This picture is how I feel right now.
My presentation this week will be about William Gibson’s short story “Burning Chrome”. It will consist of a general biography of the author, description of the story and some afterthoughts for discussion. My blog post is going to be a bit more personal than that, which I hope is ok. Basically I just want to express how I feel about some themes in the story and how they reflect reality as I see it.
I have always been fascinated with how technology affects our lives. How it integrates with and changes the way we live. I have a love\hate relationship with technology. I need it in my life but am constantly at odds with it. I think William Gibson may feel the same way in some respects.
“I did avoid the Internet, but only until the advent of the Web turned it into such a magnificent opportunity to waste time that I could no longer resist.” (Gibson)
“Burning Chrome” portrays a world completely woven together by technology . To me it seems like a completely plausible depiction of the future. I mean, people are already steeped in the vicarious nature of technology. The escapism and the vanity, oh the vanity. Day by day I wade through a sea of foreheads staring down at blue lit screens pumping distractions into their brains! And I just want to shout ” Look up! I am here! I am human like you. Don’t be afraid.”
If Apple one day came out with a surgically implantable chip that could be placed in the cognitive processing centers of the brain as a cell phone interface, would people buy it? Would people would risk it? I can picture it now, blink twice to answer, blink once to ignore, roll your eyes to log into social media, and your current facial expression will be converted into the appropriate emoticon.
I think Gibson had these same feelings towards the seductive allure of technology. Although when he wrote these stories there wasn’t much in the way of advanced computer technology, at least nothing like what we have today.
In another one of his stories called Neuromancer her refers to cyberspace as a “consensual hallucination” (Gibson). I wonder if the people of today’s day and age are participating in a consensual hallucination. Or if Gibson overtly feels that way.
There is an interesting theme of vanity in “Burning Chrome” that I really like. A character named Rikki is willing to risk her own eyesight for the sake of appearance. To get a pair of surgically implanted eyes that are more appealing.
“‘How’d I look with a pair of these?’ she’d ask, holding a full-page headshot, Tally Isham’s blue Zeiss Ikons lined up with her own amber-brown. She’d had her corneas done twice, but she still wasn’t 20-20; so she wanted Ikons. Brand of the stars. Very expensive.
‘You still window-shopping for eyes?’ I asked as I sat down.”
Every time I read that line it reminds me of the movie “Minority Report”.
It’s interesting to think about the connection between vanity and technology. The ability to artificially create yourself online, Photoshop pictures and meticulously edit personal information. I can personally admit that when I had social media it felt like a security blanket of sorts. I think that is the case for most, although it is rarely admitted to.
Another part of the story I found interesting was the concept of virtual warfare. Cyber-attacks are something that have come into full force as of late. Just yesterday on the news I heard president Trump speaking of cyber-attacks from Russia. Cyber-attacks, cyber punks, and technology consumption are themes that William Gibson wrote about as fiction, but now they seem like more like reality.
In an interview Gibson was asked about how he felt about predicting aspects of the future, to which he answered in his signature way.
“If I was to add up the time that I have spent in interviews either qualifying or denying prescience then it would total more than anything else I have ever spoken about,” Gibson tells me. “There’s an ancient tendency to account for the alleged soothsayer’s hits and ignore his misses. I’ve missed multitudes of things about imaginary futures. The hits are just clickbait, and they have always been clickbait.” (vice.com)
Here is are some sources as well as links for more information on William Gibson and his themes.
Montesano, Anthony P. “Johnny Mnemonic: Cyberpunk William Gibson Gets The Hollywood Treatment.” Cinefantastique 26.3 (1995): 44. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Dorsey, Candas Jane. “An Interview With William Gibson.” New York Review Of Science Fiction 15.9  (2003): 10-11. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Booker, M. K. “Technology, History, and the Postmodern Imagination: The Cyberpunk Fiction of William Gibson.” Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory, vol. 50 no. 4, 1994, pp. 63-87. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/arq.1994.0022. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/445302/pdf
Suvin, Darko. “On Gibson And Cyberpunk SF.” Foundation: The Review Of Science Fiction 46.(1989): 40-51. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Schmeink, Lars. “Cyberpunk And Dystopia: William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984).” Dystopia, Science Fiction, Post-Apocalypse: Classics-New Tendencies-Model Interpretations. 221-235. Trier, Germany: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier (WVT), 2015. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1984. Print.
Gibson, William. Burning Chrome. New York: Arbor House, 1986. Print.