Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dystopia? Revolution?

Dystopia, revolutionary, cowboy, Japan

Reading Nicola Nixon’s article on Cyberpunk while reading Gibson’s Neuromancer made me dislike a genre that I really thought I would enjoy. I was quite skeptical of Nixon’s collection of praise for cyberpunk. As she described cyberpunk and asked the reader not to simply see it as “a form of professional, self-interested hype or clever marketing strategy” that is all it seemed to be (221). I was interested to read more of Bruce Sterling’s glowing review of Neuromancer. Calling cyberpunk the grounds for revolution and Neuromancer the “reason why Science Fiction was invented” is too far over the top (220). Sterling goes on to connect “drugs, personal computers and cyberpunk as ‘definitive high-tech products’” (220). Which prompts me to raise the question, who wants to live in this world? And are we already living in it? Neuromancer doesn’t seem to be a very futuristic, but is that because it is a world we already partially inhabit?

When Nixon asks “where then, we might well ask ourselves, is revolutionary potential articulated in cyberpunk fiction”…or is it articulated at all?” I was wondering the same thing (229). She continues to say that it would be a misreading to label Gibson’s worlds dystopias, but that is exactly how I found them (229). Granted I haven’t finished reading Neuromancer yet, but the world of drugs, black market medical clinics, and violence has the makings of a dystopia. Hearing that Gibson sees his books as “optimistic” and that his futures “would be a neat place to visit” places his interests on a very different page than mine. Moreover, believing that the world of Neuromancer has a “bustling commerce” might be true, but what is being sold appears distressing (230).

Nixon describes the heroes as part of the corporate system, not trying to shake it and allowing the hero to triumph within the system (230). Nixon believes that in Gibson’s novel “there is absolutely no critique of corporate power” (230). It this is an optimistic world, having to remain within the system of oppression power how is that the grounds for a revolution?

Placing Japan as a centerpiece of Neuromancer seemed a bit strange at first. But after reading Nixon’s article, its place makes clear sense. The fear both American’s and Canadian’s had during the 80s seems real and just out of our (students in this class) reach. As Nixon points out, there is not an overwhelming fear or paranoia felt towards Japan, but the villains in the novel are the large Japanese companies, whereas the heroes are American “cowboys” (224)

In many ways, this book tries to paint a thrilling and entertaining pitcute of the technologically advanced furutre. But to me, it seemed well rooted in the 1980s past. The idea of the space cowboy attempts to put an antiquated image into a futuristic setting. But we love the cowboy because it represents the past; the safety of a man who is strong and adventurous. No matter how much we try to plut the cowboy into space, to me, he doesn’t seem to belong. As Nixon describes, the cowboys in Neurmancer eventually accept a very traditional, old-fashioned nuclear family. With cowboy images and an underground drug culture, fears of Japanese power and technology, Neuromancer doesn’t seem to be a very realistic possible future. As for setting the ground for a revolution, I’m not sure if I believe that either.


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