Ethnic Characterizations in Neuromancer and Count Zero
Erica Dillon, Brown '99
Gibson juxtaposes particular images of decaying technology, litter and waste, images which convey a materiality, a physical presence, with ethnically-marked characters in both Neuromancer and Count Zero. Often, Gibson portrays these characters as symbols or examples of a traditional, stable, essential humanity , as opposed to the ambiguous humanity of AI or the cyborgs attendant to a dissolute corporate culture. For example,
Gibson offers an ecological cycle of degeneration and growth attended by this black child who herself recycles antiquated technology in her self-ornamentation. Similarly, Gibson describes the Rastafarian Zion cluster in the Well, its "makeshift hull" like "the patchwork tenements of Istanbul," (103) as smelling of "cooked vegetables, humanity, and ganja." (104) Again, Gibson portrays irregularity of appearance, cooking, and a symbol of transgression, ecology, and religion (ganja) as manifestations o f humanity. Cooking predominates in Gibson's images of essential humanity (see below), seemingly because of it's stimulation of multiple senses, the competitor, perhaps, of jacking into the matrix. Yet, Case also describes Tessier-Ashpool as "an atavism , a clan." (203) He remembers
Again, there is the combination of litter, waste, antiquated technology, material signs of humanity. What, then, is the difference between the humanity that the black child and the Zionites embody and Tessier-Ashpool's humanity? There appears an element of dissi pation, of degraded opulence, in the velvet slipper. T-A's is a soiled humanity, soiled because, as Case explains, it was parasitical:
In Count Zero, the same images and relations occur. Bobby gazes at the Projects,
Gibson gives similarly elaborate descriptions of the interior of the Projects, where a self-sufficient ecological system echoes that of Zion, but whe re the ethnic identity of Lucas, Beauvoir, Rhea and Jackie is bound up with the practice of vodou, a "street religion, [come] out of a dirt-poor place a million years ago," (77) as Beauvoir describes it. Ultimately, these images of ethnicity associated w ith a material and essential humanity are all related to the Caribbean islands, islands claimed by Europeans whose indigenous inhabitants were eventually exterminated and replaced by imported slave labor from West Africa. These slaves worked the vast sug ar plantations introduced to the islands in order to solve the currency and agricultural crises that plagued Europe in the fifteenth century. What kind of metaphor for humanity, then, is Gibson offering here? Should we be skeptical of his projection of t hese ethnic and certainly religious identities into the future, and his idealization of them as organic, self-sufficient, ramshackle and old? Or does Gibson offer an antidote to the past and future vagaries of capitalism and corporate culture?
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