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Science Fiction - March 26.pdf

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Mike Johnstone

ENG237: Science Fiction Test Two—Next Week - begins at 6:15 and will last for 90 minutes - information on Blackboard - PartA: Identification - covers the short stories - get a list of ten "novums" - correctly identify the story and author based on the novums - pick two of them and write a paragraph answer on each: involve a few elements - explain significance of novum - talk about if it does or doesn't fit Suvin's definition - can only do each work once - Part B: Sight Passage - could be from any of the three novels - will be something we discussed in class - identify the author and title - discuss the contest, point of view character, etc. - evaluate how the novel comments on the most significant way in which technoscience can create dystopia OR influence human identity - no overlap between the tests! - for PartA, try to be as specific as possible - for Part B, make sure that you use the passage and quote it as your central evidence - make sure you write a complete essay - make sure you have a clear argument/thesis Technoscientific Enframing - is technoscience a positive or negative influence upon human identity? - with the influence of technoscience upon human identity, what is gained, and what is lost or forgotten? - what other possibilities for identity/subjectivity are created and provided by technoscience? Technoscience can work as a filter through which we can understand basic human experiences. With Neuromancer, we focus mainly on Case, and how his identity is challenged and affected by his relations with science and technology—both physically and virtually. Neuromancer has been read as glorifying the possibilities of technology, both for society and for individuals. Early on Case is very attached to the matrix and sees the body as just meat. Transcending the limitations of the body through techno-scientific means. Some have read the novel as optimistic in this way. There is a significant dichotomy between the body as meat and the matrix as apotheosis. The novel offers a post-humanist vision of the relationship between the body and technology. "I'd rather be a cyborg than a goddess." Technology has a positive impact on our identities. But are we already, in a sense, cyborgs? However, Neuromancer can also communicate a significant anxiety about technology and science. It changes social/economic/geopolitical structures, but also the human sense of self. The character of Case is key to the novel's stance on the above questions. Case does move from a very disdain for the body.At the beginning he has a worship of technology, but by the end his view has changed. The novel's anxiety about the ways technology influences identity is confirmed by Case's final rejection of the matrix, as we see in the evolution of the WinterMute AI. Adam Roberts: definition of SF is that it is technology fiction. It expresses a very specific techno- scientific enframing of human experience. Technology and science influence how we make sense of the world and ourselves, and science fiction is the literature by which we are expressing this new point of view. Techno-scientific enframing is crucial to Case's character. It is established right in the very beginning. The image that we have in the opening sentence is how Case is seeing his world. Everything is framed in terms of technology. "The sky above the port was the colour of television...." What we see at the beginning is how the opening sentence communicates the attitude with which Case sees the current condition of the world. The natural world (sky) is figured in terms of technology (television tuned to a dead channel). The "dead" channel suggests the sterility of the world, as well as a world that is broken and failing, malfunctioning. This could perhaps suggest Case's own condition, especially as we meet him at the beginning of the novel. Case's point of reference for giving the sky meaning reveals a techno-scientific enframing. This proves crucial to the perspective of the novel. How is technology central to and pervasive in this world, and what are the consequences of that situation? Case sees the world as sterile and malfunctioning, and sees it in terms of technology. The sky over the city is constantly gray and silver. The sky is poisoned and mean. This is not a healthy world (natural world as well as the influence technology has on the world). The condition of the world is reflecting Case's own condition. He is broken and malfunctioning. He is dealing with that loss by compensating in other ways. It's important that he can no longer jack into the matrix: he is malfunctioning. From the very opening, this novel situates us in an estranging world. The first metaphor is very strange. From here on, we are brought into a world that presents radically different and destabilizing forms and notions of identity. The first chapter: through Case, we are introduced to a world wherein technology has a profound effect on identity. Identity has become uncertain. Various characters that Case meets: Rats, Deane, Wage, Molly.... Each character shows us how techno-science effects identity. These characters reveal to us how our usual understanding of identity doesn't apply in this world. The world is subverting our expectations. In particular, we see that the body is a site for creative and destabilizing expressions and constructions of identity. The body in particular is augmented and altered. There's an economy of identity in this world. In some respects, Case is the most "normal" character in the novel. Yet his sense of self is intensely invested in his relationship with cyberspace. He's so invested in the matrix that he disdains the body, and dismisses it as meat. It doesn't have any relevance to his identity at all. Case relates his experience in the world to his experiences in the matrix.At the beginning of the matrix Case cannot access the matrix, and he fills that loss by comparing his real world to the matrix. Losing a pursuer in the streets becomes light a run in the matrix. There is a disregard for the significance of the material/physical world. Case would rather be in the matrix (although while in it, he thought of it in biological terms). For Case, the physical is figured in terms of the virtual. He sees Ninsei as a field of data, and is doing so sees the reverse of the matrix as proteins linked together. He tries to separate the virtual and the real worlds, but he often sees them in terms of each other.As much as he has a contempt for the body, the body does remain important to his sense of identity. Case even thinks of sex and orgasm in terms of the matrix. The most intense physical experience Case can have is related to in terms of the matrix. Identity in this world is profoundly affected by technology—right down to an individual's DNA, or the experience of orgasm. On one hand, identity is variable and flexible, but on the other hand it is broken and malfunctioning. MATRIX: female animal kept for breeding; also womb, source, origin; from the Latin for mother. Gender is key to our understanding of the most influential items of techno-science in the novel: the matrix. The matrix is a feminized space.And in this novel, it is only men who "jack in to" the matrix. Although we have a character like Molly in the novel, the matrix isn't a space she occupies. Do we have a male, patriarchal world here? Molly does challenge some of the initial presumptions. Chapter 4, Page 56: - what's important in the relationship between Molly and Case as described in this passage? - what might this passage suggest in terms of the significance of gender in the novel? - what is significant in terms of the gender dynamic? Molly is the one in control here. Case is subject to her whims, her self-confidence, the way she moves through the street. Case has to be passive here. Once he gives up control, he starts thinking about her as a person. Molly is very bewildering to him. She defines herself in terms of herself only, and he can't guess what she is going to do or say. She is very "other" to him. It's a reversal of what he is used to. She asserts her power in the situation. It is a piece of technology—the sim-stim switch—that allows them to connect in this way. The matrix is seen as a female space. Is this something similar here? Does the sim-stim switch allow Case to penetrate Molly? Case isn't in control here, unlike in the matrix. However, Case CAN control when he is there and when he is not, and Molly has no control over that. There is an ambivalent power dynamic here. The switch allows an interesting contrast between a typical male-female relation (Case in the matrix) and a changed dynamic (Case not having control over what Molly does). Technology can do intriguing, destabilizing things relating to identity, and matters of sex and gender. This passage suggests that maybe, to a certain extent, our norms and conventions related to gender dynamics can be undermined in some respects, but perhaps not entirely. Can the matrix be reinforcing traditional gender binaries? Females are associated with the body, and males are associated with the matrix. Case gets access to Molly through the mind, and the first thing Molly does is use her body. Case craves the matrix. He sees the body as meat, as a prison. With the operation, he's fallen into the prison of the body. He has lost access to apotheosis. The duality mentioned by BOOKER AND THOMAS can be seen in the passage we looked at on page 56. Case is the mind, and Molly is the body. But Case tries to control the body, and he can't. We could read this as Case penetrating Molly. For Case, the matrix represents a bodiless exultation: it is a space purely of the mind. Technology in this way can be seen as reinforcing certain gender binaries, but maybe also challenging them in some respects. Are there other instances in the book where we see this duality subverted or challenged? Case is phys
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