Serial Killers: Fact into fiction

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
University of Worcester
contact email: 

CFP: Serial Killers: Fact into fiction

There is no denying that contemporary audiences have an insatiable appetite for killers: myth, legend, and reality. The soaring success, and continued demand, for fictions and nonfictions that document the dealings of serial killers and murders provide ample evidence for this. We are fascinated by their narratives and by their psychologies, and it is perhaps this need or want to understand the killer’s thinking that, in part, makes them so attractive to read and view. However, delineation between fiction and nonfiction continues to be a greyscale area. There are no longer certainties in crime fiction, nor in true crime writing, when it comes to the factual and the fictive. Instead, there is a space in which violent offenders can be both real and imagined at once, creating ambiguities around their crimes and, indeed, around our appetites for them. This edited collection will explore the areas of fact, fiction, and “inspired by”, with specific consideration to (fictional) serial killers, mass murderers, and their real-life counterparts. There are three main areas to be considered here with the first being fictional series/films inspired by real-life serial killers such as, but not limited to, the following:

  • Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs (inspired by the crimes of Ed Gein)
  • Robert Bloch’s Psycho (inspired by the crimes of Ed Gein)
  • Denise Mina’s The Long Drop (inspired by the crimes of Peter Manuel)
  • James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia (inspired by the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short)
  • Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin (inspired by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold)
  • Emma Cline’s The Girls (inspired by the Charles Manson family murders)
  • Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series (inspired by Pedro Rodrigues Filho)
  • Joyce Carol Oates’s Zombie (believed to be inspired by Jeffrey Dahmer)
  • Derf Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer (a graphic memoir inspired by Jeffrey Dahmer)
  • Marie Belloc Lowndes’s The Lodger (inspired by Jack the Ripper)

The second area of consideration is traditional documentaries and docu-series – dealing in non-fiction narratives – alongside fictionalisations of real-life cases are also of interest. We welcome discussions around this area, to consider visual representations of serial killer narratives alongside written narratives. Companions to the above publications – such as the Silence of the Lambs film adaptation, and The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog – will also be welcomed. Examples of visual narratives might include, but is by no means limited to:

  • Conversations with a Killer (ongoing Netflix series)
  • Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil and Vile (a Ted Bundy adaptation)
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (an adaptation of Michelle McNamara’s true crime novel)
  • Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (a Jeffrey Dahmer adaptation)
  • Des (a Dennis Nilsen adaptation)
  • Raman Raghav 2.0, internationally released as Psycho Raman (a Raman Raghav adaptation)
  • The Serpent (a Charles Sobhraj adaptation)
  • Main aur Charles (a Charles Sobhraj adaptation)

The third area is around more general concerns regarding medium, message, point of view, voicing, and reception and prompt, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • Does the medium influence the narrative? What significant differences exist between written and filmic representations of killer narratives?
  • How are matters of mental health communicated through these representations and re-presentations of killer narratives?
  • How – or perhaps, are – matters of ethnicity considered in these written and filmic representations? Are publications in this area “white-washed”, and if so, what is the potential impact of this?
  • How far are gender differences acknowledged by these publications? Is there a male bias across representations of killer narratives?
  • Is Western culture dominating the market in producing serial killer narratives, of fact and/or fiction? Is there a potential cause and impact of such a market dominance?
  • Fiction often mirrors real-life, but what instances are there of real-life mirroring fiction? Has fiction – either written or visual – been cited as the cause or stimulus behind real-life murders/serial murders having taken place?

In the first instance we invite abstracts of 250 words to be received by the end of September 2024, along with a short biographical note, which should be emailed to Dr Charlotte Barnes: Please use the subject heading “Serial Killers: Fact into fiction”. Essays of approximately 4,500 words will be required by early 2026. The proposed volume will be part of the Genre, Fiction and Film Series at Peter Lang, Oxford.