The following text is on pages 4 and 5 of “Neuromancer”:
“The Japanese had already forgotten more neurosurgery than the Chinese had ever known. The black clinics of Chiba were the cutting edge, whole bodies of technique supplanted monthly, and still they couldn’t repair the damage he’d suffered in that Memphis hotel. A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he’d cut in Night City, and still he’d see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void…”
*By “forgetting more neurosurgery than the Chinese had ever known,” Gibson places the Japanese at the epicenter of a futuristic biotech industry. The text thus draws on contemporary Japanese dominance of the consumer electronics and robotics industries and predicts a continued, exaggerated trajectory for this trend, such that the world of “Neuromancer” is heavily influenced not only by Japanese technology, but also by Japanese corporatization and culture at large. One can imagine the dystopian, Asian-influenced world depicted in Blade Runner as a suitable analog or a direct creative descendant. (SEM. Japanification) ** “Black clinics,” suggests a correlation between the biotech industry and the criminal underworld. Indeed, the clinics support a chain of illegal dealings that constitute a dystopian “black market,” dealing in human tissues and symbiotic gadgetry. (REF. black market). Moreover, the commodification of human tissues points to a disturbing expansion of capitalism. In a twisted sort of rebellion against its supposed masters, the market, a man-made entity, has grown to encompass man himself in the world of “Neuromancer”. (SEM. Corporatization I). *** “Cutting edge” and “whole bodies of technique supplanted monthly” provide two interpretations: For one, they insinuate exponentially rapid rates of turnover and growth in the technology industry; and hence, in culture itself. Again, Gibson is laying out a trajectory for techno-cultural development based on 20th century trends; he sees the pace of mechanical progress and replacement as continuing to increase, attaining breakneck speeds in the near future. Human bodies are increasingly tied to machinery (in a literal sense) in the world of “Neuromancer”. Thus, they seem to accommodate the rate of growth akin to digital computer processing. (SEM. Rapidity, Technological growth). Moreover, the sentence offers a subtle play on words: “whole bodies of technique supplanted monthly” references the mechanization of the human body via surgical procedures; going “under the knife”, “the cutting edge.” (REF. Play on words). **** In light of these analyses, I propose a new code that stands in opposition to Barthes’ symbolic code (SYM), which highlights antitheses in the text. On the contrary, my new code will identify the intersection of antithetical notions—their occupation of a singular space or body in which they operate in conjunction rather than in opposition. In the context of “Neuromancer”, these antitheses are biology and technology, body and machine, flesh and synthetics. II Because this specific pairing deals with the blended experiences of reality and “virtuality” – the blurred distinction or duality of futuristic existence – I will call it ontological code (ONT).
“The Sprawl was a long strange way home over the Pacific now, and he was no console man, no cyberspace cowboy. Just another hustler, trying to make it through. But the dreams came on in the Japanese night like livewire voodoo, and he’d cry for it, cry in his sleep, and wake alone in the dark, curled in his capsule in some coffin hotel, his hands clawed into the bedslab, temperfoam bunched between his fingers, trying to reach the console that wasn’t there.”
* “The Sprawl” is presented here as the enigmatic home of Case. (HER. Enigma: “The Sprawl”). Later, it is revealed as slang for BAMA, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis: a fictional urban unification of the east coast seaboard in the United States. The colloquial name, “Sprawl” connotes massive urbanization and population growth—an extension of the real Northeast megalopolis. III Again, Gibson extends the current trajectory of expanding population growth into the future. (SEM. Urbanization, Population growth). ** It seems that even in the futuristic, rapidly evolving culture of “Neuromancer”, old phrases and archetypes survive. It is interesting to note Gibson’s use of “cowboy” here. This is evidence of a postmodern tendency in science fiction writing to collapse or implode past, present and future. Gibson draws on the vast archive of signs, discourses, and narratives that constitute postmodernity, and repeats the word/concept of “cowboy” to characterize the protagonist in this vastly different, supposedly “futuristic” world. Again, in a similar vein, consider Blade Runner: the movie is a riff on 1940s film noir—Harrison Ford plays the role of the tough guy detective navigating a dark, dirty city divided between rich corporations and a diverse lower class. This general synopsis applies more or less to the depiction of Case in Chiba City in the first part of the book; but rather than “detective”, Case is a “cowboy”. This is intended to invoke his macho, bad-ass side – he is a lawless drifter, robbing proverbial banks in the newest wild frontier: cyberspace. Moreover, other passages in these early pages of the book reference neon lighting and television IV —Gibson uses 20th century media to flesh out a post 21st century world. Here, I will use a new code, postmodernist code (POST), to designate this network, or braid, in the text. (POST. Cowboy, Hustler). (POST. Neon, Television). *** Case suffers deeply as a result of his alienation from technology. He seems to possess withdrawal-like symptoms—a “contempt for the flesh.” V At first glance, this may seem to establish a dichotomy that privileges technology over biology, thus meriting an antithetical, symbolic code. On the contrary, Case’s suffering reinforces the ontological code—his pain results from the estrangement of body and machine; they have departed the same space, creating instability and anguish. (ONT. Techno-alienation). Later, when Case is neurologically repaired and reconnected with cyberspace, tears of pain are replaced with tears of joy—the experience is nirvana-like, VI as flesh and machine re-join in the same harmonic space. (ONT. Bio-technological unity). **** Gibson seems to be providing commentary on human dependence upon nascent “new media” technologies in the 1980s. He seems wary of this reliance, and equates it with a sort of physical craving (Case’s withdrawal). Philip Rosen noted in MCM 0110 that science fiction is often considered to be about the present, even though it is set in the future. Here is a new code: commentary (COM. On 1980s new media).