practice:

Selected Essays and Interviews (1977), claims that ―the name of an author is a variable that accompanies only certain texts to the exclusion of others‖ (124). These two works serve as points of both origin and departure in my efforts to establish a new conception of the entangled complexities of authorship in contemporary digital mass production. As my study suggests, contemporary popular production is the result of literary, technological, and commercial flows in the digital super-highway, where the position of the successful popular artist is always on the move across fluid environments and changing co-relations. Working toward homogenized consumer consciousness, writers manage to enhance their appeal; on the other hand, participating readers acquire new importance not only through the reading process but also through the creation, content, appearance, and distribution of the new media work.

This dissertation is divided into three thematic parts, each one dealing with distinct but interrelated concerns. While Part I lays the foundation for an investigation of the traditional underpinnings in King‘s print production, Part II studies a selection of King‘s works produced for electronic media. Finally, Part III examines the effects of electronic culture on authorial and readership practices in the King-governed community. Each chapter serves as a case study and poses specific questions that relate to contemporary literary, media, and cultural studies, trying to provide specific answers. More specifically, all the chapters connect traditional literary and popular studies, and clarify the theoretical Feleki xxvi background that will help readers acquire a critical distance from established thinking and develop a better understanding of the latest creative redefinitions of contemporary popular fiction writing.

Specifically, in Part I, Chapter One, titled ―Literary Traditions Re-visited and

Contemporary Gothic Shifts,‖ studies King‘s points of departure from traditional Gothic writing and explores the genre‘s contemporary popular realizations through the analysis of the print novels Lisey’s Story (2006) and Duma Key (2008). These two novels have been selected for careful study as they both express the pressing concerns of their agonizing characters, who try to survive within dysfunctional familial and working environments.

Through these novels, I explicate King‘s skillful re-working of established Gothic motifs.

Chapter Two, ―Re-inventing the Narrative Process,‖ takes a historical look at the origins of popular media and commences a discussion, to be resumed in the final part of this dissertation, regarding earliest popular production and its links with the intricacies of contemporary mass-production policies. It offers a new twist to the study, emphasizing the visual turn in King‘s popular fiction writing, by laying out the architectural design of the novels that works for a rich reading experience.

In Part II, I commence my research into new media as channels of communication, the materiality of which determines both production and reception processes. Whereas in

Part I I lay the emphasis on the message communicated to the reader through the linguistic medium in print in the new media age, in Part II, I place the focus on the materiality of new media and on the ways these media determine the message that is communicated. I trace the technological and writing convergences and investigate the electronic environments in question as the actual physical space that augments the writer‘s reality. In this way, I search for the inherent aesthetics of the emergent electronic genres. In Chapter Three, ―New

Literary Landscapes,‖ I analyze the Kindle version of Ur (2009) in order to demonstrate the Feleki xxvii convergence of computational with existing writing technologies as well as the writer‘s wish to comment on both the liberating and the alarming effects of the new media turn on literacy and literary creation. Then, I move on to explore StephenKing.com, King‘s official website, as an instance of hypertext technology that implements hypertextual writing techniques; I evaluate the effects of the new aesthetics on the reading processes on electronic environments. In Chapter Four, ―The Digital Experience: Discordia,‖ I focus on

King‘s electronic gaming experience that constitutes another example of cross-generic, technological, and writing convergences. I examine the possibility of this electronic experience to narrate a story by pushing the boundaries between literary narration and cinematic depiction. I also study its electronic game qualities, underscoring its debt to literary tradition, in the creation of multi-sensory experiences, intended for players transformed into active agents in the realization of the story.

In Part III, I reflect upon contemporary concerns about the multiple effects of the digital turn on marketing policies, while still proposing the regenerative potential of writing practices. In Chapter Five, ―Stephen King‘s Popular Digital Production,‖ I offer a commentary on the possibilities of King‘s experimentation with popular forms on electronic textualities that help him re-invent his writing craft. My investigation concentrates on

King‘s marketing ploys and tracks the industry‘s organized efforts to propel and manipulate a consumer consciousness through the new communication pathways which digital media allow. The changing authorial roles of popular production writers and the transformation of passive readers into free agents of an electronic participatory culture are the subject matter of Chapter Six, titled ―Popular Authorship Reconfigured.‖ Here, I employ the concept of the writer as a brand in a media reality, where the possibility of democratic new media production and authorship is questioned. Feleki xxviii

In the course of working on this doctoral thesis I have often wondered whether the mere narration of another big story about King‘s writing, career, and success would provide any fixed answers at a time of massive socio-technological, cultural, institutional as well as educational transitions and redefinitions. By narrating my story, I aim at proposing a new appreciation of popular print and electronic production and of the latest writing practices, roles, and relations involved. There has never been a riper time for such a project since

King‘s work has never been examined under the prism of electronic studies before. The lack of any academic study that takes into consideration the latest research findings in the fields of popular, literary, and media studies in relation to King‘s writing production has driven me to shift my attention towards this direction. Finally, I have hoped that the ideas laid out here will fuel further discussions regarding the future of popular fiction writing in its repackaged form for digital realizations. As my project combines theory with literary analysis, and the exploration of digital practice, it opens up the path for further investigations into the material and communicative aspects of media, as well as into the ways writing and reading processes are continually redefined.

“[T]o write is human, to edit is divine”

—Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000).



Everything can be read, every surface and silence, every breath and every vacancy, every eddy and current, every body and its absence, every darkness every light, each cloud and knife, each finger and tree, every backwater, every crevice and hollow, each nostril, tendril and crescent, every whisper, every whimper, each laugh and every blue feather, each stone, each nipple, every thread every color, each woman and her lover, every man and his mother, every river, each of the twelve blue oceans and the moon, every forlorn link, every hope and every ending, each coincidence, the distant call of a loon, light through the high branches of blue pines, the sigh of rain, every estuary, each gesture at parting, every kiss, each wasp's wing, every foghorn and railway whistle, every shadow, every gasp, each glowing silver screen, every web, the smear of starlight, a fingertip, rose whorl, armpit, pearl, every delight and misgiving, every unadorned wish, every daughter, every death, each woven thing, each machine, every ever after

—Michael Joyce, Twelve Blue (1996).

Feleki 3

Chapter One

Literary Traditions Re-visited and Contemporary Gothic Shifts

Popular literary writing has traditionally tried to express the concerns of the general public, providing readers with the lexicons that would give shape to their feelings and thoughts. The Gothic has tried to express the writers‘ concerns for the lack of social, political, and technological stability since the post-romantic era. For literary critics, such as

Victor Sage and David Punter, the controversy regarding the origins and value of the Gothic as qualitative writing proves the importance of this form of writing that has remained popular since the eighteenth century. As this study aims to show, the contemporary Gothic is plagued with controversy because of its commercialized nature, which overlaps with the writers‘ willingness to express the consumers‘ genuine interests and concerns.

With the introduction of new media and their convergence with literary writing, the interest in the Gothic seems to have been revitalized; the lack of fixedness of form of the electronic medium has allowed to printed enunciations of works new outlets of expression and has facilitated all kinds of transgressions which the Gothic tradition has traditionally tried to project. What constitutes literary writing in the wake of the twenty-first century has been redefined due to the implementation of various media, besides print, through which writers and readers can interact, connect, and communicate. Another result of the use of new media for the dissemination of narrative is the rekindled interest in discussions concerning the supremacy of the text over the image and vise versa. Examining literary production through the prism of electronic mediation means accepting that it has to come to terms with new challenges, trying both to preserve and re-invent its identity.

Through his fiction writing, Stephen King has been exploring literary traditions and narrative techniques for decades; the Gothic has served both as one of his main means of Feleki 4 expression as well as the marketing tool for the promotion of his work. It is King‘s example that will help me to prove the malleability of the Gothic literary form. The two sections in

Chapter One examine Lisey’s Story (2006) and Duma Key (2008), two of King‘s popular print novels of the early twenty-first century. I use them to demonstrate how King manages to re-invent his writing techniques within the horror genre, at a time when multiple technological, cultural, and literary convergences have redefined the role of writing both for print and for electronic media. I investigate the ways in which King‘s re-invented Gothic explorations prepare the ground for his transition from print to the electronic medium.

1.1 Re-positioning the Gothic in Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story

In The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1984), Jean-François

Loytard rejects the dominance of the master narrative, while Jean Baudrillard, in Simulacra and Simulation (1994), writes about the inability to believe in one reliable and true representation of reality. In Uncommon Cultures: Popular Culture and Postmodernism

(1989), Jim Collins manages to explain the multi-vocality that characterizes popular artifacts produced in postmodernity, by accepting popular culture production as another type of cultural deviation. He regards the lack of homogeneity that popular production displays, as well as its resistance to any form of control as a way to question established truths and norms.

Contemporary Gothic writing, affected by postmodern thinking, shares the general resistance to a ruling order. As it resists canonization, it has the power to evolve and re- define itself, while still clinging to a strong tradition for narrative control. One of my concerns is exactly this regenerative power and its ability to express cultural changes.

Situated in different locations, from haunted castles and labyrinths to claustrophobic dark Feleki 5 urban spaces at different historical points of time, Gothic figures, such as monsters, ghosts or cyborgs, have traditionally been manipulated in order to express the socio-cultural and technological anxieties and tensions of each era. While Gothic fiction, as a popular deviation from Romanticism, has expressed man‘s venerable gaze towards technological advancements, contemporary Gothic works similarly voice worries and anxieties about the power of science to respond to the increasing demands of the electronic age. In his article,

―Postmodernism/Gothicism,‖ Allan Lloyd Smith draws a number of parallels between

Gothic and Postmodern fiction writing; he sees such writing conversing with the cultural, historical, and technological parameters of each era, in addition to exercising a voyeuristic look at the past. Its tendency towards indeterminacy as an indispensable ingredient of narrative structure and its departure from the hegemonic narratives of Enlightenment and

Modernity (with regard to epistemological and ontological questions)1 verifies the highly discursive nature of this type of writing in the way it negotiates past and present realities.

The Gothic can function as a form of expression, as a mediating tool, or a complete system of meanings, which helps the contemporary popular Gothic writer to voice his ideas.

Victor Sage and Lloyd Smith see the Gothic as more than a literary genre. In their introduction to Modern Gothic: A Reader (1996), they profess that ―it is a language, often an anti-historicizing language, which provides writers with the critical means of transferring an idea of the otherness of the past into the present‖ (1). This shifting between past and present and the transformative power of Gothic writing allow the genre to adapt to new conditions. They can explain the newer Gothic forms of expression, while also justifying the public‘s impressive response. By concentrating on the technicalities of Gothic writing,

Sage and Lloyd Smith emphasize the genre‘s constructed nature and its process of re- appropriating literary archetypes. In his introduction to The Gothick Novel (1990), Sage

1 Allan Lloyd Smith acknowledges the distinction Brian McHale has drawn between the epistemological and the ontological nature that Modernity and Postmodernity display. Yet, he underlines the close connections rather than the differences concerning epistemological and ontological questions. Feleki 6 notes that, ―[i]n broader terms, [ . . . ] the whole genre has been viewed as a mode of live pastiche, an endless rewriting of major scenes and effects from literary tradition‖ (25, italics in original). As these two scholars insist, ―the Gothic, it seems, is a language that, by definition, belongs to no one; with its air of pastiche─only made, never born─it forms a ready-made language for the aesthetic and cultural politics of our times‖ (Modern Gothic 3-

4). They see the reiteration of Gothic motifs as ―the modern form of haunting; reiteration of narrative maneuvers and motifs, unholy reanimation of the deadness of the past that has the power to make something new‖ (4). This reiteration of Gothic motifs inevitably initiates a dialogue with past texts and filters them back into contemporary narratives that have been informed with new meanings. The repetitive use of structures and motifs in narration which adhere to traditional Gothic formulas can now house modern fears and creatively facilitate contemporary transgressions.

One of the chief concerns of this study is to explain how the paradigmatic break down of narrative motifs leads to the redefinition of the genre when placed within the contexts of postmodern popular production and renewed digital technologies. Within new social and textual reconfigurations, the Gothic manages to house and voice re-newed fears and concerns. During the twentieth century, the genre‘s reliance on sensational pleasures has been best visualized through cinematic techniques and depictions. Materialized through the media platforms of the time, Gothic narratives have managed to become more visible and thus have had the chance to be re-created. The visuality and the accessibility of media, such as cinema and TV, have helped the Gothic become more relevant to the audience‘s present and have given it a boost. Since the last century, Hollywood film productions have invested in the genre‘s love for visibility, while TV serial productions have started to monopolize the viewers‘ intake ability. Feleki 7

Indeed, TV and cinema have given visibility to the Gothic. Yet, the new media─due to their fluidity, flexibility, and open-endedness─have offered a new space for the continuation and revitalization of the modern Gothic. In the hands of Stephen King, the

Gothic genre resituated in new textualities still sustains bridges with the past, while fostering a spectacular boost towards the future. Additionally, the cinematic elements in his writing contribute to a creative re-working in visual media. Still created for the printed medium but inundated by the images of the new media, King‘s Gothic language is rejuvenated. With derisive comments, Harold Bloom disparages King as a writer and blames him for his turn to new media:

I persist in my impression that King‘s books are not written, as such. They are

visually oriented scenarios, and they tend to improve when filmed. And there is the

largest clue I can discover for his enormous circulation: he is the crucial horror-

writer called forth by the Age of Information. He persuades his legions of fans

because his monstrosities are presented as information. (2, italics in original)

Besides Bloom, in the 1980s and 1990s, a lot of literary critics questioned the Gothic quality in King‘s early texts and the effect they had on the readers. It seems that his marketing choices have often instigated criticism. According to Don Herron, ―King‘s long novels, as violent and raunchy as horror in the local movie house, act as a codicil to mass- market tastes, refining and expanding them‖ (61). While feeding on the market‘s power to keep them alive, King‘s fictions have been redirecting reader tastes to new contexts and, recently, to new textualities. Herron goes on to say that King differentiates himself from traditional horror fiction writing by preferring to write about real horror, the horrors of today (76). As Chelsea Quinn Yabro claims,

King knows how to evoke those special images that hook into all the archetypal

forms of horror that we have thrived on since earliest youth. He often puts menace Feleki 8

in stodgy settings: not for him the ―Once upon a time in a land far away from here‖

approach to a story. He shows us the beloved malignant forms not in castles and

caves but high schools and condominiums. He does not rely on the exotic for his

tension, but the mundane, everyday world. (45-46)

Therefore, the contemporaneity of King‘s fiction and his ability to express the present tastes and desires of his readers are envisaged in his popular fiction as well as in the relevant studies about his work. Primarily, it has been his true devotion to the writing practice that has helped his work shine. Despite the critical derision for his use of new media tools and the inclusion of cinematic and informative elements in his new works, I think that the way

King works within the contested ground of modern Gothic production merits further investigation. I examine his writing techniques as tactics or strategies through which he de- constructs the dominant Gothic genre, redefines it, and effects novel reconfigurations. By carrying out a creative discourse with formerly-established norms, King manages to re- write the conventions of the horror/Gothic genre as his latest popular Gothic productions attest. He creatively plays with and re-positions traditional motifs; he creates bonds with the

Gothic tradition, to avail himself of the desired recognizability and marketability, while at the same time, he re-situates the genre within the complexities of the present-day reality.

Ultimately, his efforts to represent contemporary socio-political and economic relations reconfigure the genre. All in all, by re-working the ―dominant‖ order proposed by the traditional Gothic, he questions it and makes a shift towards new realizations, relevant to the needs and tastes of the contemporary consuming public.

Apart from the tension between clinging to the past and offering a progressive look into the future, the Gothic genre fosters many kinds of transgressions, such as social, national, and sexual. For this reason, it has provided the perfect vehicle for the kinds of transgressions that King has practiced across literary genres, discourses, and media Feleki 9 platforms. Being himself part and parcel of the American book and entertainment industry,

King produces his works within a media-saturated mass culture, but also tries to distinguish himself by inventing his own discourses and products, bridging thus the gap between distinct writing genres and technologies, and establishing a unique relationship with his audience. With the use of certain Gothic motifs, King initiates a dialogue with contemporary fears and anxieties, which find expression in the experiences of his post- modern heroes and anti-heroes. Yet, by mixing elements from the epic, fantasy, and mystery, he opts for the universality of prose language in order to appeal to more than one market and cater for present conditions and needs. King uses the Gothic genre as a springboard, aware that a particular genre makes the marketing of a product easier and the product itself much more recognizable. Hence, King consciously places his works within the Gothic book market, while diverting to new directions and media realizations.

The malleability of the Gothic genre facilitates literary experimentations. According to Punter, the Gothic promotes ―a sublime awareness of mutability, an understanding of the ways in which history itself and certain narratives of history are not stable‖ (A Companion to the Gothic ix). The elusive nature of the genre becomes itself a metaphor for the general questioning of established norms and truths. Both the Gothic sensibility and the Postmodern perspective challenge the status quo. Despite market policies, King‘s escapist novels resist canonization and thus resemble the elusiveness that the Gothic has traditionally displayed.

Without restricting the content of his stories and their representational codes, King makes marketing choices that reflect the genres he draws from. This is, after all, the postmodern feature of both his work and his marketing policies; in particular, he does not stick to one genre, but tests the effectiveness of pastiche in multiple terrains and contents. What is more, although he works closely with the Gothic, he does not hesitate to abuse its motifs so as to try out new configurations. Looking back at his artistic production, one realizes that it is Feleki 10 not restricted to print novels and stories for magazines, but it has opened up to the visual characteristic of the market. Many of his novels and stories are continually re- worked for the cinema, TV, and lately for digital mediation.2 As it seems, the forceful advent of new media in the literary and cultural terrain has led to a full-blown revision of his fiction writing techniques and has marked a turning point in King‘s writing career, updating his Gothic writing ―toolbox.‖

Interest in the Gothic is still growing today because of its continuous manipulation in popular media structures. The use of Gothic motifs in cinema in the second half of the twentieth century has led to the re-invention of the genre. The visibility that this medium can offer has amplified the sensuous effect which the creators desire for their audiences.

Additionally, the repositioning of the genre in digital spaces enables renewed visceral experiences that rekindle interest in Gothic narratives and representations. Following the constant mutation that the technologies of the printed book have gone through, the Gothic has also undergone great changes in order to withstand pressures in latest cross-media and cross-genre realizations. As Catherine Spooner asserts:

Contemporary Gothic possesses a new self-consciousness about its own nature; it

has reached new levels of mass production, distribution and audience awareness,

enabled by global consumer culture; and it has crossed disciplinary boundaries to be

absorbed into all forms of media. Contemporary Gothic is not preoccupied with the

end of the world but rather the end of innocence [ . . . ]. Gothic has now,

furthermore, become supremely commercialized, be it mainstream or niche-

marketed. Gothic no longer crops up only in film and fiction, but also fashion,

furniture, computer games, youth culture, advertising. Gothic has always had mass

2 One instance of King‘s ventures in digital mediation is the realization of a serial fantasy TV production, based on the successful novel (2009), for the CBS channel also available on demand by Amazon.com (―Under the Dome‖). Feleki 11

appeal, but in today‘s economic climate it is big business. Above all, Gothic sells.


This influx of Gothic tropes in popular culture is further accommodated by new writing technologies and digital media pervasiveness. Contemporary Gothic, in its multiple new forms and media representations, could not have escaped a readjustment if it is to meet the needs and demands of our multi-mediated culture.

And yet, despite their re-invented nature, Gothic narratives seem to have been losing out on affective force. Objections are raised as to whether this highly emotive narrative form can still shock and express the demands of a harsh reality, whether it can show its scariest face to unsuspecting media viewers. After the 9/11 catastrophe, which killed thousands in an instant and shocked millions worldwide (who had watched the events over and over again on their TV screens), it is legitimate to ask which kind of fictional writing can manage to shock audiences on a similar scale and which visual or sound effects can succeed in arousing such intense feelings to the viewers ever again. In her concluding remarks, Spooner claims that ―since 9/11 the Western world‘s relationship with discourses that invoke terror must undergo some kind of alteration‖ (159). Also, according to Fred


Gothic fiction, which served as earlier modernity‘s black hole and has served up a

range of objects and figures crystallizing anxiety into fear, has become too familiar

after two centuries of repetitive mutation and seems incapable of shocking anew.

Inured to Gothic shocks and terrors, contemporary culture recycles its images in the

hope of finding a charge intense enough to stave off the black hole within and

without, the one opened up by postmodernist fragmentation and plurality. Gothic

figures, once giving form to anxieties surrounding the transition from aristocratic to Feleki 12

bourgeois culture, now disclose only the formlessness, the consuming void,

underlying the flickering thrills of contemporary western simulations. (298)

Although contemporary Gothic seems ineffective in its depiction of human anxieties over past traumas, its media and market presence tells another story. As Spooner claims,

―[Gothic] is big business‖ (23). The re-vitalization of contemporary Gothic becomes evident in the wide range of Gothic works produced and redirected by entertainment industries onto new media. The recycling of past Gothic tropes through the digital medium leads to its redefinition in print as well as to the creation of a visual, highly immersive, and sensuous effect.

Seeing to the need for the reorientation and revitalization of the genre, King‘s shift towards new media seems timelier than ever before. King, not only as a popular horror writer but also as an innovator, has made this shift from traditional to innovative Gothic practices. Under the veil of the Gothic tradition, which seems to have been dictating King‘s artistic production for the last four decades, he seems to have the omnipotence to experiment with different artistic forms and genres. With his horror writing, he does not merely aim to shock or scare any more, but to present something new to his public every time. It is the purpose of this research project to accentuate King‘s new turns in the narrative mode, which has come about due to the influence of new media formations, after the ―visual turn‖ promoted by electronic technologies. As the analysis in the present research project will point out, the use of new media can trigger epistemological and ontological questions, which trouble contemporary minds and speak of their fears for an uncertain technological future. The re-invented visibility of media platforms in tandem with

King‘s writing practices has given form to the fears and anxieties that have overwhelmed people since the turn of the twenty-first century. King manages to re-inform his writing style both in print and on new media platforms with new media features. The Gothic effect Feleki 13 in King‘s fiction does not solely rely on using Gothic linguistic elements but on the active re-working of motifs and the employment of media that facilitate the redefinition of the genre. The visual depictions that are available thanks to the digital tools facilitate new narrative structures. The incorporation of hypertext and multimedia technology creates multi-layered descriptions and an interactive way of processing the text.

The use of the Gothic in new contexts and new mediums brings to mind Marshall

McLuhan‘s claim, in his well-known work Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

(1964), that ―the medium is the message‖ (7). McLuhan stresses the supremacy of the medium through which content is conveyed, undermining the importance of the content in its own right. If we borrow his example of the light bulb as a medium with no content, we can form an analogy with the Gothic and see it as a medium without meaning in itself. The motifs it resorts to convey no meaning by themselves but they are there to create the right mood in the readers. In other words, just like ―a light bulb [which] creates an environment by its mere presence‖ (8), the Gothic creates an environment that informs the process of reading. Sustaining McLuhan‘s analogy, on the basis of Twyla Gibson‘s commentary, ―the medium itself communicates messages that inform the content of a work and guide its interpretation. Studies of media, therefore, concentrate on the medium itself as a kind of language with its own conventions for generating meaning‖ (144). Combining the observation above with Gothic conventions, one comes to view the latter as a common lexicon that allows for the settings to be set, the plots to unfold and the characters to form in a mainstream format that is more easily received by the contemporary reading public.

Therefore, ghosts, haunted places, and claustrophobic dark spaces can keep appearing either in the heroes‘ attic or in digitally depicted urban spaces. Unanswered questions about the powers of the contemporary individual to explain supernatural forces keep busying the readers‘ minds. The combination of horror and romance, which came about as a reaction to Feleki 14 the pressures of the industrial age, is still employed to respond to present fears and anxieties people face in contemporary Western societies. The housing of inner conflicts, instigated by problematic interpersonal and family relations, excites intense feelings and remains one of

King‘s successful techniques of Gothic writing.

The Gothic tradition has provided the literary space for King to develop his writing skills in character formation, narrative structure, and plot control. In this space, where living creatures and inanimate matter can grow, a writer can express his concerns in the context of current literary, cultural, and technological developments. In the second volume of The

Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day (1996),

Punter admits that ―[t]he Gothic mode is essentially a form of parody, a way of assailing clichés by exaggerating them to the limit of grotesqueness‖ (139). This critical look at the

Gothic tradition initiates a discussion about clichés which, when given a fresh twist, allow the writers to update their conceptualization of what the genre can currently represent.

Ghostly creatures of the past still haunt the psyche of the new characters, but placed in different contexts, they can carry new anxieties and create new shocking effects for the readers. The depictions of excessive darkness and gore take place not only in haunted castles but also in real-time or cybernetic spaces. The insecurity of the unknown (rooted within accepted truths), the potential evil within the seeming good, and the ambiguity of existence keep providing King with an unending source of material.

Lisey’s Story (2006) is a novel about the life and death, work and marriage of a popular fiction writer, named Scott Landon. It tells the adventures of Scott Landon‘s wife,

Lisey. Faced with her dead husband‘s unpublished treasure, Lisey has to fight with Scott‘s imaginary ghosts of the past as well as the real present-day persecutors of his written works in order to stay alive. It is a novel abounding in Gothic elements, which generates discussions about transgressive moral laws and social taboos. As the analysis will prove, Feleki 15

King deals in this text with updated authorial issues that prove his true interest in current affairs and situations. The novel revolves around issues, such as love, death, parental, and marital relationships, commitment, and betrayal. Scott‘s distressed mind appears to be the result of a problematic childhood in a house with a psychopathic father. As Punter underscores about familial relationship in Gothic writing,

childhood is not a pretty sight: it is the locale of the first traumatic encounters, the

place from which one is born into the world screaming. And there are really no ways

out: the search for the self, or for real knowledge about the forces of manipulation, is

a quixotic journey towards a greater devastation. Any perception of truth comes too

late, and usually all it demonstrates is the misguidedness of past action, or of action

at all. (The Literature of Terror 143)

King builds his story and his narration on binary relations in his configuration of the heroes‘

―quixotic journey‖ towards hidden unresolved issues. For King, sanity is a condition very close to insanity, fantasy can easily become an alternate reality to the troubled mind, and love has the ability to create as well as destroy life. The plot unfolds after Scott‘s death.

Through the rich narrative techniques and complex narrative structures, readers keep travelling back and forth to the fictional writer‘s past, to his present home and to the fantasy world where he finds shelter. The cinematic quality of King‘s writing, the photographic depictions of Scott‘s actual workplace, and the close-ups of the imaginary spaces he inhabits help readers envision his troubled world.

To start with, the novel works well as a metaphor for the issue of pastness, a theme that characterizes Gothic writing. Although the novel reads like a simple ghost love story, it raises issues about the politics of knowledge and the timelessness of power relations in the world of letters. Through the gaze of the characters in the story, King achieves a creative re- negotiation of certain concerns they have. The story expands on this binary between past Feleki 16 and present, while its narrative structure enables a continual movement between the past and present. As Punter claims, in his article ―Problems of Recollection and Construction:

Stephen King,‖ ―[t]he popularity of King is evidence that the textual psyche he constructs is one which in some sense ‗matches‘ the cultural psyche of the late twentieth century in the

West‖ (125). Punter also admits that ―[King‘s] fictions strike at the heart of all loneliness‖

(124). However, the question Punter raises has to do with whether King‘s Gothic fiction serves just as a reiterative memory game or whether it offers an outlet in the future. Is his fiction offered as ―a recollection of childhood loneliness‖? ―[R]ather, it is precisely a restatement of the Ur-loneliness, which arises from our ontologically peculiar knowledge of having forgotten the past the moment after it has happened‖ (124), as he continues. In

Lisey’s Story, King‘s writing serves as renegotiation of the past with the present and it is the printed medium that saves the past from being hidden and forgotten. Through the fictional writer‘s texts, which Lisey comes across after his death, King reveals family secrets, forbidden truths, and offers a release into the future. The narration of hidden and suppressed memories that have always been recruited in Gothic writings are employed in the novel to give depth and new directions to the narrative. Instead of shunning away the problems his characters face with their past, King seeks for their solution in the present. He skillfully blends the narration of dreams and memories with the actual events in the characters‘ lives.

King‘s conscious resistance to literariness and his use of common ordinary language help readers relate much more easily to his fictional world and heroes. His playfulness with language is one of his powerful tools, which he manipulates with great skill. He switches to different types of register, different dialects as indicators of social status as well as a variety of idiolects in order to mark the characteristic idiosyncrasy of a particular character. It is this type of language choices that has contributed to the creation of ―other‖ worlds and multiple realities inhabited by his characters. Karen A. Hohne, in her article, ―The Power of Feleki 17 the Spoken Word in the Works of Stephen King,‖ elaborates on the double-sided nature of heteroglossic and dialectic orality employed by King in the form of official versus unofficial language:

King is perhaps best known precisely for those narrators whose language is torn

between the unofficiality of everyday spoken speech and the officiality of literary

narration. Rather than make use of the officialized orality of the epic or fairy-tale,

they string sentences together with ―and‖ and repeat phrases in the redundant stutter

of conversational, and their speech is full of highly unofficial slang and obscenities.

But even in terms of their unofficiality one is not allowed to forget that they are

individuals negotiating a heteroglossic world. (95)

This ―slippery dual nature‖ (93) of orality is where the particular power of King‘s fiction emerges. He tries to make his stories relevant to the constant reader and at the same time adjustable to other media. As it is discussed later, new electronic media are reminiscent of a state of orality that lacks the linearity and organization of print tradition. Within such fluid contexts, King allows his characters to ―voice‖ their fears and anxieties, and refuses to exert any type of authoritative power and control over them.

Bits and pieces of information in the form of old manuscripts, left behind to shed light on the mystery created around the main character, as well as photos appearing in magazines and news articles, together with their captions, constitute the necessary pieces that the main character, Lisey, and the readers need in order to make sense of the story. As

Lisey goes through Scott‘s workplace, she comes across old photographs and articles that function as post-narrative comments on her dead husband‘s life and career. She remembers the time Scott had almost lost his life by a deranged fan. The snapshot of him on the ground manages to help the readers picture the moment of his falling: Feleki 18

So she‘d run to her fallen husband, and the news photographer─who‘d been there

only to snap the obligatory picture of college dignitaries and a famous visiting

author gathered for the groundbreaking with the silver spade, the ritual First

Shovelful of Earth where the new library would eventually stand─had ended up

snapping a much more dynamic photograph, hadn‘t he? This was a front page photo,

made even a hall of fame photo, the kind that made you pause with a spoonful of

breakfast cereal halfway between the bowl and your mouth, dripping on the

classfields, like the photo of Oswald with his hands to his belly and his mouth open

in a final yawp, the kind of frozen image you never forgot. (28, italics in original)

In the hands of King, the words manage to freeze the moment just like the photograph can freeze reality in an instant in the hands of a photographer. Speaking an ordinary language and laughing at the seriousness and affectation of the world of letters, King makes a stand about the grotesqueness of the scene, while giving priority to the importance of human life.

Simultaneously, King‘s ironic disposition towards the hyperbolic power of the photo to depict reality and provide information is indicated through his repetitious reference, as mentioned above, to ―the news photographer─who‘d been there to snap the obligatory picture [ . . . ] and had ended up snapping a much more dynamic photograph [ . . . ] a front page photo [ . . . ] a hall of fame photo [ . . . ] the kind of frozen image you never forgot‖

(28, italics in original). Through these references, the characters‘ reality is revealed gradually and at different levels. After creating the big picture via the description of the photo shot, King directs the readers‘ attention to the caption that accompanies the photo.

The serious language King employs in the caption of the picture aims at presenting a new version of the story through the viewpoint of the news commentator:

Captain S. Heffernan of U-Tenn Campus Security congratulates Tony

Eddington, who saved the life of famous visiting author Scott Landon only Feleki 19

seconds before his photo was . “He’s an authentic hero,” said Capt.

Heffernan. “No one else was close enough to take a hand.” (Additional

coverage p. 4, p.9.) (28-29)

The seemingly objective representation of the incident in a distinct typeface or font is emotionally charged through the use of adjectives describing a ―famous visiting author,‖ saved by an ―authentic hero.‖ King constructs different versions of the story by playfully readjusting the degrees of language formality used by the speaking voices in the novel. He thus marks the impossibility of finding out the one objective truth and of creating a real picture of the incident. A few lines below the caption of the picture, the handwritten note composed by Scott shows the character‘s ironic disposition towards the incident. Even though Scott has long been dead, he is present throughout the novel, guiding Lisey and readers to the solution of his mysterious existence. As King writes,

Lisey dropped the news clipping on top of the book, afraid a sudden flow of tears

might actually dissolve it the way saliva dissolves a mouthful of cotton candy. When

she was sure the tears weren‘t going to overflow, she picked up the clipping and

read what Scott had written:

Must show to Lisey! How she will LAUGH

But will she understand? (Our survey says YES)!!

He had turned the big exclamation point into a sunny seventies-style smiley-face,

as if telling her to have a nice day. (29-30)

The juxtaposition of diverse writing styles, voiced by different mediating entities in the novel, enhances the multi-vocality in the novel. In this way, King manages to create a lively reading experience and the readers must always be on the alert to connect the pieces of information which fork out to diverse spatio-temporal narrative environments. Lively depictions facilitate the readers‘ immersion into Scott‘s fictional world. Therefore, King‘s Feleki 20 hard effort in the constructedness of written textualities─evident by the diverse writing styles, fonts, and symbols used─creates a multi-layered plotline effect that adds depth to the narrated incidents. The emergence of different plot lines within the main one and the voices speaking and commenting on the multiple narrative strands create a realistic effect.

Lisey’s Story is also about memories and their therapeutic reworking. Unsettled issues of the fictional writer‘s past, stemming from a problematic childhood, come to the fore and seek ultimate resolution that will release tension in the novel. Scott Landon, the fictional writer, is placed in the position of the important Other in relation to King, the real writer. His tormented spirit inhabits the fictional world of the novel, and is reincarnated every time the narrator makes a reference to the writings, notes, and words he has left behind. These references to Scott‘s past form the pieces of the narrative puzzle. Their recollection will lead both Lisey and readers to solve Scott‘s mysterious existence, release tensions, and leave him in peace after his death. As for the glimpses they offer into his past, they become the mediating force that helps readers create the connections.

King‘s words, masterly woven together and expressed through the multiple narrators each time, create a multi-vocal effect that enriches the reading experience. King achieves this trip back to the past through the telling of the hidden or forbidden memories of his characters. From the beginning, the dead writer Scott returns to his beloved wife, who sets off on a quest to unravel the mysteries of her husband‘s troubled childhood that have haunted him throughout his married life, and continue even after his death. Either in the form of soothing voices whispering to her and keeping her company, or in the form of written manuscripts intentionally left behind for her to discover, his presence haunts the novel. Instead of scary ghosts, readers now encounter the presence of his spirit mediated through writing and through Lisey‘s voice. Her words artfully mingle with Scott‘s as she sits in his cold and empty study: Feleki 21

―I was in a dark place,‖ Lisey murmured as she sat in his deserted study with the

U-Tenn Nashville Review in her hands. ―Did you say that, Scott? You did, didn‘t


─I was in a dark place and you found me. You saved me [ . . . ].

─You were always saving me, Lisey. Do you remember the first night I stayed at

your apartment? [ . . . ].

─When it was done and you went to sleep, I lay awake and listened to the clock

on your nightstand and the wind outside and understood that I was really home, that

in bed with you was home, and something that had been getting close in the dark

was suddenly gone. It could not stay. It had been banished. It knew how to come

back, I was sure of that, but it could not stay, and I could really go to sleep. (24-25,

italics in original)

Scott‘s reference to ―something‖ menacing approaching but being kept at bay for the time being creates expectations to the readers who are used to the presence of unearthly and unexplained creatures in King‘s stories. The repetition of the pronoun ―it‖ and the inability of the narrator to fully acknowledge its existence and its nature comes in sharp contrast with the weak reaffirmation of the ―I‖ that, in a position of inertia, tries to withstand the pressures of an outer unexplained presence.

When Scott narrates events from his childhood, we feel the tension increase; Scott‘s language, register, and accent change as the plot develops. Boogie Land, a scary fantasy realm, where Scott and Lisey manage to meet again, is the place where he reveals the truth about murder in his family, his insane father killing his brother, and then Scott killing his own father. Speaking to herself as if insane, she asks her dead but visiting husband:

―And did you kill him, Scott? Did you kill your father? You did, didn‘t you?‖ Feleki 22

His head is lowered. His hair hangs, obscuring his face. Then from below that

dark curtain comes a single hard dry barking sob. It is followed by silence, but she

can see his chest heaving, trying to unlock. Then:

―I put a pickaxe in his head while he was a-sleepun and then dump him down the

old dry well. It was in , during the bad sleet-storm. I drug him outside by the

feet. I tried to take him where Paul was burrit but I coont. I trite, I trite, I trite, but

Lisey he woon‘t go. He was like the firs‘ shovel. So I dump him down the well. So

far as I know he‘s still there, although when they auctioned the farm I was . . . I . . .

Lisey . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . was afraid . . .‖ (311-12, italics in original)

Although the description does not allow us to see Scott‘s face hidden behind his hanging hair before he commits patricide, the movement of his chest in the dark ignites the readers‘ imagination. The hair-raising, upsetting details in the narration of the killing affect Scott too. In Booya Land, outside his real body and consciousness, he speaks in the voice of a lunatic, of a terrified child stammering in a state of loss. King employs ungrammatical sentences to reveal the psychological state of the characters; in the excerpt discussed, they reveal Scott‘s torment as he re-lives the event of killing his father, while the use of the present tense makes the narration even more intense and immediate.

In the novel, King makes love the driving force behind the narrative and tests it against the terror of the unknown in interpersonal relationships and societal structures. The scene of abuse that Lisey goes through because she refuses to give up Scott‘s manuscripts to her persecutors reveals the ambiguity of the much contested condition of love. The readers follow the narration in agony as Lisey is about to be subjected to tremendous violence by a mad man. This violence is exaggerated by King via his repetitive detailed descriptions:

Lisey could hardly credit, although every moment of the beating and mutilation that

followed remained vivid in her mind for the rest of her life, right down to the sound Feleki 23

of his dry and rapid breathing, right down to the way his khaki shirt strained at the

buttons, showing little winks of the white tee-shirt he wore beneath as he slapped

her across the face, backhand and then forehand, backhand and then forehand,

backhand and then forehand, backhand and then forehand again. Eight blows in all,

eight- eight- lay- them- straight they chanted as children skip-roping in the dooryard

dust, and the sound of his skin on her skin was like dry kindling snapped over a

knee, and although the hand he used was ringless [ . . . ] the fourth and fifth blows

beat the blood from her lips, the sixth and seventh sent it spraying, and the last rode

high enough to smash into her nose and set that gushing, as well. (330-31)

King devotes one and a half page long to narrate Lisey‘s beating, awakening in this way the readers‘ senses. Apparently, King places readers in the position to actually see, hear, and smell the presence of Lisey‘s tormentor. Repetitive and detailed accounts help King openly discuss taboo issues, such as violence against women, murder, and patricide. King gradually leads Lisey‘s ultimate victory over her actual persecutor, meaning her dead husband, too; her husband‘s past and present have haunted her, but she, finally, settles unresolved issues.

King leads Scott and Lisey to a successful re-negotiation of their past and the resolution of their mysteries contributes to the construction of a healthy future for the characters.

Although King‘s characters have not been made better through their experiences, they have definitely matured.

It is interesting that physically and mentally disabled writers continually appear in

King‘s narrations.3 As discussed earlier, the image of Scott, lying half dead in the university campus from the first pages of the novel, and ultimately being saved by a heroic figure underscores the vulnerability of the writer‘s existence and the price he has to pay for the

3 Some distinctive examples of emotionally and physically tormented writers include in (1977), Paul Seldon in Misery (1988), Mike Eslin in ―1408‖ (2002) and Tess Thorne in ―‖ (2010). The authorial practices of these characters and their creator are discussed more thoroughly in Part III of this dissertation. Feleki 24 popularity he enjoys. In this novel, King criticizes people‘s ideas regarding the job of the writer and the dangers he faces. The fictional Scott, a contemporary popular writer who has featured on the cover of Newsweek, daily faces the problems caused by outrageous fans who

―might kill him. Kill him with [their] dangerous love and voracious concern‖ (28). In an exchange with Lisey, Scott denies their true interest in him and his work:

―Scott, lots of people love you. When you read from your last book─and the one

you‘re writing now─ [ . . . ]. When you read, nearly five hundred people showed up!

They had to move you from the main Lounge into Hauck Auditorium! When you

were done, they gave you a standing O!‖

―That‘s not love,‖ he says, ―that‘s curiosity. And just between me and thee, it‘s

freakshow stuff. When you publish your first novel at twenty-one, you find out all

about freakshow stuff, even if the damn thing only sells to libraries and there‘s no

paperback.‖ (160)

Through Scott‘s words, King reveals the complicated power relations connecting the writer with his fans and the book industry. Both the fictional and the real author question the true concern of fans and comment on the superficiality of relationships and networks created around popular writers that leave them weak. They also pinpoint the frivolity in which they find themselves when in the limelight.

Lisey‘s struggle continues against the world of the academia that takes the position of the important Other in the novel, before its actual deconstruction. At this point, we can easily hear King expressing his views on the craft of writing, pointing his arrows against the scholarly critics of his work. Through his story, King questions the power of the academic institutions. As it turns out in the story, the academics‘ ―voracious concern‖ (28) and their interest in Scott and his writings appear to be superficial. The narrator admits that ―[o]utside of their own fields, academics were oddly lacking in curiosity. Most of them were just Feleki 25 delighted to have the author of The Coaster’s Daughter (National Book Award) and Relics

(the Pulitzer) among them‖ (19, italics in original). Even after his death, they seem to be only after Scott‘s unpublished writings: ―That was what the impatient people wanted, the wheedlers, and the angry ones─Scott‘s incuncabilla. Lisey began to think of them as

‗Incunks‘‖ (4, italics in original). The narrator reveals the connections that Scott had with the academic community. Professor Joseph Woodbody, of the University of Pittsburgh

English Department, who is after Scott‘s manuscripts, had been teaching the American

Myth in his lecture class and had four graduate students doing a thesis on Scott‘s work.

Although this information justifies his interest in Scott‘s manuscripts, Lisey is not affected by his pretentiousness when she realizes that ―he was obviously as crazy as the rest of them.

He‘d just hidden it better, and for a little longer‖ (5). This insinuation is explained later when Professor Woodbody has someone stalk and torture Lisey in order to make her hand in her dead husband‘s manuscripts.

The writer‘s role, which is a common topic in King‘s literary manifestations, is successfully explored in Lisey’s Story. Moreover, King‘s search for new literary textualities before the turn of the new century works as a metaphor for his own constant struggle to redefine his relationships with the word, the text, his characters, and readers as well. As evidenced in the novel, King‘s fiction directly discusses the impossibility of freedom and escape of the writer from the pressures of the marketing and entertainment industry. Despite

Scott‘s death, of which we are informed quite early in the narrative, the act of writing seems to have the power to rescue as well as condemn him in a demanding society that is ready to devour any type of text he creates. The story of Scott as the writer, producing in a paranoid state, is the metaphor for King‘s actual writing practice. King‘s tightrope dancing between stability and fluidity, seriousness and grotesqueness, allows for a critical look at his creative activity which takes place in a consumer society. Feleki 26

The state of lunacy, in which King places the fictional writer of the novel, makes readers draw conclusions about the role of real authors as well. The exploration of the boundaries between contradictory concepts, such as craft and art, lunacy and sanity, reality and delusion, reveals their complexity. The themes of obsession and madness, so commonplace in Gothic tradition, run through King‘s novel from beginning to end, and make the connection between reality and fiction possible. Additionally, the elements of mystery reinforce the characters‘ state of insanity and, at a meta-fictional level, facilitate the readers‘ transition from reality to fantasy, from past to present, and from clarity of mind to disillusionment. Unexplained magical incidents, transpositions from real places to imaginary ones in the novel need not be further explained when taking place in between the novel‘s reality and the fictional writer‘s mind. Scott sees himself as a lunatic who is paid to write about his delusions when he confesses, ―I am crazy. I have delusions and visions. I write them down, that‘s all. I write them down and people pay me to read them‖ (292, italics in original). He speaks ―of his craft─that is always how he refers to it in his lectures, never as his art but as his craft─as delusion. And that is madness‖ (292, italics in original).

It is not accidental that King has Scott create bonds with his literary forefathers.

King even has Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and William , three distinguished writers, inhabit the of the ―pool‖ he creates in his parallel world when Scott‘s lunacy takes over: ―Sometimes the really brave fisherfolk─the Austens, the Dostoevskys, the Faulkners─even launch boats and go out to where the big ones swim, but that pool is tricky‖ (295). By nourishing a relationship with the literary past through his character, King secures his place both in the world of letters and the literary market without tying himself down to Gothic literary conventions. In the meta-fictional games he plays elsewhere, Scott keeps a distance from the literary canon and asserts the truth in his narrated story: ―Lunacy and the Landons go together like peaches and cream, and I‘m not talking about an Edgar Feleki 27

Allan Poe story or any genteel Victorian we-keep-auntie-in-the-attic ladies‘ novel; I‘m talking about the real-world dangerous kind that runs in the blood‖ (292).

Through his game with Gothic tradition, the narrator does not hesitate to play with the convention of ghosts interacting with living people, and then make fun of it. From the beginning of the narration, King tries to provide a logical explanation for the fact that the dead protagonist keeps coming back to the world of the living, with the aim of communicating with his wife Lisey: ―And Scott spoke to her again, as he had a way of doing. She knew it was only the ventriloquist inside her, making his voice─who had loved it more or remembered it better?─but it didn‘t feel that way. It felt like him” (33, italics in the original). It is in such cases when conventional Gothic elements can become ―de- gothicized,‖ as Spooner puts it. She explains:

Thus Gothic motifs, narrative structures or images may arise in a variety of

contexts─from pop music to advertising─that may not otherwise seem Gothic in

any straightforward sense. Nevertheless, these themes and motifs deliberately recall

the Gothic and implicitly engage in dialogue with the form as it emerged in the

eighteenth century. They may subtly alter the Gothic as it is traditionally

understood, appropriate it for ends perhaps entirely different from, or even contrary

to, those of its earliest practitioners, even ―de-Gothicize‖ conventional images, such

as those of Frankenstein‘s monster or Dracula‘s castle, by draining them of their

power to induce horror or the sublime. Despite these alterations, however, these

images and narratives only achieve meaning through evoking Gothic in the first

place. (26-27)

The writer‘s uneasy mind and the magical world he creates for his escape from reality─that of Boo‘ya Moon, which takes up most of the second half of Lisey’s Story─become the locus Feleki 28 of haunting in the novel. By contrast, the main strand of narration is set in Maine, King‘s hometown, when both writers (real and fictional) cling to reality.

There are times when it is really difficult for Lisey (and for the readers) to distinguish between dream and reality, when action takes place in Scott‘s home study, or while Lisey is found lying in bed and experiencing a dream in a dream. These otherwise realistic and uneventful premises─the ―Study,‖ ―Scott‘s creative playground, not hers, a mostly benign one-boy clubhouse where he‘d written his stories and listened to his music as loud as he wanted in the soundproofed area he called My Padded ‖ (King, Lisey’s Story

20)─become the place where unexplained incidents start taking place:

I was lost in the dark and you found me. I was hot─so hot─and you gave me ice.

Scott‘s voice.

Lisey opened her eyes, thinking she had drifted away from daytime task or

moment and had had a brief but amazingly detailed dream in which Scott was dead

[ . . . ]. With them open she immediately understood that Scott indeed was dead

[ . . . ].

She seemed to be floating in moonlight. She could smell exotic flowers. A fine-

grained summer wind combed her hair back from her temples, the kind of wind that

blows long after midnight in some secret place far from home. Yet it was home, had

to be home [ . . . ].

It might be better not to look at those pictures, the wind whispered in her ears

[ . . . ].

She was delighted to see she was floating on a vast, moon-gilded piece of cloth

with the words PILLSBURY‘S BEST FLOUR printed across it again and again; the

corners had been knotted like hankies. She was charmed by the whimsy of it; it was

like floating on a cloud. Feleki 29

Scott. She tried to say his name aloud and could not. The dream wouldn‘t let her.

(14-15, italics in original)

During Lisey‘s illusory experience, different voices are heard that help create multiple levels of narration. Scott‘s, Lisey‘s, and the wind‘s presences are emphasized by King via the italic font, a common technique King uses when he orchestrates the narrators and the characters that participate in the story and make up the plot. The reaffirmation, coming from the narrator, that ―it was home, [or] had to be home,‖ contrasts with the dreamy sensation created by the exotic smells and the soft wind that surround Lisey. Then, the most comical effect is created when the words ―PILLSBURY‘S BEST FLOUR‖ appear in capitalized bold font on the ―moon-gilded cloth‖ that carries her. King forcefully wakes readers up from the dreamy incident that he has just constructed and brings them back to the reality of the dead writer‘s room.

When logical explanations of unexplained events are denied in the narrative, readers are pushed to a supernatural conception of the fictive world. Yet, the therapeutic effects of sleeping and dreaming become the means through which anguish can be resolved. Lisey‘s tricky memory gaps can be healed and the plot can move forward. Although shunning away memories has been a practice both Scott and Lisey adopt, when recollections of unexplained incidents resurface in the narrative, everything seems to be falling into place.

For example, as the narrator notes, ―[i]f she was honest with herself, [ . . . ] then she had to admit she was more frightened by these returning memories─by the sense that they were happening again, happening now─than she was by what might or might not have happened in bed just before sunrise. That she could dismiss (well . . . almost) as the half-waking dream of an anxious mind‖ (202, italics in original). This narrative technique of information, reaching both Lisey and the readers as ―returning‖ recollections helps build different narrative layers in the story which both the characters and readers need to sort out. Feleki 30

Additionally, Lisey‘s constant contact with her dead husband fills the gaps in the narrative and enhances the suspense of the story: ―‗Scott?‘ she said, feeling absurdly like her big sister Amanda. Half-nuts, in other words. ‗You haven‘t gone ghost on me, have you?‘‖ (85).

Here, by invoking ghostly creatures and apparitions, King resorts to the use of Gothic motifs for greater depth in his narrative. They manage to boost the novel‘s dreamy and at times nightmarish atmosphere. Yet, their de-gothicized nature fails to shock the readers.

Consequently, multiple narrative strands are sprung from multiple dream-like realities. These constant changes of mood and condition in the characters, from dreaming to being awake, and from dozing away in real world to metamorphosizing in parallel fictional spaces, allow novel narrative structures to evolve. The multiple-layered stories, narrated by multiple speaking voices, enhance the cinematic effects of King‘s depictions and lead to an immersive experience for the readers. The terrifying world Scott seems to be inhabiting is revealed to the readers when Lisey manages to drag her persecutor into it: ―High grass whispering against her thighs‖ and ―sweetheart trees,‖ ―on the edge of Fairy Forest,‖ just below the ―ascending goblin moon‖ (425), are soon substituted by rotten smells and scary cries ―[l]ike hyenas‖ (427). Later on,

Lisey turned to flee. She had taken no more than two running steps toward the path

into the woods when she heard Dooley scream in pain. She looked over her shoulder

and saw him on his knees. There was something jutting out of his upper arm, and his

shirt was darkening rapidly around it. Dooley staggered to his feet and plucked at it

with a curse. The jutting thing wiggled but didn‘t come out. Lisey saw a flash of

yellow, running away from it in a line. Dooley cried out again, then seized the thing

stuck in his flesh with his free hand. (581)

This imaginary world, which King gradually builds for his characters, surrounds Lisey and her persecutor. The sightings of scary blood-thirsty creatures and the odors of horrible Feleki 31 smells create an intense imaginary experience not only for the characters but also for the readers who immerse themselves into the sensations triggered. King‘s depictions, infested with visual and sensual details, gradually overwhelm the readers.

With regard to visual depictions, in the context of contemporary popular Gothic tradition, Punter acknowledges the need to investigate such manifestations. He suggests that contemporary culture ―which relies on the visual image at least as much as on the written or spoken word, and in which the majority of newspapers are themselves now given over to the image as the amount of newsprint in the tabloids shrinks year by year, is as much in need of applicable interpretation as the more traditional forms‖ (Literature of Terror 148).

Such photographic depictions are indicative of the writer‘s concerns and of the social and technological conditions in which he creates. In the novel, Lisey‘s encounter with a horrific alien creature is a characteristic incident which the readers can picture as follows:

In gaps between the trees to her left, sliding at what seems like express-train speed, is

a great high river of meat. It is mostly smooth, but in places there are dark spots or

craters that might be moles or even [ . . . ] skin cancers. [Lisey‘s] mind starts to

visualize some sort of gigantic worm, then freezes. The thing over there behind those

trees is no worm, and whatever it is, it‘s sentient, because she can feel it thinking. Its

thoughts aren‘t human, aren‘t in the least comprehensible, but there is terrible

fascination in their very alienness . . . (461, italics in original)

After King‘s long description of something otherwise incomprehensible, both Lisey and the readers can start visualizing this grotesque creature. King‘s words emphasize the deformed and de-humanized nature of this alien creature. The images and the metaphors that he generates facilitate the readers‘ immersion into the fictional world, while they graphically capture the creature‘s state-of-not-being-thereness. The information he crams his descriptions with intensify this reading experience. Detailed accounts of the weather, of Feleki 32

―[t]he sinking sun that has started to fade to pink‖ (429) and give way to the ―bloody orange hophead moon‖ (433), as well as the background voices and noises create cinematic representations of the setting and the atmosphere for a rich visual and sensuous effect that can be appreciated on the printed page.

Just before the end of the novel and before final revelations are made, Lisey wishes to regain her lost freedom and win salvation by getting rid of Scott‘s treasures, meaning his books and manuscripts:

She could see herself standing by and watching the final packing-up, maybe

bringing out a pitcher of iced tea to the kids when the work was done. And when the

tea was finished, they would set their glasses down and thank her. One of them

might tell her how much he‘d liked her husband‘s books, and the other might say

they were very sorry for her loss. As if he had died two weeks ago. She‘d thank

them. Then she would watch them drive away with all those frozen images of her

life with him locked inside their truck.

You can really let go?

She thought she could. Still that snake drowsing along the wall drew the eye. So

many shut books, sleeping deep─they drew the eye. (599, italics in original)

King‘s metaphor used here is that of books having a life of their own and giving shelter to a whole world of the writer‘s forgotten nightmares and fears. Even though Lisey‘s torture has ended and her presence in the healthy environment of her home is secure, the existence of a snake-like creature hiding in the books still seems ominous. To be free of them means to be free of the horrors that they hide. Only then can Lisey be able to say goodbye to her dead husband and get rid of a ghost of the past. Ultimately, in the third part of the novel, entitled

―Lisey‘s Story,‖ Lisey and the readers come across the actual story that Scott intentionally left for her to read last. In this manuscript, Scott reveals to Lisey the truth about his lunatic Feleki 33 father and tells the story of murder that runs in his family. Scott‘s final installment creates more depth by adding another thread to the narrative. It starts in media res because Scott expects Lisey to have solved most puzzles about him by then and conveys thus more immediacy.

The multiple stories narrated via multiple narrators, who use various writing formats and mediums, constitute an integral part of King‘s novel, the effectiveness of which derives from the multiple meanings and structures that need to be deciphered by the readers. King combines cinematic depictions, snapshots of incidents in tandem with ghostly apparitions and horrific creatures in order to create a rich mixture of visual and textual stimuli. The immediacy of King‘s language enhances the shifts between present and past, reality and dreaming; these shifts are made more effective through the narrations by multiple voices in diverse registers, engaged in diverse spatio-temporal relations. The realistic, matter-of- factness of King‘s style and the detailed descriptions of scenes assist in the transition from one mental state to the other. Ultimately, readers are taken by surprise.

All in all, these stylistic and intra-generic shifts bring in new attributes to King‘s narratives. As it seems, the Gothic provides King with the perfect space within which he weaves a contemporary yarn about artistic creation, love, and betrayal in the context of familial and work relationships. It provides the lexicon which the writer uses in order to bring new elements to his readers. The Gothic becomes the medium through which King re- negotiates the boundaries between past and present tropes and gives meaning to present concerns. More importantly, the text of Lisey’s Story takes a life of its own, making the process of writing more lively than ever before and prepares the ground for the immersive, participatory experiences King has in store for his trans-media and digital explorations, as will be shown in Part II.

Feleki 34

1.2 Textual Explorations and the Physicality of the Written Text in Duma Key

In the Gothic, nothing is as it seems or can be taken at face value. Through its body of texts and its repertoire of motifs and representations, all kinds of psychological and social tensions have been and can still be explored. What distinguishes King‘s writing, within the

Gothic tradition and its contemporary re-appropriations, is his tendency to re-situate the

Gothic in everyday situations. In order to see how they can evolve together, King fills his original textual constructions with horror tropes. Duma Key (2008) is another novel whose effective storyline relies heavily on a unique textual architecture and on various Gothic tropes. It is a novel that explores the unknown and excruciating pathway to artistic creation, and the psychological condition of its creator, who has to cope with a godsend gift that has the power not only to create but also to destroy. This time, King explores the protagonist‘s contradictory powers (when he is in a creative frenzy) and uses the genre of the Gothic as the means through which he can reflect on the rather dark side of artistic creation.

The story‘s structure draws the readers‘ attention from the first pages of the book and King‘s clever organization of the narrative patterns manages to alert their reading mechanisms. To unravel the narrative, King employs first- and third-person narrators in combination with other narrative formats, such as emails. Possibly drawing on the tradition of the , such narrative formats heighten the realistic effect of the story by imitating the workings of real life. Stories unfold within stories. The intervention of various media allows the creation of multiple versions of reality. Famous lines from songs, movies, witticisms, and the immediacy in the characters‘ language create a rich textual tapestry. As a whole, the multi-vocal narrations expressed via the multi-modality of the written word and the lively representations invite the readers to immerse themselves into the story. The combination of all these elements offers King the opportunity to bestow a true-to-life Feleki 35 dimension to his fictional worlds. Also, a careful look at the psychological shifts the main characters undergo reveals King‘s ability to depict the complicated workings of the human mind and psyche.

The main story is initially set in the urban environment of Minnesota but soon enough moves to the airy environment of Duma Key in Florida, a town overlooking the

Mexican Gulf. From the desolate urban environment, the narrator transfers readers to the romantic area of the Mexican bay, a secluded place where no laws of nature or social regulations apply. In a place where freedom of expression and freedom to act are allowed, new beginnings are possible and artistic creation can commence.

A second autonomous narrative line, entitled ―How to Draw a Picture,‖ mostly typed in italic font, is set in the same area of Florida in the 1920s. This story line, which is made up of twelve separate sections, appearing as if accidentally interleaved in the book, is tightly connected to the main narrative and provides the information that will fill in the gaps left intentionally there. It gives King the space to experiment with the effectiveness of supernatural elements and Gothic motifs in the narrative. When re-collected in the end, it helps the reader formulate a logical explanation as to the mysterious events taking place in the main story, de-gothicizing thus the whole Gothic atmosphere. Also, this novel with the two parallel narratives, which simultaneously open up to multiple other narrative strands, gives the writer the space he needs to experiment with various writing forms and character formations. Handling skillfully this multi-layered narration and the compactness of visual and sensory stimuli, King infuses the story with realism.

The main character is called Edgar Freemantle. He is avowedly ―a big deal in the building and contracting business‖ (3), who so far has displayed no artistic qualities in

Minnesota, his home town. Since his horrible accident at a construction site, he also has a cracked skull, a missing arm, and a failing memory to brag about. His outbursts of anger Feleki 36 due to his present crippled state justify his gradual turning away from his home and wife, and his flee into a completely new world. In first-person narration he explains the devastation he feels, being mentally and physically impaired: ―I can‘t remember the quality of that pain now, four years later. I know that I suffered it, and that it was excruciating, but it‘s all pretty academic. It wasn‘t academic at the time. At the time it was like being in hell and not knowing why you were there‖ (4). While still in his miserable state after the accident, a photo of Florida, of a place he had never visited before, had ―called to something deep in [him]‖ (17). As he admits, his ―life with Pam and the girls and the construction company was over, there were no other rooms in it to explore. There were, however, doors.

The one marked SUICIDE was currently a bad option, as Dr Kamen had pointed out. That left the one marked DUMA KEY‖ (19). So he decides to leave his earthly hell behind and escape to Florida, which seems promising at that time. As he is strangely drawn towards

Florida, ―that refuge of the newly wed and the nearly dead‖ (19), the readers also wait in anticipation. The forthcoming journey to the unknown raises the readers‘ expectations as they anticipate a change in Edgar‘s life. The idea of fleeing from the present world and travelling to an unknown destination opens the path for more narrative strings to develop and offers a whole new world of possibilities for the characters. Frequent references to

―rooms‖ in the story, such as references to the ―Florida room‖ (18) as a ―refuge‖ (19), reveal the narrative pathways that will intervene in the development of the characters‘ sense of reality, while suspense builds on as the writer plays with the idea of the doors opening up to new experiences.

King inserts the element of luck in the story and thus creates more suspense, while his careful selection of words helps tension mount. For Freemantle, the destination of Big

Pink ―was just the luck of the draw‖ (34). Yet, the readers who are suspicious of authorial intention may doubt the character‘s pure luck and expect only the worst. The existence of Feleki 37 something inexplicable in the earliest pictures that he creates leaves room for mysterious activities to take place. The ―instant attraction‖ that Edgar Freemantle feels for his new destination actually turns out to be fatal. King‘s references to number ―13” (35, bold in original) in red color on the mailbox reassure the readers that there are going to be a number of strange coincidences. The ―NO TRESPASSING sign slanting askew on an old gray stick beside the driveway‖ (35) poses as a final warning before Edgar settles in the new mysterious place but it does not intimidate him. As further expectations of something ominous or horrid are created, King attempts to draw connections with other Gothic writers and works of the past as he has frequently done in his earlier novels. From the beginning of the story, he insinuates the presence of ghosts or other mysterious elements. He compares the new house where Edgar is about to settle to ―the House of Usher‖ (36), a place which

Edgar will hear ―groaning‖ (36). King‘s web of interrelations and intertextual elements boosts the mystery and the suspense of the story and contributes to a rich narrative experience.

The personification of the Florida bay and the house bestows the setting with a voice and a will of its own, and adds to the sensuous effect of the narration. Edgar, awed by the magic feel of the environment around him, realizes that the house might actually be able to speak. As he writes: ―I wanted to listen to the Gulf, sweet-talking me with words it wouldn‘t remember a minute later. And I wanted to listen to the house, see if it had anything to say. I had an idea maybe it did‖ (38). The possible presence of supernatural forces alerts the readers. Soon the Gulf acquires anthropomorphic qualities as the readers imagine hearing ―the sigh of the waves, so like the breath of some large sleeping creature‖

(39). Immediately after his first creative spur on the island, Edgar hears the house actually speak to him: ―I put my pencil down, and that was when Big Pink spoke to me for the first time. Its voice was softer than the sigh of the Gulf‘s breathing, but I heard it quite well just Feleki 38 the same. I’ve been waiting for you, it said‖ (43, italics in original). To Edgar this mysterious activity seems only natural. The air feels more ―like a kiss‖ (49) to him and he is ready to reveal his creative talents. The gradual mounting of mysterious elements in the atmosphere affects Edgar, who turns this mounting psychological tension into a creative spur. Likewise, the immediacy of his first-person narration influences the readers. As if the house were actually talking to them, the readers gradually become part of the conspiracy that is being created.

King fills Edgar‘s existence with mystery. The mere sight of pictures causes a mysterious itch to his missing arm that immediately energizes him to start drawing. His artistic talent starts manifesting itself in a house where other real-life artists had lived. His mysterious landlady confesses: ―I try to get pictures from all the artists who‘ve stayed in your Big Pink. I have a Haring that was painted there. Also a Dalí sketch [ . . . ]. I‘ll show you in a bit, one really can‘t avoid it, it‘s in the television room and we always watch

Oprah‖ (134, italics in original). References to well-known films, directors, and actors, such as Marlon Brando in the Godfather (76) or Alfred Hitchcock (77), flood the narration, enhance the sense of realism and make the story relevant to the readers. These connections to real life personalities placed in a dreamy setting force ghostly creatures and story characters in peaceful co-existence. Links between factual and fictional information, between reality and a sense of dream in combination with swift juxtapositions between different moods, atmospheres, and technologies intensify the reading experience.

The whole novel plays with the notion and the potentiality of art. It explores the concepts of ―talent,‖ ―magic,‖ and ―hunger‖ in art. As the first-person narrator pinpoints in

―How to Draw a Picture (III)‖ ―[t]here’s no creation without talent [ . . . ] but talent is cheap. Talent goes begging” (91, italics in original). Talent can naturally connect reality with magic, the common with the unusual, and beauty with ugliness. He continues that ―Art Feleki 39 is magic, no argument there, but all art, no matter how strange in the humble everyday. Just don’t be surprised when weird flowers sprout from common soil” (141, italics in original).

Sometimes it is exactly through the commonality of its depictions that the immense powers of art can be revealed. However, like all activities dealt with in the Gothic tradition, artistic creation in King‘s story is treated as a painful experience that coincides with Edgar‘s accident. It comes as one in a number of mysterious incidents that will affect his life forever.

In ―How to Draw a Picture (IV)‖ we also learn that art has also become the means of expression for a little girl, named Elizabeth, after a painful experience she had when she fell off her pram as a baby. Not being able to speak after the accident, Elizabeth turns to her paintbrushes for support. Drawing becomes the medium of expression for her: ―The more she drew, the more she saw. The more she saw, the more she wanted to draw. It works like that. And the more she saw, the more her language came back to her: first the four or five hundred words she knew on the day she fell from the cart and struck her head, then many, many, many more‖ (141). This interrelation between drawing and seeing reveals the communicative potential that rests with different mediums of expression and enhances the fleeting sensation experienced both by the characters in the story and the readers.

Evidently, art is of prime importance in the novel and King endows it with magical powers. This inner desire for artistic creation is strangely manifested. Both little Elizabeth and Edgar experience it physically as hunger. Yet, hunger for food is soon equated with an inexplicable desire for meat and blood, which seems ominous after the accident. Edgar is not ashamed to confess his desire for more flesh and blood after putting Gandalf, the neighbor‘s dog, out of its misery, after running over it with his car:

I snatched a paper plate, flipped the hamburger onto it, and wolfed the half-raw

ground beef while I leaned against the Cabinet. About halfway through I saw the red Feleki 40

juice seeping out of the red meat and got a momentary but brilliant picture of

Gandalf looking up at me while blood and shit oozed from the wrecked remains of

his hindquarters, matting the fur on his broken rear legs. My stomach didn‘t so much

as quiver, just cried impatiently for more food. I was hungry. (27)

Hunger, death, and a desire for life are mysteriously combined by King as hunger takes over the protagonist and disgust fills the readers. However, a few pages further down, his hunger is transformed into a creative frenzy. Edgar explains that the sight of ―three palm trees silhouetted against the sky, their fronds ruffling in the mildest of breezes‖ (40) make him want to draw again; ―it was like a dry hunger, but not precisely in the belly; it made my mind itch. And, oddly, the stump of my amputated arm‖ (40). Edgar feels a mysterious urge to paint with the missing limb, and after he is done, he is overwhelmed by an uncontrollable desire to devour food again. This bodily hunger is mysteriously connected with his creative urges. He advises readers in the parallel narrative strand to ―[s]tay hungry. It worked for

Michelangelo, it worked for , and it works for a hundred thousand artists who do it not for love (although that may play a part) but in order to put food on the table. If you want to translate the world, you need to use your appetites‖ (91, italics in original). But for all the magic attributed to art, King, indirectly through his character‘s words, comments on the realization that the motive for art is to put bread on the artist‘s table. Edgar‘s tendency to create and then resort to food becomes more and more intense in the novel, until all the pictures he draws on Duma Key come together for the mystery to be resolved.

As the narration moves on, Edgar‘s artistic creativity becomes more intense, while his powers seem potent to change his reality: ―Letting artistic work accumulate here is like letting too much electricity accumulate in battery. If you do that, the battery may explode‖

(170). A terrible itch on the side of his missing hand is connected to this desire to paint. His phantom hand does all the work; frenzy takes over his existence and gives him telepathic Feleki 41 powers to sense future events and the ability to intervene and fatally change them by painting. As soon as he gets informed about the latest developments related to the rape and murder of young Tina Garibaldi by the monstrous Candy Brown on TV, Edgar gets repulsed. He watches Brown‘s lawyer‘s act in front of the cameras and begins narrating his own dramatic transformation: ―I was breathing in hot little moans. Sweat was trickling out of my hair [ . . . ]. I stuck a brush in my teeth, put a second one behind my ear, started to grab a third, then picked up a pencil instead. The minute I started sketching, the monstrous itch in my arm began to abate‖ (227). By the time the paintings are finished, the painful experience is over too: ―The pen finished and fell away. The itch was gone. My fingers were stiff‖ (192). Edgar narrates the painful transformation he undergoes as a creator who is killed and reborn through his ashes, while in the process of creating something new. Hot breath, sweat, itching, and stiffness come in succession and manage to represent the torments of creation. The textual richness that King gradually builds through his detailed narrations in tandem with the psychological depictions of his character‘s drama adds to the richness of artistic experience as well.

The rich imagery used in setting up the scenes creates the tone for all the supernatural incidents that are about to occur. When Edgar‘s talent in painting is revealed through his artworks, he continues with the following observation:

What I mostly remember about that evening is the wonderful, blissful sensation

of having caught an actual bolt of lightning in a bottle for three or four minutes. By

then the room had begun to dim out, the shadows seeming to swim forward over the

rose-colored carpet toward the fading rectangle of the picture window. Even with

the last light striking across my ease, I couldn‘t get a good look at what I‘d done. I

got up, limped around the treadmill to the switch by the door, and flipped on the

overhead. Then I went back, turned the easel, and caught my breath. Feleki 42

The sophora bracelet seemed to rear over the horizon-line like a tentacle of a sea

creature big enough to swallow a supertanker. The single yellow blossom could

have been an alien eye. More important to me, it had somehow given them sunset

back the truth of its ordinary I-do-this-every-night beauty.

That picture I set aside. Then I went downstairs, microwaved a Hungry Man fried

chicken dinner, and ate it right down to the bottom of the box. (56)

In this description of the painting, inanimate matter takes the position of the mediating subjects, causing strange activity in the room. The bolt of lightning captured in a bottle for a few minutes initiates a number of weird occurrences. The shadows appear as if dancing freely in a room that has chosen to darken by itself. The sophora is depicted menacing, hinting at the potential dangers lurking for the trespassers of that place, whereas the yellow blossom posing like an ―alien eye‖ seems to be controlling the activity. As Edgar continues to work on the picture, he adds more elements to it:

The following night I lined the sunset with bundles of witchgrass, and the brilliant

shining through the green turned the horizon into a forest fire. The night after that I

tried palm trees, but that was no good, that one was another cliché, I could almost

see hula-hula girls and hear ukes strumming. Next I put a big old conch shell on the

horizon with the sunset firing off around it like a corona, and the result was─to me,

at least─almost unbearably creepy. That one I turned to the wall, thinking when I

looked at it the next day it would have lost its magic, but it hadn‘t. Not for me,

anyway. (56-57)

The detailed narration follows the movements of the paintbrush, creating a dreamy effect.

As with Edgar, King tries to immerse readers in the magical environment of Big Pink. They follow each step that magically creates the painting in front of their eyes. The artist Edgar tries out new formations on the canvas and gazes at them amazed, as they seem to acquire a Feleki 43 life of their own. King includes information about the special vegetation growing in the East

Coast in order to give to the narrative an element of reality and to juxtapose the real with the dreamy atmosphere. After the detailed description of his painting, the narrator‘s focus turns to Edgar‘s digital camera and brings the readers back to the protagonist‘s level of reality. As the sudden use of technology violently interrupts Edgar‘s dreamy experience, he confesses, ―I snapped a picture of it with my digital camera and attached it to an e-mail. It prompted the following exchange, which I printed out and stowed in a folder‖ (57).

Particularly interesting at this point in the novel is the fact that technology, instead of helping Edgar to restore and distribute information about his art, can transform into a lethal weapon. Specifically, King emphasizes the transgressive element of technological devices, which turn into mediators of bad news in the story. Edgar informs the readers that ―the

MESSAGE WAITING lamp of my answering machine was flashing‖ (58). This way King toys with the readers‘ expectations and alerts them about the possibility of unfortunate incidents taking place in the future.

In Duma Key, painted pictures also reveal the extraordinary powers of art and its transgressive nature. In the last line of ―How to Draw a Picture (I),‖ Edgar addresses the readers directly and informs them that “Pictures are magic, as you know” (1, italics in original). Readers soon realize that his creations are not of the ordinary kind, but can affect reality irreversibly. When his talent in painting becomes evident, his pictures acquire magical powers and change the lives of the people depicted on them forever. His first murder of Candy Brown, a schizophrenic criminal who abducts and kills innocent twelve- year-old Tina Garibaldi, is mysteriously carried out from a distance. Edgar confesses: ―My painting was an almost exact copy of the photograph that had been in every Florida newspaper at least once since February fifteenth, and probably in most papers across the Feleki 44

United States. There was only one major difference‖ (228). Brown‘s mouth is now missing from the picture:

There was Tina, dressed in jeans and a clean pink tee-shirt, with her pack on her

back. There was Candy Brown, also dressed in jeans, with his hand upon her wrist.

Her eyes were turned up to his and her mouth was slightly open, as if to ask a

question─What do you want, mister? Being the most likely. His eyes were looking

down at her, and they were full of dark intent, but the rest of his face showed

nothing at all, because the rest of his face wasn‘t there. I hadn‘t painted his mouth

and nose.

Below the eyes, my version of Candy Brown was a perfect blank. (230, italics in


The people appearing on the TV news tell their own realistic stories, but only Edgar knows the truth. The cause of death attributed to sleep apnea sounds pretty convincing and realistic, but Edgar gives his own version of the story, bringing readers close to his own account of truth.

When it comes to using Edgar‘s telepathic painting powers to save his trusted friend,

Wireman, King parallels Edgar to Dr Frankenstein trying to create his own monster. Edgar admits: ―I went upstairs at the boom-and-flash height of the festivities, and─feeling a little like Dr Frankenstein animating his monster in the castle tower─drew Wireman, using a plain old Venus Black pencil‖ (154). Edgar acts as a modern Frankenstein with his artistic creation being a composite of body parts that come alive when assembled. Edgar‘s art poses as the only true way of coming to terms with reality; the only challenge is to find the right tools to do so. Different versions of the same story coming from different mediating characters add to the depth of the narrative. What is more, expectations are raised in the Feleki 45 readers who anticipate a satisfactory explanation for the unexplained incidents happening to

Edgar in Duma Key.

The plot builds on numerous unexplained events. During the narration of the main story, the readers are given clues about the old lady, clues which draw connections with the secondary story. As both story threads unravel, we are informed that in the parallel story

Miss Eastlake is actually the little girl, named Libbit, who loses her ability to speak after falling from her baby carriage and striking on the right side of her head. Yet, art gives her the ability to re-invent herself. She starts expressing herself through painting, but her family soon loses interest:

What came next, the outgrowth of their boredom, was a determination to make

them see the wonder of what she saw by re-inventing it.

Her surrealist phase began; first the birds flying upside-down, then the animals

walking on water, then the Smiling Horses that brought her a small measure of

renown. And that was when something changed. That was when something dark

slipped in, using little Libbit as its channel.

She began to draw her doll, and when she did, her doll began to talk.

Noveen. (141, italics in original)

The readers soon realize that Elizabeth, once a ―child prodigy‖ is also the girl in the short story who the nanny calls ―la petite obeah fille‖ (141). Now a very old lady, her lapses of memory become longer and longer and she soon loses contact with reality. Edgar curiously describes her in the main story as ―her eyes turned toward me. They were perfectly clear.

This wasn‘t the woman who had asked about when the train was coming, the one who had said she was so fucking confused. All her circuit-breakers were back in the ON positions.

At least temporarily‖ (223). King has Elizabeth switch to ON and OFF and creates an interesting parallelism between human actions and machine operations. As he masterly Feleki 46 manipulates his characters and has them act as mediators for the completion of particular tasks, he reveals their malleability and transformative potential. Also, he initiates a post- fictional comment on the writer‘s intentions and his freedom to control his characters‘ fate.

Typically, in the Gothic tradition, dolls and inanimate matter have the ability to come to life and acquire a will of their own, a teleology that is often beyond human comprehension and understandable only when the tension between reality and fantasy is resolved. In Duma Key, nature acquires an existence of its own, as shown in the following description coming from Edgar himself: ―The shells beneath the house had taken on a pleasant, lulling sound, their conversation tonight civilized and low-pitched‖ (225). At other times, the insinuation of ghosts instigating artistic creation adds to the mysterious effect in the novel: ―Elizabeth’s muse became Noveen, the marvelous talking doll,” (197, italics in original). Apparently, the seemingly innocent toy of the little girl is taken over by the evil spirit of a ship that had disappeared for centuries. It is the same ship that Edgar mysteriously paints over and over again without ever having seen it:

Here’s a picture I did paint, not once but again and again and again:

The whiteness of the hull doesn’t exactly disappear; it is sucked inward like

blood fleeing the cheek of a terrified man. The ropes fray. The bright-work dulls.

The glass in the windows of the aft cabin bursts outward. A junkheap clutter

appears on the decking, rolling into existence from for to aft. Except it was there all

along. Tessie just didn’t see it. Now she sees it.

Now she believes. (349, italics in original)

The reference to a still undefined and unexplained ―junkheap clutter,‖ coming gradually into existence, suggests that a mysterious entity can affect life and activity in the secondary plot line, which is closely related to the main narrative strand of the novel. Feleki 47

As soon as the readers start following the developments in Edgar‘s life in the main story, the most out-of-place incidents take place. In ―How to Draw a Picture (VII)‖ in the parallel storyline, Libbit loses control over her painting skills and her haunted nature turns against her and sisters in malice. Strange creatures, like the ones that she used to draw, drive the little kids to their death. From the eerie place that the narrator describes only the most dangerous -like creatures are expected to show up:

A creature comes from belowdecks. It creeps to the railing, where it stares down

at the girl. It is a slumped thing in a hooded red robe. Hair that might not be hair at

all flutters dankly around a melted face. Yellow hands grip splintered, punky wood.

Then, one lifts slowly.

And waves to the girl who will soon be GONE. (349, italics in original)

The horrific creature that rises from beneath the sea bottom resists identification. Coming straight out of the nightmarish dreams of the little girl, the slow movement of this red- hooded living ―thing‖ manages to scare and take over her brothers‘ and sisters‘ existence.

Besides, the environment actively participates in the creation of a creepy atmosphere and helps the story unfold. Information about the weather reinforces the horrid atmosphere.

Before Elizabeth‘s brother and sister are abducted by the fierce unnamed creature, the reader reads: ―The blue fades from the sky and then the sky bleeds red‖ (348, italics in original) and gets an idea about what is about to follow. A few lines below, the narrator continues: ―The rip parts their hands. It is ruthless, and Lo-Lo actually drowns first because she fights harder. Tessie hears her cry out twice. First for help. Then, giving up her sister’s name‖ (349, italics in original). Through the effective use of the present tense and colors, the writer creates a lively description.

Still within the Gothic mode of writing, King makes a shift, changes perspective and comments on the function of art in the hyper-mediated narrative. In the main narrative, the Feleki 48 mysterious old lady needs to know: ―‗What kind of artist are you, Edgar? Do you believe in art for art‘s sake?‘‖ Edgar replies, ―‗Definitely art for art‘s sake, ma‘am‘‖ (135). Although

King‘s novel keeps on reminding us that his characters live in a consumer society, it appears that they are still haunted by the ghosts of the past. In the novel, paintings pose as products to be devoured by ―art snobs‖ (160). Nonetheless, as his art dealer Nannuzzi confesses, what makes them good is ―‗[t]ruth [ . . . ]. It shines through in every stroke‘‖

(161, italics in original). King toys with the concept of ―good‖ art that links to the artist‘s true intentions, which may contrast with the product‘s consumable nature.

However, what happens when art comes face to face with technology? Throughout the novel, King measures art against cameras, the TV, and other media, but he does not underestimate the creative and expressive forces empowered through art. At other times, paintings march next to and contrast with the latest state-of-the-art technical equipment. As

Edgar describes, Elizabeth‘s ―‗television room‘ was dominated by a big flat-screen

Samsung. At the other end of the room was a stack of expensive sound components. I hardly noticed either one. I was looking at the framed sketch on the wall above the shelves of CDs, and for a few seconds I forgot to breathe‖ (136). Axl Rose‘s hit ―Welcome to the

Jungle‖ (263) on the radio in the background comes to ―frame‖ the picture, creating further connections with popular culture.

Also, the paintings transform into movie stills ready to tell their own story to the audience as soon as they are placed in an exhibition space. Edgar mentions that,

I seemed to see the paintings for the first time, and they looked oddly like stills

culled from a strip of movie film. Each image was a little clearer, a little more in

focus, but always essentially the same, always the ship I had first glimpsed in a

dream. It was always a sunset, and the light filling the west was always a titanic red

anvil that spread blood across the water and infected the sky. The ship was a three- Feleki 49

masted corpse, something that had floated in from a plaguehouse of the dead. Its

sails were rags. Its deck was deserted. There was something horrible in every

angular line, and although it was impossible to say just what, you feared for the little

girl alone in her rowboat, the little girl who first appeared in a tic-tac-toe dress, the

little girl afloat on the wine-dark Gulf. (369-70)

Although Edgar has created all these paintings, he feels strangely drawn to them. Like a different snapshot, each painting reveals a different version of the story that he is trying to make sense of. Edgar‘s extremely detailed description creates a realistic effect. The detailed photographic depictions help readers connect the pieces with the scene of the kids‘ earlier unfortunate drowning.

Although Edgar initially loses everything and goes through hell until he manages to stand on his feet after his horrible accident, he wins and discovers a new self, a new life, and a new love for the world and all its creations. Art, ultimately, becomes the tongue, a means of expression and memory. In Duma Key, Edgar inscribes history onto the canvas and then on paper for next generations to access. Art is the artist‘s truth and because

Elizabeth could not paint and tell her story any longer, she had other painters do it for her.

Edgar‘s mysterious presence in the Mexican bay can, finally, be explained. When the picture is complete, all hidden facts have been revealed.

Apparently, the whole novel turns out to be an exploration into the unknown powers of the art of painting and an investigation of the unspoken truths that art can express. More importantly, though, it functions as an exposition of the potentiality of the written narrative form. The multimodality of the word, meaning the visual potential of the language, the vividness of the images, and the intricate narrative structures create an immersive reading experience. King creates expectations in the readers by resorting to literary traditions and tropes, but is always ready to readjust them and open up his stories to diverse Feleki 50 interpretations. King has always insisted that what has made his writing last for so many decades is the fact that it is true to life and true to his readers. Although he has never denied the fact that his writing has helped pay his bills, he also maintains that what generates art is the call of the artist to express his feelings and concerns. He honestly confesses, ―I have written seriously since I was twelve, and to me that means that I always wrote in order to make money, but I have tried to tell my stories with all the integrity I can manage, and with as much honest feeling for the subject as I had‖ (―On Becoming a Brand Name‖ 16). The main metaphor of the insatiable hunger that Edgar and Elizabeth experience while they are creating their own artworks, could also stand for the hunger that King has always felt for artistic expression through his writing. The inscription of words on the page functions almost like the strokes of the paintbrush on canvas. The physicality of the medium and its rich texture allow the writer to experiment with different means of communication and expression.

In Part II and III of this dissertation, I consider how King tries out new writing techniques, while employing novel authorial practices. Through his textual explorations in the powers of the mediating word and the Gothic tradition, King manages to regenerate the craving of the reading public for more popular fiction. As I will argue, the audience‘s demand for more visuality is easily and effectively remediated in new types of media that emphasize all kinds of special effects.

Feleki 51

Chapter Two

Re-inventing the Narrative Process

The convergence of the print technologies with computer technology in and out of hyper-/multi-mediated environments has had a number of consequences on the narrative, representational, and organizational levels of the literary text. In an effort to rival the immediacy created by the creative mingling of text, pictures, and multi-media applications in hyper-text organization, the popular text strives to display its visibility and plasticity through the re-invention of the language and its close connection with visual representations. What is to be argued in Chapter Two is that narration can no longer be seen as a simple communication process between the addresser and the addressee; it is the materiality of each medium of expression that also affects the practice and the quality of communication as well as determines the artifact that is to be distributed. On these grounds, the writing and the reading practices undergo considerable readjustments.

The communication process between the writer, the reader, and the text is always in relation to the current cultural reality of the participants and informed by their social, historical, and ideological appreciation of that culture. Apart from the power of the medium to attach meaning to its content, the communicated work of art is the expression of its socio- cultural realities. After a retrospective look at the conditions in which popular culture and media have thrived over the last fifty years and the political commotions that have followed, this chapter addresses such questions as the communicative potential of King‘s narrative through a selection of characteristic excerpts from the novels Lisey’s Story and Duma Key.

The analysis of the narrative techniques King employs in these written works does not focus only on the content or on the ways the writer communicates his message to the readers but also on the actual creative process taking place under specific sociopolitical, technological, Feleki 52 and cultural circumstances. These sections function as transitions to the second part of this dissertation as they focus on how King‘s writing techniques reveal a rather ―covert‖ process of remediation, challenge conventional narrative modes, and pave the way for novel experiences as regards writing and reading.

2.1 Media Perspectives and Remediated Writing Forms: Polyglot Narration

in Duma Key

A short overview of the history of media technologies, instrumental in the creation of meaning and power precedes the literary analysis of Duma Key so as to help readers develop the necessary linkages with popular production and allow them to appreciate how these are distilled in King‘s latest popular writing. This brief look at the social, cultural and, political parameters, underlying old and new media trajectories, constitutes the background that will explain their effects on Kings‘ popular writing techniques, and his shift towards the exploration of electronic writing and publication environments, as Parts II and III of the present dissertation will examine.

Nick Heffernan, in his article ―Popular Culture,‖ published in A New Introduction to

American Studies (2006), traces the trajectory of American popular culture, locating its origins in the folk tales of the first European settlers that were soon appropriated by the country‘s developing print culture. As early as the seventeenth century, these tales took the form of pamphlets, chapbooks, novels, and popular press. By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, print media, such as periodicals, magazines, bestsellers, and novels, had achieved great popularity that led to the development of the print-matter market. Thomas

Edison‘s kinetoscope led to the gradual development of cinemas and theaters mainly for the immigrant, working-class of the time (356-67). After the advent of photography, the Feleki 53 establishment of the film industry, and the invention of television, the visual product has gradually come closer to the masses.

Such technological and cultural developments have caused great commotion as they have threatened to change the cultural and political map. They have also revived discussions about the existence of a unitary but albeit exclusionary culture. As Jim Collins sees it, ―[t]he cohesiveness of the unitary public sphere was dependent upon a notion of culture as a relatively closed set regarding its rules and players. As soon as the categories of literature and public [began] to diversify and multiply, ‗culture‘ [became] a fundamentally conflicted terrain‖ (Uncommon Cultures 5). Avant-garde movements that emanated an air of elitism in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century came as a logical reaction to a fear of cultural standardization due to the latest mass production techniques, as noted by

Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer of the Frankfurt School, in ―The Culture

Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception‖ (1944). As the overview that follows will indicate, the popularization and democratization of culture through standardization techniques has always exercised a dominating force over audiences and creative networks.

Contrary to initial fears and anxieties, the gradual automization of social and cultural practices during the twentieth century brought about a sense of untapped potential in avant- garde and experimental creativity. Since then, the development of new production and distribution mediums has affected the content of the literary product and has brought it closer to the public, leading to the flourishing of new popular genres. Popular, which, according to Bob Ashley, among other things means ―‗enjoyed‘ (and probably purchased) by many readers‖ (1), acquires novel meanings in the twenty-first century. Specifically,

Heffernan discusses a number of issues embedded in the popular. He shifts attention away from ―‗the word‘s Latin root, popularis, meaning ‗of or from the people,‘ [as] [popular works] do not emerge directly from experiences or organisations that belong to the mass of Feleki 54 ordinary people, but are rather manufactured and distributed according to a ‗top-down‘ model of near-monopoly control‖ (354, italics in original). He continues that ―they are consumed by audiences whose influence over what they are given and how they receive it is often limited to the bare right of refusal or a meaningless choice between virtually identical products‖ (354). He recognizes the ability of the book and entertainment industries to mold consumer tastes and needs for the benefits of a culture industry that works according to the corporations‘ profit. By first balancing between the ideas of a pessimistic ―anti- or pseudo- democratic‖ (354) reach of popular culture and the more optimistic bottom-up aspect of popular culture seen as ―a mirror in which ordinary Americans see themselves reflected in all their diversity‖ (354), he endorses the notion of popular culture as a ―contested terrain‖

(355). Grass-roots subcultures and their contributions to popular production emerge as one form of reaction to the all-powerfulness of the culture industry.

Within the dominant cultural canon, artists have made counter-efforts to break away from restrictions and create a space where artistic pluralism can be expressed. Assumedly, this new space can give voice to the diverse discourses of the creators and their audiences.

Collins points out that Post-Modernism has ―depend[ed] upon an assertion unthinkable in

High Modernism─that both the avant-garde and popular culture are nothing more than discursive formations, configurations of stylistic features linked to specific audiences by institutional networks that justify their various functions according to their own hierarchies of cultural production‖ (Uncommon 76). Furthermore, the impact technological developments have had on cultural determinants has also affected artistic production and triggered off new hopes for advancement along with new causes for concern. While new cultural forms, such as photography, film, and advertising have quickly caught on due to the power of the image, the literary medium has tried to rival the speed and directness of the messages projected via visual media. The incorporation of images or other types of visual Feleki 55 material in the text has offered new creative potentials to the print industry, has led to a more sensuous reading experience, and has, simultaneously, boosted consumption.

Undoubtedly, the invention of the alphabet and the organization of writing are considered to be the first major steps in the history of communication technology. The printing press has helped authors to break away from the ―primary orality‖ of their communities, which were structured around speech for the organization of the first social structures. Walter Ong, in his much acclaimed Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (1982), offers an interesting investigation into the intricacies of writing and printing developments, which have led to the electronic age. After the development of various technologies of communication (from pictograms to the later phonetic alphabet), the invention of the printing press in the sixteenth century gave a new dimension to writing and to the proprietor of information. It helped spread the word to the masses and disseminate information and fictional stories to laymen. It also overcame spatio-temporal obstacles and opened up the way to a new democracy of thought. According to Ong, centuries later, the notion of ―secondary orality‖ is used to describe the complex processes of electric media, leading to the redefinition of orality and to a new communal sense among the participants.

In his intriguing Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), McLuhan explains his theory of the ―global village‖ and the ―detribilazing‖ force of media, such as radio and

TV, that have re-shaped social structures:

A tribal and feudal hierarchy of traditional kind collapses quickly when it meets any

hot medium of the mechanical, uniform, and repetitive kind. The medium of money

or wheel or writing, or any other form of specialist speed up of exchange and

information, will serve to fragment a tribal structure. Similarly, a very much greater

speed-up, such as occurs with electricity, may serve to restore a tribal pattern of

intense involvement such as took place with the introduction of radio in Europe, and Feleki 56

is now tending to happen as a result of TV in America. Specialist technologies

detribalize. The nonspecialist electric technology retribalizes. (24)

McLuhan‘s revolutionary views voice the bewilderment of theoreticians of that time and their agonizing efforts to explain the new equations coming about in the social landscape after major technological advancements.

Mark Poster, in his work The Second Media Age (1995), offers a good overview of modernity‘s initial pessimistic outlook on the sweeping force of media. There, he describes the history of the ―First Media Age‖ (before the digitization of information and the introduction of the World Wide Web) as a culture of threat for the established order. The alleged freedom that the first media, such as radio, television, and cinema, were supposed to bring was fiercely questioned by the social theorists of the time. Skeptics accused media of producing language without giving to the recipient the opportunity to respond; yet, the actual reason behind the critique against media was the threat they posed to the established order.4 Poster‘s study investigates not only the social changes that the introduction of new media has brought about, but also the politics linked to the new communication systems.

Admittedly, technology has always determined the content of the message to be communicated and transmitted as well as the form of communication and the type of the participants involved in the process.5 Last but not least, Poster reads Baudrillard‘s social theory of media as one of the last philosophies to mourn over the new technology and as the

4 Georges Duhamel‘s remarks reveal his elitist disposition towards cinema when he describes it as ―a pastime for helots, a diversion for the uneducated, wretched, worn-out creatures who are consumed by their worries [ . . . ], a spectacle which requires no concentration and presupposes no intelligence [ . . . ], which kindles no light in the heart and awakens no hope other than the ridiculous one of someday becoming ‗a star‘ in ‖ (qtd. in Poster 5). 5 As Mark Poster notes, according to Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, the first media have acted as tools of fascism. Their technological determinism was to turn all recipients of audio information into passive listeners (6). For Louis Althusser, media are ―emanations of a determining bourgeois ideology‖ within capitalist societies (qtd. in Poster 12). From a different perspective, Jürgen Habermas sees ―[w]riting, the printing press and electronic media [ . . . ] [as] significant innovations [ . . . ] by these means speech acts are freed from spatiotemporal contextual limitations and made available for multiple and future contexts‖ (qtd. in Poster 12). In this sense, Habermas is considered to be one of the first to point out the liberating force of media that can de-contextualize as well as re-contextualize human forms of communication. Feleki 57 forerunner of discussions revolving around a ―second media‖ age that would include the computer, the internet, and other multimedia tools. 6

The introduction of satellite communications in the midst of the twentieth century, which substituted the much older cable communication networks, and technological products (such as the personal computer, the internet, and the World Wide Web) have managed to re-determine cultural consciousness and restructure social forms and human communication in the twentieth century. The formerly expressed fear for the replication of all signs under the powerful sway of technological production and visual projection takes now a new turn, due to the optimism for the new potentiality of new electronic media.

Poster regards new media as liberating, ―bidirectional, decentralized [ . . . ] with [ . . . ] new opportunities for reconstructing the mechanisms of subject constitution (19). The flexibility of digital interfaces challenges the fixedness of written forms on the printed page. Printed language no longer represents the one and only reality. However, due to its representational capabilities, the same language can be used to reconfigure reality, while new media can enhance people‘s communication capacities.

In new media theory, the subject seems to regain its position in the communicative process as an active participant. Through constantly evolving media realizations, one envisages continually re-defined but de-centered identities developing in fast-flowing environments and re-positioned in new relationships in the communication process. Since the turn of the century, the convergence of computing and information technologies with digital technology has led to the development of interactivity and to what has been termed as ―participatory culture‖ by Jenkins (Convergence xi). George P. Landow is one of the first hypertext thinkers to explore the repercussions of an emerging computer technology on the

6 Jean Baudrillard‘s fascination stems from the ability of media to project a diverse sense of reality through the creation of simulations since signification and meaning are made possible through signs projected by media. To him, the lack of symbolic elements in society and a belief in the power of the sign leads to a subverted sense of reality, a simulated reality which the media project, a hyper-reality made up of references without referents. His concepts have been challenged by new media theorists. Feleki 58 literary work, the writer, and the readers. His books, Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of

Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology (1997) and Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization (2006), attempt to highlight the social, cultural, and political implications of such a technological turn. As my study will reveal, participants, content, and media platforms converge and become involved in a new type of information, media, and energy exchange that redefines all types of information and communication realizations.

At the time when these multiple convergences began to be traced, David Bolter and

Richard Grusin‘s remediation theory, developed in their inspiring work Remediation:

Understanding New Media (1999), traces the chain effects that have followed the merging of older and new media and investigates their influences on recent literary, multimedia, and cultural studies. According to Bolter and Grusin, ―[r]emediation‖ entails a kind of

―borrowing‖ (45) between media that leads to their redefinition. N. Katherine Hayles, in her

Writing Machines (2002), concedes that we are ―participating in an ecology in which one medium is remediated in another, only to be remediated in turn‖ (6). As both theories on remediation suggest, this is a natural process emerging from the new media reality. What is more, Hayles‘ theory of intermediation, expressed in My Mother was a Computer: Digital

Subjects and Literary Texts (2005), suggests a more complex process of ―entagled causalities‖ (My Mother 32), which brings together both texts and participating subjects; these are being defined by the medium and its new representational codes and modes.

Through their work, these theorists try to draw attention to the specificities of new media and focus on the complicated processes involved as Western societies move from old to digitally defined media.

In contrast to Baudrillard, who pessimistically clings to the idea that everything is a simulation, media theorists Bolter, Grusin, and Hayles give an invigorating turn to media Feleki 59 theory by emphasizing the immense potentiality that opens up for the emergent remediated culture. Bolter and Grusin enthusiastically preach that ―all media remediate the real‖ (56) since ―all mediations are real as artifacts in our mediated culture‖ (55). What is more, contrary to Walter Benjamin‘s claim, in his monumental article ―The Work of Art in the

Age of Mechanical Reproduction‖ (1969), that the ―aura‖ of the work of art breaks down within the practices of mass production, Bolter and Grusin insist that ―[r]emediation does not destroy the ‗aura‘ of a work of art; instead it always refashions that aura in another media form‖ (75). It becomes evident, thus, that the early anxiety and numbness, caused by the emergence of new computerized forms of communication, are outweighed by a generalized craze with new media and the potential they offer for creativity and production.

When it comes to the written text inscribed on the printed medium, which poses as a potentially reconfigured space after the convergence of literary writing with technology, a redefinition of the conventions that underlie literary writing can also be detected. Due to cross-media influences and diverse discourse interventions, writing and reading fiction for print become constructive and highly dynamic processes, and open up to multi-generic and multi-layered re-presentations and re-tellings of fictional imagination. Within postmodern artistic creation, ―a contradictory phenomenon, one that uses and abuses, installs and then subverts the very concepts it challenges‖ in Linda Hutcheon‘s words (3), cross-media intersections have the power to rejuvenate conventional forms of cultural expression. The heterogeneity of the postmodern text indicates the highly discursive nature of contemporary culture after a constructive re-visiting of the traditions and of the narrative modes that it employs. After all, in a postmodernist re-appreciation of the twentieth century linguistic and cultural production, the diversity of languages and discourses is best displayed through multiple forms of mediation. This heterogeneity and diversity, which are enhanced after the intervention of the electronic medium, have also been affecting printed mediation. Feleki 60

King achieves diversity in his works by combining different genres and discourses and by enhancing the text with allusions to films, TV shows, and pop music. The incorporation of their representational techniques, transcoded for the medium of print helps

King to achieve textual and linguistic diversity. As will be analyzed further below, King blends different writing styles and printing technologies, and thus re-invents narrative techniques. At the same time, he frames multi-layered representations that can instigate more open-ended experiences for the reader. Although King‘s writing questions totalizing truths in a postmodern fashion, his enormous popularity and his choice to produce works massively have obviously deprived him and his work of a favorable literary commentary.

This section explores King‘s ventures into the uncharted area that lies between literary language and the sensory richness of trans-medial representations, and offers a postmodernist re-appreciation of constructed reality.

The communicative aspect of fiction is of primary concern. It needs to be addressed as a variable that is affected by the redefinition of popular writing in print after the literary language is creatively mingled with other media. Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, in her work

Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (1999), states that ―narrative fiction‖─no matter which historical period and which literary field we are referring to─is ―the narration of a succession of fictional events,‖ tied to ―a communication process in which the narrative as message is transmitted by addresser to addressee‖ (2). The materiality of the printed medium and the architectural structure of the written text affect the relations between the writer-addresser and the reader-addressee, who are involved in a dynamic re-appropriation of the written text. The multiple narrators, sometimes with an ironic disposition towards their narration, are granted the freedom to address readers directly and involve them in the appreciation of the represented world. In this way, readers participate in the restructuring of the fictional world actively. The readings that they propose come as direct responses to the Feleki 61 narrators‘ accounts in the writers‘ texts. Therefore, an actual communication process among writers, narrators, and readers takes place in the premises of the novel. Hutcheon concedes that ―the locus of meaning shifts from author to text to reader, and, finally, to the entire act of enunciation‖ (86), which is no longer taken to be the original expression of one and only omnipotent author but rather as an act of ―performative inscription,‖ carried out by what she calls ―producer‖ (76).

The messages that are being communicated to the readers through the text are inseparable parts in this act of communication. They gradually reveal the writer‘s and the characters‘ intentions to them. According to Seymour Chatman, ―[t]he novel‘s narrative technique becomes rhetorical when it functions to suade us of the text‘s right to be considered as fictional narrative, of its existence as a nonarbitrary and noncontingent utterance, one that has its own force and autonomy, its own right to be taken seriously as a legitimate member of the class of texts we call narrative fictions‖ (191, italics in original).

What Chatman highlights here is the quality of a narrative to persuade readers about the validity of the realistic depictions it creates. My investigation into King‘s narrative techniques, as these are materialized on the re-invented printed medium, will reveal that he is a writer who chooses among an array of writing and production mediums in order to communicate his intentions to the readers who seek hands-on immersive experiences. I try to explain King‘s unparalleled success in popular fiction and his trajectory through older and new media that circulate commonly held ideas and form consciousnesses. At the same time, I argue that King‘s narratives become rhetorical under the pressures of strict marketing policies and technological demands that readjust production in a hyper-mediated world. In King‘s hands, writing acquires special meanings.

The unprecedented reception of King‘s fiction by the reading public can be justified as a result of the successful communication process that takes place between the sender and Feleki 62 the receiver. On the one hand, King‘s first priority seems to be the presentation of his fictional worlds through the printed book; this is the primary medium for the circulation of his work. On the other hand, the production of remediated forms of these written works for cinema, TV, the graphic novel, and lately for online platforms enhances the communication pathways between artists and consumers. The fact that King‘s works are available in diverse forms constitutes the best proof of the writer‘s effort to appeal to public taste. Yet, the use of various media, in order for his works to successfully reach their targeted audience, is not merely an outside factor adjusting production and distribution policies. On the contrary, these media are incorporated in his printed stories and determine the content of the narration. Singers singing their songs, actors acting in movies, TV presenters commenting on everyday issues, all are given a voice of their own, and are allowed to offer their own perspectives in the stories narrated. All these bring to mind Mikhail Baktin‘s views, in

Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1984), where he suggests that the multiple levels of narration which are created contribute to the multivocality of the novel; this is constructed not by ―a single authorial consciousness‖ but rather by ―a plurality of consciousnesses, with equal rights and each with his own world‖ (6, italics in original). In postmodern fiction, this plurality of speaking voices and consciousnesses helps challenge ―traditional notions of perspective [ . . . ]. The perceiving subject is no longer assumed to be a coherent, meaning- generating entity. Narrators in fiction become either disconcertingly multiple and hard to locate [ . . . ] or resolutely provisional and limited─often undermining their own seeming omniscience‖ (Hutcheon 11). As my analysis suggests, the cross-mediation employed in

King‘s fictions enhances this de-centering process of incoherent subjects; their versions of the stories told constitute voices echoing from diverse realities.

In particular, the narration in Duma Key does not strive for a close representation of the real world but exists as a semblance of reality. Hutcheon asserts that ―[f]iction does not Feleki 63 mirror reality; nor does it reproduce it. It cannot [ . . . ]. Instead, fiction is offered as another of the discourses by which we construct our versions of reality, and both the construction and the need for it are what are foregrounded in the postmodernist novel‖ (40).7 King‘s systematic effort to establish connections with reality can entail what Roland Barthes calls

―the reality effect,‖8 which also acquires new meanings in convergent textualities, if one considers the different writing modes and expressive media that King brings into his narratives. Although King implies the close connection between reality and fiction, he does not only work for a realistic effect but also strives for the creation of an immersive textual experience that takes place in a new meta-space, the space of the meta-narratives of his speaking voices that arise in cross-media writing modes.

As I have already argued, narration in King‘s fictions is rarely as straightforward as one might initially think; rather, it is a game made possible through parallel narratives, different narrators, and multiple points of view. Stories within stories create subordinate levels of narration, where the characters themselves are narrating their stories in first person. The printed word on the page reaches readers through the eyes and the voices of fictional entities taking part in the communication process. These entities are either characters involved in the story or detached from it; they stand ―above‖ the story and act as another type of medium. Actually, they are the narrators who intrude into the narration and present the story to the readers. On the basis of Rimmon-Kenan‘s theory, I argue that they serve as the story‘s ―focalizers,‖ meaning those who ―see,‖ and as the ―narrators,‖ meaning those who ―speak‖ in the story. It is through their eyes and voices that the story is

7 In Gerard Génette‘s words, "[n]arrative does not 'represent' a (real or fictive) story, it recounts it─that is, it signifies it by means of language [ . . . ]. There is no place for imitation in narrative [ . . . ]" (43). 8 For Roland Barthes, the effect of reality is created by the presence of ―notations [that] are scandalous (from the point of view of structure), or what is even more disturbing, they seem to correspond to a kind of narrative luxury, lavish to the point of offering many ‗futile‘ details and thereby increasing the cost of narrative information‖ (The Rustle of Language 141, italics in original). Feleki 64 constructed. But for all the realism sought after, the multiple narrating voices emphasize the constructedness of the narrative and constitute subjective re-tellings of these events.

In Duma Key, the bulk of the main story unfolds in a traditional first-person narration. Edgar Freemantle, being both the narrator and the protagonist, delves into the experiences and the psychology of the other characters (who have been involved in his life) as well as into his own psychological state before and throughout his stay on the bay.

Holding the position of the omniscient narrator and writer of his personal experiences, he shifts from narrating events to describing places, magical items, inner thoughts, and feelings in an autobiographical and confessional style. Transitions from a more relaxed first- and third-person narration to actual verbal exchanges among the characters create a well- organized web of utterances, thoughts, and feelings. The readers are welcome to inhabit this complete fictional world and quest for the story‘s truth.

Yet, King violently interrupts the narration of the story‘s events before the yarn even starts. The readers are surprised to find out that the novel begins with a short section, titled

―How to Draw A Picture (I).‖ This one-page passage is the first part of twelve sections, which constitute the secondary narrative, running parallel to the main narrative of the story.

They will work their way to solving the mystery created by the implied author/producer of both narratives. These stories can be read either separately, keeping the autonomy of their plots and their characters, or as part of the overall narrative. As autonomous stories, they exercise less control on the construction of one grand narrative; they introduce alternative reading pathways to the readers, who get involved in a mystery game in order to discover hidden truths and meanings. The writer‘s choice to start his story with a highly-discursive installment can be interpreted as a choice for a conversational and critical reappraisal of both the events narrated and the act of writing. Feleki 65

While the purpose of the novel is both to entertain and familiarize readers with various narrative techniques, the purpose of the twelve short sections, which are read as journal entries and are addressed directly to the readers, have a more instructional purpose.

The introduction is rather abrupt and the title ―How to Draw a Picture‖ implies the presence of an authoritative figure or voice that is about to give tutorial lessons on drawing, lessons that are scattered throughout the novel. The readers are immediately confronted with a seemingly strong authorial source, throwing imperatives at them at the start of every new paragraph. The first chapter begins as such: ―Start with a blank surface. It doesn’t have to be paper or canvas, but I feel it should be white. We call it white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can’t remember” (1, italics in original). The narrator, whose name we still do not know, comments on the role of color and light in painting and gives the readers a clue about the role of painting in securing history.

King moves on to swiftly and cunningly introduce to the readers the main character of the secondary story, a strange little girl who is mysteriously involved in the main narrative as well: ―Imagine a little girl, hardly more than a baby. She fell from a carriage almost ninety years ago, struck her head on a stone, and forgot everything [. . . ]. Still, imagine that small hand lifting the pencil . . . hesitating . . . and then marking the white‖ (1, italics in original). In order to achieve immediacy the narrator also directs rhetorical questions to the readers, as if he were to get answers by delivering hypothetical dialogues to them: “How do we remember to remember? That’s a question I’ve asked myself often since my time on Duma Key” (1, italics in original). Through the repeated use of the personal pronouns ―I‖ and ―we‖ the narrator enhances immediacy and restores an already deprived sense of relaxed atmosphere. He also makes statements whose fixity cannot be questioned by anyone since readers are not granted a voice. He ends the chapter, as abruptly as he Feleki 66 started it. He declares that ―Pictures are magic, as you know” (1, italics in original) and leaves readers waiting for the events that will justify this statement.

The word to ―know‖ constitutes the last word on the first page of the first chapter and also appears as the first word on the last page of the last chapter in the novel. We are not surprised to find that the final chapter is also the final lesson given on drawing. It is written in the same style and tone only it is more immediate. After all, the pursuit and questioning of ―knowledge‖ and ―truth‖ in art and life are central issues that run throughout the novel. The time of the actual completion of the narrated stories coincides with all the other creative acts, those of writing, reading, and drawing. The fictional writer-narrator finishes with the narration just as the readers put the book down. Simultaneously, the readers can also imagine the painter putting down his paintbrush. When the narration of the events is complete, all the mediating entities have taken part in dynamic and creative processes that resemble real ones. Their active participation has helped the mediators redefine themselves. The narrator‘s urging the student to put his paintbrush down can be taken as a self-reflexive remark on his own acts of writing and narrating. Edgar is, finally, more self-assured after the lessons that life and art have taught him. The readers also benefit both from the painting lessons and the lessons that the narration of the story have provided them with. In his last instruction to his imaginary students, Edgar states:

How to Draw a Picture (XII)

Know when you’re finished, and when you are, put your pencil or your paintbrush

down. All the rest is only life.

February 2006 - June 2007 (581, italics in original)

The last lines mark the completion of all creative practices and blur the distinction between reality and fiction. They can be read also as meta-fictional, self-conscious comments on the Feleki 67 part of the real writer. After forty years of creating fiction and sharing it with his fans, King appears much more mature and self-aware of the processes involved in creating art.

Drawing on Génette‘s narrative theory, one could argue that in these twelve short sections, it is as if Edgar stands ―‗above‘ or superior to the story [in] ‗extradiegetic‘‖ narration (qtd. in Rimmon-Kennan, Narrative Fiction 91). As for the characters‘ past information Edgar provides readers with, they echo the ―heterodiegetic analysis‖ Génette talks about.9 A little girl, her magic doll Noveen, her family, and the family‘s tragedies are mysteriously drawn in the secondary story. As narrated in the main strand of the story, the little girl is Elizabeth, the lady who also appears in the main narrative. Her misfortunes as a child will have an effect on Edgar‘s life and his surroundings. Standing ―above‖ this story, he is armed with the traditional quality of omniscience. He displays complete knowledge of the characters‘ past, present, and future as well as of their inner thoughts and feelings.

Although postmodern writing contests such a quality, Edgar‘s authoritative figure and tone suggest otherwise. The readers allow him this power as he has earned this knowledge through the pain and torture of the experiences he and his beloved people have undergone in their fictional lives. Even before the narration of the first short section begins, King states:

Life is more than love and pleasure,

I came here to dig for treasure.

If you want to play you gotta pay

You know it‘s always been that way,

We all came to dig for treasure.


This external paratextual piece of writing preceding the actual story of the printed work emphasizes the work‘s constructedness. It tries to put readers in the right mood and implies

9 Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan explains Gerard Génette‘s ―heterodiegetic analypsis‖ as past information about other characters, events or story-lines from those central in the storyline (Narrative Fiction 47). Feleki 68 that the story is going to be about experiences in life and the possible acquisition of knowledge. Both King‘s and his narrator‘s ironic disposition towards absolute knowledge is further underscored through the playful repetition of the word ―know‖ in both the introductory and the finishing chapters of the book. Edgar knows everything about the story he is narrating in ―How to Draw a Picture‖ and only he has the solution to the mystery that is built up with gaps and delays during the presentation of important facts and events in both narrative strands. He is not offering any knowledge to the readers without getting something in return though. As the song‘s lyrics suggest, life experiences can be beautiful but rather painful. He places the readers in the position of his students, who will need to be open to the lessons he will give them and to the experiences that he will share with them in the tutorials that follow.

The narrator reveals information step by step, lesson after lesson, trying to build up suspense in the story. At other times, readers get the impression that the twelve lessons have been written separately after the narration of the main story has been completed and have later been incorporated in the novel with the aim of relieving the tension and the suspense that have been mounting in the main narrative. Such meta-fictional elements make the presence of the narrator felt even more as he is seen reflecting on his own narration. Not only does King incorporate this set of sessions in the novel but he also chooses to start and end his novel with them. This unique narrative structure suggests that this is not going to be a simple narration of a fictive story. Rather it becomes a lesson with the primary aim of teaching unsuspecting readers not only how to draw but also how to deal with the lessons that life offers.

King‘s writing seems devoid of sentiment as a result of the narrator‘s distance from the story. However, as multiple narrators and focalizers share their versions of the narrated stories, forming multiple consciousnesses, they use diverse tenses and moods. The main Feleki 69 narrator addresses readers in the present tense and the imperative mode when he is narrating

Elizabeth‘s story, as if he is actually looking at her. He always stays detached from her, as she remains the object of focalization in his paintings. The decaying figure of Elizabeth in the main narrative also appears in the secondary narrative but during the earliest years of her life, when she is just starting to form her consciousness. Only her accident is told in the past tense. Edgar helps the readers form the picture in their minds: ―Imagine that baby girl again, the one who fell from the carriage. She struck the right side of her head‖ (31, italics in original). In his attempt for objective presentation of facts and realistic depictions, he immediately shifts interest to information about anatomy and medicine: “The left side is where Broca’s area is─not that anyone knew that in the 1920s. Broca’s area processes language. Smack it hard and you lose your language” (31, italics in original). From this moment on, Elizabeth‘s life is presented to readers in the present tense. In this way, King erases the distance existing between the main and the secondary narratives, while he underscores their close connection since what happens in the parallel story will affect the realities of the heroes in the main narrative. Edgar describes what he sees in the paintings that he draws as if they were photo shots that record Elizabeth‘s life. At the same time, the readers are invited to see through their own eyes:

The little girl still sees.

She sees her five sisters. Their dresses. How their hair is crazy-combed by the

wind when they come in from outside. She sees her father’s moustache [ . . . ]. She

sees Nan Melda [ . . . ]. She sees the scarf Nanny wraps around her head when she

cleans [ . . . ] she sees Nan Melda’s silver bracelets [ . . . ]. Details, details, the truth

is in the details. (31, italics in original)

Seeing has implied knowing, but it is one of the functions of postmodern writing to challenge all universal truths. The repetition of the structure, ―She sees [ . . . ]. She sees Feleki 70

[ . . . ]. She sees [ . . . ]. She sees [ . . . ], she sees [ . . . ],‖ expresses the insatiable hunger of the human gaze to make sense of the signified world. The world around Elizabeth is translated into images overloaded with meaning. These images are small details that will fill the gaps before the readers can resolve the mystery. In order to bridge the gap between seeing, knowing, and speaking, focalized Elizabeth is seen from within. The narrator knows what she sees and how she feels. We actually hear her express her strange thoughts in confused words. We even witness how her consciousness─the consciousness of a little girl still in a baby pram─is formed immediately after the accident. Edgar records her thoughts:

She thinks Something bad happened, and I don‘t know who I am. Or where I am.

Or what all these bright surrounding images are.

She thinks Libbit? Is my name Libbit? I used to know. I could talk in the used-to-

know, but now my words are like fish in the water. I want the man with the hair on

his lip.

She thinks That‘s my Daddy, but when I try to say his name I call ‗Ird! Ird!‘

instead, because one flies past my window. I see every feather. I see its eye like

glass. I see its leg, how it bends like broke, and that word is crookit. My head hurts.

Girls come in. Maria and Hannah come in. She doesn’t like them the way she

likes the twins. The twins are little like her.

She thinks I called Maria and Hannah the Big Meanies in the used-to-know and

realizes she knows again. (31- 32, italics in original)

King‘s shifting of tenses, voices, and focalizers in the narrative challenges objective narration and omniscience. Edgar‘s efforts for complete control over his stories, his lessons, and his audience seem pointless as the diverse focalized objects turn into focalizers and into the mediators who articulate their versions of the events. Hutcheon is right when she proposes that this ―fragmented, iterative, structure challenges the traditional realist narrative Feleki 71 conventions of the inscription of the subject as coherent and continuous, suggesting perhaps that fragmentation and replication are also, in fact, conditions of subjectivity‖ (84). Rather than only hear what the narrator has to say, the readers can actually re-live Elizabeth‘s frustrations. Edgar functions as the medium through which Elizabeth‘s mysteries can be shared with the readers. His sentences work like introductions to her actual words. King chooses to use italics for the narrator‘s words and regular font when Elizabeth speaks. He uses no commas to separate them, aiming at de-centering the two distinct characters/narrators when they merge into one. At times, Elizabeth‘s speech is characterized by the idiolect of a three-year old girl, made up of elliptical sentences, mirroring her low conceptual level. Edgar is reduced to the mediator of the mechanical transmission of her speech: ―She thinks No more bed all day now. I go Daddy room, Daddy‘s room‖ (91, italics in original). At other times, however, her thoughts are grammatical and complete:


She thinks I can make the world on paper. I can draw what the words mean. I

see tree, I make tree. I see bird, I make bird. It‘s good, like water from a glass.

(91, italics in original)

For a moment, the readers forget who the speaker is as the merging of the two entities, of

Edgar and Elizabeth, is now more possible. The continuous repetition of the ―I‖ makes

Elizabeth‘s strong presence felt and reveals her desire for self-awareness and fulfillment.

The narrator‘s stylistic choices vary according to the focalizer and the focalized object. He starts each chapter addressing the reader with imperatives and giving instructions on art and on drawing, but he swiftly moves to the main object of focalization, Elizabeth. In all the tutorials, he devotes the first paragraph to art: ―Remember that the truth is in the details. No matter how you see the world or what style it imposes on your work as an artist, the truth is in the details. Of course the devil’s there, too ─everyone says so─but maybe Feleki 72 truth and the devil are words for the same thing” (31, italics in original). Edgar‘s reference to the ―devil‖ probably prepares readers and gets them thinking about the horrible things that are going to happen to him as the plot unfolds. He challenges thus the notion that art is intended only for the depiction of beauty in life. In the third session, he urges readers to

―Stay hungry. It worked for , it worked for Picasso, and it works for a hundred thousand artists who do it not for love (although that may play a part) but in order to put food on the table” (91, italics in original). As he goes on with the tutorials and the narration, we sense that he is overwhelmed by the story he is narrating and by Elizabeth‘s presence in his mind.

After having deprived her of the ability to express herself, King turns Elizabeth from the focalized object of Edgar‘s paintings into the focalizer of the stories, and allows readers to see through her eyes. Soon Elizabeth‘s magic doll begins to talk. Edgar remains the narrator of the story but Noveen is now granted the power to express Elizabeth‘s unspoken words:

She began to draw her doll, and when she did, her doll began to talk.

Noveen [ . . . ].

Noveen sings Frère Jacques, frère Jacques, are you sleepun? Are you sleepun?

Dormay-voo, dormay-voo?

Sometimes Noveen told her stories- mixed-up but wonderful – where Cinderella

wore the red slippers from Oz and the Bobbsey Twins got lost in the Magic Forest

and found a sweetie house with a roof made of peppermint candy.

But then Noveen’s voice changed. It stopped being Adie’s voice. It stopped being

the voice of anyone Elizabeth knew, and it went right on talking even when Elizabeth

told Noveen to ferramay (sic) her bush. At first, maybe that voice was pleasant.

Maybe it was fun. Strange, but fun. Feleki 73

Then things changed, didn’t they? Because art is magic, and not all magic is


Not even for little girls. (141- 42, italics in original)

The voice of Noveen intervenes in Edgar‘s narration, adding to the polyphony that King wants to achieve in the novel. The magic doll, to which King attributes anthropomorphic features, appears menacing. It acquires a life and a will of its own. The rhetorical, open- ended question, ―Then things changed, didn’t they?‖ in the previous excerpt sounds alarming as Edgar mentions white and black magic. He abruptly stops the narration short, raises expectations in the readers, and creates suspense.

King actually introduces Edgar Freemantle, the main character and narrator of both storylines, to the readers in the first chapter of the main narrative, titled ―1 – My Other

Life.‖ He has Edgar present the events in first-person narration. The stress on the words

―Other‖ and ―Life‖ in the title hints upon the disintegration of Edgar‘s self. We are informed that we are going to read about the two different lives of the same person, constituting, ultimately, two different people. The difference in style and tone used by the narrator of both plots is worth noting. The instructor in ―How To Draw A Picture‖ uses a formal tone, which turns into the informal language of the businessman: ―Gotta say it: I was a genuine American-boy success there (3). As the former owner of a big building and contracting company, Edgar decides to confide his story in the readers and addresses them directly. From the very first lines Edgar distances himself from the author of the text and claims a voice of his own. He introduces himself rather clumsily in the first line of the first chapter of the main narrative strand: ―My name is Edgar Freemantle. I used to be a big deal in the building and contracting business. This was in Minnesota, in my other life. I learned that my-other-life thing from Wireman. I want to tell you about Wireman, but let‘s get through the Minnesota part‖ (3). Edgar‘s narrative style in the chapter called ―My Other Feleki 74

Life‖ is in direct contrast with his instructional tone in the tutorial sections of ―How to

Draw a Picture.‖ In the latter, Edgar‘s name is never mentioned in order to create suspense or because it is not important; King foregrounds Edgar‘s role as a painter and instructor, whereas in the main story line, King focuses on his actions and interrelation. In order to attach a real-life quality to Edgar‘s language, King fills it with repetitions, fillers, and syntactical or grammatical inconsistencies that resemble actual spoken exchanges.

In the following pages, any sign of composure and self-assertion, which characterizes the all-knowing painting instructor, disappears completely. His provocative indulgence in repetitive ―dirty‖ vernacular and ―four-letter‖ words aims at articulating his overwhelming anger. He has just had a terrible accident, leaving him a little dummier; he has lost one arm and his therapist suggests he uses a plastic doll to manage his anger:

I didn‘t know if I really could, but that was what I was supposed to say. I

couldn‘t remember the fucking doll‘s name, but I could remember I can do this.

That‘s clear about the end of my other life, how I kept saying I can do this even

when I knew I couldn‘t, even when I knew I was fucked, I was double-fucked, I was

dead-ass-fucked in the pouring rain [ . . . ].

―What‘s your name, bitch? What‘s your name, you cunt? What‘s your name, you

cheap rag-filled whore? Tell me your name! Tell me your name! Tell me your name

or I’ll cut out your eyes and chop off your nose and rip out your─‖ (6, italics in


The narrator‘s words in normal font contrast with the main character‘s thoughts in italics.

The readers follow Edgar‘s disintegration as the separate consciousnesses of the protagonist and the narrator are being formed. As the protagonist‘s anger is mounting, it even overwhelms the narrator, who repeats the words of the character: ―Tell me your name! Tell me your name! Tell me your name or I’ll cut out your eyes and chop off your nose and rip Feleki 75 out your─‖ (6, italics in original). Though separate, the two mediating voices merge into one and, as a consequence, the readers cannot make out who is actually speaking.

At the level of representation, Edgar‘s paintings in the main narrative and

Elizabeth‘s in the second narrative also acquire their own voice and tell their own story, creating a subordinate narrative string. When all Edgar‘s paintings are collected and put in chronological or thematic order, before the end of the novel, like little pieces of a puzzle, the tragedy is made apparent and the solution to the mystery is revealed. King employs different technologies in order to enhance the reading experience; Edgar‘s paintings, hanging in the art gallery, ―looked oddly like stills culled from a strip of movie film‖ (369).

King gives detailed information about the placement of the paintings as if standing in front of the artifacts in the middle of the gallery. The images the narrator creates on the printed page through the semantic overload of the words add animating energy in the narrative.

King‘s attention to the visual intensity of language and his comparison of Edgar‘s paintings to film strips enliven the narrative experience by giving depth to his narration.

The plurality of the speaking voices and the diversity of the onlookers in the story build up multi-layered realities for the characters and a rich textual experience for the readers. While retaining the traditional realist devices that aim at Barthes‘s ―reality effect,‖

King adds the presence of strong narrative mediators to contest the importance of an omniscient authoritative voice and challenge the possibility of an objective version of the story. The fluidity and flexibility that characterize the spatial and temporal representations, the shifts between multiple narrators and between different strands of narration, the portrayal of the disintegrated selves, and the experimentation with narrative and meta- narrative elements are only few of King‘s narrative techniques. They attest to a new direction in his narrative methods and reflect the material and technological developments of the postmodern era. These changes are inscribed on the printed matter. Feleki 76

2.2 The Visual versus the Media Turn in Duma Key and in Lisey’s Story

In Picture Theory (1994), W. J. T. Mitchell focuses on the complex relations between media and modes of representation. He admits that what we are currently experiencing is a ―pictorial turn‖ (11), by which he means ―a postlinguistic, postsemiotic rediscovery of the picture as a complex interplay between visuality, apparatus, institutions, discourse, bodies, and figurality‖ (16). In his theory, he shifts emphasis on the intricate interweaving of representation and discourse and urges studying the collaborations rather than the antagonistic relations between image and text in the creation of meaning. Drawing on Mitchell‘s theory, this doctoral thesis undertakes an inquiry into the ―visual‖/―pictorial‖ turn within the linguistic construct itself. It depicts the struggle of the visual elements against the printed word on writing surfaces in an effort to arouse the readers‘ senses, enhance immediacy in the reading process, and promote the visual experience. It is this

―pictorial turn‖ in print, which leads to the diffusion of words, images, and sounds and facilitates a subsequent ―media turn‖ in electronic environments.

For King, words have undeniably been his most powerful tools in creating plots and in getting his characters experience mysteries that have never been imagined and inscribed onto paper. The visual vocabulary he employs when creating the setting of his stories, and the detailed descriptions he offers contribute to such representations that enhance the vivid sensory experiences for the readers. This visually and sensually rich texture of the printed page is what distinguishes King‘s writing. In an effort to rival the immediacy of electronic writing in new media environments, King‘s prose captures and exposes the visual and sensory elements, and thus resembles the ones communicated through multimedia applications. By actually using language to create photographic effects and vivid imagery, a Feleki 77 technique that King bestows to the numerous speaking voices in his stories, he manages to keep his prose fresh and rejuvenated. His descriptive accounts are overloaded with minor details so that the realistic effect can rival the actual image.

Duma Key is saturated with high art and pop culture images. King wants his readers to be aware of his ironic disposition towards the material value the Western consumer society attributes to these images. In fact, King overwhelms Edgar‘s former life style with commercial visual stimuli. Before he leaves for Duma Key, Edgar confesses, ―I remember the clerks putting up Halloween posters in the Wal-Mart where I bought my first sketchpads since college‖ (17). Artistic images are reduced to priceless products waiting to be consumed. Sketching is ironically reduced to ―doodles while taking telephone calls‖ (16).

As Edgar says, ―it had probably been ten years since I‘d bought the sort of picture-book that belongs on a coffee table where it can impress friends‖ (16). However, King effects Edgar‘s gradual transformation through the character‘s talent in painting, which he later compares to that of Dalí or Haring. Elizabeth confesses to Edgar: ―I try to get pictures from all the artists who‘ve stayed in your Big Pink. I have a Haring that was painted there. Also a Dalí sketch‖

(134). The painters‘ names function as brands on the paintings to underline the marketing value of the artifact. The references to well-known artists of Surrealism and to revolutionary street-painting constitute intertextual allusions to modern and popular art, and continuously enrich the data coming through the media, creating thus different levels of reality. Seen within a postmodern perspective, such references help us appreciate the ways different links are created and the way different aspects of reality can be manipulated through King‘s narrative innovations. Alternatively, they could be taken as lending ―an air of dense specificity and particularity‖ (Hutcheon 114) to the fictional world of the text, reinforcing the realistic effect in the novel, and creating ―an aura of extratextual validation‖ (120). Later on, through the re-appropriation of the same paintings by the photographic medium, King Feleki 78 re-invents them and creates different levels of reality. The technological device of photography helps Edgar enjoy success and popularity. Technological jargon, like

―photograph,‖ slides,‖ ―click his pix,‖ and ―camera,‖ stresses the constructedness and the plasticity of the medium: ―On the fourth day, Wireman brought me a revised contract and told me I could sign. He said Nannuzzi wanted to photograph my paintings and make slides for a lecture at the Selby Library in Sarasota in mid-March, a month before my show opened [ . . . ]. came out that afternoon. I was impatient for him to click his pix and be gone so I could go back to work‖ (259). Moments later, ―[h]e paused, twiddling the strap of his camera and smiling a little‖ (260). The re-appropriation of the paintings by an electronic medium contributes to the re-purposing of art, and rejects the right of only one expressive medium to a grand narrative. The paintings are turned into photo stills and then into slides used for a lecture on art. Apart from re-creating diverse forms of art through the use of different media, King offers a critical and self-referential commentary on art itself by turning the medium of painting into image and thus embellishes his linguistic structures.

From the moment Edgar moves to Duma Key in Florida, King invests the whole environment with a different dimension that is depicted on the printed page via words with a photographic feel and through a plethora of adjectives and adverbial phrases, skillfully combined so as to create a multi-sensory experience. The sense of smell evoked in the following quote enlivens the sensory experience of the readers: ―I breathed deep and smelled the musty, slightly damp aroma of a place that‘s been shut up for a fairly long time except for the weekly (or bi-weekly) ritual airing. I thought I could also smell salt and subtropical grasses for which I as yet had no names‖ (39). Edgar, who has just moved to

Duma Key, exposes readers to the tropical place through his sensuous experiences:

A breeze chilly enough to warrant sweatshirts was blowing in off the water. Little

scars of light danced across the table-top as I talked. And I talked, all right─for Feleki 79

almost an hour, refreshing myself with sips of green tea from a glass Wireman kept

filled. At last I stopped and for a little while there was no sound but the mild

whisper of the incoming waves, breaking and running up the strand. (125)

The tropical environment awakens Edgar‘s senses. Touch and taste are important when creating life-like representations; so is hearing when nature is given anthropomorphic features. King enhances the readers‘ perception of the fictional reality through different sensory layers, and his detailed descriptions augment the mystery. As we can see in the following excerpt, the light gives way to darkness and the fickle weather adds to the effect:

That night a squall blew in off the water and it rained hard for two hours. Lightning

flashed and waves pounded the pilings under the house. Big Pink groaned but stood

firm. I discovered an interesting thing: when the Golf got a little crazy and those

waves really poured in, the shells shut up. The waves lifted them too high for


I went upstairs at the boom-and-flash height of festivities, and─feeling a little like

Dr Frankenstein animating his monster in the castle tower─drew Wireman, using a

plain old Venus Black pencil. (154)

The weather really affects the mood underlying the narrative and the reception of the mystery. The dark environment allows for magical activities to take place. When lightning strikes, readers get only slim glances at the setting and the participants; thus King enables the generation of free associations.

The cinematic qualities of King‘s writing help create an immersive, life-like experience for the readers. Edgar‘s narration of the accident that has changed his life is also noteworthy. While suspense is mounting, we get the impression that we are actually watching the scene in slow motion. We witness the ―deceleration‖ of discourse time in relation to story time, in terms of Génette distinction (Rimmon-Kenan 52). This technique Feleki 80 enables King to magnify the torture of the trapped man, and, at the same time, enhance the importance of the incident in order to give a new turn to Edgar‘s otherwise uneventful urban life. The writer exploits the senses in order to imbue his literary language with immediacy and give power to the experiences. The flashing sign ―LINK-BELT‖ repeatedly jumps out of the page in bold capital letters:

LINK-BELT is still moving in, pushing the passenger door, closing the passenger-

side footwell, splintering the dashboard in tectonic chunks of plastic. The shit from

the glove-compartment floats around, the radio goes dead, my lunchbucket is

tanging against my clipboard, and here comes LINK-BELT. LINK-BELT is right

on top of me, I could stick out my tongue and lick the fucking hyphen. The pressure

in my right arm first pushing against my side, then spreading, then splitting open.

Blood douses my lap like a bucket of hot water and I hear something breaking. It

sounds like chicken-bones under a boot-heel. (23, bold in original)

The use of the present tense in a speech bulging with present participles, such as ―pushing,‖

―closing,‖ ―splintering,‖ ―spreading,‖ and ―splitting,‖ and the consonance created amplifies the vividness of the narration and evokes a cinematic effect. Our hearing and sight are awakened. It is as if we are actually watching and hearing the unfortunate man, while stuck in his car and being squeezed to death: ―The scream of crumpling metal starts, drowning out the radio and shrinking the inside of the cab right to left because the crane‘s invading my space, stealing my space, and the pick up is tipping‖ (23). The noises are almost deafening;

Edgar confesses that he could ―barely hear the horn over the crane‘s engine‖ (23). Then, the images of destruction overemphasize the feeling of enclosure. Plastic, metal, glass, blood, and bones are substances that become almost one whole. The materiality of human nature merges with the material environment surrounding it. Feleki 81

The use of media to capture and depict the diverse aspects of reality, starting first with electric and moving to the electronic technologies, as well as the invention of media, such as radio, television, cinema, the VCR, and the PC, have increased the potential of the narrative techniques and have led to new forms of expression. Recounting the impact of the introduction of media features on the narrative mode, Paul Cobley states that the informal language and tone used on radio and on TV has led to ―the employment of conversational patterns and the maintenance of closeness, warmth and a sense of connection with the audience‖ (190). The domesticity of the media has created ―a sense of contemporaneity‖

(192) and ―informality‖ (193), affecting the whole process of narration in all kinds of narrative texts─written or visual. The ―bardic‖ (193) function of radio and, later, of TV as well as the incorporation of fictional and non-fictional elements in the narration of the programs broadcast has led to the readjustment of narrative techniques, and the configuration of ―not just one narrative but a sequence of different kinds of narratives or narrative plus non-narrative programming‖ (195-6) with ―profound effects on twentieth- century consciousness‖ (197). Contemporary readers are ready to appreciate the voices and the narrated incidents streaming into the story from different directions. Channeled through the different media that the writer selects in order to unfold his story, the readers‘ gaze is redirected and their consciousness is readjusted to a new cultural reality characterized by a plurality of meanings.

Technologies, ranging from radio and TV to the World Wide Web, are skillfully implemented in King‘s works, readjusting his narrative patterns. By incorporating media as inseparable elements in the narration, King creates an illusion of realism and authenticity that reminds us once again of McLuhan‘s dictum that the ―medium is the message.‖

References to songs, movies or TV programs refashion the textual experience. It is as if readers are actually clicking on every entry and listening to a particular song, or watching a Feleki 82 selected scene from a movie or a TV program. Although King is still experimenting on the printed medium, such references work like links to multimedia applications, redirecting the readers‘ attention to the audio and visual elements that appear in the story.

In King‘s stories, the radio and the TV actually work in the background. At different points of crisis we find ourselves actually listening to songs and watching programs on TV.

Readers are actively drawn into the mysterious atmosphere created by these media. In

Lisey’s Story, the presence of media is also strong. In contrast to the conventional third- person account, which the writer chooses for the narration of the story, the readers are offered other channels of communication through which to build their version of the story.

An instance of this is evident when King constructs Lisey‘s vicious beating up by her dead husband‘s persecutor. King insets the following song in the background and intensifies her painful experience: ―Why don‘t you love me like you used to do? How come you treat me like a worn-out shoe?‖ (323). This is the same song that Scott confesses to have been listening to just before he murdered his lunatic father.

Nevertheless, print is the main medium King relies on in order to communicate multiple story lines and states of consciousnesses to the readers. It works as the flashback technique. The truth about Scott‘s troubled boyhood, the lunacy that ran in the family, and the eventual patricide, all are revealed in a manuscript written in dark italics, which Scott has left for Lisey: ―I take hold on the pickaxe then. The ad on the radio finishes and

Hank Williams comes on, singing ‘Why don’t you love me like you used to do, How come you treat me like a worn-out shoe?’” (657, italics in original). A short chapter with meta-narrative comments by the extra-diegetic narrator of the main story, interrupts Scott‘s retrospective narration and turns the readers‘ attention to the process of writing. What is more, the process of reading about Lisey as the main character in the story implicitly refers to the respective process that the readers of the novel go through: Feleki 83


Here three lines were blank before the words took up again, this time in the past

tense and addressing her directly. The rest was crammed together with almost no

regard for the blue-ruled notebook lines, and Lisey was sure he had written the final

passage in a single rush. She read it the same way. Turning over to the last page as

she did and continuing on, continually wiping away her tears so she could see

clearly enough to get the sense of what he was saying ….


I brought it down. Lisey, I brought it down in love ─ I swear ─ and I killed my

father…. (657)

All these meta-fictional elements enhance the reading experience because they register the protagonists‘ and King‘s critical take on the writing of their fictions. At the same time, they emphasize the constructed nature of the text as a narrative medium.

While the technicalities of the medium of print help in the construction of multiple levels of narration, the incorporation of other media contributes to a more immersive experience. In a later flashback, narrating Scott‘s irreversible road to lunacy, Lisey ―hears the sound of music coming from down there. Not rock and roll but country. It‘s Hank

Williams. Ole Hank is singing ‗Kaw-Liga‘‖ (344). She finds Scott sitting in front of the TV, his switches turned off: ―On the television, the sound turned low, is his favorite movie: The

Last Picture Show. His eyes don‘t move from it to her [ . . . ]. His eyes don‘t move, don‘t blink. She begins to be very afraid then [ . . . ].‖ (345, italics in original). Not being able to communicate with Lisey anymore, ―he looks back at the TV screen, where Jeff Bridges─a very young Jeff Bridges─and his best friend are now driving to Mexico. When they get back, Sam the Lion will be dead‖ (346, italics in original). Through the medium of the TV, another narrative strand unfolds─a second level of narration which is subordinate to the first Feleki 84 level of narration of the main story. It is in such cases that the songs and the films assume a voice of their own and narrate their own story that compliments the main story.

In Duma Key, the repeated references to the Oprah Show, a real-life, contemporary, and highly successful worldwide show, intermingle with the fictive story and provide a mixture of fictive and non-fictive elements that reinforces the realistic effect; at the same time, it blurs the line between truth and lies, fiction and non-fiction. The exchange between

Wireman and the confused Lady Eastlake is a characteristic example: ―‗As long as he is still addressing one by one‘s surname, one knows . . .‘ But now she seemed lost, and her smile began to falter. ‗One knows that . . .‘ ‗That it‘s time to watch Oprah,‘ Wireman said, and took her arm‘‖ (136, italics in original). King juxtaposes Elizabeth‘s transition from a clear mind to confusion with the different realities that the media in the story create. Real time is conflated with ―Oprah‖ time and the characters‘ reality is confused with the TV show‘s reality. A few lines below King contrasts the power of the book and poetry to the power of

TV as a medium for creating pictures. Lady Eastlake confesses: ―‗Perhaps you‘d read me a poem this afternoon,‘ she said. ‗Your choice. I miss them so. I could do without Oprah, but a life without books is a thirsty life, and one without poetry is . . .‘ She laughed. It was a bewildering sound that hurt my heart. ‗It‘s like a life without pictures, don‘t you think? Or don‘t you?‘‖ (137, italics in original). In this short excerpt, King ironically has

Elizabeth─who could hardly speak a few moments earlier─engage in post-narrative comments about different literary genres and expressive media of popular culture, reminding one of the post-fictional function of narrative.

Despite the strong presence of media, King gives books and poetry priority in the novel and continues with a twisted look at the celebration of Western mass-mediated culture. He alleges that of a madman, Candy Brown, the murderer of a fifteen-year- old girl gets full coverage by most TV channels in the U.S: Feleki 85

It was Channel 6, and the current star was Candy Brown‘s court-appointed lawyer

[ . . . ]. He looked and sounded invested. He was telling the reporters that his client

would plead not guilty by reason of insanity [ . . . ]. In addition to Channel 6‘s mike,

I saw NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and CNN logos. Tina Garibaldi couldn‘t have gotten

coverage like this winning a spelling bee or a science fair, not even for saving the

family dog from raving river, but get raped and murdered and you‘re nationwide

Swee‘pea. (226, italics in original)

Admittedly, TV has the power to turn a criminal‘s lawyer into a ―current star.‖ The presence of the TV channels in the text points to the trafficking of information through media and registers their influence on public opinion. In the following scene, the lawyer is given the right to speak and present his version of the truth through the camera. His first- person statement is mockingly granted validity and status:

He faced the cameras.

―This is Sarasota‘s crime, not George Brown‘s. My heart goes out to the Garibaldis,

I weep for the Garibaldis‘─he lifted his tearless face to the cameras, as if to

somehow prove this─‗but taking George Brown‘s life up in Starke won‘t bring Tina

Garibaldi back, and it won‘t fix the broken system that put this broken human being

on the streets, unsupervised. That‘s my statement, thank you for listening, and now,

if you‘ll excuse me—‖ (226)

King uses dramatic language to imply that the lawyer is putting on an act, and this act is communicated through the medium of TV. Although the lawyer claims that he ―weep[s]‖ for the girl‘s family, the camera broadcasts his ―tearless face‖ to the audience.

Undoubtedly, the introduction of computer technology has affected traditional forms of narrative and has turned them towards a new direction. According to Cobley, ―[t]his idea that there may be not just one world where time unfolds in a linear fashion, but actually an Feleki 86 infinite number of universes existing in tandem‖ (202) is applicable in King‘s writing. What is more, ―the possibility that humans can be inserted into the physical world‘ of a story‖

(202) is accepted by readers and taken advantage by writers. Janet Murray, in Hamlet on the

Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (1997), acknowledges the narrative potential of all narrative media (including electronic). She explains that the metaphor of the journey from the Odyssey onwards is a recurrent feature of narrative in other media as well as on the Web (137). She characterizes the computer as ―a truly revolutionary invention humankind is just on the verge of putting to use as a spellbinding storyteller‖ (2). The metaphor of the journey is also captured in print, especially in Lisey’s Story, when King narrates Lisey‘s transcendence through time and space in order to help her learn about her husband‘s past and make sense of it. Through the written medium and through the manuscript that Scott has left behind, King mixes the different levels of narration of the main story with the subordinate levels of narration in Scott‘s manuscript.

In Duma Key, King experiments further with the latest technological advancements.

When the characters communicate from a distance, the author does not provide their exchanges in a narrative form, by using a narrator. Instead, King presents the whole process of communication among characters through electronic mail. He filters their exchanges through the medium of the PC and presents e-mails as we know and use them in real life.

Ultimately, King makes the printed page remediate the computer screen. He adjusts the language and punctuation to fit the computer medium, and he does the same with the emoticon symbols he incorporates in the narrative:

Ifsogirl88 to EFree19

9:23 AM

December 23 Feleki 87

Already cleared it w/ Mom, she says okay. Tried to talk Lin into it, but she’d

rather stay here before flying back to France. Don’t hold it against her.


PS: Yippee! I’m excited!!☺(63, bold in original)

Through the dark fonts, the loose layout of the words on the computer screen replicated onto the printed page, the incorporation of time and of other symbols and emoticons, King captures the immediacy of networked communication, and constructs different perspectives and new modes of narration.

In a nutshell, it has become apparent that narration can no longer be regarded as a simple communication process between the writer and the reader. Rather, in King‘s latest works, it constitutes a complex game of sight and voice shifts among narrators, characters, words, and images. This game depends on the power of the linguistic elements that create an effect which can rival the immediacy of multimedia applications. As a consequence of such complicated, multidirectional processes, the word, in all its remediated forms, acquires a unique force of its own; not only does it remediate itself, but also contributes to the creative readjustment of the whole process of writing and reading. Feleki 88




Much contemporary discourse about convergence starts and ends with what I call the Black Box Fallacy. Sooner or later, the argument goes, all media content is going to flow through a single black box into our living rooms (or, in the mobile scenario, through black boxes we carry around with us everywhere we go).

—Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (2006). Feleki 89

Chapter Three

New Literary Landscapes for Stephen King

Chapter Three aims at examining the convergence of diverse writing technologies apparent in various digital platforms that has led to the redefinition of fiction, its content, and its tropes. For this purpose, the intricacies of new media realizations need to be explained and borrowings from other media (such as film, TV, and videogames) need to be accounted for. This calls for an exploration of the aesthetics, rhetoric, and politics of the new media formations that will lead to an appreciation of the potential tools electronic writing offers. I employ a new conception of writing space as a new digital augmented reality. In particular, I study Stephen King‘s novel Ur (2009) as the first example of a written-on-demand product exclusively for the Kindle e-reader. This section explores the ways the materiality of the e-reading device affects the written text. King tries to open up new literary paths for his writing and to engage in multimedia explorations. Additionally, the story in Ur plays with the 1990s‘ idea of cyberspace as an environment which can host a new virtual writing reality.

After demonstrating that literary writing has been irreversibly affected because it has tried to incorporate innovative computational technologies, this chapter inspects King‘s methods of embracing the trends emerging in computer technology in order to create a digitally-driven literary effect. Taking into consideration that new media tools offer new cognitive experiences by transfiguring the sensory perception of the hyper-active recipient, in this chapter, I hope to make sense of the transcoding processes taking place when the alphanumeric codes are transferred to diverse digital interfaces. I focus on King‘s official website StephenKing.com, which works as a portal, hosting a number of challenging electronic experiences, in an attempt to investigate how the processes of fiction writing and Feleki 90 reading have been modified. I argue that King seems to aim at a higher degree of immediacy and authenticity through various electronically mediated narrative experiences, while securing a higher level of interactivity for his media users.

Throughout, the chapter highlights the digital elements in King‘s electronic hypertextual writing that mark a turning point in popular writing, giving new dimensions to the reading experience as well. Finally, I investigate the ways in which the process of representation is conditioned by the medium of expression that the writer uses when the relationship between text and image is reconfigured.

3.1 New Media and Literary Convergences: Stephen King’s Ventures

on Digitality

Since the end of the 1980s, the convergence of the literary text with the electronic medium has facilitated the emergence of a number of innovative narrative formations, such as Hypertext fiction (with Michael Joyce, Stuart Moulthrope, and Shelley Jackson being some of the main representatives), the gaming environments known as MUDs (Multi-User

Domains), and the narrative adaptations for videogames, to name only a few. This turning point in literary practices and cultural studies in the last decade of the twentieth century triggered an increasing sense of anxiety as regards the narrative potential of the new representational technologies that were inundating the market at that time.

Right before the turn of the twenty-first century, Janet Murray observes the confused state of critics who oscillate between a sense of loss for something beloved that is gone and bewilderment for something alluringly attractive that is pending. She explains: ―All the representational arts can be considered dangerously delusional, and the more entrancing they are, the more disturbing. The powerful new storytelling technologies of the twentieth Feleki 91 century have brought on an intensification of these fears‖ (Hamlet 18). While to this day the artistic quality of such high tech narrative expressions continues to be questioned, Murray is considered to be one of the first scholars to speak in favor of freeing the narrative forms from the constraints of the printed medium and of the possibilities technology offers for their enhancement. She is right when she states that,

narrative beauty is independent of medium. Oral tales, pictorial stories, plays,

novels, movies, and television shows can all range from the lame and sensationalist

to the heartbreaking and illuminating. We need every available form of expression

and all the new ones we can muster to help us understand who we are and what we

are doing here. (273-74)

This chapter relies on Murray‘s claim that all media forms have narrative potential in order to trace King‘s narrative and technological experimentations on new media platforms. I see

King‘s work as an example of a contemporary interdisciplinary approach to the human need for expression.

This unremitting human need for the creation and dissemination of stories has been detected long before Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing in Europe, even before the invention of writing itself. The pre-historic iconography on cave walls, vase paintings, and other artifacts testifies to this inclination of humans to depict ideas and convey feelings onto every surface and medium at hand. Since its invention, writing in Western civilization has been organized linearly, first in manuscript and much later in print. The form that writing has taken developed according to the human needs to organize and record information. In contemporary Western society, the enunciative power of electronic media has catered to the ever-evolving need to adjust narrative and description to the current writing technologies.

The electronic mediums have become the ―extensions of man,‖ as McLuhan states in his revelatory study, Understanding New Media: The Extensions of Man, as early as the 1960s Feleki 92

(3-6). Despite the bewilderment caused by technological media, such as film, radio, TV, and the latest electronic platforms, these inventions are regarded as tools, instrumental in helping people voice out the creative power that needs to be externalized.

The historian and philosopher Walter Ong uses the term ―primary orality‖ to characterize the first societies before writing and printing restrictions were imposed. This

―primary orality,‖ meaning the form of thinking and verbal expression, ―totally untouched by any knowledge of writing or print‖ (10), has re-emerged, this time stemming from the potential of electronic technology. Today‘s technologically-developed societies, which feature as information superhighways in cyberspace, are characterized by a state of

―secondary orality‖ that resembles the old one. Drawing on McLuhan‘s theory of the

―global village,‖ Ong claims:

Telephone, radio, television and the various kind of sound tape, electronic

technology has brought us into the age of ‗secondary orality‘. This new orality has

striking resemblance to the old in its participatory mystique, its fostering of a

communal sense, its concentration on the present moment, and even its use of

formulas. But it is essentially a more deliberate and self-conscious orality, based

permanently on the use of writing and print, which are essential for the manufacture

and operation of the equipment and for its use as well.

Secondary orality is both remarkably like and remarkably unlike primary orality.

Like primary orality, secondary orality has generated a strong group sense, for

listening to spoken words forms hearers into a group, a true audience, just as reading

written or printed texts turns individuals in on themselves. (133)

Literacy and media allow the unhindered communication of words, texts, images, and ideas through space and time. Therefore, the natural, liberating force of oral communication of thoughts and emotions implied in primary orality is contrasted with the culturally-imposed Feleki 93 efforts of organized societies to enforce canonization and linearization through writing and printing.

The technology that has supported such communality and ephemerality through its organizational structure is the hypertext. It was Theodor H. Nelson who coined the term and conceived the idea of an interlinked network thirty years before the World Wide Web was created as a world-wide hypertext-based publishing community. Hypertext was initially imagined as a list-processing system that could make use of ―index manipulation and text patching‖ (―A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate‖ 134).

Therefore, in the 1960s, the foundations for the creation of an organizational system that could support the fluidity of texts, interconnected by means of network linkages, had already been laid.

The World Wide Web is the paragon of the application of hypertext technology today. It forwards associative connections that multiply meaning by juxtaposing information. It constitutes an internet-based hypertext system (developed by Tim Berners-

Lee and other researchers at CERN) that uses the document description language HTML

(Hyper Text Markup Language). The data appearing on the screens is transmitted on the web by using HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). According to Espen J. Aarseth in

Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (1997), ―it comes close to fulfilling Nelson‘s dream of the ‗Docuverse,‘ a global information system in which all the texts in the world are available to almost instant access and on which users may publish their own material and link their documents to any other document‖ (9). By means of links, different types of bits of textual fragments, called ―lexias‖ (13) by Roland Barthes in his work S/Z (1970), can become available to the internet user. The function of the World Wide Web cannot be restricted to only opening a window to the world for the users. It is widely believed that it provides the space and the organizational structure for new multi-sensory experiences to be Feleki 94 appreciated by its visitors. These experiences are not considered in the negative sense of a simulation, as was proclaimed by Baudrillard towards the end of the twentieth century in

Simulacra and Simulation (1994), for whom the ―simulacrum‖ was nothing but the copy without an original, ―that is to say never exchanged for the real, but exchanged for itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference‖ (6). Today the problem of a possible ―death‖ of the real has been superseded due to the emergence of a different digital space that enables the co-existence of diverse realities, facilitated by new computational technologies.

Consequently, the new communication practices and the gradual digitization of all kinds of information available on the network have opened the way towards their convergence with artistic and literary practices. The digital technologies are responsible for the creation of new surfaces or spaces where hybrid texts can be displayed and consumed by the audience. As new media tools keep inundating the market, new media scholars continue to preach about the ever-growing potentiality and the multimodality of new electronic media. Numerous works have been written about the creation of new textualities after the inevitable convergence of the electronic medium of the computer with the printed medium. Also investigated is the forceful impact of this convergence on the participating agents of such communicative processes, including writers, readers, and their texts as well as on the practices of writing, reading, and authoring texts. Robert Coover is one of the first hypertext writers and critics to have discerned the possible benefits of these multiple convergences, praising the ―true freedom from the tyranny of the line‖ (―The End of

Books‖). He expresses his thoughts on the apprehension caused by the hyper-mediated experiences involved when reading hyperfiction, such as in Stuart Moulthrop‘s Victory

Garden (1991) and on the dreamy sensations the dissolution of time and space creates. For

Coover, the bewildering experiences involved, suited to the present hypermediated way of Feleki 95 living, constitute a contemporary ―Garden of Forking Paths‖ (―Hyperfiction: Novels for the

Computer‖). What is more, the existence of a monstrous body, as portrayed in Shelley

Jackson‘s hypertext novel, Patchwork Girl (1995), constitutes the perfect metaphor for both the fragmentation and associative interconnections involved in the reconfigured process of fiction writing laid out in hypertextual organization. Coover discusses this metaphor in his keynote address to the Digital Arts and Culture conference in Atlanta in 1999, entitled

―Literary Hypertext: The Passing of the Golden Age.‖

Extremely important is also George P. Landow‘s Hypertext 2.0 (1997).10 This book constitutes the first consistent work that maps out the turn from the linear text to hypertext.

It exposes the multi-layered and multiple-faceted convergences of hypertextual technology

(in the form of Storyspace, Microcosm, and the World Wide Web) with critical theory. It also builds bridges with structuralist and poststructuralist theorists, such as Roland Barthes,

Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. Its latest edition, Hypertext 3.0 (2006), makes the study relevant to the urgent needs of the hyper-/multi-mediated world. The book studies the latest narrative formations of new media, such as blogs, interactive films, and hypermedia, as well as the politics involved in the control of the new emerging digital platforms.

Furthermore, Bolter‘s Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print

(2001) discusses the intricate processes involved in the remediation of the Western print culture and their impact on the newly-emerging realizations of culture and the self. Also useful is Tatiani G. Rapatzikou‘s study of MUD environments. She claims that MUDs are

―open to a combination of experiences and textual prompts that continually open up new paths for interaction and spatial immersion‖ (149). Indeed, William Gibson‘s novels

Neuromancer (1984) and Pattern Recognition (2003) serve as further examples of the fruitful co-existence of literary narration with technological mediation. Rapatzikou‘s

10 George P. Landow‘s pioneering Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Literary Theory and Technology (1992) marks the author‘s initial attempt to traverse the boundaries between post-structuralist literary theory and digital technology. Feleki 96 argument that ―the book as a cultural artifact is not rendered obsolete [but] [i]t is constantly reinvented because of its interaction with today‘s evolving technologies‖ (148) has been the basis for my investigation of the innovative media formations in the first decade of the twenty-first century. All the aforementioned studies pinpoint the urgent need for a watchful eye for the latest evolving media expressions.

Apart from literary and hypertext critics, media scholar Henry Jenkins, in his milestone work Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (2006), notes the development of a single black box that can deliver all kinds of media content to our homes

(13-16). Today, well into the second decade of the twenty-first century, the existence of such a media player, working as a vehicle that allows the streaming of all digital content or feeds, causes no bewilderment since the advances in technology in the last decades have facilitated all types of intersection and interaction. Due to the transcoding potential of alphanumeric codes, any kind of data (textual, visual, acoustic, kinesthetic) can be translated into digital codes and, then, distributed to consumers through different meta- media digital devices, such as personal computers, iPhones, and smartphones, or any other kind of platform that have emerged in the meantime. This ―convergence is,‖ according to

Bolter and Grusin, ―remediation under another name‖ (224). It is ―the mutual remediation of at least three important technologies─telephone, television, and computer─each of which is a hybrid of technical, social, and economic practice and each of which offers its own path to immediacy‖ (224). The theory of remediation has revolutionized thinking at the turn of the century, laying the ground for a new participatory conception of multi-modal artistic creation.

In their book, Remediation, Bolter and Grusin cite the editors of the Wired magazine, who believe that media are ―as natural as the physical space‖ (222). The Wired editors move beyond the idea of a single device capable of providing the space for multiple Feleki 97 intersections. Instead they launch the idea of ―push‖ technology that allows the unobstructed flow of information and communication to be delivered to anyone anywhere regardless of the device. They see network technology

surging across the Web in the preferred, many-to-many way: anything flows from

anyone to anyone─from anywhere to anywhere─anytime. In other words, a true

network like the telephone system, rather than a radiating system like radio or TV.

This new medium doesn‘t wait for clicks. It doesn‘t need computers. It means

personalized experience not bound by a page [ . . . ]. It means information that

cascades, not just through a PC, but across all forms of communication devices─

headlines sent to a pager or a traffic map popping up on a cellular phone. And it

means content that will not hesitate to find you─whether you‘ve clicked on

something recently or not. (223)

Apparently, this flowing of media content resembles nature‘s force. Bolter and Grusin explain that ―[i]nstead of exploding, all the various media of cyberspace are converging, as if they were being pulled together by a force as ineluctable as gravity‖ (222). It is because of this force that technology can almost naturally reach and affect media users without even the click of a button.

Despite the initial numbness the mingling of older and newer media causes to users, it signals an ultimate merging with the computational. While explaining the process of data transcoding in digital format, Lev Manovich also describes how both the ―cultural layer‖ and the ―computer layer‖ of the new media are affected (Language 46). As he discerns,

―[t]he result of this composite is a new computer culture─a blend of human and computer meanings, of traditional ways in which human culture modeled the world and the computer‘s own means of representing it‖ (46). The pressure the entertainment industry has exercised on the publishing sector due to the technological convergences, with its goal to Feleki 98 promote a new electronic culture via the latest hybrid cultural artifacts (such as hypertexts, e-texts, computer games, and digitally produced movies), further reinforces the renegotiation of literary activities. In a computer-dominated culture, the literary and technological convergence has been inevitable. It leads to the redefinition of the literary practice dependent on computerized media and obliges scholars to explore the new textual landscapes created after the readjustment of the positions once held by printed literature.

What is worth noting is the transition from an initially romanticized conception of electronic space as a virtual out-of-space-and-body experience to the realization that electronic space constitutes actual physical space. As Manovich points out after the turn of the century, this ―new‖ space is not about the virtual any more as it was the case all through the 1990s when ―[w]e were fascinated by new virtual spaces made possible by computer technologies‖ (―The Poetics of Augmented Space‖ 75). As he notes, ―[i]t is quite possible that the emphasis of the first decade of the 2000s will turn out to be about the physical─that is physical space filled with electronic and visual information‖ (76). This comment brings to the fore the understanding that the Internet and the World Wide Web occupy specific space that can house all sorts of electronic codes and media content, reconfiguring them in hypertextual organizations. With such a heavy bulk of theoretical background as the basis, claims about the death of books and literature by critics, such as Alvin Kernan in The Death of Literature (1990) and Sven Birkets in The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an

Electronic Age (1994), both pessimistically envisioning the death of literary writing as we know it, have soon lost credibility. In fact, what has happened is the rebirth of fiction writing through the regenerative power of remediated formats. In King‘s case, this rebirth is visible through his latest narrative configurations designed for the electronic medium and, more particularly, for the Kindle electronic reader and the electronic environments hosted Feleki 99 on his official website. These electronic platforms provide the new space where the ongoing development of King‘s narrative writing practice is taking place.

The World Wide Web, organized as a multi-layered and highly-communicative writing space, constitutes the ideal terrain to host multi-directional writing events and obliges the participants in the creative process to re-define their roles. According to Bolter and Grusin, ―we become simultaneously both the subject and the object of contemporary media,‖ since ―[n]ew media offer new opportunities for self-definition [ . . . ]‖ (231). This multi-directional and gradual cross-media potential of electronic writing has led to the reinvention of the process of literary reading and writing. The new media platforms have assisted in revolutionizing the writing process. The static text that the writer once delivered to the reader, mainly through the verbal code, can now be enriched with visual, audio, and kinesthetic stimuli, converted into digital codes on the computer screen. The ―numerical coding of media‖ as well as their ―modular structure‖ (Manovich, Language 36), organized in ―branching-type‖ and ―hypermedia/hypertext‖ layout (38, italics in original), account for the element of variability that characterizes new media. This element, of course, has repercussions on the reading experience as well. The current chapter aims to demonstrate that the variability and multi-modality of the new media offer a diverse augmented experience to readers, and enables their immersion into the writer‘s fictional worlds. Also, the hypertextual and hypermedia elements open up the text to multiple narrative paths, creating thus immersive and enriched sensory experiences.

Readers are now confronted with new narrative possibilities. In particular, a greater degree of involvement has been granted to readers of literature, allowing for more immersive experiences. The electronic texts investigated in this part of the dissertation manifest their highly ―writerly‖ nature, in contrast to the more conventional ―readerly‖ Feleki 100 texts;11 they promote the active interaction of the readers with the text and enable them to produce their own meanings of the text. The new roles empowered by the technological mediation transform readers/writers/users into collaborators in the creative process that produces an electronic work.

As for the author‘s role, this has had to be readjusted as well. The former romantic concept of a writer receiving inspiration through divine evocation has long been contested.

What is more, the need to revisit postmodern propositions, such as Barthes‘s Scriptor, who holds an empty position, or Foucault‘s writer, regarded as a mere function to the exclusion of others, has proven imperative. The redefinition of the roles and relations that govern the participants in the communicative writing practice leads also to the reconfiguration of the concepts about authorship, manifested in the current popular media. These realizations bring us to the beginning of our journey into the possibilities that transcoded texts offer to both authors and readers. The creative process in the new digital platforms can no longer be seen as a loner‘s exercise, cut off from the world, but as an interaction between artists

(potentially, with their whole authorial team), the exchanged data, and the recipients. Louis

Blackaller, in his M.A. thesis, titled ―Performing Process: the Artist Studio as Interactive

Art‖ (2008), concentrates on the interactive nature of digital art; he sees art ―as a system instead of an object, where the artist plays the role of a mediator or facilitator of the audiences‘ interaction with the work‖ (35). He presents ―networked environments‖

as creative social systems, where the content becomes not only what a community

of artists creates, but also the interactions between them, and with their audiences,

all whom (sic) usually belong to the same community. This gave rise to a new kind

of production model where the separation between producer and consumer blurred,

11 According to Roland Barthes, a ―readerly‖ text is conventional and pre-determined product, while ―writerly‖ is the ―ideal‖ text. As he suggests, ―[i]n this ideal text, the networks are many and interact [ . . . ]; this text is a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one (S/Z 5). Feleki 101

leading to an influx of optimistic literature that saw this as a path towards a new

utopia. (54)

Yet, Blackaller distances himself from such utopian generalizations since he sees ―this new space [created] for trade and communication as another way to discuss the tension built around expression and control‖ (54). Issues that are related to authorship, authority control, readership, and the involvement of all agents in active communication in electronic environments, are tackled in detail in Part III of this dissertation, aiming to draw conclusions about the on-going renegotiation processes of literary writing empowered by the electronic medium. Under such conditions, the once static text and the words (as its constitutive units) are reconfigured and acquire new meanings and roles. In their linear representation on the computer interface, they continue to perform the same informative and descriptive role as in the printed text. Yet, their fluidity, as a result of their digital coding, facilitates a non-linear, multi-dimensional and, as such, highly-immersive experience for the audience. The professed open-endedness of the texts, comprising digital codes flowing through the computer device, cannot be trapped within a static literary analysis. Constant groundbreaking developments in digital mediation ensure that we are still a long way from establishing a concise rhetoric of electronic literature. As Peter Lunenfeld accurately observes in the introductory section to The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media

(1999), ―[t]he computer [ . . . ] is the first widely disseminated system that offers the user the opportunity to create, distribute, receive, and consume audiovisual content with the same box. Thus, theorists have to strive to create new models of commentary that consider more than consumption or spectatorship‖ (xix). As stated above, existing cultural studies need to explain how human subjectivity and the processes of reading and writing are affected by the incorporation of digital technologies in artistic and literary practices. We are Feleki 102 in need of a new theory that will take the dynamic aspect of the electronic medium and all its participants into consideration.

The phenomenon of media pluralization and the redefinition of the roles and relations in the processes of writing/producing/reading/consuming have influenced King‘s works, which emanate this new sense of freedom. In this light, the adjustment of his creative writing to different mediums of expression seems to be the result of a natural process. Even before turning to the electronic medium, King has always been intrigued by the multi-faceted aspects of human nature and conduct which he has explored through his writing. When writing for the print-bound medium most of his main characters have displayed unstable identities through their multiple personalities. They are not fixed in time or space in pretty much the same way as electronic data disappear and re-appear on the computer screen with the click of a button. He has always created characters that exist beyond social conventions and codes of conduct. Rejecting the omniscient and authoritative role of the writer, King has always provided his characters with the narrative space within which to unfold their individuality by contesting accepted norms and rules. These characters, appearing as lunatics, psychopaths or weird ―creatures,‖ oftentimes display special powers, as they strive to break free from their narrative confines. As I have argued in Part I, print technology and the conventions of the Gothic novel have provided King with the writing formulas he has needed so as to experiment with multi-layered stories and multi- vocal polyglot narrations that continue to inform his versatile and ingenious writing formulas.

In his interview to Brian Truitt for the USA Weekend in 2009, he admits that he enjoys being the public‘s favorite. In answer to the question whether he accepts being tabbed as ―the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries,‖ he confesses: “I want people to wolf everything down. It's a good thing when you're driving along, you have your Quarter Feleki 103

Pounder or your Big Mac, and then you're fishing around in the bottom of the bag for the last two or three french fries because, damn, those french fries are good! It might not be cordon bleu, but it can be pretty good stuff‖ (―It‘s Good to be the King‖ 2). In order to facilitate the voracious consumption of his fiction he has made most of his older and recent works available online or in electronic reading devices for his fans. Following the developments in digital technologies, King is not the authoritative figure who can survive alone in this corporatized profession. Accepting that digital texts─as contrasted to printed texts─lend themselves to multiple types of authorship, I purport in the following analysis that King‘s works are the outcome of different types of authorship. These are enabled by different writing technologies, which he makes available to the public, leaving the ultimate choice of the medium to the readers.

A serious problem encountered while carrying out research for this project has been the temporality and fluidity of the projects appearing on King‘s website. Information appearing there is constantly updated, facing the danger of permanent disappearance.

Lunenfeld makes an interesting comment about ―the state of unfinish‖ (―Unfinished

Business‖ 10), which characterizes online publications software, as they never stay the same since their hosting platforms go through constant changes and upgrades. In fact, I will prove that this lack of stability of digital products and the fluidity of the information running there is beneficial to media conglomerates, but leaves little space for ―rigid‖ theoretical commentary. This dissertation has refused to take a ―rigid‖ stance towards new media and their manifestations, but hopes that the results of the research will prove flexible and adjustable enough according to the projects in question. It becomes evident thus that the limitations arising from a traditional literary criticism need to be tackled and overcome.

Scholars should embrace the possibilities that computational technologies offer and establish new terrains for further theoretical explorations. Feleki 104

All in all, the need for a hybrid discourse that will elucidate the different/hybrid/ diversified artistic expressions/products as well as the hybridized experiences of those involved arises. If we accept the narrative potential of all media formations, we cannot overlook that narrative is media specific. According to Rimmon-Kenan, each medium‘s properties ―open up possibilities and impose constraints which [ . . . ] shape the narration, the text, and even the story (―How the Model Neglects the Medium‖ 160). For these reasons, I firstly study how King‘s explorations in new textualities affect the story, the text, and its narration in connection with his e-story Ur, and then move on to the discussion of the creation of his new media worlds on StephenKing.com.

3.2 Re-mapping the Literary Landscape: The Case of UR

The intersection of innovative computational technologies with existing modes of literary enunciation, production, and distribution has led to the creation of a new literary space that is constantly modified in order to keep up with the latest technological developments. For Manovich, it constitutes the authors‘ ―cellspace,‖ in other words the

―physical space filled with data that can be retrieved by a user using a personal communications device‖ (―Augmented‖ 76). Personal computers, laptops, electronic readers, MP4s, tablets, and smartphones are electronic devices that distribute digitally- coded texts to consumers, disseminated on the platform interface.

It is this continuous process of reterritorialization of older and newer writing technologies in the contemporary literary landscape that I investigate here. New media theorists, such as Bolter, Grusin, and Hayles, have contributed to the shift of literary, computer, and cultural studies towards a new direction. Their theories of ―remediation‖ and

―intermediation,‖ as already discussed in Part I, imply the dynamic flow and exchange of Feleki 105 techniques, motifs, information, and images among media and literature. Especially

Hayles‘s concept of ―intermediation‖ stresses the ―entangled causalities‖ (32) and ―multiple feedback loops‖ (32) among media as well as the ―interactions between systems of representations‖ and ―modes of representation‖ (33) in contemporary literary writing. In an effort to overcome the danger of a process that may involve a limiting decoding of texts,

Anna Everett‘s theory of ―digitextuality‖ stresses the importance of ―embedding the entirety of other texts (analog and digital) seamlessly within the other‖ and securing meaning by

―successfully decoding earlier media structures‖ (―Digitextuality and Click Theory: Theses on the Convergence Media in the Digital Age‖ 7). Thus, she shifts attention to the need for a holistic theory that can take into account the entirety of the practices involved when transposing texts into new media literary landscapes and respects the inherent qualities of the new media.

This gradual shift from a print-book tradition to an electronic one has affected the marketability of literary products. Since the book is not the only medium of expression or the only end product for the distribution of literature any more, literature has moved to the domain of digital technology, and, more specifically, to e-books. Hayles‘s concept of

―materiality‖ is pivotal at this point. As she notes, materiality ―cannot simply be collapsed into physicality but is an emergent property generated by interactions between a work‘s signifying strategies and the physical characteristics it mobilizes as resources for its operations‖ (My Mother 9). Therefore, marking out the new properties and the new boundaries that define the digital literary products becomes essential for the investigation of the literary work in its own terms.

This section inspects the interactions between the two opposing but complementary writing textualities, namely the printed and the digital form, in relation to King‘s first short Feleki 106 story, created and released solely through and for the Kindle e-reader.12 Restricted by its copyright policy, Ur has been available only in electronic form and only to users of this particular computerized product introduced to the literary market by Amazon. The e-story thematizes this reterritorialization of literary writing, since it was produced in order to specifically fill in and promote the new space created by contemporary digital media. It was produced through the computer for the computer and for an electronic device after King had been commissioned by Amazon to produce a text to appear only in e-form compatible with the company‘s e-reader. King openly discusses his decision to accept commission in order to produce Ur in the online article, ―Stephen King on the Kindle and the iPad‖ (2009) for

Entertainment Weekly:

In 2008, not too long after writing a column about the Kindle reading device for

EW, my agent, Ralph Vicinanza, suggested I write something for Amazon. They

were going to introduce a new version of the Kindle, he said, and asked if I might

like to write an original story to be published exclusively in that format. I said I'd

consider it, and did just that [ . . . ]. I decided I would like to write a story for the

Kindle, but only if I could do one about the Kindle. (italics in original)

In the same article, he ironically admits that ―[m]aybe instead of ‗Ur,‘ [he] should have written a story called ‗The Monster That Ate the Book Biz.‘‖ In this article, as well as in

Ur, King is cleverly keeping a balance with traditional publishing practices, while promoting a new but still biased product by forwarding its latest version and comparing it to its rival the iPad. Even though in his comments he sounds neutral without taking any sides, he is cunningly cultivating a controversy, informing his fans about the latest e-products that appear in the market, and, at the same time, challenging the readers/consumers to try them themselves. Especially enlightening is King‘s interview on CNN.com, ―Will Ebooks Kill

12 Stephen King‘s very first literary experiment in digital environments was tried out in 2000 with the release of the e-book Riding the Bullet, which reached audiences through the Web. The issue is taken up again in Part III, when discussing the commercial and corporate logic of digital cultural production. Feleki 107

Hardcover Books?‖ (2010), regarding the future of the book and e-book market. As he insists, trying to ease the worries and the anxiety over the future of the book in the digitally- fed market, the industry produces both media (books and the e-readers) as two available formats; yet, apart from the format it is the story that is important. In an earlier less soothing online article in , titled ―What‘s Next for Pop Culture?‖ (2009), he does not sound so comforting about the new direction that popular culture has taken, since low costs and high profits appear to be driving e-book production: ―I love my Kindle, but what appears there has (so far) been backstopped by great publishers and layers of editing.

If the e-book drives those guys out of business (or even into semiretirement), what happens to the quality? For that matter, who pays the advances?‖ With his comments serving as a reminder of the risks that are involved in digital mass production, this section continues with the examination of the writing properties and the narrative elements that characterize his digital text.

As the reading of the e-story will demonstrate, not only has technology affected the choice of the enunciative medium the writer employs, but it has also affected the content of the story. Ur is a clever story, which combines King‘s well-known ingredients for success, including fantasy, mystery and romance, but this time through the prism of the Kindle medium. A look at the contents page of the e-book is demonstrative of the mood and attitude of the writer. On the contents page showing on the interface of the e-reader, the titles of the first chapters accentuate the writer‘s concern about the extraordinary functions and potentials of the new e-reader as well as its repercussions on the main characters.

Headings, such as ―Experimenting with New Technology,‖ ―Ur Functions,‖ ―News

Archive,‖ and ―Ur Local (Under Construction)‖ read like computer jargon, reminiscent of hyperlinks on an electronic page. The technology of the Kindle e-reader adopts the linking functions of the Internet in hypertextual construction so that readers can click on the Feleki 108 underscored titles and instantly move to the selected space. The fluidity of the changing digital codes creates a sense of flowing to the readers, whose reading of the e-novella is made easier. More important, though, is the connection created with the technology of the first instances of electronic literature (in the form of hypertext fiction that was discussed earlier) and the infinite narrative possibilities that it promised. Yet, the last three chapters imply greater freedom of the human agents from the electronic device. In the chapters

―Candy Rymer,‖ ―The Paradox Police,‖ and ―Ellen,‖ when the tensions between the human agents and the electronic medium have been resolved, King allows the plot to unfold faster and gives his characters the chance to take their lives in their own hands away from the electronic device.

The story begins with the main character, Wesley Smith, an English instructor and book lover, in a horrible psychological state after his break up with Ellen Silverman, the coach of the girls‘ basketball team at college. Their separation is the consequence of their quarrel over the long-standing controversy between the book and the computer tradition.

The narrator explains: ―The books were the problem. That, and the fact that he had called her an illiterate bitch‖ (Kindle Locations 135-36). His decision to buy a Kindle ―out of spite

[ . . . ] to get back at her‖ (177), but also to win her back proves disastrous. With horror he realizes the great but disturbing abilities of this new electronic appliance. Far from being a simple ―gadget‖ (2) or a ―new toy‖ (8), the pink Kindle he buys turns out to be a scary widget that has the power to connect to innumerable virtual reality platforms. The three heroes (Wesley, his colleague and friend, Don Allman, as well as their student and computer freak, the Henderson kid) set out on an adventure that will change their future lives.

King‘s and the characters‘ concern about the future of print is voiced throughout the text: ―‗Will it ever replace the book?,‘ Wesley‘s colleague and friend, Don Allman, Feleki 109 enquires. ‗Never,‘ Wesley said but he had already begun to wonder‘‖ (103-05).

Furthermore, relationships seem to suffer due to the controversy between the two opposing sides. We read that the Henderson kid ―was a nice kid and a fairly good student. Wesley liked him. But still, he had been ready to tear the boy‘s head off when he spotted him in class with what Wesley assumed was a PDA or a newfangled cell phone‖ (220-22). Despite his initial apprehension, Wesley will need the boy to help him through the stiff reality of the pink Kindle. More importantly, King uses the couple‘s break up as a metaphor for the battle between digitality and print tradition. Ellen‘s fiery attitude is exposed as she grabs his favorite book and throws it across the room after a fight at the school‘s gym:

She plucked Deliverance from Wesley‘s hands, threw it across the room, and said

the words that would haunt him for the next lonely month:

―Why can‘t you just read off the computer, like the rest of us?‖

―She really said that?‖ Don Allman asked, a remark that woke Wesley from a

trancelike state. He realized he had just told the whole story to his office-mate. He

hadn‘t meant to, but he had. And there was no going back now.

―She did. And I said, ‗That was a first edition I got from my father, you illiterate

bitch.‘‖ (149-57)

In the story, Wesley represents ―Old School.‖ The narrator says that ―he thought he would prefer being perceived by them as Old School. New School was somehow . . . mediocre‖

(278-79) as he ―loved books. Books were his Achilles heel‖ (136-37). On the other hand,

Ellen, who represents ―New School,‖ is characterized as ―an illiterate bitch‖ (135), reminding us of the ―high‖ versus ―low‖ art distinction. King does not fail to point out that

Ellen ―was illiterate, or close to it‖ but ―[s]he certainly wasn‘t computer illiterate‖ (165-69, italics in original): Feleki 110

Had told him once in bed that the only book she‘d read for pleasure since coming to

Moore was Reach for the Summit: The Definite Dozen System for Succeeding at

Whatever You Do, by Tennessee Vols coach Pat Summit. She watched TV (mostly

sports), and when she wanted to dig deeper into some news story, she went to The

Drudge Report. She certainly wasn‘t computer illiterate. She praised the Moore

College wireless network (which was superlative rather than mediocre), and never

went anywhere without her laptop slung over her shoulder. (165-71)

This tendency to characterize the story‘s characters and their intellectual ability according to their reading habits is indicative of the writer‘s concerns. Ellen and the Henderson kid are judged for their addiction to the screen, while King attaches Wesley the image of the old- fashioned miserable English teacher who is still stuck to a different era, represented by the print-book tradition.

Interestingly enough, as King continues with the plot, the controversy once relating to his characters now relates to inanimate matter. Spaces once frequented by people holding books are now part of the ongoing crisis. King depicts the college classroom as a battle ground when the Henderson kid is caught with the Kindle in his hand: ―Put it away! This is a literature class, not an internet chat-room‖ (227-28), Wesley exclaims. Yet, the difficult situation the print matter is in is best represented through the decaying image of the bookstore. The readers are informed that ―[t]here was also a bookstore specializing in used texts and last year‘s bestsellers offered at fifty per cent off. It looked dusty and dispirited and was often empty. Because people were home reading off the computer, Wesley assumed‖ (186-88). By contrast, the seeming superiority of the Kindle to the book is metaphorically insinuated through its placement in space. The writer has ―[t]he Kindle

[ . . . ] currently sitting on American Dreams, the textbook Wesley used in his Intro to

American Lit class‖ (99-100, italics in original). The image of an e-reader holding a more Feleki 111 eminent place than a literary textbook is cleverly implying Kindle‘s newly-found and more privileged position in Western civilization as compared to the print-bound book.

The competition between the new e-medium and the printed format, as well as the interplay between them has led to the creation of a new narrative ―space‖ in an attempt to bridge the gap, compromise their differences, and allow for a new reading experience. The

Kindle is invited to fill in this new space. According to Hayles,

[w]hen literature leaps from one medium to another─from orality to writing, from

manuscript codex to printed book, from mechanically generated print to electronic

textuality─it does not leave behind the accumulated knowledge embedded in genres,

poetic conventions, narrative structures, figurative tropes, and so forth. Rather, this

knowledge is carried forward into the new medium typically by trying to replicate

the earlier medium‘s effects within the new medium‘s specificities. (Electronic

Literature 58)

In the case of Ur, although the text is produced for the Kindle, the electronic reading device, which has tried both to remediate and redefine the book, it is not stripped off the print tradition‘s specificities. In the e-novella, both technologies are represented and intensified.

At times, this struggle between new and old media is underplayed due to the new medium‘s unparalleled strength. According to Bolter and Grusin‘s theory on the different ways in which digital media remediate their predecessors, ―the electronic version is offered as an improvement, although the new is still justified in terms of the old and seeks to remain to the old medium‘s character‖ (46). In Ur, King plays with this idea of the two media overlapping. Wesley‘s first encounter with the Kindle is like a revelation to him when he sees the name of Cather next to the Amazon logo:

The kid turned the gadget so Wesley could see it. It was a flat white panel,

rectangular, less than half an inch thick. At the top was amazonkindle and the smile- Feleki 112

logo Wesley knew well; he was not entirely computer illiterate himself, and had

ordered books from Amazon plenty of times (although he usually tried the bookstore

in town first, partly out of pity; even the cat who spent most of its life dozing in the

window looked Malnourished). The interesting thing on the kid‘s gadget wasn‘t the

logo on top or the teeny-tiny keyboard (a computer keyboard, surely!) on the

bottom. In the middle of the gadget was a screen, and on the screen was not a

screen-saver or a video game where young men and women with buffed-out bodies

were killing zombies in the ruins of New York, but a page of Willa Cather‘s story

about the poor boy with the destructive illusions. (238-46)

When looking at the Kindle‘s electronic page, one cannot miss its overt allusion to the print page. It even makes the sound of a book when turning the pages: ―when you turn the pages

. . . here, with this button . . . they kind of flutter, like in a real book‖ (263-64), the

Henderson kid reveals to Wesley. Additionally, King‘s puns and images of the ―Kindle

Kandle‖ and ―a Kindle Fan Site‖ that show ―a bizarre photo of a woman in Quaker garb reading her Kindle by candlelight. Or possibly kandlelight‖ (395-96) allow for a playful association of the new gadget shedding new ―light‖ as the bearer of computerized enlightenment. King uses the image of the woman reading her Kindle by ―kandlelight‖ ironically to express mixed feelings about the contemporary literary condition and the new direction it is taking. On the other hand, reading by ―kandlelight‖ could imply the infantile state of the Kindle technology and the infinite potential that lies ahead. The puns effectively highlight the writer‘s point.

At other times, King‘s deliberate downplaying of the differences between the two distinct media ironically stresses the effort of the electronic medium to erase its differences from the printed form. King has Wesley desperately try to convince the Henderson kid about the superiority of the book: ―there will always be books. Which means there will Feleki 113 always be binding and paper. Books are real objects. Books are friends [ . . . ]. But books aren‘t solely ideas. Books have a smell, for instance. One that gets better─more nostalgic─as the years go by. Does this gadget of yours have a smell? (256-66, italics in original). This is not the first time King deals with the benefits of the two technologies. He capitulates that ―[t]here are lots of advantages to the electronic devices─portability, instant buyer gratification, nice big type for aging eyes like ─but there's a troubling lightness to the content as well. A not-thereness‖ (―Stephen King on the Kindle and the iPad‖).

Admittedly, the different ways in which the two technologies preserve textual material traits do affect the reception from the readers. As he continues in the same article,

my e-reader will never completely replace my books. Footnotes are difficult to

access on the Kindle (oh, there's a way, but it's counterintuitive). The black-and-

white covers are blah. Worst of all, holograph materials are all but indecipherable. I

read a Minette Walters mystery recently on my Kindle. Several handwritten letters

were an integral part of the plot, and I hadn't the slightest idea of what they said,

even when I held the damn screen an inch from my nose. Of course, a color Kindle

is rumored to be in the works, the iPad will feature color from the jump, and I'm

sure I could have read those incriminating letters on the new and larger Kindle DX.

Nonetheless, King‘s unfavorable comments about the new device can be read as an indirect promotion. These feelings are evident in Ur as well. At times we witness a deliberate downplaying of the Kindle‘s potential when King points out its lack in special graphic design, artwork, sound, or movement. In the story, he discusses the possibility of the Kindle to produce color images and immersive environments that will attract the reader: ―Google, full of information but essentially dumb as a post, lead (sic) him first to a discussion of whether or not the Kindle would ever be able to produce color images on its screen, a subject in which Wesley─as a book-reader─had absolutely zero interest‖ (393-95). When Feleki 114 later in the story Wesley falls asleep, intoxicated by the new application, the nightmarish presence of typed words is striking: ―He also dreamed. No images; only words. Titles!

Endless lines of titles, many of them of undiscovered masterpieces. As many titles as there were stars in the sky‖ (650-51). For the Kindle stories, the beauty of the images are still created through the power of the word the writer chooses to use. The powerful image of the starry sky contrasts with the story‘s space in cyberspace, and is effected through the use of terms like ―images,‖ ―words,‖ ―titles,‖ intensified by quantifiers, adjectives, and adverbs

(―no,‖ ―only,‖ ―endless,‖ ―many of them,‖ and ―as many‖). However, the fast pace of the narration by means of abrupt and elliptical sentences is in accord with the fluidity of the electronic device that is hosting the reading experience.

At other times, King masterly bridges the once distinct technologies of the computer with the traditional print medium by switching from commands, like ―WELCOME TO THE

NEWS ARCHIVE‖ (889), to references to Charles and Eudora Welty. Different fonts, letter styles in bold or italics and digits next to letters create a diverse typeface. This feature of interrelatedness (as regards literary references) is in accord with the interconnectedness and hypertextual organization. These qualities are noted in Everett‘s theory of ―digitextuality,‖ which registers not only the presence of ―‗a new signifying system‘ of quotations and transpositions,‖ but also the emergence of ―a metasignifying system of discursive absorption whereby different signifying systems and materials are translated and often transformed into zeroes and ones for infinite recombinant signifiers‖

(―Digitextuality‖ 7). Consequently, a simple reference to a common past by the writer can denote the possibility of an endless game of creative rearrangement and substitution enabled by digital technology. Half a century ago, Barthes was the first to admit that our literary tradition could be regarded as ―a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash‖ (―The Death of the Author‖ 146). Today, well Feleki 115 within the new media age, by creating links to traditional genres, subgenres, and their motifs, one‘s written works keep on bifurcating, acquiring multiple meanings and opening up to hypertextual readings, like the hypertextual reading suggested in King‘s story.

Also, with his fictional literary map, King hints upon the immense potentiality of the new literary medium and tries to make us aware of what is or what could be out there. A virtual library in a parallel universe, as projected through the pink Kindle, could stand for a cognitive map of a traditional library. All the references to well-known authors (Ernest

Hemingway, William Faulkner, James M. Cain, and even William ) as well as to their works that appear on the Kindle‘s screen when Wes starts surfing, remind one of the open-endedness of the hypertext. Consequently, if used properly, the Kindle can be potentially a helpful device and a medium for recording and historicizing memory.

The construction of a virtual library alludes to infinite and alternative readings as well as to a growing online community of writers: ―He examined the dates again and saw that the death date was wrong. Hemingway was dead on July 2, 1961, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to the screen, he had gone to that great library in the sky on

August 19, 1964‖ (484-86). The image of Hemingway joining ―the great library in the sky‖ metaphorically connects the English-speaking community of distinguished writers with

Kindle‘s literary community.

Despite the feeling of togetherness one experiences when belonging to an established literary world, the concerns over authorial anxiety, artistic identity, and textual originality are still there. The Kindle is represented in Ur as a universal machine controlling authorial intention. The results of Wesley‘s investigation demonstrate that no fixed authorial identity is secured in Kindle reality. Each visit to a different Ur produces different findings. The Kindle is attributing different book titles to different authors, while, at the same time, erasing or failing to include other authors. For instance, Faulkner does not come Feleki 116 in any of Wesley‘s online searches. Hemingway‘s, Poe‘s, and Shakespeare‘s dates of birth and death are altered, and multiple book titles appear under their names when visiting different Urs. Contrary to the fixedness and seeming security of the print tradition, the

Kindle fails to attribute authorial ownership to the literary creators that feature in it, an issue that will be picked up in Part III of this dissertation.

The postmodern anxiety over a powerful technology that is about to devour its creator is evident in King‘s story. Although stressful situations are nothing new in King‘s fiction, as he has often crafted them in his printed works with weird gadgets coming to life and being attributed deadly powers, this time all action takes place in an online space. After discovering an unknown novel by Hemingway, entitled Cortland’s Dogs, Wesley feels extreme unease. At this point, King indirectly hints at online information validity: ―Liquid rose up in Wesley‘s throat. He ran for the sink, bent over it, and struggled to keep the beer down. His gorge settled, and instead of turning on the water to rinse puke down the drain, he cupped his hands under the flow and splashed it on his sweaty skin. That was better‖

(574-76). King stresses the excruciating effects digital technology and electronic gadgets can have on the users. The psychological strain that overwhelms Wes, when he enters different Urs and discovers new virtual realities and works of well-known writers, reflects the general anxiety both users and writers experience.

King‘s Kindle story also touches upon the commercial aspect of the whole digital enterprise. Once Wesley is drawn into the Kindle world, he is overwhelmed by numbers appearing in front of his eyes, numbers of Urs he visits each time, titles, downloads, and costs:

. . . the screen finally produced a new message.

10,438,721 URS SEARCHED

17,894 TITLES Feleki 117






―What in the name of God is this?‖ Wesley whispered. Below the message, the

cursor blinked. Above it, in small type (black, not red), was one further instruction:


117586. (454-67)

Once Wesley begins to explore his new pink Kindle, computer terminology is dispersed everywhere in the text proving the powerful presence of computer technology in the literary terrain. As it seems, reading on an electronic device is compromised by the latter‘s specificities. Urging the user to provide ―NUMERIC ENTR[IES] ONLY‖ suggests its supremacy over lettered codes. As the next excerpt suggests, the capitalized words signify the presence of the powerful electronic system in operation:

He pushed the MENU button and was presented with a number of choices. The

top one (of course) invited him to SHOP THE KINDLE STORE. But near the

bottom was something called EXPERIMENTAL. That looked interesting. He

moved the cursor to it, opened it, and read this at the top of the screen: We are

working on these experimental prototypes. Do you find them useful? [ . . . ].

The first prototype turned out to be BASIC WEB. So Ellen was right. The

Kindle was apparently a lot more computerized than it looked at first blush. He

glanced at the other experimental choices: music downloads (big whoop) and text-

to-speech (which might come in handy if he were blind). He pushed the NEXT Feleki 118

PAGE button to see if there were other experimental prototypes. There was one: UR

FUNCTIONS [ . . . ].

He highlighted UR FUNCTIONS and selected it . . . (423-35, italics in original)

Words such as ―MENU,‖ ―SHOP,‖ ―STORE,‖ ―EXPERIMENTAL,‖ ―WEB,‖ and

―FUNCTIONS‖ imply the interactive nature of the experiences enabled through the connectedness of the medium. In the story, the Search Engine works effectively and creates links with print and online literary traditions. Clicking on the right buttons opens up to innumerable virtual realities and achieves immediacy after all. In a real Kindle, however, clicking on buttons and scrawling on bars to see whole pages works against the new medium‘s effort for ―transparency‖ and affects the reading experience. In particular, no strict paging is offered on the Kindle, only references to locations, which is also problematic when the margin used for note-taking appears and changes measurements of the reading screen. The medium‘s specificities as represented in the text are proof that the

Kindle is actually giving a new twist to the reading of a fictional story. What remains to be evaluated is the quality and the importance of these developments. King‘s skepticism on the matter is cleverly expressed through the words of his main speaker. Dazed by the downloading capacity of the Kindle, Wes speaks out: ―So many authors, so many Urs, so little time‖ (617). This utterance, alluding to a real article titled, ―So Many Links, So Little

Time,‖ written by Ralph Lombreglia, discusses the new potentials and intricacies of electronic narrative in relation to the publication of Michael Joyce‘s work Twilight, A

Symphony (1996). Lombreglia comments on the great number of writing and linking opportunities when online as well as on the disorientation problems caused when reading hypertextually.

The mysterious powers of the pink Kindle that feature in King‘s e-story are much more appreciated by anyone reading the story on an electronic device. When holding the Feleki 119

Kindle, the reader cannot help but wonder if King‘s predictions will ever come true and if the Kindle will turn out to be a powerful tool that not only opens up to multiple realities but also one that can predict the future and even give its users the opportunity to affect and change it. The ability to create cross-genre links proves the dynamic, non-static, non-linear, and ever-growing power of literary experimentations. The pink Kindle provides access to an online space where multiple literary realities can unfold, or where literary creation can be transferred. This highlights the fact that the Kindle is not only a marketable commodity but also the hub where new forms of expression can be created. It can enliven the reading experience and give a new direction to popular fiction writing. Thus, the latest trends in literary and digital studies and the investigation of Ur express an urgent need for new ways to look at contemporary literary production. The new ground where computer science can meet and interact with cultural and literary theory needs to be further explored. No longer do we sing the blues of the previous decades and cry over the battles literature has lost against popular electronic media. After the numbness that the encounter with computational media has brought about, we can hope for a novel approach to emerge that can bring about the re-birth of the literary medium, charting new routes for writers and readers.

3.3 E- Space as Remediation of the Printed Page: StephenKing.com

The online platform StephenKing.com is examined as an instance of hypertextual writing and technology with the aim to illuminate how the writer‘s literary practices in tandem with computational technologies are creating a new literary experience and, simultaneously, are reshaping Western culture and consciousness. What I venture to prove in this section is that visiting King‘s web pages does not constitute a mere exploration but can turn out to be a constructive experience as readers try to reconstruct King‘s fictional Feleki 120 worlds. I contend that its function is not strictly to inform the readers but also to make them part of the world that surrounds them.

StephenKing.com has tried to establish itself as a popular destination on the web, a portal that does not only keep visitors updated about King‘s latest writing projects and offer promotional information but also connects visitors to his works and their fictional worlds.

Like thematic portals on iPhones and smartphones, which deliver e-press, e-books, and wikis to the readers, StephenKing.com constitutes a platform on which his entire artistic creations, instigating diverse experiences, can be accessed (Fig. 1). It offers information as well as entertainment by combining hypertextual technologies and hypermedia applications.

Fig. 1. Image depicting multiple media convergences (StephenKing.com).

Upon the release of the third version of the website on May 4th 2011, the announcement reads: ―With improved search capabilities, an upgraded library and dozens of other improvements, the new StephenKing.com is a vast digital playground that looks to the future of Stephen‘s work, [proudly celebrating] full compatibility with Apple devices and most mobile platforms‖ (―Version III of StephenKing.com Goes Live‖). After Feleki 121 continuous technological upgrades the platform now allows desktop and mobile-friendly news feeds, reaching the readers anywhere through only one device, and thus verifying what the editors of the Wired magazine have predicted as the ―push media‖ convergence

(Bolter and Grusin 223). Furthermore, the portal structure enables the communicative process between the writer and his readers not only via the literary texts presented there but also via announcements and letters written by the writer and addressed directly to his readers. The hypertext links connect the readers with the writer‘s projected image, with his works outside the electronic space of the Web, with the real world through live interviews, broadcasts of readings of his most recent works on other media, and with other promotional activities. His constant contact with the reading public is further enhanced via short story contributions, poems, interviews in magazines and blogs. Being the official medium used to sustain the writer‘s popularity, it enables a bidirectional interactivity between the writer and the readers that resembles active communication.

While the writer‘s old and new stories are adapted for the electronic medium and redirected towards readers, a newly-emerging network of participants, consuming King- initiated experiences, is re-negotiating boundaries and relations. The new computational technologies employed in the website involve people in different ways. Visitors to

StephenKing.com can roam around his electronic space as well as tune in the writer‘s radio station, streaming live from Maine, U.S.A., King‘s hometown. The forums that run on the website message board create a whole new world for the fans, who are not only readers but also visitors as well as users and players of the material that appears on King‘s site.

On the other side of the communication axis, the author cannot be imagined merely as the man behind the desk who is simply inscribing words on a(n electronic) page. He has to work not only on his fictions but also on his image as a popular writer. At the same time, he tries to compromise the romantic, god-sent powers of omniscience and omnipresence Feleki 122 attributed to literary writers with the roles of the manager, the producer, and the co-author of his artistic artifacts, such as graphic novels, TV and filmic adaptations, and videogames.

For example, for the development of King‘s Discordia there is an authorial team. The fans are informed in the website that King, as Executive Manager, is responsible for the general management of the production, the storyline, and the artistic work. Such complicated artistic forms that result from the collaboration of a number of artists with the writer, and their interaction with software programs reshape theories about the construction of authorship in general, as it will be argued in Part III.

It is my contention that the new electronic medium creates an ideal space for King‘s fictional worlds to unfold and spread out in new directions, allowing his fictional characters to acquire a new substance through their visualization and via the new textual forms that gradually come to life. The author and the graphic designers invest in visual communication in order to stir the immediate participation of readers. What is more, I study the architectural design of the website in order to show how it facilitates their transcending experience. After having thoroughly analyzed the electronic environment in question, I hope that it will become apparent that King has created a whole new computational experience for his fans. King‘s portal offers a constructive insight into the plural experiences the Web platform can generate for its users.

The website manages to construct one main narrative for the readers, by employing all tools provided by computer and multi-media technology. The designers, who make use of hypertextual technology, challenge the stability of the linear structure in print; instead, they let the narrative fork out to multiple other narrative strands and worlds. The visitors are exposed to the narration of a grand creation story by King; different links bring together the fictional worlds of his published stories, which have already been delivered through other media. The stories of both the characters and their creator are, ultimately, seen as threads, Feleki 123 embedded in a grand narrative that hypertextual technology brings together and interconnects, thus creating multiple reading realities for the Web users. This way King‘s fictional and real worlds converge, bringing about a disillusioning but, at the same time, liberating experience for the visitors, who are free to wander around the website and become part of King‘s constantly evolving community. This process of ongoing mediation and convergence is what I call ―multi-mediation.‖ I employ the term in order to stress the endless regenerative potential of new media and electronic spaces that affect all participants and bring about new relations and causalities.

In particular, the hypertext links appearing on King‘s website function as anchors onto which readers can hold when searching for information, but also as doorways that can open up to new participatory and often interactive experiences. Landow suggests that ―the

‗object one reads‘ must be seen as the entrance, the magic doorway, into the docuverse, since it is the individual reader‘s and writer‘s means of participating in─of being linked to─the world of linked hypermedia documents‖ (Hypertext 2.0 58). King has repeatedly invested in the metaphor of the door as a way to connect to different worlds, realities, and consciousnesses. In The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987), he depicts the hero Roland Disdain entering mysterious doors and moving in and out of people‘s minds, bodies, and temporal dimensions. In electronic environments, the online readers have the ability to enter the worlds of King‘s various works by means of dynamic hyperlinks. During the traditional reading experience the readers become participants via the words on the printed page that constitute the doorways for ―writerly‖ interventions. Today, the electronic links on King‘s website create the bridges with multiple fictional realities, worlds, and time zones, paving in this way new paths of narrative conceptualization and interaction.

Before commencing the analysis of the multi-modal nature of electronic media and the visual representations hosted there, I would like to examine the shift taking place Feleki 124 nowadays with regard to the representational value of the image, compared to the signifying role of the written text. First and foremost, visuality seems to have secured its artistic status in contemporary literary tradition. Nicholas Mirzoeff expresses the belief that ―[v]isual culture [which] used to be seen as a distraction from the serious business of text and history

[ . . . ] is now the locus of cultural and historical change‖ (31). More specifically, Mitchell, in his Picture Theory, notes a remarkable change in the relationship between images and text and sees representation ―not as a homogeneous field or grid of relationships governed by a single principle, but as a multidimensional and heterogeneous terrain, a collage or patchwork quilt assembled over time out of fragments‖ (419). Therefore, a satisfying analysis of the representational value of images and texts can result from studying the whole set of the relationships that keep the different signifying systems tied together and from comparing the two distinct modes of representation; it is what Mitchell calls the

―image-text‖ structure as this appears in different media. The repercussions of such a

―pictorial turn‖ have not only affected visual media but also literary practices, as this dissertation has suggested all along in relation to Mitchell‘s following statement: ―The scope of the imagetext [ . . . ] is not confined to visual representation, but extends to language as well. The pictorial turn is not just about the new significance of visual culture; it has implications for the fate of reading, literature, and literacy‖ (418). Thus turning attention from the text to the ―imagetext‖ is the first step towards an informed approach to new digital literary texts.

Not only alphanumeric but also visual elements have a representational value and can affect the meanings created on the interface of electronic environments. According to

Landow, ―[a]ll elements in a hypertext system that can be manipulated are potentially signifying elements. Controlled variation inevitably becomes semiosis‖ (Hypertext 2.0 172).

Other visual information, such as spacing, paragraphing, changes of font type, style, and Feleki 125 size, formatting, and foot-end notes contribute to the visual diversity of hypertext technology (60-61). Additionally, elements like scroll buttons, links, mouseovers, graphic designs, color, multi-media material, such as video and audio files, and their hypertextual qualities acquire particular significance and condition the meaning that a work tries to create (Hayles, My Mother 91-94). Therefore, in making any kind of sense of King‘s website as a cultural, artistic, and commercial product, we have to take into consideration all the audiovisual and kinesthetic aspects that the artist and the whole authorial team have selected in the production of the electronic website as an artifact. Mieke Bal, who discusses narrative media in his book Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative (1997), claims that ―Narratology is the theory of narratives, narrative texts, images, spectacles, cultural artifacts that ‗tell a story‘‖ (3). In order to grasp the meanings generated by the multiple narrative threads developed on King‘s website, one has to interpret all the individual stories contained in them. Hayles acknowledges the need for the creation of a new theory of semantics that will be able to take into consideration signifiers that are no longer regarded as flat representations on a printed page but have turned into ―flickering signifiers,‖ which ―alter the relation of signifier to signified‖ and are ―characterized by their tendency toward unexpected metamorphoses, attenuations, and dispersions‖ (―Virtual

Bodies and Flickering Signifiers‖ 76). As different patterns of meaning are enabled through the element of randomness of information technologies, the representational possibilities a text opens up to are infinite.

Visual representations, being virtual projections or simulations rather than physical imprints, strive to attract the short term attention of online readers. Due to visitors‘ short- term attention to the great amount of information displayed on the computer screen, emphasis is laid on the general design of the web page, while other techniques are used to attract their attention, like eye-catching story headlines or excerpts with moving and static Feleki 126 images. Although in hypertext technology beginnings and endings are relative, first impressions are extremely important in raising expectations in the visitor. In the instance of an online fictional text, it would not be appropriate to talk about the beginning or the ending of the story but of the entrance to and exit from a narrative experience, chosen by readers.

Upon entering StephenKing.com, online readers encounter a carefully designed webpage that remediates the electronic newspaper with its grayish fonts against a bluish electronic page.13 The different sizes, fonts, paragraphing, and spacing give the online readers the impression that they are leafing through a magazine. Colored images of book jackets, authentic artwork, and graphic designs of the most recent illustrated series by

King‘s authorial team are scattered on the home webpage next to the corresponding short texts, creating a contrast between colorless texts and colorful images. Landow, insists on the collage-like qualities displayed on the web (Hypertext 2.0 195). This technique, which has been so common in popular print, is particularly favored by digital media and seems to have been revived. The layered constructedness of the webpage design is highlighted as images and snippets of electronic articles are artificially connected to each other. Next to the illustrations are short articles, summaries, and short excerpts from King‘s books, surrounded by static or moving graphics.

The feature banner appearing at the top of the webpage works as the image of the main story on the front cover of a glossy magazine or a newspaper. However, the once static nature of the main title standing at the top of the front page, overshadowing other smaller titles, has been substituted by interchangeable visual posts which combine image and text. The images change fast, revealing latest print publications, samples of King‘s work and images of the artwork appearing in his popular illustrated comics. The fast pace

13 Since the third version of StephenKing.com has gone live, it has offered a lot of privileges to users. All the latest news can be delivered to the constant reader ―in bite-sized pieces‖ through RSS Twitter and SMS for a much faster and up-to-date digital experience (―Version III of StephenKing.com Goes Live‖). The former, out- dated version of the website emphasized the contrast between black and white that reminded the online reader of the conventions of the traditional printed newspaper, readjusted to fit the electronic medium. Feleki 127 with which images can change creates allusions to the multiplicity and the interchangeability of the different fictional worlds and projects created by King. It also hints at the fast-flowing movement of data on the web.

When studying the conjunction of words and images of an ―imagetext,‖ one can point out the ―suturing‖ effect of one medium into the other, when the one is explaining, describing or narrating the other (Mitchell 94). For instance, the picture of the cover of the printed collection Full Dark, No Stars (2010), depicted on the interface of a smart electronic device, works as a visual representation, a description and an explanation of what the hyperlinked headlines suggest (Fig. 2). In this way, all digital visual images of King‘s earlier and current printed literary works metonymically refer back to the actual works in print-bound format and connect with an accompanying short written text. However, not only is the suturing and subordination of one medium into the other one evident. Apart from explaining what is said in the text, the pictures also work like anchors, as mentioned earlier, keeping the readers hooked on King‘s fictional world. This way the right mood is created in the visiting public who has started to experience King‘s online experimentations.

Fig. 2. Screenshot of the cover page of Full Dark, No Stars on multiple interfaces

(StephenKing.com). Feleki 128

Fig. 3. Screenshot of the layout of a typical StephenKing.com webpage (StephenKing.com).

Despite the expected readjustment of the ratio between the written word and the image for the benefit of the electronic medium, the balance between the image and the word on the home webpage is sustained. Posts offer information through the verbal and iconic codes and hypertextual links initiate interactive experiences (Fig. 3). When the website provides information about King‘s artistic activities, the headings in bold do not link to other texts or images. As for the latest news regarding the author‘s marketing and literary activities as well as the latest products in bookstores, these are given under short headings.

Main categories, such as ―New Releases,‖ ―Coming Soon,‖ ―Latest News,‖ and, more recently, ―Unofficial News‖ provide information, but also link to outside sources, namely the writer‘s interviews, announcements, and reviews found in other media. By contrast to static headings, underlined lexias serve as ―hypertextual‖ links that help readers move back and forth through the pages in a dynamic way. Readers are not regarded as passive onlookers, but give life to the world that is revealed to them through their own choices of the hypermedia material available on King‘s website. Feleki 129

Snapshots of King‘s movies, pictures, maps, and other digital graphic designs appear on the website. Gothic style images also populate the website, creating connections with King‘s earlier fiction writing tradition, as discussed in Part I. Scary images of mysterious figures in a dark background in combination with gothic-type inscriptions set the scene of the story lines suggested. Examples of graphic designs, appearing in King‘s website drawn from his comic books, help establish and reinforce the atmosphere that often characterizes his fictional world. Although the ability of pictures to forward narration has been contested, their representational value is indisputable. According to Marie-Laure

Ryan, pictures are characteristic of the illustrative mode although they lack the ability to depict causal relations (―Still Pictures‖ 139). Not only do they evoke preexisting narrative structures in the reader, and ―import logical relations and psychological motivation from the known story,‖ but they also ―return visualizations, emotional coloring or facial expressions that may provide a clue to the motivations of characters‖ (139). After examining the entire

StephenKing.com project, I suggest that there is no emphasis on a completed story narration, but the creators favor open-ended narratives with flat characters that leave gaps for new narrative strands to develop. The pictures work metonymically as entrances through which one can both enter and exit the whole fictional world of King.

For more evidence, one can look at the illustrated picture coming from the third issue of the fourth arc in the illustrated comic Stand series by Marvel, The Stand: No Man’s

Land, 1.3 (Fig. 4). The depiction of an intimidated-looking woman in black and white informs the feature banner of the home page. The young woman appears to be standing in front of a dark and bloody background. In the background, a manuscript is depicted where the red-splattered letters on a black sheet of paper with the phrase ―kill her‖ are legible right next to her face. These images create feelings of anxiety in the visitors as mysterious correlations can be drawn in the mind, like the feelings evoked when reading a graphic Feleki 130 novel or watching a horror movie. The display of her beautiful young face with her hands caressing it, as she is staring at something really scary, creates a dramatic effect or what could be characterized as a ―pregnant moment‖ by Gotthold Ephraim (qtd. in Ryan,

―Still Pictures‖ 140). The exaggerated depiction of facial characteristics and disproportionate objects questions realistic representation. Traditionally, color has had a complementary effect and could make the illustration comprehensible and truer to life.

Nevertheless, here very few colors of the graphic designer palette have been put to use, while light is completely absent, giving its way to some green shadowing. This green shadowing is used on the woman‘s face in order to create an artificial light feel that promotes an unrealistic effect. In our case, this complete lack of real light enhances the dark atmosphere and the mystery that hides behind the picture.

Fig. 4. Screenshot of the promotional image of the illustrated comic The Stand: No Man’s Land 1.3 by Marvel (StephenKing.com). Feleki 131

Fig. 5. Full render of the same image (StephenKing.com).

When clicking onto the picture, readers are given more clues about what all this could mean (Fig. 5). The hyperlinking of the images enables a different perspective on the fictional world. This draws once again the readers‘ attention to the technicalities in the representational possibilities of diverse media content. This time the face of a dark man with hollow eyes appears in the foreground of the picture, holding a huge and heavy- looking book, from which the bloody inscriptions and fingerprints in the background are probably coming. The spectator can make out more words, while the ―APOCALYPSE‖ heading is standing out in capitals. As a result, readers are left to believe that this man is responsible for the woman‘s intense feelings. Therefore, different representational coded layers allow readers different ways of interpreting the stories.

This example of an illustrated picture obviously refers not only to one narrative strand but leaves all narratological interpretations open to the readers who will make their Feleki 132 own connections on the basis of their own readings and background information they have about the story. This ―pregnant moment‖ can also be said to be throwing us into the middle of things of the narrative. As Emma Kafalenos writes, ―[a] painting or photograph with narrative implications offers the perceiver an experience that is comparable to entering a narrative in medias res; we ask ourselves what has happened, what is about to occur, and where we are in the sequence of a narrative‖ (qtd. in Ryan, ―Still Pictures‖ 140). These pictures in question force readers into the story‘s world. The careful selection of visual images helps them form an idea of the setting in their minds and possible strands in the story. They work as prompts which, combined with the written text, enhance the mystery effect of the stories featuring on the website. This illustrated picture skillfully combines the image with the word and works as a metaphor of the ―imagetext‖ structure. Although there are no speech bubbles or text accompanying the characters, there is still a blend of graphic and verbal signs that wait for the readers‘ own interpretation. As for the girl‘s facial expression and her posture, the strong contrast between the bloody handwriting and the fingerprints against a black background intensify the effect the words ―apocalypse,‖ and

―redemption‖ trigger. They also create a contrast with the words ―pleasure‖ and

―delightful,‖ inscribed in the background.

Taking one step further from Mitchell‘s pictorial turn, we come to appreciate the characteristics and potential of an emerging multi-media turn in the new media age, a turn which marks a milestone in the popular literary experience. Most examples of digital literary, artistic, and cultural expressions are characterized not only by the incorporation of visual─static or dynamic─elements but also by their combination with audio and kinesthetic elements. Therefore, all kinds of audio, visual, and kinesthetic information are examined as they have the ability to add meaning to the new narrative medium. As I continue my study into the electronic representations of King‘s world on the web, I realize Feleki 133 that more hypermedia applications combine words with static or moving pictures and audio files, bringing about new kinds of experiences that enhance the writer‘s fictional world. The incorporation of sounds and audio recordings as well as motion or other kinesthetic elements, connected through hyperlinks reminds one of the techniques of collage, photomontage, and cinematic montage. They all add to the immediacy of the experiences that enhance the new writing space and help the immersion of the visitors in the reality of the fictional space. Manovich sees the technique of ―[e]diting, or montage [as] the key twentieth-century technology for creating fake realities‖ (Language 148) and pinpoints its connection with the development of the ―simulation that led to digital compositing‖ (148). I explicate further the common ground that narrative, video gaming, and films share when I analyze Discordia, the gaming experience hosted on King‘s website.

Right at the bottom of the home page, signing up for RSS, Twitter, SMS news feeds and the ―Official Newsletter‖ provides additional information on King‘s agenda and gives a chance to readers to have closer contact with the author by receiving his emailed newsletters. Besides, as discussed in Part III, a variety of projects keeps the online readers in close contact with the site organizers. One can also be linked to King‘s charitable organization for freelance artists, or to other support organizations, founded by King when clicking on Miscellaneous. Right at the bottom of the page, there is an advertisement of

King‘s radio station, followed by its link. The black and white graphic image of the good- looking zombie-like girl as well as the station‘s motto, ―Streaming Live to the Undead,‖ hints upon another possible intersection between King‘s real and fictional worlds. His rock and sports radio stations as well as the links to other artists that have collaborated with him attest to his multiple contributions and ties with the cultural community. These are all instances of King‘s active role in shaping contemporary Anglophone culture and in establishing a two-way relationship with his readers. Feleki 134

Other links, like ―The Library‖ and ―The Author‖ on the horizontal axis of the main webpage, also give information about the writer and his published works. The ―Library‖ constitutes an electronic library that provides short pieces of information on release dates and offers links to posters of films, trailers or hardcover and paperback front pages, remediating the idea of the encyclopedia and that of the real library. Underlined lexias in these sections work as scroll down buttons, providing more information about the writer‘s works. A latest addition in the third version of the site offers readers the opportunity to comment on the website posts and share their thoughts and feelings with other members of

King‘s readership.

Apart from the participatory role that readers establish when choosing a reading path, they can establish a much more interactive role in the whole experience. More importantly, when entering StephenKing.com Message Board (SKMB), they are given the opportunity to start a new thread in the site‘s forum, follow an old one or just get information about the latest news. Finally, the web search engine at the top right side of the page draws both on print and digital technology and ―functions like an index, permitting users to retrieve Web pages that contain words or phrases of interest‖ (Bolter 89-90).

Consequently, the employment of the latest technological tools enhances the interaction between the writer and his readers.

The Multimedia section on King‘s web site allows access to hyper-media material, interviews, and videos. It constitutes the most inclusive multimedia bank, offering promotional videos, book teasers, audiobook samples, readings as well as the writer‘s interviews on TV channels or other web sites. It is an organized effort to bring all multi- media and hyper-media applications ―under one roof,‖ as it was posted in earlier versions of the site. It still works as a webpage in the organization of the traditional newspaper with bold headings and textual information underneath. However, multimedia presence is much Feleki 135 more evident here. Similar to a room equipped with state-of-the-art technology, it provides the space for such hyper-/multi-media connections to be hosted. Additionally, links to other websites are offered. Commands like ―Launch Video on YouTube,‖ ―Watch on

NBCNews.com,‖ ―Listen on NPR.org,‖ ―Launch External Website,‖ and ―Download MP3‖ offer online readers the chance to roam around King‘s transmedia world. They do not only gaze at it in a panoramic ―bird‘s eye view‖ but can also experience it interactively by means of the latest technology. Different videos and emerging windows take readers onto a tour of

King‘s fantasy world that is appropriately represented through different media in the electronic environment.

Besides the textbook excerpts available to the readers online as promotional tricks, the creation of short promotional videos reinforces the transmedia quality of the narratives displayed. The latest exclusive video, ―Letter to Detective Hodge,‖ produced by

StephenKing.com for the promotion of his novel, Mr. Mercedes (2014), can be appreciated online on the official website. It invites readers to go through the serial killer‘s actual letter to Detective Hodges and showcases the multimedia presence and potential of King‘s electronic project. Readers watch as Mr. Mercedes reads while typing his electronic message to detective Hodges via one of his many laptops. Interestingly enough, he begins by commenting on the theory of ―control‖ and ―chaos,‖ which governs cybernetic explorations. The video celebrates the co-presence and interchangeability of all systems of signification, from electronic texts on computer interfaces to printed articles in newspapers,

TV coverings, and filmic productions, all converging on the web and reaching the audience through King‘s website. The convergence of all these different media enhances the reception capacity of the readers who are overwhelmed by the immediacy of the multimodal experience King‘s website offers. Feleki 136

Last but not least, StephenKing.com constitutes the platform where the constant reader can have two distinct interactive experiences. The first endeavor to bring the readers into King‘s ―real‖ as well as fictional world is The Office, a special project that started running in 2007 and intended to familiarize the fan with the writer‘s real-world office by sharing information about his past movies and books. It offers a virtual experience to those who wish to explore the writer‘s real office in tandem with digital rewards and game play.

After a short tutorial, visitors can explore the premises of this virtual office, and the experience is enhanced by further game play. When immersed in the writer‘s virtual environment, the scroll up/down/left/right buttons disappear and create a ―transparent‖14 illusion of reality in a three dimensional experience. The special effects, enabled through digital compositing, seek to reproduce faithful representations of the real, while allowing for the medium‘s complete disappearance. Finally, a much more sophisticated project running online is Discordia, an internet-based Dark Tower experience, which draws on the story of the eight-volume Dark Tower sequel. By combining text written by Robin Furth, highly immersive environments developed by Brian Stark, and paintings created by Michael

Whelan, Discordia manages to present an innovative experience that combines the literary experience with the pleasures derived from game play. In Chapter Four, I will thoroughly examine how Discordia has ―evolved into a progressive storytelling platform that leverages cutting-edge technologies‖ (―More about Discordia‖). As the designers claim, ―[i]ts 3D images and videos make it a revolutionary experience that should please any Dark Tower fan‖ (―More about Discordia‖).

The Dark Tower section also constitutes a separate and more advanced official website. It comprises all the links to the artwork appearing in the series and the relevant information to The Dark Tower story that is constantly reworked to appear in different

14 David J. Bolter and Richard Grusin call this quality ―transparency,‖ meaning the effort of the electronic experience ―to diminish and ultimately to deny the mediating presence of the computer and its interface‖ (23). Feleki 137 media/platforms in the form of print novels, graphic novels, movies, and TV productions, or as an interactive internet-based computer experience. Its graphic design, contrasting with the dark background, makes it one of the most popular destinations on the site. It also serves as another ―path‖ connecting to Discordia; also, press releases about the TV and film productions of The Dark Tower series keep fans fully informed. Additionally, readers are led to explore ―The Books,‖ ―The Graphic Novels,‖ and ―The Artwork‖ related to the writer‘s grand transnarrative project. The ―path‖ to this diverse experience is elaborately decorated with the design of the webpage. Dark colors dominate like the darkness suggested by the title of the Dark Tower series. The black screen in the background matches the creepy content of King‘s works. The feature banner that appears at the top of this page is always inspired by the graphic work appearing in The Dark Tower illustrated editions. The dark colors of the interface perfectly contrast with the white font used, which further enhances the dark mystery feel The Dark Tower website evokes.

Finally, the Illustrated Publishing Tracker section that is given distinct space on

King‘s site strives for a different and livelier atmosphere and effect. Clicking onto it, the reader is confronted with colorful Gothic stylized images coming from the graphic novel versions of King‘s works. It is a separate mini website that unfolds similarly to a graphic novel with artwork samples, synopses, and hyperlinks to all previous arcs and available retailers. All links and graphic images connect back to The Stand and to The Dark Tower

(Fig. 6) on Stephenking.com, facilitating thus the transcendence from one medium to the other and from one fictional world to the other. Feleki 138

Fig. 6. Snapshot of the graphic novel version of the The Dark Tower: Gunslinger-Little Sisters of

Eluria (StephenKing.com).

In hindsight, this well-organized website creates a self-contained enclave, a micro- cosm of its own to be shared by the creator and his fans. At a glance the online readers can be informed about the writer‘s activities and about the state of his constructed worlds. At the top part of the screen, right above the feature banner that loads on the reader‘s screen, we observe the horizontal organization of different areas of interest, all working as hyperlinks, leading readers to different but interlinked areas of interest. Clicking onto a word/lexia that stands horizontally at the top of the screen, readers access King‘s micro- worlds. Due to the collage-like working and re-working of bits of information and images, the gaps that exist among lexias and images are innumerable. However, elements of coherence and causality help the visitors make sense of the constructed fictions. They can make their own connections and reconstruct the narrative strings by drawing on their reading and interpretative skills. Consequently, possible hindrance caused because of the fragmentary nature of the hypertextual organization of the hyper-/multi-media content Feleki 139 provided on the web is outweighed by an excess of the sensory input that facilitates narrative flow.

Thus one can move ―horizontally‖ and explore the electronic space, clicking onto the underlined lexias, or move ―across,‖ and ―delve into‖ the electronic page where each underscored heading or word leads to other positions on the website. This new dimension to reading is supported by the hypertext technology of the site, creating new types of subjectivity as readers turn into active participants in this online world. The more one gets involved in the project and starts following the links offered by the web designers, the more one gets immersed into rich, multi-layered online experiences. The function of the hyperlinks plays a decisive role in the creation of illusory experiences. David Bolter and

Michael Joyce, the creators of Storyspace, which constitutes ―a hypertext system for authoring and reading [interactive] fiction‖ (―Hypertext and Creative Writing‖ 41), see links as constitutive parts of this type of fiction, as decision points [ . . . ] between episodes‖ (42).

As explains Andrew Stern in his response to Mark Bernstein‘s and Diane Greco‘s essay,

―Card Shark and Thespis: Exotic Tools for Hypertext Narrative‖ (2004),

[l]inks [ . . . ] could serve as exquisite literary connections, explicitly opening the

text to the readerly interactions and interventions that are explicitly (albeit tacitly)

part of all serious reading. Links could change point of view, enact a time shift, or

hold contradictory elements in suspension. Links could suggest new formalisms,

new structure, a new large-scale punctuation. Indeed, even the absence of an

expected link, or the readerly effort required to decode the gap between the point of

departure and the point of arrival, could prove as eloquent as a dramatic musical

rest. (169)

The links in this site promote a new attitude towards King‘s online fictional worlds, proposing alternative time and space dimensions. The convergence of literary and Feleki 140 computational technologies makes possible more immersive and participatory experiences of the online readers who can change points of view, mediums of narration, and individually construct their own versions of the story.

Once readers are in StephenKing.com, there are no connections to ―outside‖ products or worlds. When the story no longer progresses or the experience is not rewarding anymore and the readers have had enough, they may easily choose to log out and end their session. All links refer back to King‘s works, creating in this way a self-referential effect; it is this cycling and recycling of coded data that reinforce the experience the website constructs and promotes. Although exaggeration aims at attracting and capturing the readers‘ attention, such hyperbolic meta-narrative/meta-fictional attitudes can, however, be met with a critical outlook. In King‘s web site, we do not follow the narration of only one story, but we observe the enactment of a whole fictional world, featuring King as its creator.

Each link is a different story strand, while all of them together create a multiplicity in meanings and experiences, a plurality of worlds and alternate realities. The analysis provided here sees each visit to King‘s website as a distinct immersive experience and a different reading of his creations, made possible via its diverse media technologies and tools. Feleki 141

Chapter Four

The Digital Experience: Discordia

Chapter Four takes as its subject the intersection between various artistic modes and writing practices within the context of multiple technological convergences. The sections that follow present Stephen King‘s Discordia (2009), the 3D online interactive computer experience which is based on the printed Dark Tower series,15 as an example of trans-media storytelling. I study the contributions of the technologies of film-making and video gaming to King‘s innovative project. My investigation tests both the potentials and the limitations of films and videogames when telling a story and evaluates the forces that push them towards an inevitable convergence. By investigating some of the narrative and representational techniques employed in the design of Discordia, my primary concern is to discuss the ability of computer games to narrate a story. Additionally, I intend to investigate the new kinds of narrative possibilities this multi-modular experience offers to the players who─through participation─have the opportunity to become autonomous negotiators of meanings while being immersed into the game. As a result, Discordia, hosted on King‘s official website, constitutes a fictional world in its own right, an autonomous digital literary space that allows the redefinition of the literary writing and reading practices as well as alters the relationship between writers, readers, and texts.

15 The first novel in the series, The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger, was first published in 1982, followed by six more books. Twenty years later, came out the eighth novel in the series, The Dark Tower: The Wind through the Keyhole (2012). Feleki 142

4.1 Stephen King’s New Paradigm: Discordia between Narratology and


The construction of hypertext fiction for the computer, the creation of fiction stories for e-readers, and the general turn from analogical technologies to digital technologies in the graphic novel and film are all the outcome of multiple technological convergences that lead to the merging of artistic modes of expression and production. Similar cross-over tendencies have been observed in the creation of electronic games. As it is hereby contended, electronic games,16 which constitute the evolution of non-computer-based role- playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons (1974), have been influenced by traditional literary fiction and other popular media (such as film). The aim in this section is to trace the changes that have taken place in King‘s popular fiction writing due to its interface with electronic gaming and film technologies.

Discordia, the 3D online interactive experience, which one can access on King‘s official website as an instance of trans-media storytelling, merits a thorough investigation. It is based on the remediation of The Dark Tower series, which have inundated the market for four decades. It actually constitutes an electronic experience that tries to ―simulate‖17 its printed counterpart by drawing elements from distinct genres, technologies, and traditions.

More importantly, the hybrid nature of this interactive experience has revived discussions concerning the redefinition of the writing and reading processes as well as the relationship between the writer, the reader, and the text. This section studies the development of this

16 No distinction between video and computer games is made in the study. The term ―electronic‖ is used as an umbrella term for both types of electronic gaming experiences interchangeably. 17 Gonzalo Frasca, videogame critic and computer game programmer provides his definition of what a game or videogame ―simulation‖ entails. For him, ―to simulate is to model a (source) system through a different system which maintains (for somebody) some of the behaviors of the original system. The key term here is ‗behavior.‘ Simulation does not simply retain the─generally audiovisual─characteristics of the object but it also includes a model of its behaviors. This model reacts to certain stimuli (input data, pushing buttons, joystick movements), according to a set of conditions‖ (223). Feleki 143 online computer experience as a cultural and artistic artifact. Relying on the latest technological hyper-/multi-media applications for the creation of the best graphics and acoustics, Discordia offers realistic and believable experiences to the players.18 The combination of the literary text and gameplay experience, a basic element in this online experiment, will be illuminated via the debate between Narratologists and Ludologists.

Additionally, the game‘s cinematic elements will be traced in the game in order to establish its connection with cinematography. When an artist like King uses digital technology and graphic design, he is practically pushing literary and cinematic boundaries in a constructive way, creating a new experience for his users/fans.

A number of controversial issues need to be directly addressed before a satisfying description of this computer experience and its influences can be given. Firstly, the question of whether computer games constitute a ―legitimate‖ art form has troubled literary critics, computer game designers, and the academia for three decades.19 On the one hand, computer games designer Christopher Crawford, in the revisited Kindle edition of his book The Art of

Computer Game Design (2011), thirty years after its first publication, puts forth a number of reasons that question his initial optimism about computer games getting players emotionally involved in the gaming experience they offer. In his Preface he firmly declares:

―My grand dreams of computer games as an art form have not come to fruition; games are just as much an artistic wasteland as they were 30 years ago‖ (Kindle location 87). He continues that game designers have failed to bridge the gap between the game‘s story and gameplay, so the story remains unconnected to the purposes of the game (92-93).

18 Although Discordia creators refuse to call it a game in the simple sense of the word, I will refer to it as an online electronic experience within the context of the present analysis. As Discordia‘s graphics designer Brian Stark confesses in our private email communication, ―Discordia is not a ‗game.‘ As we do not know what to call it, we use the term ‗experience‘.‖ (Message to the Author). 19 Proof that the computer industry is exercising a decisive role in consumer trends and needs today and that video games have become an integral part of Western culture is the organization of the first academic videogames conference in UK in 2001 and the creation of the first computer game museum in Rome called ViGaMu in December 2011. Feleki 144

Additionally, the profits of an insatiable art industry seem to be blocking this new art form‘s entrance into adulthood (97-103). For him, as it turns out, videogames have failed to live up to the expectations of its creators, catering only to the demands of a consuming public.

On the other hand, Jenkins expresses his hope that ―[g]ame designers will almost certainly develop their own aesthetic principles as they confront the challenge of balancing our competing desires for storytelling and interactivity. It remains to be seen whether games can provide players with the freedom they want and still provide an emotionally satisfying and thematically meaningful experience‖ (―Art Form for the Digital Age‖ 2). Furthermore,

Gonzalo Frasca‘s hopeful response is based on the ―simulational‖ aspect of videogames. He stresses their dynamic nature, focusing on the behavioral potential of the subjects and objects rather than on their mere representation. His belief in the aesthetic maturation of videogames lies in their ability to carry an ideological overload and enable ―critical debate‖


Another issue that is of particular interest is the debate between Narratologists and

Ludologists, regarding the storytelling potential of videogames. On the one hand, leading

Ludologist Espen Aarseth has been struggling for the creation of an autonomous discipline that will examine games and game genres as such, while rejecting the common practice of borrowing existing terms and practices from the literary tradition. In his seminal work,

Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (1997), Aarseth draws the dividing line when he suggests that ―[t]he adventure game is an artistic genre of its own, a unique aesthetic field of possibilities, which must be judged on its own terms‖ (107). Frasca‘s major contribution to the debate lies in underscoring the different purposes that the two representational systems serve. He explains that videogames are similar to table-top games rather than motion pictures or narratives. Videogames are simulations, that is behavioral Feleki 145 models that share the elements of ―ludus‖ (game) and ―paidia‖ (play).20 So what they model is either a fictional or a simulated version of the world and at the same time carry some ideological overload. By contrast, motion pictures and narratives have as their primary aim to tell a story using different representational structures to this end (Frasca 223). Jasper Juul notes that their main difference is formal: ―[G]ames belong to a formal/algorithmic domain, whereas stories belong in the interpretative domain‖ as they presuppose ―contextual knowledge‖ (―What Computer Games Can and Can‘t Do‖ 3). With this comment he tries to underline the need for an investigation of the inherent qualities of videogames (such as game design, player interaction as well as organization of actions and events).

On the other hand, literary and popular culture critics see the evolution of computer games not only as technological artifacts standing on their own but also as cultural products within a complicated process parallel to other cultural and literary expressions, such as narrative fiction and film. Therefore, these critics see computer games as a new artistic expression and emphasize their uniqueness through a comparison with other media. It is their premise that computer games and conventional literary fiction share some common ground because they both try to communicate a story. Specifically, Murray highlights the new narrative possibilities which digital media release and argues in favor of the computer as the expressive medium for new textual experiences. She sees Holodeck as an alternative narrative experience, offering a simulation of a fictional world. In her article, ―From Game-

Story to Cyberdrama‖ (2004), Murray conceptualizes the story as ―outgrowing the structures of the novel [ . . . ] [like] a painting outgrowing the frame and morphing into a three-dimensional sculpture‖ (4) and describes the process of storytelling as a means of adjusting to the new media needs. To answer to the games-versus-stories debate, she points to the common space uniting stories and games. What games and stories have in common

20 Roger Caillois proposed the distinction between ―ludus‖ and ―paidia‖ in his work Man, Play and Games (1961). Feleki 146 are the elements of contest and puzzle which participants have to face when both reading a story and playing a game in order to make sense of them (2). For Murray, a story lays more emphasis on plot, whereas a game lays more emphasis on the player‘s actions; the way in which story-plot and game-action merge is through the players‘ actions, which are influenced by the story‘s plot and, in turn, can have a dramatic effect on the game‘s actions

(9). She proposes ―agency‖ as being distinct from the pleasure of interactivity experienced by the players. Instead, dramatic agency relates to the ability that the players are armed with in order to affect and change the game world: ―When the world responds expressively and coherently to our engagement with it, then we experience agency‖ (10). Along with the player‘s ―immersion‖ and ―transformation‖ while playing a game, Murray‘s aesthetic categories hope to explain the dramatic experiences gained in the new narrative forms that emerge on the digital medium.

When studying the construction and development of a narrative in an electronic game, however different it may be from narration in literature, scholars often borrow traditional literary concepts to lay out the relations of the events presented. Markku

Eskelinen, who has ventured a more practical link between the two opposing art forms, concedes that ―[t]he elementary categories of classic Narratology are transformed into an open series of ludological components, if for no any other reason than to further specify the features inherent to games‖ (38). For instance, he proposes the concepts of ―user time‖ and

―event time‖ in game theory that correspond to the traditional relations between ―story time‖ and ―discourse time‖ in literature (37). He also makes use of Génette‘s temporal categories such as ―order,‖ ―frequency,‖ ―speed,‖ ―duration,‖ ―simultaneity‖ and ―the time of action‖ to help study the relations of events and actions in games (39-42).

These new textual experiences that are being formed at the intersecting point between narrative fiction and computer gaming are also subject to influences from the Feleki 147 domain of films when cinematic techniques are used to convey the story line in electronic games and forward the narrative. Cut-up scenes, motion videos, and voice-overs are incorporated, whereas camera techniques (shots, angles, framing, lighting, and flashback, to name only a few) are adapted to enrich the desired result. Furthermore, as James Newman proposes, a tendency towards ―auterism‖ (Videogames 12) is notable in the marketing and criticism of games, meaning the tendency to associate the creation of the most popular games with the names of certain videogame designers so as to boost the game‘s marketable credibility. Particularly noteworthy is Manovich‘s effort to highlight the connection rather that the distinction between cinema and new media. In his book, The Language of New

Media (2002), he explains that cinema has always resembled multimedia in the way it incorporates moving images, sound, and text (50-51). Michalis Kokonis‘s essay ―Digital

Entertainment: Computer Games and Videogames‖ (2010), gives an account of the history of video and computer games and of their characteristic traits. He also ventures a compromising approach, trying to pinpoint the influences of the film industry on the computer game industry and the intersections between Narratology and Cinematography in the creation of game worlds as well as in the structuring of diverse modes of narration, interactivity, and participation made possible through computer games.

Certainly, there are unbridgeable differences between these three distinct artifacts.

Most significant are the differences in the readers‘/players‘/viewers‘ interaction with a specific work, the difference in the degree of the immersion in the constructed world, the amount of freedom players are allowed and the different types of authorship that characterize the creation of narrative fiction, computer games, and films. Within the context of the discussion about the ―democratization‖ of new media and the unobstructed flow of digital information that they convey, so far electronic games have provided players with a lot of chances for interactivity. Aarseth points out the great difference between the dynamic Feleki 148

―configurative function‖ of game players and the static ―interpretative function‖ of readers of literature, viewers of film, and spectators of theatre (Cybertext 62-65). As regards the degree of immersion in the fictional world of the story in such different environments, one needs to consider the technology used and the choices made. At times film directors and electronic game designers strive for the creation of an immersive atmosphere, while, at other times, they try to keep the audience at a distance, allowing them a mere exploratory role. Concerning the issue of ―freedom‖ when playing a game, Aarseth regards game players as ―less ideal, more flexible, less dependable, (hence more responsible), and freer‖

(105). However, despite the fact that only when playing are gamers given the chance to take real decisions that can have real effects on their progression in the fictional game world,

―freedom‖ is still a suspicious concept that needs to be explored further. Computer designers have to decide beforehand about the different courses of action available and the solutions offered to the players. Barry Atkins tackles the question by displacing the problem of the players‘ freedom to the more general problem of the readerly freedom in the construction of a story. He states that ―[t]his construction of a unique text only comes about through a variation on the standard contract that reader has with text─a contract that depends on the promise of readerly freedom if the player acts within the internal logic of the text‖ (72). Issues of freedom and control are tackled in Part III of this dissertation; the aim of this chapter is to showcase that since technology has enabled the co-existence of all new hyper-/multi-media applications within a single ―vessel‖ (mainly that of the computer, the videogame console, the tablet or the smart phone), as the meeting ground after the evolution of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), the electronic game experience constitutes another instance of media convergence and shares characteristics with other mediums of expression. I undertake the study of electronic games and their characteristics without an attempt to demarcate the boundaries between literary writing, computer gaming Feleki 149 or film productions, but with the hope to illuminate the bridges that facilitate such artistic and technological convergences through the exploration of diverse digital textualities.

King‘s online computer experience called Discordia is a cultural and artistic artifact in its own right. The original written text is filtered through diverse artistic forms of expression with the use of various technologies in order to offer a different type of experience. This online project demonstrates that technology can be used for the benefit of artistic creation and pop culture, and attributes value to the digital product. In the article,

―The Making of Discordia‖ (2009), John Vondrak, working for BOXX Technologies, writes that ―with 3DBOXX 8500, the detailed artwork pushed the Cinema 4D rendering toolset to the limit with high-grade shaders, anti-aliasing, global illumination, ambient occlusion, volumetric lighting and more‖ (4). Newman‘s reference to ―auterism‖ in the videogame industry seems to be relevant if we take into account that the high performance of such advanced technology has driven Stark, the 3D artist and interactive producer of

King‘s whole website, into admitting that he ―truly felt like an artist‖ (5) in designing the game. Such an admission turns our attention towards the artistic and creative qualities a project like Discordia involves.

Both the written text incorporated in the game scenes and the design of the game‘s digital environment are examined as ―texts.‖ They are also approached as mediums through which King can reach out to his audience. An attempt to treat Discordia simply as a narrative would render this study inadequate and incomplete; it would merely borrow or apply narrative theories for the sake of an academic reading of King‘s game experience.

Aarseth, who has always professed the separate study of these two distinct artistic forms of creation, insists that what brings them together is the ability to share games in stories and stories in games. He also maintains that not only do games lose out on such comparative studies but also stories are ―hostage to the game environment,‖ possibly turning into Feleki 150

―hollow shells that are gutted of artistic value‖ (―Quest Games as Post-Narrative Discourse‖

367). Yet, a thorough investigation of the cinematic, narratological, and gaming elements employed in Discordia could do justice to the efforts of the authorial team to produce an innovative product that would remain faithful to the original idea of the printed story and the whole project on the web site.

Although Discordia is a separate product, available only at StephenKing.com, and works like an autonomous living organism with King‘s multi-verse, it is also part of a much larger project his authorial team ventures, with a view to rebranding the author‘s printed works and adjusting them to the latest technological developments on his website, making them more relevant to the present needs of the consumers. As Stark confesses in private email communication, ―[s]pecial projects like Discordia need to yield to projects like the new www.stephenking.com‖ (―All about Discordia‖), and what he means by that is that such projects need to share some of the properties of the technology they use. The people behind the scenes advertising the project state that Discordia ―started as a small add-on concept for the then new Dark Tower Official Website. Over time, Discordia (sic) evolved into a progressive storytelling platform that leverages cutting-edge technologies‖

(―Discordia: A Dark Tower Online Experience‖). The hypertextual properties of this electronic game inevitably affect the experiences of the players.21 Through this technology the literary fan has the chance to move in and out of the fictional reality offered online, establishing a more productive and participatory relationship with the creators of the project and the products. Therefore, Discordia is the outcome of such synergistic and hyper-/multi-

21 The Message Board (SKMB) is the separate space on StephenKing.com, where King‘s fans can follow discussions and start threads about any possible matters relating to King‘s works and fictional worlds. It is there that players of Discordia can communicate with each other, ask questions about the game, follow spoilers as well as state their impressions and frustrations about the game. For the purposes of the analysis of the game, I have drawn both from their exchanges found there and from my personal experience as a Discordia player. Feleki 151 media co-existence which offers new experiences to the audience and plays a crucial role in reformulating the participants‘ relationship with King‘s contemporary popular art.

Stark and his company Metro DMA have been in charge of redesigning King‘s site since 1998, and in cooperation with the whole team working on the Discordia project since

2007. Vondrak describes their efforts for the repurposing of one of King‘s greatest works for the electronic medium:

Everyone involved in the project agreed that because it had taken 30 years to write

and publish, the branding for The Dark Tower series had become fragmented, no

longer accurately portraying the technological, esoteric, or metaphysical concepts

that heavily influenced the original story. It was decided that the ultimate goal of the

overhaul would be to sharpen the brand and present a better understanding of the

Dark Tower story (and its values) to the uninitiated. (2)

By resorting to cutting-edge technologies, the team has directed its labors towards the promotion of a new product that would manage to engage the devoted reader once again, while, at the same time, would attract other consumer groups, such as younger generations that are familiar with the latest digital technology.

As it becomes apparent, the Dark Tower story has been repurposed through the aesthetic of electronic games and the cinema in order to fit the new electronic medium of expression. The common narrative features that King‘s computer game shares with the fictional story in print will be addressed in the sections that follow. Moreover, we cannot rely only on narrative theory or only on video game theories, since the purpose of this online game is definitely not only to narrate a story, but also to help players get involved in the gaming experience and increase game play. As Atkins points out, when it comes to videogames, it is important to lay emphasis not on ―plot sophistication‖ but on the

―sophistication of telling‖ (43). Furthermore, Aarseth is also right to propose that, although Feleki 152 adventure games are similar to average literary texts in that ―[t]hey produce verbal structures for aesthetic effect,‖ they display other essential ―paraverbal‖ elements crucial for the study of computer games (Cybertext 3). Consequently, besides the verbal dimension, the other ―paraverbal‖ elements that are present and contribute to the unique nature of the

Discordia project are of great interest. Relying on concepts used by Narratology, video gaming, and Filmography, I explicate the processes of re-creation after the merging of new and old elements which result in the new electronic product. The promotion trailer, created by Metro DMA and playing before the computer experience starts, is also examined as an instance of the merger of different technologies and traditions that give to the story a new direction and create high expectations to the growing audience.

As a whole, I will shed light on the ways the literary experience has been updated, becoming multi-modular and diversified and thus leading to the instigation of new types of interactivity. In a nutshell, I investigate the whole network of relations connecting the electronic text to the creator(s) and the users, hoping to elucidate the remediated nature of the Discordia electronic experience as the locus for new literary and artistic practices.

Having a clearer idea about the different traditions and the parameters involved in such artistic processes, I move on to suggest following a broad theoretical approach that will assist in the analysis of the specific elements that make up the Discordia experience.

4.2 The Discordia Computer Experience at the Intersection of Multiple


Discordia, independently produced by StephenKing.com, can be ―read‖ within the context of the Dark Tower story. It ―chronicles the Tet Corporation‘s efforts to save the multiverse from the destruction at the hands of Arina Yokova‖ (―Discordia‖). Tet Feleki 153

Corporation has to fight Sombra Corporation and North Central Positronics (NCP), the company owned by Sombra that specializes in the production of robots. As the readers of the Dark Tower series find out, these corporations were once ruled by the Old Ones, a society of people who had figured a way to combine magic and technology in order to rule the multi-verse. That was before they were eliminated after going to war with each other.

Now, within the Discordia reality, Op 19, the agent from Tet Corporation is sent to investigate Dixie Pig, Fedic, and Castle Discordia and collect magical items. These items relate to the events taking place in the Dark Tower series. Also, Op 19 has to find character orbs for , Jake Chambers, Susannah Odetta Holmes Dean, Eddie Canton

Dean, Father Donald Callahan, and Oy (a black and grey stripped creature), all characters that appear in the printed series and members of Roland‘s ka-tet team.

Particularly, Discordia incorporates some elements of the genre of adventure and of investigation games; such games are part of the much broader category we call strategy games, according to Crawford‘s taxonomy. Game/play theorists insist that videogames are completely different from other texts with narratives, such as books, films or TV shows and should be ―read‖ only as games. Roger Caillois‘s analysis of game and play tries to pin down the properties that define games. According to his study, games are a) free, b) offering a different reality, c) uncertain, d) non-productive, e) rule-governed, and f) displaying an element of make-believe (9-10). Despite Discordia‘s resistance to categorization and the difficulty to place it within the existing gaming market catalogues, one can examine whether it fits Caillois‘s taxonomy, with the aim of disclosing its gaming qualities.

To start with, Discordia is a computer experience that both derives and diverges from literary tradition; admittedly, it is constrained by all the characteristics of game playing. It is a free gaming activity as it is offered online to any visitor of King‘s site who Feleki 154 may wish to explore the team‘s visualization of The Dark Tower story. Taking into account

Caillois‘ analysis of the properties of games, it is imperative not to ignore the fact that even

―free‖ games have a commercial dimension and that marketing policies underlie every productive practice. Profit is an element that one must always take into consideration when investigating the productive process of an artwork. In our case, the ultimate goal of King‘s narrative experiment is the rebranding of a popular story that will increase sales and enhance his popularity. The experience is non-productive in the sense that it is enjoyed as a leisure activity. However, characterizing an activity as ―non-productive‖ and non-profitable in a consumer society of extremely complicated interrelations is truly risky. The users‘ connection to StephenKing.com also connects them to the original print story. This is facilitated by the realistic effect22 of the graphic design, which also enables the immersion of the users in the reality King‘s online world creates. The users have access to certain movement and action abilities, but also follow specific rules and constraints. The game is staged as an investigation quest with uncertain results for the users who accept the role of the investigator. All in all, defined by the qualities of games, Discordia is a gaming electronic experience with narrative fiction as its starting point. It is the purpose of this investigation to prove that Discordia offers an innovative reading experience, borrowing elements from all the disciplines mentioned above.

When describing the design of computer and video games, Geoff Howland proposes the following variables, discussed in his online article ―Game Design: The Essence of

Computer Games‖: 1) graphics, that is ―any images that are displayed and any effects that are performed on them. This includes 3D objects, textures, 2D tiles, 2D full-screen shots,

Full Motion Video (FMV), statistics informational overlays, and anything else that the player will see,‖ 2) sound, including any music or sound effect while playing the game; this

22 Barry Atkins clears out possible misunderstandings regarding the term ―realism‖ in relation to computer and video games when he says that a game is realistic, meaning that ―‗the world‘ offered by the game is itself internally consistent, realistic in its own terms and according to its conventions‖ (29). Feleki 155 is crucial because it helps the players‘ immersion; 3) the game‘s interface, meaning anything that stands between the user and the game, either that is a mouse, a joystick or scroll buttons on the screen (or any graphics or menu and control systems the player has to interact with in order to play the game) facilitates the experience; 4) gameplay, meaning the pleasure one derives from playing and the engagement it creates between the player and the game; 5) the story that unfolds when playing the game makes up the necessary information the player may have before or after playing the game for the creation of meaningful conduct.

It soon becomes apparent that Discordia is the outcome of the convergence not only of different technologies and disciplines, but also of different artistic modes and expressions. Consequently, its cutting-edge aesthetic result enhances the communicative process between the authorial team and the users and enriches the gaming experience.

Although we have accepted Aarseth‘s proposition that ―[t]he adventure game is an artistic genre of its own, a unique aesthetic field of possibilities, which must be judged on its own terms‖ (Cybertext 107), we cannot deny the fact that electronic gaming environments constitute multi-modular applications that incorporate visual, audio, and kinesthetic elements as well as literary conventions. The adoption of a much more tolerant attitude towards the merging of different technologies and expressions can contribute to a better understanding of the needs of the users as cultural beings and the great potential and limitations of the technologies that are available to them. For Jenkins, ―[t]he goal should be to foster diversification of genres, aesthetics, and audiences, to open gamers to the broadest possible range of experiences (―Game Design as Narrative Architecture‖ 120). Thus I lay emphasis on the repurposing of the narrative story as well as on the elements it draws from the art of electronic games and the cinema; I also underscore some common narrative features that Discordia shares with the fiction on print technology. Feleki 156

To start with, in order to trace the narratological influences on the new computer experience, it is important to note that the back story of Discordia is based on the Dark

Tower series. However, transformed into a simulation, Discordia does not rely on the fixed sequences of events as narrated in the print story. The main idea of the online experience revolves around the fictional corporation North Central Positronics, responsible for the manufacturing of computers, robots, and both magical and chemical weapons. The creative team has hoped to rework the basic concepts of the bad Sombra Corporation and the good

Tet Corporation already known in the series, and make the story pertinent to modern users as well. Robin Furth, King‘s associate in many projects, has been responsible for the creative re-writing of the original story. Her book, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The

Complete Concordance (2006), along with the electronic Kindle version of the seven volumes have provided the team with the detailed accounts necessary for the qualitative re- adjustment of the printed texts for the game‘s interface. Taking into serious account

Hayles‘s proposition that ―changing the navigational apparatus of a work changes the work‖

(My Mother 90), one must study the formal characteristics of King‘s work and the changes that have been made in order to appreciate the expressive and immersive qualities of the new electronic medium.

While laying out the development of new media, Manovich describes the process of transcoding as ―[t]he translation of all existing media into numerical data accessible through computers. The result is new media─graphics, moving images, sounds, shapes, spaces, and texts that have become computable; that is they comprise simply another set of computer data‖ (Language 20). In the case of Discordia, turning the written text into graphics, sound, and gameplay has been a very complicated process. Graphics designer Brian Stark (qtd. in

Vondrak) describes the complex process of transforming written information into graphics:

―We started by hyper-analyzing every word of the sections that we needed to create. We Feleki 157 took detailed notes on everything that needed to be considered and in the end, every last detail described by Stephen in the books was manifested in 3D" (―The Making‖ 3). After the re-purposing of the written text, digital codes posing as text and graphic designs carry the great bulk of information; they create the environment for the story to unfold and for the user to move and interact comfortably. Therefore, the mediation of diverse mediums of expression and the contribution of different mediating artists are necessary for the completion of this online project; apparently, collaborative authorship is at work in order to enhance the online experience beyond the literary text, though still relying on it as the foundation for narrative and representational structures.

The division of Discordia’s parts into chapters also testifies to its literary inheritance. According to Stark, three chapters in this gaming experience are expected. The first completed chapter works just like the exposition in a narrative, which traditionally tries to set the scene and introduce information about the heroes‘ whereabouts, the time frame, and the situation. Visual stimuli and textual prompts help the gamers recall the same heroes, characters, settings, and specific past incidents drawn from The Dark Tower story; they also allow readers to feel confident in the new gaming environment. According to Chatman, the story is conventionally separated into two parts, the ―existents,‖ meaning the characters and the settings, and the ―events,‖ meaning the actions and happenings (9). When two narrated stories share the same existents and events, they probably constitute different re-tellings of the same story. Still, Juul challenges Chatman‘s oversimplification, by stressing the formal- specific differences that characterize transmedia narration. Referring to the conversion of games into stories, he notes that ―the existents and events will be transferred, but not the dynamic systems. Our retelling will not be a game‖ (―Games Telling Stories - A Brief Note on Games and Narratives‖). In the simulated extension of the story, much greater emphasis is placed on the visualization of the story on the electronic medium, and narrative interest Feleki 158 shifts the informative load of the print text onto extreme visual detail due to its advanced graphics. The compactness of the information about places and characters through visual elements and written excerpts intends to briefly familiarize the reader with the back story.

Besides, it forms the bridge that will connect the first chapter with the new twists in the story, which will be introduced in the following chapters of the gaming experience to be released in the future. This way ―spatial‖ and ―temporal immersion‖ is achieved, echoing

Ryan‘s argument in the essay ―From Narrative Games‖ (54). The visual schemata display the richness of the gameworld, whereas the anticipation for the next two game chapters creates the suspense that will keep the players longer into the gameworld. Also, the investigator‘s written accounts offer secret information and express his feelings, creating narrative interest and a dramatic dimension. The narration is in the first person, while the journal entries are in the present tense, stressing the urgency of the experience. Despite the objective style of the descriptions, the players return to the actual space under the guise of the investigator Op 19 in order to check the rightness of the evidence. One of the descriptions Op 19 provides reads as follows:

Just entered the Dixie Pig kitchen, where the horrendous animal smell is strongest. I

suppose I shouldn‘t be surprised, since the kitchen was the center of the pig‘s vilest

activities. I‘ve counted three major kill zones, all of them ancient. One is located in

front of the sinks, another is splattered on the wall near the entrance to the dining

room, and the third is by the stoves. In addition, I‘ve found two ribcages skewered

by an iron spit, and what appears to be a human backbone on one of the steam

tables. There‘s a desiccated Grandfather Flea on a countertop─Jakes‘ bumbler must

have taken out a few vermin on his way through here. (Discordia) Feleki 159

As it seems, apart from the actual movement in and interaction with the game‘s environment, the players‘ emotional involvement in the experience is further facilitated and sustained through dramatic textual narration.

Another issue that differentiates the two mediated stories is that the hero in the online experience is not Roland the Gunslinger and his ka-tet team but the player in the role of the agent Op 19; it is the investigator who is armed with multiple first-person points of view in order to collect information and memorabilia that will help him in the investigation of the massacres that had taken place in Dixie Pig and in the Mid-World, similarly to the narration provided in the printed volumes. His ultimate aim is to save King, the Rose, and sabotage North Central Positronics and the Sombra Corporation. The events and existents of the back story affect the experiences of the players who from consuming readers of the story have become active participants in the experience and co-creators of meaning as they autonomously explore the gameworld in their effort to connect the pieces of the story. What is more, the players‘ movement in the gameworld and the completion of the tasks affect the subsequent unfolding of the game experience. The successful completion of the mission leads to the conclusion of the first chapter and provides the players with the choice to continue the experience in different worlds and with different roles and tasks.

The temporal and causal relationships established in the online story stress its connection with the literary tradition. Op 19‘s contribution to the making of a story is attained through journal entries and descriptions of the orbs and memorabilia that he comes across during his search. Additionally, the players have to draw connections with the printed story in advance and allow other threads of the story from The Dark Tower to unfold. This is reinforced by the graphic design adopted after the designer has made sure that the intervention of the written text is carefully adjusted to the present medium, combining once again picture with text. The screen is divided into two blocks, an image Feleki 160 block on the left and a writing block on the right (Fig. 7). According to Gunther Kress, in the new media age ―[t]he image is the given─it is the taken-for-granted mode of communication─and writing has an ancillary function, namely of glossing what the image does‖ (138, italics in original). In Discordia, when the players choose the full render option of the picture, which they are also able to download (Fig. 8), it is the visual rather than the verbal aspect of the narrative that is emphasized.

Fig. 7. Peaceful co-existence of the image with the text (Discordia).

Fig. 8. Full rendering of the image (Discordia). Feleki 161

The Discordia cover page appears before the players embark on their exploration, creating another connection with print-bound narratives. The emphasis laid on visuality is once again clear and an allegiance to the Gothic tradition, through the typography employed, is sustained (Fig. 9). The inscription of the title onto the interface and the white letters against a dark grey background sprayed with blood and laid on top of a wider black screen point to King‘s continuous affiliation with a Gothic aesthetic, but this time on the new platform enriched with elements of digital design. The logo of the game is centered at the top of the front page against a dark background as if on a bloody tombstone, while the information with regard to the game‘s production reminds us again of the way print editions demonstrate such information on posters created for cinema premieres. Although the visual element outweighs the literary in the electronic rendering of the story, it does not sever its ties with it.

Fig. 9. Screenshot of the Discordia cover page (Discordia). Feleki 162

The successful mix of epic and detective elements in addition to borrowings from fantasy and horror (so evident in King‘s written productions) continue to enrich his online experience. The idea of an investigation in bloody rooms draws on the detective tradition. It is done in loops and matches the episodic scene structure of films, games and events in the organization of chapters in novels. Despite the sequential order of the game events, what distinguishes the game and the videogame genres from print narratives is repetition (Frasca

227). The Discordia players can always return to a previous destination and continue their investigation where they have left off, affecting in this manner the unfolding of the game story. Only when the verbal riddle is solved and the first chapter is completed are the players warned that they will not be able to go back to the same places in the first chapter.

Besides using elements from the literary tradition, the creators of Discordia also borrow from the art of painting in order to construct the digital environment and establish a particular mood. As Ryan suggests, ―the verbal and visual version blend in the mind of the reader-spectator into one powerful image, each version filling the gaps of the other‖ (―Still

Pictures‖ 139). And more effectively than painting, through digital compositing the graphics designer can put emphasis on any kind of visual detail without affecting the overall depiction of the image. Commenting on the new potentials of digital visual depictions,

Manovich explains that ―[b]y reducing visible reality to numbers, the computer makes it possible for us to literally see in a new way‖ (Language 329). The digital representation of information allows for new narrative possibilities based on images to unfold. These visual prompts, empowered by the latest High Definition technology, guide the gamer into different directions; they function as different narrative strands that complement the visual, acoustic, kinesthetic, and textual elements provided in the game world.

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In Discordia, when entering the Main Dining Room (Fig. 10) and the VIP Room, the blood-splattered paintings depicting a tranquil and prosperous environment contrast with the images of massacre and gore the player can see on the game‘s interface. Paintings of still life or nature, of portraits and of family scenes cover the walls and possibly make a point about a former state of prosperity in the place. It is as if they are telling their own story, moving the player to other dimensions. Along with the high precision digital design, these paintings add to the fantastic atmosphere created in the game and together with the written texts that are included open up to different strands of the story. They evoke moments in the back story and create psychological connections, affecting the mood of the player. Even the graffiti on the walls of the tunnel tell their own story. The wallpapers produced by the painter Michael Whelan are available in the game and serve as a reward in a printable high resolution edition at the end of the first chapter.

Fig. 10. Painting hanging in the Main Dining Room (Discordia).

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The most striking painting in digital resolution hangs above the dining table in the

VIP room, where the leftovers of a beastly dinner are still evident (Fig. 11). The painting seems to be inspired by ecclesiastical themes of Renaissance with emphasis on color. In the

Bathroom the portrait of a creature with a female body and a disproportionate bird‘s head and beak suggests the harmonious co-existence of the two (Fig. 12).

Fig. 11. Painting hanging in the VIP room (Discordia).

Fig. 12. Painting hanging in the Bathroom (Discordia).

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Fig. 13. Snapshot after the massacre (Discordia).

In the digital rendering of images Stark draws on Gothic motifs in order to create an overwhelmingly mysterious atmosphere. The views of the Dixie Pig function as windows to another time and place, or even to a different reality (Fig. 10-13). Images of dust, webs, mould, blood, and other bodily fluids in the main dining room of the Dixie Pig are depicted in extreme detail, inundating the place. So striking is the presence of the red color in the dining room, matching the blood that is splattered everywhere after the battle given. The views of the ruined dining room, the kitchen, and the pantry remind the readers of the bloodthirsty creatures that had once occupied the place in the printed narratives, while the images of the skeleton bones of an unidentified creature in the sink and the broken ribs left lying in the kitchen contradict with the ―Tonight‘s Specials‖ notice on the wall. The thick wallpaper, the brown bricks, the stained curtains in tandem with the bloody signs and inscriptions all create an overdose of gore and reinforce King‘s allegiance to the Gothic, as mentioned in Chapter One. Such elements are linked to the anxieties that torment his divided characters and creatures and to their potential for transgression of norms which take place in mysterious, deserted, and godforsaken spaces. Feleki 166

As Don Carson, a freelance designer and conceptual illustrator, suggests in his article ―Environmental Storytelling: Creating Immersive 3D Worlds Using Lessons Learned from the Theme Park Industry,‖ architectural details can heighten dramatic depiction. In the design of the Dixie Pig, the choice of the dark rooms leading to the pantry and the underground tunnels point to Gothic architectural style. In the rooms, reminiscent of eerie and secluded places housing suppressed passions, the light that comes through the windows connects the scenery with the Gothic tradition and the sublime. The carefully-structured vistas in the living room, in the VIP dining room, and in the bathroom are displayed through the NCP monitor. The paintings hanging in the center contribute to the general effect of the photography in the gameworld and sustain a balance between life and death, human and beast as well as destruction and artistic creation.

Fig. 14. Screenshot of the Tunnel (Discordia).

Decisions about the colored depictions are made according to the theme of representation. The dark foggy atmosphere of the Dark Tower in the promotional video changes as the players enter the rooms. Stark uses details wisely in order to draw the Feleki 167 audience‘s attention to the bloody rooms and then out of the pantry into the tunnel. As soon as Op 19 goes through the tunnel, he finds links to a different reality (Fig. 14). The red color that is mainly used in the design of the Dixie Pig then gives way to the grayish colors of concrete and iron and creates a retro feel. In the waiting room in the tunnels, the time- traveling stations for the Old People of the game world offer trips to other time zones. This is the case, for instance, with the date September 11th, 2001, written on the newspapers featuring there. In the conventional newspaper dispensers, one finds ―The Discordian‖ and

―The Fedic Daily.‖ Finally, the label Doorcom implies the ―doorway‖ to other realities via the World Wide Web.

In addition, the sound effects one comes across in Discordia should not be overlooked. As Howland notes, ―sound is just as crucial as any other point in your game‖ and is ―more immersive than graphics. While graphics will draw you into a scene, the sound going on in the background will create a reality in the player‘s mind that can never be done with graphics alone.‖ In Discordia, music themes and realistic sounds are heard in the background of the online game, creating a realistic effect that facilitates the users‘ transition into another dimension. For example, the players can hear honking horns when exploring

Dixie Pig or they can hear the loud noises made by the underground trains when in the

Tunnel. Stephen King‘s own voice as the Game Master gives instructions to the players and, at other times, the voices of other narrators add to the atmosphere. All these sound effects constitute game designing techniques that empower the players‘ effective immersion into the gaming environment. Simultaneously, they make connections to the printed story and open up different levels of narration. Feleki 168

Fig. 15. Screenshot of initial retro screen of NCP Ltd (Discordia).

When commencing the gaming experience, one can notice the combination of many artistic genres and traditions. The players‘ gaze is directed to look through the Tet

Corporation‘s monitor. The blood stains on the monitor screen remind one of the human presence and the interaction with technological applications. Just as the players insert email and password on the retro screen of NCP Ltd (Fig. 15), they stop the buffering video and let the credits─designed in cinematic fashion and accompanied by penetrating music─fall (Fig.


Fig. 16. Screenshot of the Discordia Promotional video (Discordia). Feleki 169

A Full Motion Video (FMV) functions as the promotional video of Discordia. It borrows from the cinematic tradition and film technologies, suggesting the strong bonds between the two genres and technologies. Cinematic conventions, such as voice-overs, photomontage and cut-scenes, create a rich gaming experience. These elements inevitably disrupt the gaming experience because the narration of the events comes at the expense of gameplay and immersion into the story. As Atkins notes, the use of FMVs is ―a method of plot establishment and advancement that makes the most of some of the graphics capabilities of the game engine in the replication of a cinematic experience‖ (36). The credits inform the user of the authorial team responsible for this great endeavor.

The promotional trailer that precedes the actual experience constitutes the space where different writing technologies come into play due to the great potential of the electronic medium. The self-reflexive attitude of the game creators toward issues related to textuality is apparent from the very beginning. After the inscription of Discordia fades away, excerpts of written text on paper and newspaper appear interchangeably.

Additionally, personal sketches and handwritten notes on photos and on paper, in English and in Russian, lend a sense of realism to the project and aim at arousing the curiosity of the players (Fig. 17). Then follows a snapshot of the new character, Arina Yokova, and her graduate thesis, entitled Stephen King Dark Tower Universe: Proof that Mid-World Exists.

As for the music in the background, it further enhances the emotional impact each scene has. Feleki 170

Fig. 17. Screenshot of Arina Yokova‘s personal sketches on the investigator‘s notice board


In particular, the tutorial (in the fashion of first-person shooter games) with which

Discordia opens is divided into three levels before the main quest starts. In the manner of

Roland the Gunslinger, the main character of the print story, the players get some shooting practice. The players are informed by King‘s own voice that Op 19 has to investigate Dixie

Pig, Fedic Dogan, and Castle Discordia in order to bring back any information or magical objects along with a full report to King. However, the tutorial is highly segmented. Once in the Tet Corporation‘s Gun and Rifle Range, Agent GR7‘s voice urges players to interact with the game. He advises them to stay focused on ―the mouse movements,‖ while the warning that ―high speed might make you dizzy‖ links to the simulating conventions of video gaming and reminds us of the presence and importance of the medium when carrying Feleki 171 out the designed tasks. The Agent‘s announcement that danger is close intensifies suspense, with the tutorial getting progressively more difficult as the players test and practice hand- and-eye coordination.

As soon as the trailer and the tutorial finish, it is the game‘s interface, in other words the users‘ computer screen, that constitutes the actual doorway to the Discordia gameworld.

According to Howland, when designing a game, the interface is the most important element that has to be taken into consideration as it forms the connection between the player and the game. It comprises texts and all kinds of information that the player sees and can use when playing the game. The modularity, that is the ―fractal structure of new media‖ is the ability of discrete media elements (such as images, sounds, and texts) to be arranged and further re- arranged without losing their individual identity (Manovich, Language 30). This modularity allows new media objects to intersect and find expression on the computer interface. The interface of Discordia frames the first level of the story, separating fact from fiction and the reality of the actual world from the virtual reality of the gameworld; eventually, it brings the players back to reality when the experience is over. Before starting the experience, the players face a computer screen, but after starting the experience, the players‘ gaze is framed within the smaller retro screen of North Central Positronics. This second level of framing clearly separates the simulated story not only from the players‘ reality but also from the online reality of King‘s fictional world hosted on his official website and fixes it into the online reality of his gameworld. The fact that the players are armed with only a specific number of points of view in every environment they explore and that they are able to manipulate these views by clicking onto the NCP Ltd screen, can be taken as a post- narrative comment by the authorial team, concerning issues of freedom and control in a game environment. Feleki 172

In the design of the interface, great emphasis is placed on the centrality of the electronic medium. Bolter and Grusin‘s theory of the ―double logic of remediation‖ (5, italics in original), which is revealed through the opposing forces of ―immediacy‖ (5) and

―hypermediacy‖ (6), makes sense when studying different media. ―Immediacy‖ ―dictates that the medium itself should disappear and leave us in the presence of the thing represented‖ (6); ―hypermediacy‖ triggers a simultaneous ―fascination with media‖ (12). In

Discordia, transparent immediacy does not seem to be a prerequisite. At all points during the navigation in the different rooms of the first chapter, players are conscious of the presence of the medium. They are constantly faced with the screen supplied by the North

Central Positronics. Actually, it is due to this screen that the players have the chance to explore this gameworld and gain access to the specific views of the Dixie Pig and the

Tunnel. This strong presence of the medium adds to the game‘s realism and prioritizes its presence, making it the only reality for the players.

The application of new technologies and the contribution of diverse artistic forms of expression, such as literature, painting, cinema and music make Discordia a diverse digital experience. Through the symbiotic inter-mediation of the various technologies, Discordia offers an alternative artistic product which opens up the original printed text to new dimensions and creates new roles and experiences for the participants. It is the advanced computer technology used in the creation of 3D graphics, the digital design on the player‘s interface and the upgraded film technology that contribute to the creation of this hybrid electronic experience. The incorporation of re-visited written texts along with these new creative tools make Discordia a mosaic of artistic and technological practices. Apart from the game‘s goal to re-tell The Dark Tower story as a simulated version, Discordia constitutes a characteristic example of transmedia storytelling within a digital environment.

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4.3 Discordia: A Multi-Sensory Experience for Gamers

Aarseth‘s distance from theories of Narratology, which accept the narrative potential of games, has worked as a springboard at this point of my research. He suggests that videogames display the features of ―description‖ (through the ―scriptons‖ on the interface) and of ―ergodics‖ (Cybertext 94),23 but they do not display the features of ―narration‖. He also contends that although videogames consist of ―a succession of events‖ (94), these events do not constitute a story. After rejecting the distinction between story and plot (112), he, alternatively, proposes the element of ―intrigue‖ as the structuring device of the events within the videogame:

Instead of a narrated plot, cybertext produces a sequence of oscillating activities

effectuated (but certainly not controlled) by the user. But there is nevertheless a

structuring element in these texts, which in some ways does the controlling or at

least motivates it. As a new term for this element I propose intrigue, to suggest a

secret plot in which the user is the innocent, but voluntary, target (victim is too

strong a term), with an outcome that is not yet decided─or rather with several

possible outcomes that depend on various factors, such as the cleverness and

experience of the player. (120, italics in original)

While recognizing the power of cybertext to produce activities and the element of intrigue that controls the events of the story, Aarseth ignores the creators‘ intentions to communicate a story through the game and reduces the role of the players to voluntary recipients of mechanically produced tasks and information, able to manipulate information but not make sense of it.

23 The term ―ergodics‖ derives from ―ergon‖ (work) and ―hodos‖ (path). It implies ―a situation in which a chain of events (a path or a sequence of actions) has been produced by the nontrivial efforts of one or more individuals or mechanisms‖ (Cybertext 94). Feleki 174

Contrary to Aarseth‘s belief in the ergodic nature of videogames is Newman‘s take on the ―non-ergodicity‖ of videogames, which basically deconstructs Aarseth‘s assumption that videogames require the efforts of the participating agents. For Newman, ―[v]ideogames do not present a singularly ergodic experience. They are highly structured and comprise episodes of intense ergodic engagement. However, these sequences are punctuated and usually framed by periods of far more limited ergodicity and very often, apparently none at all‖ (―The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame‖ 3). According to Newman, the pleasures involved in video gaming are neither strictly ergodic nor only visual but mainly kinesthetic.

What is of importance is not the outcome of an action as an end in itself but the

―understanding [of] the particular types of engagement that occur between players and on- screen characters during play‖ (2). Also, Atkins does not focus on the content and the plot of a game but on the ways these are offered to the audience in order to get them involved in the experience (43). He lays emphasis not only on the ways the different events or episodes of a story are organized in order to make an intriguing plot but also on the way this organization affects the gamers. Newman‘s theory encourages a much more moderate and tolerant attitude towards other mediums and roles for the players and reaches the realization that the videogame medium has limitations as well. More importantly, both Newman and

Atkins concentrate on the construction of experiences and their effects on the gamers rather than on the games‘ inherent and mechanically-generated qualities.

Relying on Newman‘s theory, I argue that when experiencing Discordia, the pleasures involved are not only ergodic, kinesthetic or visual but also literary. Apart from being faithful to the principles that characterize videogames (such as graphics, sound, interface, gameplay, and story), the designers of Discordia take into account the audience‘s expectations and their prior knowledge of the printed story, since that story functions as the backbone of the game. The traditional fans and players of Discordia, who have been Feleki 175 following the heroes of the ka-tet team in their quest for four decades, can now enjoy

King‘s creative adaptation of The Dark Tower as an online experience. Discordia is designed in such a way so as to encourage and facilitate the players‘ engagement with the narrative process both verbally and visually. It is not just the continuation of certain literary traditions and of The Dark Tower story on a different medium, but it requires the players to get involved in a different, far more engaging process than the one when reading the print bound book.

When investigating the literary pleasures of Discordia, Barthes‘s distinction between ―readerly‖ and ―writerly‖ texts is very useful. Although Barthes did not have the electronic digital text in mind when formulating his fundamental premises, his theory constitutes the stepping stone upon which the latest new media theorists construct their communicative perspective. Having Barthes‘s distinction in mind, I argue that Discordia displays the characteristics of a ―writerly‖ text because the gamers‘ role is much more active when they draw parallels and create meanings while they manipulate the game world.

In contrast, the ―readerly‖ text usually promotes passive roles. Discordia obliges the players to act and re-act to the information they see while exploring the game. The pleasure derived from the readers‘ manipulation of the written excerpts could actually develop into what

Barthes calls the ―bliss‖ of the text. As he states, ―[t]he text is an object of pleasure. The bliss of the text is often only stylistic [ . . . ]. However, at times, the pleasure of the text is achieved more deeply . . . whenever the ‗literary‘ text (the book) transmigrates into our life, whenever another writing (the other‘s writing succeeds in writing fragments of our own daily lives, in short, whenever a co-existence occurs‖ (S/Z 78, italics in the original). The pleasure players can experience during their online navigation and participation derives from the effort they can actually invest when exploring the fictional Dark Tower world; the players‘ involvement in the game becomes relevant to their life experiences as it helps them Feleki 176 widen their previous knowledge and understanding of King‘s fictional multi-verse from the printed version of the stories.

No easy answers and obvious solutions are offered in the game. The users have to interact with the online experience and find the clues that will inform them about what has happened to the main characters and will lead to the next level of the story in the following chapters. By looking through the monitor screen in order to enter the experience and collect all necessary information, players are introduced to a different form of reading. In contrast to the printed book, the electronic screen provides the space for a plentitude of visual, literary, ergodic, and kinesthetic pleasures. The story is transformed into a multi-media experience and the different stages in the first chapter function as the different threads of the storyline in narrative fiction, interrupting the reading process but also making up the plot.

Suitable music accompanies the gamers‘ movement from one stage to the next. New possibilities open up for the participants because of the multimodal aspect of the electronic medium. The roles of both the creators and the participants are radically transformed. As I mean to prove, the ergodic, the kinesthetic, and the visual pleasures derived from experiencing Discordia are further enriched via the game‘s adherence to literary trends and writing practices.

The first chapter of the Discordia game goes back to King‘s eight-volume work.

Knowledge of this work is considered a necessary asset for the players as they try to make sense of objects, places, and the succession of the events in the video experience. Relevant information is provided through texts when players come across magical objects and character orbs that take them back to specific events and episodes in the printed volumes.

There are no actual causal connections between the separate actions of the player in the game and the development of the gameworld. The player assumes the role of the investigator and experiences a retelling of the events that have already taken place in the Feleki 177 printed version of the Discordia series. The player does not have to make decisions that will affect the development of the plot in the gameworld. However, the successful completion of the tasks allows the player to continue navigating in the Mid-World with the aim of collecting more magical objects and more information, before returning to present day New

York, as these features in Discordia. In a way, the back story and the specific events mentioned in The Dark Tower texts exist autonomously, but at the same time, precede the experience. The first chapter focuses on important confrontations in the story and prepares players for the new twists and turns that will be introduced in the following game chapters.

Before starting the experience, the players watch the game‘s trailer that displays an abundance of visual, literary, and technological elements. As the snapshots that follow show, excerpts of written text on paper and newspaper appear interchangeably on the computer screen. This allows them to explore different digital formats which emulate recognizable print-bound forms. Digital snapshots of the main characters in Discordia, images of written documents, and newspaper clippings are all stuck together in a collage- like manner on the notice board of a police or private investigator. Like with the pieces of a puzzle, one is invited to try to make sense of the clues given before one interacts with the elements provided on the electronic medium (Fig. 16-19). Therefore, the existence of a story and the creation of a plot through the arrangement of the events in a sequential order enable a narratological meaning. The pictures of Closed Circuit Cameras (CCC) in the streets in high definition resolution constitute another instance of digital technology that intrudes in the game world. They also reinforce the investigatory role that the players will have to assume in the first chapter of the game. Finally, motion is contrasted to the still pictures, while the music theme in the background clashes with King‘s and the Agent

GR7‘s voice that are to be heard. For Atkins, the incorporation of music is immensely important and the ―audio grittiness‖ (69) effectuated contributes to the creation of a more Feleki 178 immersive environment for the user, who, otherwise, remains distant from the game due to the computer interface that intervenes and makes the presence of the medium felt.

Fig. 18. Yarina‘s thesis on Stephen King‘s Mid-World (Discordia).

Fig. 19. Images taken from CCCs posing on the investigator‘s notice board (Discordia). Feleki 179

As the Mid-world operation is about to commence, the trailer has managed to create high expectations in the users with this carefully interweaving of technologies and textual forms. Through the notices, the newspaper articles, and the photos on the boards projected in the trailer, new characters and subjects are introduced. This introduction of new characters allows for new narrative developments to emerge in the next two chapters.

Although the mediums have changed, the objectives of the mission are still the same. Tet-

Corporation‘s objectives are still to protect Stephen King and the Rose as well as sabotage

Sombra Corporation and North Central Positronics. However, new openings to the story are introduced with Arina Yokova standing out as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of North

Central Positronics and Sombra Corporation. As for players, they are exposed to an array of newspaper articles that refer to Afghanistan and the KGB. Such references to life-like events and detailed clues enhance the realistic feel of the whole Discordia experience. The snapshots of remote street cameras mingle with articles about stock markets, hacking, and internet cafes that further enhance the realistic effect of the story and open up to new narrative threads. Finally, the snapshots of Yokova‘s thesis on Stephen King‘s Mid-World and close ups of weapons create expectations to the eager game players.24

24 Six years after the release of the first chapter, the disappointment of the players can be expressed in the ―Random Thoughts‖ words of a fan asking: ―Are the rest of the oldtimers like me? Do you just not feel like posting‖ It reminds me of American Pie . . . the day the music died. O Discordia!‖ (StephenKing.com Message Board).

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Fig. 20. Written directions before the game commences (Discordia).

As soon as the trailer finishes, the players view the screen of North Central

Positronics LTD on the computer interface, which serves both as a window to another reality and as a barrier between them and their computer screen (Fig. 20). By creating an account and interacting with electronic messages, they can leave their own reality and enter the reality of the online game. Immediately afterwards, as in voice-overs and first-person narration in movies, King‘s voice is heard. He describes the mission that the user, now named Op 19, is about to undertake and gives orders as to the course of action to be followed. All the information is also available on the screen of North Central Positronics

LTD, reminding us of the presence of the electronic medium. Most importantly though, as mentioned above, King‘s role is to create the connections between the players‘ real world, the fictional literary world of The Dark Tower series, and its extension on the electronic medium. King‘s directions are clear before the actual experience starts and after the credits finish. The agent is reminded that he is running the risk of getting locked and lost in Mid-

World because the created ―doors‖ continually fail to open. Once again King‘s concept of Feleki 181

―the door‖ is utilized and aims at connecting the user to multiple realities and worlds. As proposed earlier, the metaphor of the ―doorway‖ works much better on the electronic medium. The game‘s interface on the computer screen constitutes the actual ―doorway‖ to the gameworld. The ironic message on the screen ―God-speed to you‖ further sparks the players‘ excitement and curiosity.

After players finish the investigation of the Dixie Pig, Fedic Dogan, and Castle

Discordia, they report back to the all-powerful creator in the game, King himself. For this reason, Discordia resorts to typical quest games techniques. However, in the tutorial as in a typical ―First-Person‖ Shooter game, players get some practice in shooting first. This way the kinesthetic pleasure videogames engender can be satisfied. Also suitable music tunes put the players in the right mood as they are about to enter the Dixie Pig and start their investigation. Once in the Tet Corporation‘s Gun and Rifle Range, the voice of Agent GR7 urges Op 19 to interact with the game when seeing a blare. This kind of interaction will continue throughout all the other stages of the game. The Agent‘s announcement that danger is close and that the players should have their gun ready creates suspense (Fig. 21).

Fig. 21. Practicing eye-and-hand coordination in the tutorial (Discordia). Feleki 182

The tutorial is getting harder and harder, while the music reaches an apex towards the end of the round of gun shots in every tutorial, intensifying the feeling of suspense. The user is testing and practicing eye-and-hand coordination. At the end of each round, the trainee is ranked as ―Young Blood‖ (Low Skill), ―Dead Eye‖ (Medium Skill), and ―Gunslinger‖

(High Skill).25 Then the choice to move to the Dixie Pig is given to players.

On the next level, players can continue with the investigation of the environments, inspired by The Dark Tower, which is remediated here as an online exploration quest. In the game‘s digital form, players in the role of Op 19 come face to face with a computer monitor and have to interact with it in order to commence the investigation. The experience provides a very friendly environment that is open for some basic navigation and manipulation.

Players are given the opportunity to follow different paths and directions and different courses of action, such as go to start, reset status or save progress. A newsletter in digital retro form appears reminding them of their tasks. The options button also allows players to review the newly-found magical items and character orbs in the rooms as well as read the updated journal entries so as to be able to continue the investigation. They are given the choice to wander around the different rooms of the Dixie Pig or restart the game if desired.

However, the time necessary for loading the content for one to proceed to the next stages inevitably breaks off the reading/playing experience.

The numbered buttons at the bottom of the monitor offer the possibility of different points of view in the different areas of the Dixie Pig. Taking a first-person point of view, players can actually visualize the story that is being narrated to them. The investigator, with whom players come to identify, provides digital accounts, narrated in the first person, which

25 An important feature of the experience is that players can skip the credits and the tutorial and move immediately to the investigation of Dixie Pig. However, after four rounds, if they have not chosen the ―Move on to Dixie Pig‖ link yet, it is impossible to move onto the Dixie Pig and players have to restart the application. They can move around and look at the place carefully but there is no apparent way out. Unfortunately, this poses as a violent break in the players‘ participation and satisfaction, affecting the gameplay experience. Feleki 183 give a personal tone to the experience and urge players to personally relate to it. However, the numbered views evince the highly-segmented nature of the gamers‘ perception of the story and the technological aspect of the process of ―reading‖ on the electronic medium as contrasted to the unhindered relationship of readers with the story in the printed text. What is more, when clicking onto these buttons, it is as if the camera is on the move, changing the angle of shooting. Although eye movement in Discordia is highly controlled, players are more autonomous when playing than when watching a film since they can choose which position or perception to adopt while in the game experience. In a way, the online experience seems to be drawing from the conventions of the cinema and its techniques when positioning the camera for the formulation of the players‘ point of view.

According to Carson, the players‘ experience in electronic games is most importantly a ―spatial one‖ and he gives precedence to the careful design of space. For

Carson, ―story‖ is not ―a linear ‗once upon a time‘ type story [but rather] a ‗big picture‘ idea of the world that is being creating (sic)‖ (―Environmental Storytelling‖ 2). In particular, he claims that ―it is the physical space that does much of the work of conveying the story the designers are trying to tell. Color, lighting, and even the texture of a place can fill an audience with excitement or dread‖ (1). He continues:

Much of this is done by manipulating an audience‘s expectations, which they have

based on their own experience of the physical world. Armed only with their own

knowledge of the world, and those visions collected from movies and books, the

audience is ripe to be dropped into your adventure. The trick is to play on those

memories and expectations to heighten the thrill of venturing into your created

universe. (1)

As he claims, ―[y]ou want to pamper them by fulfilling every possible expectation [ . . . ].

Every texture you use, every sound you play, every turn in the road should reinforce the Feleki 184 concept of [the game]‖ (2). On the basis of what Carson suggests, one comes to understand the importance of density in the design of spatial landscapes. In the case of Discordia, Stark has designed highly immersive environments for the excitement of the players.

Among other things, Carson suggests that ―self discovery‖ has an effect on environmental storytelling and makes the experience more enjoyable. Storytelling is forwarded when implementing ―cause and effect‖ elements that help the visitor understand where they are, what has been going on in there and what their relation to that place is:

―‗[C]ause and effect‘ vignettes [ . . . ] are staged areas that lead the game player to come to their own conclusions about a previous event or to suggest a potential danger just up ahead‖

(2). Discordia is filled with elements, such as tumbled down tables and chairs, blood- stained walls and floors, which make players imagine the size of the disaster and raise expectations for strange encounters in the following environments and game chapters (Fig.

13). Other elements like the widespread spider nets, the decaying flesh, and the skeletons can also reinforce the passage of time. Using the method that Carson calls ―Following

Saknussemm,‖ the players follow the ―bread crumbs‖ (2) left behind by characters and dangerous creatures; thus the dramatic depiction of the narrated story is heightened.

Additionally, designers implement familiar elements from the back story and from real life into the design; in this way players feel more comfortable in the online environment because it resembles real life and encourages them to be anchored to it.

Despite the seeming ease with which one can wander around in the Dixie Pig and

Fedic Dogan, the creation of an illusion of complexity is very important when designing electronic experiences. Carson claims that besides avoiding the risk of organizing tasks that are too difficult and disheartening for players, the designer has also to invest in the ―lack of familiarity‖ that players feel, in order to ―coax [the] audience through [the] story and still give them the feeling they are on a unique journey. A quest that is theirs alone, and one Feleki 185 worth retelling when the adventure is over‖ (―Environmental Storytelling, Part II‖). In the same intriguing way, the investigator of Discordia is coaxed into the premises that hide secrets and details, the combination of which constitutes the plot. By manipulating such details, players enjoy the pleasures involved in reading the story as the plot advances.

Suspense is sustained in the experience through the illusion of death. Although the hero never really dies, the designer can still create tension and uncertainty by hinting that death is always a possibility. In Discordia, the players soon find out that they cannot die in the first chapter but the incorporation of unfamiliar elements and of sound tracks that hint at the danger nearby is nothing but reassuring to them. After all, the tutorial on shooting in the Tet

Corporation‘s Gun and Rifle Range at the start of the experience keeps reminding us of the possible dangers approaching.

Despite being overwhelmed by the extreme detail in the room and the realistic depictions, the players cannot forget that they are actually looking at the Tet Corporation‘s monitor. The buttons keep reminding them of the presence and the importance of the medium in the quest. The blood stains on the monitor screen too (probably the investigator‘s marks) draw their attention both to the human presence and to the immediacy of the medium, contributing to the realistic effect the whole scene creates. On the NCP‘s interface gamers are informed that they are located in New York City and the car horns and sirens coming from outside are the proof. Newspapers on the glass and police tape in different places remind them of a massacre that has taken place. The light coming in from the windows adds to the realism of the scene and contrasts with the dark claustrophobic atmosphere created when players look closely for the magical items and character orbs, hidden in the chamber they are in. The fresh light contrasts with the darkness, the dried blood, and the dust, which could possibly insinuate that no real danger is close at present.

Also, this feeling that danger has passed is further sustained because the loud music tunes of Feleki 186 the trailer and the noise of shooting have been pacified. The careful shading of the objects and the great emphasis on their right proportions also add to the overall sense of realism

(Fig. 22).

Fig. 22. Detailed visual depiction of the Dixie Pig (Discordia).

Atkins‘ proposition about another connection of the electronic game with narrative tradition is interesting. As he sees it, the quest element in videogames goes back to the folk tale tradition. These ―fantasy‖ roots, originating from table-top role-playing games before their ―digital incarnation‖ (39), when in the digital version, enhance the fantastic elements in the story which facilitate the transition of the user to other realities. This hyperbolic visualization of fantastic elements empowers a variety of narrative possibilities. Each video scene presents a different visualization of reality and constitutes a different entry point for the gamer. In the Dixie Pig, Stark is actually directing the viewer‘s eye toward the desirable Feleki 187 direction through color, shading, and lighting. The excessive depiction of blood manages to create the right mood for this fantasy experience. According to Jenkins, this extremely detailed 3D graphic design in the background of electronic games is a ―visual excess,‖ or an

―eye candy‖ in computer jargon (―Nintendo® and New World Travel Writing: A

Dialogue‖), since it tries to satisfy the players‘ hunger for meaning, gameplay, and control.

At the same time, it facilitates their effective immersion in the game experience.

The camera moves independently of the players‘ control. After their entrance into the tunnel, players are reminded of certain incidents, like the great battle between Tet

Corporation and the ; the presence of human and other-worldly skeletons warns them that danger may still be close. Once again, the careful design of the tunnel‘s architecture captures the player‘s eye and directs it towards the end of the first investigation in the first game chapter. At the end of the tunnel, after having collected all the necessary medical items and orbs, players face the much desired ―doorway‖ to the second chapter of

Discordia and the path to present day New York. The metaphor of the ―doorway‖ running through the whole project and connecting the different expressive media and the game‘s multiple realities, finally takes shape in front of the players‘ eyes.

This section has delved into the details that create an online gaming experience designed to capture the players‘ full-attention span. Discordia succeeds in recombining a number of literary, filmic, and video gaming properties. Based on this fascinating synthesis of elements, the game designers create a multi-sensory experience for players; they gradually turn readers into active explorers of King‘s fictional microcosm of Discordia hosted on StephenKing.com. Ultimately, the players become participants in this creation.

Thus combining diverse technologies with visual and writing patterns can lead one to experience the revelries of the visual, the literary, and the kinesthetic offered by the new media. Feleki 188




The author is a modern figure, a product of our society in so far as, emerging from the Middle Ages with English Empiricism, French rationalism and the personal faith of the Reformation, it discovered the prestige of the individual, of, as it is more nobly put, the ―human person.‖ It is thus logical that in literature it should be this positivism, the epitome and culmination of capitalist ideology, which has attached the greatest importance to the ‗person‘ of the author.

—Roland Barthes, ―The Death of the Author,‖ Image, Music, Text. (1977). Feleki 189

Chapter Five Stephen King’s Popular Digital Production

Stephen King has long been at the intersection between popular fiction writing (low- brow) and literary writing (high-brow). Standing at the crossroads between bestselling fiction and postmodern writing, he has turned to new media for a shift in his writing production. As he de-contextualizes contemporary fiction and re-introduces it on new surfaces, he manages to exploit its new potential. In this chapter, I argue that King‘s latest digital endeavors in online environments have come as a result not only of the convergence of different writing modes and expressive mediums but of a cultural merger as well. King‘s skills in adjusting his fiction according to the latest socio-cultural and technological conditions as well as in assuming new authorial roles have also led to the re-purposing of his popular texts and their re-branding by the entertainment industry. As his fictional stories fork out via transmedia storytelling, King gets involved in new authorial roles and diverse publication ventures; at the same time, his audience finds greater room for involvement and active participation.

The primary aim of Chapter Five is to shed light on King as the author, his audience, and his latest texts that flood the market in various forms, from printed editions to e-stories to diverse computer experiences. By examining a number of King‘s creative printed and digital projects of the early twenty-first century, I will attempt to make visible the effects of a consumer consciousness on King‘s readers; I study the new models of collaborative authorship and readership that emerge as King‘s fans strive for more freedom against the industry which imposes more control. Therefore, I gradually disclose the diverse roles of the participating agents in creative processes, which are determined by technological forces, financial interests, and pressures exercised by the various reader subcultures.

Feleki 190

5.1 Stephen King’s Experimentation within Popular Culture

Well into the twenty-first century, digitality has affected the manifestations of cultural, institutional, and educational aspects of organized life. Such swift and sweeping changes have drawn the attention of the academic world. Among the many skeptics, Gilles

Lipovetsky sees a possible break from tradition as a dark image of ―hypermodernity.‖ He detects ―a liberal society characterized by movement, fluidity, and flexibility, detached as never before from the great structuring principles of modernity‖ (11). In his theory,

Lipovetsky correlates informational and visual affluence with ―the new faces of liberal democracies‖ (31) where artistic worth is calculated in numbers. The following sections aim to investigate the effects of this informational and visual affluence on contemporary digital cultural production that is orchestrated by the entertainment industry. I examine the ways in which digital technologies enable new written and visual forms to exploit the fluid and flexible digital codes that have completely re-adjusted the old-fashioned relationships among writers, texts, and readers.

Contrary to Lipovetsky‘s dark vision of hypermodernity and the alleged break from all manifestations of modernity, Manovich pinpoints the connecting lines between the technological developments in the early twentieth century and the wired present, which he sees as being responsible for an invigorating influence on cultural production. In his article

―New Media from Borges to HTML‖ (2003), he associates the avant-garde turn in the popular media of the 1920s with the experimental practices in the age of digitality. In the early twentieth century, the advent of media and the implementation of new techniques such as ―constructivist design, New Typography, avant-garde cinematography and film editing, photo montage,‖ according to Manovich, manage to ―awaken audiences from a dream-existence of bourgeois society‖ (22). He explains that ―[t]he old media avant-garde Feleki 191 of the 1920s came up with new forms, new ways to represent reality and new ways to see the world,‖ whereas ―[t]he new media avant-garde is about new ways of accessing and manipulating information‖ (22). In his earlier work The Language of New Media (2001),

Manovich insists that ―[o]ne general effect of the digital revolution is that avant-garde aesthetic strategies came to be embedded in the commands and interface metaphors of computer software‖ (306). Specifically, commands like copy-paste and painting in digital film editing programs are reminiscent of former avant-garde techniques, such as collage and photomontage. As a consequence of the multi-modality of new media, novel ways of representing and experiencing reality have emerged. In the present study, I have argued that the convergence of new media with artistic practices has paved the way for new representational systems. Taking Manovich‘s idea of the emergence of a new media avant- garde a step further, I contend that the new media do not only promote novel ways of using and disseminating information but also facilitate creative re-invention and radicalize existing technologies. Therefore, despite the general anxiety about the cultural consequences resulting from the new technologies, one should not forget the positive forces which are also released. New ICTs manage to reproduce older avant-garde practices and enhance new manifestations of contemporary popular cultural expression. Due to the re- creative and re-constructive potential of new media and the ―digital turn‖ in the late twentieth century, popular authors like King can exploit the new spaces for the staging of their post-narrative endeavors. The old alphanumeric codes are now replaced by digital ones that overemphasize the visual element; the new semantic overload carried by digital modes functions as an alternative to traditional literary narration. Digital technology has altered not only writing and narration but also authorial practices. Under the new circumstances, the popular writer returns as both a manager and an innovator who repurposes the act of fiction writing. The author interacts with new media technologies in a synergistic relationship and Feleki 192 combines forces with a crew of co-creators to manipulate the coded messages in novel ways and develop a new relationship with the audience.

Questions about authorship, readership, and writing in a consumer society, which poses constraints on the participants and possibly manipulates the creative process, as well as the writer‘s relationship with his readers are among King‘s main concerns, expressed in both his earlier and recent fiction, regardless of its textual format. Through his fictional author-characters and artists King has always tried to examine their vulnerable nature of the writer, the limitations of the writing profession, and the fear of being consumed within a capitalist society where the artistic product has to meet the standards set by the entertainment industry conglomerates. As the critical analysis of the novels Lisey’s Story and Duma Key in Part I of this dissertation has shown, the writers and artists featuring in them are often depicted as unstable entities, faced with real or imagined fears; they desperately seek self-awareness and self-fulfillment through their creative potential. King has also experimented with the notion of artistic creativity, at times taking the form of an otherworldly power that overwhelms and consumes the artist during the creative process.

Craftsmanship and authorial relations have always triggered King‘s interest.

Immediately afterwards, the study of specific texts from his earlier and recent literary production will illuminate the importance that King places on such issues as authorial creativity, audience participation, and literary freedom. As a popular fiction writer experimenting with form and content, King is concerned about the dangers lurking in a digital participatory culture, where writers and the audience collaborate through online environments. This concern is expressed in King‘s story, ―Big Driver,‖ published in the short story collection Full Dark, No Stars (2010). The main character Tess Thorne is a popular writer who is selected online by the head librarian at the Chicopee Public Library and president of Books & Brown Baggers to give a talk on her writing craft. As it turns out, Feleki 193

Tess is most fiercely beaten up by her employer‘ son. It seems that she is punished for the crime she has committed, namely writing and lecturing about her popular craft for money.

Commenting on her business arrangements, the narrator states that ―[t]he invitation from

Books & Brown Baggers filled her requirements perfectly. Chicopee was hardly more than sixty miles from Stoke Village, the engagement was to be a daytime affair, and the Three

Bs were offering an honorarium of not twelve but fifteen hundred dollars. Plus expenses, of course, but those would be minimal‖ (128-29). Through his narrator, King ironically registers the routine tasks undertaken by authors in order to make a living. His comments are only to be appreciated in hindsight when Tess almost pays for writing and making money with her life. The connectivity that the electronic medium enables can obviously both help Tess in her career but also destroy her.

Ontological questions about the conscious and the unconscious, the real and the un- real, the self and the Other have always been prominent in King‘s fiction. Fantasy and horror, which have always been the main elements in the composition of his stories, of his novels, and of his recent artistic explorations, still make up the writer‘s main arsenal in his effort to reflect the darker face of reality. As it has been extensively discussed in Chapter

One, the Gothic tradition provides the space and the means for King‘s concerns to be expressed and informs his creative games with writing form. The use of grotesque elements in the construction of his fantasy worlds facilitates King‘s exploration of the limitations of reality and society. King‘s use of the horror genre and the manipulation of popular Gothic, which have boosted his success, have placed his writing somewhere between art and consumption.

My investigation of King‘s official website has already showcased the interconnectedness effectuated by the electronic medium. Hyperlinks lead back and forth to

King‘s older and newer fictional worlds and allow users to delve deeper into them, to Feleki 194 exercise their exploratory nature, and answer their ontological quests. Also, the self- referentiality promoted by various electronic projects, such as Discordia and The Office, highlights the intertextual connections among these projects that rely on the illusion of the hyper-real, which, ultimately, overwhelms the audience. The great number of other media productions based on King‘s written works, testifies to the experimental nature of his popular production and the adaptability of his artifacts to the emergent digital tools. These computer experiences and projects are regarded as marketable products that the industry exploits in order to perpetuate the fame of the writer. The merging of diverse artistic genres and expressions, such as novels, novellas, graphic novels, and online games, ensures King‘s marketing success and stable position in the entertainment industry, despite the ephemeral state of digital representations. Actually, it is exactly this changing state of new computational technologies in which the book and entertainment industries invest in order to profit from the fluidity of the digital medium and from the open-ended narratives that pave the path for the creation of more diverse brand products.

Indeed, Jenkins describes ―transmedia storytelling‖ as the effect of artistic and technological convergences; this new type of storytelling takes advantage of the open- endedness of the digital medium, affects literary production, and defines consumer habits.

He explains that entertainment conglomerates are ―integrating multiple texts to create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium‖ (Convergence 95).

More than ever before, the World Wide Web has provided the perfect space for such consumption habits due to the easy access ensured for the users and the visibility of the connections between the products available in different forms and mediums. In his later online article, ―Transmedia Storytelling 101,‖ among other parameters, Jenkins refers to the term ―additive comprehension,‖ coined by game designer Neil Young, in order to describe how the fragmented parts of a plot are offered to the fans like pieces of a puzzle and Feleki 195 assessed in a cumulative manner. Jenkins writes that ―[i]deally, each individual episode must be accessible on its own terms even as it makes a unique contribution to the narrative system as a whole. Young refers to the ways that each new text adds a new piece of information which forces us to revise our understanding of the fiction.‖ Jenkins continues citing Young about the ways the entertainment industry manipulates every new bit of information for the reinvention of its products:

If we are going to take a world and express it through multiple media at the same

time, you might need to express it sequentially. You may need to lead people into a

deep love of the story. Maybe it starts with a game and then a film and then

television. You are building a relationship with the world rather than trying to put it

all out there once. (qtd. in Jenkins, Convergence 126)

Above all, both Jenkins and Young point to the high control exercised by the industry on the branded products. Additionally, the construction of a back story for the attraction of audiences also guarantees the quality of the new product and its salability. As creators develop different narrative threads, they leave openings in their narratives on different mediums so that each new narrative can hook onto the previous ones and contribute to the creation of a complete narrative experience. At this point, the programmer and the whole authorial team appreciate the narrative openings that have already been left from the previous stories, which can be re-worked for the embellishment of the main storylines with new adventures and experiences.

The example of Discordia, the digital extension of The Dark Tower story for its online consumption, showcases such transmedia franchise attempts through the convergence of computer gaming and fiction writing, and the inevitable merging of mainstream popular culture and literary writing. This computer game practice of drawing from traditional popular fiction and narratives of exploration, in addition to elements taken Feleki 196 from science fiction, detective fiction, and fantasy aims to introduce a new electronic product to new markets. StephenKing.com promotes all the books in The Dark Tower sequel and builds on the illusion of the story‘s linear development (Fig. 23). The book covers placed the one next to the other on the webpage hint upon the project‘s grand scale narrative and their interconnectedness. Additionally, the projection of the graphic novels and comic strips flashing on and off on the website feature banner upon accessing the webpage, the links to the computer experience of Discordia as well as the continuous information on the filming of the Movie and its TV adaptation available on site are efforts to move the story to all distribution platforms available, so as to create an open-ended effect that is in accord with the nature of the new supporting technologies.

Fig. 23. Screenshot of all the Dark Tower jackets projected on the Dark Tower official website


Jenkins stresses the fact that ―[t]he extension may add a greater sense of realism to the fiction as a whole‖ (―Transmedia Storytelling 101‖). Indeed, the official Dark Tower Feleki 197 website is the best space where this transmedia franchise can develop. In a bookstore manner, new and old editions of new and old works as well as different versions of these works for other mediums appear next to one another, reinforcing the sense of continuity and interconnectedness that exists between King‘s different fictional worlds. The division of the website into ―News,‖ ―The Books,‖ Discordia and the ―Glossary‖ as well as each section‘s comments on the innovative, interactive, computer experience enhance the life-like traits of the whole Dark Tower storyline. By allowing readers to track King‘s characters through the various media, the website attributes larger than life dimensions to them and enhances a participatory feeling in the fans. In the third edition of the website, the caption writes: ―Just as the Dark Tower is the nexus point of the time/space continuum within the context of the

Dark Tower novels, so the Dark Tower novels are the linchpin of Stephen King‘s creative multiverse‖ (―Connections‖). It becomes obvious that the web page set up establishes a connection between The Dark Tower story and King‘s greater repository of fictional worlds.

The emphasis is placed on the overall Stephen King reading experience one can have when accessing his online artistic world. As for the ―Glossary‖ web link, it provides information about the special language shared in the series; its division into ―High Speech‖ and ―Low

Speech‖ enhances the literary substance of King‘s works and language (Fig. 24).

Fig. 24. Screenshot of the ―Glossary section‖ in the Dark Tower website (StephenKing.com). Feleki 198

Additionally, the ―Connections‖ section tries to make more visible the connections among all King‘s fictional worlds. The common places, characters, dates, language codes and numbers that appear in the different works keep the fan alert for the participation opportunities available in King‘s ―multiverse,‖ a term King himself uses to underscore the multiple alternative realities his works rely on.

Discussing the workings of transmedia storytelling techniques, Jenkins notes that

―[t]he [transmedia] extension may provide insight into the characters and their motivations

[ . . . ], may flesh out aspects of the fictional world [ . . . ], or may bridge between events depicted in a series of sequels‖ (―Transmedia‖). For example, the non-linearity of the electronic medium agrees with the lack of linearity in the quests King constructs in the eight volumes. Additionally, the main character‘s incessant movement during the quest is gradually taken to diverse directions and given depths through different media, platforms, and writing traditions. As for the magical items and codes that are mentioned in the printed story, they become visible in the electronic medium and provide the material for the creation of new quests and confrontations in StephenKing.com. King‘s popular fiction gets a big boost when combined with the gaming element and the interactive nature of the electronic medium, ensuring thus the success of the new technological product.26 The computer product offers new possibilities in character development and story extensions but it does not focus on a complicated plot and full round characters; instead, it offers immediate satisfaction and kinesthetic pleasure to the gamers through play and interactivity.

26 The adaptation of popular literature, such as J.R.R Tolkien‘s The Hobbit (1937) and the Lord of the Rings (1954) into films and mainstream video games for the computer or other platforms has been a common practice in the last decades. Adaptations of videogames into movies─Super Mario Bros (1985), Final Fantasy (1987), Doom (1993), and Tomb Raider (1996)─also constitute instances of transmedia storytelling, sending the story to new depths and directions, while trying out the new medium‘s characteristics. For an informed account of the latest on the transmedia franchise and the movement of comics and other media into one another see Tyler Weaver‘s new book Comics for Films, Games and Animation: Using Comics to Construct Your Transmedia Storyworld (2013). Also, read Weaver‘s interviews to Henry Jenkins online at Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins (2013) and on Weaver‘s Comicstoryworld (2013) blog for more on such hot issues as continuity, multiplicity, and seriality (among others) in transmedia storytelling. Feleki 199

Other practices, such as sequential production, constant promotion, and regular release of artistic products through different media are meant to create a deeper, long-lasting relationship and engagement with the customer. Such narrative franchise techniques require a constant effort to deliver new and diverse products with interesting narratives that keep the audience involved. With reference to the creation of spoilers, they build the fans‘ common consciousness. In turn, fan fiction functions as ―an unauthorized expansion of these media franchises into new directions which reflect the reader‘s desire to ‗fill in the gaps‘ they have discovered in the commercially produced material‖ (―Transmedia‖).

Gradually, stepping out of the authorial team‘s control, the transmedia product acquires a creative force of its own by being open to various fan interventions.

In the late 1980s, Tony Bennett and Janet Woollacott argued that paratextual elements, such as publicity posters, box art, instruction manuals, retail displays, even in- game movie sequences and multimedia marketing materials, constitute techniques that encourage the consumption of the products. In the digital mediation of a story, Peter

Lunenfield sees the ―blending of the text and the paratext, the pumping out of undifferentiated and unfinished product into the electronically interlinked mediasphere‖ as the result of ―dubious corporate synergy‖ (―Unfinished Business‖ 15). He observes that media conglomerates─within this suspect synergy─intentionally make it difficult to distinguish between the text and the paratext. This blurring of the boundaries between the actual story and its transmedia extensions, between textual and paratextual representations, amplifies the vague and open-ended nature of the product and enables multiform manipulations. He suggests that ―[t]echnology and popular culture propel us toward a state of unfinish in which the story is never over, and the limits of what constitutes the story proper are never to be as clear again‖ (14). This state of unfinish feeds the ever-growing interest and the collective consciousness of the online communities that crave for active Feleki 200 participation. At the same time, the industry enjoys the profits from these diverse and mutating transmedia franchises since the products ―can be sold and resold. This is the justification for sequels, and not only for those narratives that are designed for sequels [ . . .] but even for the expansion of formerly closed narratives into unfinished ones‖ (15).

Such instances of corporate synergy become apparent in King‘s online letter to his fans around the time of the publication of the eighth printed volume of the Dark Tower series The Wind through the Keyhole in 2012, while the release of The Dark Tower film and

TV adaptation were scheduled by NBC International for May 17th 2013. In this online letter,

King explains that ―there was at least one hole in the narrative progression [yet] there‘s a lot none of us knew about Mid-World, both past and present‖ (―The Wind through the

Keyhole‖). The writer discretely admits that there are really no new heroes or major turning points in the narrative. Obviously, King finds more important the promotion of a recognizable product rather than his investment in a new narrative. He insists on the open- endedness of his fictional worlds and intentionally leaves knowledge gaps in The Dark

Tower story (about Mid-World‘s past and present) to create new paths that can take the story further to other temporal and spatial dimensions. The minimal plot complication and the episodic structure of such open narratives give the creators the freedom to manipulate the characters infinitely and to insert them in developing narratives. On the whole, the techniques described so far enable ―synergistic storytelling‖ (Convergence 104) and media convergences that allow the unimpeded flow of information from one medium to the other.

This has led to the emergence of a critical meta-narrative, a meta-fictional tendency that not only alters the nature of the original stories but also makes the fiction an integral part of the chain that connects technology with popular culture.

Furthermore, products of fan fiction, such as the independent film ―You can‘t Kill

Stephen King,‖ available via YouTube are frequently hosted on King‘s website, opening up Feleki 201 new paths for narrative experimentation. It tells the story of five friends who set off to the lakeshore of Maine in order to meet Stephen King in person. This low-budget movie mixes factual with fictional information and thematizes the general practice of horror movie making. The mixture of fact and fiction endows popular culture with an intertextual quality and allows the ―heterogeneity of cultural production‖ to intertwine with ―the highly discursive nature of contemporary culture‖ (Collins 64).27 Essentially, the film‘s presence on King‘s site is just another promotional gimmick that adds to the overall longevity of his work and worlds. Therefore, King‘s website constitutes a hub where various independent works about King can be hosted. It gives the opportunity to the voices of independent artists to be heard, while at the same time it enhances the visibility and marketability of his works among his fans and within the entertainment industry. The industry seems to be directing the creative practices of media experts, writers, and fans; they are all entangled in a synergy that is further facilitated by the participatory nature of the new media culture.

An example of synergistic transmedia extension is the project called ―Dark Score

Stories,‖ which is based on King‘s much earlier novel in 1998 (―Dark Score

Stories: An Immersive Photo Journalism Experience‖). It runs on the website and offers an immersive experience to the visitors. This project serves as an instance of online photo journalism where seven photojournalist essays accompanied by audio commentary introduce the setting and the characters to the audience. Run by A&E Networks and

StephenKing.com as a promotional online narrative prequel to the Bag of Bones, the two- day television and web event broadcasted in December 2011 gave the opportunity to independent award-winning photojournalist Joachim Ladefoged to promote his work. What strikes as particularly innovative in this project is the potential of interactivity it offers. In

27 With regard to the intertextual character of fan culture created and distributed through new digital products, David P. Marshall explains: ―Intertextuality identifies the exchange process of cultural knowledge that flows back and forth between the audience and the individual text as the audience member injects other sources into the text. The industry‘s role is to provide the related material for that injection‖ (70). Feleki 202 particular, the moving images of the body parts of the characters at the beginning of each story and the integrated audio files that accompany the photo gallery add another dimension to narrative experience the website offers.28 Different genres, writing techniques, and representational technologies once again intersect and offer a distinct visual and immersive experience.

In hindsight, King‘s print fiction has always explored the potential of artistic freedom. Today, digital and network media augment this potential and allow us to re-invent such concepts as authorial license in the twenty-first century. In particular, although the digital does not promote originality, it definitely offers novel ways of reorganizing, recombining, and disseminating already existing products. In the digital environment, the word is pushed to the background, while the visual elements take center stage, allowing the writer to make current concerns more visible and implement new methods of representation.

This is exactly the context in which King‘s artistic concerns become apparent and are materialized. Therefore, electronic media have raised both aesthetic and ontological questions about the nature of writing and craftsmanship, about the novel ways to approach traditional genres, and about the writer‘s relationship with the reading public. Critics can now explore these questions and express their views on new media platforms.

In addition to King‘s devotion to experiment with various writing strategies and media tools, one must take into account the various promotion and marketing strategies at work. Within the context of accelerated mass production that leads to accelerated consumption, an author‘s subversive writing practices may seem questionable, especially when placed within fluid digital environments. Although the question arises whether King‘s tendency to experiment with writing, with technologies, and with marketing techniques can be considered innovative practice or merely profit-driven activity, this experimentation is

28 Michael Andersen comments on this transmedia endeavor in his online article for the Wired.com, ―Dark Score Stories Provides Puzzles for Stephen King Fans.‖ Feleki 203 definitely the reason that keeps King‘s writing fresh and evolving. The commercial aspect of contemporary popular artistic production cannot be overlooked. Issues of commercialization of the literary product and of distribution rights are taken up later in the analysis in order to stress the corporate profits driving such artistic practices. King‘s new cultural products, the projects running on his website, and the space created for the forum where the fans converse with the authorial team and with one another stress the commercial aspects of King‘s popular culture tactics. Despite their artistic nature, such ventures are but marketing promotional techniques for the perpetuation of the author‘s fame and success.

However, there is a hidden fear of self-destruction within the entertainment industry, lurking behind the subversive nature of King‘s mass cultural production. King‘s projects seem to be torn between experimentation, profit, and media domination. Within the current complicated communication and production networks, King‘s literary products do not fail to respond to contemporary readers‘ needs and demands. Indeed, King is always updating his authorial persona through his new literary endeavors and alternative cultural products.

As regards marketing writing endeavors, Stephen Brown sheds light on how culture and marketing are inextricably linked. The marketing scholar comments that ―[w]hile it would be incorrect to state that Culture has capitulated to Commerce [ . . . ] things are certainly heading that way‖ (8). He draws on Hardy Green‘s article, ―Selling Books like

Bacon: Horrors! The Industry is taking a Leaf from Supermarkets‖ in order to support his argument that marketing techniques have developed within the book industry. In this article,

Green points out that book conglomerates are turning to research similar to that carried out in supermarkets in order to study consumers‘ psychology, resist the declining numbers in book sales, and increase profit. He discusses exit polling, analysis of sales receipts, and study of shelf arrangements in supermarkets as effective means to revamp book sales. These marketing techniques, informed by socio-cultural data, cater for the audience‘s needs. Feleki 204

Dismissing the taboos attached to the industry‘s marketing policies, Green argues for a positive approach towards the convergence of writing and the market for the benefit of literary production.

The commercialization of literary production is a vital issue in popular culture studies; almost all critics seem to agree that popular artifacts have a marketing potential in contemporary consumer society. In the early 1970s, Baudrillard highlighted the then emerging tendency of artists to subject their works to the laws of the market; like all other commodities, artifacts bear the creator‘s signature as a marker that can attribute a

―differential value‖ (For a Critique 102). Ergo he recognized the submissive position of the artist in highly-controlled and regulatory social systems. Today, many critics celebrate the convergence of the literary text with digital technologies because they believe that digital cultural artifacts provide the most fertile ground for experimentation. The hyper-mediated world of the twenty-first century─saturated with still or moving images, graphic art designs, and sound effects─works as a herald of a post-postmodern condition that is still mutating, evolving, and breeding new ―hybrids‖ in a post-narrative stage. These changes in literary practices have pushed contemporary fiction writing to new spaces and have helped it develop in different directions.29 The ―displacement‖ of the written story from the printed medium and its re-positioning within digital spaces has indeed enhanced its commodification. Yet, rather than a sign of crisis, the literary text‘s de-contextualization and subsequent re-discovery in new media realizations is appreciated here as a sign of creativity, released in new contexts and within new relations. A basic premise of this study is that the mediation and remediation of literature through new mediums do not necessarily pose a threat to fiction writing, but account for its development and its creative re-

29 Arjun Appandurai‘s concepts of the ―paths‖ and ―diversions‖ can help one visualize the route that a given (artistic) commodity has to follow in its effort to acquire its value. As he elaborates, ―[t]he value of commodities can change fundamentally through diversions, in which objects begin to circulate in different orbits‖ (24-25, italics in original). Feleki 205 positioning in contemporary socio-cultural conditions. As analyzed in Part II, the creation of the fictional story Ur solely for the Kindle and the rebranding of The Dark Tower series through the online Discordia experience constitute instances of such creative repurposing of popular fiction writing in new media spaces.

The commercialization of literary works can also account for the new role of the writer in the collaborative networks, necessary for the production of new mass-consumed cultural products designed for new mediums of enunciation and distribution. The name of the writer stands next to the names of the graphic designers, the website and videogame designers, the film producers, and the directors as credit to the originator of an artistic idea; the list of names allows for the other members of the creative team to also stand in the limelight and assume responsibility for the new artworks. This new liberal state based on the mutual interdependence among artists, media, and traditions is definitely rejuvenating for artistic creation and useful for the promotion of new products. Far from being made redundant, the writers who adjust to the new economic, technological, and cultural conditions reclaim their place in the cultural production.

Another result of the reterritorialization of art within new media culture is the novel roles and interconnections that have sprung within academic circles. In Constructing

Postmodernism (2001), Brian McHale traces

the weakening and dilution of the authority of the literary canon itself and a

corresponding receptivity on the part of the literary institution to formerly

marginalized writing; the accession to positions of influence of literary ―mediators‖

(reviewers, critics, editors, university lecturers) with an intellectual commitment to

popular culture; the necessity felt by educational institutions to cater for students

with even shallower backgrounds in ―elite‖ culture; and so on. (236) Feleki 206

McHale draws out attention to the chain reactions taking place within a postmodern context; the introduction of new media has facilitated not only the redefinition of literary practices and relations but also a more general redefinition of cultural practices and skills.

Bolter is one of the first to discuss cultural remediation as a logical consequence of electronic remediation in Writing Technologies (2001). For him, since writing has always been ―the embodiment of thought‖ (189), refashioning our culture‘s writing space affects the way people perceive the world, access information, and interact with each other.

Jenkins, who traces the technological convergences that lead to cultural convergences, reiterates that ―[m]edia convergence is more than simply a technological shift. Convergence alters the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences‖ (―Cultural Logic‖ 34). When insisting that convergence occurs foremost on the cultural level, he means the legal and the economic rather than the technological factors involved (―The Cultural Logic‖ 34). Additionally, he underscores the creative aspect of the new cultural order and the power with which fans are now granted. He describes the situation as follows:

Convergence [ . . . ] is both a top-down corporate-driven process and a bottom up

consumer-driven process. Corporate convergence coexists with grassroots

convergence. Media companies are learning how to accelerate the flow of media

content across delivery channels to expand revenue opportunities, broaden markets

and reinforce viewer commitments. Consumers are learning how to use these

different media technologies to bring the flow of media more fully under their

control and to interact with other consumers [ . . . ] Sometimes, these two forces are

at war and those struggles will redefine the face of American popular culture. (18)

The inextricable linkages among all the participants in the production of popular culture are irrefutable and are under austere control by the industry. Yet, the freedom and the space Feleki 207 allowed in relation to the nature of the medium involved in the creative process of cultural products secure some potential of inventiveness and provide the avenues for artistic ventures.

In a nutshell, despite fears of control by big conglomerates, it seems that the artistic products exchanged in a consumer society (where everything has a price) can now be freed from an incriminating overload. The benefits stemming from the multiple convergences outweigh the drawbacks; with the help of new media constantly shrinking the distance between high-brow and low-brow literature, the cultural artifact gets closer to the public.

Also, the distance between genres, writing styles, popular writers, the academia, and established institutions is diminishing, leading to the constant redefinition of Western literary and cultural practices. Within such controversial contexts, the accelerated advancement of new ICTs in tandem with the diverse popular fiction styles and trends fuel the controversy over the dividing line between popular writing trends and innovation. When it comes to King, his practices (explored so far) can stir criticism within academic circles as regards their literariness, limitations, and role in today‘s consumer society. Nonetheless,

King‘s main concern, as he admits in his introduction to the story collection Everything’s

Eventual (2002), titled ―Practicing the (Almost) Lost Art,‖ is to re-invent his craft. All this

―media cross-pollination and envelope-pushing‖ he resorts to is ―not about making more money or even precisely about creating new markets; it‘s about trying to see the act, art, and craft of writing in different ways, thereby refreshing the process and keeping the resulting artifacts─the stories, in other words─as bright as possible‖ (xi). So, by exploiting marketing trends and embracing the interconnectedness of transmedia storytelling, King ultimately manages to reform traditional writing practices, and more importantly, to re-shape literary geographies. Although the notion of the author as the force behind original creative work has been pronounced dead, King‘s craft seems to have the power to re-invent itself even via Feleki 208 commercially-directed processes. He insists on exploring established notions such as popular fiction, the writer, the text, and the fan in order to reconfigure their relationship and to promote their active involvement in novel contexts. He is open to all kinds of artistic creations, moving beyond printed matter but hanging on to well-crafted writing methodologies. In the new literary landscapes he has set up, he works to bridge diverse practices and new voices.

5.2 Stephen King’s Pop as a Commodity and a New Cultural Space

The popularization of King‘s fiction and the consumption of his works highlight the fact that he has always been able to sense his readers‘ needs and, simultaneously, abide by the laws of the market. In his autobiographical work, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

(2000), he confesses his initial fears and anxieties when he writes, ―I wasn‘t having much success with my own writing‖ (64). Responding to the demands of the print market and aware of the fact that the reading of print fiction is becoming increasingly unpopular, he has tried to re-invent his writing accordingly. He constitutes an example of the popular fiction writer who resorts to marketing practices in order to promote and distribute his artistic work, while staying frank about his success. In his article, ―On Becoming a Brand Name‖

(1982) he explains: ―It‘s not unlike the process that runs a nuclear reactor, except that, instead of an ever-more-rapid bump-and-bounce of atoms tending toward a critical mass, the writer produces a series of books which ricochet back and forth between hardcover and softcover at an ever-increasing speed‖ (31). Being prolific and in touch with current trends really does the trick for King. He has remained in the limelight for a long time and has fed the market with new material. What is more, also securing the industry‘s profits, he has made sure that his works can find application on the different available media, from printed Feleki 209 hardcovers to paperbacks and to digital versions, responding thus to the needs of the consuming public, while also creating new demands.

Best-selling author Jonathan Franzen in his article ―Why Bother,‖ appearing in How to Be Alone: Essays (2002), describes the situation in the book market: ―The consumer economy loves a product that sells at a premium, wears out quickly or is susceptible to regular improvement, and offers with each improvement some marginal gain in usefulness‖

(qtd. in Brown, Writing Marketing 7). Unlike ―[a] classic work of literature [that] is inexpensive, infinitely reusable, and, worst of all, unimprovable‖ (7), artifacts of popular culture are products whose value is ephemeral unless they comply with the laws of marketing. King seems to have always taken these marketing conditions into consideration.

For these reasons, his craft has not remained static but is constantly evolving, and his literary works are reusable or even recyclable due to their remediation potential. Being always informed about the latest trends, he actually applies marketing formulas to his fiction writing, managing to popularize it and keep it alive. More importantly, though, as the analysis will show, his critical stance towards popular writing trends (expressed through his characters‘ voice and ordeals) aims not only to promote it but also to comment on its practices and strive for its improvement.

During his long career in writing, King has produced an astonishing array of different types of works, ranging from novels, novellas, serial publications, short story collections, illustrated novels, children‘s books, and cartoons, to name but a few, which have won the publishers‘ and people‘s approval. He has a rich textual tapestry to display, from fictional works and non-fictional essays, such as (2006), to half- autobiographical and half-how-to books, such as his bestselling work On Writing: A

Memoir of the Craft (2000), to collections of short stories, appearing in different editions often preceded by new forewords and always offering something new to his readers. The Feleki 210 filmic and TV or web adaptations of many of his novels should be taken into consideration as well. For instance, his successful novel Bag of Bones (1998), which has been adapted for the TV for two successive years, can also be enjoyed on Web TV. He has also attempted to re-issue older books with great success; his official website constitutes the online space where all activities around his work and name are hosted. All these marketing ploys cater to

King‘s need to constantly keep active and prolific if he is to satisfy a demanding consuming public. It is interesting that he humorously and honestly comments on the misconception that the writer is in control of his writing: ―Wrapped within it, like the chewy stuff in the center of a Tootsie Pop, is the assumption that the writer controls the material instead of the other way around‖ (On Writing 155). King cites his first agent, McCauley, who claims that ―[t]he book is the boss‖ (155). Being part of a creative network, King─like any writer─has to adjust his writing techniques and themes according to the demands of the book industry.

When it comes to cross-/trans-media endeavors, the rules are set also by the entertainment industry. The authors‘ role is to masterly plan their way between art and consumption. Lunenfield cleverly asserts that ―[a]rtists who master the means of media production─computer graphics, animation, film and video editing, projection equipment, sound technologies, interaction design and so on─without falling into the wormhole of contemporary celebrity culture‘s banal self-referentiality have been able to capture the excitement of the electronic, weaving their work all the while into larger cultural and aesthetic contexts‖ (―Space Invaders‖ 72). His idea of contemporary artists as tightrope dancers draws attention to the creative and re-generative potential of digitality and away from the risks of barren self-referentiality and re-production. To describe King‘s course of action across different media, this study relies on Lunenfield‘s observations. Feleki 211

Admittedly, due to his great public appeal, King has been one of the first popular fiction writers to issue an e-book and boost the new e-market at a time when the print- bound book was going through a crisis. As Doreen Carvajal states in New York Times,

King‘s original e-book, Riding the Bullet (2000), which was later printed in the story collection, titled Everything’s Eventual (2002), was deployed by web retailers to boost the sales of the electronic software to electronic readers, and was distributed for free for two weeks (―Long Line Online for Stephen King E-Novella‖). At that time, the electronic bookseller Fatbrain.com had already started commissioning writers to produce short essays for the promotion of the new medium. Understandably, such practices raised concerns in the publishing industry, which was alarmed by the great appeal of the electronic medium and by the fact that the decline in the demand of the printed matter had already started taking effect. Another cause for concern in the publishing industry, following this convergence of fiction writing with the electronic medium, was the difficulty in controlling copyright laws.

Jack Romanos, the president of Simon & Schuster, is quoted in the same article describing the company‘s strategies: ―We‘re more than willing to work with any distributor who can satisfy the technical and security requirements to protect our copyrights. But when a distributor decides to take on the additional role of a publisher, then we will definitely view them as a competitor.‖ It becomes evident that the convergence of different writing platforms not only leads to the development of new reading products, but also brings about a shift in the control of the new market being established, which forces writers to adjust to the new roles being formed. Jenkins could not have explained it better: ―Convergence is more than a corporate branding opportunity; it represents a reconfiguration of media power and a reshaping of media aesthetics and economics‖ (―Cultural Logic‖ 35). Therefore, the urgent issue in the power politics of the new media culture is the redirection of popular Feleki 212 culture studies to address the multiple problems stemming from the new roles of the participants, who have had to adjust to the new conditions set by an ever-changing market.

In ―Practicing the (Almost) Lost Art‖ (2002), King sees the commercial aspect in fiction writing as not necessarily negative: ―what‘s lost cannot be easily retrieved, [ . . . ] once things go past a certain point, extinction is probably inevitable, but [ . . . ] a fresh perspective on one aspect of creative writing─the commercial aspect─can sometimes refresh the whole‖ (xvi). Indeed, his course of actions justifies the regenerative power of commercialism over the act of writing more than his words. His promotional techniques have adjusted to the new media age in multiple ways. Many of his articles have appeared on the Internet through his regular contributions to EW.com in his column ―The Pop of King‖ or on other popular websites and e-magazines. A popular mass media forum is the Wired

Magazine, which often releases the latest news and commentaries on King‘s experimental narrative projects.30

What is more, being a paragon of personal marketing, King exploits multiple techniques for his own self-promotion. He has given self-interviews on his site and has featured as a selection in book clubs hosted online by the publishing company Barnes and

Noble. He constantly works on his image through promotion tours and interviews on TV channels that are also available on YouTube. All these tactics are in accord with the laws of a very demanding book market which has recently been taken over by the entertainment industry. Especially interesting is King‘s effort to retain a close relationship with his active readers, acknowledging the role they have played in securing his position in today‘s market

30 In an interview about his time-travel technique, employed in the recent printed novel 11/22/63 (2011), King finds the chance to criticize the ephemeral state of the world of information and the computer medium, although he continues to manipulate it. He admits that ―[t]he idea of the reset was one of the more interesting things about the book to me. You can get the idea from computers, where you can delete all this material and start over again and it never even leaves a mark. You just highlight everything, bop Delete, and it‘s gone‖ (―Stephen King‘s Rules for Time Travel‖). As it seems, it is the medium itself which allows King to reposition himself in literary practices, and he does not miss the chance to take a critical stance towards socio-cultural, technological, and political conditions. Feleki 213 place. He claims that ―[b]eing a book club selection is a wonderful thing‖ (―On Becoming a

Brand Name‖ 33). He has always tried to establish tight bonds with his readers─especially teenagers, housewives or anyone willing to be exposed to his work─by revitalizing his literary practices through his embrace of the new media. He has also helped make the genre of horror ―a best-selling commodity in the supermarkets of popular culture─like T.V.

Dinners, ‗Natural‘ cereals, and diet Pepsis; or rather perhaps more like mood elevators, anti-depressants and what we call these days ‗recreational' drugs‖ (54), to borrow Leslie

Fiedler‘s words in ―Fantasy as Commodity and Myth‖ (1986). Last but not least, King‘s literary cross-overs serve to enhance the appeal of his works. Many of King‘s earlier works have been influenced by children‘s literature and fairy tales, such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by Lyman Frank Baum, Cinderella (1922) or Tolkein‘s epic The Lord of the

Rings (1954). The Dark Tower series, which tell Roland‘s epic tale, have been inspired by

Robert Browning‘s poem ―Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,‖ first published in

1855. In Lisey’s Story, the land of Booya Moon brings to mind beautiful fantasy lands that turn into nightmarish places inhabited by the most horrifying creatures, and reminds one of the origins of literature in myths and fairy tales, revitalized now through their ―repurposing‖ via new media technologies.

Although ―Riding the Bullet‖ marks a turning point in his earlier career, more than a decade later King manages to take his readers by surprise once again. When the e-market enjoyed an unprecedented increase in popularity, he accepted commission to produce his short e-story Ur, created only for the Kindle users and with the goal to promote Amazon‘s e-reader. Using the Kindle both as a medium of expression and distribution and also as an integral part of the story itself, King manages to satisfy the needs of an insatiable emerging market. Two decades earlier, Ashley had already emphasized the changes in the creative writing processes, starting to take place in the 1980s. As he states, ―[n]o longer does the Feleki 214 writer type away at an original idea which becomes a novel submitted to the publisher; rather, the publisher, or agent, goes to the writer with the idea for the novel‖ (8). It seems that in the case of Ur, Ashley‘s point holds true if we consider the involvement of the new media in the dissemination of a literary work, the industry‘s say not only in the idea behind the story but also in the choice of the medium used for its production and promotion.

Storytelling on demand is subjected to the forces of the market regulating the consumption of literature, and in turn, marketing needs dictate writing practices and medium choices.

The Kindle works as the perfect metaphor for this new cultural playground that has been established, where innovative writing and marketing policies are combined. The use of the Kindle as a medium of literary expression and for the circulation of fiction facilitates the cross-fertilization between different sources of information, literary traditions, and genres.

When looking closely to this electronic story, we can trace influences from traditional literary genres, such as horror, film noire, and detective fiction, and detect the creation of new modes and styles of writing. Having in mind the multiple uses of the Kindle reader,

King mixes real and imaginary political events, such as Barack Obama‘s and Hilary

Clinton‘s inauguration as the 44th President of the U.S., drops references to the JFK‘s and

Martin Luther King‘s assassinations, and refers to incalculable environmental disasters. All these elements create a realistic and make-believe effect. King, simultaneously, experiments with various writing conventions. Journalistic references to tragic events popping up onto the screen─centered and in bold capital fonts, as shown below─bring up the issue of the convergence between narrative writing and journalism:

Don filled in the fields for NOVEMBER 19, 1962. The Kindle told him to enjoy

his selection, but he didn‘t. None of them did. The headlines were stark and huge:






(Kindle location, 1040-47)

The presence of numbers that contrast with the lettered messages attempt to reassure the readers about the accuracy of the journalistic pieces of information that appear on the

Kindle screen.

The abbreviated forms articulate the urgency of the events narrated in King‘s news stories. The Kindle, a device which has been created to provide also digital information by hosting the electronic versions of newspapers, enhances the power of such writing motifs.

The traditional news story, destined for the printed medium, ultimately, converges with literary writing on the e-reader. However, the constructed journalistic effects soon contrast with certain fictional practices when the pink Kindle acquires supernatural powers and predicts Ellen‘s and the girls‘ fatal accident after their tournament:





Although the writing still draws on the tradition of the journalistic genre with its emphasis on facts and numbers, King‘s futuristic references and the dystopian images create a link back to fiction writing. Words like ―killed,‖ ―horrific,‖ ―crash,‖ ―critical,‖ ―death toll,‖ and

―mourn‖ create the necessary suspense and dark atmosphere, while King‘s emphasis on death and disaster emanates a sense of nihilism communicated via the story and the Kindle.

The Kindle turns out to be like a drug that has taken over Wes, the e-story‘s protagonist. Feleki 216

Later on, Wes and his company are portrayed as hypnotized and hallucinating when experimenting with the new electronic device:

in the next four hours they skimmed enough stories from various Urs to make their

heads ache. Wesley felt as though his mind were aching. From the nearly identical

looks he saw on the faces of the other two─pale cheeks, avid eyes in bruised

sockets, crazed hair─he guessed he wasn‘t alone. Looking into one alternate reality

would have been challenging enough; here were over ten million, and although most

appeared to be similar, not one was exactly the same. (935-39)

The disturbing effects of using this new e-reader become more and more pronounced as the story unfolds: ―Although he hadn‘t slept for three hours at a stretch in days, he felt wide awake, energized‖ (852-53). The anxiety the characters feel when entering different online

Urs or the News Archive takes over their existence and transforms their reality, mixing it with the innumerable online realities proposed by the e-reader.

The strange creatures of the ―Paradox Police,‖ representing the subverted order and justice in a futuristic community, make their appearance towards the end of the story:

They both wore mustard-colored coats, the kind that are called dusters, and Wesley

understood, without knowing how he understood, that the coats were alive. He also

understood that the men wearing them were not men at all. Their faces kept

changing, and what lay just beneath the skin was reptilian. Or birdlike. Or both.

On their lapels, where lawmen in a Western movie would have worn badges, both

wore buttons bearing a red eye. Wesley thought these too were alive. Those eyes

were watching him. (1620-25)

The external description of the other-worldly creatures enhances the story‘s fantastic elements and the fluidity of the electronic medium matches the temporal and spatial shifts that King creates. Like the Kindle, Ur accommodates the free flow of information, images, Feleki 217 realities, and literary traditions, and captures the remediated nature of Western culture that results from the convergence of different technologies. King highlights the relationship between the printed and the digital work in corporate publishing indicates the side effects of the age of information and digital technology on America society and its cultural production.

The production and consumption practices the e-reader attempts to promote seem to be interconnected to the online spatial relations. Ur features the online reality as an actual place where electronic technology, artistic expression, and personal profit intersect, in the same way they do in objective reality of the actual world. Ur‘s fictional online environment is projected as a separate autonomous space where the commercialization of art thrives, and where the production and consumption rules follow faithfully the demands of the banking system. In Ur, downloads are really cheap because there is no paper or binding. E-shopping for books is more than a possibility in the story. The references to the towns‘ bookstore emanate a sense of abandonment and sorrow, reminiscent of the controversy between the digital and printed matter. King writes: the ―bookstore [which] specializ[ed] in used texts and last year‘s bestsellers offered at fifty per cent off [ . . . ] looked dusty and dispirited and was often empty‖ (186-87). In contrast, the online bookstore took Wes, who was considered

―Old School‖ (283), completely by surprise:

When he got home he turned on his desktop Dell (he owned no laptop and took

pride in the fact) and went to the Amazon website. He had expected the gadget to go

for four hundred dollars or so, maybe more if there was a Cadillac model, and was

surprised to find it was cheaper than that. Then he went to the Kindle Store (which

he had been so successfully ignoring) and discovered that the Henderson kid was

right: the books were ridiculously cheap, hardcover novels (what cover, ha-ha) Feleki 218

priced below most trade paperbacks. Considering what he spent on books, the

Kindle might pay for itself. (295-300)

Everything has a price in Ur realities. The Kindle device makes sure that each visitor has fast and cheap access to every read. For every download, Wes is charged on his online

Master Card:





$100/800 DOWNLOADS (872)

The presence of price digits contrasts with the letters once again, alluding to the commercialization of writing. Repeated references to the Amazon logo, as in ―Amazon Inc‖

(84), ―Amazon online‖ (278), ―Amazon website‖ (296), and ―Amazon box‖ (807) work as straightforward advertisements for the services and products Amazon offers.

Through the readers‘ exposure to Kindle‘s actual online advertisements in Ur, King manages to blur the distinction between fact and fiction. Though he does not avoid repetitions and barren self-referentiality, King reserves his right to exercise criticism against the industry that supports his artistic production. Wesley, the main character, represents the average fiction reader who, reluctant to succumb to digital technology and the feats it offers, is finally overwhelmed by the force of the new medium and the pressures of consumer culture. By placing readers in the position of Wesley, who consumes simulated

Kindle online advertisements, King cleverly questions newly-established attitudes towards media production and comments on the relationship binding together creative agency, commercial profit, and media control. Feleki 219

Thus the medium of enunciation which gives form to his creative work and helps voice his ideas is instrumental in King‘s work. The new writing surfaces available on digitized environments enable King not only to experiment but also to address issues of corporate control affecting new trends in writing and marketing policies. So far, this study has looked into King‘s exploration of both the aesthetic and the economic potential of various media; from different types of printed editions, to radio and TV coverage, to film productions, and web connections, in an effort to map an uncharted area and detect the new trends and sub-genres that characterize his digital pop. His diverse contribution to contemporary American culture can be appreciated as an ongoing process affecting and being affected by the literary tradition, new writing technologies, multiple market outlets, and electronically-hungry audiences.

From all the above, it becomes imperative that we look at contemporary popular fiction writing in diverse ways and appreciate its potential to entertain, persuade, and affect readers‘ choices on this new space where computer science intersects with cultural and literary practice. Seeing eye to eye with Jenkins that ―the new intertextual commodity‖ does not have only ―economic implications‖ for the cultural production but also ―aesthetic implications‖ (―The Cultural‖ 39), I have tried to showcase through the example of King‘s work a number of aesthetic implications that accompany the latest marketing policies of the book and entertainment industries. King‘s new expressive forms strive to secure their own distinct ―space‖ and their own distinct writing patterns and attract the appreciation and acceptance of new types of audience. King has shifted the focus of his writing and marketing techniques and has moved from old to new writing technologies through which he manages to revitalize his craft and offer novel perspectives on writing and reading processes. The section that follows will investigate the possible freedoms offered and the Feleki 220 constraints imposed by the digital medium, which seem to further influence authorial and audience practices.

5.3 New Relations Arising – A New Consumer Consciousness

Before drawing any final conclusions about the changing role of the author, this section recapitulates the main arguments expressed in the beginning of this dissertation concerning the roles of those participating in the creative process. It provides an answer to the question about what types of readers and reading habits King hopes to generate through his writing, narrative, and commercial choices. Does he strive for free and active readers autonomously taking part in the act of giving meaning to his texts or does he trap them within the media and corporate tools he uses for the writing and promotion of his works?

Within the digital realm of literary writing, the roles of the participating agents in the process of creation have had to be re-adjusted and reconfigured. To begin with, no longer is the communication formula connecting the writers, the readers, and the texts capable of highlighting the complex processes that take place when it comes to the dissemination of an electronic literary work. The communication continuum traditionally depicted horizontally as ―writer-text-reader‖ (Fig. 25) can no longer prove inclusive for the study of such complicated practices made possible after the convergence of electronic and writing technologies.


Fig. 25. Communication pathway between author, text, and reader in a continuum.

Alternatively, a triangular depiction could mark the multi-directional forces connecting the three separate communicating participants. Since the authorial practices have opened up to Feleki 221 include the members of a creative team, this development has changed the role of readers who are now transformed into flexible manipulators of electronic mediation.

Due to the multiple communication channels enabled through the electronic medium and the participatory roles now enabled, readers come in direct contact with the text, and potentially access, share, create, and re-create it. The creators‘ position at the top of the triangle still insinuates a hierarchy and a primacy of their role in relation to the other two constituents (Fig. 26). By appreciating and taking part in the potentiality granted to them via the medium, readers respectively contribute to the reconfiguration of the role of the author, who, involved in a network of new authorial relationships, agrees to open up his craft to new professionals and recipients. The whole creative process can no longer be seen as a loner‘s experience but as an interaction between artists and their authorial teams, between the exchanged data and their audiences, informed by the socio-cultural and technological variables of the environment in which they practice their craft.


Text User

Fig. 26. Triangular depiction enabling multi-directional relations.

When we shift our attention from the printed text on a book surface to its electronic processing and dissemination through multiple electronic platforms, we can no longer regard the electronic medium simply as a digital ―surface,‖ depicting images and texts, Feleki 222 analogous to the static space provided by print technology. Instead, we should regard it as the ―vessel‖ where diverse ―communication pathways are established through which texts cycle in dynamic intermediation with one another‖ (Hayles, My Mother 105). For this exact reason, this investigation is not a mere study of printed texts converted into digital files.

Rather it is a study of the synergy between digital technology and literary art, the production of new cultural products (such as e-stories read on special e-readers) and of

King‘s electronic experiences and hypermedia applications running on his hypertextual website, without ignoring the repercussions on the relationships established there.

In order to unveil the intermediated nature of new literary processes, the new relationships that have arisen are represented in a circular depiction, bringing together both the human parameters─the writers and the readers involved─and the technological parameters─the digitized texts coming to life on particular media (Fig. 27). The common space inhabited by all these mediating agencies constitutes the new writing space that has emerged within participatory culture.

Writing Agents

Reading Media Agents


Fig. 27. Agents, media, and texts in dynamic interplay. Feleki 223

In the course of this investigation, the complexity of the issues has created the need for a new and more inclusive theoretical approach that will be able to take into account a) the theoretical load of different disciplines, such as literary, film, and computer studies, which deal with narrative and aesthetics, b) the technological specificities and modalities that determine the emergent writing practices in print and digital technology, c) the cultural parameters that define popular production and d) the human factors, comprising both the writers‘ and the readers‘ roles and experiences within particular socio-cultural conditions.

This new theoretical approach should stress the inevitable convergence of all these variables and not try to discriminate between them and point out the supremacy of one over the other.

In an effort to balance all these parameters, the graph below depicts the variables involved in dynamic relationships in the discourse about electronic textuality (Fig. 28).

Theoretical Parameter

Cultural Human Parameter Parameter

Technical Parameter

Fig. 28. Dynamic relationships arising on electronic textualities.

Feleki 224

Within such a discourse, the emerging new popular product is regarded as the result of the synergy between older and newer technologies which formulate and re-formulate textuality, re-inform old and new traditions.

Within this new writing space of contemporary consumer culture, where literary tradition can be re-invented, the new creative practices are the result of the synergy between the authorial team and the new media recipients (Fig. 29).

New Literary Product

Older & New Older & New Technologies Traditions

Consumer Culture Recipients constraints

Authorial Team

Fig. 29. Tradition, technology and participating agents in synergistic relationships.

In a participatory culture, where the media user can not only interact but also access, use, re-create, and distribute media content, the experiences generated are dynamic. Also, the nature of the relationships among participants alters drastically as this dialogue between the mediating agents and the texts is affected by the interchangeability between pictorial and narrative formations and the multiple pathways created in hypertextual organization. New Feleki 225 types of social bonds and relations are created within electronic environments since a cybernetic visitor can assume any number of selves when participating in the different activities offered online. Additionally, new communication possibilities are created for the users in their relation to the text and the authorial team.31

As investigated so far, King‘s official webpage has been a source of diverse participatory and immersive experiences. King has managed to keep his readers close to his works and maintain a dialogue between them and the speaking agents in his novels. His oscillation between different forms of language and register has created the immediacy preferred by the readers and has ensured the power and longevity of his spoken word. In digital mediation, the technology of hyperlinking has initiated new narrative and exploratory paths by means of words linked to diverse content that lead to re-invented meanings. Simultaneously, pictorial representations, audio stimuli, and kinesthetic possibilities have enhanced the reading experience by engaging the readers‘ senses. As I have explained in Part II of this dissertation, the actual movement of the users

―horizontally‖ on the electronic page of StephenKing.com allows many exploration possibilities, while their movement ―across‖ the linked lexias allows them to delve deeper into the writer‘s fictional worlds. Hence, both an exploratory as well as an ontological quest32 is initiated that works as a metaphor for traditional readers of print-bound narratives.

The workings of the mind while in this search for meaning can now be visualized, and spatially experienced through the actual movement of the computer cursor onto the underlined lexias featuring on the screen.

31 The media series, First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game (2004), Second Person: Role Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (2007), and Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives (2009), constitute valuable sources that showcase the exceptional effort of the editors and the writing contributors to stitch together essays from different perspectives on issues such as storytelling, gaming, and interactivity on electronic and cross-media environments evolving in the early twenty-first century. 32 For Marie-Laure Ryan‘s typology of user participation in digital environments, see her article ―Will New Media Produce New Narratives?‖ (339-40). Feleki 226

By focusing on the connection between digital literary products and popular culture

(and always through King‘s example), I intend to examine the formation of a new cultural consciousness, as the outcome of the new relationships that can be established nowadays.

Understanding the workings of this new consciousness allows the critic to decipher the latest developments in digital literary production and the commercial choices of King as part of the entertainment industry. As a consequence of the ever-increasing wiring of the world, King‘s efforts to maintain his popularity and to project his authorial personae are centered on the electronic medium. When he appears on TV shows or sees his books featuring as selections in book clubs, it becomes evident that there is still a part of the public that needs to be reached through more traditional forms of communication and information. However, the increasing power of the uninterrupted and fast-moving flow of up-to-date information reaching consumers online has rendered the electronic promotion of this star author his first priority. Additionally, the blurring of the boundaries between creators and consumers, which results from this fluidity triggered by the new media technologies, enhances the potentials for an advanced interactivity, working for the benefit of all participants in the communication process. Within such new networks of production and communication, a reinvented cultural consciousness is being formed, one that is open to new consumer products.

In the article, ―The Medium is the Memory‖ (2000), Florian Brody argues that ―the home page is [ . . . ] the ultimate form of personal publishing─a memory machine in and of itself‖ (138). The writer who inscribes alphanumeric codes, images, sounds, diagrams or words on the electronic page resembles the traditional writer who inscribes text on paper.

This similarity between the traditional and the new role of writers (when working on their manuscripts) creates the illusion of permanence and secures the artists‘ and the artworks‘ longevity in the new fast-flowing electronically-mediated world. In the same manner, the Feleki 227 strong impressions that electronic images, maps, sounds, and videos create on the electronic page enhance the sense of stability of the digital realm, and create the illusion of indelible works similar to those that ink has traditionally created on paper. Colorful, different-sized fonts, 2D and 3D graphics, sounds, and music themes compose novel experiences for the web visitors who are drawn by the diversity of the literary, visual, and kinesthetic pleasures the multi-/hyper-media applications offer. On the other hand, being overwhelmed by such plethora of visual and audio stimuli, the readers‘ attention is challenged by all the available information. Additionally, the ever-changing information on the internet and the constant development of new products (to satisfy the needs of a public that has long been taught to always ask for more) influence the readers‘ expectations, and consequently, their reading strategies and habits. Despite the great differences between print and digital technologies and traditions, the constructive blending of both realms has enabled novel ways through which to perceive literary practices and readjust the production of art. My earlier analysis of

King‘s official website, of the electronic experience Discordia as well as of the journalistic style in the writing of Ur, has provided adequate proof that the digital keeps drawing from the literary print tradition. This effort to remediate older technologies of writing and break down the artificial boundaries, formerly established by the representatives of different traditions and disciplines, aims at constructing a particular consumer attitude so that readers/users will be ready to accept whatever comes forth in the literary market.

As regards the position meant for readers in the communication process, the philosopher Pierre Lévy, in Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in

Cyberspace (1997), foresees the creation of ―circuits‖ made up of ―[o]nce deterritorialized, people, things, technology, capital, signs and skills [ . . . ] endlessly circulating within commodity channels‖ (177) in cyberspace, which now stands out as the ―cultural attractor‖

(121). The book gives a utopian philosophical account of the ways information societies in Feleki 228 cyberspace are affecting the real society and culture; its prophetic dimension can be read as a realistic sociopolitical assessment of how the entanglement of information with technology and capital affects human relations. Lévy accurately sketches the new relationships between the originators of artworks and the recipients: ―The distinction between authors and readers, producers and spectators, creators and interpreters will blend to form a reading-writing continuum, which will extend from machine network designers to the ultimate recipient, each helping to sustain the activity of the others‖ (121). The unimpeded haul of information within this continuum in the digital media results in a spiral movement of ideas and products circulated among all the participants (as shown in Fig. 29).

By strengthening the bonds between the members of this emergent online community and by exposing users to all possible multi-sensory experiences offered via multi-/hyper-media, the industry gradually and more easily than ever before forms a communal consciousness that is driven by consumer instincts.

Jenkins claims that to grasp the intricate relationships established between consumer behavior and marketing techniques, one should turn to the ―affective economics‖ at work, meaning ―a new configuration of marketing theory, still somewhat on the fringes but gaining ground within the media industry, which seeks to understand the emotional underpinnings of consumer decision-making as a driving force behind viewing and purchasing decision‖ (Convergence 61-62).33 As his theory of the ―affective economics‖ suggests, in order for the desires and tastes of these communities to be best traced specialized studies need to be carried out. This claim agrees with Hardy Green‘s argument regarding the need of the book and entertainment industry to turn to psychology tests for the most effective promotion of literary products. Jenkins explains that consumer tastes are studied and redirected for the accumulation of popularity and profit, and that the process of

33Another technique that appears to be strengthening the bonds of online members is the fostering of ―spoiling‖ communities. As Henry Jenkins suggests, this tendency ―is part of a corporate strategy to ensure viewer engagement with brands and franchises‖ (Convergence 56). Feleki 229 branding which aims at ―shaping consumption patterns‖ (63) is taken to its limits when moving across different media. For instance, the contribution of Coca-Cola president Steven

J. Heyer reveals the importance of the type of contact the consumer has with the product.

As Jenkins comments, Heyer‘s ―speech evokes the logic of brand extension, the idea that successful brands are built by exploiting multiple contacts between the brand and the consumer [ . . . ] [as] [t]he experience should not be contained within a single media platform, but should extend across as many media as possible‖ (69) in order to create more vivid impressions in the heart and mind of the consumer. In simple words, bombarding the consumers with extra products and enabling multiple and multiform contact with them, sustains the longevity of the artifact and enhances the popularity of the creator(s).

When advising potential writers, King insists that ―the reader must always be your main concern; without Constant Reader, you are just a voice quacking in the void‖ (On

Writing 117). The popular writer who unfolds his talents within the industry of culture must always take into consideration the fact that the structuring of the cultural product and readership tastes are inextricably intertwined. King‘s multiple ways of personally contacting his readers and keeping them involved in his creative projects hosted in his website as well as his interviews and contributions to Wired and New York Times, all address both the fans‘ interests and their emotions; they help him sustain the stable profile of a successful and alert writer. By hosting diverse activities that reinforce the fans‘ creative engagement in his official website, he attests to the fan community‘s right to interact with the commercial product and produce their own narratives. The speed and ease with which fans can access information available online enhance the writer‘s communication span. King‘s electronic work and multi-media presence do not necessarily put the writer‘s artistic value to test. By contrast, having asserted King‘s artistic genius, I see his interaction with other cultural and technological variables as evidence that his art work is always ready to be re-invented and Feleki 230 to converge with new emerging multi-media applications. What is more, appealing to the emotions of the fan communities, King manages to create a particular consciousness (based on shared interests and common goals) that assures the consumption of his work.

Instances of the creation of ―spoiling communities‖ and the application of ―affective economics‖ are also evident on StephenKing.com. When accessing The Dark Tower site and before entering Discordia, visitors are warned about the presence of spoilers which presuppose prior knowledge of The Dark Tower story on the part of the visitors. On the other hand, new visitors to the site and to King‘s worlds are invited to begin with the multiple experiences created through the printed books and then move to the re-invented format available as an online computer experience in the digital environment. Before commencing the experience, the game designers announce the existence of numerous spoilers, intended for The Dark Tower fans, as well as for new fans wishing to experience

Discordia‘s immersive artwork, sound, and music (―Discordia: The Experience‖).

Knowledge gaps and common aims bond the visitors and the creators together. Of particular interest is the opportunity provided to the users to contribute to the project via hyperlinks by suggesting more connections among novels and short stories. As was suggested in Part II, such links work as ―doors,‖ letting King‘s fans in and out of his fictional ―creative multiverse.‖ Being able to take part in the different projects available on King‘s website and to affect them with their decisions, readers develop a sense of close affinity with the creators and the other fans. The element of the unknown sustained within ―spoiling‖ communities and the sense of sharing a common cause motivate visitors to carry on investigating the writer‘s electronic space, which extends to other forms of artistic and commercial production. Thus the remediation and re-vitalization of King‘s works for different enunciative mediums have also enabled new forms of communication among the participants. This is a secure way for the writer to build ―loyal communities‖ of fans, who Feleki 231 will be actively engaged with ongoing projects in all media. This active engagement of the audience encourages the consumption of the products and enhances participation and interactivity with King‘s online world. Fans enjoy the illusion that they can bring certain changes to it.

At the same time, one can discern the organized efforts of the market to draw on the comments that fans themselves exchange about particular products and manipulate the power of gossip in a community sharing common interests. For this reason, numerous reading paths have been established on StephenKing.com through which the whole authorial team can reach out to King‘s community and get feedback on the reception of his works.

These different routes create the illusion of infinite narrative possibilities and unhindered communication between agents and recipients, raising the latter‘s expectations. King‘s homepage sets up a space for a meta-language concerning the writer‘s artistic activities through which discourses regarding print, electronic or audiovisual texts can flourish. For instance, discussions, fueled for months on the site concerning the release of the first chapter of Discordia, and presently of the second chapter, justify theories about the power of fan communities. As was earlier suggested, the creation of The Dark Tower Official

Website, located on StephenKing.com, ―tracks ‗official‘ news and developments regarding

The Dark Tower film and TV projects from Imagine Entertainment and NBC Universal‖

(―The Dark Tower Film and TV News Tracker‖). Such communicative tricks are marketing ploys to keep viewers interested in all possible transmedia extensions of The Dark Tower story and in King‘s overall writing activity.

As stated earlier, the StephenKing.com Message Board (SKMB) is the separate space on the site that enables immediate participation and interaction between the administrators/authorial team and its members, in addition to providing the latter with valuable feedback on their course in the King-authored videogames and fictions. Also, the Feleki 232 visitors are given the opportunity to follow various thematic threads or initiate their own in order to inform or get informed about King‘s creative activities, among other issues. In particular, they can discuss the writer‘s fiction or non-fiction books, films, characters, and any other projects appearing in or outside the website. The forum constitutes both a source of information and the right space for active participation and interactive experimentation with issues related to the writer and his real or fictional worlds. The gossip spread is in its fullest force when online; facilitated by the seeming democracy of the medium, fan gossip is not met with disregard but serves as a contribution to King‘s popularity and ―builds common ground between participants‖ (Convergence 84). The sharing of the new media content with other members of the community reinforces the bonds between fans and re- produces a meta-language for the product in question. This meta-language and self- referentiality strengthen the artist‘s microcosm, in which his fans can easily become part and make their own contributions. More importantly, the creators of StephenKing.com communicate with all members of the electronic society on equal terms. The personal contributions and the confessional tone, adopted by the bloggers when sharing their ideas and feelings, soothe the fans, who find comfort within the enclave of the community. While everyone is allowed to offer contributions online, there are times when select members of the community are asked to sample and respond to King‘s new projects and products as a way to get more accurate feedback.

This unhindered sharing of information from both directions works towards the creation of a communal consciousness that secures the writer‘s fame and promotes consumption. The members of the forum, fans, and bloggers can re-direct King‘s website content in novel and personalized ways. Through the latest posts and the hottest threads, the community residing within King‘s official web site is always aptly and quickly informed; this keeps it interested in and devoted to the common cause of sharing and re-circulating Feleki 233 knowledge about King himself. For Jenkins, ―[t]he new information space invokes multiple and unstable forms of recontextualization. The value of any bit of information increases through social interaction‖ (Fans 140). Indeed, it is through the different projects provided on web sites that meaningful recreation of the existing cultural texts is effected. Immediate information channeled through the internet allows more flexible relations with the artist‘s media contributions. The flexibility of electronic communication on SKMB gives immediate pleasure and a sense of attainment and belonging to the fans. Instant responses to one another and to King‘s creative expressions enliven the experience as well.

The ―Stephen‘s Empire‖ project, again accessible at StephenKing.com, also encourages fan creativity and participation. Fans are asked to submit and caption the photos that are inspired by King‘s fictional worlds. In his letter addressing the audience, King confesses: ―After 36 years (give or take) of writing stories, I find myself hungry─not for food, but for power. I‘ve decided to build a virtual empire, but I need your help. Please pitch in and help me feed my insatiable appetite for grandiosity‖ (―Stephen‘s Empire‖).

This authorial omnipotence for which King hungers does not burn bridges with the fans. On the contrary, the writer is seen opening up to the public through the immediacy of the medium.34 Asking the visitors of the website to submit their artistic contributions is another way of strengthening the bonds among the members of his online community. Apart from their common interests, they share common goals related to the worlds which King has been building for decades. From the position of the co-creators, the fans can now develop a genuine interest in the projects and become the most trustworthy respondents that the authorial team needs in order to know that their efforts are met with acceptance.

34 Such a project brings to mind former practices related to Star Wars, forwarded by director George Lucas on his website. Lucas has long organized competitions of cinematic material made by fans and personally selected the winner. For more information, see Elana Shefrin‘s online article ―Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Participatory Fandom: Mapping New Congruencies between the Internet and Media Entertainment Culture.‖ Feleki 234

For Newman, ―the Internet, and particularly the web, have considerably extended the communicative and discursive potential of fans and the various inter-connected websites, discussion groups and other forums have become the nexus for fan activity‖

(Videogames 156). The digital environment is the perfect space for the interactivity and the participation that characterize fan culture and fan practices. Mailing lists, themed discussions, diverse threads, and posts open up multiple communication channels between readers/fans and the authorial team as well as among fans that construct a new fandom experience. The emergence of hypertextual writing technologies and organizational structures, which have marked the end of closure in narrative, has led to new openings for readers, who can now hold onto narrative threads that give a different version to stories.

Alex Bruns characterizes blogging as ―produsage,‖ in other words, the complicated practice of using, sharing and re-appropriating information and media content when online: ―All bloggers are both potential users (in the narrow sense of information recipient) as well as potential producers of content, and the blogsphere overall is an environment for the massively distributed, collaborative produsage of information and knowledge‖ (―Produsage in Context‖ 6). No more is the production of meanings by the readers a mental process but it has become an actual process taking shape the moment fans are typing on the screen.

The answer to the growing need for power to be appropriated by the fans is fan art and fan fiction. Jenkins clarifies the position of fandom within participatory culture. As he states, ―fandom refers to the social structures and cultural practices created by the most passionately engaged consumers of mass media properties; participatory culture refers more broadly to any kind of cultural production which starts at the grassroots level and which is open to broad participation‖ (―Fandom, Participatory Culture, and Web 2.0 Tools - A

Syllabus‖). It entails the ―ability to transform personal reaction into social interaction, spectatorial culture into participatory culture‖ (Fans, Bloggers, Gamers 41). As he explains, Feleki 235 fans‘ ―works appropriate raw materials from the commercial culture but use them as the basis for the creation of a contemporary folk culture. Fandom generates its own genres and develops alternative institutions of production, distribution, exhibition, and consumption‖

(Textual Poachers 279). Once the product is given to the fan community for consumption, the fan community challenges ―the media industry‘s claims to hold copyrights on popular narratives‖ (279). It is at this point when consumers can actually turn from an implied idea in the narrative text to autonomous readers and active agents who can share their contributions with the whole fan community and the authorial team. Jenkins envisions the gradual empowerment of cultural consumers through the new economic structures enabled by the culture industry, since ―contemporary consumers may gain power through the assertion of new kinds of economic and legal relations and not simply through making meanings‖ (―The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence‖ 35). Nonetheless, this power is never uncontrolled by media conglomerates who want audiences who they can manipulate.

Therefore, the extent of freedom granted to the fans and consumers of cultural products is not something that should be taken at face value but needs further investigation.

In electronic literature, the participatory nature of the media and the interactions taking place before and after the digital product‘s release are linked to the democracy and freedom allowed by the market, which, nevertheless, makes sure that the entertainment industry secures its profits. Jenkins and David Thorburn, in their edited volume Democracy and New Media (2003), propose an interesting approach to the issue of freedom and democracy on the Web. In this volume, they bring together essays that discuss the historical, political, and economic complexities of the issue. In their introduction, they refer to both enthusiastic and pessimistic accounts on the democratic potential of new media and comment on what sets back the freedom coming from the printing press. Enthusiasts view cyberspace as ―the second coming of participatory media‖ and the web as ―a world with no Feleki 236 center, gatekeepers, no margins‖ (12). Yet, the vision of a de-centered organization with no governmental controls or commercial profits strikes one more as a utopian dream rather than an optimistic account of the medium‘s capabilities. Lawrence Lessing elucidates that cybernetic freedom is not ensured since a number of laws and regulations─―constraints‖ as he names them─operate and regulate communication and interaction in cyberspatial environments (―The Laws of Cyberspace‖ 3-4). As in real space, so in digital mediation freedom is subject to a number of rules and regulations that constrain behavior, such as market laws and medium-specific limitations. Despite the element of playfulness and the illusion of transformative power granted to the hands and keyboards of the web users, the electronic experiences remain highly hierarchical and restrictive; their creators must take into consideration the needs of an expanding market, while lure the consuming public with new cultural forms.

All in all, electronic technology and marketable popular production foster diverse types of agency and intentionally leave paths open in response to the growing need of fans for participation and control. After all, digital mediation enhances such communicative possibilities. Although the electronic medium secures a space for the readers to act upon the new text, one inevitably returns to the controversial issue of freedom as the hierarchy between the authorial team and the participants is sustained. Complete freedom is an illusion, a futile dream, for the rules, boundaries, and limitations have already been set by the authorial team. Therefore, despite the immediacy and the diversity in the communication and participation pathways, a market-driven version of democracy seems to be in effect, since the industry is primarily interested in exploiting novel means and media that will generate not only diverse experiences but also profit. What still remains to be investigated are the new roles writers are expected to play in a market-oriented world and the authorial practices this world imposes on them. Feleki 237

Chapter Six

Popular Authorship Reconfigured

This ever-evolving and industry-driven media culture has opened the way for diverse types of collaborative authorship. In his seminal work, Convergence Culture (2006),

Henry Jenkins refers to transmedia stories as the latest end products promoted by transmedia franchises that have brought about great changes in the relations among all participants in the communicative process, and have forced popular writers to adjust to the latest technological and commercial conditions as well as to redefine their role in the production chain. Within such a context, authors face the gradual loss of control over their artwork, while they remain the initiators of a branded idea. At the same time, a whole new network of professionals intervenes between writers and the selected media and influences the enunciation, marketing, and distribution of the new popular products.

Chapter Six continues the investigation of the contemporary socio-cultural and technological conditions affecting both authorial theories and practices, through Stephen

King‘s latest embrace of the opportunities offered by the electronic medium. It traces the trajectory of the concept of the author, as King moves away from the print medium and experiments with digital environments. I revisit his website StephenKing.com as the space for innovative transmedia storytelling, fostering new forms of communication between the author and the recipients. By studying King‘s different projects available online, I will showcase the shifts in authorial authority and propose as more useful the technologically- informed concept of ―collaborative authorship‖ that takes into consideration contemporary cultural and economic variables.

Feleki 238

6.1 Repositioning the Author: Stephen King’s Authorial Persona in

New Media Culture

Nowadays any claims of authority over intellectual property prove to be very weak.

Moreover, issues of authorship, origin, and control of the literary work need to be re- examined. Theories about authorial processes have always depended on the socio-cultural and technological conditions of each period under scrutiny and on the factors affecting the development of the writing process. An overview of the origins of Western oral-formulaic traditions, of the creation of highly-malleable manuscripts, and of the more permanent inscriptions of alphanumeric imprints on paper after Johannes Gutenberg‘s invention of the printing press indicates that the author‘s place in literary production has always been intertwined with developments in the technologies of writing. The more advanced printing and distribution practices in the twentieth century have been replaced by digital technologies, which entail the involvement of media artists, computer developers, and other professionals. As a result, different types of collaborative authorship have emerged and created the need for a redefinition of the author‘s role in the writing process, which often involves the distancing of the writer from the product of creation.

According to Manovich, after the revolutionary sway caused by the advent of photography in the nineteenth century and the subsequent emergence of modern media, such as film and television, in the early twentieth century, the world was in for ―a new media revolution─the shift of all culture to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution, and communication‖ (Language 19). The shifts from alphanumeric and analogue systems to digital ones and the subsequent digitization of every bit of information have shaped a new media culture where multiple convergences are enabled. From the very start of this investigation, I have drawn upon Jenkins‘ theory of ―convergence culture‖ and Feleki 239 used his key term to describe the complex interrelations between participating agents and texts at work in this emergent new media culture. Within this fast-evolving media consciousness, the concepts of authorship and collaboration are continually being informed with new meaning.

The controversy regarding the writer‘s authority over the written text and the different types of authorship─revived recently due to the multimodal character of the electronic medium─as well as the new relationships and hierarchies formed among engaging participants, date back to the Renaissance. Stephen B. Dobranski‘s article, published in the volume Authority Matters: Rethinking the Theory and Practice of

Authorship (2008), investigates authorship and authority issues in the sixteenth and seventeenth century.35 Dobranski draws attention to the importance of intertextuality for a written tradition that had depended upon orality36 and the practice of patronage as a market system attributing authority and market value to the figure of the author.

Jack Stillinger, in his engaging investigation, titled Multiple Authorship and the

Myth of Solitary Genius (1991), makes it clear that ―multiple authorship─the collaborative authorship of writings that we routinely consider the work of a single author─is quite common, and that instances [ . . . ] can be found virtually anywhere we care to look in

English and American literature of the last two centuries‖ (22). M. Thomas Inge agrees with this assertion in his article, ―Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship‖ (2001):

It is commonplace now to understand that all texts produced by authors are not the

products of individual creators. Rather they are the result of discourses that take

place among the writer, the political and social environments in which the writing

occurs, the aesthetic and economic pressures that encourage the process, the

35 According to John in Areopagitica, the writer should ―be inform‘d in what he writes, as well as any that writ (sic) before him,‖ as he ―searches, meditats (sic), is industrious, and likely consults and conferrs (sic) with his judicious friends‖ (qtd. in Dobranski 33). 36 For Ben Johnson, the author is not the creator of something new and original but the person who can draw correlations with earlier works and put them to his own personal use (Dobranski 34). Feleki 240

psychological and emotional state of the writer, and the reader who is expected to

receive or consume the end product when it reaches print. (623)

He points out the wide array of people intervening before the actual end product reaches the reader, from the writer‘s agent to the publisher, the editor, the primary reader, the proofreaders, and the advertising and the marketing managers, to reviewers and bookshop owners. Manovich also contends that,

collaborative authorship is not unique to new media: think of medieval cathedrals,

traditional painting studios which consisted from a master and assistants, music

orchestras, or contemporary film productions which, like medieval cathedrals,

involve thousands of people collaborating over a substantial period of time. In fact,

in (sic) we think about this historically, we will see collaborative authorship

represents a norm rather than exception. In contrast, [the] romantic model of a

solitary single author occupies a very small place in the history of human culture.

(―Models of Authorship‖ 1)

The inability to see the writer as a professional has delayed the shift away from a romantic perception of writing and of the creator/author. According to James West, a great problem that has set back the maturation of concepts regarding the role of the writer is the fact that the writer has traditionally lacked professional status in British and American society, despite having to produce a sellable commodity in order to survive within the economic market. Although in 1790 a copyright law officially gave to literary writing the status of a marketable and profitable property in the U.S., the writer continued to be regarded more as a craftsman than a professional, often ―walking the line between art and commerce with great skill and success‖ (21). Since the early modern patronage system, the idea of the author as the writing and organizing mediator has shifted from the author as a skillful craftsman to the author as a successful businessman, trying to survive in the profit-driven Feleki 241 book and entertainment industries. King‘s written production and marketing ploys are a striking example of this commercial shift.

Towards the end of the twentieth century, and in the light of the second media age, concepts regarding authority, authorship and collaboration had to be legally redefined due to the demands of the book and entertainment industries to readjust the legislation and secure their rights in the new digital market. Since this electronic boom, the convergence of literary practices with ICTs has led to the incorporation of images, sounds, videos, and hyperlinks in the texts, springing new forms of textuality and literary products. The merging of print technology with the hypertext, the creation of digital fiction on demand for specific electronic readers as well as the new forms of transmedia storytelling through different digital media are only a few examples of reinvented fiction writing that this dissertation has touched upon. The analysis of King‘s experimentation with diverse writing formats and digital media leads to the conclusion that transmedia storytelling is the new craft for the aspiring popular culture writers.

Although this competition for control increases friction, it also gives rise to new writing textualities and styles, and to a new space wherein the author tries to secure a place.

According to Nicholas Diakopoulos et al., authorship─in a ―remix society,‖ where the manipulation of many types of media, such as literary text, images, and video games is enabled─―entails the constrained selection or generation of media and the organization and layout of that media in a larger structure. But authorship is more than just selection and organization; it is a complex construct incorporating concepts of originality, authority, intertextuality, and attribution” (133, italics in original). Between the work and its creator, a whole new network of professionals intervenes for the enunciation, distribution, and marketing of the new end product. At the same time, the author is faced with a gradual loss of control over the artwork and as the initiator or the bearer of an idea for the fruition of Feleki 242 new end products. Yet, rather than perceive writers/creators in digital environments as weak and stripped of their power, Diakopoulos et al. regard the author as a ―Constraint Satisfier,‖ who has to reconcile ―production constraints‖─while making choices about the content and structure of the elements used within a particular medium─with ―environmental constraints‖ (133), such as design, social norms, legal, and economic facts. Such constraints reconfigure all participating agents and products as they are constantly re-invented due to the continuous development of the media through which digital information streams. Far from being alone in the creative process, popular authors who choose to work in electronic environments (as in the case of King) are asked to reconcile literary tradition and technological invention in strict economic structures. Ultimately, succumbing to technological and economic constraints results in the digital branding of their names and products.

The trajectory of the concept of the author is reflected in King‘s latest works that move gradually from the medium of print toward the electronic medium. An investigation of his latest publishing and marketing policies in contemporary socio-cultural conditions makes this trajectory visible. The changing role of the contemporary popular writer, working within the Western consumer society becomes apparent when examining the ways

King‘s well-known characters evolve and mature in the fictional worlds that he builds for them. As one of the richest American writers today, with an enormous body of printed fiction and a profound eagerness to experiment with other media (while testing their narrative potentials), King manages to confirm his professional status and his ability to adjust to commercial demands and technological advancements. Despite his professionalism and his acceptance of corporate promotional and marketing policies, King tends to support the rather romanticized concept of writing as craft and of the writer as craftsman, who manages to survive the pressures imposed on him by the market due to his true devotion to Feleki 243 writing. Oftentimes, King‘s self-reflexive stance towards his own writing habits in various interviews aims to reinforce his authorial identity by painting a rather conventional picture of an author. King comments on his writing choices: ―In writing popular, commercial fiction, there is nothing but danger. The commercial writer is easy to bribe, easy to subvert, and he knows it [ . . . ]. But if this is true, it also means that the commercial writer who can tell the truth has achieved a great deal more than any ‗serious‘ writer can hope for; he can tell the truth and still keep up with the mortgage payments‖ (―On Becoming a Brand Name‖

16). He insists that his bulky production of fiction and his involvement with different media is not strictly profit-driven. Rather ―it‘s about trying to see the act, art, and craft of writing in different ways, thereby refreshing the process and keeping the resulting artifacts─the stories, in other words─as bright as possible‖ (―Practicing the (Almost) Lost Art‖ xi).

Despite the accusations levelled at him that his writing policies are largely commercially- driven, the above statement explains King‘s change of course in his writing career, which started with the publication of Riding the Bullet on demand as a Scribner e-book in 2000.

Since then, the alterations in his writing formulas and his own redefinition as a writer through his contact with the electronic medium have been radical. As my exploration of his works shifting from print to digital textualities will suggest, King has gradually transformed himself from the writer and the creator of fictional worlds and heroes into the originating source of ideas for copyrighted material and, ultimately, into a brand name. He remains the source of inspiration for all the projects running, but at the same time opens the floor to other promising or already acknowledged creators and collaborators.

King has been experimenting with the idea of authorship through his writing all along. As Stephen P. Brown reveals in ―The Life and Death of Richard Bachman: Stephen

King‘s Doppelganger‖ (1986), King had tried pseudonimity long before. Wishing to resist production limitations imposed by publishers on his work, King invented the persona of Feleki 244

Richard Bachman in 1977 and used it to gain recognition for some of his works, such as

Rage (1977), (1979), (1981), (1982), and

Thinner (1984), which would have had little luck next to his other bestselling novels of the time, such as Carrie (1974), Salem’s Lot (1975), and The Shining (1976). Brown sees

King‘s alternative authorial persona as his alter ego, as ―simply the vehicle for King to move his earliest work out of the trunk‖ (132). This practice of assuming a pseudonym may be read as King‘s secure method of revealing another side of his writing talent to the public, while waiting to see the marketing results. What is more, his editor Kirby McCauley sees it as a maneuver to separate his supernatural horror novels from other fiction (132). Yet, for

King, who maintains a romantic (but controversial) outlook on his craft, this resort to a hidden persona has protected him from demanding publishers and markets. As he confesses,

―Bachman was were I went when I had to have relief‖ (―Why I was Bachman‖ ix). Despite

Bachman‘s early death of ―cancer of the pseudonym‖ in 1986 with the question, ―is it work that takes you to the top or is it all just lottery?‖ (xii) still unanswered, King‘s authorial persona has never ceased evolving and seeking answers.

The concept of authorship in a consumer society that poses constraints on the creative process as well as the writer‘s relationship with his readers are among the main concerns expressed in King‘s earlier and more recent fiction. The consuming appetite of the book industry and the public is so great that his fictive authors in printed novels are often depicted as unstable entities who desperately seek self-awareness and ultimate self- fulfillment through the writing process. King has always placed his characters in situations of immense stress and created the conditions for their evolution in the fictive universe.

Always open to critique, King‘s characters often receive both physical and psychological violence, exercised against them either by their supposed fans or their critics in the fictive environment. It is through his protagonists that King has attempted to explore the Feleki 245 vulnerability of authorial nature, the limitations of the writer‘s profession, and the fear of being consumed within a society subject to the standards set by conglomerates and the entertainment industry.37 Through the linguistic playfulness, the multiple personas, and the shifting voices and registers of the heroes in the novels, King tests the limitations of his profession, and takes the multi-vocality that the writing medium enables to new extremes via new media, as already discussed in Part I of the current project.

Apart from the analysis of Lisey’s Story and Duma Key also in Part I, which deals with issues such as authorial intention, freedom, and control, I provide a few more examples that showcase the way King tackles the idea of the author. A well-known instance that possibly comes to the readers‘ minds is Misery (1988), a work inspired by a real incident

King had with a deranged fan. It is a specimen of his earliest fiction, where King discusses the dangers lurking when a writer refuses to take heed of the tastes and demands of the consuming society. Paul Sheldon is the fictional popular writer who is maliciously abused and amputated by Annie, the female fan who saves him from a car accident and confesses to being his ―number-one fan‖ (6). Her declaration is ironically repeated by both Paul and

Annie eight times in the novel. After learning that Paul Sheldon has killed off Misery, the main character in his last novel, in order to turn to crime fiction, Annie gets tremendously agitated and reveals her deeply disturbed nature. The typewriter that has been the traditional medium for the author‘s written works turns into a double-edged sword, threatening his existence unless he uses it for the right purpose. Eventually, it becomes the instrument that kills his prosecutor and secures Sheldon‘s freedom and autonomy as a writer, who then

37 Through the linguistic games that King plays, the characters‘ official language comes in dialogue with intervening thoughts and the unofficial, ungrammatical language of criminals and minorities, leaving the fictive writers exposed to the readers. This linguistic game is successfully described by Karen A. Hohne: ―In works like The Shining and The Stand [ . . . ] we see the grubby-faced mongrel of internally persuasive unofficiality meeting prim officiality with the general result that unofficial language/ideology sticks out its tongue to and reveals official language as a lie‖ (―The Power‖ 95). Feleki 246 decides to produce freely without taking heed of the tastes and demands of the consumer society.

In Lisey’s Story, King kills off Scott Landon, the fictional popular writer and Lisey‘s husband, right from the beginning of the novel. Landon‘s adventures and problematic nature come alive through Lisey‘s narration. Landon‘s lunacy is gradually revealed and emphasized in order to comment on the fragile nature of writers. King presents the writer as the lunatic who is paid to write about his delusions; putting them onto paper is his

―craft─that is how he refers to it in his lectures, never as his art but as his craft─as delusion‖ (292, italics in original). Thus King emphasizes the technicalities of writing while still clinging onto a romantic outlook on his craft. The half-sane half-lunatic famous writer is abused both by the academic world and by his fans in the novel. After his death caused by a ―graduate student madman‖ (22, italics in original), the academics who are portrayed as vultures in the novel, ―the Incunks, those pagan worshippers of original texts and unpublished manuscript‖ (233), keep persecuting his wife in order to make her surrender his written treasure to them. His fans prove fatally dangerous and Lisey‘s efforts to protect him are in vain: ―if she were kept out, the crowd might kill him. Kill him with its dangerous love and voracious concern‖ (28). Lisey, who is responsible for clearing out Landon‘s writing place after his death, also becomes the victim of a dangerous persecutor; she is captured and violently mutilated by him.

The writer‘s vulnerable nature, this time due to the publicity and visibility that the digital medium offers, is also tackled in ―Big Driver‖ (2010) King‘s more recent novella.

The novella narrates the experience of the female writer Tess, who has to go through hell to escape death, after accepting an invitation to talk about her craft in a seemingly innocent event organized by a local library. The crazy son of Ramona Norville, the head librarian at the Chicopee Public Library and President of Books & Brown Baggers─who makes the Feleki 247 official invitation─stalks her and tries to kill her. As it is revealed, Ramone finds her name on the internet after a last minute cancelation by another speaker and throws her as prey to her sick son. Through this story, King remarks that in the age of new media, when online communications have been facilitated, the risks popular writers are exposed to can be much greater.

Artistic creativity as ―otherness‖ is another notion with which King has experimented. At times, it takes the form of an otherworldly power that takes over and consumes the artist. This is what happens in Duma Key when Edgar‘s second dangerous nature emerges after an accident at a construction site. The ―othering‖ experience King explores here is supported by the narrative structure of the novel, which is divided into two main but distinct narrative strands. In the main story, Edgar explains in first person how he was mysteriously drawn to the seclusion of Duma Key in Florida after his accident that left with a damaged scalp and minus one arm. His mysterious missing right arm becomes responsible for producing paintings that are able to affect people‘s lives and even kill them.

Rather than constitute a soothing and liberating experience for Edgar, artistic creation resembles ―a violent explosion‖ (105) with disastrous consequences. This superimposition of an unearthly power questions the origins of artistic creation and the hero‘s talent in painting and serves as a general metaphor for challenging authorial identity and artistic freedom of authors like King. On a second narrative level, the twelve short sections, scattered throughout the novel under the title ―How to Draw a Picture,‖ tell the story of

Elizabeth, narrated in third person by Edgar, who now as a painting instructor gradually reveals all the information about Elizabeth‘s mysterious past. These sections serve as explanatory notes for the mysterious incidents taking place in the main narrative. King‘s narrative structures challenge linearity in narration and showcase the ways in which the story and its characters can intersect so as to generate multiple points of view, gradually Feleki 248 pointing to multiple readings. The multiple narrators, focalizers, and focalized objects are employed as diverse media, in other words, as vehicles through which the writer communicates his story to the reader.

One of the marketing ploys the book and entertainment industries use to revamp the fans‘ interest in the writer is to enhance the image of the ―star‖ author with biographical information. In King‘s case, we can discern autobiographical elements in the construction of his fictive characters. For instance, Edgar‘s damaged right hand and the excruciating pains he goes through after the accident allude to King‘s almost fatal accident caused by a passing car during one of his walks in June 1999. Also, Lisey‘s and Scott‘s relationship hints upon King‘s and Tabitha‘s long-standing relationship of love, trust, and mutual support, as frequently confessed by King. What is more, King‘s frequent references to real writers and their works within the fictional context of his stories highlight the intertextual character of narration and the connectedness that exists between texts and their writing agents. In King‘s works the line separating fact from fiction is thin.

The move from the print medium to the electronic one allows King to indulge in new authorial practices since a whole new set of narrative possibilities has an impact on former roles and interrelations. King‘s reflection on the authors‘ role as expressed in his printed works turns into an active exploration in his electronic textual endeavors. His experimentation with new media does not stop with the adaptation of printed stories into films, audio books, comic series or graphic novels. Since issuing Riding the Bullet, in order to promote the up-and-coming e-market, King‘s exploitation of the electronic medium for writing, marketing, and distributing his work has been staggering. This time the real-life writer seeks to redefine his identity through his interaction with new digital media.

Simultaneously, as the commentary in Ur suggests, his fictive writers have also entered a Feleki 249 process of self-questioning and self-realization through an interactive relationship with the electronic medium.

As regards King‘s online presence, the creation of StephenKing.com has facilitated the promotion of his work and his self-image on the web. Indeed, his involvement with new types of textualities has led to the emergence of a new authorial persona. While he remains the source of inspiration for all the projects running on his official website, their success necessitates the collaboration of a number of experts in digital mediation. Although

StephenKing.com is designed by Stark and a network of computer experts, King himself is the executive producer of the whole project. The website offers King a new space for his fictional worlds and hosts diverse examples of transmedia storytelling and a variety of online computer experiences. The website is the answer to the corporate demand to repurpose King‘s written content into digital format and to reload it in diverse platforms made available on the internet. It manages to create a new, broader sense of the narrative experience for the online reader by employing a number of tools provided by computational, hypertext, and multi-media technology.

His online projects in hypertextual organization (which remediate the newspaper layout) work as narrative threads interconnected by means of links and create multiple realities for the web user. The potential of the digital technology to create new textual formats requires the active involvement of more agents than the writer. Additionally, the online space enables more direct methods of communication between the writer(s) and the readers/users, limiting the distance between them, while enhancing the readers‘ interaction with new forms of textuality. Accepting changing labor and authorial relations, King takes advantage of the new medium‘s immediacy, leaves the multi-/transmedia narration of the story to webpage and media experts, and comes the closest he can get to his fans, thus keeping an always fresh and re-invented authorial image. Feleki 250

King has always tried out the potential of each medium. As he admits in a message posted to his fans on StephenKing.com in response to the closure of the online serial novel

The Plant: Zenith Rising (2000), ―[p]opular entertainments have a place on the Net, but finding the most efficient ways to make them work is a trial and error process‖ (―The Plant:

Getting a Little Goofy‖). The online serial novel, which came to a closure after only five- monthly installments, served as an experiment that tested the readers‘ response to the writer‘s work being downloaded and paid for directly on the internet. As stated by the New

York Times Online editors in the ―Opinion‖ section, the number of downloads was proof that the venture was ―not quite King-like.‖ The seeming democratic nature of the medium which allows access to all material on the web can prove destructive, since in a space

―where all the trees stand more or less the same height, even Mr. King can be hard to see‖

[ . . . ]. ‗The Plant‘ withered mainly because its author misunderstood the nature of his readership‖ (―King‘s Closure‖).On the contrary, in the following online message posted on

StephenKing.com, King displaces the problem to the nature of the Web and the relationship that users have developed with it over the years:

I see three large problems. One is that most Internet users seem to have the attention

span of grasshoppers. Another is that Internet users have gotten used to the idea that

most of what's available to them on the Net is either free or should be. The third-and

biggest-is that book-readers don't regard electronic books as real books. They're like

people saying, ―I love corn on the cob but creamed corn makes me gag.‖ Since The

Plant experiment began in July, I‘ve had dozens of people come up to me and say

that they can‘t wait to read the story - when it‘s in book form. They either don‘t go

on the Web, don‘t go on it for anything but e-mail, or just don‘t think of reading

online, even if what they‘re reading has been printed out in the privacy of their own

homes, as real reading. (―The Plant‖) Feleki 251

Despite the real challenges and the integral problems arising from using the Internet for the distribution of fiction, King claims that he is willing to face them: ―The point is trying some new things; pushing some new buttons and seeing what happens‖ (―The Plant‖). In his self- interview on September 4th, 2008, private Steve, his alter ego, interviews King on issues such as the effectiveness of the second version of his website. His website stands as the perfect space for immediate contact with his readers and offers opportunities for the clearance of misunderstandings and the advertisement of forthcoming events and new releases. This way King works on his image by cultivating the idea of the author/producer of the work even in digital environments, while keeping the relationship between author and reader alive. On October 13th, 2012, the online e-comic series, ―Little Green God of

Agony‖─coming to fans three times a week through his official website for eight consequent weeks in cooperation with comic artist Dennis Calero─is another tactic to help promote King‘s short story and, at the same time, test fans‘ reception of new types of digital mediation. The Office simulation started running on StephenKing.com in 2007 and intended to offer an online experience of King‘s real-world office so as to share information with the online community about his past movies and books in an interactive environment. Projects like this one allow the writer to intentionally play with the fans‘ expectations and to satisfy their thirst; they are urged to roam around the virtual space and study the map of Maine, the state where King comes from, while experiencing game play.

As it has become clear so far, not only do literary and popular works go through a process of remediation or readjustment in order to survive and remain competitive in an online environment, but also the idea and the role of the author are conditioned according to technological changes. In the book industry, the writers no longer stand alone as the creators but now play the role of mediators among directors, producers, editors, and graphic artists. Accepting his new authorial role, King gradually distances himself from his products Feleki 252 until he ultimately fades away behind his signature and his branded artifacts. Despite this distancing, King maintains the rights of his fictional world and his authorial identity is paradoxically reinforced. All instances of collaborative writing seem to be reinforcing the name of King as the originator/creator of the initial idea. Taking advantage of the new medium‘s immediacy, and leaving control of the narrative story to webpage and media experts, King comes as close as he can to the recipients of his works and manages to keep a constantly refreshed authorial image.

The change in King‘s relationship with the electronic medium since the turn of the century is also depicted in the stories that have been released in other expressive media as the real-life writer seeks his constant redefinition through his interaction with new digital media. His fictive writers are also seen entering a process of self-realization through an interactive relationship with the electronic medium. In the following examples provided, I am referring to a few more works as instances that will help readers have a clearer picture about the transitions in King‘s writing practices as media technologies keep developing.

The typewriter in The Shining (1976) and in the novella , Secret Garden

(1990) has been replaced by an electronic reader in Ur and a laptop in the films 1408 (2007) and Secret Window (2004). In the short story ―1408‖ (2001), King places the fictive writer

Mike Enslin in a hotel room, as he had done with Jack Torrance decades ago in The

Shining. The imaginary writer is depicted as the representative of an old tradition but also as the supporter of new developments in the writing profession who is expected to balance the two roles. The room 1408 on the thirteenth floor, the digits of which add up to thirteen, draws connections with old superstitions. In there, ―high-tech gadgets didn‘t work‖ (―1408‖

436). The minicorder eventually records a voice and strange noises in the background of the room but its content is not revealed to the public. The recorder stays locked in a wall-safe.

King ironically questions ―Mike‘s assertion that he has finished not only with ghost-tales Feleki 253 but with all writing. Writers say that from time to time, that‘s all. The occasional prima donna outburst is part of what makes writers in the first place‖ (469). In the filmic adaptation of the story, the writer‘s laptop, which represents reality outside the ghost hotel room, initially connects him with his ex-wife but later works as a connector with other realities, where his dead daughter is still alive. The electronic medium depicted in the cinematic production is manipulated as a tool which gives another dimension to the horror experience.

Studying the issues of authorship and authority in printed and digital works makes one aware of the complexity of the problems. The material structure of the platform used in the production of the digital literary text conditions not only the design of the new product but also the role of the authors and their relationship with the participants. As media content and agents are converging in cybernetic pathways, popular writing (readjusted for different media) fuels the writers‘ search for self-realization and self-assertion, boosted by the dynamic and re-generative nature of all artistic creativity.

6.2 Authorship on the Move and Stephen King as Brand: “King’s Empire”

This investigation of the redefinition of the authorial role has aimed at resituating popular writers and, inescapably, their readers, according to the latest historical, socio- cultural, and technological conditions. As manifested so far, the role of the author has followed the developments in writing and printing, which have also had an impact on the organization of the book market. These developments have also brought about changes in copyright laws that intend to secure authenticity and authority over the work. Before completing this investigation of the potentialities emerging at the intersection between textual, technological, and economic developments, I revisit notions of authority and Feleki 254 authorship expressed by postructuralist theoreticians under a new light. The space once occupied by the all-knowing authoritative writer, is, indeed, left vacant for the Barthesean

―Scriptor‖ to occupy when producing popular art in the new media age. For Barthes, ―the author is [still] a god ([but] his place of origin [now] is the signified)‖ (S/Z 175), that is the object of writing, the represented truth and not the writer himself. This time, the author returns again to the text as a ―guest . . . his life no longer the origin of his fictions but a fiction contributing to his work‖ (Image, Music, Text 161). By taking the signified and not the subjectivity of the author as the originating force, Barthes sees an unlimited number of interpretations stemming from the text‘s diverse authorial voices. Also, it is the readers who function now as the creative force and as returning authors.

Indeed, by taking an active role in the interpretation of the text, readers become the authors of their readings and produce their own versions of the stories. Authors, in turn, having rejected their omniscience, ultimately, become a text, on which the innumerable truths of their readers can be inscribed. According to Barthes,

[t]he Author himself─that somewhat decrepit deity of the old criticism─can or

could become a text like any other: he has only to avoid making his person the

subject, the impulse, the origin, the authority, the Father, whence his work would

proceed, by a channel of expression; he has only to see himself as a being on paper

and his life as a bio-graphy (in the etymological sense of the word), a writing

without referent, substance of a connection and not of a filiation. (S/Z 210-11)

Thus having lost their subjectivity, writers function as the expressive medium of their writing. Ultimately, authors and texts converge, sharing a common goal that entails the writing and dissemination of the story to the public. In King‘s case, it seems that his role is always updated and readjusted as it evolves in tandem with the writing process on diverse textualities. In the new writing environments, the writer is not alone anymore but Feleki 255 accompanied by a creative authorial team. Thanks to the technological advancements of the

PC, the Internet, and hypermedia in the contemporary consumer West, King together with his team is now perceived as the mediating force through which new products can reach the audience. Thus the theoretical importance of transferring academic interest from the subject of the craft to the act of writing cannot be ignored.

Under the pressure of commerce and marketing laws, what, eventually, is deemed valuable is only what sells. As it turns out, the ultimate authority is commerce, dictating the needs and tastes of the consuming audience, regulating production points and influencing the artistic mediators (that is the whole authorial team) who intervene between the product and the consumer. Umberto Eco‘s optimism about the future of literary writing on the Web and its co-existence with the printed form sounds reassuring: ―I do not see how the fascinating game of producing collective, infinite stories through the Net can deprive us of authorial literature and art in general. Rather, we are marching towards a more liberated society in which free creativity will coexist with the interpretation of already written texts‖

(―Vegetal and Mineral Memory: The Future of Books‖ 9). Despite the presumptions of a liberated distribution of information and artistic expression available on the Web, where readers can turn into co-creators of the artistic product, the dream of more democratic authorial processes has yet to materialize. As Stephen Donovan, Danuta Fjellestad, and Rolf

Lundén point out, in their introduction to the volume Authority Matters: Rethinking the

Theory and Practice of Authorship (2008), ―[c]orporations‘ economic gains undermine the utopian dreams of democratization of authorship through the new technology‖ (14).

Contrary to Eco‘s dream that electronic textuality would enable a more flexible relationship with authorial artistic creation and Coover‘s earlier optimism about ―true freedom from the tyranny of the line‖ (―The End of Books‖ 1), Donovan, Fjellestad, and Lundén express their concern that within a capitalist system, where the branded product and the profit gained Feleki 256 constitute the driving forces behind marketing choices and creative practices, the literary product cannot and has not escaped such forces.38

Despite King‘s strong authorial persona and constant mass media presence, his works have continually changed according to contemporary variables defining his writing.

What is more, King has realized that the branded product brings power and realism to his fiction and has skillfully incorporated it in his narratives. Brown admits that ―King is famous (or infamous, depending on which critic you listen to) for his use of the brand-name detritus of modern culture. Throughout his work, he invokes the names of our most familiar household products in a way that deepens the intense realism of his best fiction‖ (―Life‖

143). Gradually, his name also turns into a brand. King is careful to attach his name to all his artistic products in the same fashion that consumer items bear a brand label to make themselves seen and known. The brand of a product functions as its trademark and advances sales. In the same way, King‘s name turns into a brand and assigns value to the corresponding literary product.

In the course of this research project, the redefinition of King‘s signature as a brand label has gradually become evident. Handling an author‘s name as brand to promote the sales of his artifacts necessitates a reconsideration of traditional notions about authors and their names. In the new media age and the ensuing ―Remix culture,‖ the fluid nature of the digital products hinders their categorization; the indexical reference to the name of the writers helps the classification of the work for marketing purposes and bookstore or online library conveniences. As writers fulfill their classification ―function‖ (―What is an Author‖),

38 At this point, John Caldwell‘s study of the creation of the industrial identity in film and TV production can also prove useful for the realization of the complicated corporate practices in popular writing within convergence culture. He contends that ―all screenplays are also business plans‖ and ―branding opportunities‖ (232), while producers ―serve as profitable ‗signature‘ focal points for companies, seeking profits via critical distinction awards‖ (234). When it comes to popular writing in new media reality, all creative products and projects, ultimately, also march out as promotional and marketing policies in transmedia storytelling. Feleki 257 their signature (a means to secure authentication) assigns ―sign-value‖ to the work of art.39

In Duma Key, King challenges totalizing views related to the significance of the artist‘s signature. Through his first-person narrator Edgar, he does not fail to make an ironic comment on the ambiguous nature of his signature in his artistic creations: ―I had signed each of the oils in the lower left corner, just as neatly as I has signed all invoices, work orders, and contracts in my other life: Edgar Freemantle‖ (159). Edgar‘s signature on all surfaces equates the concepts of ―sign‖ and ―exchange‖; thus the work of art acquires the value of a marketable product.

John Frow marks out a distinction between the signature as an indicator of value and a label on a branded product:

In the context of mass cultural production the authorial signature becomes less

important as a creator of value than the construction of the author‘s or artist‘s or

actor‘s or performer‘s name as the object of a brand recognition – a process closer to

the trade mark than to copyright, and one in which the artist is effectively

corporatized. (62)

Frow stresses the marketing aspect of the signature in order to shed light on the eventual fade away of the authorial persona and its replacement by branded products. For him, the signature, acting as the metonym of its proprietor, transforms the name of the artist into a brand.40 While the signature performs an indexical function that asserts the presence of the artist, the name alone─more like a trademark─assigns symbolic value to the work.

39 As Jean Baudrillard notes about the role of the signature in paintings, it adds ―differential value‖ to the product and allows it to be recognized (For a Critique 102). Always in relation to artifacts created by the same or other artists, the particular work of art secures its meaning by differentiating itself from existing or future ones by means of the artist‘s signature. Baudrillard continues that, ―[i]t becomes the veritable caption of our oeuvres. In the absence of fable, of the figures of the world and of God, it is that which tells us what the work signifies‖ (105). Therefore, the signature metaphorically acquires mythical dimensions for securing the representational value of the sign and the work that bears it. 40 Claude Gandelman also discusses the ambiguous relation of the signature in painting with the symbolic value of the name: The ―Name,‖ when one abstracts it from the signature which indicates it and ―contains‖ it, loses its ―index‖ character and becomes a ―trademark.‖ Indeed, like the trade mark, the name is of a symbolic Feleki 258

Nevertheless, King paradoxically reinforces his authorial identity in all instances of collaborative writing, highlighting his name as the originating source behind the project.

The online project ―Stephen‘s Empire‖ reaffirms that the presence of the writer‘s name in digital textualities is advantageous; King‘s name, acting as a signature, performs its indexical function and authenticates the project, while through its repetition it resembles the function of a brand. Therefore, both his signature and his name converge and like a trademark assign symbolic value to his work. In an online newsletter addressed to his fans,

King urges them to email and caption photos from real environments connected in some way with King‘s fictional worlds and works. The photo gallery with the top shots projected on King‘s website intends to satisfy his ―insatiable appetite for grandiosity‖ (―Stephen‘s

Empire‖). The heightened visibility of the electronic medium enhances the recognition of the writer‘s brand. The multiple narrative threads created by the collection of the fans‘ shots stand as proof that the creator can disappear, leaving his name as the only indicator of the branded product.

The exaggerated vanity of the author is deliberately stressed in this letter to his fans in an effort to mix reality with fiction. This constitutes another marketing ploy which King chooses in order to keep his relationship with his fans alive; the immediacy of the personal contact of the author with his fans facilitates the construction of a mythic empire. The storylines that are narrated through the pictures connect the fans‘ real world to King‘s fictional world. By trying to blur the boundaries between the two, the images help resituate the online narrative experience in real space. Rather than provide information or constitute an alternative artistic creation, the pictures form a sum of signs connecting the fans‘ real

order. Thus the name ―‖ abstracted from its index the signature is something like ―Ford‖ or ―Cadillac.‖ It does not mean that the artist, Mr Degas, was there any more than the name Ford means that Mr Ford has taken part in the fabricating of the car which bears his name. What the signature- freed name Degas means is that what we have here is a Degas in a symbolic system opposing Degas to or Bouguereau (just as a Ford is meaningful within a context or system which opposes Ford to Dodge or Cadillac) (qtd. in Frow 63, italics in original). Feleki 259 world to King‘s fictional world. Having no story events to narrate, the ―Stephen‘s Empire‖ project aptly demonstrates how the writer/creator can disappear, while his name remains the only trademark on the product, assigning distinct value to it.

Fig. 30. Image of the ―Stephen Empire‖ Project (StephenKing.com).

As electronic projects like ―Stephen‘s Empire‖ reveal, new diverse storylines can be initiated and narrated by the fans through the new pathways that the digital medium can create. The power of the world built gradually around King‘s name is so strong that it can enable narration in multiple media and platforms, and create new storylines. Nonetheless, the authorial persona fades and his branded name takes its place. His name as a brand attributes value to the digital products, while its mere presence as a logo canonizes the status of the new product. Due to the fast flowing of codes and images on the computer interface, the security of the logo on the printed page and the illusion of its stability are denied and replaced by a more fluid concept of the creator. In the case of Discordia and the work done on the official website, the basic story is inspired by King‘s ―multiverse,‖ yet, the creation, production, and promotion of the new products appearing on the website owe their existence to the authorial team that works on the rebranding of the story. In hindsight, it becomes clear that King, who has actually been re-placed by a new more malleable, Feleki 260 adjustable mode of collaborative authorship, exists as a fluid idea and source of inspiration rather than as the actual creator of the new projects running online.

Although the product owes its exchange value to its creators, on the way to the market it is able to supersede this debt. As creators keep their distance from the product, the product itself seems to be exercising its power even before its circulation. Melanie Klein‘s main syllogism, in her best-selling book No Logo (1999), is based on the premise that in the place of the product/object carrying the meaningful idea, today it is the idea/concept that precedes the product. According to Klein, we have gone past the stage of the branded product in the ultra-capitalist market. These days what drives production is the creation of ideas and meanings: ―The frantic corporate quest to get out of the product business and into the ideas business explained several trends at once. Companies were constantly on the lookout for new meaningful ideas, as well as pristine spaces on which to project them, because creating meaning was their new act of production‖ (xvii). As empty signifieds are in search of their signifiers, one envisages that the market has set out on a hunt for novel ideas on novel representational media in order to impress the consumer. Ultimately, it is the marketable idea before the actual sign or product that haunts the consumer. In particular, the ideas hidden behind King‘s name and his ―multiverse‖ seem to sell even before the products are in the market. Commercial trans-media campaigns see to the new product‘s success even before the product reaches the consumer. Advertisements of the upcoming events inundate the market and reach the old and new prospective fans through various media; King‘s fictions can be pre-ordered at special rates online and with special gifts and treats like bindings or autographs. Organized marketing campaigns work on the maintenance of a strong consumer consciousness that feeds on branded ideas which can exist autonomously without their creator. Feleki 261

With reference to the problem of copyright, the creation of special laws for the security of literary production has forced the equation of authorship with copyright markers.

Copyright, being nothing more than a social and economic transaction, marks the ―use‖ and

―exchange‖ value of the literary work as product. Yet, in digital mediations, the distinction between authorship and actual authority over the work is even foggier. Despite the illusory stability that copyright secures, the writer‘s authority over his works is now more than ever contested. The excruciating query is whether the originators of the marketable ideas can resist the capitalist usurpation of popular culture mediated by technological revolution.

Popular authors are indeed completing a function and filling in an empty space with their name below their products posing as the logo of marketable items. The writers, who are gradually fading into a sellable idea, end up keeping the legal copyrights as markers of authorship, but losing overall authority over it. Within such fluid contexts, copyright becomes increasingly elusive against its intended mission to secure authority over creation.

Michael Joyce insists on the modular and contextualized nature of authorship. As he sees it, ―copyright‖ is a ―useful function [ . . . ] a sort of book-keeping‖ (―Authorship as

Replacement‖ 260), but today this is in danger as well. The stability and security that copyright seems to have suggested all along cannot survive against digital codes and interfaces that are always on the move. As Joyce notes, the author is actually re-placed even when traditional authorship markers like copyright are present. As he claims, [t]he man or woman who can summon a journalistic report, a consultant‘s suggestions, a summary of research, a poem, or a speechwriter‘s text can be considered as replacing its author, even when the traditional markers of authorship─copyright, attribution, citation, stylistic characteristics, rhetorical, political, commercial, and legalistic formalizations and so on─are present‖ (260). The question that remains is who can control these flows of information especially now that all the intellectual material is accessible on the web. This freedom of Feleki 262 movement of ideas and products is greater than ever but what keeps lurking is an even bigger danger of enslavement to the manipulators of the medium. Never before have authors had so little authority over their material. They need the electronic medium to get their work accredited but at that very instant they lose their authority over it forever, in a vicious circle of updated circulation. As Joyce sees it, ―the ease with which not just computers but ideas are hacked without regulation or even often without our knowledge, suggests that economic disincentives, including authorial claims, will not compensate for the authority information losses, almost by entropy, as it is directed, redirected, and misdirected in its flows‖ (264). The speed, ease, and extent with which this appropriation of the material can take place in electronic environments give primarily the privilege to those who have the knowledge and the access to that technology rather than to the creators.

In our hyper-mediated culture, authorship sounds, according to Joyce, like ―a meditated hum‖ and copyright is the ―recording of its echoes.‖41 Copyright cannot occupy only one space any more. On the contrary, like the vacant position of the author, it occupies no place at all; it is always on the move, resembling the associative mechanisms of our brain and the free flow of thought, or even the free and unhindered distribution of information on the information highway. For Joyce, money may have always been the indicator of commercial success but use value that answers to desire and satisfaction is what lasts. In a digitized world where money cannot secure material or spiritual possessions, use value should be what lasts and accounts for the authors‘ and the products‘ longevity.

Nonetheless, when this longevity is equated with popularity and estimated in numbers, one is left to wonder whether value can be freed from corporate profit and be solely measured by satisfaction.

41 These are Michael Joyce‘s actual words during his talk for the ―Problematics Seminars,‖ organized by the Department of American Literature and Culture, School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in 2010. Feleki 263

Having accepted the non-static and non-linear nature of writing, I have sought no absolute answers in this dissertation. The need to re-contextualize contemporary authorial concepts and processes in both print and digital environments becomes imperative when taking into consideration the new realities brought about by writing, technological, and marketing convergences, and the corporate efforts for the industrial branding of authorship in new media culture. By discussing King‘s both writing techniques and marketing policies, this investigation has sketched the transformation of the role of this writer within diverse forms of textuality. More particularly, as the findings of this investigation suggest, King acts as the mediator of the writing produced according to the medium employed and manages to re-invent his image and his writing during the process. His name is used as a brand which manages to attribute value to the products and secures their marketability. The multiple authorial practices discussed testify to the emergence of a whole new world of potentialities emerging in print and electronic environments.

All in all, the notion of authorship has not been tackled merely as a matter of

―functions‖ of a dead author whose ―name [ . . . ] is a variable that accompanies only certain texts to the exclusion of others‖ (Foucault 124), or a matter of law rights with ―[ . . . ] the author [ . . . ] given rights to a cultural space over which he or she may range and work‖

(Nesbit 248). This would mean engulfing the essence of an author in a moment in a word or in a name. Instead, the author is viewed as the ―modern scriptor, who is indeed ―born simultaneously with the text‖ (Barthes, ―The Death of the Author,‖ 145) and who ―is never more alive than when pronounced dead‖ (, ―Prologue: The Deaths of Paul de Man‖

7). Given the diversification and multimodality of digital textualities, the role of the writer is constantly being re-invented, while the visibility of new media gives the writer‘s popularity new dimensions with his name standing out as the product‘s brand or trademark.

Due to the new narrative possibilities that the digital medium can offer, new potentially Feleki 264 creative roles have emerged for all the participants in the communicative process, taking place in immersive environments that can include both the creative agents and the recipients of the products. The text, viewed as a living organism, is an indispensable part in a system of constantly evolving and mutating relations, readjusted according to the medium of expression. In such fluid contexts, the author re-emerges as a colleague, co-star, co- producer, and co-worker in a technologically-determined consumer society.

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This dissertation has investigated the major socio-technological changes that have taken place since late-twentieth and early-twenty-first-century. The new electronic media have had a great impact on the production and consumption of texts, and have inevitably redirected academic interest in the new narrative modes that have emerged. With the focus on the latest trends in popular writing trends and the example of Stephen King‘s literary and digital shifts, this project has revealed the complex issues that arise from the convergence of popular writing traditions and digital technologies, as well as from the involvement of the profit-driven entertainment industry.

Despite the fact that King has played a major role in book and entertainment developments for decades, when pondering on the future of popular culture in 2009, he criticized the pressures from the industry in favor of the e-book market and against more traditional production methods. In his online pop culture column for Entertainment Weekly, he admitted, ―I love my Kindle, but what appears there has (so far) been backstopped by great publishers and layers of editing. If the e-book drives those guys out of business (or even into semiretirement), what happens to the quality?‖ (―What‘s Next for Pop Culture?‖).

After five years of heated debate regarding the future of the printed book and the quality of its electronic re-appropriation, King seems reassured that ―books are going to be here for a long long time to come [constituting] a deeper well of human experience‖ (―Stephen King:

‗I Think Books‘‖).42 King‘s active media presence indicates one of the difficulties I have had to face while working on this project; one of my main priorities has been to follow the changing concerns of a popular writer, who chooses to affect and be affected by current affairs and latest technological developments in order to detect the shifts in the dynamics of

42Stephen King and other nine hundred authors have been involved in the battle between Amazon and Hachette publishing house over e-book revenue. For more on the issue, read online ―Stephen King, John Grisham, and Nearly Other 900 Authors Oppose Amazon‘s Hachette Tactics.‖ Feleki 266 the writing and reading agents involved in the production and reception of his works. Also, my constant repositioning of the writer‘s and readers‘ reconfigured roles according to the enunciative medium has posed a greater challenge than expected, and has turned my investigation into an ongoing project that has frequently required the redefinition of terms and concepts. Although the great bulk of King‘s written works has posed extra challenges in the formation of a constantly updated theory, it has also made the critical task extremely interesting.

The first major corollary of the multiple convergences that I have explored here is bringing King‘s writing endeavors under a new light. This new direction in the studies of writing technologies has helped me visualize and explain processes that so far have been treated as abstract notions. Tracing the more general ways in which writing and reading have been redefined after digitization processes has helped me draw a number of conclusions, which I am about to enumerate. It has also made me realize that still there are uncharted areas that need to be explored and a number of complex issues to be addressed.

First and foremost, it is essential to clarify what this dissertation is not. It is definitely not a study of ―new media‖ because electronic media have already been in existence, shaping human perception and artistic expression for more than half a century.

Rather, the latest technological developments are under scrutiny here only to underscore their contributions to the latest literary shifts that have affected creative writing, authorship, authority, and reception of a work under the prism of King‘s popular production. What is more, this investigation has accentuated the need for a shift in critical focus from the content and the vagueness of the idea of a literary work to the technological specificities of the text and the medium that bear the idea.

This has not been a thesis on contemporary popular Gothic either. Instead, the study of King‘s literary departures and writing maneuvers has showcased the way a popular Feleki 267 fiction writer (working within the dominant popular cultural production) manages to re- define his writing techniques through his repositioning in writing practices. In Part I of this dissertation, I have highlighted King‘s ventures to re-write the conventions of the popular fiction genre by re-situating the Gothic in the present. I attribute his exceptional marketing success to his ability to produce within a strong literary inheritance, while still reserving some room for his own distinct discourse and products. His ingenuity lies in bridging diverse writing technologies and taking their specificities into account, while giving his readers the freedom to choose and interact with them. I have argued that by placing both his characters and readers in the midst of current socio-technological developments, he asserts his presence and involvement in current affairs and finds the space to challenge accepted truths, norms, and processes.

In Part II of the dissertation, I have examined electronic environments as the new testing ground for King‘s literary endeavors. My analysis of a selection of King‘s electronic projects on StephenKing.com has shown that King has been drawn to more immersive and real-life reading experiences with the assistance of digital technology and the hypertextual organization of diverse multi-sensory stimuli. After this exploration of King‘s innovative practices within digital environments and his experimentation with the video game genre, my position is that King adjusts the literary process according to the enunciative and distribution medium used every time, taking into account its challenges and limitations.

This has also given him the freedom to question the limits of traditional fiction writing and enhance his own literary practice, seeking new terrains of exploration. Crossovers among different media, genres, and the online applications available on StephenKing.com have constituted ways in which to experiment with digital narrative potentials and constraints.

The new writing space created for the word in tandem with the diverse media of expression and the writing platforms have changed the essence of the writing experience. Feleki 268

Words have become more visible, making readers focus on the core of the text and the word per se as different levels of representation have opened up. In print, the word has always been the primary unit to which writers have resorted in order to make their worlds alive; in electronic representations, audio, visual, and kinesthetic elements have also been engrained into the narrative, augmenting the fictional world (consumed by the audience) and amplifying the experience. Developing his writing techniques decade by decade, King has managed to respond both to technological challenges and to the contemporary concerns of his audience by testing literary conventions, stretching them out, and expanding them in an attempt to re-contextualize his writing on the basis of the updated technological challenges and to reposition his writing.

Additionally, the convergence of fiction writing with digital technology has amplified the expressive and communicative potential of contemporary literary production.

The advanced computer technology used for the creation of 3D graphics, the digital design that accompanies the users‘ interface along with the application of film technology all contribute to the construction of innovative electronic re-workings of King‘s printed novels, such as The Dark Tower series. These technologies enhance the recipients‘ experience and affect the perception of the narrated event. In projects like Discordia, it is the literary word in the service of actual exploration. It is not only about reading and appreciating what the writer has to say but about experiencing and participating in what the writer has to offer through the new media tools employed. Having already discussed the new balance created with the use of different representational systems on different media, it is my contention that King‘s writing enterprises stem from his desire to explore diverse human experiences via the use of diverse writing practices.

Apart from my concern to investigate King‘s popular fiction writing and the changes innovative digital products have brought to the linguistic and visual elements of his works, I Feleki 269 have come to appreciate the more general consequences of popular fiction production within present participatory culture. In Part III of this project, I have explored the presupposition that the author, in this case King, is determined by socio-cultural parameters.

Working within dominant economic systems that determine literary production, authors have always had to respond to the needs of the market and meet the challenges of each era.

Being the writing subject of the text, the writer still directs the writing. However, digital mediation has pushed authorial ventures to other terrains of exploration that ask for a different understanding and conceptualization of writing practices.

By realizing that digital media respond to the recipients‘ need for expression, the critic/investigator must further the research into the reconfigured roles of readers who should be regarded as active agents in reading and writing practices. As the discussion on fans and independent projects available on King‘s official website has pointed out, independent creators can participate in the writing process by assimilating media content and by creating their own. The emergence of such fan-based writing communities blurs the boundaries between reception and production. The example of King‘s fan community

(acting, reacting, and interacting online) forces us to reconsider the writer/reader relationship along with the writer-/marketing-policies and to take the participatory aspect of literary production on new planes of investigation.

The technology of writing is regarded as the way to control writers‘ imagination, while copyright is seen as the forced and violent effort of the industry to secure the rights over the writers‘ thoughts. As copyright laws try to force the boundaries of writing after the introduction of a written work into the World Wide Web, the Creative Commons

Organization has developed the tools that can allow the lawful circulation, sharing, and appropriation of the writers‘ work. Taking the intricate and the changing nature of current Feleki 270 authorial problems into consideration, I propose that research into the ramifications of authorial practices in networked environments needs to be constantly informed.

Through my study of ongoing multi-mediation processes, I have stressed the endless regenerative potential of new media and spaces, affecting all participants and bringing about new products, relations, and causalities. As King‘s example has shown, the constant developments are supported by new media franchises that feed on their regenerative power.

As new markets are sought for, reading and writing become commercialized and commodified processes. This hype for the always newer, faster, better experience boosts the creation of newer popular products, the success of which is only measured in conglomerate profits. In the context of literary production, new modes of writing emanate new concerns and new territories that need to be explored by both writers and readers as well as by literary scholars. Digital writing has come to release unending potentialities with regard to connecting words, images, and all sorts of information into narrative strings, but still the necessary critical theories need to develop.

Taking into account current socio-cultural and economic tensions, I have traced

King‘s methods and practices of innovative fiction writing and artistic creation under the frenzied pressures of highly regulated institutional and industrial practices. Whether King uses technology to remain competitive and enhance his popularity has been one of the initial queries driving this research project. As I have come to prove, King manages to bridge the two worlds of writing production and commercial profit for his own benefit.

Breaking down or constantly re-envisioning literary and marketing barriers, King remains the paragon of a popular contemporary American fiction writer who has embraced the trends in computational and digital technology for the creation of diverse products, while exploring the potential these offer for the renewal of his craft and of its thematic repertoire.

In the age of the extremely expensive blockbusters of a-few-hundred-million-dollar Feleki 271 productions, King and his authorial team seem to withstand the pressures coming from multinational conglomerates. King‘s writing inertia, ultimately, secures him the space that can host his writing and technological experimentations.

This dissertation has tried to respond to the urgent need for a re-informed and enhanced theory of literature that would take into consideration computational and popular culture studies as a result of literary and media convergences. I have not attempted to answer whether digital mediation and the subsequent convergences have improved the task and content of writing, but I have been concerned about how they have altered it. Having shown that diverse narrative experiences can be created through digital media and that online reading experiences can be invested with a transformative power, making thus the readers participatory agents in different reading textualities (which host the ―play‖ element so essential in new media experiences), I conclude this dissertation with the hope that other scholars will discuss and research current and future concerns that pertain to the unexplored potential of the always-evolving writing craft. It remains to be seen if and how the sojourn into the digital realm will lead writers and researchers to re-appraise the bounded book.

Feleki 272

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Biographical Note

Despoina N. Feleki has been an appointed English Educator in Primary and

Secondary Education since 2002. She received her B.A. in English Language and Literature from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, where she also completed her M.A. studies in European Literature and Culture. She has assisted in the teaching of the undergraduate courses ―Computer Literacy and Research Skills‖ and ―Workshop in Critical

Writing: Poetry‖ in the School of English (AUTh). Her research interests include

Contemporary American Literature, Popular Culture, New Media, and Writing

Technologies, while currently investigating the pedagogical effects of new media and

(video) gaming on education and on the teaching of English.

Feleki has presented findings of her research at international conferences in Oxford,

Ghent, Florence, and Thessaloniki. Her article ―Stephen King‘s Discordia as a New Textual

Experience for the Literary: Between Narratology, Ludology and Cinematography‖ appears in the e-journal Writing Technologies of Nottingham Trent University. Her article ―Popular

Authorship Reconfigured: Stephen King‘s Authorial Personae from Print to Digital

Environments‖ appears in the Special Issue of the e-journal Authorship of Ghent University.

She is currently offering editorial assistance for the Journal of Theory and Criticism, titled

Digital Literary Production and the Humanities (AUTh). She has been a regular review contributor to the online European Journal of American Studies since 2012. Her other book reviews appear in the interdisciplinary journal 49th Parallel of Birmingham University and in American Studies Today Online of Liverpool John Moores University.