Cut It Out

Owen Strain '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

In the world of Neuromancer where your mind and body can be separated at will, new possibilities for making and spending money in illicit ways abound, as we see in the following conversation between Case and Molly.

"This cost a lot," she said, extending her right hand as though it held an invisible fruit. The five blades slide out, then retracted smoothly. "Costs to go to Chiba, costs to get the surgery, costs to have them jack your nervous system up so you'll have the reflexes to go with the gear. . . . You know how I got the money, when I was starting out? Here. Not here, but a place like it, in the Sprawl. Joke, to start with, ‘cause once they plan the cut-out chip, it seems like free money. Wake up sore, sometimes, but that's it. Renting the goods, is all. You aren't in, when it's all happening. House has software for whatever a customer wants to pay for. . . . " She cracked her knuckles. "Fine. I was getting my money. Trouble was, the cut-out and the circuitry the Chiba clinics put in weren't compatible. So the worktime started bleeding in, and I could remember it. . . . But it was just bad dreams, and not all bad." She smiled. "Then it started to get strange." She pulled his cigarettes from his pocket and lit one. "The house found out what I was doing with the money. I had the blades in, but the fine neuromotor work would take another three trips. No way I was ready to give up puppet time." She inhaled, blew out a stream of smoke, capping it with three perfect rings. "So the bastard who ran the place, he had some custom software cooked up. Berlin, that's the place for snuff, you know? Big market for mean kicks, Berlin. I never knew who wrote the program they switched me to, but it was based on all the classics."

"They knew you were picking up on this stuff? That you were conscious while you were working?"

"I wasn't conscious. It's like cyberspace, but blank. Silver. It smells like rain. . . . You can see yourself orgasm, it's like a little nova right out on the rim of space. But I was starting to remember. Like dreams, you know. And they didn't tell me. They switched the software and started renting to specialty markets." [pp. 142-143]

Discussion Questions

  1. Is Molly having sex when she rents her body with the cut-out chip turned on? What about when the chip starts malfunctioning and she starts to remember what happened later?
  2. This is, in a sense, the ultimate objectification of women. If the mind is replaced by software, then do current objections to prostitution still apply? Why or why not?
  3. What other possible applications does cut-out and simstim technology have?
  4. If sexual desires can be satisfied by software programs controlling real bodies, what does this say about love versus lust? Can you love a software program? Can you lust after one?
  5. What does it say about the world of Neuromancer that Molly's thinks of this new prostitution as just "renting the goods."


Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1984.

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 14 February 2005