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Exploring the Utopian Impulse

Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice


Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan

Exploring the Utopian Impulse presents a series of essays by an international and trans-disciplinary group of contributors that explores the nature and extent of the utopian impulse. Working across a range of historical periods and cultures, the essays investigate key aspects of utopian theory, texts, and socio-political practices. Even as some critique Utopia, others extend its reach beyond the limits of the modern western tradition within which utopianism has usually been understood. The explorations offered herein will take readers over familiar ground in new ways as well as carry them into new territories of hope and engagement.
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Who’s Afraid of Dystopia? William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Fredric Jameson’s Writing on Utopia and Science Fiction



In the ominous year of 1984, William Gibson published an important dystopian assessment of America in the age of information technology.1 His Neuromancer depicts a world so fully permeated by electronic flows of information that the boundaries between empirical reality and its representation have become thoroughly blurred. Gibson’s characters live in a world of simulations and commodified subjectivities they fully take for granted. The first sentence of Gibson’s cyberpunk novel already registers the complete obliteration of anything we could confidently call nature: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel” (9).2 That this is not merely a metaphorical description of a gray sky but a representation of a technologically produced “reality” becomes clear when the color of the sky in Freeside, a zero-gravity holiday resort, is described as “the recorded blue of a Cannes sky” that can be “turned off” (148).

Neuromancer’s fictional world is a thoroughly dystopian space in which ecocide has already occurred. It is a world in which the “real” sky is a “poisoned silver sky,” horses are extinct, and rats grow to the size of ← 199 | 200 → small children (13; 112–13). Gibson’s characters are fascinated and repulsed, elevated and diminished by conspiratorial webs of information of a truly global order – an order that is dominated by ruthless multinational corporations and their vast informational grids. Gibson’s fictional subjects surgically enhance their bodies with inorganic prostheses or organic implants readily available...

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