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Don’t Do Drugs

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

“It’s not like I’m using…It’s like my body’s developed this massive drug deficiency” (Gibson 3). Those are the first words spoken by a character in Neurmancer. Drugs play a commanding role in this cyberpunk novel written by William Gibson. Not only do they influence the development of the plot, but also affect every notable character in the novel, either directly (for the human characters) or indirectly (for the AI’s). For example, “a wartime Russian mycotoxin” destroyed Case’s “nervous system,” causing him to “hallucinate for thirty hours” and fall “into the prison of his own flesh” (6). Due to the effects of this drug, the protagonist became unable to jack in to cyberspace, essentially destroying his old life. Moreover, he became a drug dealer in Night City, bringing us to our next victim. Linda Lee was once a young, innocent girl. However, that all changed when Case “found her, one rainy night, in an arcade” (5). That night, Case ignited the spark that disintegrated Linda Lee’s former identity–he introduced her to drugs. Linda Lee went from videogame abuser to a drug abuser. And although videogame abuse is considered a threat to oneself, the term looks pretty good when juxtaposed with drug abuse. Also note that the bad weather described on the night the two met foreshadows the detrimental relationship that followed. If only Linda Lee could have associated that rain with her physical demise and ultimate death a few chapters later, she would still be chilling in that arcade (and hopefully be sober).Anyways, the use of drugs throughout the story do not get brushed over. Aside from the constant usage by many characters, the effects of drugs are described in detail; from the high, to the shift in perception, to the hangover. As Case wanders through Freeside searching for drugs that will affect him regardless of his modified pancreas, he meets a dealer named Bruce. Bruce sells him “Betaphenethylamine” (130), which I can’t say I’ve ever tried. However, the length of the drug’s name is intimidating enough, and obviously correlates to its extreme and unstoppable effect. After “do[ing] a taste” (131), Case retreats to the hotel room to find Molly. “The mirrors followed him across the room…and his smile [was] locked into a rictus of delight” (131). Even Case’s lack of rationality and common sense are exposed through his dialogue: “Bitch, bitch bitch…Doom. Gloom. All I ever hear” (131).

So what? Gibson is trying to tell us something. He exploits the effects of drugs in both the short run and the long run. Throughout the novel, drugs are used to alter the state of mind, and are desired by characters. Not one time are they drugs viewed in a positive way from the reader’s perspective. It appears that Gibson’s message is plain and simple: Don’t Do Drugs.

Yes, he was on drugs…

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“Sometimes you repeat yourself, man”

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

So Case says to the ROM construct of his old hacker-mentor, the Dixie Flatline. Dixie responds, “It’s my nature” (128) This humorous little exchange is one of many that occur between Case and Dixie during Neuromancer. We might contrast the computer simulation of a person talking about “nature,” with Molly repeatedly talking about being “wired” a particular way (25, for one instance). In both cases, Gibson draws our attention to those turns of phrase to suggest that how we define identity (or other characteristics) is rooted in the metaphors that we use. Of particular interest in this book are metaphors from technology, which makes sense since it’s a book about a highly-developed technological world in which bodies are implanted with computer chips and scalpel blades, and artificial intelligences can infiltrate the brains of those “jacked in” to a networked computer.

But this brief reflection on repetition got me thinking about repetition as a driving force of Gibson’s text. Certain phrases recur again and again. Take the line from Case’s surgery, which fixes him so he can jack in to cyberspace again: “Cold steel odor. Ice caressed his spine” (31). We come across it again, nearly verbatim, the first time Case flatlines and encounters Wintermute. “Ice” as a motif crops up in several places and a variety forms. There are other leitmotifs such as this one (Molly’s “burgundy nails,” for example, or Case’s recollection of the smell of cooked flesh, always a reminder of Linda Lee’s death), and once you start looking for them they are myriad. I don’t mean to suggest that this is unique to this novel–any good writer uses repetition to achieve certain effects. But the piling on of recurring motifs characterizes the narrative as a whole, to the extent that we might say Gibson too sometimes–or rather, all the time–repeats himself.

And here I arrive at my point. The ROM construct has it in its nature to repeat itself. Gibson too repeats himself. So what might we glean about the nature of texts and authors given the similarity Gibson poses between himself, his text and the varieties of technological entities presented in the book? I don’t have an answer. However, it’s a question worth pondering. I think a big question at stake in this novel, is what the new technological forms might reveal to us about our old forms. And let’s not forget that the book is at heart, in its nature, a technological invention predicated on repetition. And look how far it’s come from it’s humble beginnings, which now seem as strange to us (or stranger) than the early imaginings of cyberspace from Gibson and others.