Religion, Spirituality, and Technology in the Sprawl Trilogy

Adam Mazer '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

Throughout the Sprawl trilogy, William Gibson incorporates elements of religion and spirituality into his technological dystopia, primarily in the form on the often quite surreal matrix of cyberspace. Gibson explains this relationship between religion and spirituality and technology more clearly in Count Zero, the second volume of the trilogy

"Loa," Beauvoir corrected, tossing his glasses down on the table He sighed, dug one of the Chinese cigarettes from Two-a-Day's pack, and lit it with the pewter skull. "Plural's same as the singular." He inhaled deeply, blew out twin streams of smoke through arched nostrils. "You think religion, what are you thinking about, exactly?"

"Well, my mother's sister, she's a Scientologist, real orthodox, you know? And there's this woman across the hall, she's Catholic. My old lady" he paused, the food gone tasteless in his mouth -- "she'd put these holograms up in my room sometimes, Jesus or Hubbard or some shit. I guess I think about that."

"Vodou isn't like that," Beauvoir said. "It isn't concerned with notions of salvation and transcendence. What it's about is getting things done. You follow me? In our system, there are many gods. spirits Part of one big family, with all the virtues, all the vices. There's a ritual tradition of communal manifestation, understand? Vodou says, there's God, sure, Gran Met, but He's big, too big and too far away to worry Himself if your ass is poor, or you can't get laid. Come on, man, you know how this works, it's street religion, came out of a dirt-poor place a million years ago. Vodou's like the street. Some duster chops out your sister, you don't go camp on the Yakuza's doorstep, do you? No way. You go to somebody, though, who can get the thing done. Right?" [pp. 76-77]


1. Gibson continually adds a spirtual aspect to his technological world, beginning at the end of Neuromancer when the Neuromancer AI speaks of being the master of the dead. Is this melding of seemingly disparate worlds an effective stylistic and literary technique or does it undermine the integrity of Gibson's technological dystopia?

2. In what ways, if any, is modern day computing and technology comparable to religion in general and Vodou in particular? Does Gibson's fictional comparison apply to reality as well?

3. If one takes Beauvoir's speech as a metaphor for the matrix, the Wintermute-Neuromancer AI stands in for God, or Gran Met. What purpose, then, does the Wintermute-Neuromancer AI serve, both in the plot of the series and in the fictional cyberspace created by Gibson?

4. Throughout the series, characters concern themselves with immortality through technology. Could this possibility ever exist in the real world, and if so, how would it influence the workings of society?


Gibson, William. Count Zero. New York: Ace Books, 1986.

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 25 February 2005