style/content

Retired superhacker (“console cowboy”) that has fallen deep into depression/drug addiction and culture/unemployment, is located and is fixed on the condition that he complete a job that he is unaware of until much later, and the failure to complete it will result in the release of paralyzing toxins in his body that left his nervous system damaged.

The actions of the characters in the novel, with the (possible) exception of the romance emerging between two characters, are indirectly/directly controlled by one of two AIs—designed by an extremely wealthy family of elites—who use them as pawns in order to facilitate their amalgamation into a singular entity. 

Following lots of high-intensity action scenes, betrayal/drug-use/sex/killing, the two AI’s eventually merge due to the success of the protagonist and the other characters, and the console cowboy returns back to his normal life as a normal hacker and addict. 

I think that when you boil the plot down, which I attempted to do above, you don’t really see the message that Gibson was trying to convey (a push for the acceptance of the natural merging between humans and technology? like his fictional representation of the ideas explored in A Cyborg Manifesto?). His use of hyperdescriptive language and the abruptness in which he introduces high-intensity scenes, for me, was implemented to coincide with the drug-addicted nature of the characters; I kind of felt like I was on drugs when I was reading at certain times (a lot). If I were to compare Gibson to Le Guin I would say that Gibson doesn’t really tell a story or convey a message as explicitly as Le Guin did in The Left Hand of Darkness. I was definitely able to determine Gibson’s views on technology as conveyed through the posthuman/transhuman elements of the book, and enjoyed them especially considering my major is IT and I agree with the argument I think he was making, his style stuck a lot more with me than the message that he may have intended on conveying through the content. On the other hand, the content of The Left Hand of Darkness stuck with me a lot more than her style, although  it was definitely written very beautifully. When I was reading Neuromancer I found myself paying a lot more attention to the unfolding of events (trying not to miss any vital information/figure out what the heck is going on), but when reading the The Left Hand of Darkness I paid a lot of attention to the growth of Genly and the relationship he develops with Estraven.

Deckard’s Inner Conflict

52:24, Deckard’s encounter with Zhora Salome (Luba Luft)

The particular scene that I thought was interesting to use as a basis of comparison between the novel and the film adaptation was the scene where Deckard approaches Luba Luft (Zhora Salome in the movie) attempting to perform the Voight-Kampff test on her to determine whether she’s the android he needs to retire. In the novel, Dick is able to better demonstrate the empathy that Deckard begins to feel for Luft, and for androids in general, and the inner conflict taking place surrounding him and his relationship with his murderous position as a bounty hunter. The empathy that Deckard begins to feel for androids is not only present in the ways he is enchanted by her lovely singing voice, but also when he buys her the Edvard Munch book. Luba Luft states that “there’s something very strange and touching about humans. An android would never have done that” (133), which builds upon this idea that Deckard is not as cold and heartless as he initially may have come across. Also, It is pretty strange that Deckard would still plan on giving her a gift despite his agenda. On page 142, he reflects on his feelings, asking himself “if any human has ever felt this way before about an android” After Resch retires her, Deckard reflects, saying: “I can’t anymore; I’ve had enough. She was a wonderful singer. The planet could have used her. This is insane” (Dick 136). He seems to have changed his views on androids since the beginning of the novel, not simply viewing them as machines but as individuals.

However, in Blade Runner, the ways in which Ridley Scott chooses to frame the encounter between Deckard and Zhora Salome is entirely different. He depicts Zhora Salome as already being aware of Deckard’s plan to retire her, and leads him on thinking that she has no idea until she finally lashes out at him, attempting to kill him first, then fleeing the scene until she is eventually hunted down and killed. The mise-en-scene here condenses Deckard’s encounter with Salome/Luft, and doesn’t demonstrate to viewers that he is troubled by his actions until after he has already killed her. In fact, in the film, I found Deckard to be portrayed as more of an android than his character in the novel–especially considering how his eyes glowed like all of the other androids(**). He additionally just appears more cold and withdrawn, and after finishing the novel I didn’t think that he was an android, but rather an apathetic individual who had gained empathy. In the film, the empathy Deckard learns is mostly be seen in his relationship with Rachel, but I wish that had been explored more. Also, due to the fact that it is a visual representation of the book, I believe that Ridley Scott was aware of the fact that more individuals would enjoy a budding relationship between Deckard and Rachel, and elements like that can definitely garner more attention than the novel would be able to.

In terms if the differences between the novel and the film, there is more attention paid to high-intensity action scenes, one of them being the classic chase scene occurring between Deckard and Salome. There’s a lot more drama added to the film’s representation, seen in the physical altercation between the two in her dressing room, the chase, and Salome falling through the glass. The choice of music during the chase scene reflected upon the intensity of the situation. While the camera does pan back to show viewers how Deckard feels after he has retired her, I don’t think it paid as much attention to his true feelings on the situation as I would have liked. I think Blade Runner is a great movie, but there were lots of things I wish made it to the big screen that were present in the novel.

Wholeness//Dualism

“Ai brooded, and after some time he said, “You’re isolated, and undivided. Perhaps you are as obsessed with wholeness as we are with dualism.” “We are dualists too. Duality is an essential, isn’t it? So long as there is myself and the other.” “I and thou,” he said.” (Le Guin 252)

This conversation between Genly and Estraven regarding the idea of dualism comes directly after the Handarran poem about the left hand of darkness in order to demonstrate the ways in which wholeness exists as unification of two sides of a dualistic binary. As stated in Is Gender Necessary?, Le Guin uses the Gethenian model as a heuristic device in order to contrast the Gethenian pursuit of balance and unity versus Earth’s desire of dominance and subservience within relationships. Le Guin is pushing for gender roles to exist as interdependent entities, while making the point that despite whether or not there was more equality within our relationships, and the pursuit of dominance was replaced by the pursuit of balance, society would still have problems of its own- but the exploitation of women by men would not be one of them. She is not using Gethen as a model for a utopian society, but argues that the unification of two dichotomous entities (like men and women) could lead to “a much healthier, sounder, more promising modality of integration and integrity.” (Le Guin 169) Additionally, when Estraven states that “the relationship [he] finally make[s], if [he] makes one, is…not we and they; not I and It; but I and Thou (Le Guin 279), he communicates the idea that true (unified) wholeness is not the amalgamation of two selves into a singular self but rather the integration and interdependence of these selves. The Left Hand of Darkness is one that provides a model of humanity that has transcended dualistic thinking, but has not veered too far off into monistic thinking, but calls for a balance. This taoist influence on the novel is present in this call to unify dichotomous entities (like man and woman, or yin and yang) that comprise the whole. 

The Mind as Catalyst for Change

“A great psychologist such as Seldon could unravel human emotions and human reactions sufficiently to be able to predict broadly the historical sweep of the future.” (Asimov 71)

After making my way through the first few sections of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, I have gathered that history, with regards to the world of the Galactic Empire, is an entity which can be manipulated much like an equation. Also, the values in this equation can be likened to human emotions, which when manipulated translate into behaviors—a product. The novel emphasizes the power of mathematics in not only being able to predict the future, but also to be able to manipulate the future similarly to how you would manipulate values.

In the text, psychohistory is defined as the “branch of mathematics which deals with the reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli” (19). The use of this psycho- prefix incorporates the significance of the mind in the formulation of the future. That is, the significance of the mind and how if one is able to understand the inner working’s of the human mind, they are able to piece together the behaviors that will result in change. In the same vein, in possessing the ability to manipulate an individual’s mind, one is able to use them as tools to spark change.

Therefore, we can reason that the mind is at the epicenter of the historical process, serving as a catalyst for change. When Seldon appears as a hologram and reveals that the entire plan for the Encyclopedia Galactica was duplicitous, he states that “…whatever devious course your future history may take, impress it always upon your descendants that the path has been marked out, and that at its end is a new and greater Empire!” (Asimov 96). While Seldon might not be 100% certain about all the details, based on his understanding of the human mind he is able to understand the direction that history will take.

D-503’s Introspection

“I became glass. I saw into myself, inside. There were two me’s. One me was the old me, D-503, Number D-503, and the other…the other used to just stick his hairy paws out of his shell, but now all of hum came out, the shell burst open, and the pieces were just about to fly in all directions…and then what?”

This particular section of We contributes to the internal conflict that D-503 is struggling with between renouncing his free will entirely to the OneState or to embrace his individuality and make his own choices. Over the past 10 records, we can notice a significant change in his mental processing; a shift away from the calculated conformity of the OneState towards autonomy in thoughts and feelings, which D-503 seems entirely uncomfortable with admitting. The language that Zamyatin decides to employ in this record is intentionally hyperbolical to contribute to D-503’s inner conflict and desire to distance himself from freethinking-thinking separate from that of the entirely totalitarian and despotic OneState, which would probably resulting in his death. He also uses this language to demonstrate the regret and shame he feels in choosing to drink with I-330. Example of this include the alcohol being called “green poison” (56), or saying that I-330’s arm “crept” (56) around him. Additionally, he struggles to go to sleep that night and appears to be a little little frantic, continuing to blame the “poison” (58) for his actions, claiming that he’s “done for” and “in no condition to fulfil [his] obligations to OneState”(58). D-503’s introspection allows readers to gain more of an understanding about the extent to which he fears the OneState, and how this is the primary force driving him into submission.

varying degrees of human experience

Following my exploration of the National Observer‘s serial publication of H.G. Wells’ “In the Underworld”, from what later would become published as “The Time Machine”, I noticed that the presence of dialogue in the serial publication complicated the idea of the societal schism and the evolution of two different species of humanoid creatures(/devolution of the human race) by pushing his audience to question the reasons why individuals are drawn to one another and moreover why these two species were preserved through homogamy. In “The Time Machine”, after the passing of thousands of years, the human race devolved into the Morlocks and the Eloi— representing the skilled proletariat and the indolent bourgeois. While it is logical to think that due to the long-term separation of these two social groups contributed to the birth of two distinct species, I don’t believe that similar standing within social hierarchy is the only reason why these two groups formed, but is definitely helpful to the discussion. This schism that the time traveller addresses occurs not simply between those of different rank within society, i.e. the capitalist and the laborer, but between the “sombre, mechanically industrious, arithmetical, inartistic type, the type of the Puritan and the American millionaire…” (which he likens to the Morlocks) “…and the pleasure-loving, witty, and graceful type that gives us our clever artists, our actors and writers some of our gentry, and many an elegant rogue (Wells, H.G. “In the Underworld”. The National Observer, 1890-1897. 19 May 1894. pp. 14-15)” (the Eloi).” What caught my attention here was the distinction made between those that are “sombre” and those that are “pleasure-loving”, adjectives implored to represent positions within the social hierarchy. So aside from their being a class struggle present within the novel, I think the serial publication does a good job of pushing the reader to also explore the clashing between humans with varying degrees of experience. There is a marxist binary present between the bourgeois and proletariat in addition to there being a social darwinian binary present between those that are fit for survival and those that are unfit. While the Eloi represent the bourgeois, and are the dominant force within society, they are also unfit for survival, in contrast to the working-class Morlocks who not only ensure that their race can survive but also provide for their superiors. Lastly, In “In the Underworld”, the time traveller argues that the natural divide that occurred between the Morlocks and the Eloi (and that is also evident English society) occurs not only because of differences in social hierarchy, since “families drop and rise from toil to wealth continually”, but the question will continue to remain unanswered due to the fact that human experience exists on more of a mystical continuum rather than a clearly-defined binary.