How long have you been a writer & how did you get started?
I don’t know if there was a point in my life when I decided that I was a “writer.” I wrote poems and comics and such throughout my childhood, and all through college, but perhaps I didn’t consider myself a “writer” persay until around the time I started to send work out, started to want others to read my work, and decided to pursue an MFA. Some of my earliest “writings” included things like comic strips with my brother about a monkey that looked like a cactus, the background stories for fake video games and trading cards, and bad poetry about trees.
Can you tell us a bit about what KEROTAKIS is about?
Generally speaking, it is an exploration of cyborgs, brains, and the stakes of consciousness. It’s a book that’s hard to categorize, somewhere between fiction / poetry / drama / theory, plus there are images. When I was writing the book, I started with the premise, “What would consciousness look like for a cyborg who had a camera for an eye?” This idea of a recorded consciousness, a consciousness that existed for the sake of recording the world around her for some other entity, how that might change the stakes of perception and existing in the world as a subject, especially if she could be wiped clean like a computer, if that was the same thing as erasing memory. There are others characters too, like a time-traveling brain and a mad doctor.
Who or what are your influences in general?
When I was working on KEROTAKIS, I was very much influenced by the ideas of Julian Jaynes, especially his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. I was also reading a lot in the realms of neuroscience, consciousness studies, and alchemy. Michael Persinger was another one. My canon at the time consisted of writers like Kathy Acker, Bhanu Kapil, Camus, & Nietzsche. Today, I’m being affected by writers like Kenneth Patchen, Laszló Krasznahorkai, Cormac McCarthy, & Kim Hyesoon.
What was it like to work with Dog Horn Publishing?
It was a huge pleasure. KEROTAKIS was my first book, it was actually my MFA thesis project, so I felt really fortunate to find a publisher so enthusiastic about the project. Adam was really good to work with. He was really excited about the book from the beginning, and I had a tremendous amount of creative control over how the book itself turned out. I love that Dog Horn is willing to support weird, risky, experimental writing. These spaces are needed.
Do you have a preference for traditional formats like real books? Are you interested in using new digital media, like web platforms to do something different with fiction?
Of course I love books. There’s a very particular reading experience associated with the book, which I’ve of course grown up with and adore. But I’m also really interested in new technologies, and how we might be able to interact with narrative forms in different ways. I teach a class, for example, where we reconsider literature not in terms of form or medium, but in terms of the interface. How our relationship and system of interaction with the book, or computer, or tablet, or whatever, dictates the process of narrativization, and how these relationships can offer up new possibilities for narrative in general.
What are you working on more recently?
More recently, and to be released very soon, is Damnation, an ekphrasis and obsessive response to the films of Béla Tarr, especially Damnation and Sátántangó. (www.penny-ante.net/pa013.html) And then several collaborations: A collaboration with Will Alexander is coming soon. And I’m currently working on a project about severed heads with Michael Du Plessis. And with Jared Woodland, I’m working on a critical project looking at the long take in Béla Tarr’s Sátántangó.
Many thanks to Janice for answering our questions. Kerotakis is now available to buy in our online shop.
JANICE LEE is a writer, artist, editor, designer, curator, and scholar. She is the author of KEROTAKIS (Dog Horn Press, 2010), Daughter (Jaded Ibis, 2011), and Damnation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013). She also has several chapbooks Red Trees, Fried Chicken Dinner (Parrot/Insert Press, September 2012), and The Other Worlds (Eohippus Labs, June 2012). She currently lives in Los Angeles where she is Co-Editor of the online journal [out of nothing], Reviews Editor at HTMLGIANT, and Founder/CEO of POTG Design. She can be found online at http://janicel.com.