Friday, January 24, 2014

Prompts for Zork and Neuromancer

Prompt 1: Neuromancer and Brian Aldiss

Brian Aldiss, who is himself an important science fiction author as well as a SF critic and historian, defines science fiction as follows:
Science fiction is the search for a definition of mankind and his status in the universe which will stand in our advanced but confused state of knowledge (science), and is characteristically cast in the Gothic or post-Gothic mode [Aldiss, 1].
Citing multiple passages and showing detailed knowledge of the text, argue for or against Aldiss’ definition, based on the centrality or unimportance (as you see it) of clearly defining what humanity is in Neuromancer - while paying attention to the latter part of Aldiss’ definition.

Prompt 2: Researching Gibson/Neuromancer

Using academic sources only, probably from Pitt’s library (that is, an actual book, or an article from a peer-reviewed journal), present research relating to the novel, or Gibson’s own life, that you think would help the class, and that is at least moving toward an argument.  To put it another way:  it’s fine to spend most of your space simply presenting one or several interesting sources, but you need to also, at the very least, show us the beginning of an argument, or to pose a question or series of questions which would lead to an argument.  A 75% / 25% division between research and argument would be fine, although I’d be skeptical of a 90% / 10% division.

Your sources should be obviously serious and substantive - at least 20 pages of academic writing, and probably more.  If you’re using a book, you shouldn’t necessarily read the whole thing, but read at least the introduction, and whatever material deals with a topic of interest to you.
I suggest you begin looking for books here, or articles here.

Prompt 3: Neuromancer through Heidegger

First, read all of “The Question Concerning Technology,” not just the excerpts we read for class. Do not expect to have a clear and easy understanding of everything, but do find a concept or a passage which interests you in relationship with Neuromancer. Use that concept or passage to interpret Neuromancer - that is, to make an argument about it.

Example: you might argue that in Neuromancer human bodies have become pure standing-reserve, but that cyberspace is an attempt to resist the standing-reserve. Or you might argue that cyberspace is the purest form of standing-reserve of all. Or you might analyze Case’s entry into cyberspace in terms of the four causes. You need to come up with your own argument, but your argument should be fundamentally an attempt to read Gibson using Heidegger.

Prompt 4: Zork and Neuromancer

Some initial observations: Neuromancer concerns a world in which life, in some ways, has become rather like a video game. Zork is a very early and massively influential game - a good if not necessarily perfect starting point for contextualizing Neuromancer within the games of its time.
Question: how can we use the experience of playing Zork to better understand Neuromancer? Does the tone of Zork help us understand the world of Neuromancer? What about the structure, or gameplay?

To put it another way: how can we understand Neuromancer better by comparing it to, or contextualizing it with, Zork?

To put it yet another way: use some aspect of Zork to help formulate an argument about Neuromancer.

Note: this is a really pointless argument if you don’t think Zork is useful for understanding Neuromancer. Do another prompt if you don’t see connections.

  1. Aldiss, Brian and David Wingrove. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. London: Victor-Gollancz Ltd., 1986. Page 26.

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