Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Neuromancer (3rd post)

Because of all the reasons I outlined in my previous Neuromancer posts, I want to add that I'm aware of Kevin Concannon's attempt to juxtapose Gibson's fractal/aural world with Gloria AnzaldĂșa's borderland location. I think Concannon does so out of a distinct world view (or perhaps even, hope) that casts cultural studies, which was predominant in 1998, as a trend that would soon pass. I think this article represents one of the earliest attempts to coopt cultural studies into digital studies because through his summary of Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza (among my personal favorite tomes), Concannon demonstrates a cursory understanding of AnzaldĂșa. And in so doing, he shows that he has not immersed himself in the epistemology of women of color as a more general category. He wants to over-particularize the idea of hybridity and cast it against future oriented thinking. I think Concannon wishes to reassert hegemony by dismissing real life borderlands for a mutually agreed upon aural space.

Thankfully, Donna Haraway comes along with "A Manifesto for Cyborgs" and shows she knows how to play with the boys, thus theoretically outshining Concannon, though still ideologically in his shadow. Mixed metaphors, not withstanding, Haraway is so successful in her linking of cyberspace to "woman of color" epistemology. And in her mapping of a diaspora (digital, perhaps?) she brings cultural studies and digital culture together.

Neuromancer (2nd post)

I thought about it further and here's a good example of one of the staccato Neuromancer passages that drives me up the wall:

"No problem, mon." The Zionite executed a high forward somersault and rummaged through the contents of a zippered mesh bag, coming up with a coil of transparent tubing and something else, something scaled in a sterile bubble pack.
He called it a Texas catheter, and Case didn't like it at all.
He slotted the Chines virus, paused, then drove it home.
"Okay," he said, "we're on. Listen, Maelcrum lit a fresh joint.
"And trun the scrubber up. I don't want that shit tangling with my neurotransmitters. I got a bad hangover as it is."
Mauelcum grinned.
Case jacked byack in.
"Christ on a crutch," the Flatline said, "take a look at this."
The Chinese vurys was unfolding around them. Polychrome, shadow, countless translucent layers shifting and recombinding. Protean, enorous, it towered above them, blotting out the void.
"Big mother," the Flatline sadi.
"I'm gonna check Molly," Case said, tapping the stimstim switch. (Gibson 168)

At this point, I couldn't care less about Molly because I'm sure she's somewhere being a bad-A, sexy cyborg and I'm already distracted by the visuals that I've seen before in some Hollywood blockbuster. When Case catches up next with Molly, she's climbing out of a wreckage with a sex appeal that reminds me of something else I've already seen: The cover of a Blondie album, I'm sure. It's just that I don't think the genre really holds up considering all the images that are out in the popular culture. I'm sure had I been hip enough to have read this book in 1984, this would have blown my mind, but in 2009 it just feels like your run-of-the-mill fanboy lit.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I'll be honest. I did not enjoy reading Neuromancer. And admittedly, the same can be said about Phillip K. Dick's Dr. Bloodmoney. For me, the cyberpunk genre reads with a rhythm that is a bit too staccato. The action happens too rapid fire for my taste. It feels like a comic book, only without the pictures. Much like the music itself. I prefer novels with language that reads much more lyrically. I prefer literature that sounds beautiful to my ear. Call me a belletrist. I'll accept the label.

Conceptually I see what William Gibson is conveying but in 2009, who hasn't? What I mean by this is that it's hard to be blown away by Gibson's admittedly groundbreaking ideas and holographic depictions because, quite frankly, I've seen it all by now. This is only true because of the fact that the images conjured through the cyberpunk genre translate so well into film. In my opinion, it's difficult to be impressed when reading (in not so flowing prose) what I've seen at the movies or on cable for what feels like the thousanth time already. Films that come to mind are The Matrix, Minority Report, and the Rosanna Arquette character from David Soderberg's Crash. Perhaps I've been visually jaded. But maybe a verbal conceptualization of aural spacial arrangements just doesn't come across as sexily as it probably did in the 80s when cyberpunk first burst onto the scene. I will add another post when I wake up in the morning. This is something I want to sleep on and wake up refreshed to. I'll have plenty more to say about the novel in particular.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


The short stories by James Tiptree create dystopic moments in which the norms of sex and gender are called into question. Each of the stories involve characters struggling with identity and a desire for wholeness in the face of larger structural forces beyond their control. I couldn't help but recall Foucault's analysis of sexuality and power while reading the stories of Dr. Alice B. Sheldon. Moreover, the themes in Tiptree easily resonates with issues taken up by Phillip K. Dick and others when it comes to the ideas she presents on surveillance and human perception.

Alongside these ideas I must say that I am struck by how often the authors we're studying-- Huxley, Piercy, and now Tiptree/Sheldon in "The Women That Men Don't See" -- turn to Native American cultural motifs as answers to the possibility of utopia. I must say, however, that I'm concerned with how the sypmbolic meaning and appropriation of native cultures is used by these authors because, despite the best intentions, a definite residue of cultural exoticism and the racialist trope of the noble savage abounds. I'm not sure that this is a problem about which the authors are fully aware, thus making their display of the general attitude all the more disconcerting.
Sadly, although the writers we have (for the most part) demonstrated their progressiveness in the area of gender and sexuality, they are clearly, hopelessly conventional as far as their ideas on race go.