Stephenson, Gibson, and U2
Having not previously been familiar with the Cyberpunk genre, William Gibson's Neuromancer had me quite befuddled. I had trouble imagining various concepts such as jacking-in. On the other hand, I found Neal Stephenson's world rather easy to visualize. Perhaps, this is due to Stephenson's expository style. He seems to make the assumption that many of his readers might not be familiar with the world of the Net and with that does, what I believe to be, an excellent job of introducing his world, explicitly, to his readers. Second hand I have viewed various virtual chat rooms such as those of IRC, that are almost exact replicas of Stephenson's Street, with its avatars and pre programmed environments. I think the thing that made Stephenson more tenable than Gibson is that his creation is much closer in proximity to a believable proposition of the future. Gibson's world seems to be several centuries ahead, whereas Stephenson seemingly only ventures several decades into the future. For the reader who is not quite so familiar with the genre of
Stephenson and U2's POP Mart: Anti-Corporate America
One of the main themes throughout Snow Crash is the de-fragmentation of corporate America. Society is now a web of burbclaves. Stephenson satirizes the commodification of society with a short reference to one of the older, corporate American establishments, McDonald's:
But when a businessman from New Jersey goes to Dubuque, he knows he can walk into a McDonald's and no one will stare at him. He can order without having to look at the menu, and the food will always taste the same. McDonald's is Home, condensed into a three-ring binder and xeroxed. "No surprises" is the motto of the franchise ghetto, its Good Housekeeping seal, subliminally blazoned on every sign and logo that make up the curves and grids of light that outline the Basin. (p. 191)
It has been about two years since the Irish band, U2, launched its POP Mart tour from the lingerie department of a New York K-Mart store. Self-proclaimed as the Anti-Corporate America tour, the band's multi-million dollar stage consists of a deconstruction of the traditional McDonald's Arch. With the onset of the tour, U2 took to Net, birthing its own website at which fans could view cybercasts of concerts in both Dublin and Sarajevo. In our postmodern society both writers and musicians are joining in on the crusade against commodification, yet, in the process, they are establishing themselves as minor corporate entities, producing grand numbers of commodities and reaping the financial benefits of their own self induced commodification.
[To other discussions of Snow Crash by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]