quinta-feira, 24 de março de 2011

Gender resistance: interrogating the ‘punk’ in cyberpunk

This is the ‘fight’ that attracted me to cyberpunk; the challenge to normative ways of thinking which punk seems to offer, and which cyberpunk tries to harness in its representations of technology. Cyberpunk - a subgenre of science fiction - mixes up the technophilia of cyberculture with the anti-establishment attitude of punk, resulting in a number of recognisable characteristics in its texts, including ‘hybrid’ identities, dystopian futures, and a focus on technology. This focus often upsets any easy distinction between human and machine, while its alternative (cyborgian) identities perhaps offer new paradigms for thinking about gender.

My premise in this paper is that the disruptive potential of this distinctive subgenre is derived from its adoption of ‘punk’ as a discourse or practice of resistance to social ‘norms’3. As a number of critics have noted, both cyberpunk and its ‘parent’ genre, science fiction, show an interest in innovative style and language4. In this paper I am going to use this close attention to language and style to interrogate the ‘punk’ in ‘cyberpunk’, and to ask to what extent it is effective as a means of resisting normative models of technology and gender. To do this, I use close textual analysis of two cyberpunk texts:

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and ’(Learning About) Machine Sex’ by Candas Jane Dorsey.

What do these texts offer which is different from better known cyberpunk texts, such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer? Gibson – one of the most famous cyberpunk authors – is widely credited with coining the term ‘cyberspace’, and his 1984 novel, Neuromancer, is perhaps the best known example of this genre. Neuromancer epitomises many features of the genre, its narrative structured round a plot to remove the electronic restraints which prevent an Artificial Intelligence from functioning independently of its human owner.

The main protagonists are a male hacker called Case, and a ‘razorgirl’ (a technologically-enhanced hired assassin) called Molly. It uses a number of tropes which associate it with popular perceptions of punk, including a ‘DIY’ approach to technology, resistance to authority, street slang and tribal dress codes. The narrative raises many of the hopes and fears associated with new technologies, from the euphoria of online disembodiment to the possibilities for bodily enhancement through medical technology. It also highlights some of the problematic aspects of the genre in terms of gender representation.


Gender resistance: interrogating the ‘punk’ in cyberpunk [ Download ]
Katherine Harrison