Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror


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Suspended throughout are dismembered cars entombed in masses of thick, moist and choking cobwebs Image 5. The music suddenly alerts us to a scuttling, menacing movement within one of the cocoons. The sound of the violins is cacophonous; grating and off-key, it resonates with the scurrying movement of the creature. The camera zooms closer into one of these larvae-like webs; a car-wheel which is grinding to a halt is just visible. Inside the dark tomb is the cobweb-covered dashboard of a car from whose music device a song is playing. The music stops, ending in a strangled choke.

We hear and see the scuttling of a spider that moves through the cocoon frenetically, falling abruptly to the floor. The camera zooms out to reveal the huge, bulbous, shiny black spider, which resembles a black widow, with prominent, skeletal legs. It fixes itself squarely in front of the camera and lunges towards us — the outline of its fangs and laser-like eyes flash for a brief moment.

As it runs toward the camera screeching, it morphs into a shiny black Audi RS4 Image 6. The brief specified a hybrid of the Nike Free Running shoe and a human foot. The aim of the advertisement was to convey the feeling that running with these shoes is like running in bare feet. The advertisement is described by the post-production agency as follows:. In this next section, we will explore what these two artefacts of visual culture, dealing with the tropes of the primitive, technology and horror, can tell us about the posthuman imaginary today.

While Cartesian humanist logic speaks of a world of fixed entities and cleanly defined ontological systems, posthumanism is often characterised as polymorphic unfixity, articulating a logic of identity as decentred, ontologically confusing and in a state of transition Braidotti, ; Badmington, ; Halberstam and Livingston, ; Haraway, In many of the images that collapse the primitive, technology and horror, we see a dynamic movement in the image from one entity to another.

What does this tell us about the experience of the world of high-technology? In this section we will explore metamorphosis as an aesthetic convention. We will argue that the concept of morphing, or flow , is almost universally regarded as positive, or at least apolitical, in poststructural theory. We distinguish two types of metamorphosis, which we will call morphing and mutating. These two types of metamorphosis tell us about contradictory fantasies of posthuman existence.

In images that contain the primitive, technology and horror, many types of boundary are transgressed. One of the most iconic examples from film is the T Terminator in the second of the Terminator film trilogy. T is terrifying because it can instantly morph into anything and anyone in its vicinity. This type of metamorphosis tells us something crucial about the cultural imagination of the posthuman. The automobile metamorphoses without any trace of its metamorphosis. It bears no marks, scratches, dents or damage, despite the impression of a mighty, industrialised rendering of one thing into another.

This is a future world of ontological mobility; entities are not fixed; their morphing into other entities is not painful, but a natural, instantaneous reaction to their environment. Digital morphing is a common production device in contemporary visual culture, and it can have a distinctly uncanny effect. In the advertisement, many small human heads morph together to form a giant, disembodied head that roams across hilly countryside.

What is horrific about such an image? Why did this advertisement evoke such a strong repulsion in its audience? The miniature heads seem frighteningly disembodied, while the meta-head morphs from shape to shape with many heads trailing behind. Both strategies emphasise the indistinctness of this head-like shape; an affront to a humanist sensibility of integral, bounded being.

The eye sockets and the lips of the meta-head are especially horrific; instead of flesh and sinew they are filled with tiny selves. This image may be situated within the genealogy of monstrous and mythical forms — that of the homunculus. The homunculus was popular during the Hermetic revival of the Renaissance when the Swiss scholar Paracelsus — imagined that he had created a false human. A central debate in posthuman literature is whether consciousness has qualities that make it different from a material event. In other words, debates about humanness are broadly monist or dualist in approach.

A posthumanist view would argue that all mental thought, all consciousness and spirit, can be attrituted to the operation of micro-material processes distributed in the autopoietic self-creating body. In Digital Faces , we are confronted with a visualisation of the idea that the self possesses no central consciousness, but instead is a programme by many small autonomous, self-running programmes that can build to form a decentralised system Deleuze and Guattari, This is why Faces is so disturbing on a level which is difficult to articulate; it represents the fear that the self is an amalgam of autonomous programmes — diffuse, material, beyond centralised control and above all, indistinguishable from the inside of a computer.

Images such as these speak about how morphing defies ontological fixity, showing how technology does not oppose nature, but simulates it Pathfinder , how the morph causes a radical splintering of consciousness Faces , and how it is a visualisation not of being , but of becoming. We argue that the dynamical aspect of existence often mobilises an attendant implicit belief that this is necessarily a liberatory view.

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Flow is regarded as the sine qua non of existence, and it is almost universally coded as positive. As a result, the social imaginary of the west is gripped by the imagination of excession; where entities slip and slide from one ontology to the other. Morphing is intimately related to the logic of high-technology. Technology theorists such as Donna Haraway , Rosi Braidotti and Katherine Hayles theorise how contemporary technologies have caused many systems, objects and bodies to exceed their boundaries.

Many embodiments of the era of high-technology are difficult to categorise; we are surrounded with artefacts that are collapsing humanist categories of existence, such as the cyborg, the foetus, the ecosystem, the database, the genome Haraway, , and the cellular automaton Hayles — to mention but a few. As a result, the social imaginary of the west is gripped by the imagination of excession; where entities slip and slide from one ontology to the other, resulting in a loss of structure and a new sensibility of process and flux which is considered liberatory.

We distinguish between two fantasies of the posthuman that are at work in the cultural imaginary. These images are also concerned with the nexus of the primitive, technology and horror, and also undergo transformation, but they depict the visceral, painful and embodied experience that results from ontological boundary clashes. We can see that mutation conveys the other side of the posthuman utopian imagination by hinting at the pain and difficulty of the flesh in becoming its ontological Other.

Some critical theorists argue that technological imagery is ideologically utopian — portraying a simple and painless ascent into a silicon existence that ignores the embodied realities of the subject Gabilondo, ; Gromala, ; Balsamo, We introduce here the distinction between morphing and mutating in order to highlight a morphing into other entities that is seamless and effortless, but also a mutating into otherness.

The posthuman is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it mobilisies a sense of co-extensive, systemic flow between and through human and nonhuman. But it does not pay attention to other possible conundrums that a sensibility of flow might bring about. Two possible conundrums are the importance and place of inertia, and the pain of flow. Here we will discuss the pain of flow. See Campbell et al. As the name suggests, Nike Mutant Foot is concerned with the trope of mutation.

Its foot is a monstrous hybrid of what seems to be a fowl, a human foot and a high-tech running shoe.


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The small toes have merged, and some of the worn toenails are missing. The big toe protrudes and it is heavily calloused Image 7. The skin is stretched over bright blue veins that bulge and protrude all over the front of the foot, and a black material is enmeshed along the midfoot. The entire sole and the sides of the feet are serrated. The foot is an exemplary embodiment of the primitive, technology and horror.

We could say that this future foot reminds us of a chimera , a term biotechnological discourse uses to refer to the evolution of elements that do not belong together. In this next section we show how a conflation of the primitive, technology and horror contradicts the humanist logic of technology as a i modern, ii progressive, iii clean iv nonalive force. A commonly held and seldom interrogated notion about technology is that it is an instrument which accords the human with a gradual ascent towards increasing civilisation, linear progress and power over her or his environment.

But looking at contemporary images which coalesce the tropes of the primitive, technology and horror can offer alternative versions of this humanist legacy. It can work to encourage a seemingly paradoxical scene of technology as a primal, instinctual force. We could call this aesthetic primal technology.

The images we consider in this section can be subdivided. One of the most striking similarities between Alien and Spider is that in both, we gaze on a contradictory vision of technology as dirty. What can we infer from such an aesthetic? Similarly, Spider depicts a lair swathed in a thick, cobweb-like substance. Together with the dark dampness of the scene, a subterranean, visceral technology is evoked that is more powerful than the man-made car.

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Dirty technology works by implying that technology is not a sterile, inanimate instrument that the human has mastery over. Rather, the dirt and dampness of dirty technology suggest an animate, sweating, breathing life-force — a concept which disrupts our normative, humanistically-inherited and instrumental perspective of technology by forcing us to consider technology as life.

Dirty technology is an aesthetic which combines the sterile, pristine and inorganic efficiency of technology with the visceral, leaking decaying disorganisation of animal life. Because this technology is soiled, damp and leaking, it disrupts our linear perspective of technology as an inherently progressive phenomenon.

Audi Spider is effective in inducing horror because the damp, dark and leaking space containing the moulding cocoons of the spider and the clean, cold, untouched technological artefact are one and the same — it seems that the motivations, goals or logic of this life form cannot be recovered within the economy of the human. Combining images of the primitive with high-technology creates undecidability in meaning as the technological merges into the mythological, and the ancient merges with the modern.

The most obvious indicator of technological primitivism in Audi Spider is the spider itself, which is an index of the logic of technoculture. The spider links the world of the primitive with high-technology — not just in its metamorphosis into automobile, but in its multiple and contradictory genealogy. The spider is a recurring symbol of primitive thought, one that reappears in fairy tales, surrealist painting and psychoanalytical theory.

Freud, for example, argued that the sight of the spider can induce a crisis of neurotic anxiety. This is evidenced in the nursery rhyme of Miss Muffet or in the labyrinths of modern life Campbell, Campbell , citing Freud, argues that this fear comes from an unconscious association of the spider with the image of the phallic mother and the web, the spiral web, which threatens to engulf us, swallowing us whole into her.

Although this is the most recognisable symbology of the spider, it is not the only one. Two centuries ago, poisonous spiders were not regarded only with fear, but were also considered the technical forefront of medicine, used for the treatment of smallpox, plague and fever Cloudsley-Thompson, The mythology of Arachne [10] connects the spider to the ancient activity of weaving, but also connects the primitive to high-technology.

In fact, contemporary technoculture is an era of insectophilia , or a love of insects and arachnids; spiders, ants, and bees appear with regularity in images of high-technology, enlisted because they embody the logic of high-technology which values decentredness, microprocessing and swarm intelligence.

Bees, ants, spiders and worms provide ways of conceiving life in a posthuman era. Colonies, swarms and teems create metaphors to understand decentredness, rhizomaticity, distribution and microprocessing. This view has also appeared in social theory, where insects of all kinds become tropes for existence in a technocultural world. The insect acts as a metaphor and an epistemology for example in Brooks, ; ; , as well as an ontology Deleuze and Guattari, ; DeLanda, —8; Shaviro, ; Haraway, b which in turn informs an insect aesthetic Stelarc, ; Parikka, Audi Spider collapses the ancient into the high-tech, reflecting attempts in the cultural imagination to understand technology as a force in a longer line of forces and fantasies.

It is also overdetermined, as its signifiers connote long histories of mythical, technological and political dramas that contradict, disrupt and confirm the dominant narrative. In this section, the progressivist nature of humanist technology is questioned. Atavism is a concept that refers to how supposedly primitive evolutionary traits which had disappeared generations ago reappear in contemporary human or animal life.

This concept undermines the humanist ideal of the human approaching a state of teleological perfection through an orderly ascent of increasing complexity and sophistication, as the tropes of dirty technology and technological primitivism also demonstrate. Proto-atavism functions as a way of collapsing the quality of linear time. As such, it presents technological progress as nonlinear , punctuated and multiple.

DeLanda, But by exhibiting atavistic traits of the evolutionary past and future, such figures confuse the linear progress of evolution, and instead argue that past, present and future are humanist responses to disorder. Proto-atavism is the argument that multiple paradigms of life exist on the peripheries of humanist life. This has one important consequence; it shows us how human life may not be a singular progression but a cacophony of co-existing, interacting states of past, present and future existences with no recourse to a single, reassuring Origin.

One visual convention of this kind of thinking of multiple life states is found in images which make it difficult to trace their lineage. And in turn it horrifies, firstly because it does not have an analogous representative in our contemporary world, but more importantly, we cannot trace it back to an originary, ideal category of existence, in organism or in technology. Such images exceed the bounds of description. Biology as the science of life and the study of living organisms has been extremely influential in deciding the borders of existence — where life begins and ends.

By way of summarising the concepts that were introduced in this article, we could think about a seemingly paradoxical concept — a posthuman biology — as a potential theory that focuses on alternative ways to think about life at a time when technology is creating new paradigms of life, as well as investigating and revising long-established assumptions about humanist life.

Shaviro — remarks that we live in an age of technosubjectivity, where biologists such as Margulis theorise the symbiotic basis of eukaryotic cells, and Dawkins posits the existence of selfish genes and the extended phenotype. Contemporary philosophers such as Deleuze and Guattari and sociologists such as Lash , as well as literary writers such as Burroughs, and film directors in the vein of Cronenberg have attempted to invent paradigms of life in the interstices of the organic and machinic.

Hard science and science-fiction both become legitimate sites to explore ideas about life that contravene the taken-for-granted dichotomous notions of singularity and plurality, natural and technical, bounded and dispersed. Differential artifactualism makes ontological room for the idea of naturecultures ; for those objects in the world that science has either condemned as uncanny, monstrous or exceptional, or has simply tried to tame and move as far away as possible, categorising them into essential differences because anything else was quite simply monstrous.

Such conceptions of life exist on the edges of humanist life. Thacker calls this biophilosophy , and talks about some of the ways life overwhelms the rigidity of humanist life. For her part, Haraway b is fascinated in how even humble entities in existence in our contemporary world fly in the face of humanist life concepts such as unity and agency.

In , the gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe published an essay distinguishing two elements of horror fiction, "terror" and "horror. Modern scholarship on horror fiction draws upon a range of sources. In their historical studies of the gothic novel, both Devandra Varma [37] and S. Varnado [38] make reference to the theologian Rudolf Otto , whose concept of the " numinous " was originally used to describe religious experience. Achievements in horror fiction are recognized by numerous awards.

The International Horror Guild Award was presented annually to works of horror and dark fantasy from to Other important awards for horror literature are included as subcategories within general awards for fantasy and science fiction in such awards as the Aurealis Award. Some writers of fiction normally classified as "horror" tend to dislike the term, considering it too lurid. They instead use the terms dark fantasy or Gothic fantasy for supernatural horror, [43] or " psychological thriller " for non-supernatural horror.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about a genre of speculative fiction. For the film genre, see Supernatural horror film. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.

Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Alternate history. List of alternate history fiction Retrofuturism Sidewise Award Writers. Fantasy fiction. Science fiction. Horror fiction. Horror fiction portal. The Penguin Book of Horror Stories. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. London: Methuen. To Sura". In Charles W. The Harvard Classics.

New York: P. McNally and Radu R. Florescu Pages 8—9. Engelhard and Company: Chicago. Jesu per Fridericum Gall. Mense Sepembri Die 8. London: Fourth Estate. Nightmare: The Birth of Horror. London: BBC Books. Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers. New York: Facts On File, Westport, CT: Greenwood, Westport: Greenwood, The A to Z of Horror Cinema. The A to Z Guide Series.

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Retrieved 29 October Retrieved February 5, University of Missouri. Ellensburg Daily Record. Retrieved 12 September Stephen King, brand-name writer, master of the horror story and e-book pioneer, has received an unexpected literary honor: a National Book Award for lifetime achievement. Laity "Clive Barker" in Richard Bleiler, ed. Laity, "Ramsey Campbell", in Richard Bleiler, ed.

Human Communication Research. Retrieved 15 December Archived from the original on 28 February Retrieved 2 November New Scientist.

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Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. University of Nebraska Press. Archived from the original PDF on 12 May Archived from the original on 25 October Dating Ghosts. Retrieved 3 May Horror Writer's Association. Archived from the original on 10 March Retrieved 13 April Archived from the original on 22 April Retrieved 30 October Portal: Horror. Speculative fiction. Artists list Authors Editors. Awards Definitions History Journalsm. Community Gathering list Organizations by nationality. Artists Authors.

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Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror
Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror
Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror
Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror
Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror Technology, Monstrosity, and Reproduction in Twenty-First Century Horror

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