Cybergothic; Or, The Walls Are Closing In

Darkness had no effect upon my fancy, & a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty & strength, had become food for the worm. Now I was led to examine the cause & progress of this decay & forced to spend days & nights in vaults & charnel-houses.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Let me tell you a modern horror story. Horror is about invasion: something from the outside coming in, or something from within trying to get out: a stranger in the home, a virus in the body, an alien bursting through the chest, a thousand-year-old curse growing leaves out of the basement. In my tale, the internet swallowed us like a flood, nested itself like a parasite under our ribcage, & something’s creeping behind our walls. Around the turn of the millennium, notably in Mark Fisher’s Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism & Cybernetic Theory-Fiction, appears the idea of the cyberspace as a gothic territory.[1] The gothic deals with a most primal invasion, a most upsetting boundary disruption – life is ventriloquized into undead profanity, & death walks on earth disguised as ghosts, vampires, & monsters. The problem of the cybergothic is doctor Frankenstein’s dilemma: technology, allowed to wield organic life as its tool creates a prosthetic hyper-nature. In Fisher’s horrific tale, the cyberspace made the undead out of us – the internet lives in our bodies, manipulating our nervous systems to its rhythm. We dance to its macabre tune. We are like marionettes on its string, pulled into the carnival of ventriloquized emotions & epistemic micro-wars. The cyberspace is where it is no longer possible to distinguish between the internal lives of men & machines, where, as in a scene from The Golem, humans are blown around from one place to another like scraps of paper, moved by invisible cybernetic winds that hack our perceptual channels, all the while we think that we are enjoying ‘freedom,’ ‘personal expression’ or ‘community.’[2] The uncanny terror of it is not that inhuman creatures are alive just like us, as it is with vampires or zombies, but that we are as dead as our machines. It is no longer possible to tell where agency, intention, & desire come from. The cyberspace is Dr. Frankenstein & we are its monster.

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