Over the years, Willy had spent uncounted hours having cybersex via porno viddies, blue cephscope tapes, chat rooms, teledildonics, and the like. Yet when it came to getting a real flesh-and-blood girlfriend and consummating the love act with her, some problem had always intervened. Willy had written it off to bad luck and geekishness, but now in Fern's funky bed he fully realized the awful truth.
"You're very attractive, and I would totally go for you across a remote link."
"I just can't stand the idea of really doing it in person." -- [Freeware, p.148]
Do you enjoy boinking a scrap of semi-intelligent hardware? How about direct phone line porno, not just phone sex but full blown cybersex in cyberspace? Rucker's perverse mind has taken a taste of today's modern porn industry, spliced genes with Gibson's paranoid fables of moral/physical distance and tweaked simulated reality, and has compiled a concept so screwy that, damn, I hope it happens so I can witness puritan society having a heart attack. The world's obsession with digital smut, fiber optic highways, VR computer gaming, and sleazy back room chat lines indicates a view which is not so far from Rucker's partially inebriated (lifted!) view of super-evolved post-modern sexual behavior. Read a Rucker novel and expect the protagonist to both see God and get involved in some very lewd situations. Watch out for femlins.
Rucker certainly was not the first to riff on this concept of simsex. One could already see the possible abuses of simstim in Count Zero, and from there it was just a matter of time till the rest of the world caught on (well maybe Gibson wasn't the first either, but within the genre of cyberpunk I can safely say he was very influential). By 1985 Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix had expanded upon the kinky possibilities of augmenting the human body (to the extent that an entire room could be wired as an entirely organic, once-human sex machine). George Alec Effinger took a more hardware/interface approach with personality modules, chips that would allow one to play out the mind of another person (a hyperreal hallucination, self-induced schizophrenia). Most of the time these modies were used to spice up the old in-out in-out (I apologize for the crude Clockwork Orange reference). The movie Strange Days had a similar theme, though more Gibsonian and less realtime (there's recorded sex in this film, and then there's filtered sex in Rucker's novels). Rucker's idea of a reality filter, aside from his obsession with math, pseudo-black-market pharmaceuticals and love puddling (in no particular order), has deeper philosophical implications which we don't necessarily need to go into here. All the same, Baudrillard would have appreciated Rucker's use of s(t)imulation.
It's layers of uvvy. There's actual nude men and women there in the middle of the room, and they're all wearing uvvies on their necks, and there's these uvvy dildos as well. You go in there and put on your own uvvy, and you can actually be a dildo. A dildo that talks to a naked girl.
It's that the illusions have illusions inside them. The performers run you the illusion that you are in Real Compared To What being a dildo. But the dildo is smart, and the dildo is dreaming that it's a user. -- [Freeware, p.55]
We've already explicitly spelled out Rucker's deviant ways. This fact is as obvious as his usage of painful punning and computer science / mathematics in-jokes (the Pascal Turbo, a car named after a compiler; Cantor's Continuum Problem, the thesis of his early novel White Light --also a hats-off to Borges; references to his scholarly writing on time travel). Then there are the character puns: Randy Tucker which sounds suspiciously like Rudy Rucker (Rucker was also born in Kentucky), Cobb (the name of Rudy's father), the mad scientist Gibson (you don't have to think very hard over that one). I bring these up because besides being entertaining in a geekish sort of way they also reflect those pseudo-synchronicities and reality parallels that Rucker likes to indulge in. I hate to bring the discussion back to simulation / simulacrum, but really it is unavoidable. Take Rucker's references to nanoprecise art (Freeware, p.175). Such a device lacks all subtlty (which Rucker is never big on anyway) but it is a clever example of the real / hyperreal / simulation experience. As Baudrillard notes, a copy makes the original obsolete; this is true a hundred fold if the copy is exact to the very molecule. Such is the evolution of Rucker's robots: hardware, wetware, moldie, etc.. Each is a copy of sorts without a true original, but the intended form is inescapably sentient and almost human (or almost robot, depending on which side you're on).
Uh, sometimes I go interactive with women across the Net. I have like some special peripherals hooked to my cephscope at home. You always hope they're women, anyway. -- [Freeware, p.148]
The whole question of identity is at play here. Human / robot evolution is only a sample. Sexual identity is simply one of Rucker's fetishes. Plug-and-play net-sex is his most entertaining method of conveying this questioning of reality and humanity. Unlike recorded simstim (which is little more than a one-way experience, wholly passive) Rucker takes the active approach so that interface is human / pseudo-organic / silicon (equivalent), with no precise boundaries. You may be interacting with a woman, a man who says he's a woman, a robot, or a semi-intelligent dildo. The fact is it doesn't really matter --in some cases Net life is more real than unaugmented (conscious-stationary) life. A chat group experience is therefore just as real as a personal conversation, it is just the fluidity of identity that makes it less solid and factual. One must thus question this concept of identity, as Rucker has done with constructs and digital robot copies. How real is real, and real compared to what?
[To other discussions of Rudy Rucker's - Ware trilogy (Software, Wetware, and Freeware) by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]