Author Announces Psychedelic Novel, THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE
Silicon Valley isn’t the only one benefiting from LSD’s creative influence.
Rogue Valley, Oregon, USA
In 2016, more than one article touted to tech geniuses the benefits of a new, some would say ‘corporatized’, wave of psychedelic experimentation. With ‘microdosing’ the current tab on every hipster’s tongue, it seems the Californian predilection has moved not just one state north, to Oregon, but also to a new industry: fiction. Case in point, M. F. Sullivan’s THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE, which, on its March 19th 2018 release, may prove that which has been elusive since the era which brought us Kesey’s Cuckoo’s Nest. That is, it will be the first in a new wave of literature not just openly influenced by psychedelics, but designed in hopes of producing a similar effect. With the term ‘psychedelic’ rooted in the Greek words for ‘mind manifesting’, it’s not hard to see how getting lost in a good book can be akin to a psychedelic experience, but can reading reproduce the effects of a trip?
“The goal of THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE,” says Sullivan, “is not to give the reader the sense of a literal acid trip. It’s intended to produce similar results in terms of heightening one’s consciousness. The novel was first envisioned in 2015 as the consequence of a really beautiful, introspective experience with psychedelics, and a profound personal desire for a thought to text device. I type at a reliable pace of over 100 words per minute, and it’s still not fast enough for me to get the stories out sometimes. I was researching the real-life technology being studied in Albany, New York, and it just sort of came together after a couple of drafts and a few years of re-writing. Obviously it wouldn’t be wise to admit to microdosing while writing the first draft, but parts of it are highly experimental.”
‘Highly experimental’ is putting it mildly. Set in a not-unfamiliar 2031, the novel deals—superficially—with the release of the eponymous Device, the first thought to text device available to consumers. When an author falls asleep with the headband on and awakens to the same story the readers are reading, which mentions a seizure he hasn’t yet had, his perception of reality not only starts to crumble, but becomes contagious. As focus shifts through his lover and, eventually, takes what is on first glance a sudden turn into the genre of fairy tales, it becomes apparent that this is a rare sort of story. In a book whose characters are privy to the story in which they reside, and where protagonists are reading stories about themselves reading stories, the plot’s simplicity proves increasingly complex, and it plays freely with the science fiction and fantasy genres as much as it does its own structure. It is a genre which its author refers to as, naturally, ‘psychedelic fiction’.
Asked if whether or not the idea of psychedelic fiction is some mere gimmick, Sullivan explains, “All fiction is technically psychedelic, and all good novels are, in theory, consciousness-expanding, but few of them have the goal of expanding consciousness for its own sake. It also shouldn’t be a totally mystifying tome. A good psychedelic book should be a combination of accessible and rewarding, because if you can’t comprehend what you’re reading, you can’t receive any conscious revelation from it. Psychedelic fiction isn’t about the subject matter: it’s about the symbol set.”
So a book about drugs, perhaps ironically, might not qualify for the definition of psychedelic fiction. Sorry, folks: reports of your college drug trips have yet to find a home outside Erowid. But The Chronicles of Narnia, of all things, might just fall into the proposed category.
“Psychedelic music is heavily influenced by the fantasy and science fiction genres—Led Zeppelin was, I think, many a person’s soundtrack to Lord of the Rings long before the movie was produced. This means that psychedelic fiction, while not necessarily straight fantasy or science fiction, might bear elements of both, or either. Even neither. But, generally, as deeper psychic processes are represented, the stories—like a trip—get more intense and abstract in their symbol set, and consequently more ‘weird’.”
Pressed for examples of books which qualify for the genre, Sullivan suggests the works of Haruki Murakami, or Alan Moore’s recent literary epic Jerusalem, but is quick to distinguish the proposed genre from magical realism and garden variety fabulism.
“Psychedelic fiction has elements of both of those. Like in Finnegans Wake, the real world serves in psychedelic fiction as a platform by which higher concepts are explored, but the goal is also to reach out and absorb the reader as much as possible. Another way to think of it as ‘novel as theater’.”
Sullivan resides in Ashland, Oregon, where the book is partially set. After attending Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, she spent time living in Tucson, where she worked for a brief time as a ghost writer. She still maintains ties to her family in Ohio. Her previous novel, Delilah, My Woman, was released in 2015 in hardback edition and will also be available in paperback on the same March 19th release day of THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE. Add the new book on Goodreads by clicking here.