The Old Dark

Paul McCann '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

Mankind's managed to put a few thousand years between itself and monkeys, but the distance isn't as great as we'd like it to be. Ignoring genetics, that sorcery of invisible chemicals, we still need to eat, shelter ourselves from wind and rain, eliminate, and sleep. And some of the old feelings remain. There's still lust, hunger, rage; the base instincts. There's the old, animal fear at the base of the spine, the bony fist found in formless nightmares.

Of course, the animal instincts are generally associated with animal conditions; law of the jungle, nature red in tooth and claw and suchlike. Savagery, lack of civilization, Deliverance. So, where do you find this savagery in the Sprawl, where palm trees are noticably absent (except in expensive pleasure domes)? Why, you have to visit and odd old fellow in tweed suit who lives in a warren of "antiques". This is the Finn, and his introduction emphasizes his terrible age and animal qualities. Watch:

An eye regarded them, unblinking, suspended there in that crack of dust and dark, and at first it seemed to Bobby that it must be the eye of some large animal, the iris a strange shade of brownish yellow, and the whites, mottled and shot through with red, the lower lid gaping redder still below. "Hoodoo man," said the invisible face the eye belonged to, then, "hoodoo man and some little lump of shit. Jesus . . ." There was an awful, gurgling sound, as of antique phlegm being drawn up from hidden recesses, and then the man spat. "Well, move it, Lucas." There was another grating sound and the door swung inward on the dark. "I"m a busy man. . . ." This last from a meter away, receding, as though the eye's owner were scurrying from the light admitted by the open door. [pp. 116]


1. Is the Finn human?

2. Human or not, what is the description of the Finn most reminiscent of?

3. Is the Finn, keeper of the ancient past, more powerful or pitiful?

4. How is obsolete technology treated?

5. What is the source of any power the Finn has?


Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1987.

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Last modified 24 February 2005