Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Neuromancer Science Fiction

Science fiction puts an imaginative spin on fact, but a major draw could be that it’s still conceivably relatable or so far beyond previously established lines of thought that it is cool to think about as an idea in general.  William Gibson does this in Neuromancer, on both ends of the scale simultaneously, which makes it somewhat confusing, but also stimulating.  Part of science fiction, according to Brain Aldiss, is the search for a definition of mankind, which will stand in our confused state of knowledge. (Aldiss)  In Neuromancer, Gibson gives genetic surgeons the ability to, “re-set the code of his DNA,” yielding a certain character, Julius Deane a life of one hundred and thirty five years and counting, which would far surpass the oldest person to live in modern times.  (Gibson 12) With this vast expanse of genetic engineering and modifications at the fingertips in which metabolism, among other things, can be warped so easily leads to a picture of humanity in the book of one singularity, which is manufactured. (Gibson 12) This singularity is something that his humans share commonly, but the ironic thing is that it isn’t a singularity at all, making it seem like there is no unified humanity at all due to the vastness of imagination in genetic variations, which would lead to copious amounts of individuals.  Case’s original boss, Wage, is described as having, “eyes that were vatgrown sea-green Nikon transplants,” some obscure camera vision, and his crew having extremely large grafted muscles. (Gibson 21) Molly has silver lens glasses, “surgically inset, sealing her sockets,” with, “ten double-edged, four centimeter scalpel blades,” that slide form underneath her nails like Wolverine. (Gibson 25) Case gets some of his nerves replaced and some new organs (not very exciting considering organ transplants are normal in modern society), but the surprising thing is the, “fifteen toxin sacs bonded to the lining of various main arteries…dissolving…very slowly,” yielding a control point for Armitage. (Gibson 46)  Others weren’t as nice, occurring as nasty pieces of elective surgery. (Gibson 59) The fact that there is a seemingly unbound amount of genetic variation possible to be chosen in large amounts of different combinations, elective or not, Gibson gives a characteristic humanity of completely altered and unique qualities, though most seem to be not too far from the imagination or even reality. 
The society in Neuromancer is one of great capability and the indefinite, destined, and partially undefined nature of it makes it all that more exciting science fiction, where people are mostly free to choose various implants of any variety, Mercedes cars can talk and hydrogen cell cars are primitive, and working in zero gravity can be commonplace. (Gibson 90-105) If humanity has options with people, then technology should be no different, which is a central theme of the book, with work conducted in cyberspace via routes through the matrix and deployments of different software for control, stealing, and grandiose missions.  This magnitude is hard to fathom, much like the dream within a dream ventures of Inception, but phenomenally fascinating.  Brain Aldiss not only says that science fiction is concerned with a definition of mankind, but also that it is generally cast in a Gothic or post-Gothic picture. (Aldiss)  This can be taken literally or figuratively, both with a similar end result.  Gothic architecture is known for its cathedrals of unfathomable heights and boldness, which had never been close to being introduced prior to that time’s architecture.  (Flanagan) Similarly, the grandeur of the variation of the humanity of Neuromancer, whether it be physical genetic variations or the imagination for creation of software and interaction of the matrix and cyberspace, previously untouched, is like the height of the cathedrals or the details of the stained glass and constructs of the massive flying buttresses, all central to Gothic architecture.  Conversely, different countries rectified this Gothic character in various ways.  England had a fascination with the grotesque then vibrancy, Germany with dark, heavy figures, which was more conservative.  (Flanagan) Relative to the novel, whether that be the repetition of metal, dark and black in Molly, the negative of Armtiage’s team goal overall, “black iron deer rusted in the gardens,” the plot and characters are science fiction in nature. (Gibson 98)
There are certain boundaries to the science of humanity, like the biology of the body as a whole and the neurology of the brain.  The peculiar thing is that continually it can be said that definite boundaries are obsolete.  Imagination forms the idea, innovation the vehicle, even SpongeBob can play around with this transforming a cardboard box into a mountain climb rivaling Mt. Everest or a race surpassing the Indy 500 with imagination.   Oddly enough, imagination is rooted in some means of pre-existing cause.  New ideas and conceptions, even such that of humanity, come from somewhere, whether we know what that somewhere is.  Gibson plays on this, bringing to light possibilities and thoughts both similar and slightly altered to the definition of science fiction by Brain Aldiss, some far beyond and some within the scope of what could be conceptualized.  It is because of this that science fiction like Neuromancer can confuse and entice the mind cooperatively by challenging complacency with the known in an expansive manner.

Works Cited:

Aldiss, Brian and David Wingrove. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. London:
            Victor-Gollancz Ltd., 1986. Page 26.
Flanagan, Thomas. "The Gothic Era History." Stained Glass. N.p.. Web. 29 Jan 2014.

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York, NY: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1984. Print. 


Tom Kappil said...

I really liked your essay, and thought it brought up good points that I didn’t think of. I wrote my essay on the same topic, but I didn’t consider the ability of less-active technology interacting with humanity (in your case, the Mercedes cars). I downplayed the idea of biological technology in the form of elective surgery, and thought your focus on that was very good. Secondly, you’re explanation for the Gothic nature of the book was very well done.
My one issue with the piece is that it strayed from the prompt. The prompt wanted you to support or refute Aldiss’s definition of “Science Fiction” using Neuromancer, rather than what you did, in saying Neuromancer takes the definition of Aldiss, and modulates it a bit. If you spent more time focusing on how the presence of strange and imaginative biotechnology must force reconsideration into the definition of humanity, or how technology changes how humanity interacts with one another.

Adam said...

This essay doesn't even vaguely follow the prompt. The assignment asks for you to argue *for or against* Aldiss' definition of science fiction. You make no attempt to do so. Even more problematically, you seem to have no particular argument at all. You have interests - for instance, you're interested in singularity (by which I think you mean individuality - they aren't the same thing!) in the novel, and how it relates to genetic engineering. This idea has potential, but it's hard to see where you're going with it.

Your understanding of the Gothic is random. It's not necessarily wrong, but not really focused on literature and what the gothic might have to do with Science Fiction.

In short: I have no idea what you're trying to argue, or why, and I have no idea what you think of the applicability of Aldiss to the novel. You bring up some interesting ideas, but with no clear strategy or focus.