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Abstracts and Papers

Monsters
2nd Global Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference

Saturday 1st May 2021 – Sunday 2nd May 2021
Online


ABSTRACT AND PAPERS

Making a Zombie: Ancient Tropes in Modern Horror Industries
Polina Ignatova

Key Words:
zombie, undead, horror, film, entertainment, medieval, history.

Zombies are a much-explored trope in modern entertainment culture. For example, there are currently nearly 500 zombie films, ranging from classic horror to comedy, drama, and even erotic horror, and this number is continuously increasing. Everyone knows the defining characteristics of zombies: they lack human intelligence and cannot be reasoned with, they are constantly hungry, they can increase their numbers by turning people into zombies, and destroying their heads is the only way to put them to rest. Yet little has been done to question the origins of these ever-present tropes or the reasons which underpin them. Arguing that without studying the past we cannot fully understand modern culture as it now exists, this paper will examine how ancient and medieval concepts of life after death and the undead have contributed to the nature and image of zombies in modern Western culture. It will demonstrate how ancient Greek concept of ἄωροι – those who died before their time, and medieval understandings of sin, penance, immortal soul and evil spirits can explain why despite completely defying the laws of human physiology zombies ‘die’ when their brain is destroyed, or why certain protagonists of modern zombie narratives perish as victims of the undead while others survive. Most importantly, by showcasing change and continuity in the Western perceptions of the dead body, from ancient to modern, this paper will shed light upon the societal message of zombies and their purpose in a contemporary narrative.


Waldemar and Franco: The Representation of the Decline of the Francoist Regime in the Spanish Werewolf Saga Movies
Erika Tiburcio Moreno

Key Words:
Spanish werewolf; Spanish horror film; fantaterror; the Francoist regime; cultural discourse; national-catholicism.

La Marca del Hombre Lobo (Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, Enrique Eguiluz, 1968) started a saga where Waldermar Daninsky is the main character, as well as an antagonist, who turns into a werewolf, terrorizing people who are close to him. This double-sided nobleman embodies the dramatic changes that took place in Spain and the strict opposition of the hardline during the late sixties and early seventies. Modernisation confronted with the dark side of the dictatorship, which still applied the repression on a changeable society.

The constant association of Daninsky and the rural setting reinforced this idea through the outbreak of a kind of violence that pervaded the social fabric. Furthermore, the figure of young modern women embodies the modern attitudes that opposed to the national-catholic morality prevailing in Spain. These women become the main victims of this monster and, apart from the influence of international trends, symbolises the male conflict with the new female model.

The aim of this paper is to undertake a historical analysis of the first five movies, which were produced during the Francoist regime: La marca del hombre lobo, La noche de Walpurgis, La furia del hombre lobo, El retorno de Walpurgis and La maldición de la bestia.
Thus, the werewolf embodied the different challenge that Spain had to confront: modernity and tradition, generational gap and sexual tensions. This case, the figure of the werewolf, rooted in the popular culture, transcended their condition of an outsider to become a well-respected member of the society, who becomes a monster within.


Vampires and Pandemics in Latin American Literature
Adriana Gordillo

Key Words:
Pandemic, Latin America, vampires, female, plague, patriarchy, travel, AIDS, women’s sexuality, body.

Through the exploration of the vampire figure as illness, Mexican author Carmen Boullosa’s novella, Isabel reveals a sick or atrophied social body that emphasizes the internalized limitations and guilt that women have about their sexual behavior. The vampire figure exposes the long shadow that heteronormative values cast on the region. Also, the monster reveals the strategies that writers use to reflect on how women deal with the tension between social expectations, personal growth, and sexual desire. The novella is set as a journey narrative, as an exploration of the mind and body of a woman whose life represents the struggles elicited by the societal boundaries imposed to women’s sexual instincts.

Boullosa’s novella joins a long list of literary works that use the plague as a trope. According to Susan Sontag’s AIDS and Its Metaphors, the plague is “the highest standard of collective calamity, evil, scourge” (44). Although this approach to epidemic diseases has changed during the 20th century, sexual illnesses remain tight to the idea of the plague as a judgment on collective moral or political values⁠. The disease tight to Isabel’s vampirism is the bubonic plague, yet the characters’ constant references to AIDS connect the novella with the late 20th century concern of a highly connected world and the transnational flow of population (and ideas) in a globalized era (Kroll 100). But AIDS is also connected to metaphors of invasion and pollution where the “enemy” is “an infectious agent that comes from the outside” (Sontag, AIDS 17). As Sontag points out, the plague is a foreign and foreigners’ disease (47).

In Isabel’s case, the character’s body acts like a territory, one that—in its “normal” or healthy state—is to be controlled (self-controlled as well as socially policed) by traditional gender roles and expectations. The outsider, the other—the disease that invades Isabel’s body—is the vampiresque, “hypersexualized” behavior of an educated woman who embodies all the social stereotypes of the bluestocking who forgot her place in a “civilized” and patriarchal society.


Fear of the Known: Evoking Narrative Elements in Lovecraftian Futurist Sound Composition
William Connor

Key Words:
Eldritch Music; Lovecraftian Adaptations; Strategies for Composing Lovecraft-Inspired Works; Agency; Semiotics; Lovecraftian Futurism

Music composers who aspire to represent Lovecraftian narrative elements through their works may choose to incorporate one of the main tenants of Lovecraftian horror: a fear of the unknown. In order to represent the unknown, a range of means to create varying levels of unfamiliarity in musical creations and soundscapes are at the composer’s disposal. Composers who embrace mostly conventional Western composition methodologies and standard instrumentation have the expected arsenal of compositional elements with which to work, and composers taking a more experimental approach may opt to abandon tempered harmony and melody in exchange for the additional unfamiliarity which may accompany that decision. Any approach, however, has two similar obstacles to overcome – what exactly is an unfamiliar sound and how can it be perceived to relate to Lovecraftian horror? These are opposite ends of the same spectrum: how much does the listener know (about sound or Lovecraft)? Following a combined idea of artistic intentionality put forth by Gell, and Toulmin’s model for structuring an argument that makes a claim, the ways in which some composers negotiate a balance between familiar and unfamiliar elements of their pieces can be discussed. Distilling compositional approaches and ideas to basic general situations, and applying an increased understanding of how the listener may engage with a composition, then rethinking the selection of instrumentation and sounds employed, as well as revisiting certain possible non-musical elements associated with compositions, the composer can potentially address concerns of the listener’s knowledge base and enhance the effectiveness of realizing a Lovecraftian narrative element representation.


Playing with Monsters
Arjen Noodhof

Key Words:
Psychoanalysis | pleasure principle | transitional object | desire | anxiety | play

Monsters can be viewed as cultural objects used in many different ways by adults and especially by children. They are rather often presented to children in stories and in the form of toys. Being first of all a source of anxiety one wonders why parents would choose to do so and why children themselves seek out monsters and fill their phantasies and dreams with them. Many analytic paths can be taken to approach this phenomenon and this paper will explore some possibilities derived from the works of Freud, Lacan and Winnicott. From a Freudian perspective one wonders in what ways monster-making can be reconciled with the pleasure principle – the Cookie monster being an easy one, while child eating giants present more difficult cases. And what about the repetition of the exact same monster-scenarios that can keep children awake at night – do they go beyond the pleasure principle? Much case material from therapeutic practice indicates that the monsters we phantasize may become so real that we become terrified by our own creations. What are we afraid of then? To what extent did we create the monster as a tangible replacement of an even larger and unbearable threat? What desires and anxieties are contained within or hidden behind the monster? And where do the monsters actually live? Outside or deep inside – are they to be regarded as imaginations of external threats or externalizations of internal rages? Somewhere within the Lacanian registers of the imaginary, symbolic and real? Or rather in an in-between area as Winnicott suggests about transitional objects? Can we use transitional monsters and why then would such a monster be suitable to live in the space between a baby and its Other? ‘

The Winnicotian perspective in particular opens up intriguing questions concerning the use of monsters: can we play with them and do they want to play with us? From what creative sources do we dream them up or fantasize them? Should we be careful that they do not eat us alive? Do the monsters therapists encounter in the speech of patients scare them as soon as they become a bit too real in their imagination? How can we create a potential space where monster may enter as objects to play with? In this paper Anonymized Case material from therapy sessions of two patients will be used in order to discuss these issues and juxtapose multiple perspectives on the appearance of monsters.


Desire as a Monster. Visible and Invisible Monsters in “The Afternoon Wind”
Joe Fortin

Key Words:
Desire, monster, monstrousness, secrecy, inventions, hallucinations, madness, visible, invisible, the wind.

This study focuses on the appearances of monsters and their role as a physical existence and as a product of the mind in the Dutch Caribbean story written in the Papiamento language “E biento di atardi” (“The Afternoon Wind”). The representations of visible and (incorporeal) invisible monsters are examined in their origin and functionality regarding the characters and the story. The narratives create a space where their monstrosities are both hidden and revealed at the same time. The invisible monsters in the story find their origin in desires (incorporeal), while the visible monsters show up as a replication of the imaginary ones. This article aims to prove that desire is the main reason for the existence of the literary monsters in this story. With their presence they subvert the story and at the same time they deconstruct the image of Aruba that is being branded as ‘One happy island’. Desire
creates monsters and together with the environment of the island that is the setting of the story, they form the monstrosity making this ‘happy island’ a desert of inaccessible harshness and drought which is symbolically the breeding ground and the dominion of the monstrousness. The space is inhabited by the living and the dead at the same time with their deepest longings. This analysis will try to reveal that the monster is a production of the mind. By doing this, it will demonstrate that the procreation of the creatures is the result of the desires of the narrator. This study shows how desire can create monsters that are part of the daily life on this Caribbean island, making it an accomplice of the monstrosity as well.


A Greek Influenced by Grimm: An Examination of H. P. Lovecraft’s Greek Period
Rhys James Jenkins

Key Words:
Classics; reception; Graeco-Roman; antiquity; poetry; artificial mythology; Greek; Grimm.

“From the opening chapter, I was electrified, and by the time I reached the end, I was forevermore a Graeco-Roman.”

                                                                                                        – H.P. Lovecraft, A Confession of Unfaith (p.19)

In A Confession of Unfaith (1922), Lovecraft shed light on his broader philosophical and theological stance, whilst reflecting on the influence Classical mythology had on his writings and worldview. Lovecraft himself credits the origins of his particular brand of existential horror to a synthesis of Greek imagery and Gothic macabre, referring to himself ‘a Greek influenced by Grimm’s fairy tales and Poe’ (Selected Letters I.136). Much can be drawn from this statement alone. How might this self-reflective stance as a Greek have fed into his poetry and prose? Subsequently, this paper explores Lovecraft’s ‘Greek Period’ – a term coined by George Wetzel (2012) – by examining the consequences of his Classical reception, while accounting for outliers beyond this timeframe, namely The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1927) and Medusa’s Coil (1937). Lovecraft’s poetry from this period, such as To Greece (1917) and Astrophobos (1918), serve as the primary focus of this examination, while excerpts from his short stories serve to illuminate his construction of an ‘artificial mythology’ that drew from his existing knowledge of antiquity (Selected Letters III.166). In doing so, this paper bridges the gap between popular literature and academic discourse through examining Lovecraft’s poetry as a lens for the Classical, which currently receive only a fraction of the attention that his short stories garner. By utilising Wetzel’s timeframe and critically engaging with examples of personal correspondence from Lovecraft’s ‘Greek Period’, this analysis delivers a more holistic understanding of the Classical reception employed by Lovecraft in his creations.


Reading/Studying Lovecraft as an Act of Moral Coming-of-Age; Lovecraft’s Legacy in Moral Realism
András Molnár

H. P. Lovecraft liked to identify himself as a cynic or a skeptic, and he recurringly professed his moral relativism in his correspondence. In his materialist view, the fact that there isn’t any inherent teleology in the universe at all, not even in the existence of conscious human beings that consider themselves as the pinnacle of evolution, entails that “[n]o one thing, cosmically speaking, can be either good or evil, beautiful or unbeautiful; for entity is simply entity”. (SL 2.234) S. T. Joshi highlighted that while cosmicism led Lovecraft to question the intrinsic validity of any moral proposition, this stance also served for him as a ground to declare that the “only one anchor of fixity” (SL 2.357, italics omitted) in the face of cultural and moral variability is embracing one’s own local tradition. While Joshi (H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West) rightly points out various contradictions in Lovecraft’s position, the dilemma that Lovecraft personally, and weird fiction in general, raise, has retained its actuality until these days. One of moral philosophy’s fundamental questions is whether there exist basic rules that govern right behavior or not. Moral realism, the idea, in Joshua Greene’s words, “that there is a fact of the matter about what’s right or wrong” (3), gives an affirmative answer to this question. Besides,

Greene distinguishes between two meaning of “moral”; the first one, which Greene holds untenable, is concerned with what’s actually right or wrong, and the other is concerned with the interests of others (15). The fact that Lovecraft, his indifferent attitude notwithstanding, paid significant attention to the issues of the commonwealth he lived in, demonstrates that he, too, might have been vaguely aware of a similar distinction. And while his weird fiction is “uniquely situated to convey the spirit of pessimism while avoiding the pitfalls of anchoring” (Stoneman and Packer 27), his personal political awareness shows that questioning the inherent value of life is not equivalent to fatigued nihilism. The aim of my paper is to demonstrate that, despite all his personal faults, the life and works of Lovecraft can be looked at as an example of the hardships and the responsibility that come with the necessity of elaborating one’s principles of right behavior, even though one’s personal conviction is that no objective guidelines for such choice exist.


Lovecraftian Monsters of Nautical Horror in William Eubank’s Underwater
Antonio Alcalá Gonzalez

The drastic changes brought to human life on Earth due to the presence of a mere virus, COVID19, have made us reflect on the fragility of our claimed position as rulers of the planet’s surface. Such role is so relative that when we focus on the oceanic depths where human’s apparent supremacy on the rest of the planet has not even been claimed. Though some technological advances have allowed us to reach corners at the bottom of the ocean in recent decades, we have found them to be dark areas under tons of water where it becomes rather complicated to leave permanent marks of our presence; thus abyssal depths remain some of the ultimate frontiers for humanity to dominate. As a result, they are relatively unknown scenarios that present an ideal setting for the irruption of nautical horror events of devastating consequences that question the boundaries of what we can control and what escapes from our grasp. On this maritime obscure stage, William Eubank’s film, Underwater relies on Lovecraftian nautical monsters to address concerns about the exploitation of nature in the Anthropocene. Eubank’s creatures are inspired by Cthulhu and other submarine monsters that emerge from oceanic depths to bring impressions of absolute horror in Lovecraft’s fiction. The intention of this paper is to approach the film under a Nautical Gothic lens and scrutinize the director’s appropriation of said monsters to share his view of humanity as a species with a very limited role not only in maritime depths but in the whole planet as well.


Racial Terror and the Struggle for Freedom in the HBO Series Lovecraft Country
Elena Apostolaki

Key Words:
supernatural/real manifestations of racism, white supremacy, the other, Black community, freedom

HBO’s Lovecraft Country is based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel and explores the weird and horrifying world of H.P. Lovecraft and the very real Jim Crow-era racism that plagued the U.S during that time. The series, developed by Misha Green and produced by Jordan Peele, places Black protagonists at the center of a Lovecraftian horror story. The Black characters have to face tentacle monsters, grand wizards, magic but they also have to deal with and escape very realistic horror, in the form of the racist police violence and white supremacy. They almost always responding to the terror brought upon them by whiteness, whether it’s real or supernatural. The series places cosmic horror next to the racist terror of white America. By bringing the Black characters into the center —who were often the metaphorical villains of Lovecraft’s stories—, the series allows for a new layer of meaning to Lovecraft’s fear of the other. Atticus, Leticia, Uncle George, Ruby and the rest of the cast are struggling to escape the everyday and supernatural manifestations of racism. Their struggle can be seen as a reflection of the actual struggle of the Black community today, who are trying to liberate themselves from the shackles of oppression and to kill the big ugly monster of systemic racism once and for all, so all people regardless of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, religion, race and any other personal characteristics can finally be free. Lovecraft Country, can, therefore, be read as a symbolic yet crucial contemporary cultural representation of this struggle for freedom. The series was created before George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s murders, but it came after the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and Sandra Bland. The racial terror in Lovecraft Country is an ever-present reality in the U.S. Once the viewers search deeper and look past the dark mansions, the wicked wizards and the tentacle monsters, they can understand that the supernatural and fictional land of HBO’s Lovecraft Country isn’t a distant place after all. The struggle for real freedom will not end until all “the others” can be truly free.


A Murder of Monsters: Sacrifice and Reproduction in Frankenstein, Oroonoko and Geek Love.
Teresa Cutler-Broyles
Independent Researcher / University of New Mexico, USA / Umbra Institute, Italy

Key Words:
monsters, reproduction, Frankenstein, Geek Love, Oroonoko, surrogates, monstrous double

Fictional monsters come in all shapes and sizes. They haunt graveyards and castles, they lumber over heaths and through swamps, they are by turns human and inhuman—sometimes both—and they share a number of characteristics regardless of their origins or lineage.

One of the important aspects monsters share is their propensity to embody cultural fears, and one of the reasons they excel at this is that in so doing, they also allow for the eliding of those fears by offering their bodies up for sacrifice. If a monster can be killed—and that itself is a question for another paper—their deaths overshadow and negate the very issues their presence has brought to the surface.

One only need think of scholarship that has likened vampires to foreigners, werewolves to the uncontrolled self, and terrorists to people of color to understand how potent a symbol monster can be.

So what happens when a (literary) monster wants to reproduce? In other words, how do fictional monsters fare when they seek to perpetuate the chain of signification in which they are a link? And what does it mean when authors don’t allow this to happen?

This paper begins an exploration into the phenomenon of the murder of literary monsters by their authors, and asks why it is necessary. Through three novels from very different eras—Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, and Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love—I seek to answer why authors murder their own offspring; I seek to understand why, in fact, they may have no choice.


Malign by Design: Visualizing Lovecraft and the Aesthetics of Monstrosity
Gerard Gibson

Key Words:
Lovecraft, monster, horror, visual arts, concept design, cinematic arts, film, artistic research.

Imagery holds a powerful place in the writing of H. P. Lovecraft. Many of his stories foreground the importance of the image as gateway to horrific revelation. 1 Few scholars have yet addressed the conspicuous imagery associated with Lovecraft’s work, his professed authorial reliance on a detailed visualisation process, 2 or the imagery his work engenders. This proposal embarks on addressing that omission, exploring the role and mechanisms underpinning Lovecraftian imagery.

Lovecraft’s own few sketches offer intriguing, direct glimpses of the author’s ideation at work. 3 Visual expressions of Lovecraftian horror by others proliferate. Whether in print, on screen or clothing, as plushies or figures, Lovecraftian aesthetics abound, really putting the cult in pop culture. These multiplying images are specular paratexts for Lovecraft’s mythos, yet their very ocularity has narratological consequences which are often academically overlooked.

Jay (1994), notes that Western scholarly practice has long privileged the written over the visual. Newbury (2011) too, observes that images are academically undervalued and conventionally viewed as being of questionable intellectuality. 5 He cogently points out that images are knowledge forms in their own right, sophisticated noetic propositions built on visual association and non-verbal components. 6 This visualised knowledge can describe complex relational ideas not easily conveyed by language. Dake (2007) persuasively argues that imagery which utilises associative mentation processes, may offer knowledge generating potentials unavailable to the conventional, verbally-trained academic mind. 7 Visual communication can convey subtle intellectual, affective and organisational ideas that are many-layered and multidirectional, even expressing concepts which in textual form are often considered mutually exclusive.

Using an approach which synthesises horror theory, visual semiotics and on-going artistic Practice-as-Research Lovecraftian image-artefacts are anatomised, offering fascinating insights into the underpinning mechanisms and processes of visualising the indescribable and conveying the paradoxical alterity of the Lovecraft’s creatures.


“I Ought to be Thy Adam: But I Am Rather the Fallen Angel”: Monstrous Humanity in Frankenstein
Chloe Carroll

Key Words:
Monstrous, Frankenstein, Gothic, Humanity, Empathy, Anxieties

The term ‘monster’ tends to evoke images of ‘otherness’ represented by the ugly and evil. The most popular example of this is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). Shelley’s unnamed monster explores society’s rejection of that which does not aspire to beauty standards, resulting in his monstrous vow for revenge. Like a child, he was born innocent and corrupted to his monstrosity by society’s treatment towards him. Utilizing Frankenstein as a core example, this study intends to explore how monsters serve as metaphors for societal anxieties and are portrayed to evoke empathy and a shift in cultural attitudes. Society has rooted anxieties in that which does not conform to social norms, attitudes nor gender identities. The construction of monsters provide a space to amplify these anxieties and are capable of offering a means of critical reflection and critique of humanity. Unlike the traditional depiction of zombies who have abandoned their humanity, Shelley’s monster exhibits a consciousness and is purposed to evoke sympathy. He is structured to be a man, with desires for love and purpose, and denied his ambitions based upon dictations of beauty. Through one of the most famous monsters, this study will explore the anxieties and morals of the time during its publication and how this translates to contemporary readings, Mary Shelley’s approach to the monster, thematic readings of the subject and its influence. Society needs its monsters to both provoke and comprehend cultural anxieties but also to develop upon empathy, Shelley’s monster defines fear and how to identify with the monstrous.


The Other Side of the Mirror: The Tendency of Humanizing the Monster and Monsterizing the Human in Media
Elif Çakmak

Key Words:
Cultural studies, literary studies, science-fiction, fantasy, popular culture, media, archetypes, monsters

With the benefit of being fictitious, the representations of monsters in popular culture presents itself in varied forms. Especially in science-fiction and fantasy genres, the improbability and the impossibility of the adapted scenarios provide a wider range of options for these representations. At the same time, these genres reflect elaborate ways of reimagining the social order while creating discussions around the question of what makes something or someone a monster. By defining the human and the monster in their own respective settings, they quite often focus on relating to their fictional monsters instead of presenting them as dangerous and things to be eliminated.

Overlooking or blatantly ignoring the physical differences for the sake of a mostly emotional connection, a sign of conscience or a genuine remorse clearly sends an important message. Through this representation and reflection, as well as presenting the question of how to deal with nonhumans, science fiction and fantasy genres pave a way for understanding and interacting with those considered different. That said, while humanizing their monsters, the role of the monster is more often than not left to be assumed by the humans. From helping the human heroes of the storyline to joining forces to fight against their evil schemes, the physical monsters prove themselves, whereas some human beings become the actual monsters because of the evil within them. In other words, the members of the society become those whom the society needs to be defended against.

In this presentation, this shift in the concept of the monster and the tendency to differentiate between the external and inner monsters will be analysed through examples from science fiction and fantasy content presented in visual media.


You Aren’t a Monster, You’re My Sister: Navigating Monstrous Power in The Umbrella Academy
Dan Connell

Key Words:
The Umbrella Academy, monstrous families, superheroes, dystopias, superpowers, time travel, Armageddon, dysfunctional families, superhero team, destiny

From the outset, The Umbrella Academy connects protagonists and antagonists with events that appear both miraculous and monstrous: 43 babies born on one day, to mothers not pregnant prior to sunrise. An adoptive family designed for good but wrestling with exceptional power. A nefarious organisation controlling the destiny of humanity by manipulating time. Through each character comes the internal and external manifestations of monstrosity: suppression of power and manipulation of truth become benchmarks on both sides. As the adopted Hargreeves siblings grapple with their supposed destiny as saviours, they find that not only do their interpersonal relationships get in the way of that realisation, but also that the powers themselves – and the monstrous impacts they have on those around them –segue into their connections both within the family and externally.

Whilst the metaphor of monstrosity plays out obviously in the form of their abilities – from gorilla-like Luther, to tentacled spectre Ben – the true conflict of monstrous power comes from within each character’s interactions with their own power. As the dysfunctional nature of their upbringing weighs on their capacity to use their powers in measured ways, the siblings become trapped in a pattern set about when their father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, decided to repress Vanya’s abilities: they simply try to reset, turning their narrative into a palimpsest. Yet the original text always shows through, multiplying their monstrosity as the collateral damage of their failed attempts to deal with their powers falls onto new loved ones and connections.

With the burden of saving the world on their shoulders from childhood, the focus of who is monstrous becomes a smokescreen for a clearer context: for all, power is the corruptible monster pushing them along the path to ruin.

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