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I may be imagining this incorrectly, but it seems to me the characters in Neuromancer are able to separate their consciousness (or soul) from their body. Granted, they have to plug into the matrix or have special chips installed into their bodies to be able to do this it’s not like they can just decide, “This place sucks, I’m going to go hang out in the ether and leave my body here for awhile.”

I’m having a difficult time with this.

Neuromancer reminds me a lot of Ghost in the Shell, an anime movie in which a person’s consciousness is downloaded into an identical prosthetic body when the body it is using is too badly damaged. The process can be repeated an infinite number of times and the prosthetic bodies can have what I’m going to call “special bonus features” added to them. The person’s consciousness is called a ghost. The consciousness is kept on file somewhere where it can be put into new bodies if necessary. It’s pretty self explanatory.

What’s happening in Neuromancer is not self explanatory. It is messing with my head for a couple of reasons. “The abrupt jolt into other flesh. Matrix gone, a wave of sound and color. . . . She was moving through a crowded street … for a few frightened seconds he fought helplessly to control her body. Then he willed himself into passivity, became the passenger behind her eyes.” So, Case is able to leave his body, his mind enters the matrix, and then his mind enters Molly’s mind and he is able to sense everything she experiences? There are no rules in this world. The other quote I’m going to include from Molly, “I wasn’t conscious. It’s like cyberspace, but blank. Silver. It smells like rain.” Molly isn’t describing a separation exactly, it’s more like her mind is being temporarily shut down. Both instances needed software to take place.

I think what I’m wondering is what the point of having the ability to remove your consciousness from your body is, if you cannot simply move it into a better body? Gibson’s world is full of people who have had prosthetic additions to their bodies not to replace lost limbs or organs, but to enhance their bodies.  However it seems like the enhanced bodies are still fragile and decaying and will die eventually. What is Gibson trying to illustrate with these people who alter their bodies and can shut off their minds?


Questions of Genre

I spent the early afternoon reading the first volume of Frankenstein and the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out if I had anything worthwhile to say about it. As I began Frankenstein I couldn’t help but notice stylistic similarities between it and books I had read in the past, namely Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Comprised mostly of correspondence and first person narratives, Frankenstein greatly resembles a Gothic novel of the early 19th century. I couldn’t help but wonder exactly why it is considered one of the first science fiction novels, when I couldn’t see past the horror aspects of the story.

Upon finishing volume one it occurred to me. Cognitive estrangement. The very thing we discussed in class on Thursday and which Darko Suvin pegged as the crux of the science fiction genre was present in Frankenstein. It is set in 18th century Europe and it seems there are no other alterations to the world. However, Victor Frankenstein is able to push the known boundaries of chemistry so far that he is able to reanimate a dead body. An impossible feat in the natural world, even now.

While the genre of science fiction had not been defined when Frankenstein was published, it is clearly well deserving of its designation as one of the first. Taking the realm of the natural world, and through misused science introducing anxiety and terror. Shelley took aspects of a Gothic horror story and combined it with concepts from natural science to create something new.

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