Sunday, June 15, 2008

Political Horror, or Governments as Living Gods and Corporations as Hostile Alien Lifeforms

In the third of my posts on collective villainy, I'll talk about genre. Now, you might read a whole lot of books and articles about political crimes and governmental shenanigans, but no matter how all-powerful they get you've probably never thought of them as literal gods. You might read all the business publications in the world and still never conceive of even the most predatory corporations as hostile alien lifeforms. Is the Federal Government of the United States of America a berserk Titan? Is Enron a collective vampire? Is Nazi Germany the manifestation of one of the dreaded Elder Gods? It may or may not be true in the real world (but see the last two posts), but the answer is a definite yes in the new genre of fiction I'm creating, a hybrid I'm calling political horror.

When I say "political horror", many of you probably think of such dystopian novels as 1984, Brave New World, and Darkness at Noon. They are indeed the forerunners to political horror. But I have something different in mind.

First take the political thriller subgenre, especially antigovernment and anticorporate thrillers. Now consider the organizations involved. Not their ideology or function or anything like that. Their structure. They are what some social scientists call superorganisms, which act as if they were lifeforms in their own right. Some of these, including most governments and the corporations dependent on them (and, not coincidentally, all criminal gangs including cults and terrorist organizations), are predatory and sometimes downright vampiric. All such coercive organizations feed on human energy; some prey on natural resources and even other organizations. Legally, they are citizens, "legal persons", with more rights and freedoms than the merely human subjects of the realm.

In the pioneering cyberpunk novel Count Zero, William Gibson combined a totalitarian anarchy of corporations with a cyberspace full of voodoo gods. Combine the corporations (and governments, religions, and gangs) with the gods, and you should get the picture. Collectivist entities are the new gods of the modern age, with all the omnipotence and indifference to human life and suffering characteristic of Jehovah and the gods of old. The book and movie The Corporation characterizes the "personality structure" of these organizations as specifically psychopathic. In Gibson's first and most famous novel, Neuromancer, he hints that artificial intelligences too are on the verge of becoming similar godlike beings, a view he reinforces when he depicts the progeny of the mating of the AIs Wintermute and Neuromancer as voodoo gods in Count Zero.

Thus, in Spanner and the novels of the Dictel trilogy (Bad Company is the one I'm working on right now), Dictel Corporation and the US federal government are single characters. They are, needless to say, not heroes; in my humanistic vision I reserve heroism to humans, who have love, compassion, and conscience, three things collectivist entities are totally incapable of. And, of course, I call Bad Company, Black Science, and Points of Authority the "Dictel trilogy" because Dictel Corporation is the main villain of each of them. Not Colonel Tom Becket or any of his brothers, but their company.

The governments and corporations of the Dictel trilogy in particular are the primary source of the horror in the stories. Here I'm using a new horror subgenre to criticize, among other things, posthumanism. Now, posthumanism is supposed to be about the evolution of humans beyond the human. But the posthumanism of Colonel Becket, based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Social Darwinism, is based on the claim that superior beings have involved that make humans obsolete. It's no longer a matter of making sure the Aryan race remains superior to the African race or vice versa. The whole human race, regardless of skin and hair color, is now the inferior race. There's a new master race, and it consists of governments, corporations, religious organizations, and criminal and terrorist gangs. The new gods.

Know the truth. And fear.

Back to Spanner’s World...

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