Cybernetic Deconstructions: Cyberpunk and Postmodernism

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Hollinger, Veronica. "Cybernetic Deconstructions: Cyberpunk and Postmodernism." Mosaic 23.2 (Spring 1990): [29]-44. Rpt. L. McCaffery, Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction. Rob Latham, Science Fiction Criticism: An Anthology of Essential Writings, q.v.

An important, well-written essay pursuing VH's investigation of cyberpunk as (among other possibilities) an antihumanist "analysis of the postmodern identification of human and machine"—blurring boundaries that once seemed natural—and cyberpunk's (and postmodernism's) "problematizing of 'reality' itself" (31).

Relevant assertions include that "While science fiction frequently problematicizes the oppositions between the natural and the artificial, the human and the machine, it generally sustains them in such a way that the human remains securely ensconced in its privileged place at the center of things. Cyberpunk, however, is about the breakdown of those oppositions." In a brief but in-depth analysis of the opening lines of 'William Gibson's 'Neuromancer, Hollinger notes that in this work "Human bodies too are absorbed into this rhetorical conflation of organism and machine: on the street of the postmodern city whose arteries circulate information, Case," the protagonist of the novel, sees "the dance of biz, information interacting, data made flesh in the mazes of the black market . . .' (16). The human world replicates its own mechanical systems, and the border between the organic and the artificial threatens to blur beyond recuperation" (in Latham, 44). Hollinger finds in Neuromancer Bruce "Sterling's post-humanism with a vengeance, a post-humanism which, in its representation of 'monsters' — hopeful or otherwise — produced by the interface of the human and the machine, radically decenters the human body, the sacred icon of the essential self, in the same way that the virtual reality of cyberspace works to decenter conventional humanist notions of an unproblematic 'real'" (in Latham, 46).

Fiction works of interest discussed in Hollinger's essay include J. G. Ballard's Crash, Greg Bear's "Blood Music", Gibson's Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, K. W. Jeter's The Glass Hammer, Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, Rudy Rucker's Wetware, Joanna Russ's The Female Man, Bruce Sterling's Islands in the Net, Michael Sanwick's Vacuum Flowers, and H. G. Wells's The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds.

Expanded by RDE, Initial Compiler, 16May17