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Book sample, "Maps and Monsters, Beowulf and Amazons"

I wanted to post a small-but-vital, seven-page excerpt from my latest volume, Manifesto and Instruction, onto my blog. The sample-in-question critiques a core function of Capitalist Realism and its endless service to the profit motive: the creation of an enemy within a cartographic territory of crisis (a map of conquest) that must be heroically reconquered ad infinitum—cops and victims, essentially. By extension, the sample addresses my thesis argument that neoliberalism franchised and commodified various videoludic refrains vital to state operations after the Cold War ended; i.e., the videogame map and monsters playing out in reliably dogmatic ways that keep Capitalist Realism firmly in place.

Note: If you like this sample, it will be included inside a new edition of Volume One, sometime later today. Both sample and volume belong to a non-profit book series on sex positivity and the Gothic. Made in collaboration with other sex workers, the project is a four-volume set called Sex Positivity versus Sex Coercion, or Gothic Communism: Liberating Sex Workers under Capitalism through Iconoclastic Art. As of 2/14/2024, my thesis volume and manifesto volume are available online (the other volumes shall release over the remainder of 2024). To access my live volumes, simply go to my website's 1-page promo and pick up your own copies for free. While you're there, you can also learn about the yet-unreleased volumes, project history and logo design/promo posters!

Regarding our sample, its focus is heroic (monomythic) monsters, most notably offshoots of Beowulf and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons; both serve the state through theatrical monster violence (Amazonomachia) that maintains the status quo: "The state always responds to rebellion and liberation with violence, and will train you to do the same."

[begin sample]

(artist: Kyle James)

State hegemony threatens and executes invasion in the same complicated sphere. Per Cameron's refrain, the imperial castle becomes a black fortress, an indiscriminate killing ground with one grim message: "kill the enemy." Except, its broadcast travels inside a place where the distinction between friend and foe is eliminated. The colony doubles as a concentration camp for both sides, but also a territory to conquer over and over. Inside its state of exception, civil distinctions become meaningless; everyone is a threat (the xenomorph a potential invader hiding inside state employees) and the state can do anything to defend itself, to profit. Hostages, soldiers, and terrorists alike not only become confused, but collateral damage serving the profit motive. Cops, the prescribed hero class, transform; they become demons, pirates, and black knights—rabid-dog torturers, jailors and assassins who threaten everyone except the elite, far, far away.

This harrowing reality plays out in videogames under neoliberal hegemony, but also the movies that inspired them coming out of older, pre-cinematic works. In either case, us-versus-them owes itself to Cartesian thought pitting state violence—i.e., the traumatic, dick-like penetration of knives and bullets—against guerrilla forces wielding abject variants of the same ordinance inside prison-like conditions. Historically this would have been stolen American materiel, but in many shooters is symbolized as biomechanical/cybernetic during a prison break. This chimeric fusing of nature and the unnatural creates something utterly fearsome that America cannot defeat without "outside" help: the ancient male mercenary (the knight) hauntologically revived, but also the Amazon updated through neoliberalism as a war-themed girl boss "from another world." As my thesis argues,

Under Capitalist Realism, Hell is a place that always appears on Earth (or an Earth-like double)—a black fortress threatening state hegemony during the inevitable decay of a colonial body. Its widening state of exception must then be entered by the hero during the liminal hauntology of war as a repeatable, monomythic excursion—a franchise to subdue during military optimism sold as a childhood exercise towards "playing war" in fantastical forms; e.g., Castlevania or Metroid. Conjure up the Radcliffean menace within the Imperial Core, then meet it with American force. 

Threatened, the state always responds with violence before anything else. Male or female, then, the hero becomes the elite's exterminator, destroyer and retrieval expert, infiltrating a territory of crisis to retrieve the state's property (weapons, princesses, monarchic symbols of power, etc) while simultaneously chattelizing nature in reliably medieval ways: alienating and fetishizing its "wild" variants, crushing them like vermin to maintain Cartesian supremacy and heteronormative familial structures [...] Neoliberalism merely commercializes the monomyth, using parental heroic videogame avatars like the knight or Amazon pitted against dark, evil-familial doubles—parents, siblings and castles (and other residents/residences)—in order to dogmatize the player (usually children) as a cop-like vehicle for state aims (often dressed up as a dated iteration thereof; e.g., an assassin, cowboy or bounty hunter, but also a lyncher, executioner, or witchfinder general "on the hunt," etc): preserving settler-colonial dominance through Capitalist Realism by abusing Gothic language—the grim reaper and his harvest. Doing so helps disguise, or at least romanticize (thus downplay, normalize and dismiss) state abuses through their regular trifectas and monopolies; i.e., the CIA and other shadowy arms of state mercenary violence fronted by myopic copies—pacifying the wider public by mendaciously framing these doubles as (often seductive) "empowerment" fantasies. Dogma becomes "home entertainment" as a palliative means of weaponizing the idea of "home" against those the state seeks to control and exploit on either side of a settler-colonial engagement: the cop or the cop's victims. Either is sacrificed for the state through its usual operations; i.e., for the Greater Good, except heroes are glorified as monstrous sacrifices serving "the gods" (the status quo) out of Antiquity into capital, whereas their victims are demonized as evil, thus deserving of whatever holy (thus righteous) retribution comes their way. Both are chewed up and spit out, the state's requisite "grist for the mill" as it uses its own citizens to move money through nature: by defending itself from an imaginary darkness "From Elsewhere." A fortress' sovereignty is forged, as are its manufactured crises and saviors, but the outcome is still profit; the castle remains haunted by the ghost of genocide, the unthinkable reality that the hero is false.

(artist: Persephone van der Waard)

In neoliberal copaganda, canonical heroes are sent solo or in small groups, deployed as much like a bomb as a person; hired by the powerful, these "walking armies" destabilize target areas for the mother country to invade and bleed dry (a genocidal process the aggressor sanitizes with cryptonymic labels like "freedom" and "progress"). To this, they are authorized, commissioned or otherwise sanctioned by those with the means of doing so; i.e., a governing body centered around elite supremacy at a socio-material level. After infiltration occurs, they work as a detective[1]/cop, or judge, jury and executioner—either on foreign or domestic soil, the place in question framed as loosened from elite control, thus requiring the hero [and their penchant for extreme violence] to begin with. This makes them an arbiter of material disputes wherever they are: through police violence for the state in its colonial territories at home and abroad. They always follow orders: "Shoot first, ask questions later and enslave what survives." In stories like Aliens, Doom and Metroid, the fatal nostalgia of the "false" doubled homestead is used to incite genocide, thus conduct settler colonialism inside of itself; i.e., through standard-issue Imperialism but also military urbanism. This has several steps. First, convince the hero that a place away from home is home-like; i.e., the thing they do not actually own being "theirs" (the ghost of the counterfeit) but "infested" (the process of abjection). Then, give them a map and have them "clean house"—an atrocious "fixer" out of the imaginary past who repairs the "broken" home room-by-room by first cleansing it of abject things "attacking it from within," then disappearing with said nightmare; i.e., purging these alien forces through blood sacrifice or even total destruction of the home itself. The iconoclast can reverse this two-step process, but must protect those queenly things of nature normally persecuted by Cartesian forces and their cartographic schools of violence; i.e., by using counterterrorist language and ironic roles of violence, terror and monsters redirected towards the state: Athena's Aegis and the dark queen's chaotic stare of doom, but also literal, manmade weapons illustrated during performative shows of force against state invaders attacking Galatea (source).

Canonical heroes triangulate against state targets, then, becoming the necessary exterminator of the settler-colonial model, but also the sexy destroyer and superheroic retrieval expert during the monomythic fetch quest (hyperbole and state heroism go hand-in-hand, exaggerating the menace, emergency and rescue to equal measure); i.e., a budding flower of war and larger-than-life tempter-of-fate (and the audience) walking the tightrope between Heaven and Hell, life and death, protector and aggressor, child and parent, but also wild and tame, pleasure and pain, black and white, strong and weak, invincible and vulnerable, good and evil—all while delivering state subjects (and the nuclear family unit) from evil, chaos, death, darkness, Hell, etc: the dark chronotope as a false copy whose hellish architecture and monarchy (the medieval bloodline) threatens the perceived legitimacy of the West's own forgeries (while also haunting them). A school of canonical violence, then, the liminal hauntology of war predictably emerges, summoning the hero to occupy then suppress a prescribed "disorder" during an orderly chaos/Amazonomachia 

that breaks and repairs the symbolic home; i.e., over and over (a narrative of the crypt, circular ruin, infernal concentric pattern, Cycle of Kings, etc).

(artist: Gerald Brom)

And since we're focusing on the monstrous-feminine, here, I consider the most famous of all modern phallic women to be Hippolyta-married-to-Theseus: James Cameron's neoconservative, "feral mother" take on Ellen Ripley serving as a warlike, parent-themed mentor for the children of the present (or those who, thanks to waves of terror, regress to child-like states). She's the housemaid with a gun, facing the barbaric imagery of the imaginary past mirrored by actual colonial abuses, upholding the latter by banishing the former to benefit the elite—in short, by playing out a heroic story much in the same way that modern versions of Beowulf would: through sex and force, rape and war expressed in theatrical language that maintains Capitalist Realism.


(exhibit 30a: Volume Zero extensively explored how rape is a triangulation device employed by state forces in Gothic media; i.e., of Amazonian women raping state enemies/targets: the state's chosen female war bosses giving police, "prison sex" violence to nature-as-alien. Biological similarities and differences aside, their xenophobic function is identical to men's—an assortment of gun, war, and rape pastiche through a co-opted, centrist Amazon: the good monster woman, Ellen Ripley, furiously slaying her evil double, Medusa, in service of the state [who redirect her rage at their abuse of her in the first movie towards whatever target they want killed next: destructive anger]. The neoliberal, neoconservative "revenge fantasies" of Aliens and Predator [1986-87] are rape fantasy in that regard, as are their videogame offshoots: "Rape the Communist; kill the pig, spill its blood!"—all in service of the owner class back at home posturing as righteous, but also displaced by neoliberal "arms merchants" like James Cameron and John McTiernan [the former's other franchise, the Terminator movies, having a much more left-leaning "Western" flavor surprisingly Gothic/critical of Capitalism, exhibit 8b2]. These neocon fantasies canonically disassociate through state violence, producing a "bouquet" of "war daises" echoing T.S. Eliot's infamous "Wasteland" [1922]: "April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land" [source].

Just as the shared, us-versus-them rhetoric owes a symbolic debt to Beowulf's post-Roman treatment of monsters inside a Christian hegemon that survived in future English forms, neoliberalism's prime videogame mode—Cameron's refrain, the shooter—owes its own abject warrior symbolism to earlier stories putting future ghosts of Beowulf in seemingly unusual environments like outer space [whose dark hostility emulates Grendel's mother's underwater cave]: Starship Troopers. Beowulf's various offshoots survived into a retro-future copaganda whose military optimism contributes to the ongoing myopia under Capitalist Realism in male and female videogame forms; i.e., "Conan with a gun" aping Rambo [the white savior playing guerrilla] and Amazonian, Hippolyta-in-spirit Beowulfs like Samus Aran doing the same. Both offer a de facto "good" parental role to challenge the bad parentage of corrupt and/or monstrous-feminine entities [the evil double of the hero's homestead and its occupants]. Conjured up, Beowulf aborts the spawn of Cain and Grendel's mother on their illegitimate home turf encroaching on colonized lands; Samus crushes her own tall, hideous enemies using her own armored body and superior "phallic" weaponry. He's the Great Destroyer shooting Red Falcon's biomechanical offshoots to dust; she's the Medusa, as strong as the Earth as she cuts Mother Nature [and her draconian offspring] down to size [below].

Per the kayfabe clich├ęs of wrestling monsters, its not long before both hero types get naked, reviving binaries from Antiquity stressed post-Renaissance—he, stripped down to stress his masculine "invulnerability" and she, her feminine "vulnerability" during a recent creation of sexual difference. Within this settler-colonial trend, they pointedly denude towards a native, "white savior" state, mid-combat, which then regresses back to nuclear family roles after the action lulls: Hippolyta, the if-not-bridal-then-at-least-maternal role, playing house/mother while Beowulf goes home to be a family man… until the fight begins anew [which it always will under Capitalism; if there's no one left to fight, the elite will make new enemies to confront based on Cold War kayfabe archetypes: the Nazi or the Communist as a bad parent to the hero's good parent].

[artist, bottom-right: Blue the Bone]

Through this canonical, neoconservative chase back to war—to track down and kill her own trauma—Ripley "pulls a Rambo" like Arnold and the boys do, becoming Beowulf, the fabled Great Destroyer persona and very thing she feared in the first film, during Amazonomachia: a cosmic, female war boss catfighting with a female-Numinous, xenophobic symbol for Communism in order to become "top dog," queen bitch, etc, in service of Patriarchal Capitalism preying on nature. As such, Ripley's "teeth in the night" performance murders, pillages and rapes the land and its inhabitants around her for the company and for Capitalism [with Cameron making FOX lots of money and contemporary videogame companies like Konami and Nintendo also becoming indebted to Aliens in future installments]. In this sense, her short fuse mirrors Victoria de Loredani's short life in Zofloya, except "Lilla" [the recipient of state violence, exhibit 100b2] is disguised as both a killer army of queer, Communist space bugs and their abject, queenly broodmare's Satanic power to create things that—like Satan or David from Alien: Covenant [more on him in Volume Two]—threaten "the end of the world" simply by existing at all; i.e., a termination of the status quo's socio-economic order relayed through monster kayfabe/Amazonomachia and Galatean poetics: good monsters and bad, good nature and bad, good war and bad.

Cartesian thought emblematizes nature-as-alien through stigma animals as things to war against—often insects and other decomposers that mass produce through inhuman means of sexual reproduction, but also symbolize Indigenous culture and pagan religions; e.g., Tolkien's fearsome spider women and orcish subterranean barbarians, or Lovecraft's sea creatures "from the deep." To some degree, all symbolize death, decay and ancient forgotten gods feared from a Western colonizer's perspective; in turn, the ghost of the counterfeit abjects mighty-yet-weak [re: Umberto Eco] cultures that, once unleashed, lead to a black planet through a dark uprising's hoard-like, black, queer and/or Jewish revenge: from the transgenerational surrender of "slaves give birth to slaves" to a slave uprising dressed in reclaimed implements of counterterror scaring whitey senseless. It's a doomsday prediction built on colonist anticipations of eventual, inevitable collapse [no colony lasts forever]: Nature must be kept "in check" to preserve the world "as is"; i.e., Capitalism, which dominates the world/nature through military optimism as a brutal-but-effective means of maintaining the generational myopia of Capitalist Realism. As such, it also treats nature as savage—an unthinking "hive" multiplying in ways that, according to the West, "cheapen life." Doing so abjects the West's usual cheapening of nature [and subsequent kettling through psychosexual violence/reactive abuse] onto its victims around the world, claiming the East doesn't "value life" the way the West does in its own good-war canon [Kay and Skittles' "How Enemy at the Gates Lies to You: Saving Private Ryan, Othering, and Cold War Narratives," 2023].

To this, Ripley is the CIA cop [the "advisor"] who, working for the Man in search of Promethean power [rival mastery] under a Faustian bargain, becomes the temporary Nazi to wade into the prison-like colony's risen Hell and punch the Communist-framed-as-Nazi: the Archaic Bug Mom in fetish gear operating as the Satanic rebel, but punished as the zombie, demon, patchwork-animal cyborg when she invariably snaps under Western occupation/carceral violence. Once Medusa is vanquished and her feral legacy in chains, our Hippolyta seemingly returns "back to normal," exiting Hell and coming back from the dead at the end of the Hero's Journey. Except, the ontological horror—of the hero's conditioned desire to attack such a monster—is it turns the fearful party into a genocidal murderer of the helpless [and their children] passed off as tyrannical, disgusting vermin reflecting state trauma perpetrated against the abuser towards the abused, in a ceaseless cycle of abjection, of extermination. Dark reflections of their own abuse cause TERFs to triangulate against the state's intended underclass, the refuse of Capitalism's bowels, its relegated, infantilized pieces of shit: the "killer queen" of the Goths and her den of abominable thieves. Hysteria isn't quelled, then but maintained by abusing Athena's Aegis to pass state violence along viral reflections of a perceived exotic bride to tame, an alien queen "of nature" to dominate, penetrating her fearsome womb until the end of time while Capitalism sexualizes everything.

[artist: Lera PI] 

To this, Cameron's Ripley was always a TERF Amazon, a phallic woman playing Brutus putting "Caesar" [corruption] down by abjecting white fears of medieval human childbirth [and the hysteria and humiliation of state-compelled birth trauma—of placental blood, amniotic fluid, slime and involuntary shit] onto alien bodies, biology and compelled reproduction metaphors forced away from Western powers and onto the Archaic Mother as a settler-colonial scapegoat; I'm merely exposing Ripley as one now through my instruction speaking to my trauma at the hand of cis-het/cis-queer TERFs who lionize Ripley and demonize me in the same breath. The irony is canon puts the hero-turned-heel to heel, and in the case of tokenized straw dogs like Ripley or Victoria, puts them down when they become man-eaters/"rabid." On the flipside of this "euthanasia effect," male "dogs" that "go mad" are normally prized for their valor and ferocity as useful to capital. They're seen as "used to it" but also expected to "last longer" before they tire/fall apart like a spent animal corpse. Regardless, the praxial inertia remains, demanding opposition to state menticide through our own de facto education challenging its usual climaxes erupting out of exploited forms; e.g., traumatic penetration depicted as insectoid/queer to abject anything performing it, robbing them [and the endemic counterterror of their murderous, slimy "womb spaces," but also biomechanical, stabby-stabby girl cocks, below] of valid revolutionary potential in the eyes of would-be converts; i.e., when the chickens come home to roost.)



[1] We'll examine the Gothic role of various (often female) detectives in science fiction more in Volume Two, including the sections "The Demonic Trifecta of Detectives, Damsels and Sex Demons" and "Call of the Wild, part one."

***

Persephone van der Waard is an anarcho-Communist, sex worker, genderqueer activist and Gothic ludologist. She sometimes writes reviews, Gothic analyses, and interviews for fun; or does independent research for her PhD on Metroidvania and speedrunning every now and again. She's also an erotic artist and a writer. If you're interested in her work or curious about illustrated or written commissions, please refer to her website for more information.

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