NINEFOX GAMBIT (3): the ambiguity of space opera

Guattari thought that fascist desire was in the service of some transcendence, a fixed supreme value in the name of which the fascistic order is imposed. Being woke, being aware of the semiotic machine and the power mechanisms driving that imposition of an order, is not enough, but it is a good beginning in the process of deterritorialisation (estrangement) that can lead to greater freedom.

In these terms NINEFOX GAMBIT is a critique of fascism rather than its sublimated (because fantasy) and hyper-sublimated (because “woke”) satisfaction. The universe is explicitly described as fascistic, and the attempt to bring back a heptarchy is a fight for religious freedom and democracy, i.e. a struggle against the transcendent régime of the hexarchate.

The whole world-system and plot of the novel are even more Guattarian than Jonathan McCalmont’s use of him implies. True all of this crystallises around one individual, but I do not think that we are invited to identify with him. Enough is done to keep us alienated from him up to the very end. We learn his motives and strategy, but we are not incited to say “Oh OK, that’s all right then”.

The overall movement is from mystery to understanding, but not from negative to positive, and Jedao remains a very ambiguous figure, with a huge amount of negativity attached to him. We attain noetic catharsis, in that we understand him, but we do not attain ethical catharsis, since mass slaughter as a means to social emancipation and individual salvation is not something we can identify with.

Awareness without ethics is a form of self-deceptive self-indulgence, but the novel seems to me to have an ethical thrust that does not coincide with the motivations of the “hero”. This critique of the hero and his quest is not new in space opera, but goes back at least to DUNE, where the hero, Paul, becomes even more despotic than his predecessor, a woke Despot building his reign on fanatical devotion and submission.

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