Wendy: More Than Just Food For Thought
Ruckerís "Warez" trilogy can be read as a movement, an evolution of the human race towards a divorcing of the body and soul. From the "immortality" of bopper brain-taping to the encoding of alien consciousness on cosmic rays in Freeware, Rucker pounts us towards a higher state of being, one free of bodily concerns.
Yet, astonishingly enough, it is not good old Cobb Anderson who ultimately achieves this state of perfection. Instead, with the destruction of the boppers he is relegated to an archive copy only, his rather pathetic appearance in Freeware testament to the fact that he is out of the authorís favor as the engenderment of higher consciousness. Nor is this dream realized in good old Stahn Mooney. As Sta-Hi Stahn is continually searching for alternate forms of consciousness through his drug use - he actually comes fairly close to achieving it in Software when he dons the happy cloak (racial stereotypes of that scene aside). Yet in the end Rucker refrains from transforming Stahn into a cosmic ray - the ultimate divorcing of mind and body - and keeps him completely human, a passive player in a drama that has passed him by. No, ultimately it turns out that the character who becomes the ultimate expression of the divorce of body and mind is not Cobb, Stahn, Ralph Numbers, Willy, Darla, or any of the other main players.
Rather, it occurs in the character of Wendy, who plays a rather insignificant role in the first two books. In fact, when we first meet Wendy at the end of Software when Sta-Hi takes on the church of Personetics, she is flat, two dimensional, and completely uninteresting and irrelevant to the plot. I honestly didnít expect for her to show up again in the other two books.
Turns out I was right, after a fashion. When we catch up with Stahn in Wetware he is grieving, after he and Wendy were happily married he killed her in a drug-induced haze and sold her corpse to the bopper organ tanks for enough money to flee to the Moon. This turns out to have far-reaching consequences indeed, for the "wendy" body turns out to become intensely popular with the organ growers.Today Berenice stood looking at one of the more popular clone types, a wendy. The wendies were attractive blonde women, pale-skinned and broad-hipped. Their body chemistry was such that their organs did not often induce rejection; dozens of them were grown and harvested every year. (Wetware, 40)
Wendy is dead, and only wendy remains. A body. A corpse. A field of organs. A blank slate. Her consciousness, her uniqueness, her soul are gone. All that remains is worthless meat. Yet Stahn is unable to grasp this oh-so important distinction. In his grief he is willing to sacrifice half of his brain just to possess one of these empty shells. He can sleep with her, make her climax, but not much more. She is less than a newborn baby.
Less, that is, until the chipmold virus comes around. Stahnís wendy clone just happens to be wearing a Happy Cloak at the time, and so becomes home to a new emerging consciousness. A new Wendy is born, completely distinct and unrelated to the old. It is this Wendy, who exists from the end of Wetware and all of Freeware, who I say is the ultimate expression of Ruckerís mind/body separation evolution. She exists completely in a piece of moldy plastic, yet uses the wendy body in a strange symbiotic relationship. She is one of the first moldies, but chooses to marry a human and use her body to have two children. Unlike Cobb Anderson she is born in this state, and lives her whole life in it, experiencing it effortlessly.
Human beings, of course, donít get it. Even her husband and children are scandalized by Wendyís suggestion that she get a new body: they have come to think of the body as Wendy, when it is only really small-w wendy. It takes her bold move of casting the flesh to make them realize their mom is more than just meat. Luckily their are backup copies of her body, just like their are backup copies of her consciousness.
And, just in case we hadnít gotten the point completely, Rucker introduces wendy meat. Wendy meat is the ultimate expression of mind/body separation. What is your body? Meat: worthless. What is your consciousness? Your soul: everything. To Rucker the human body is no different from that of any other animal, any other worthless collection of organic molecules, so there is no stigma in eating it. Might as well sell off those backup copies and make some money. Wendy has achieved consciousness, but this consciousness is totally independent of any of the vat-grown bodies of wendy meat, so thereís no harm in eating it. With a successful marketing campaign, thereís no reason why you couldnít be enjoying a wendy meat taco right now!
Ultimately, Rucker has taken Stahnís shocking action of selling his dead wifeís corpse for money and turned it on its head. The body is only meat - why should we be shocked if he sells it for money? From there itís just a logical progression of ideas to wendy meat.
When it comes down to it, Rucker might be on target in a way most of us can never dream of. How far are we willing to go? Dolly the cloned sheep recently had a baby, and robotics engineers are starting to sound more and more like Cobb Anderson. Is wendy meat so far away?
[To other discussions of Rudy Rucker's - Ware trilogy (Software, Wetware, and Freeware) by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]