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TSPE vs. eXistenZ

As we are discussing The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, we have raised the question several times about ontology. Again, ontology basically means fundamental existence or the nature of existence. Can-D, the first drug introduced in Philip K. Dick’s novel, becomes ambiguous to readers because we cannot distinguish if the experience that entails chewing the drug is ontological or psychological. As the novel progresses, the concept of ontology becomes even more unclear as Palmer Eldritch forces Leo to take another drug, Chew-Z, in which Leo seems to be “translated” into another dimension but remains in his own body (so it appears).

The idea of ontology with respect to The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch got me thinking about ontology in other texts we have inspected throughout the semester. Although it represents another media form, eXistenZ begs the same type of questions about ontology as does The Three Stigmata. When I watched the film, I thought that the world of game designer Allegra Geller was “real” or ontology. Sure, the fact that eXistenZ is a movie complicates my definition of “ontology,” but from the perspective of another character in the movie, I would have dubbed that realm “real life.” Then, as the film continues, Allegra and Pikul transport themselves into unreal games, such as the scene in which Pikul shoots the Chinese waiter with his flesh gun.

However, as we discover much later in the film, my so-called “real world” was actually a game that the true Allegra and Pikul were playing; what I thought was ontological was truly psychological. And the movie leaves the audience questioning the reality of the final scene. Perhaps it is another game within another game within another game… Who really knows?

Have you ever wondered if the life you’re living is really ontological?

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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…