Deactivating the Flash : Surveillance and Humor in American Paranoid Fiction



Year of publication 2018
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The paranoid fear of being followed, monitored, and recorded has increasingly become one of the most dominant fears in contemporary American society, which is why it has been thoroughly explored in American paranoid narratives from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and P. K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly to the TV show Black Mirror. Due to recent developments in technology, the ominous “monster” of surveillance has frequently been represented by products of this rapid advancement (e.g. cameras, smartphones, and computer programs) controlled by individuals or institutions gathering sensitive data in order to maintain power over entire communities. While most of these representations have been depicted as catalysts of surveillance anxiety, there have also been authors who have opted to use comedic strategies such as the hyperbole to subvert this fear in order to emit laughter rather than anxiety from the reader, effectively diffusing the paranoia while simultaneously highlighting its absurdity. This paper focuses on comedic depictions of surveillance in American paranoid fiction, offering specific examples from the Welcome to Night Vale project (particularly the two novels Welcome to Night Vale – A Novel (2015) and It Devours! (2017) by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor) where the comedic portrayal of surveillance plays a key role in identifying the absurdity of the overall story.
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