This page contains materials intended
to facilitate class discussion (excerpts from readings,
outlines of issues, links to resources, etc.). The
materials are not necessarily the same as the instructor's
teaching notes and are not designed to represent
a full exposition or argument. This page is subject
to revision as the instructor finalizes preparation.
Preliminary Class Business
Thanks to Jennifer Jones
The new deadline for revised, online version
of short paper: March 1st
Drop-in tech support hours in South Hall 2509:
Mondays 11:30-2, Thursdays 2-4:30
Literature and Culture of Information specialization
(LCI) and its research
positions next quarter (apply by Feb. 28th)
Harlan Ellison (Dangerous Visions
story series; "A Boy and His Dog",
Phillip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream
of Electric Sheep?, 1968; Ridley
Scott's Bladerunner, 1982)
Influence of popular culture, counterculture,
subculture (e.g., drug culture, Rastafarianism,
"punk," "kung fu," hacker
communicated through media culture: music,
TV, video, film [detective, gangster, Western,
Hong Kong kung-fu, Japanese samurai, Spaghetti
Western], video games
Neuromancer (NY: Berkley, 1984)
(won Hugo, Nebula, and Phillip K. Dick awards)
(Japanese translation by Hisashi Kuroma
Count Zero (NY: Arbor House, 1986)
Burning Chrome (NY: Arbor House,
Mona Lisa Overdrive (NY: Bantam,
Screenplay for Aliens III
(with Bruce Sterling) The Difference
Engine (NY: Bantam, 1990)
Virtual Light (NY: Bantam, 1993)
Idoru (NY: Berkley, 1996)
All Tomorrow's Parties (NY: G.P.
Putnam's Sons, 1999)
Agrippa (A Book of the Dead), engravings
by Dennis Ashbaugh (NY: Kevin Begos Publishing,
The Artificial Kid (NY: Ace, 1980)
Schismatrix (NY: Arbor House, 1985)
ed., Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology
(NY: Arbor House, 1986)
Islands in the Net (NY: Morrow,
Crystal Express (Sauk City, Wisc.:
Arkham House, 1989)
Holy Fire (NY: Bantam, 1996)
A Good Old-Fashioned Future (NY:
The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder
on the Electronic Frontier (New York:
Bantam, 1992); also available online as
freeware from numerous sources, including
versions with a Preface and Epilogue added
in 1994 (e.g., <http://www.lysator.liu.se/etexts/hacker/>)
Snow Crash (NY: Bantam, 1992)
The Diamond Age, or, A Young Lady's
Illustrated Primer (NY: Bantam, 1995)
Some authors sharing a similar "cyber"
and/or "punk" universe:
Blood Music (NY: Arbor House, 1985)
Mindplayers (NY: Bantam, 1987)
Synners ((NY: Bantam, 1991)
Diaspora (NY: Harper, 1998)
Nymphomation (Trafalgar, 2000)
Software (NY: Ace, 1982)
Wetware (NY: Avon, 1988)
True Names (1981)
Affiliates in Postmodern Literature
Empire of the Senseless (NY: Grove,
[includes piratical/parodic rewrite of the
Panther Moderns episode from Neuromancer]
Selected Secondary Works
McCaffery, ed., Storming the Reality
Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern
Science Fiction (Durham: Duke Univ. Press,
1991); contains a nice selection of essays and
interviews on cyberpunk. Esp. useful:
Jr., "Cyberpunk and Neuromanticism"
"Cybernetic Deconstructions: Cyberpunk
"Bet On It: Cyber/video/punk performance"
"The Cyberpunk: The Individual as Reality
"An Interview with William Gibson"
"Cutting Up: Cyberpunk, Punk
Music, and Urban Decontextualizations"
"Preface" from Mirrorshades
"On Gibson and Cyberpunk SF"
"The Japanese Reflection of Mirrorshades"
Andrew Ross, "Cyberpunk
in Boystown," in his Strange Weather:
Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age
of Limits (London: Verso, 1991) [an acid
critique of cyberpunk in the mode of British
Retro-Marxist meets North American Cyber-Macho-Boys
Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject
in Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham,
NC: Duke Univ. Press, 1993)
"Gibson's Typewriter," South
Atlantic Quarterly 92 (1994): 627-45
ed., Cyberspace: First Steps (Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press, 1992) [on the construction
of computer "cyberspace"]
Impact on Recent Films
Johnny Mnemonic (1995), dir. Robert
Longo [story and screenplay by William Gibson]
The Matrix, dir. Wachowski brothers
eXistenZ, dir. David Cronenberg (1999)
A Counter-Imagination of Postindustrialism
Written in the 1980s-90s during the same period
as the encounter of American corporations with
the new Japanese business model, global competition,
restructuring, knowledge work, and IT, cyberpunk
is the literary equivalent of books like Workplace
2000 or The Virtual Corporation. It
is an imagination of postindustrialism, but a
Plan for lectures on Neuromancer: Today:
the "worlds" of the novel (the contexts,
background, and setting). Next lecture: the "meaning"
of the novel (the characters and the plot).
A world of media and new media:
from Larry McCaffery's
interview with William
Gibson (Aug. 1986), p. 265:
LM: There are so many references to
rock music and television in your work that
it sometimes seems your writing is as much
influenced by MTV as by literature. What impact
have other media had on your sensibility?
WG: Probably more than fiction. . . .
I've been influenced by Lou Reed, for instance,
as much as I've been by any "fiction"
writer. I was going to use a quote from an
old Velvet Underground song"Watch
out for worlds behind you" (from "Sunday
Morning")as an epigraph for Neuromancer.
A remix of old media (TV, film, books
and magazines, "dub" music)
Ashpool's dead-media collection
room was very large, cluttered with
an assortment of things that made
no sense to Case. He saw a gray
steel rack of old-fashioned Sony
monitors . . . Molly's
eyes darted from a huge Telefunken
entertainment console to shelves
of antique disk recordings, their
crumbling spines cased in clear
plastic, to a wide worktable littered
with slabs of silicon." (p.
Gibson's characters as media pastiches
A prophecy of new media
simstim (Tally Isham, Sense/Net star;
the Panthern Moderns as terrorist media
hybrid simstim/cyberspace media (Case
"flipping" into Molly's sensorium;
Wintermute's and Neuromancer's avatars)
A world of postindustrial corporations
(compare particular features
of the new business)
A world of "creative destruction"
(e.g., the new technology that allows the
Chiba city black-market biotech firm to leapfrog
competition; corporate assassinations, kidnappings,
and defections in later Gibson novels)
A world of universal "biz"
S. Nylund, Signal to Noise, 1998)
Case, businessman (p. 145)
The dominance of corporate "arcologies"
and zaibatsus" (pp. 37, 203)
Zaibatsu: "A Japanese conglomerate
or cartel [Japanese zai wealth . . .
batsu powerful person or
family . . ."
(American Heritage Talking Dictionary,
and "claves" in The
Diamond Age (1995), pp. 260-61:
do the Vickys have such a
big clave?" Nell asked. . . .
each phyle has a different
way, and some ways are better
suited to making money than
others, so some have a lot
of territory and others don't"
do you mean, a different way?"
make money you have to work
hardto live your life
a certain way. The Atlantans
[Vicky's] all live that way,
it's part of their culture.
The Nipponese too. So the
Nipponese and the Atlantans
have as much money as all
the other phyles put together."
A world of global competition
Paradigm of Japan, Inc.
Hybrid Japanese, American ("Sprawl"),
European scene of the novel
Fusion culture: (pp. 9, 19)
Freeside as the epitome of globalism
(a free port like Hong Kong, except extraterrestrial)
Molly, manual worker (except even manual
work is now "smart"-enabled
through biotech and silicon implants)
A world of information technology
("cyberspace," "the matrix")
"Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination
experienced daily by billions of legitimate
operators, in every nation, by children
being taught mathematical concepts. . . .
A graphic representation of data abstracted
from the banks of every computer in
the human system. Unthinkable complexity.
Lines of light ranged in the nonspace
of the mind, clusters and constellations
of data. Like city lights, receding. . . ."
Benedict, ed., Cyberspace: First
Steps (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press,
1992) [on the construction of computer
Neuromancer is a "patchwork"
world whose representation is the media
collage (pp. 103, 176, 48; "dub,"
p. 104), cf. "the bridge" in Gibson's
Virtual Light (p. 70)
The synaesthetic impact on the body (pp.
31, 154, 241/244)
General principle of the work's style:
a formal dialectic of sharply-focused,
autonomous fragments vs. flow, fluidity
(pp. 154; cf., the cloisonné head
and the novel's concept of automata, p.
Gibson's hypertextual narrative style:
jumping, cutting, "flipping" (cf.,
the Panther Moderns, p. 62; hacking, p.
Larry McCaffery's interview
with William Gibson (Aug. 1986),
WG: . . .
When I said I was prone to information
sickness, I meant I sometimes get
off on being around a lot of unconnected
stuffbut only certain kinds
of stuff, which is why I'm having
trouble handling the input right
now. I have a friend, Tom Maddox,
who did a paper on my work. He's
known what I've been up to for a
long timehe says I display
"a problematic sensitivity
to semiotic fragments." That
probably has a lot to do with the
way I writestitching together
all the junk that's floating around
in my head. One of my private pleasures
is to go to the corner Salvation
Army thrift shop and look at all
the junk. . . .