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
- 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
- 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
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
MATRIX: female animal kept for breeding; also womb, source, origin; from the Latin for
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"
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
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
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
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