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The Souls of Cyberfolk: Posthumanism as Vernacular Theory

Thomas Foster
Volume: 13
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt92x
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  • Book Info
    The Souls of Cyberfolk
    Book Description:

    Thomas Foster traces the transformation of cyberpunk from a literary movement into a multimedia cultural phenomenon. Beginning with William Gibson's paradigmatic text Neuromancer and continuing through the works of Maureen McHugh, Melissa Scott, Neal Stephenson, Greg Egan, and Ken MacLeod, Foster measures cyberpunk's reach into social and philosophical movements, commercial art, comic books, film, and music video.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3523-2
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Cyberpunk’s Posthuman Afterlife
    (pp. xi-xxx)

    This book takes as its object an augmented and enlarged concept of cyberpunk science fiction, beginning (in chapter 2) with cyberpunk’s paradigm text, William Gibson’s 1984 novelNeuromancer. These augmentations include examples of multimedia responses to the original cyberpunk movement within early 1980s print science fiction, but also the incorporation of issues of gender, queer sexualities, ethnic and racial differences, transformations in a nationalist model of citizenship, and global economic flows within the conventions established by fiction like Gibson’s. Academic interest in cyberpunk derives largely from this fiction’s representation of the body politics of late capital. Cyberpunk’s much-vaunted break with...

  5. 1 The Legacies of Cyberpunk Fiction: New Cultural Formations and the Emergence of the Posthuman
    (pp. 1-48)

    It is becoming increasingly common to encounter references to “our posthuman future” (Fukuyama) in the context of both popular and academic debates about the continued evolution of the human species. This contemporary variant on evolutionary theory is different because today advances in scientific knowledge and technological control hold out the promise (or danger) that “we” might take over what used to be a process ofnaturalselection and thereby gain the power to transform “ourselves” so radically that “we” might be said to have speciated, with homo sapiens diverging from “one and the same embodiment” (Tooby and Cosmides, 89) into...

  6. 2 Meat Puppets or Robopaths: The Question of (Dis)Embodiment in Neuromancer
    (pp. 49-80)

    In this chapter, I read David J. Skal’s novelAntibodies(1989) as exemplifying one typical response of cultural critics to the cyberpunk movement in science fiction, and specifically to cyberpunk’s postmodern redefinition of embodiment.Antibodiesimplicitly critiques the oscillation in cyberpunk texts between a biological-determinist view of the body and a turn to technological and cybernetic means in order to escape such embodied particularities, an oscillation that is generally gender-coded in the paradigm texts of cyberpunk, especially William Gibson’s novelNeuromancer(1984). This oscillation is figured, on the one hand, by the “meat puppet,” to use the term applied to...

  7. 3 The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic: Posthuman Narratives and the Construction of Desire
    (pp. 81-114)

    The preceding chapter focused on the literary origins of cyberpunk attitudes toward posthuman embodiment; this chapter will begin to consider the more general effects of cyberpunk as a larger cultural formation. Popular culture of the 1990s often seemed to agree with Jean Baudrillard that “the year 2000 has already happened” and therefore it was “not necessary to write science fiction” any longer, because we now lived in such fictions (“Year 2000,” 36). A similar assumption underlies the increasingly widespread belief that we are on the verge of a “postbody” or “postbiological” age, to use Moravec’s term (Mind Children, 1). This...

  8. 4 Trapped by the Body: Telepresence Technologies and Transgendered Performance
    (pp. 115-136)

    By 1995, when Robert Sawyer’sTerminal Experimentwas published, the instantiation of cyberspace in the form of the Internet had made it possible to dismiss cyberpunk representations of virtual realities and human–computer interfaces as “nothing but air guitar writ large” (142). This metaphor is significant for the way in which it suggests that VR was not just commercial hype, part of the dot-com boom, but that this inflated discourse took a specifically adolescent male form.¹ Sawyer thereby suggests the way in which versions of Andrew Ross’s critique of cyberpunk and Gibson’s version of the cyberspace metaphor, as “the most...

  9. 5 The Souls of Cyberfolk: Performativity, Virtual Embodiment, and Racial Histories
    (pp. 137-170)

    What value does Haraway’s “ironic political myth” of the cyborg have as a framework for critical race studies (Simians, 149)? And, conversely, what kind of perspective does critical race studies offer for understanding the political and social implications of Haraway’s cyborg feminism? These questions become even more urgent given Hayles’s claim that, “if the extent to which one has become a cyborg is measured in terms of impact on psychic/sensory organization rather than difficulty of detaching parts, VR [virtual reality] users . . . are more thoroughly cyborgs than are people with pacemakers” (“Seductions,” 178). As suggested in the preceding...

  10. 6 Replaying the L.A. Riots: Cyborg Narratives and National Traumas
    (pp. 171-202)

    This chapter analyzes the relationship between cyborg imagery and the tendency in contemporary cultural studies to consider “whiteness” as a racial category, rather than as identified with the unmarked position of the universally human.¹ I argue that the relationship between cyborg imagery and whiteness is best understood through the mediating category of trauma. This category is increasingly central to theoretical accounts of postmodern culture, especially those influenced by Slavoj Žižek’s psychoanalytic definition of postmodernism as a fascination with the Real, understood as that which escapes symbolization, in contrast to modernism’s fascination with the Imaginary, understood as that which precedes symbolization...

  11. 7 Franchise Nationalisms: Globalization, Consumer Culture, and New Ethnicities
    (pp. 203-228)

    In the mid-1990s, Masao Miyoshi began to offer a historical account of the transnationalization of late capitalism.¹ He emphasizes the shift from multinational corporations, still “headquartered in a nation” though “operating in a number of countries,” to a more fully decentralized, post-Fordist form of economic organization that is “no longer . . . tied to its nation of origin” but is instead “adrift and mobile, ready to settle anywhere and exploit any state including its own, as long as the affiliation serves its own interest” (“Borderless,” 736). Like David Harvey’s work on the economic logic of postmodernity, Miyoshi’s definition of...

  12. Conclusion: The Antinomies of Posthuman Thought
    (pp. 229-244)

    Georg lukács’s critique of classical philosophy (by which he means philosophical modernity, beginning with Kant) identifies the ways in which this movement of critical thought remained bound up within the limitations of classic liberalism, specifically what Lukács calls the “reified structure of consciousness” or the romantic problem of alienation, the a priori separation of individual mind from social world (110–11). In other words, classical philosophy only intensifies the antinomies or dualisms of the bourgeois way of life that it tries to resolve, to the extent that this philosophy remains a form of thought. For Lukács, the failure of classical...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 245-280)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 281-304)
  15. Index
    (pp. 305-312)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-313)