a very technical boy':
Cyberpunk and Test of Masculinity"
In the shift
from traditional s/f and cyberpunk, science changes
- From top-down
grand stategy to bottom up tactics
- From hard
science (of rockets, nuclear reactors, etc.) to the soft
sciences of software and bio-engineering
- Now humans
live embedded in techno- science
the idealism of make the world perfect to the realism
of life ordinary people living in a tech enhanced world.
Sterling summarizing the 'new' science of/in cyberpunk
culture has gotten out of hand. The advances of the
sciences are so deeply radical, so disturbing, upsetting,
and revolutionary that they can no longer be contained.
They are surging into culture at large; they are invasive;
they are everywhere. The traditional power structure,
the traditional institutions have lost control of the
pace of change....Times have changed since the comfortable
era of Hugo Gernsback, when Science was safely enshrined
-- and confined -- in an ivory tower. The careless technophilia
of those days belongs to a vanished, sluggish era, when
authority still had a comfortable margin of control.
For the cyberpunks, by stark contrast, technology is
visceral. It is not the bottled genie of remote Big
Science boffins; it is pervasive, utterly intimate.
Not outside us, but next to us. Under our skin; often,
inside our minds." (Introduction to Mirrorshades:
the cyberpunk Anthology xii-xiii)
Gibson's "Johnny Mnemonic"
of the plot:
" I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded
it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style
at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they
think you're crude, go technical; if they think you're
technical, go crude. I'm a very technical boy. So
I decided to get as crude as possible. These days,
thought, you have to be pretty technical before you
can even aspire to crudeness. I'd had to turn both
those twelve-gauge shells from brass stock, on the
lathe, and then load then myself; I'd had to dig up
an old microfiche with instructions for hand- loading
cartidges; I'd had to build a lever-action press to
seat the primers -all very tricky. But I knew they'd
appears in the Dome to save Johnny
'You have no idea,' said Ralfi, suddenly sounding
very tired, 'the depths of shit you have just gotten
yourself into.' 'No kidding? Mystery. I get real excited
by mysteries. Like why your friends here's do quiet.
Frozen, like. Or what this thing here is for,' and
she held up the little control unit that she'd somehow
taken from Lewis.
Ralfi looked ill. 'You, ah, want maybe a quarter-million
to give me that and take a walk?' A fat hand came
up to stroke his pale, lean face nervously. 'What
I want,' she said, snapping her fingers so that the
unit spun and glitterd, 'is work. A job. Your boy
hurt his wrist. But a quarter'll do for a retainer.'
Ralfi let his breath out explosively and began to
laugh, exposing teeth that hadn't been kept up to
the Chriatian White standard. The she turned the disruptor
off. 'Two million,' I said. 'My kind of man,' she
said, and laughed. 'What's in the bag?' 'A shotgun.'
'Crude.' It might have been a compliment.' Ralfi said
nothing at all. 'Name's Millions. Molly Millions.
You want to get out of here, boss? People are starting
to stare.' She stood up. She was wearing leather jeans
the colour of dried blood. And I saw for the first
time that the mirrored lenses were surgical inlays,
the silver rising smoothly from her high cheekbones,
sealing her eyes in their sockets, I saw my new face
twinned there. 'I'm Johnny,' I said. 'We're taking
Mr face with us.' (5-6)
the killing floor where the tech fights Molly
Johnny is not safe from Yakuza: the information system
"We're an information economy. They teach you that
in school. What they don't tell you is that it's impossible
to move, to live, to operate at any level without
leaving traces, bits, seemingly meaningless fragments
of personal information. Fragments that can be retrieved,
Johnny realizes he's clueless:
"I held the useless shotgun under my jacket. Its hardness
and heft were comforting, even thought I had no more
shells. And it came to me that I had no idea at all
of what was really happening, or of what was supposed
to happen. And that was the nature of my game, because
I'd spent most of my life as a blind receptacle to
be filled with other people's knowledge and then drained,
spouting synthetic languages I'd never understand.
A very technical boy. Sure." (18)
eye contact with the tech assassin, Johnny has a memory
flash about power
then I noticed just how quiet the Lo Teks had become.
He was there, at the edge of the light, taking in
the Killing Floor and the gallery of silent Lo Teks
with a tourist's calm. And as our eyes met for the
first time with mutual recognition, a memory clicked
into place for me, of Paris, and the long Mercedes
electrics gliding through the rain to Notre Dame;
mobile greenhouses, Japanese faces behind the glass,
and a hundred Nikons rising in blind phototropism,
flowers of steel and crystal. Behind his eyes, as
they found me, those same shutters whirring." (20-21)
literary technique/ technology
and social ecology:
going into a hyper-dangerous urban space (the pit
protagonist: struggle to survive, but doing it in
a cool, appropriately masculine fashion
serves as protector or goal
a "run" to safety and/or wealth
that's far out enough to make an alternative world
new weapons: "neural disrupter";
prosthesis for human bodies:
surgical inlays (silvered glasses for eyes);
assassin's thumb weapon (bot 6);
"Burning Chrome"] Jack's "myoelectronic arm";
on full recall" of Ralfi's assassination
computer decks for entering cyberspace
deck: for "simulated stimuli"; it offers access
to the recorded sensorium of a simstim star
[~Being John Malkovich]
devices: "Squids" (9)
as enhancers and/or escape: another way to modify
brings back the memory so they become hyper-real
(Jack in the Blue Lights in "Burning Chrome").
literalism in naming: "Johnny Mnemonic"; "Molly
Millions"; "Dog"; "Chrome"; "Jack"
and acronymns: "watergate"; tech",
and caustic irony: "Mystery. I get real excited
is concise, difficult, fragmentary and poetic… but
it has general significance
Nighttown graffiti: "The concrete walls were overlaid
with graffiti, years of them twisting into a single
metascrawl of rage and frustration."
the Yakuza desire to kill Johnny: "Wouldn't they
be happier with something to sell back to Ono-Sendai,
happier than they'd be with one dead Johnny from
Chrome's fatal dark ice: "Fear of that cold Word
waiting, down there in the dark."
drug at the House of Blue Lights: "so popular that
it's almost legal."(187)
that work like smart thrusts:
the squids:] "Even the primitive models could measure
a magnetic field a billionth the strength of a geomagnetic
force; it's like pulling a whisper out of a cheering
negotiating with Finn: "Getting a bargain from the
Finn was like God repealing the law of gravity when
you have to carry a heavy suitcase…"(172)
through Chrome's defenses: "Ice walls flick away
like supersonic butterflies made of shade" (177)
the Russian program: "I felt like a punk who'd gone
out to buy a switchblade and come home with a small
is the effect upon the reader of this style? "Coolness"?
critical question for reading "Burning Chrome":
is the "coolness" at the level of style a compensation
for threatened masculinity at the level of the plot?
actors in the story:
hacker partners, Bobby Quine and Jack (who narrates
wealthy female owner of the House of Blue Lights
Rikki Wildside: girl friend to Bobby and wants to
become a simstim star like blue eyed Tally Isham
technique: cross-cutting between the "run"
into cyberspace to 'burn" Chrome, and the back
story that explains how the characters came to this
crucial 8 minutes
here is the way a UCLA critic named Katherine Hayles
is created by transforming a data matrix into a landscape
in which narrative can happen. In mathematics, "matrix"
is a technical term denoting data that have been arranged
into an n-dimensional array."(Post Human, 38)
and Jack are hot shots but also losers
risk everything for "that one big score"
fate is entangled with two women, Chrome and Rikki
of betrayal and sex (?)
analysis of why Bobby wants women
touches Jack's prosthetic arm in a thunderstorm
metamophosis of Rikki
as a prostitute at the House of the Blue Lights
changed her eyes to "Blue, Tally Isham blue"
asserts her autonomy by leaving Bobby for Hollywood
Rikki's escape: buying a ticket to Chiba City, and
a return ticket
kiss as deathly:
"A sudden stopping of the breath, in a place where
no word is."(190)
"her body and a bundle of conditioned reflexes took
care of business. The custormers never got to complain
that she was faking it, because those were real
organisms. But she felt them, if she felt them at
all, as faint silver flares somewhere out on the
edge of sleep."
compensation: final paragarph (191)
Where are we left on the question of the hackers'
How does Dorsey's (Learning about) Machine Sex change
is it different than Gibson?
does this text challenge the sexual politics of