Ambrose Bierce and wilderness Gothic at the end of the frontier
ancient history that it knew of, no classical ruins, no romantic
medieval monuments, and not even a proper aristocracy. 31
This takes us back to the question
of the Gothic, and what inspiration might be found in this new land.
‘The Damned Thing’ would suggest that one source might be
in emergingtechnology, what it reveals, and what it has yet to reveal
performance, the ‘truth’ of the
past, this ‘truth’ was not perceived as ‘correct’ representation of historical settings,
costumes and behaviour. The desire for ‘sublime authenticity’ (reflected elsewhere
in emergingtechnologies, from the diorama to photography) was not simply a medial strategy employed to overcome or even efface a gap and a notable distance. On
the contrary, the obsession with accuracy, with copying ‘originality’, emphasised and
highlighted a feeling of rupture, loss and disconnection between past and present.
It indicated actual historical separation
most obvious legacy to contemporary afterlives of nineteenth-century novels like Frankenstein . As Hoeveler explains, ‘There is no question that contemporary viewers of the horror film … owe a visual and cultural debt to the many advances and experiments made by the Victorian Gothic drama’ (69). The proliferation of adaptation in the age of film and digital media is an extension of the nineteenth-century’s fascination with emergingtechnologies and commercial popular culture.
Much of the existing Frankenstein- focused scholarship has
ritual’ and allow a new
relationship between the arts, which were formerly the preserve of an
elite or served the superstitious purposes of religion, and citizens who
would, he claimed, make ‘revolutionary demands in the politics of
art’. The exciting, democratising possibilities of emergingtechnologies would, as we described earlier, like electricity,
‘reactivate the object reproduced’ and the process
presumption that unlimited growth represents progress (and perhaps virtue), made for instance by Latour and Haraway in discussions of technology and environmental limits, resonates with many explicit critiques of the computational as the handmaiden of such forms of progress, and is present in a more amorphous form more widely (see Latour, 2011 , Haraway, 2016 ). Work by Timnit Gebru et al. on the high environmental/energy cost of expanding data lakes used in AI sharpens the critique in relation to emergingtechnologies (Gebru, 2021 ).
cultural vernacular’ (Miéville, 2002 ) because it resonates with what is also a fantasy, the fantasy of real life under capital, the fantasy that is at the heart of our material world and its emergingtechnologies. The fantastic, as a literary form, and in particular the New Weird, can (potentially) get at what is itself a fantastical colonization, and deal with it better than conventional forms of literary realism, because it can better get at ‘things’ beyond natural realism, or empirical realism. Unlike the postdigital, it continues to give technological inauguration
readings. My final chapter speculates on how reading will change as a result of emergingtechnologies. Making a virtue out of open-endedness, I use debates about screens to examine the larger question of the relationship between textuality, history, and identity; I extend this discussion in an afterword that considers reading’s place in the evolution of our digital futures.
Although the book as a whole covers a lot of historical and conceptual ground, it is not intended as a minute survey of literary-critical history. Instead it analyses the cultural work