LITR 4368 Literature of the Future
lecture notes

scenario: high tech; virtual reality (style: cyberpunk, anti-romance): "Johnny Mnemonic" (BC);  "Burning Chrome" (BC 168-191); "The Logical Legend of Heliopause and Cyberfiddle" (VN 159-180).

 

 

metaphor

 

 

 

metaphors for alternative futures

227 history like a tree, another branch of history

230 shuffling the deck of history [alt. Image]

 

metaphors make the unknown familiar by comparing the unknown to the known

science is always changing as knowledge advances but becomes familiar itself through metaphors (sometimes called "models")

 

Doctors explaining to patients: 

The heart is like a pump.

Blood circulation is like the tides.

Your nervous system is like a network of wires.

The sensors on your skin are sending S.O.S. signals to your brain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Brennan, The Ends of the World 4.00

mental tricks

"footstep analogy"

 

 

Question: What extended metaphor does he use to explain scale of time? What is the known? What is the unknown?

 

 

How is it both instructional and entertaining?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midterms update

Thanks, improvements over pre-midterms

pre-midterm guidance + Web Highlights

revision / rewriting key to good writing

 

notes and grades returned later this week

welcome to reply about my response, improvements for final exam

 

saving grace: practice in writing helps everyone, whether they're paying attention to advice or not

future teachers: if you can just make your kids write, they'll get at least a little smarter through the exercise

 

second saving grace: if you can teach students to re-write, to improve what they've already drafted, they start learning faster, more efficiently

 

therefore our class's extension of Essay 1 from pre-midterm to midterm, Essay 2 from midterm to final

experiment in writing instruction: revise and extend

 

 

check your email before next Monday, welcome to reply then . . .

or confer in person, by phone or email anytime before final exam

check Model Assignments

 

 

 

offer, ask for any help

 

 

Instructional pages

fall into "liked this, didn't like that" pattern instead of systematic learning that connects one day to another

professionally obligated to maintain highest standards possible

instructor keeps building course materials so that parts of course come together in larger wholes,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suggestions for making class discussion more focused on objectives, purposes

 

1. Keep returning to the text at hand (standard control)

 

2. What you want to say may be true or interesting, but is it helping the class with the question or issue under discussion?

 

3. If you speak frequently, pause sometimes before jumping in—quieter students often have something to say, but they sometimes wait to see if other, bolder students speak first

 

4. Students who raise hands earn priority over those who interrupt or jump in line.

 

5. Recourse to any discussion that wanders: "What is the question we're trying to answer?" (Discussion-leader returns to question or topic--or text.)

 

 

more attitude notes: I already know what I'm going to say, but what might someone else say? And better?

 

If someone else can say it, let them. Sometimes that helps you say something you didn't know you could say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion Questions: 1. What like / dislike about cyberpunk style and why? ("Cyber" = cybernetics or artificial intelligence; "punk" = 70s-80s countercultural street style or attitude)

2. Gibson is admired as one of sf's finest stylists, but his writing often leaves students cold.

What strengths? (e.g. imagery, metaphor, range of reference or allusion)

What weaknesses? (e.g. thin characterization, plot-turns on subtles shifts in human or machine relations)

What metaphors for computers, their users, and their realities does his style create?

What human-machine interfaces that we've seen elsewhere in course? (e.g., bionic implants, human penetration of machines)

Gender stylings? (stereotypical background: sf for geeky white guys > implications for women's identities?) (recall "Stone Lives")

3. What attraction-repulsion of high-tech future? Consider organic / non-organic; actual / virtual reality.

 

1. What like / dislike about cyberpunk style and why? ("Cyber" = cybernetics or artificial intelligence; "punk" = 70s-80s countercultural street style or attitude)

 

Cyber + punk

High-tech + street life, crime, shadiness

[19] BC 171 [cyberpunk] a defective hologram . . . over a display of dead flies wearing fur coats of gray dust [metaphor]

 

 

virtual reality 

"Cyberfiddle" 165 But Teacher, why is cybereality so much better?

165 an inevitable progression from the concrete to the abstract, from the material to the ethereal, from the mechanical to the conceptual, from the gross to the nano. . . . Now we eschew materials entirely. . . . pure concept. . . . free at last

 

compare “face time”; Realtime

[11] BC 169 The matrix is an abstract representation of the relationships between data systems.

 

 

[7.27] JM 16 we're an information economy . . . teach in school

[7.27] JM 17 traces, bits, fragments of personal info

[7.31] JM 17 surface mail

 

[12] BC 170 Towers and fields of it ranged in the colorless non-space of the simulation matrix, the electronic consensus-hallucination that facilitates the handling and exchange of massive quantities of data. Legitimate programmers never see the walls of ice they work behind . . .

 

[67] BC 178 remind myself that this place and the gulfs beyond are only representations, that we aren’t “in” Chrome’s computer, but interfaced with it, while the matrix simulator in Bobby’s loft generates this illusion

[71] BC 178 simstim stars

[113] BC 183 Simulated stimuli: the world—all the interesting parts, anyway—as perceived by Tally Isham.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Gibson is admired as one of sf's finest stylists, but his writing often leaves students cold.

What strengths? (e.g. imagery, metaphor, range of reference or allusion)

Allusion, range of reference JM 4.3 (Dante), BC96 prayer rug > mandala,

[157] BC 187 At the heart of darkness, the still center, the glitch systems shred the dark with whirlwinds of light, translucent razors spinning away from us; we hang in the center of a silent slow-motion explosion . . .

Treats characters gently; never purely bad guys, or if so, compassion

Damaged, intelligent characters

Broken but surprising or touching world with glimpses of nature and human nature

 

Visuals, media sensations transferred to human relations

BC 6, 174, 191

JM 7.52 dance

[7.52] And Molly seemed to let something go, something inside, and that was the real start of her mad-dog dance. She jumped, twisting, lunging sideways, landing with both feet on an alloy engine block wired directly to one of the coil springs. I cupped my hands over my ears and knelt in a vertigo of sound, thinking Floor and benches were on their way down, down to Nighttown, and I saw us tearing through the shanties, the wet wash, exploding on the tiles like rotten fruit. But the cables held, and the Killing Floor rose and fell like a crazy metal sea. And Molly danced on it.

[12] BC 170 Towers and fields of it ranged in the colorless non-space of the simulation matrix, the electronic consensus-hallucination that facilitates the handling and exchange of massive quantities of data. Legitimate programmers never see the walls of ice they work behind . . .

[67] BC 178 remind myself that this place and the gulfs beyond are only representations, that we aren’t “in” Chrome’s computer, but interfaced with it, while the matrix simulator in Bobby’s loft generates this illusion

Knowledge of language and signs

JM 5.10 "Good with symbols, see, but the code’s restricted.

 

computer as consciousness

[13] BC 170 a burglar, casing mankind’s extended electronic nervous system [extended metaphor]

[16] BC 171 totally wired

[52] BC 175 the tricky wiring on the underside of things [cf. 18c world as clock]

[180] BC 189 just a segment of that mass organism, just one more drifting chip of consciousness under the geodesics

 

 

 

[6.11] Transition to idiot / savant mode is always less abrupt than I expect it to be. The pirate broadcaster’s front was a failing travel agency in a pastel cube that boasted a desk, three chairs, and a faded poster of a Swiss orbital spa. A pair of toy birds with blown-glass bodies and tin legs were sipping monotonously from a Styrofoam cup of water on a ledge beside Molly’s shoulder. As I phased into mode, they accelerated gradually until their Day-Glo-feathered crowns became solid arcs of color. The LEDs that told seconds on the plastic wall clock had become meaningless pulsing grids, and Molly and the Mao-faced boy grew hazy, their arms blurring occasionally in insect-quick ghosts of gesture. And then it all faded to cool gray static and an endless tone poem in an artificial language.

 

 

What weaknesses? (e.g. thin characterization, plot-turns on subtles shifts in human or machine relations)

Less strong on . . .

Plot

Depth

Characterization, esp. of flesh-and-blood women; female stereotypes like Molly Millions--but what kind of stereotype?

Male characters tend to be rather dry, superficial, marked only by wounds

 

 

[43] BC 174 I see her somewhere out on the edge of all this sprawl of cities and smoke, and it’s like she’s a hologram stuck behind my eyes . . . I see her wave goodbye [establishes refrain for conclusion]

[197] BC 191 I see her far out on the edge of all this sprawl of night and cities, and then she waves goodbye.

 

To degree WG is literary, not futuristic

 

anti-romance

 

[17] BC 171 this thing for girls [all male computer scene; cf. All male sf scene]

 

What metaphors for computers, their users, and their realities does his style create?

 

Computer metaphors > psychological, social relations

Cf. Evolution and Social Darwinism [Survival of Fittest < Herbert Spencer]

[16] BC 171 totally wired

[17] BC 171 scanning those faces

 

[15] BC 170 He was twenty-eight, Bobby, and that’s old for a console cowboy.

[13] BC 170 a burglar, casing mankind’s extended electronic nervous system [extended metaphor]

[16] BC 171 totally wired

[52] BC 175 the tricky wiring on the underside of things [cf. 18c world as clock]

[180] BC 189 just a segment of that mass organism, just one more drifting chip of consciousness under the geodesics

 

 

analogies

[21] BC 171 servos . . . whining like overworked mosquitoes

[3] BC 168 leaning forward to drive the Russian program into its slot with the heel of his hand. He did it with the tight grace of a kid slamming change into an arcade game, sure of winning and ready to pull down a string of free games.

 

(extended metaphor)

[13] BC 170 monochrome nonspace where the only stars are dense concentrations of information . . . corporate galaxies and the cold spiral arms of military systems

 

different literary traditions

[4.3] JM 9 Lo Teks = gargoyles

 

Pleasure in unknown

[63] BC 177 she touched me, touched the half-inch border of taut pink scar that the arm doesn’t cover. Anybody else ever touched me there, they went on to the shoulder, the neck

 

[64] BC 177 Her nails . . . tapered oblongs, the lacquer only a shade darker than the carbon-fiber laminate that sheathes my arm. And her hand went down the arm, black nails tracing a weld in the laminate . . . her hand soft-knuckled as a child’s . . . her palm against the perforated Duralumin.

            Her other palm came up to brush across the feedback pads, and it rained all afternoon . . .

 

Delicacy, ornamentation

[68] BC 178 nursery blues and pinks

 

pleasure of inhabiting a greater intelligence with writers like James, Hawthorne, Dickinson

 

 

What human-machine interfaces that we've seen elsewhere in course? (e.g., bionic implants, human penetration of machines)

 

Prosthetics, body invasion, bionics

[3.5] JM 8 finger nails / blades

[7.8] JM 14 tooth-bud transplants from Dobermans; immunosuprressants

[38] BC 173 my arm off and the little waldo jacked straight into the stump

[117] BC 183 [Tiger] had the kind of uniform good looks you get after your seventh trip to the surgical boutique.

 

 

 The mob!

[4.2] JM 8 Yakuza a true multinat (ITT, Ono-Sendai)

+ Triads, Mafia, Union Corse

 

Virtual reality as entertainment

[71] BC 178 simstim stars

[113] BC 183 Simulated stimuli: the world—all the interesting parts, anyway—as perceived by Tally Isham.

  

 

Biotech, prostheses

Sense of invasion, but compare contacts, tooth implants

[1.7] JM 2 superstructures of muscle graft

[1.20] JM 4 neural disruptor

[3.3] JM 8 he's fast, nervous system jacked up . . . top dollar, state of the art

[3.5] JM 8 finger nails / blades

[5.1] JM 10 more than a dolphin--a cyborg

[5.21] JM 12 how does a cybernetic dolphin get wired to smack?

The war--Navy gets to work

[7.8] JM 14 tooth-bud transplants from Dobermans; immunosuprressants

[38] BC 173 my arm off and the little waldo jacked straight into the stump

[117] BC 183 [Tiger] had the kind of uniform good looks you get after your seventh trip to the surgical boutique.

 

Familiar features

Rich-poor, up-down

[6.11] JM 13 Swiss orbital spa

JM 14 [homeless]

[7.11] JM 15 water vendor

[7.20] JM 15 plywood shanties

 

 

International, global, Post-National,

[corporations buying towns in Parable]

 

Gender stylings? (stereotypical background: sf for geeky white guys > implications for women's identities?) (recall "Stone Lives")

Gibson's downsides:

He's still a geek!

Does he really like girls? (Remember Dialta Downes in "Gernsback Continuum?")

 

 

[3.4] JM 8 mostly grown in a vat in Chiba City

Cyberfiddle 172 biotank

[cf. Frankenstein]

+- race?

 

Girl does fighting, hero watches (x-competent man)

 

Just watching (also in Gernsback) as cocooning, TV

 

3. What attraction-repulsion of high-tech future? Consider organic / non-organic; actual / virtual reality.

 

Inverted millennialism—recall end of Gernsback Continuum

[7.47] JM 19 sound . . . like a world ending

[7.54] JM 21 she'd killed him with culture shock

 

[63] BC 177 Half the skylight was shadowed by a dome they’d never finished, and the other half showed sky, black and blue with clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[6.9] "Christian White," she recited, "and his Aryan Reggae Band."

 

BC 32 castle of ice

BC 109 black ice

 

 

Attitude toward subjects: good creator loves what it creates

BC 192 love?

 

 

 

Punk as black market

 

 

Cyber + punk

 

Why Cyberfiddle's bad

Dumb puns using worn out cultural info, forced cleverness

160 Stellar Kowalski

 

Carmen Miranda: "camp"

 

Pop culture; Junk on junk

 

Wrong word usage

176 pours over

 

 

"The Logical Legend of Heliopause and Cyberfiddle" (VN 159-180).

159 the Warren

159 Pryer is chambered, neurojacked, hard-wired. . .  an ectomorph

159 good bioware, a proud remnant, half awake

159 Carmen Memoranda [x-cute pop culture puns, trivia contests—junk on junk]

159 a pair of spectacles we saw through in our youth

160 taking shape through the accrual of data

160 the moment Humanity flipped its wig [inverted millennialism] + 171 post-apocalyptic landscape

160 not a bioperson

160 crew that meets Heliopause, a starship

160 cryobionic, biocybernetic, organomech

160 whitewater trip on hydrogen rivers [metaphor]

160 Stellar Kowalski

161 Heliopause: where the Sun's work is done

161 At Heliopause, human will fails—xenologic

161 Humans are stuck at home

161 whither the biosphere? . . . Earth is trashed

162 They can’t live on earth, and Stellar Kowalski says they can’t leave

162 electronic slums

162 the Wholly Data Grail

162 simhorn

162 a Manual

163 ancient archivist converted it to bright biopixels

163 old-fashioned, musty, dusty

163 [bio-reality] breast

163 hardcopyness flouts Pryer’s logic

163 pleasure and edification

163 why this stirring in his breast? [instinct, emotion]

163 pryer as sprat [low tech character as childhood]

163 government made all decisions, before Instavote, Kwikno

164 not be linked or cyphed or anything?

164 He wishes he knew [wood, glue, etc], who has never wished any since he wished for the stars and got stuffed by Heliopause

164 Stradivari as real-world craftsmanship

164 Wordreads! . . . logicmatrix reels

164 engagement ring . . . or anachronistic metaphor?

165 a book

165 But Teacher, why is cybereality so much beter?

165 an inevitable progression from the concrete to the abstract, from the material to the ethereal, from the mechanical to the conceptual, from the gross to the nano. . . . Now we eschew materials entirely. . . . pure concept. . . . free at last

166 to fabricate a violin . . . what is fabricate?

166 to physically construct this thing!

168 tools . . to make something else

169 just holo them . . . sim the violin

169 As is the beginning, so is the end.

169 not quite sure what wood is

169 Bummers Outside who tend a few wretched, leftover trees

170 virtual reality

170 Undergarden, autogardners

170 The Door

171 a dry valley [post-apocalyptic landscape]

171 Bummers, those gripey outcasts

171 fire, child. What would Pryer know of children?

172 Where do I come from? Biotank, like all Bioparts.

172 Many are called, but few are grown.

172 “I knew you would come some time.”

172 Bummer = Stayer

172 They live outside now, but they do not live long.

173 I was told. I’m the last. The last keeper. I keep the trees.

173 The trees are dead. Now they are wood.

173 But you must take all the wood. It is told.

174 But also it was told that insiders would make it live again. You must make it live again.

175 [Bummer zapped]

175 actuality adventure outside

176 a plastic room devoid of any object that ever grew upon the green Earth

176 a violin-shaped piece of maple wood . . . runs his hands erotically around the curve . . . for the belly

177 a shining holo of the violin . . . Lewd [cf. Sexiness of real sex in Gattaca, but also “sexy” in “Somebody”]

178 scrimshimmer and four possibilities gape the horizon

178 They blink at this veritability.

179 tears, another anachrony

179 dissed all links, even his simhelm

180 Pryer imagines he has a soul, and that soul soars on the sweet sound past Heliopause