The Vending Machine of Flesh (Zombies Welcome)

Daniel Byers '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

Like Neuromancer, Count Zero spins its tale in a dark and gritty cyber-future. It is a world in which entire social groups can alter their physical forms to fit a stylistic archetype, a "world of affordable beauty." In the following excerpt we witness the Gothicks, a social group which exemplifies this concept in Gibson's future vision, and given the parameters of his world, are depicted with startling likelihood.

At least twenty Gothicks postured in the main room, like a herd of baby dinosaurs, their crests of lacquered hair bobbing and twitching. The majority approached the Gothick ideal: tall, lean, muscular, but touched by a certain gaunt restlessness, young athletes in the early stages of consumption. The graveyard pallor was mandatory, and Gothick hair was by definition black. Bobby knew that the few who couldn't warp their bodies to fit the subcultural template were best avoided; a short Gothick was trouble, a fat Gothick homicidal.


1. How does warping ones body to fit a group stereotype effect the individual? Does this hold on less or more extreme levels?

2. This phenomenon is most appropriately represented in today's terms through fashion. Does fashion serve this same purpose of de-individualizing humanity, and turning everyone into a brand name?

3. What implications does "affordable beauty" carry? Much like the subjugated, malnourished Irish in respect to the taller, better fed English as depicted in the writing of W.B. Yeats, the wealthier individuals would be physically superior to the poorer ones. What effect could this have on society?

4. If your body could be altered like your clothing, what would happen to health nuts and fitness crusade?


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

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 10 March 2005