In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at Daniel Loring Keating and his story “Join the Mob.”
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
“Join the Mob” was inspired generally by the public reaction to the death of anyone who has committed a crime, but in particular to the reactions I observed to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. A lot of my otherwise nice and mild-mannered friends became downright bloodthirsty over it, so much so that I felt like I had whiplash. The story examines that bloodthirstiness by removing the context of what, exactly, the man in question did, and, if I did my job properly, challenges you to wonder if you’d be able to join in the festivities if you suddenly had it answered for you what he did.
I’d like to be clear on this – I don’t mean this story as a critique of men like Osama bin Laden, who are monsters who did terrible things; but rather as a critique of how we react to monsters. I very firmly believe that our reactions to things like that ought to be based more on who we are as people and not based subjectively on the severity of the crime committed. For instance, in some (most?) segments of society, it’s deemed acceptable to wish a horrible death on a pedophile, whereas wishing the same for a jaywalker would be considered inappropriate. I believe it’s entirely necessary to recognize the difference in severity of those crimes, but that difference in severity does not excuse wishing inhumane treatment on anyone. That wish is a reflection of the person who makes it, not the person on whom it is made.
Did you have to do any research? If so, what kind? What did you learn?
Not really. The “meat” of the story comes from personal observation and a deep-seated queasiness every time a bad thing happens to a bad person. The one thing that took me a while to decide on was what to name the fictitious crime of the story (since Nabokov already took “gnostic turpitude,” the brute). I eventually settled on “parishev,” which is the name of a place in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine. You can read whatever meaning you want into that.
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
Ironically, he’d probably have some difficulty telling you a bit about himself. “Join the Mob” is the story of Nicholas’ escalating fever dream, to the point where he’s not sure of anything about himself or the world around him by the end (including his name). Is he a jobless drug addict? Is Peter really his brother? I don’t have firm, concrete answers for these questions, because he himself doesn’t. His loss of identity is part of what drives the story. Suffice to say: he’s kind of a loser and isn’t going anywhere good anytime soon.
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
“Join the Mob” takes place in a nameless, faceless city that’s probably-but-not-definitely somewhere in America. As the story is as much about the destruction of perception as anything else, with Nicholas getting increasingly confused about everything around him as he goes, I picture the setting as becoming vaguer, not sharper, as the story progresses. Where is he? He’s not even sure of his own name by the end of the story.
I came up with the idea for “Join the Mob” while I was working in Springfield, Massachusetts, but I don’t think this story is set there. I did want the story to take place in an urban area, because it needed to cram together a lot of people who didn’t know each other personally but who were interacting on an ideological level – Gesellschaft, in a nutshell.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
Two things: the slight feeling of vertigo that accompanies reading something that’s bent your brain a little, and a disruption to any feelings of self-righteousness over publicly expressing the desire to see someone (anyone) treated with brutality.
Which phrase are you most proud of in this story?
I’m most fond of the way “parishev,” a word that has no literal meaning in English to begin with, undergoes “semantic satiation” – the tendency of a repeated word to lose meaning to the listener.
If your story was front-page news, what would the headline be?
“Non-Descript Man Lacks Context For Others’ Brutal Opinions!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My Bachelor’s in Creative Writing from Chester College of New England. My MFA was also a growing experience for me, but my BA gave me the bedrock on which to grow. CCNE smashed apart the writer that I was and challenged me to rebuild myself better, which I distinctly hope I’ve done.
If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?
It’s funny, I remember I used to think semi-regularly to myself, “God, I wish I’d written that,” but that gradually faded away as I got older. Maybe that’s ego or maybe I’ve just lost my envy; I’d rather think that I’m attracted to writing in order to express the unique voices and experiences of my characters, and I’m attracted to reading in order to experience the unique voices and experiences of others, and as the two are, in my mind, separate activities, there’s no longer the convergence that would produce the statement, “I wish I’d written that.” If I had to pick something, though, it’d probably be Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein.
When did you decide to take writing seriously?
Would it be bad to say that I haven’t? A lot of what I write is sarcastic / satirical in nature, and as such, I feel like I can’t take it entirely seriously if I’m to do what I do. That being said, I decided to pursue being a writer when I was eighteen and deciding where to go to school. I’d been writing fanfiction and a few of my own short stories pretty steadily since I was twelve, but it was deciding to go to CCNE for a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing (which I declared before even arriving at the school, as was its norm) that locked me in. I’d love to say that I haven’t looked back since, but that’d be a bald-faced lie.
Daniel Loring Keating grew up in post-Industrial New England, where he earned a BA in Creative Writing from Chester College of New England. He has an MFA in Creative Writing at the California College of the Arts, where he was the Managing Editor of Eleven Eleven Journal. His speculative work has appeared in Strange Fictions ‘Zine and The Hungry Chimera.
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