The Werewolf Cult of Silicon Valley

By Lucy Blissett

Epochs throw up the monsters they need. History can be written of monsters, and in them. We experience the conjunctions of certain werewolves and crisis-gnawed feudalism, of Cthulhu and rupturing modernity, of Frankenstein’s and Moreau’s made things and a variably troubled Enlightenment, of vampires and tediously everything, of zombies and mummies and aliens and golems/robots/clockwork constructs and their own anxieties. We pass also through the endless shifts of such monstrous germs and antigens into new wounds. All our moments are monstrous moments.

China Miéville “Theses on Monsters”

Two pictures appear in the New York Sun. The first is of a thirty year old “hooker,” and below that of her victim, a middle aged man. [1] We see the woman posing for a selfie in front of a mirror. She is holding a phone decorated with a Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe. She is wearing a tight corset and her upper body is all cleavage and undecipherable tattoos. One seems to be a frothing dog’s snout and the other a toothy flower. 

The man, on the other hand, is shown in windswept sunkissed glory on his yacht, “Escape,” the picture of glowing if aging health. Behind him there’s a sweeping glimpse of the bay and the shadowy shoulder of a man. [2] The victim is relaxed and semi-smiling, grasping a bottle of Corona or some other low key beer. He is paunchy in his classic dad sweater. Known as a wealthy Silicon Valley executive, he could be any man. He could be any bourgeois man. Despite dying of a heroin overdose with a prostitute, he will be eulogized as “A husband, father of five, and Google employee,” while the woman is eternalized as “the call-girl killer” or “the harbor hooker.” Where the bourgeois man once sought excitement he now seeks arrangements.  

The woman’s morphology goes under the sign of the “suicide girl”: dyed black hair, tattoos, dramatic makeup. A hybrid of slut, goth, punk, manic pixie dream girl– she is a pie chart of late capitalist repressive desublimation. She is professionally uncivilized. [3] And while she is monetarily rewarded for her performance of “wildness,” she can never escape sanction or find sanctuary. Another picture has her in a tawdry red room, wearing a mismatched bikini, leaning against a wall to accentuate the snake-like curve of her form. Insofar as the public knows, her scandalous case ends with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deporting her back to Canada, globalizing her stint as “other” of the month, reestablishing the borders. The story will be “Prostitute injected Google executive with heroin, finished her wine and left him to die.”  What the public doesn’t know is weirder and worse.

In the woman’s lair, the preparations are underway. She has starved herself for three days, enjoying the slow build of hunger. If she were a wolf, her coat would be dry at the roots and spit slick at the tips, her ribs would protrude and hollow, her eyes would be dim, rheumy, and grey, her head would bow to the ground and her once lush and alert tail would sag. She is not yet a wolf though. She is hairless and skinny, a haunt of a person.  Amy Winehouse towards the end. Haggard and scratchily full-throated. She has plucked every follicle to make the transformation more spectacular. Her tattoos are fairly bristling with anticipation. 

The rec room where the Werewolf Cult of Silicon Valley meet is almost complete. It has a ping pong table and a life-sized Spock pez dispenser. They’ve recently acquired a Robot Coupe J80 Ultra Automatic Juicer With Pulp Ejection and an uncannily realistic sex doll named Misha. On the wall there is a poster where the evolution of man is charted. First, a hunched ape. Then, a lumpy neanderthal. Man straightens out. He obtains a tool, a spear. He becomes the tool, sleek and strong, perfectly upright. Finally, his form blurs with a stream of numbers. The tool’s intelligence has surpassed man and encompassed him. He is the singularity. But how to broach this next step? With all the Google glasses in the world, the Werewolf Cult of Silicon Valley still feel the distance. They are sullen and lonely in their discrete, analog bodies– hungry for the transformation. There’s something missing, a missing link.[4] 

It stands to reason, if animal can become human then human can become pure information. And that parallel becoming is where the werewolf woman comes in. On a dark web fetish site, they found her, spent months fantasizing, feeding on her animal ferocity and grace. Finally, came the epiphany– this was the final ingredient, the missing link. Animal/human amalgam as gateway to human/machine transcendence. They tinkered night and day to find the formula. A small army of azure screens irradiated in the dawn’s mechanical light.

There is really nothing easier for the Werewolf Cult of Silicon Valley to do than rig a surveillance camera, make it appear that the woman watched the man slowly die of the heroin she injected into his arm, step over his body, enjoy her glass of wine, and escape out into the night. 

The blood ceremony was more complex. First, they had to hide from her sharp sense of smell, which could easily detect the hidden pack of men steaming with anticipation in the hull of the ship.  Then, they needed to ensnare her at the precise moment when she entered the helpless throws of transformation from woman to wolf. Then there was the blood to obtain, the Rube-Goldberg-like twists and turns of its processing, and the ascension ritual to perform, all before she came to, starving, bloodthirsty and bewildered by the absence of her prey. The arrangements had been elaborate, time consuming, sending them to nerd heaven. And the moment was here. She was really on “Escape.” They were all wired up and ready, almost as excited to see her transformation as for their own ascendance. [5] 

It begins as a postural change. She catches a glimpse of the full moon and hunches as if in pain at the bright glare of it. She ducks her head. Spiny fur rips through the back of her shirt. Her nose elongates, morphing into a snout. Her jaw drops and a low moan emits from her throat. The claws tear at her fingers and toes and at that moment she cannot bear the pain of it, tucks her head between gristly muscled arms as if cowing before a master. She crouches and cries before giving way to her own deadly strength. It is right then, a hair’s breadth before her full emergence, that they take her. A syringe sucks a tiny droplet of hot blood. Then the light speed distillation and transubstantiation. Water becomes wine. Blood becomes electricity. Men become gods. The Werewolf Cult of Silicon Valley distribute their particles, grid-like. It’s as Tron as they hoped it would be but with all the fun campy eighties vibe suctioned out. They etherialize. In the annals it will be recorded as a case of male autochthony. But it was the woman’s essence that galvanized it all. [6]

When she surfaces, her fangs screaming for Google Exec flesh, she finds herself alone. There is a faint shimmering above and then nothing. The Werewolf Cult of Silicon Valley has left meat space for the great digital beyond. Who knows where they are hacking and haunting now? It is not the time or place to think about that. The starving, blood mad woman had lost her prey. Not unlike the woman in the doctored footage, she lapped up some wine and leapt off “Escape.” There could be no distinction now between innocent and non-innocent blood. There was only iron and heat. She sprinted from the harbor to the highway, smelling an injured animal. Soon her fur was blood drenched and she had the back half of a deer carcass in her teeth, nothing of its outsides still intact but two slender legs ending in poignantly cloven hooves. 

Later, restored to humanity, she will see flashes of infrared carnage. Was it an unlucky transient? Was it a clueless tech bro? Or something else? One thing she did not second guess was her guilt. She owned it in the courtroom. One picture shows her looking past a patiently explaining lawyer, straight into the camera. Her black rimmed eyes shine with demonic glee. Her hair hangs with redolent carnality before her hunched form. She doesn’t know who, exactly, it is she ate. But there is no doubt she is a predator. [7] 

It is possible that she sprinted from the Santa Cruz yacht harbor, up the 17 highway to San Jose. The pickings are easy. She would encounter a homeless encampment with a jaunty sign, “welcome to Googleville.” The distraught men would huddle against a fence, so lifeless they don’t even bother to look up or defend themselves. In a night it would be possible to consume an entire illegal RV encampment packed with delectable janitors, baristas, adjunct instructors, waitresses, low level tech workers, preschool teachers, their chubby children, their scraggly dogs. 

Or, alternately, she might have burst through and shattered the glass of the Googleplex, rampaging the office’s open-floor plan, leaving only a trail of rectangular glasses and Pellegrino behind. 

She suspects she took the easier route and dined on the surplus populations of Silicon Valley. [8]

The Werewolf Cult of Silicon Valley had no need to literalize their ascendence into the singularity. They had already absented themselves from this human suffering, cordoning themselves off in their privatized busses and social spaces. They were already gone.  

I would have prefered to model this tabloid monster after the lush feminist werewolf film, The Company of Wolves, based on a short story by Angela Carter. In this retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, the sexual implications of Riding hood’s red cape are allowed to unfurl. In a misty fairy land, a young girl learns to trust her sexual power, turns the tables on an aggressive huntsman who stalks her, refuses to either be the passive object of his desire or to deny her own agency. Instead, her transformation into a werewolf is a phantasmal symbol of a woman coming into her own sexuality and voice, emerging from passivity and revelling in her untamed power. [9]

I wish this kind of heroine was available to me. That I could delink my depiction of feminist avenger from the din of suffering that pervades the Silicon Valley and its surrounds. I want to escape the homeless wastelands for a misty, mythic forest. There, the woman could become a true singularity, overriding the typologies that rise and fall with the bubbles and bursts of the tech economy, including that of the high class prostitute toying with her emotionally damaged tech worker prey. I would like to rewild this woman, make her violence libidinal and pure, to have her run with the wolves, unleash her pure carnality, harness the fantasy of a thousand feminists howling at the atavistic, elemental, matriarchal, transformational power of the moon. But she is pure modernity — predator and prey: both of whom are locked into the Tron-like grid of capitalism’s singularity. In the courtroom we see she is neither wild nor free. As in the bleak post-war chiaroscuro of film noir, the shadow of bars falls across her face, darkening her defiant glare.

Like us, she is trapped here, at the end of the world, where the Werewolf cults of Silicon Valley rampage and party in an etherialized, Walpurgisnacht death dance, sponsored by elite vitamin waters. Predator and prey howl in auto-tuned harmony, while rewilded marshes, densely populated with the unhoused, reflect in the mirrored glass of tomorrow’s sleek neo-feudal death-yachts whose seasteading captains sacrifice the undocumented to a bitcoin sea-monster-god, the rival of she whose name shall never be spoken until the last hacked moonscape turns blood orange and evaporates into the singularity’s cruel libertarian nightmare, from which our feral, lupine hearts must by force be awakened.

[1] These two characters are drawn from an incident that occured in Santa Cruz, CA in 2013. After the death of Google executive Timothy Hayes, footage from a surveillance camera on his yacht revealed that a woman he had met through Seeking Arrangements, Alix Tichelman, had been caught by a security camera injecting him with heroin and, when he passed out, stepping over his body, drinking a glass of wine, and leaving the scene. The incident was sensationalized, with a near-universal framing of Hayes as a virtuous married family man with five children and Tichelman as a death-driven, drug-addled, psychopathic whore, despite the fact that it was he who had repeatedly contracted her services. Eventually Alix was convicted of manslaughter. She spent two years in a Santa Cruz jail and upon her release she was promptly intercepted by ICE and deported to Canada. The sexism, classism, and nativism of the case fascinated me, as did the striking photos of her in the media, in which she generally appeared lupine and other-wordly, as she defiantly stared past pedestrian officers of the court and press, straight into the camera. That this incident involved a Google executive, one of the pack who have been pillaging the South Bay, raising rents to inhuman levels, and leaving its inhabitants to forage and scrounge for a warm corner to curl up in after 14 hour work days, made the story even more compelling and disturbing.

[2] Most ships in legend or fiction are, from this point of view, like the Nautilus, the theme of a cherished seclusion, or it is enough to present the ship as the habitat of man, for man immediately to organize there the enjoyment of a round, smooth universe, of which, in addition, a whole nautical morality makes him at once the god, the master, and the owner… Roland Barthes  “The Nautilus and the Drunken Boat.”

[3] Today, a savvy career woman gone professional-girlfriend exploits the socialization of her gender by deploying her “inherent” skills learned through a lifetime of compulsory heterosexuality in order to procure a handsome living.  Maya Gonzalez and Cassandra Troyen, “<3 of a Heartless World”

[4] The technological singularity is the endgame cult of Silicon Valley. It is the imagination of an Artificial Intelligence that surpasses all that is human. We can see the bankrupt logic of this accelerationism everywhere in the South Bay, as the utopian discourses of Uberfied Soylent clash with the reality of homelessness and poverty. Here, I imagine that there is a cult of tech bros who imagine they can ascend into this next stage using the blood of a werewolf prostitute as the final ingredient to unlock their misogynistic, Darwinian techtopia.

[5] And almost every night, soon as I slept, my poor brother would rise—dry mouth and bulging eyes (the way he’d dreamt himself!)—and haul me into the room, howling his stupid dream/ Truly convinced, I’d vowed to take him back to his primal state—child of the sun—and so we wandered, fed on wine from the caves and gypsy bread, me bound to find the place itself and the code. Arthur Rimbaud “Vagabonds”

[6] The ones who are desperate to stay relevant, stay bleeding; they love to organize the blood. Oki Sogumi

[7] Monsters demand decoding, but to be worthy of their own monstrosity, they avoid final capitulation to that demand. Monsters mean something, and/but they mean everything, and/but they are themselves and irreducible. They are too concretely fanged, toothed, scaled, fire-breathing, on the one hand, and too doorlike, polysemic, fecund, rebuking of closure, on the other, merely to signify, let alone to signify one thing. China Miéville “Theses on Monsters”

[8] ..where the well-heeled can dine on gold-flecked steaks, $500 tasting menus and $29 loaves of bread…  a new study suggests that 26.8% of the population – almost 720,000 people – qualify as “food insecure” based on risk factors such as missing meals, relying on food banks or food stamps, borrowing money for food, or neglecting bills and rent in order to buy groceries. Nearly a quarter are families with children…a survey of more than 4,000 students found about half have skipped meals due to the cost…a family of four earning $84,750 or less in Santa Clara County is considered low-income …the median price of a family home has reached a new high of $1,125m, while the supply of homes continues to shrink…. These realities mean food insecurity cuts across lines of race, age and employment status…Martina Rivera, a 52-year-old mental health nurse, explained that her troubles began when her entire building was evicted last year… Mass evictions have swept the area as landlords seek higher-paying tenants… “Because I breastfeed my daughter, I feel like I’m passing that stress and depression on to her,” she said during an interview in Spanish…  The firm, in announcing the purchase of the 48-unit Buckingham Apartments, said that its goal was to “rebrand” and “revitalize” the property, raise the rents, and attract “young working professionals” employed at “Google, Facebook, and other Fortune 100 tech companies”… Prior to Trion’s $15m purchase of the property, rents were 40% below market value, the company said in a press release, noting that it “presented an opportunity … to maximize rent growth”…“While rents will be increasing at this property, we would, of course, be delighted to have the original residents come back to this building as residents in the renovated units if they would like to”… Numerous studies have shown that, although the region depends on low-wage service workers who support the tech economy, only the ultra-wealthy can afford to live near their jobs. In Silicon Valley, roughly 70,000 low-income workers now commute more than 50 miles to work…“You’re always thinking and worrying. It’s something that is always with me,”…“We are being forced to move. This is our home.”…Between 2000 and 2013, the number of low-income households in the Bay Area increased by 10%, but the region lost 50% units defined affordable for this population…“It’s a form of gaslighting to have these companies doing so many harmful things telling you how great they are and how much they are helping you. It’s another form of abuse,”… Veiled by the yellow willows and brush along a forgotten creek bed in San Jose, hundreds of people jerry-built a treehouse and constructed underground bunkers and ramshackle lean-tos to form one of the nation’s largest homeless encampments…In 2013, San Jose and the surrounding Santa Clara County estimated almost 7,600 homeless people, more than in San Francisco. And 75% of them were sleeping outside, on sidewalks, in parks and under freeway embankments — a percentage greater than in any other major U.S. metropolitan area…”You need to work five minimum-wage jobs to afford to live here,”…Three-quarters of the area’s 7,567 homeless residents are from Santa Clara County. Most of them live in one of San Jose’s 247 tent cities, just miles from the sprawling headquarters of Google and Apple….They’ve submitted rental applications for more than 20 apartments, he said, but the waiting lists are up to two years long… They ended up here after trying to move from a two-story apartment to a one-floor place to accommodate his wife, who is disabled. But the landlord of the apartment they found turned them away at the last second, and by then, their old apartment had already been rented out…”I’d sleep at the college, they’d bus me here…. Anywhere I went, [police] would harass me,” he said. “Once I came here, they stopped harassing me.”

[9] Alix’s brand of werewolf is more closely related to the great 1981 film Wolfen, directed by Michael Wadleigh, whose only other films are avant garde counter-culture documentaries. That film can be read as a treatise on the failed political dreams of the sixties and the inevitable rise of deindustrialized wastelands along-side gentrified class war fortresses that was to follow. The werewolves are at first  compared to anti-colonial Native Americans and radical student leftists. They even go so far as to kill billionaire developers and destroy a model for an upscale apartment complex to be built on the wolves’ rewilded south Bronx hunting grounds. In Cartographies of the Absolute, Roberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle read this film as a model of cognitive mapping, unveiling “the collapse of radical politics and the emergence of a feral neoliberalism against a backdrop of urban dereliction and redevelopment” (105). However, these brutal, majestic creatures are denied heroic status. They fight redevelopment because they want to continue preying on the surplus populations that haunt the deindustrialized South Bronx. Finally Toscano and Kinkle compare the wolves to gentrifying artists who form symbiotic relationships with the downtrodden, not as allies, but as predator and prey. 

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