Details, Details, Details

Expert hacker Henry Dorsett Case is at the bottom of his luck when offered the opportunity to regain his lost purpose and livelihood in exchange for his services to a figure and cause shrouded in mystery and danger. Drug-infused and wildly suspenseful, Neuromancer follows Case and his fellow underworld insurgents as they navigate consciousness, cyberspace, and artificial intelligence that blurs the lines between riveting literature and borderline psychosis. Relentlessly driven by vivid details and captivating cerebral conflict, Case’s journey across the planes of reality ends in success, drugs, and hyperreal version of “happily ever after.”

 

One would think that summarizing a plot in three sentences would be fairly easy, but when the plot of the story is driven by drugs, violence, and cyberspace, three sentences becomes almost as deadly as a mycotoxin to the bloodstream. But despite it’s challenge, it made me really appreciate just how many conventions are being utilized by Gibson in his telling of Case’s adventures within the matrix and beyond. As pointed out by the other blog posts, most of our discussions in class, and most every scholar on the subject, it is the incredibly hyperspecific nature of detail within the story that gives it much of it’s charm. One can practically feel the story as it’s being described within the pages of the books, truly submerging a reader into everything- characters, plot, setting… even abstract consciousness.

I agree with my classmates in the Gibson’s plot is far more driven by details than perhaps that of Le Guin, who’s Left Hand of Darkness tracks more conceptual thematic elements that drive the plot rather than the incredibly descriptive nature of what the figures of the book are experiencing. Neuromancer truly is one of a kind.

Elevation in Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Though I began to analyze particular differences from Dick’s book to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, one quality shared by the book and the film was a somewhat fascination with heights and an aerial perspective. One scene in particular from the film is when Rick is traveling via aircraft to the Tyrell Corporation building within the city itself (about 11-12 minutes in.) Even in the first image of the film (immediately following the logo) is an aerial view of Los Angeles- something that even reminded me of the cover of my copy of We by Zamyatin. In the book, the animals reside on the rooftops- something that didn’t provoke my interest until the aerial shots of the film, and this scene in particular as Rick takes in the sights of the sight along with us. This concept of seeing things from a birds-eye view, both through the images in the film as well as the concept of having the animals above everything else in the novel, elicits a particular capitalization on subjectivity and objectivity, something that I feel is among some of the main dilemmas within this narrative in particular. From this view, is one able to see things as they are, just as when encountering someone and not knowing the truth of their identity? Or perhaps it serves many purposes, all having to do with authenticity, perspective, and awareness.

Suspicion and Appearance in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

“‘But almost. You feel the same doing it; you have to keep your eye on it exactly as you did when it was really alive. Because they break down and then everyone in the building knows. I’ve had it at the repair shop six times, mostly little malfunctions, but if anyone saw them- for instance one time the voice tape broke or anyhow got fouled and it wouldn’t stop baaing- they’d recognize it as a mechanical breakdown.” He added, “The repair outfit’s truck is of course marked ‘animal hospital something.’ And the driver dresses like a vet, completely in white.” (Dick 12).

While this passage is incredibly early on in the book, and thus before a lot of the groudwork of suspicion is really solified in the novel, I found it incredible provocative and pertinent to the discussion of doubt and suspicion. It believe it inspires a lot of questions, particularly concerning the situation we are to encounter in the rest of the novel. Rick communicates, “then everyone in the building knows.” This raises the idea that one is always under suspicion of their neighbors- that it is important to conceal certain things from those around you, because their judgment has a direct effect. “Mechanical” being italicized further offers that it is judged differently than that of some other malfunction- in this context, biologically. Similarly, Rick establishes that the mechanics themeselves are disguised when they come to fix an animal, further suggesting this importance of concealment.

I think this passage establishes several important … that allow the reader to become situated in this world and understand the environment under which these characters operate. First, that there are many things hidden between those that you know best. The very suggestion that things should be hidden offers that shame inspires action among the population, and that there is more truth residing behind what you see. The very fact that Rick’s sheep is so life-like, and that the mechanic comes dressed as a vet, reveals the depth to which one must now question what they encounter. I simiarly find it intersting that Dick has now opened up a conversation concerning the relationship between what is living and what is mechanical. Throughout the introductory chapters, it is established that biology is favored over a mechanical existence- but what movtivates this, and what problems now arise? What can we know about what we see if what we see conceals a hidden truth?

Dualism in The Left Hand of Darkness

“‘Well, in the Handdara… you know, there’s no theory, no dogma… Maybe they are less aware of the gap between men and beasts, being more occupied with the likeness, the links, the whole of which living things are a part.’ Tormer’s lay had been all day in my mind, and I said the words,

Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.
(LeGuin 251-2)

This passage is quite possibly the epitome of low hanging fruit, but I was intrigued by it both the first time I read it and additionally as I was thinking about LeGuin’s text Is Gender Necessary? There are really so many things to talk about concerning this supplemental piece- however was I find most interesting is the duality that LeGuin seeks to unpack in her “thought experiment” that it The Left Hand of Darkness. More specifically, I find LeGuin’s rumination on the absence of war and the way that gender plays into it to be a very provocative exploration. In the book, as well as this additional text, she assigns war a “masculine” quality. She writes, “It has been male who enforces order, who constructs power-structures, who makes, enforces, and breaks laws.” (Is Gender… 165). She continues,
“…the driving linearity of the ‘male,’ the pushing forward to the limit, the logicality that admits no boundary- and the circularity of the ‘female,’ the valuing of patience, ripeness, practicality, livableness” (Is Gender… 165-6).

In this way, gender divorces our culture so much that it takes an incredibly about of cognitive liberation to even being to conceptualize what the world would be like without it (as the Gethenian culture exists.) I find this moment in the book to coincide with this particular passage in Is Gender Necessary because it really fleshes out the problem of dualism in our society in contrast to that of the Gethenians. It puts an emphasis on how inclusive Gethenian culture really is- people are not object, but rather exists in tandem with one another. It is not a matter of what is “this” and what is “that,” but rather just everything existing at once, in unity, in the past, present, and future.

History and the Future: A Paradox

“To that end we have placed you on such a planet at such a time that in fifty years you were maneuvered to the point where you no longer have freedom of action. From now on, and into the centuries, the path you must take is inevitable. You will be faced with a series of crises, as you are now faced with the first, and in each case your freedom of action will be forced along one, and only one, path” (Asimov 94).

“And after the Fall will come inevitable barbarism, a period which, our psyhohistory tells us, should, under ordinary circumstances, last for thirty thousand years. …we can shorten the period of barbarism that must follow- down to a single thousand years” (Asimov 95).

After his apparent appearance in The Vault, the great psychohistoricist Hari Seldon enlightens Hardin and his fellow leaders on Terminus of the nature of their condition and the destiny they are bound for. The very notion of psychohistory alludes to the idea of history being something that is not only “readable”- but predictable. Seldon, though arguable one of a kind in his mental acumen, is able to read the future and those destined for it’s nature and arrange everything in such a way that it aligns perfectly with what he projects (and is always correct) will take place. The future, with it’s insurmountable complexities, is a history in and of itself: it follows patterns, is able to be studied, and it’s contents, though uniquely so, are fixed.

Though this “freedom of action” is arrested, Seldon binds their destiny to be “forced along one, and only one, path”, suggesting that history is fixed. But however fixed it is, I find the second quote to be illuminating in that though events themselves are fixed, the process in which, or perhaps the nature of these events, is less defined. This suggests a very interesting way of thinking about the future, at least in the context of Foundation. One cannot change the future, just as one cannot change the past. The importance lies not in what happens- but how it happens, which seems to be Seldon’s claim for why he’s lead them to the place that they are. That even though the events of the future are unchangeable, how we come to those events and what we do with them matter far more.

The Professor and the Traveler

Something that struck me while I was reading “The Man from the Atom” was the depiction of Professor Martyn, as I was immediately reminded of the Time Traveler from Wells’ The Time Machine. Both are men of great curiosity, so much so that they are ostracized within their respective communities. Of the Professor, Kirby conveys, “Ordinary men avoided him because they were unable to understand the greatness of his vision” (“The Man from the Atom” 62). He continues, “Where he plainly saw pictures and worlds and universes, they vainly groped among pictures of his words on printed pages” (“The Man from the Atom” 62). Upon reading this, I immediately though of the Time Traveler and the information the narrator gives us as we first encounter both him and his outlandish scientific experiments. Wells writes, “The fact is, the Time Traveler was one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you saw all around him” (The Time Machine 10). In “The Man from the Atom”, it is noted that “the Professor had few friends” (Amazing Stories 62), where we see a similar likeness in The Time Machine. “The serious people who took him seriously never felt quite sure of his deportment: they were somehow aware that trusting their reputations for judgement with him was like furnishing a nursery with eggshell china” (The Time Machine 11). Both intellectual figures in The Time Machine and “The Man from the Atom” are depicted of having both wild ambitions and audience that doesn’t quite understand them, adding a curious dimension as we explore the nature of their inventions.

 

D503 As An Emergent Subject and Echo of the OneState

“The cheerful little crystal bell in my headboard dings 7:00 A.M.: time to get up. To the right and left through the glass walls I see something like my own self, my own room, my own clothes, my own movements, and all repeated a thousand times. It cheers you up: You see yourself as part of an immense, powerful, single thing” (33-34).

Part of what intrigues me so much of D503’s journey in We is his transformation as an emergent subject, beginning with identification and evolving to alienation. It is in this passage that we not only receive a visual of what it’s like to live within the glass walls of Zamyatin’s dystopia, but we are able to glean from D-503’s narration the voice of the government’s oppressive restraints on the attitudes and beliefs of each of the subjects. In D-503’s account, he assumes possession of each of the things he sees multiplied apartment after apartment, “my own self, my own room, my own clothes, my on movements,” (34). Ironically, it seems, none of these things are his in the first place. Each identified, be it his self, his room, his clothes, his movements, are shared not only between those he sees depicted directly in front of him, but among EVERYONE in the OneState. Additionally, in the conclusion of the quote, however, “you” is repeated, identifying the ideals that have brainwashed D-503. For D-503 to address his reader as “you” is to establish a relationship between himself and whoever is meant to be reading his entry. It appears, however, he does not really seem to be addressing his reader with his own thoughts at all, but rather reiterating ideas of the OneState which are no more his thoughts than any other number among him. The relationship is illusory: it is rather an echoing of OneState ideals disguised as genuinely felt opinions of D-503.

The Voice of Time: A Man of Science or Philosophy?

After reading “Time Travelling: Possibility or Paradox” in The National Observer, perhaps the most significant detail for me was that the Time Traveler is referred to as the “Philosophical Inventor” (446). As the “Time Traveler,” which appears in both The New Review as well as the novel version that we are observing in class, one perhaps establishes several presuppositions about the character without having read much into the story at all. The “Time Traveler” essentially signifies that even though the story has hardly began to develop, he is directly associated with the event of traveling time, and that he perhaps has a significant role in that development. As we have the other characters present in the narrative identified solely as how they behave or what occupation they practice, so too is the Time Traveler identified by a singular facet of his life. The “Philosophical Inventor,” on the other hand, generates  a different approach at the story’s direction and development. As the Time Traveler, one could ask a variety of questions. “Has he actually traveled in time?” “At what point in his life did he travel time, and for what duration?” As a well established man of science, known in many “scientific circles,” (The New Review, pg. 98) one is perhaps inclined to trust his judgement. But a philosopher, on the other hand, elicits interrogation not only on his activities, but also calls into question the validity of not only what he is claiming, but perhaps even his motivations behind his actions. One may have questions that differ greatly from that which they would demand of a man of science. “Is the time travel hypothetical or literal?” “What sort of experience is the philosopher hoping to gain in his expedition?” “How will his discovery benefit anyone other than himself?” It is in this difference that a reader immediately experiences the story in a different way, starting simply with the first sentence of the story.