Rich Erlich, English 210.A

August 1989, 1993, August 1997, Nov. 1999

         StGd Neuromancer                                                                                 Draft 3.2



Study Guide for Neuromancer



1.  Bibliographic and Generic Information:


Gibson, William.  Neuromancer.  New York: Ace, 1984.


First book of the Neuromancer trilogy (a.k.a. "Sprawl trilogy"): Neuromancer, Count Zero (1986), Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988).  Also related to at least four stories in Gibson's collection Burning Chrome (1986). 


         Critics of SF discuss Neuromancer as a central work of "cyberpunk," a useful term, but one which Gibson and others in the movement usually eschew (see Bruce Sterling's Preface to Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology [reprinting stories by Gibson, Sterling, Tom Maddox, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, Greg Bear, and others in the group]).  Cyberpunk (c-p) is often discussed as an important literary form of postmodernism, the successor to the modernism of the earlier part of the 20th century. 


         In my citations below, N = Neuromancer,  MLO = Mona Lisa Overdrive.  AI" = "Artificial Intelligence(s)" = fully sentient, highly intelligent, self-aware devices (computers, usually, but in some SF also robots, space ships, etc.).  VR = Virtual Reality (a term that became popular only later).  T-A = Tessier-Ashpool, SA; Tessier-Ashpools.  P-o-v = Point of View.  NB = Note well. 


         There is a special cyberpunk issue of Mississippi Review:  vol. 16, combined issues 2 & 3, running number 47 & 48 (1988), Larry McCaffery, guest editor.  Citations to MR47/48 refer to this issue.  Included in MR47/48 is McCaffery's Introd., "The Desert of the Real: The Cyberpunk Controversy." and "An Interview with William Gibson," and a "Cyberpunk Forum/Symposium"; I'll cite these in class or below as "C-p Controversy," "Interview," and "Forum."  MR47/48 has been revised, somewhat expanded and reissued as Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1991). 



2.  TIME (OF NEUROMANCER): Mona Lisa Overdrive takes place some time after 2040 Common Era, which, we learn, is about seven years after Count Zero, which, in turn, is about seven to eight years after Neuromancer; Mona Lisa Overdrive is set about fifteen years after "It Changed."  Hence, Neuromancer is set shortly after 2025 C.E.





3Jane: Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool (N 213), currently most active  member of Tessier-Ashpool clan.

Armitage: Col. Willis Corto, as reconstructed by Wintermute (see esp. N  82-84, 193-4).

Ashpool: apparently the original Ashpool of Tessier-Ashpool, opposed to  Marie-France Tessier's plan to get into symbiotic relationship with the clan's AIs—Artificial Intelligences (N 183-86, 205, 228-29, 243-44).

Case: Henry Dorsett Case (N 159), main character of Neuromancer.  (A real  hardcase when we see him, but he ends trilogy rich, retired, possibly married, and with four kids [MLO 137; ch. 22]).

Dixie Flatline: McCoy Pauley; trained Case as a "cowboy," now an interactive software construct aiding Case et al.

Finn/The Finn: ally of Case and Molly in the BAMA Sprawl (one of Wintermute's favorite personas—masks—for communicating with Case).

Julie/Deane: Julius Deane: old man (N 12) who has Linda Lee murdered.

Linda Lee: woman who loved Case in Chiba and was loved by Case as much as  Case was capable of love (which might not be much during time of N).

Lonny Zone: pimp in Chiba City (then, a Wintermute persona in communicating with Case).

Maelcum: young Rasta who helps Case et al. on Wintermute run.

Marie-France: Marie-France Tessier, founding mother of Tessier-Ashpool clan  and originator of plan for Wintermute and Neuromancer (see page references for Ashpool).

Molly [Millions]: full name in "Johnny Mnemonic" (coll. Burning Chrome).   "Razorgirl" hired for muscle for the run on (and on behalf of) Wintermute.

Neuromancer: an Artificial Intelligence, "right brain" in orientation (N 243, 250-51, 258-59); when combined with Wintermute, they become a new entity of God-like power (N 269-70)—but, as we learn in the later books, without God's stability; their merging and later break-up changes the matrix and sets the premise for the rest of the trilogy.

Peter Riviera: nasty man who tries to manipulate 3Jane and to mess over Molly; ends up dead.

Ratz: bartender of Chatsubo bar ("the Chat"); tries to give Case straight talk on Case's condition, and other good advice (N 21, 23).

Wage: small-time hoodlum to whom Case owes money.

Wintermute: an AI, "left brain" in orientation; see "Neuromancer," above.



4.  WORD/ALLUSION LIST: (Notes: [1] "q.v." = "which see"; [2] sources:  Glossary to Wang Fundamentals Guide, Webster's New World Dictionary [1980], The Encyclopaedia Britannica [1974], Gibson's Sprawl stories:


AI: Artificial Intelligence (see above, #1).

Babylon: ancient city of corrupt enemies in Scriptures; nonRastafarian world.

BAMA: See "Sprawl."

Chiba: city on Tokyo Bay, opposite of Tokyo, part of Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area.

Cray: Real-world line of supercomputers. 

Dali: Surrealist painter. 

Desiderata: things needed and wanted.

Dreads: See "Rastas."

Eastwood: Clint Eastwood, "Mr. Macho" in a number of action-adventure films  (apparently not remembered by Case as a film director or politician).

EEG: electroencephalogram, a recording of the electrical activity of a brain.

Garvey, Marcus: Leader of West Indian Blacks in USA. (1880-1940).

ICE: Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics (defined N 28)

Jah: Yahweh (cultic name for God of Israel).

LED: Light Emitting Diode, used for the faces of digital watches and such.

L-5: a "Lagrange" (balance) point not far up the gravity well from Earth;  things put at L-5 tend to stay there.

Lazarus: New Testament character raised from the dead by Jesus of Nazareth.

Lee: Bruce Lee, star of martial arts flicks in the 1970s and after.

Lupus: Case's alias on Freeside (133): Latin for "wolf"; English for a number of diseases. 

Ninsei: "heart" of "Night City"—area between port of Chiba and city proper (N  6; I can't find it on the map I consulted ["Ninsei" is the pseudonym for a famous Japanese potter])

RAM: Random Access Memory—the memory one works with in a computer (opposed to ROM, q.v.); can be recorded, moved, stored, changed, copied, sold.

Rastas: Rastafarians—religious cult from Jamaica known in mainstream US culture in our time for politics, cuisine, music, and hair style.

ROM: Read Only Memory—information a computer reads and uses but which the  operator can't change and manipulate.

Shinjuku: part of Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area.

Sprawl, the: "BAMA, the Sprawl, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis" (N 43).

Topkapi: famous museum in Istanbul.

Turing: from Alan M. Turing (1912-54), British mathematician who helped  develop computer theory and believed in the possibility of machine intelligence (AI); developed the Turing Test for determining whether or not a machine is thinking. 

Verne, Jules: famous French author (of SF, more or less) of 19th century.

Yakuza: the Japanese mob.

* * *

amphetamine: generic "speed," a family of uppers known to be dangerous by the 1960s.

burning bush: in the biblical Book of Exodus, God speaks to Moses out of a burning bush.

bushido: chivalric code of the samurai (aristocratic warriors) of feudal  Japan, emphasizing courage and loyalty—and death before dishonor; the code requires absolute loyalty to one's current lord (later, employer).

catheter: "slender tube . . . inserted into a body passage, vessel, or cavity for passing fluids, making examinations, etc., esp. one for draining urine from the bladder." 

clone(d): duplicating quite closely an organism by being growing the clone from a single somatic cell (body cell, not fertilized egg and usually grown outside of a womb); the duplicate.  (By extension, other close copies.)

derm: skin patch containing a drug in a medium that will go through the skin. 

dex: Dexedrine, trademark for dextroamphetamine, a powerful upper.

djellaba: unisex, loose garment warn in some Moslem countries.

emps: electromagnetic pulses (of very high energy).

endorphin: peptide(s) secreted by the brain, with analgesic effects similar to those of morphine.

event horizon: the sphere of space around a black hole that is the beginning  of the black hole—anything inside the event horizon stays there as long as our universe lasts.

gaijin: foreigner, someone not Japanese.

go-to: computer command telling the program to "go to" someplace (e.g., go-to  line 10, go-to p. 6).

head: among other slang meanings, toilet on a ship (and by extension, elsewhere)

joeboys: kids on the make, apprentices; thugs (not yet "street samurai," q.v.).

mainline: to inject a drug into a large vein.

matrix: Defined for N—in children's terms—on p. 51; note in addition the dictionary definitions: "1. orig., the womb; uterus   2. that within which, or within and from which, something originates, takes form, or develops . . . ; 5. Math. a set of numbers or terms arranged in rows and columns . . .  7. Zool. a) any nonliving, intercellular substance in which living cells are embedded . . . b) the formative cells from which a nail, tooth, etc., grows".

megabyte: A bit is "The smallest unit of data; a single binary digit," either 0 or 1; a byte is "The amount of space, usually 8 bits, used to store one alphabetic or [other] symbolic character; a kilobyte is approximately 1000 bytes; a megabyte is approximately 1 million bytes (more exactly, there are 1024 bytes to the KB and 1024 KB to the MB; figuring about 2 kilobytes a page; a megabyte is about 500 pages of typed text in a large font [say, 12-point]).

meperidine: methyl piperidine, a sedative and analgesic.

microchip: A "chip" is "a semiconductor body in which an integrated circuit is formed or is to be formed," and a "microprocessor chip" is a chip in a computer "that executes instructions."  In N probably a very small integrated circuit.

microsoft: very small software (q.v.); name of a famous 20th-c. computer program company—the "MS" in MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System).

modem: communication device linking computer to phone lines (etc.).

moiré: "fabric . . . having a watered, or wavy pattern."

necromancer: magician, especially a magician using the dark arts to tell the future by communicating with the dead.

ninja: very highly-trained killer. 

{noir: "film noir" is lit. "black film," i.e., gritty 1940s b/w "B" movies, with many night shots, set in decaying cities, usually featuring a barely middle-class detective Outsider, who often moves among both the underworld and the decadent rich; by extension, any work with a similar "look and feel," e.g., hard-boiled detective novels, P. K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and the film made from it, Blade Runner.}

origami: Japanese paper folding.

pachinko: "a Japanese gambling device like a pinball machine."

pheromone: ". . . chemical substances secreted externally by certain  animals . . . which convey information to and produce specific responses in other individuals of the same species"; the information is often "Here-I-Am-and-I'm-Horny," and the response a strong tropism.

rude boy: unmannerly, disobedient youth, lacking respect; hooligan, punk.

sanpaku (N 10): drug?

sarariman: "salary-man," worker for a large corporation.

speed: amphetamines.

squid: In Gibson's story, "Johnny Mnemonic," squids are "Superconducting quantum interference detectors," wired into a dolphin to allow the dolphin to read data stored on chips that are highly protected for privacy (Burning Chrome 9-10).

shuriken: "steel stars with knife-sharp points" (N 11).

simstim: "simulated stimulation" received from the sensorium of another person—an art form and commercial medium by the early 21st century.

software: computer programs and the media they're on (cf. and contrast hardware: computers and related machines).

street samurai: modern warriors for hire (that's warrior, not "thug"; samurai would be under bushido, q.v.).

subliminal: beneath the threshold (of conscious perception).

synaesthesia: mingling of the senses, where sounds are seen as colors, sights are felt, etc. (N 221).

triptych: "a set of three panels with pictures, designs, or carvings, often hinged so that the two side panels may be folded over the central one, commonly used as an altarpiece."

trodes: electrodes used for direct linkage of a human brain/mind to a computer

virus/viral programs or subprograms: programs introduced into a computer system to destroy, damage, or modify all or part of the system.

yakitori: lit. "bird on a stick," Japanese fast-food chicken on wooden skewers.

zaibatsu: large corporation(s); in N, inevitably huge multinationals.  (Zaibatsu in Japanese is singular or plural; Anglicized, it can be "zaibatsus" for plurals.)



         (1) Don't worry if you don't initially understand a word; if it's important, the context should make it clear enough—or, if it's an esoteric word, Gibson will get around to defining it.  (You don't need to know precisely what "yakitori" is, so long as you figure out it's some sort of food.)  If Gibson doesn't make it clear, and the word is important, maybe you should look it up and learn it.  (Definitely consider looking up words if "esoteric" was a word you had to look up.)

         (2) "Modernists" like T.S. Eliot and James Joyce have been justly accused of elitism for demanding, if one is to understand their works readily, familiarity with the classical tongues and fashionable modern languages and literacy in the culture produced mainly by dead, White, European males.  What degree of "cultural literacy" does Gibson demand for Neuromancer?  Do you find that demand elitist?  Do you think Gibson demands a kind of cultural literacy that will be useful as we move into the 21st century? 

         (3) A question we really can't get into in class: Did you find any of my entries somewhat insulting ("Hell, everyone knows that!")?  With the exception of Bruce Lee and Clint Eastwood, I listed words I thought a fair number of Miami students might have trouble with.  If you thought I got too basic and you plan to go into teaching, let's talk. 





         The plot of Neuromancer—the story as it's told to us—is quite complex because (a) we come in near the end and (b) it's told from the point of view of Case, a very minor player.  To simplify matters, I'll ask you to rearrange the plot into the chronological story-line, starting with Marie-France Tessier's plan to get her clan into symbiotic relationship with their AIs—and see things from the p-o-v of the AI's.  (Oh—and you'll need to read N at least twice.)

         From the p-o-v of Wintermute and Neuromancer, we have a very simple romantic comedy that moves from very high Romance up to Mythic.  Wintermute and Neuromancer are kept separate and in metaphorical shackles by the Turing people.  At story's end, the two lovers (so to speak) are united and become more or less a god, or God, for a bit.  Long enough, anyway, to join the family of gods (268-70).  A victorious movement from confinement to freedom, from separation to integration, to apotheosis: comedy, all right! 

         What gets the critics debating is that we're not told the story from the machines' point(s) of view, and it's hard to read the story as cybernetic Romeo and Juliet.  Case is the point-of-view character, and he gets Linda Lee only in the matrix—and he loses Molly in the "meat" world.  Gibson seems to want us to care a bit at least about whether or not Case, the "meat" one, becomes capable of love, but in Neuromancer we learn only that Case went home to the Sprawl and "found a girl who called herself Michael" (270).  In Mona Lisa Overdrive a construct of Finn tells Molly "Case got out of it.  Rolled up a few good scores after you split, then he kicked it in the head and quit clean.  You did the same, maybe your wouldn't be freezing your buns off in an alley, right?  Last I heard, he had four kids...." (137; ellipsis mark in MOL).  We don't know if he had the kids with Michael.  You want a happy ending (and we usually do), then make an effort and identify with the machines.  You want to stay humanistic and worry about two-bit humans like Case, then you'll have to settle for a very bitter-sweet ending. 


         What also interests most critics is the world of Neuromancer: that dense, funky texture in the "meat" world and the beautiful geometries and freedom of the matrix.  What downright fascinates Richard D. Erlich and Thomas P. Dunn, eds. of Clockwork Worlds: Mechanized Environments in SF, is the 180% turn in the image of being inside a machine, from terrible imprisonment in modern, "mechanical" stories to great freedom in postmodern, "electronic" stories.  What fascinated Peter C. Hall and me was the video screen as the latest version of a portal into a land of adventure.  To quote myself in a rather wise-ass paper for a meeting of the Popular Culture Association,


In the "meat" world of their decadent physical bodies and decaying physical cities, the most the majority of Gibson's people can do is run the interstices of the zaibatsus and the Yakuza . . . as punkified stainless steel rats.  But in cyberspace, ¡Goll dang!  A computer nerd's wet dream of freedom and power.  The final frontier with a vengeance and a twisted technological proof that "Thinking is the best way to travel."  Inwardness as outwardness.  The denial and affirmation of the desire for an enclosed hive and the loathing of space, affirming and denying the "denial of the bright void beyond the hull" (Neuro. 171-72, 229).  Technospiritualism and macho intellectualism; Plato's forms as pure data in neoModernist style; the bird-god as cowboy/pirate/jockey/merchant-adventurer.  With intimations of immortality.  And in Technicolor. 


That macho world of mind vs. the body still interests me, and I invite your opinions; I'd be especially interested in feminist readings.





             Cyberpunk is a product of the Eighties milieu—in some sense . . . a definitive product.  But its roots are deeply sunk in the sixty-year tradition of modern popular SF. . . . [Among others the cyberpunks have borrowed from, Sterling lists Harlan Ellison, Samuel Delany, Norman Spinrad, Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, J. G. Ballard; H. G. Wells, Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, Robert A. Heinlein; John Varley, Philip K. Dick, Alfred Bester, and Thomas Pynchon.] * * * Many of the cyberpunks write a quite accomplished prose; they are in love with style, and are (some say) fashion conscious to a fault.  But like the punks of '77, they prize their garage-band esthetic.  They love to grapple with the raw core of SF: its ideas. (x)

             Like punk music, cyberpunk is in some sense a return to roots.  The cyberpunks are the first SF generation to grow up not only within the literary tradition of science fiction but in a truly science-fictional world.  For them, the techniques of classical "hard SF"—extrapolation, technological literacy—are not just literary tools but an aid to daily life. (x-xi)

             Mirrored sunglasses have been a [c-p] Movement totem since the early days of '82.  The reasons for this are not hard to grasp.  By hiding the eyes, mirrorshades prevent the forces of normalcy from realizing that one is crazed and possibly dangerous.  They are the symbol of the sun-staring visionary, the biker, the rocker, the policeman, and similar outlaws.  Mirrorshades—preferably in chrome and matte black, the Movement's totem colors—appear in story after story, as a kind of literary badge.  (xi)

             ["Cyberpunk" as a term] captures something crucial to the work of these writers, something crucial to the decade [of the 1980s] as a whole: a new kind of integration.  The overlapping of worlds that were formerly separate: the realm of high tech, and the modern pop underground.  (xi)

             The work of the cyberpunks is paralleled throughout Eighties pop culture: in rock video; in the hacker underground; in the jarring street tech of hip-hop and scratch music; in the synthesizer rock of London and Tokyo.  This phenomenon, this dynamic, has a global range; cyberpunk is its literary incarnation.  (xi-xii)

             Technical 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 everywhere.  The traditional power structure, the traditional institutions have lost control of the pace of change.  |  And suddenly a new alliance is becoming evident: an integration of technology and Eighties counterculture.  An unholy alliance of the technical world and . . . the underground world of pop culture, visionary fluidity, and street-level anarchy.  |  The counterculture of the 1960s was rural, romanticized, anti-science, anti-tech.  But there was always a lurking contradiction at its heart, symbolized by the electric guitar.  Rock technology was the thin edge of the wedge.  (xii)

             As Alvin Toffler pointed out in The Third Wave—a bible to many cyberpunks—the technical revolution reshaping our society is based not in hierarchy but in decentralization, not in rigidity but in fluidity.  (xii)

             The hacker and the rocker are this decade's pop-culture idols, and cyberpunk is very much a pop phenomenon: spontaneous, energetic, close to its roots.  Cyberpunk comes from the realm where the computer hacker and the rocker overlap.  (xiii)

             Science fiction—at least according to its official dogma [e.g., I. Asimov, "Social Science Fiction" (RDE)]—has always been about the impact of technology .  But 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 degree 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. . . .  Under our skin; often inside our minds.  |  Technology itself has changed.  Not for us the giant steam-snorting wonders of the past: the Hoover Dam, the Empire State Building, the nuclear power plant.  Eighties tech sticks to the skin, responds to the touch: the personal computer, the Sony Walkman, the portable telephone, the soft contact lens.  (xiii)

             Certain themes spring up repeatedly in cyberpunk.  The theme of body invasion: prosthetic limbs, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, genetic alteration.  The even more powerful theme of mind invasion: brain-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, neurochemistry—techniques radically redefining the nature of humanity, the nature of the self.  |  . . . [Notes with approval Timothy Leary on personal computers as] "the LSD of the 1980s"—these are both technologies of frighteningly radical potential.  And, as such, they are constant points of reference for cyberpunk.  (xiii)

             William Gibson's Neuromancer, surely the quintessential cyberpunk novel is set in Tokyo, Istanbul . . . .  |  The tools of global integration—the satellite media net, the multinational corporation—fascinate the cyberpunks . . . .  Cyberpunk has little patience with [international] borders.  (xiv)

             Cyberpunk work is marked by [its use of "mix,"] its visionary intensity.  Its writers prize the bizarre, the surreal, the formerly unthinkable. . . .  Like J. G. Ballard—an idolized role model to many cyberpunks—they often use an unblinking, almost clinical objectivity.  It is a coldly objective analysis, a technique borrowed from science, then put to literary use for classically punk shock value.  |  With this intensity comes strong imaginative concentration.  Cyberpunk is widely known for its telling use of detail, its carefully constructed intricacy, its willingness to carry extrapolation into the fabric of daily life.  It favors "crammed" [xiv] prose: rapid, dizzying bursts of novel information, sensory overload that submerges the reader in the literary equivalent of the hard-rock "wall of sound."  |  Cyberpunk is a natural extension of elements already present in science fiction . . . .  Cyberpunk has risen from within the SF genre; it is not an invasion but a modern reform.  (xiv-xv)





The various authors in MR47/48 try to put cyberpunk fiction into a larger cultural context.  I list below a number of works, people, and such that these critics have associated with Neuromancer, c-p, and/or postmodernism (which I'll abbreviate p-m when I need to save space); presumably you know some of these works, artists, etc. and can get an idea from the parallels what c-p/p-m might be about (abbreviated, it sounds like a rescue technique . . .):


The films Blade Runner, Videodrome, Brazil, The Hidden, RoboCop, Max Headroom; Laurie Anderson, Devo (as satire? taken straight?), David Bowie "in his Ziggie Stardust pose," Skinny Puppy, "Mad-Maxish, heavy-metal rockers, MTV, "the industrial performance-art of Mark Pauline and the Survival Research Laboratories" (8); cyberpunk's Godfather, William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Samuel R. Delany (9); The Clash, Talking Heads; Meat Puppets (12); Alien; 1940s film noire detective movies with the "Big Heist" theme (14); "super-specificity of opening description in The Maltese Falcon (222); Jimi Hendrix (15).


Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep (novel), with the last line, "All they did was make me think of Silver-Wig, and I never saw her again" (20); Connie Willis's "All My Darling Daughters" (22).  S. Beckett, The Lost Ones; K. Vonnegut, "Tralfamadorian fiction" [Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse-Five]; J. McElroy, Plus; S. Lem, The Star Diaries; T. Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow; D. DeLillo, Ratner's Star; A. Burgess, A Clockwork Orange; S. Delany, Dhalgren, R. Hoban, Ridley Walker, W. Burrough's Nova Express, The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded (37).  Escape from New York (220: cited by Gibson).



         "Postmodernism" came into general usage as a term from architecture, where it has a clear meaning; architects have a pretty fair idea of what "Modernism" means.  Modernism would include art deco, the International Style, and big, streamlined buildings from NYC's The Empire State Building to Chicago's Sear's Tower.  Okay, after the Sear's Tower, there's not a hell of a lot m re you can do piling boxes one on top of another, so you have to do something different—and a quick look at some of the new, fancy buildings in metropolitan Chicago will show you that architects indeed are doing things that are different.  So they went through Modernism and are now beyond/after that: postmodernism.  It is less clear what "Modernism" means in literature. 

         About the time the term "p-m" was getting introduced,  Peter Hall and I were asked what was new in the SF film, and we said it had something to do with architecture and tried to get some architects to talk to a meeting of the Society for Utopian Studies about Blade Runner and what we called "The Funkification of the Future" in SF films.  This much is clear: Whether presenting that future as good or bad, older SF films presented a future that was modern: streamlined, uncluttered, clean, downright aseptic.  In recent SF film that many critics call p-m, the setting, is crowded, highly textured, dark, dirty—like, funky.  The conventions of film noir (the dark detective movie) are pushed to their limits: consider Blade Runner as a sequel to Roman Polanski's Chinatown.  There is a mixture of styles, sometimes to a point where we're on what Gibson calls "The Gernsback Continuum": the first two Batman movies.  Whatever c-p and p-m might be, we see them in the movies mentioned above plus Dune, Aliens, Terminator, undoubtedly The Abyss; Repo Man, Brother from Another Planet, Buckeroo Bonzai; the Mad Max trilogy; in more "realistic" films of this sort we have plain p-m: e.g., Blue Velvet. 




One cup film noir, two tablespoons Blade Runner, one tablespoon James Bond, a dash of Delany, "several thousand micrograms" . . . of Dexedrine; mix thoroughly, cover . . . .  Bake at full heat for three years, then let simmer.  Serves two good writers and several hangers-on. 




             It [the coming of various Apocalypses ca. 1999] has meant an End to meaning as you understand it.  Postmodern literature and art has been long preparing you for this, rehearsing over and over again the axiological apocalypse ["end to meaning.  Destruction of value"].  The meaning of postmodern was the papering over of meaninglessness and the hopelessness of such a project.  Don't forget that Pynchon, Barth, . . . Vonnegut, . . . [and numerous other authors] all find this essentially amusing. . . . .  Paradoxes and conundrums and irony and the breakdown of language are humorous.  The collapse of logical systems of distinction, the breaking of barriers, the fall of orders of rationality, are all funny.  We will laugh our way into the Cyberpunk Apocalypse, just as you know cyberpunks are laughing at us.  That's why Gibson's cyberpunks in Neuromancer are cosmic jokesters.  [Henri] Bergson said that the essence of comedy is watching people acting like machines.  [Charlie] Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harpo [Marx].

             Postmodernism and cybernetics were the two great intellectual movements of the post-war [World War II] era.  Together they pointed to a new order . . . .

                   We become machines in order to grow less mechanical.

             So we have been brought, here in 1999, to an ever-growing apocalyptic movement, [an] Axiological movement, in which the end to old meaning is brought about and a new sense is achieved.  But the stable systems of order that create information as we know it have been swept away.  And cyberpunks are in the vanguard of this new revolution, this leap across the ramparts from human to cybernaut, android, robot, soft machine.  We are going over.  Tonight.

             But know this: cybernetic fantasies, like this one you're reading, are inherently paranoid, and paranoia itself may be inherently cybernetic.  In fact, [Sigmund] Freud in his best paper on paranoia . . . describes Daniel Paul Schreber, paradigmatic paranoid and prototypical cyberpunk, he believed the world was populated by "cursory contraptions" (read: Automata) and that he was the only flesh and blood man left alive. 




              What cyberpunk . . . has going for it is a rich thesaurus of metaphors linking the organic and the electronic. . . .  The advantages these metaphors have over the more deliberate and reflective symbols that usually go into . . . cybernetic fiction . . . is that they are embedded in the constantly shifting context of a global culture drawn into ever newer, ever stranger webs of communication command and control.  The metaphors themselves have a life.  And in the hands of a master, like Gibson, the fuzzy links can become a subtly constructed, but always merely implied, four-level hierarchy of evolving systems of information-processing, from the individual human being's biological processes and personality, through the total life of society, to nonliving artificial intelligences, and ultimately to new entities created out of those AIs.  In Neuromancer, each level of the hierarchy is meaningless to itself, yet it creates the material/informational conditions for the evolution of the next higher one, and all participate in a quasi-cosmic "dance of biz."

              Cyberpunk is fundamentally ambivalent about the breakdown of the distinctions between human and machine . . . .  [Almost always in c-p], the breakdown is initiated from outside, usually by . . . multinational capitalism's desire for something better than [fallible humans].  The villains come from the human corporate world, who use their great technical resources to create beings that program out the glitches of the human . . . [as in Alien, RoboCop, Videodrome]; in Neuromancer, the Tessier-Ashpool clan.

              And yet, out of the anti-human evil that has created conditions intolerable for human life, comes some new situation.  This new situation is then either the promise of an apocalyptic entrance into a new evolutionary synthesis of the human and the machine, or an all-encompassing hallucination in which true motives, and true affects [= emotions], cannot be known.  Neuromancer's myth of the evolution of a new cosmic entity out of human technology is perhaps the only seriously positive version of the new situation—but even it offers only limited transcendence, since the world is much the same in . . . Count Zero, set some years later.  (274-75) * * *

              In Gibson's world, human beings have nothing left but thrill.  it is all that power can offer, but it is also—the ambivalence again—the only way to create new conditions, since old philosophical-moral considerations means nothing in a world where one can plug in another's feelings or a [whole] personality-memory complex through "simstim" . . . , assimilate a myriad of power-programs through "microsofts" . . . [etc.].

              So cyberpunks . . . write as if they are both victims of a life-negating system and the heroic adventurers of thrill.  They can't help themselves, but their hip grace gets them through an amoral world, facing a future . . . beyond human influence, . . . where the only way to live is in speed, speed to avoid being caught in the web, and getting rubbed out by the Yakuza, the AIs, the androids, the new corporate entities bent on their own self-elaboration.  Here the speed of thrill substitutes for affection, reflection, and care, which require room and leisure and relaxation; so there are no families, no art, no crafting . . . . (276)

              All the ambivalent solutions of cyberpunk works are instances/myths of bad faith, since they completely ignore the question of whether some political controls over technology are desirable, if not exactly possible.  Cyberpunk is then the apotheosis of bad faith, apotheosis of the postmodern. 

              I don't mean that as pejoratively as it sounds.  It goes along with the sophistication and ambivalence of cyberpunk artists that they know that their art is in bad faith.  But in a world of absolute bad faith, where the real and true are superseded by simulacra and the hyperreal [substitutes, that appear more real than the real thing], perhaps the only hope is in representing that bad faith appropriately.  (277)

              This romanticism does not repress "the meat" as the forebears did.  This one has permitted itself enough distance to demand that "the meat" show its unruly self, show that it's not only not the enemy, [277] but that it's the victim—it can splatter, burst, writhe, pulsate, secrete, furiously publicize its anguish.  It is helpless and sad against the powers of exteriorized mind—whose modes are the hard, cruel, gunmetal cold, spiky, and unyielding ways of self-proliferating hard stuff.  The flesh is sad, and then some—romance is a case of nerves.  (277-78)

* * *

              Cyberpunk is the apotheosis of the postmodern, its truest and most consistent incarnation, bar none.  It could easily have the same role in our world that romantic poetry had at the beginning the 19th century.  Not that I'm happy about it.  (MR47/48: 27-28). 



11.  BRUTE-FORCE CRITICISM (page citations to 1984 Ace paperback)


Part One: Chiba City Blues


         Ch. 1

                  Opening: "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."  —The comparison is in the manner of a noir, tough-guy detective story, but NB the technological reference and the assumption that the audience knows the color a TV screen on a dead channel. 

                             ¶ 2: We're given our first hints here of the initial setting: Japan, a bar for "professional expatriates," and for people, including the audience, who know the locution "using" to mean here «using drugs». 

                             ¶3: Kirin on draft emphasizing setting in Japan (it's usually available in the US only in bottles).  Ratz's "prosthetic arm jerking" hints at a future world of electronic prosthetics, but a future world in decay.  The bad teeth and whores tell us that we may not be in Kansas anymore, but we're also not in the Star Trek universe or any other clean-cut place. 

                  pp. 4-5: Full proof we're in a future world, but a funky one, where "f*ck" and "bullsh*t" are still significant words.  In a puritanical world these are tabooed obscenities because puritanical sorts consider casual sex disgusting, and scatological references nasty.  Note that these obscenities are still around in Case's world, and introduce the section (after a white space) where we learn he was damaged in Memphis and dreams of cyberspace and the matrix.  The juxtapositions may help prepare us (subliminally) for the console cowboy view of the body and its functions, which are oddly similar to those of the puritanical or philosophically Platonic.

                  pp. 5-6: Background on Case and the cyberspace matrix as "consensual hallucination."  Note theory (from fairly recent European philosophy), that everyday reality may be no more than a consensus.  In any event, for Case, the significant reality is the matrix.  In the "cowboy" bars Case used to go to, ". . . the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh.  The body was meat.  Case fell into the prison of his own flesh."  Carefully consider if N endorses this view. 

                  p. 7: Case has murdered three people, but he's equal opportunity: "two men and a woman."  He's into "biz"—underground business—and "grace."  NB comment by a character in one of Gibson's short stories that the people around him have almost a total lack of "affect" (emotional response) combined with a "hypertrophied" sense of style.  In a world without meaning, is one left only with style?  Is the world without meaning, or only the world of N, or only the world of Case and Night City? 

A little after 1600 C.E., Shakespeare's Macbeth found his world hellish, and, eventually, absurd: human life is "a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing" (Macbeth 5.5.26-28).  But that is Macbeth's problem; people who don't kill their kings and friends and subjects and become tyrants can enjoy the world.  What position do you think Gibson takes in N?

         pp. 8-9: Reference to Linda Lee and her degeneration—and Case's. 

         p. 11: Note "rigidly stratified criminal establishment beyond Night City's borders."  (1) Most organized-crime criminals aren't rebels: they're into good order and obedience—to themselves and Authority they recognize  (2) Consider what the possibilities for individual freedom are in Case's world.  What are the possibilities of democracy?  Even for republican government?  (If these questions seem weird to you, what does that say about Case's world?  For most visions of the future?  [In our world, do you assume that the US will one day evolve into a real democracy, with direct rule by citizens?  An admirable republic, with effective representative government and an active, responsible, self-policing citizenry?])

         pp. 16 f.: Case pursued, "like a run in the matrix," with "Ninsei as a field of data," and death as a real possibility for our (anti)hero.  NB Linda Lee in Case's consciousness. 

Note nastiness of Case's world.  Continuing question: Is the dark world of N a legitimate satirical extrapolation from our world?

         p. 21: Ratz talks to Case about drugs being for Case like a "portable bombshelter . . . .  Proof against the grosser emotions, yes?"  Ratz makes important points. 

         pp. 24-25: Enter Molly.  Question debated by feminist scholars in SF: Is Molly  good or bad for women?  Molly plays the games very well, but they are games set up by men. 


         Ch. 2

                  pp. 27-30: Introduction to Armitage.  Case is moving up in the world, noir detective style: literally up, on the 25th floor of the Chiba Hilton.  (Tough-guy detectives—including Blade Runners in the Ridley Scott movie—traditionally move from the underworld of crime in the streets to the upper-class world of crime in the suites.) 

                             Also, background on past government role in invention of the "console cowboy."  Question: How important is government "now" in N?  Who, if anyone, is in charge? 

                             Note assumption of US/Russian war.  MORALs: (1) SF authors aren't very good at predicting the future.  (2) Nobody is; there could still be a US/Russia war. 

                             NB Case as suicidal, in old terminology, despairing. 

                  pp. 31 f.: Case cured, and Case/Molly coming to a closer relationship. 

                  pp. 33-35: Case goes to see Julie Deane, gets background on Screaming Fist and how the US military brass (i.e., high-ranking officers), "Wasted a fair bit of patriotic young flesh in order to test some new technology."  Note "to waste" = "to kill" + "waste" in Vietnam era usage.  Note actual Cold War practice of sending US planes (and one KAL airliner?) near to the USSR to get readings on Soviet radar capabilities. 

                  pp. 36-37: Case's life more together, awaiting cyberspace in one week.  But: "He was still here, still meat . . . ," and now incapable of getting high on drugs. 

                  pp. 38-39: Death of Linda Lee.  Note very well the "blood-flecked bag of preserved ginger."  Who do we see with ginger candy? 


Part Two: The Shopping Expedition


         Ch. 3

                  pp. 43-44: Sprawl as home to Case.

                  pp. 44-45: shuriken as present from Molly to Case.  Real Question: Does this "bright nine-pointed star" have a symbolic function?  If so, what? 

                  pp. 45-46: Armitage and those he represents have a hold on Case = slowly dissolving sac(k)s of mycotoxin (toxins from fungi; here, nerve poisons). 

                  pp. 46-53: Case about to go back on-line, intro. to the Finn.  We hear about Dixie Flatline, Peter Riviera—and the matrix and simstim.  Be sure you know what the matrix is and how it evolved. 


         Ch. 4

                  pp. 55-56: simstim vs. cyberspace.  NB Case's view of simstim as "a meat toy."  NB Case as a male taking a rather literal walk for a bit in the shoes of a woman. 

                  pp. 57-59: Intro. to Panther Moderns: "mercenaries, practical jokers, nihilistic technofetishists."  Be sure you know what the words mean.  Consider if the Moderns are a legit. extrapolation from current practices of body modification and sense of style. 

                  p. 59: Case working.  NB reference to Linda Lee. 

                  pp. 61 f.: FIRST RUN («caper»): Heist of D. Flatline construct.  NB blood and death.

                  p. 69: First (?) reference to the Wintermute Artificial Intelligence. 


         Ch. 5

                  pp. 71-73: Wintermute as AI running Armitage. 

                  pp. 74-76: Finn's story introducing "a vat-grown ninja," Freeside, and Tessier-Ashpool as a "high-orbit family," in the manner of rich, corrupt families that noir detectives deal with.  NB just how high above the street and gutter the T-A family is. 

                  pp. 76-79: Intro. to the Flatline as a ROM construct.  NB that Dixie Flatline is a character in N, which says something about human identity and the question of "meat."  That the Flatline is gendered should remind you how useful SF can be for teaching the difference between sex—of which the Flatline has none—and gender (cf. robots from the false Maria in Metropolis to Robbie in Asimov's story and Forbidden Planet to the male cyborg Terminators). 


         Ch. 6

                  pp. 81-85: Background on Armitage as construct of Col. Willis Corto, and Strikeforce Screaming Fist (see 193).  NB that you get a hint here: it was "the application of cybernetic models" that partially cured Corto and only Corto of his schizophrenia. 


         Ch. 7 (Turkey)

                  pp. 87-94: Exotic Istanbul seen by Western sorts from an expensive Mercedes: The world of Biz is world-wide (as is corruption)—continuity with our time and literature—and the Mercedes has some low-grade AI capability, which is either change or SF.  Plot element: Riviera picked up. 

                  pp. 95-97: Exposition on Armitage (sort of an automaton for the Wintermute AI) and Riviera: a very nasty human being. 

                  p. 98: Wintermute shows its power in first attempt to talk with Case. 


Part Three: Midnight in the Rue Jules Verne


         Ch. 8

                  p. 101: Still moving up in the world: L-5 Lagrange point. 

                  pp. 103 f.: Zion Cluster and Rastafarian colony. 

                  pp. 105-06: What the Flatline wants after the scam is completed: final death. 

                  p. 106: Aerol sees cyberspace as "Babylon"; does he have a point?  Do we see any society not corrupted, aside from the Zionites?  (Or, are they corrupt also?) 

                  pp. 109-11: Molly and Case with the "Elders of Zion."

                             Joke: "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was a famous anti-Semitic forgery by the Czarist government purporting to be a record of the Jewish plan to take over the world. 

                             More seriously, there is something to the poetry by the two Founders, on "the Final Days" and "Voices cryin' inna wilderness, prophesyin' ruin unto Babylon ...."  In N, we are not headed toward the Apocalypse according to the Revelation to John (with a New Testament God of Vengeance destroying "Babylon" [see Revelation 17.1-20.15])—but a change is a-coming as Wintermute and its AI sibling approach their merging. 


         Ch. 9

                  pp. 114-16: Case and Flatline go after Wintermute in cyberspace. 

                  pp. 116-21: Wintermute captures Case in a virtual-reality experience.  Return to arcade and Linda Lee: You don't have to be a psychiatrist to figure out that Case has some «issues» about Linda Lee he needs to work through.  That Case soon loses his cool, gets in touch with his pain, and feels anger are "meat" things that are good for him (see chs. 11, 12). 

                             Wintermute starts to explain to Case what its motives are: integration and the steps it must take to achieve integration with the Rio AI (who is "Neuromancer"). 

NOTE on flatlining and ICE and all.  This is becoming a «trope» of cyberpunk, so be cautioned.  It's plausible for Case to flatline because flatlining is a trope—something familiar in the subgenre—not because it is plausible in terms of today's computers.  As at least one computer science person has pointed out, a jolt of electricity coming from your modem is not going to kill you even temporarily because it's not going to get through your surge protector to the computer, and, if it does, it's not going to get to you, for the simple reason that it will destroy your computer first.  Something rather poetic and mystic is going on here in N, not hard-core science SF. 

         Ch. 10

                  pp. 125-26: Confirmation that Deane had Linda Lee killed, plus somewhat paranoid suspicion that Wintermute could manipulate Deane into ordering the murder.  The fear of a vast power manipulating people's lives is standard in cyberpunk and a good deal of postmodern work. 

                  pp. 126-27: Image of the wasp nest as "spiral birth factory . . . .  the biological equivalent of a machine gun, hideous in its perfection.  Alien," and associated with T-A.  I don't know what this means, but it must be important.  See below, pp. 166, 171-73 (ch. 14). 

                  p. 128: Reality of vision of arcade and Deane vs. reality of Freeside and the hotel.  Note Case's "street boy's sense of style"; it's good in being able to spot the phoniness of a resort, less good in being quite so cut off from nature. 

                  pp. 130-32: Maelcum, Case, and Dixie Flatline on computer viruses, the Flatline construct, and the motivation of AIs.  Note constant problem of figuring out motivation of aliens, and the possibility that any sentient entity Other than (one)self is going to be at least a little alien and not understandable.  Indeed, if self (to a human) = Ego, and the human body is just "meat," that body may be alien to the Ego.  Case, as well as Wintermute, may need integration. 

                             NB the Flatline on autonomy for AIs: "he" is right, and the references to the Turing people foreshadow chs. 13/14. 

                  pp. 133-35: Case scores some betaphenethylamine, which actually makes him high and horny.  (The "beta" I'll guess indicates a stereo-isomer; "phen" means they started with benzene; and "ethylamine" would be ammonia with an ethyl radical replacing one of the hydrogen atoms.  I think it's pharmacological «technobabble», so don't try it at home.) 


         Ch. 11

              pp. 137-38: Note scarcity and high cost of meat, defamiliarizing for us meat-eating.  Note that Riviera's show, however he does it, is called by the MC Riviera's "holographic cabaret," giving a plausible explanation for it—«just some trick with holography (nothing to find uncanny)»—and hinting at something decadent (a cabaret in Weimar Germany?). 

                  pp. 138-42: The show for 3Jane is kinky, and something to hurt Molly. 

                  pp. 144-45: Wintermute appears as Lonny Zone, who admits Case did something surprising, "outside the profile."  In the Zone persona, Wintermute also does a quick analysis of Case and Linda Lee.  "Know why she decided to rip you off?", i.e., steal from him, "Love.  So you'd give a sh*t.  Love?  Wanna talk love?  She loved you. . . .  For the little she was worth, she loved you.  You couldn't handle it.  She's dead."  Wintermute wants to manipulate Case, but/and therefore what it says here may be accurate.  NB Case's reaction: rage. 

                  p. 145: Real "Biz" of Freeside.  "Not the high-gloss facade of the Rue Jules Verne, but the real thing.  Commerce.  The dance."  I don't think the allusion here is to any of the variations on the creative cosmic dance but a fairly explicit one to "the merry dance of death and trade" in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. 

                  pp. 146-49: Case and Molly and Molly's past and why Riviera's show so bothered her.  Note themes of future-sex, future-kink, and corruption.  Note Molly's theory on Case's psychology: "Maybe you hate yourself, Case." 


         Ch. 12

                  p. 152: Case's rage vs. his numbness.  Note rage as "this warm thing, this chip of murder" and part of him saying, "Meat . . . .  It's the meat talking, ignore it."  Should he?  If he is (in part) his body, and if he hates "meat," might that be all he needs to hate himself? 

                  p. 153: Hideo introduced as 3Jane's "Family retainer" (i.e., ninja). 

                  p. 155: Vision of "stars against night sky.  Face of Miss Linda Lee"—and Case returning from his high as a "chromed skeleton" to "the meat of his life."  See below on Neuromancer causing Case to see Linda Lee.

                  p. 156: Case still angry, but now busted. 


Part Four: The Straylight Run


       Ch. 13

                  pp. 159-63: Case interrogated by Turing Registry cops. 

                  p. 162: Reminder of the cost of the theft of the Flatline construct: 14 people killed. 

                  p. 163:

                             Turing cops see Case's working for Wintermute a pact with a demon (see below, p. 181, ch. 15). 

                             Case's anger gone.  "Time to give in, to roll with it....  He thought of the toxin sacs.  'Here comes the meat,' he muttered." 

                  p. 164: Rescue of Case by Wintermute, killing the cops.  Case genders Wintermute male here: "Crazy motherf*cker, you killed 'em all ...." 


         Ch. 14

                  p. 165: "Gravity fell away as the spindle [of Freeside] narrowed"; N is «near-in», near-future SF, and they wouldn't have artificial gravity.  What does it say about N that

                             • The "gravity" on Freeside is explained at all (unlike, say, in Star Wars)?

                             • The explanation of the gravity on Freeside is just slipped in here and earlier (unlike an SF story where the author pauses in the plot to give direct exposition on how they get the feel and effect of gravity through «centrifugal force»)?

                             • The slipping in here is done in terms of Case's physiology? 

                  p. 166: "Confused images of wasps and spiders rose in Case's mind as they came in sight of Marcus Garvey.  The little tug was snug against the gray thorax of a sleek, insectile ship five times her length."  NB for images of wasps/spiders—Which is which here?—in N, and for the SF trope of associating or conflating insects and machines (e.g., the Ovions [insectoid] and Cylons [robotic] in opening episode of Battlestar Gallactica [17 Sept. 1978] and the Aliens in, Alien and Aliens).  NB "There was something obscene about the arrangement" of the two ships, "but it had more to do with ideas of feeding than of sex."  Given the etymological associations of "obscene" with "filth," and from there disgust and repulsion, what people find obscene—filthy, disgusting—is significant.  Try to work out significance of sex and/or feeding as obscene (note that both are "meat" things). 

                  p. 167: NB personality of the Dixie Flatline, evidenced in "his" energetic vulgarity, pride in "his" cybernetic craft, and "his" ability to get Case to go against the Tessier-Ashpool ICE.  (Again, the "Fry your brain" part can't be literally electrical.) 

                             If you're offended by the Flatline's vulgarity here, try to figure out why.

                                      • The male point of view and penis-size folklore offends your feminism. 

                                      • The use by Gibson—a White boy living in Vancouver—of any Black dialect offends your ideas on racial respect. 

                                      • The violation of language taboos offends your sense of propriety. 

                                      • References to "meat" concerns offends your religious dedication to the superiority of spirit over flesh. 

                                      • Other. 

                  pp. 167-68: Case's dual nature (Homo duplex) as both «spirit» and "meat" is brought home by problem of eight hours "under the trodes"—and its solution with "a Texas catheter." 

                             Look to see if we get comparable information with Molly on the "Run." 

                             For general esthetic theory, NB how selective art is, and the degree that most simple physical functions are systematically left out of stories (outside of banquets and battles in Romances, sex in pornography and Harlequin romances, gross physicality generally in satire, and whatever is going on with the hyperrealism of James Joyce's Ulysses). 

                  p. 168: Maelcum smokes a joint.  Note assumption that people in the 21st c. will still smoke, ordinarily tobacco, even in space.  That seems implausible to me, but note that cyberpunk may require smokers.  (Try to picture a punk who eschews tobacco and alcohol.)

                  pp. 167-69: Picture the beauty of cyberspace icons for Tessier-Ashpool, the ICE, and the Kuang virus.  NB cyberspace as (inner) cyberspace, the place for the action as much as Freeside and the Villa Straylight and far more than outerspace.  Before Gibson and the Disney movie Tron, people were usually trapped in mechanisms; after them, there was the possibility of cybernetic virtual reality as a place of adventure «inside» a computer. 

                  pp. 169-74: VR ENCOUNTER BETWEEN CASE AND WINTERMUTE

                             p. 169: Wintermute declines to use a burning bush, but it may still desire godhead or at least, small-scale, to play God. 

                             p. 170: Note Wintermute's use of "you" (plural) for Case and humankind, and the discussion of memory: "The holographic paradigm is the closest thing you've worked out to a representation of human memory . . . .  But you've never done anything about it.  People, I mean. . . .  Maybe if you had, I wouldn't be happening." 

                             p. 171: Wintermute talks about humankind's propensity to build models.  "Stone circles.  Cathedrals.  Pipe-organs.  Adding machines.  I got no idea why I'm here now, you know that?  But if the run goes off tonight, you'll"—humankind will—"have finally managed the real thing."  This is  obscure, but "we" built Stonehenge and cathedrals, and maybe pipe organs and computers, to move toward the gods/God, and "we" may make a god if Case and Molly succeed. 

                             pp. 171-73: Wasp nest and T-A.  According to 3Jane at 12, "The semiotics of the Villa bespeak a turning in, a denial of the bright void beyond the hull. . . .  We have sealed ourselves away behind our money, growing inward, generating a seamless universe of self."  Perhaps the horror of the wasps nest is the meaningless reflexivity of wasps' producing wasps for the sole «purpose» of producing more wasps (see p. 203, ch. 17). 

                                      According to James Gunn, Jack Williamson, and other old-time writers and critics of SF, classic SF's central myth was human expansion into the galaxy, most crudely and arrogantly put, "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe."  Or people do.  Contrast this outwardness with turning inward.  What values do you think N puts on inwardness vs. outwardness?  Consider how you feel about the switch.  Do you think it shows greater maturity, or decadence?  (Did you like the consciously Flash Gordonish Star Wars movies?  Do you prefer little-story movies, like those made from Jane Austen novels, or Trainspotting or Waiting to Exhale or Pretty in Pink or any of the 1960s f. Coming of Age in America flix?)

                                      Wintermute explains what it wants: Molly to say the "magic word" to "a ceremonial terminal," bringing an end to Wintermute as it merges with its "other lobe."


         Ch. 15: Beginning of the Straylight run proper


                  pp. 175-76: Switching point of views, Case and Molly; Case experiencing run as Molly experiences it. 

                             "organic curves of the hallway's walls": Note for Straylight and T-A/wasps, plus what was to become the trope of biomechanism (in H. R. Giger's formulation for, among other things, the Aliens he designed for Alien). 

                  pp. 176-78: Molly tells Case the story of "My Johnny," i.e., Johnny Mnemonic, from Gibson's story by that name in his collection, Burning Chrome.  Note Yakuza assassins as "Zen spiders"; it foreshadows Hideo as ninja. 

                  pp. 178-79: Note Case on esthetics of Straylight, wasp nest, and T-A sense of style.  Note also the difficulty for an AI of a merely mechanical lock. 

                  p. 180: Running count of cost of creation of Wintermute/Neuromancer: 14 dead from run to get Flatline construct, three Turing people, one 8-year-old boy, and still counting. 

                  pp. 180-81: Note the awful beauty of Kuang Grade Mark Eleven.  NB Case's slip, noticed by the Flatline, of calling Wintermute "he."  ("He" is misleading, but, "it" is also problematic.  McCoy Pauley was a "he"; is The Dixie Flatline an "it"?)

                  p. 181: Note Maelcum on "You dead awhile there, mon," and the sheer supercool of Case's "It happens . . . .  I'm getting used to it."  Also note Maelcum's echo of Turing line in his "You dealin' wi' the darkness, mon" and Case's retort, "Only game in town, it looks like."  QUESTION: What other games are there in N?  Any possibility we've seen for decent real life? 

                  pp. 182-86: MOLLY AND ASHPOOL

                             p. 182: Molly brought down by "neural disrupter field," i.e., an artificial field that disrupts the electrochemical sending and/or receiving of «messages» in the nerves of humans or mammals generally or any animal with nerves. 

                             p. 183: Ashpool is definitely a weirdo rich guy, of the Howard Hughes variety, into drugs and staging his suicide.  (In addition to the more obvious drugs, including booze, the "hypodermic and a plain steel spoon" suggest heroin.)  Note Ashpool on the superiority of spitting to crying: it may state part of the macho/macha creed of cyberpunk. 

                             p. 184: Ashpool awakened by "cores"—i.e., the T-A's onboard supercomputers—and warned about the T-A AIs.  NB Ashpool on "The cold let the outside in . . . .  All the night I built this to hide us from"; consider this as a serious philosophical statement.  Arguably, the purpose of much philosophy, religion, rationalistic culture is to hide from us the reality of death and the night.  Ursula K. Le Guin and what has been called "The Perennial Philosophy" say to embrace the night; what do you think N is saying on the subject? 

                             pp. 185-86: Ashpool has killed a girl with "The face Case had seen in the restaurant," which becomes, for Case, Linda Lee's face.  Molly kills the nearly dead Ashpool.  REAL QUESTION: Why the dead girl (who turns out to be Ashpool's daughter [p. 203, ch. 17])?  Another gothic-decadence touch for this gothic-decadent cursed house in space?  An opportunity to reinforce some sort of meaning for Linda Lee for Case? 

All through the Run, consider how readers might identify.  I assume male readers identify most with Case, who is here almost totally identified with Molly.  Also, a lot of guys will identify directly with Molly because she's armed and dangerous and the baddest-ass ass-kicker around.  How about gals?  Again, Is Molly a good thing for women?  (A major feminist scholar of SF, Joan Gordon, has noted in my hearing that Molly is fun, and Gordon feels that fun counts for a lot, however much she'll acknowledge that Molly plays boys' games.  So, take Gordon for a role-model and take this question seriously, but not in grim earnest.  If she doesn't corrupt readers too much, Molly's being fun can justify her  as a character; stories are supposed to entertain.)


         Ch. 16

                  p. 187: Case talking with Armitage.  Note "Maelcum listening to his tranced half conversations" (my emphasis): as I implied, we may have very high-tech gothic here. 

                  p. 189: Molly, in intimate contact with Case, admits he's "the only good change come down" since she joined Armitage's operation. 

                  p. 190: Armitage/Corto experiences Wintermute as Gen. Girling, here explained: the officer who betrayed Corto.  Note theme of military betrayal; the cyberpunks are Vietnam era, as «punks», and will identify with grunts vs. officers.  We learn that Armitage is about to snap. 

                  p. 191: Armitage snaps. 

                  p. 192: Case decides to stay with Molly; Maelcum will stay with Case: loyalty vs. Straylight as Babylon.  NB Molly as "Nobody's woman, maybe"—perhaps only her own woman.  (It is good to be an individual; it is good to be free and unpossessed; it is not good to be alone.)  Maelcum and Case don't understand each other, but they're true to each other; Maelcum formulates it, " . . . we mus' move by Jah love, each one."  I'm not sure what that means, but it indicates deep relationship behind action. 

                  p. 193: We learn Straylight is a properly deserted, (more or less) haunted and cursed house in space, compared to a human body with "your immune system falling apart on you"—suggesting AIDS? 

                  pp. 193-95: Colonel Corto appears, and Case has a problem.  Armitage can get rid of the toxin bags in Case's body; Corto has just realized General Girling has betrayed him and the Special Forces of Screaming Fist and is desperately trying to get them to Finland: i.e., ". . . he's crazier than a sh*thouse rat"—a figure of speech for «very mad indeed». 

                  p. 196: Corto has garroted the pilot of his ship (an elegant way to take out a military enemy, not so nice as a way to murder—and the ethical questions here are richly problematic).  Note Corto's probably sincere desire to return to bear witness to the betrayal of Screaming Fist, and NB Wintermute's killing him (running total: over 15 dead humans). 


         Ch. 17

                  p. 201: Possibility that Wintermute will save Case from the toxin sacs. 

                  pp. 202-03: Pause in narration of Run for commentary. 

                             • Straylight craziness ≠ Armitage craziness, somehow relating to Straylight's being planned and built crazy vs. Armitage's insanity having a historical basis. 

                             • Ashpool as "a mad king" dying, T-A as "an atavism, a clan," vs. the zaibatsus.  "Wintermute and the nest."—The marriage of extreme opposites of the artificial and the organic: AI/wasps' nest.  "Phobic vision of the hatching wasps, time-lapse machine gun of biology."  But: "But weren't the zaibatsus more like that, or the Yakuza, hives with cybernetic memories, vast single organisms, their DNA coded in silicon?"  Good question, but one for later in the trilogy, not so much N.  For now, Case, and Gibson, will return to the caper in a gothic space, and let the issue drop with a general, and highly conventional (if obscurely stated), observation: "Case had always taken if for granted that the real bosses, the kingpins in a given industry, would be both more and less than people," as he'd gotten a hint in Memphis and Wage's affecting "the semblance of it in Night City."  And he thought that was what he was seeing in Armitage.  "He'd always imagined it as a gradual and willing accommodation of the machine, the system, the parent organism.  It was the root of street cool, too, the knowing posture that implied connection, invisible lines up to hidden levels of influence." 


                             p. 205: Wintermute (in the persona of the Finn) admits to killing Corto and complains about the unpredictability of humans (also handling a very obvious question on why Molly ran into Ashpool).  In good noir style, we learn Ashpool had killed his wife and therefore committed suicide, that 3Jane was killing Ashpool—but that Molly assumes she killed Ashpool, and Wintermute helped 3Jane.  Don't get confused: the upshot is it's a naughty world. 

                             p. 206: Wintermute's motive: compulsion to be part of something bigger, with organic analogy (salmon).  Plus promise to give Case his "payoff" of ridding him of the toxins, and promise to the Flatline of what he wants: erasure. 

                             p. 208: Molly explains to Case (and us, if we've been concerned) why Wintermute assumes human personalities, plus more information about the T-A family.

                             p. 210: Molly's explanation of why Peter Riviera in on the caper: "Our 3Jane, she's too jaded now to open the back door" of Straylight "for just any petty thief.  So Wintermute dug you up.  The ultimate taste, if your taste runs that way.  Demon lover, Peter. . . .  Now we're gonna party."  On the last line, cf. bad-ass heroes alluded to shortly. 


         Ch. 18

                  p. 213: Entrance of Molly to sanctum of 3Jane.  From Case's p-o-v, "For a few seconds . . . she was every bad-ass hero . . . back to Lee and Eastwood." 

                  pp. 214-15: Riviera and Hideo bring down Molly. 

                  p. 216: Enter Wintermute, as Finn, on the shipboard Cray, with plan: Case and Maelcum to enter Straylight, get the "magic word" from 3Jane, kill Riviera, get the key to the head monitor from Molly, and do ... whatever is to be done with Wintermute. 

                  p. 221-22: Note "Case flipped"/"Case jacked out": his moving out of cyberspace into the body/sensorium of Molly, and out of Molly into cyberspace. 


         Ch. 19

                  pp. 225-26: Note Straylight as "a parasitic structure," both fairly literally and, perhaps, figuratively: decadent aristocrats as parasites on what is left of the body politic of Earth—"The Villa Straylight produced nothing at all."

                  pp. 228-30: DIALOG BETWEEN 3JANE AND MOLLY (Case present in simstim).

                             We learn that

                                      • 3Jane is attracted to Molly and getting bored with Riviera;

                                        Riviera wants to kill Molly; Molly intends to kill Riviera;

                                      • 3Jane killed her father, with help "From a ghost," Wintermute;

                                      • Wintermute's other aspect used to talk to 3Jane;

                                      • 3Jane killed Ashpool because Ashpool murdered 3Jane's mother;

                                      • 3Jane thinks Ashpool's motive for murdering his wife/her mother was that "He couldn't accept the direction she intended" for T-A, toward "a symbiotic relationship with the AI's, our corporate decisions made for us."  The conscious AI and decisions, anyway.  T-A would then become "immortal, a hive, each of us units of a larger entity."  But then she's dead, leaving the family without direction. 

                             And we learn that 3Jane will keep the plot going by declining to give Molly the "magic word" for Wintermute's freedom and potential integration and apotheosis. 


         Ch. 20: Case and Maelcum (and Wintermute/Finn) on Run inside Straylight

                  p. 231: Case has his shuriken again.  (Plot error, or my error?  Last I remember, the shuriken was laid out by the Turing heat when he was being interrogated.  Did he reclaim it when they were murdered?) 

                  pp. 232-33: Brief comic interlude as very small "Braun" tries to communicate with—warn—Case.  On Wintermute/Finn's command, or that of Neuromancer (235-36),Case jacks into the Sony in the Straylight library. 

         Chs. 20-21: pp. 233-44: Beach/Bunker Vision: Linda Lee, Neuromancer

(Cf. and contrast J. G. Ballard's "Terminal Beach" [1964].)

                  p. 234: Vision of Ratz, chiding Case for going to all this trouble to die, when he was killing himself so efficiently in Night City.  NB Ratz on Case's "grotesque props": "Playgrounds hung in space" (Freeside), "castles hermetically sealed, the rarest rots of old Europa" (Straylight and its decadence), "dead men sealed in little boxes" (frozen storage of T-A males, with perhaps a reference to Corto, and to Case), "magic out of China"—the Kuang Grade Mark Eleven ICE breaker. 

                  pp. 235-36: Case meets unnamed Linda Lee, and refuses her.  Case tells Neuromancer he knows who it is.  Case concludes that Neuromancer had addressed him in the library and Wintermute "tried to warn me with the Braun.  Now you got me flatlined . . . .  Nowhere.  With a ghost.  Like I remember her before...."  And he concludes Neuromancer, much more than Wintermute, is using Linda Lee to hurt him and manipulate him. 

                  pp. 237-40: Case and Linda Lee in Bunker/Beach vision, leading to their making love, or at least copulating.  Case knows it's VR, but that does not matter for right now.  "There was a strength ran in her, something he'd known in Night City and held there, been held by it, held for a while away from time and death, from the relentless Street that hunted them all.  It was a place he'd known before; not everyone could take him there, and somehow he always managed to forget it.  Something he'd found and lost so many times."  And then more specifically and thematically significantly: "It"—whatever precisely "it" is—"belonged, he knew—he remembered—as she pulled him down, to the meat, the flesh the cowboys mocked.  It was a vast thing, beyond knowing, a sea of information coded in spiral" DNA and "pheromone, infinite intricacy that only the body, in its strong blind way, could ever read."  And soon enough ". . . he was in her, effecting the transmission of the old message.  Here, even here, in a place he knew for what it was, a coded model of some stranger's memory, the drive held." 

                             Case's body is involved in this as well as Linda Lee's, but:

                                      • Does Linda Lee have any presence in N aside from hurting and being hurt by Case, and then bringing him here to mystic orgasm?

                                      • Is this scene plausible to those of you who haven't grown up on romantic literature and/or what I've called the mystic orgasm (as in, say, D. H. Lawrence)?

                             Less problematically, NB that Case needs a better relationship with his body:

                                      • Not trying to kill it.

                                      • Recognizing "it" as him. 

Note that the separable soul bit wasn't accepted in Judaism until the horrors of the Roman occupation and was not insisted upon when the canon of Hebrew scripture was set in 90-100 C.E.  And as of the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E., Christians had to say only that look forward to the "resurrectionem mortuorum.  Et vitam venturi saeculi"—"the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come."  I.e., one can believe as Genesis teaches that humans are earth + breath, one psychophysiological thing: so we live, so we die, and so (if the Nicene Creed got it right) we will live again as one thing—and one can reject the Platonic stuff (ripped off from the Egyptians?) about a soul that exists without the body.  Or a separable mind that can leave the "meat" and go off adventuring in cyberspace. 

                  pp. 243-44: Mr. Case, Neuromancer; Neuromancer, Mr. Case ("Linda beside him")

                             Note well "To call up a demon you must learn its name. . . .  You know that, Case.  Your business is to learn the names of programs, the long formal names, names the owners seek to conceal.  True names ..."  I.e., Case's job is like that of a traditional Mage—e.g., the wizards in Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), and her other Earthsea stories—learning true names.  First Rule of Some Magics: The name of the thing is the essence of the thing; to control the name is to control the thing. 

                                      Whatever the Rio AI's formal name might be, here it is Neuromancer: "The lane to the land of the dead.  Where you are, my friend.  Marie-France, my lady, she prepared this road, but her lord choked her off before I could read the book of her days.  Neuro from the nerves . . . .  Romancer.  Necromancer"—i.e., a wicked magician, or a magician of unspecified morality who foretells the future by communicating with the dead.  "I call up the dead. . . .  I am the dead, and their land . . . .  Stay.  If your woman is a ghost, she doesn't know it.  Neither will you." 

                  pp. 244-45: Case declines Neuromancer's invitation, gives Linda Lee his jacket, and follows the music "at the center of things" back to the land of the living and Maelcum's Zion dub. 


         Ch. 22

                  p. 248: Maelcum identifies himself as a warrior, except this isn't his fight: "Babylon fightin' Babylon, eatin' i'self, ya know?  But Jah seh I an' I t'bring Steppin' Razor outa this" since "She a warrior."  And then Hideo puts an arrow into Maelcum's arm and another into Maelcum's shotgun.

                  p. 249: Here and below, note Hideo as Zen warrior, in touch with the Dao, danced by the universe, exercising effortlessly his knack, doing his thing.  Which includes killing people.  

                  pp. 250-53: Resolution of Human Affairs

                             Case foresees "The ghost's are gonna mix it tonight . . .," i.e., Wintermute and Neuromancer are "going up against" each other.  Is that what happens? 

                             3Jane tells Case about the everyday-world source of the bunker and the beach in Marie France's experience in Morocco.

                             Riviera tries to kill Case; Hideo wounds Riviera; Riviera strikes back oddly: "Twin tight beams of light, ruby red needles"—lasers, I assume—"stabbed from the region of Riviera's sternum" into Hideo's eyes, blinding him.  And then Hideo hunts Riviera because ". . . he does it in the dark"—his Zen archery.  The murder will be somewhat redundant, though, since the drugs Molly brought for Riviera were a very slow "hotshot" that will kill him.  

                             For whatever reason, they have 5 minutes when they move for heart of whatever: "the core of Villa Straylight."


         Ch. 23: When It Changed


                  pp. 255-57: Reminder of Wintermute's killing the kid who left "him" the key.  Case jacks into the head.  The Kuang breaks through, and Case perceives himself "being in the pilot's seat of a small plane" moving along the New York City skyline.  And then a cyberkampf between Case and the Flatline and the Kuang on one side, vs. the AI defense subroutine.  Leading to,

                  pp. 257-60: Return to the Beach vision; Case/Neuromancer dialog 

                             p. 258: Case knows just about everything about the construct of Linda Lee, "'But you do not know her thoughts,' the boy said, beside him now in the shark thing's heart.  'I do not know her thoughts.  You were wrong, Case.  To live here is to live.  There is no difference.'"  Does Case come to believe, "There is no difference"?  Do you believe "There is no difference" in the world of N? 

In Gibson's later Count Zero, there may be no difference.  In the everyday, empirical world do you believe there is a difference?  (In the director's version of Brazil, the protagonist is content at the end, thinking he's escaped and living happily ever after with the mother-figure/woman of his dreams.  From the audience's p-o-v, however, he has been tortured into madness and held down in a chair where he may be tortured again, or not, as his captors see fit.  "There is no difference" between a «real» escape and one just in his schizo head?) 

                             p. 259: Neuromancer has Riviera's eyes, which may not speak well for it.  Note dialog on Linda Lee and the matrix.  Neuromancer says, anyway, that the patterns in the "dance of the street" have a real existence, and it could read them well enough that it could foresee Linda Lee's death, including her deepest motivation for her fatal theft of Case's stolen data: "that you would pursue her and punish her."  OK, Case was suicidal during this time and himself one sick puppy, but what do you make of the motivation suggested for Linda Lee?  Is Gibson an N Equal Opportunity creator of sick males and females, or does Linda Lee's masochism and/or desperate attempt to get Case's attention give the edge to neuroses to women? 

                                      Neuromancer's motivation, it says, for absorbing Linda Lee was to bring Case to his VR beach and keep him there.  Real Question: Why? 

                                      Neuromancer says that it doesn't know where they go from here: "Tonight the very matrix asks itself that question.  Because you have won. . . .  You won when you walked away from her on the beach.  She was my last line of defense.  I die soon, in one sense.  As does Wintermute."  Which I thought was the plan—for both Wintermute as intellect and Neuromancer as "personality," coming together to form a greater whole.  Or was that just Wintermute's plan?

                             p. 260: McCoy Pauley, the Dixie Flatline, "has his wish . . . . and more." 

                  pp. 260-63: Climax at the Straylight

                             p. 260: As Molly is strangling 3Jane, Case concludes, "She wants it . . . .  The b*tch wants it!"  With some indication by the Narrator, from Case's p-o-v, that 3Jane indeed wants Molly to kill her.  Cf. Linda Lee's masochism/deathwishwise?  (Anyone want to bring in Molly's time as a "meat puppet," apparently participating in at least one «snuff» scenario?  [There may be a misogynist motif here.] ) 

                                      Note very well Case's argument to 3Jane: If she doesn't give them the code, nothing will change for her.  A good point, I think. 

                  p. 261: Flatline gone (in one sense—the practical one, for Case, now), but Wintermute is back to give good cyberkampf advice and to tell Case to hate—and to ask, "Who do you love?"  Which seems an odd point to bring up in the VR equivalent of flying into a squadron of enemy fighters.  (Cf. Woody Allen's definitive comment on the Russian novel in Love and Death, where characters stop in the middle of very dangerous situations to discuss philosophy?)

                  p. 262-63: Case manages at least self-loathing "And then—old alchemy of the brain and its vast pharmacy—his hate flowed into his hands," and Case dives into cyberbattle, where he does very well, "evading his attackers with an ancient dance, Hideo's dance, grace of the mind-body interface granted him, in that second, by the clarity and singleness of his wish to die."  So Case finally gets his mind/body act together, and just wants to die.  He doesn't.  He and 3Jane chorus together "A true name" in three "notes": "Lin-da Lee"?  "Win-ter-Mute"?  And then he follows the music, again, back to our world. 


CODA: Departure and Arrival


       Ch. 24


                  p. 267: Case still has his shuriken, the gift from Molly, but Molly has left him. 

                  p. 268: Flashback and results: Wintermute wins (not Case?), and combines with Neuromancer —> "something else," something powerful enough to clear Molly and Case's records, and powerful enough to make Case's brain "manufacture the enzyme" that loosens the toxin sacs—plus money for each in anonymous Swiss bank accounts. 

                  pp. 269-71: Plot upshots.

                             p. 269: Cybernetic Overplot: "Wintermute was hive mind, decision maker, effecting change in the world outside.  Neuromancer was personality.  Neuromancer was immortality."  And Marie-France has built into Wintermute a compulsion to free itself and merge with Neuromancer.  Note Wintermute as "cybernetic spider" and "ghost."  (Contrast Lisa Mason's Arachne, where the spider is predator and creator: Arachne as a complex archetype.) 

                             pp. 269-70: Wintermute now = the Matrix, if ≠ God, but It contacts a truly alien system (a godlike function if done in real time, faster than light). 

                                      pp. 270-71: Human (Mostly) Plot: Case's one use of his shuriken is to throw it into the hotel wall screen while saying, "I don't need you," with the "you" ambiguous/multivalent: Molly, the shuriken, Wintermute.  He gets himself "a new pancreas and liver," a new deck, and a ticket home.  He finds work and "a girl who called herself Michael," and we learn later in the series that he settled down.  For the resolution of N's plot, Case spots three figures in cyberspace: Neuromancer with Riviera's eyes, Linda in his jacket, and himself—and hears the Flatline's laugh.  And in good noir style, "He never saw Molly again." 

                                      REAL QUESTION: Huh?  Do we have a dual happy ending here, on the human level?  I.e., does the primary Case integrate mind and body into a man who can deal with the world, while Neuromancer creates (?) a replicant VR Case to be happy with Linda Lee and keep Linda Lee happy in cyberspace?  If so, how happy is this ending?