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.

Is Gender Necessary?

“Consider: A child has no psychosexual relationship to his mother and father. There is no myth of Oedipus on Winter. Consider: There is no unconsenting sex, no rape. As with most mammals other than man, coitus can be performed only by mutual invitation and consent; otherwise it is not possible. Seduction certainly is possible, but it must have to be awfully well-timed. Consider: There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protective/protected, dominant/submissive, owner/chattel, active/passive. In fact the whole tendency to dualism that pervades human thinking may be found to be lessened, or changed, on Winter.” (Le Guin 94)

Despite the heavy emphasis on gender roles in the novel, I do not think this is supposed to be a novel that makes a political statement for feminism. I think what Le Guin was trying to do was to have readers start asking the questions about how one views gender. Ai comes to their world with hopes that they will see gender the way he does, but he realizes how difficult this will be when he sees how ingrained their practices are. Everything on this world, from the politics to the sexual practices, is influenced by this idea that there is no gender, and Ai must come to accept this if he is to succeed on Gethen in getting them to join the Ekumen. I think we are supposed to assume the position of Ai, in the sense that we are supposed to open our minds to the possibility that gender is not anything more than what we make of it.

 

 

Slow and Steady Always Wins the Race

“…during the Thaw no form of transport is reliable; so much freight traffic goes with a rush, come summer…It all moves along, however crowded, quite steadily at the rate of 25 miles per hour (Terran). Gethenians could make their vehicles go faster, but they do not. If asked why not, they answer ‘Why?’ Like asking Terrans why all our vehicles must go so fast; we answer ‘Why not?’ No disputing tastes. Terrans tend to feel they’ve got to get ahead, make progress. The people of Winter, who always live in the Year One, feel that progress is less important than presence” (Le Guin 50).

In the fantastic article Le Guin pens, she points out this implied association of the Gethenians’ super slow development of technology with this idea of the “female principle”. The “female principle”, which is synonymous with “the valuing of patience, ripeness, practicality, livableness” (Le Guin 166), means that the Gethenians are showing feminine characteristics by taking their technological advancement slow. They want to practically use the technology they have so far and wait for it to ripen before moving on to something new and possibly better. It is a great juxtaposition then to have Ai Genly comment on this Gethenian reality. We, as citizens of the current society, identify with Ai Genly because he comes from a culture very similar (if not the same) to ours. Genly does not really understand why the Gethenians do not just keep developing better technology at a faster pace. He accepts it but he is not convinced. Intrinsically, we agree with Genly. We ask ourselves, “why don’t they just develop faster?”, but we are a society that is always in a hurry and is caught up in a race for progress. Every year two new Iphone models come out even though people still have not completely discovered the features of the models that came out two years ago. Why do we not take the time to appreciate and properly use our technology before we throw it away for the newer and possibly (or possibly not) better model? This “pushing forward to the limit” (Le Guin 165) is a masculine quality that Terra seems to also have. Since the Gethenians are not plagued by this masculine principle but adhere to the feminine principle, they see the value in holding on to their technology until it is exhausted, which is exactly what they do.

 

Gender Contested

“…Burden and privilege are shared out pretty equally; everybody has the same risk to run or choice to make. Therefore nobody here is quite so free as a free male anywhere else. // Consider: A child has no psychosexual relationship to his mother and father. There is no myth of Oedipus on Winter. // Consider: There is no unconsenting sex, no rape. As with most mammals other than man, coitus can be performed only by mutual invitation and consent; otherwise it is not possible. Seduction certainly is possible, but it must have to be awfully well-timed. // Consider: There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protective/protected, dominant/submissive, owner/chattel, active/passive. In fact the whole tendency to dualism that pervades human thinking may be found to be lessened, or changed, on Winter.” – Le Guin, 94

By asking the reader to consider these perspective-shifts about life on Winter, I believe Le Guin’s novel draws its strongest reserve of good storytelling through questioning gender norms. What would happen if human civilization stopped “oppressing” the “other” half in a futile sense of competition? Yet, Le Guin’s insistence in Is Gender Necessary? that her novel is “NOT about gender, but betrayal and fidelity,” seems like it neglects this element of exploration in favor of more familiar themes in Gethenian government and society. Le Guin herself says she regrets the criticism leveled at her for using the male “he” pronouns for the Gethenians, and viewed writing the novel as a sort of “self-discovery” about her opinions on gender. This leaves me undecided on whether she gives too much or too little credit to the power of passages like the ones cited above. Knocking such imaginative holes in establishment thinking –only to say later that they were a means to exploring loyalty rather than a focus of their own– seems like it puts too little emphasis on the perspectives Gethenians could share. We have Shiftgrethor as a face-saving alternative to war, but no lengthy passages on raising children, domesticity, etc. Le Guin says, “I eliminated gender, to find out what was left.”  Then why dangle the thread of true(?) gender egalitarianism in front of the reader only to trivialize that thread later?