The Cyborg

Cyber Space and Critical Theory

Snow Crash

A Cyborg Manifesto

Last modified April 12, 2005


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Snow Crash Quotes & Responses

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You think they [Gargoyles]’re talking to you, but they’re actually poring over the redit record of some stranger on the other side for the room, or identifying the make and model of airplanes flying overhead. For all he knows, Lagos is standing there measuring the length of Hiro’s cock through his trousers while they pretend to make conversation (Stephenson, 125).

Stevenson here is crass, but in such a way as to make you laugh rather than be disgusted or put off. He accomplishes this partly by filtering; rather than simply describing what is happening, he lets a character speculate as to what might be happening.

He has to override a well-worn reflex to stop himself from automatically punching SPECIAL LIMITED FACILITIES, which is what he and all the other U-Stor-It residents always use. Almost impossible to go in there and not come in contact with someone else’s bodily fluids. Not a pretty sight. Not at all gracious. Instead—what the fuck, Juanita’s going to hire him, right?—he slams the button for LAVATORY GRAND ROYALE (Stephenson, 186).

In this world, even public restrooms have been replaced by franchises catering to different price brackets. The mere existence of a LAVATORY GRAND ROYALE is so ridiculously believable that the reader doesn’t know if they   should laugh or cry.

Follow the loglo outward, to where the growth is enfolded into the valleys and the canyons, and you find the land of the refugees. They have fled from the true America, the America of atomic bombs, scalpings, hip-hop, chaos theory, cement overshoes, snake handlers, spree killers, space walks, buffalo jumps, drive-bys, cruise missiles, Sherman’s March, gridlock, motorcycle gangs, and bungee jumping. They have parallel-parked their bimbo boxes in identical computer-designed Burbclave street patterns and secreted themselves in symmetrical sheetrock shitholes with vinyl floors and ill-fitting woodwork and no sidewalks, vast house farms out in the loglo wilderness, a culture medium for a medium culture (Stephenson, 191).

I thought that Stephenson’s summary of suburbia was fitting. A culture medium for a medium culture indeed. The other interesting part about this passage is the list that describes “the true America” — it includes only real things that we are familiar with, that exist or existed in our world. Stephenson does not include loglo, franchises nations, Fedland, or anything else found only in his America.

NEW TP POOL REGULATIONS [Several pages of an internal Fed memo follow] (Stephenson, 282).

This is another good example of extending ideas from our world to the point that become ridiculous and funny. That the federal government has become even more bureaucratic and now writes pages and pages about an exception to the rules allowing employees to pool their funds to purchase toilet paper for the bathrooms is comic. We don’t want to believe that things could ever come to this, so we laugh to chase away the shadow of doubt that maybe it is possible after all.

Security at this Towne Hall is provided by The Enforcers, so there are a lot of steroid addicts in black armorgel outfits, cruising up and down the arcade in twos and threes, enthusiastically violating people’s human rights (Stephenson, 295).

Again, something that is dark and distasteful becomes light and humorous as a result of Stephenson’s technique. “Enthusiastically violating people’s human rights” just has a certain ring to it, and is amusing because that’s clearly not how the Enforcers think of their actions.

The New South African has no idea what’s coming, but he starts to react as Hiro is swinging the katana at his neck, so he is flying backwards when the decapitation occurs. That is good, because about half his blood supply comes lofting out the top of his neck. Twin jets, one from each carotid. Hiro doesn’t get a drop on himself (Stephenson, 302).

This is the most graphically violent scene in the novel. This is probably Hiro’s greatest moment in the real world, at least as far as sword fighting goes.

He turns off all of the techno-shit in his goggles. All it does is confuse him; he stands there reading statistics about his own death even as it’s happening to him. Very post-modern. Time to get immersed in Reality, like all the people around him (Stephenson, 304).

The goggles are very reminiscent of current video games, where you can and do sit there reading statistics about your character’s death as it happens. Blurring the line between reality and video games is a frightening idea, and it is already happening to a degree. It is interesting also that Stephenson treats Reality as a proper noun, much like the Internet (or the Metaverse) is capitalized.

She had thought that his lips would be cold and stiff, like a fish. But she’s shocked at how warm they are. Every part of his body feels hot, like that’s the only way of keeping warm up in the Arctic (Stephenson, 379).

The imagery in this passage is very effective. Imagining Y.T. kissing a trout or a sea bass made me chuckle when I read this. The image of keeping warm up in the Arctic is also quite effective, and seems believable.

Sumerian culture—with its temples full of me—was just a collection of successful viruses that had accumulated over the millennia. It was a franchise operation, except it had ziggurats instead of golden arches, and clay tablets instead of three-ring binders (Stephenson, 397).

This sentence is one of the most important in the books. It summarizes the concept of me and of programming human beings, while making a comparison to the dark Cyberpunk world full of urban sprawl and franchise businesses. In doing so, franchises become viruses, and their spread is as inevitable as the spread of a pandemic.


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