“The body as sexual and informational commodity: dolls and the idoru. Fashion industry, advanced capitalism and panic memes. In Gibsonian terms it’s the addendum what counts, the implant, the boost, the surplus. Automatic Jack is determined by his detachable myoelectric arm, Molly gains her place and mystique in society by her wired skills and nailblades, hackers become meaningful if and only if they are hardwired to cyberspace. Solitariness, singleness, purity is inferior in this universe.” One more part and this whole cyberpunk thesis thing is over but if you were in for some gender-specific stuff, go no further. We will plow your head with sex meat fertilizer. If you’re really missing out on all the fun, read part 1 and then proceed on to part 2, part 3 and to part 4.)



Issues of materiality are also examined by Gibson through the relationship between the human body and the inanimate imitations of it. Dolls are suchlike anthropomorphic images of humanity imprinted on a non-human world. They are artificial things who [that] in their resemblance to humans, allude to the status of humans themselves. Gibson uses the image of the doll to evoke the artificiality of human appearance, as in the case of Kumiko. Dolls are both attractive toys, encasing the ideal of the perfect body and disturbing reminders of the synthetic nature of identity.

The most unsettling context dolls emanate is voodoo, both in Count Zero and in Mona Lisa Overdrive. The doll, a classic incarnation of timeless beauty is an icon capable of crossing over into the realm of the monstruous and the menacing as it is represented during the roaming of Slick Henry:

..stuck his head inside and saw hundreds of tiny heads suspended from the concave ceiling. He froze there, blinking in the sudden shade, until what he was seeing made some kind of sense. The pink plastic heads of dolls, their nylon hair tied up into topknots and the knots stucki into thick black tar, dangling like fruit… [A]nd he he knew he didn’t want to stick around to find out whose place it was [179]

The second factor which makes dolls disturbing is their scale. In a technology-driven setting perfection is bulit into a miniaturized structure, defying the classical discipline of certain cultures which associate power with imposing size. The very dimensions of circuitry call into question these conventional associations between volume and power. The marriage of smallness and perfection equals dissolution, the small-and-perfect becoming more and more so, in endless loops, until its attributes are no longer perceivable.

Another unsettling connotation of the doll image are conveyed in Neuromancer, in “The Doll” scene, in a show staged and enacted by Peter Riviera. In this show, the doll is the product of Riviera’s own projection of his sexual attraction to Molly. Riviera virtualizes an image of a room with a bare mattress and upon the mattress – gradually – the spectral image of a woman – the doll – about whom he fantasizes. This figure takes shape slowly in vivid metonymic fragments:

A woman’s hand lay on the mattress now, palm up, the white fingers pale. […] The fingers were coated with a burgundy lacquer.
A hand, Case saw, but not a severed hand; the skin swept back smoothly, unbroken and unscarred. […]
The act progressed with a surreal internal logic of its own. The arms were next. Feet. Legs. The legs were very beautiful. [..] Then the torso formed, as Riviera caresed it into being, white, headless, and perfect, sheened with the faintest gloss of sweat.
Molly’s body. Case stared, his mouth open. But it wasn’t Molly; it was Molly as Riviera imagined her. [167-168]

In this scene the image of the doll is used to show the ways human beings give synthetic form to their fantasies formed out of the fragmentary sense impressions. Molly’s doll is a fragile psychic debris, an assemblage of memories and desires. The doll is the image with which Gibson comments on the exploitation of the female body, referring to the classical fantasy cliche of the machine-like male physique opposing the sense of boundlessness associated with the female body. The hard and sealed male body, like Count Zero’s Josef Virek relies on complex machinery for endurance and survival and this reduction to damaged cells to support vats evokes Marinetti’s vision of the machine-body. Gibson’s rejection of the image of the mechanical superman underlines that corporeality in his cyberpunk setting eludes both synthesis and order.


Gibson’s idoru exemplifies the idea that bodies are technological products and that technology embodies specific cultural forms of production / consumption. Its paradox lies in its erotic nature, though it is an immaterial construct.

Leading threads in Idoru are firstly, the arrangement of an “alchemical” marriage between the synthetic and flesh-and-bone celebrities, secondly, the existence of traces of personal history in the idoru construct which Laney emerges into during the first face-to-face experience with Rei Toei.

In the very structure of her face, in geometries of underlying bone, lay coded histories of dynasitc flight, privation, terrible migrations. He saw stone tombs in steep alpine meadows, their lintels traced with snow. A line of shaggy pack ponies, their breath white with cold, followed a trail above a canyon. The curves of the river below were strokes of distant silver. Iron harness bells clanked in the blue dusk. [175]

Thirdly, the idoru is the most drastic break-up of the material bondaries of animate and inanimate objects, making distinctions obsolete. Virtual Light makes reference to nanotechnology describing nano-products as “things that kind of grew, but only because they were made up of all these little tiny machines” [325]

The idoru is a symbolic hypertextual entity, superimposing diverse textual layers upon each other. She is also described as “the result of an array of elaborate constructs that we refer to as ‘desiring machines’. [Gibson 178] There is a pattern of analogies with Deleuze and Guattari who correlate to Gibson by asserting that “There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together.” [Cavallaro 80] This is asserted by Gibson’s speculations about the viability of marriage between humans and synthetic constructs pointing to the fact that neither of them is ever self-sufficient. Desiring-machines like the idoru makes us aware of the alternative of what it might be like to enter a zone of disorganization. As Kroker mentions,

Desiring-machines, production-machines, abstract machines of faciality, organ-machines, energy-source machines. A fantastic density of machinic values that traverses the social field, and within which subjectivity most of all enters into a theatre of death decoded of its memories, deterritorialized of its means of reproduction, and decontextualized. The famous “body without organs” as the first citizen of the state of despotic capitalism. [Kroker, Deleuze and Guattari, online]

The idoru is an organized body-construct produced by technological means. It organizes the bodies of its fans by itself by harnessing their subjective desires and at the same time, it shatters their sense of wholeness by exposing them to decomposition. The ambivalence in Idoru is exemplified by Laney who unites the mystical traits of a soothsayer and those of the cyberspace expert defined by his relation to the computer network. These elements coalesce to produce uncommon skills:

[Laney] had a peculiar knack with data-collection architectures… he was an intuitive fisher of patterns of information: of the sort of signature a particular individual inadvertently created in the net as he or she went about the mundane yet endlessly multiplex business of life in a digital society… he’d spent his time skimming vast floes of undifferentiated data, looking for ‘nodal points’ [Gibson, 25]

In his context, the human body is ephemeral by its intercourse with technology, coded on the basis of its symbiotic relationship with machines and produced by machines. Yet it plays a pivotal role as the marker of individuality, the particular signature recognizable as belonging to one specific person. Thus Laney has difficulties in tracing the rock and roll hero Rez’s personality, because he had been constructed in corporational terms and cannot “generate patterns”. Trying to identify Rez’s signature in a multitude of data is “like trying to have a drink with a bank”. Yet the body stubbornly goes on asserting itself as the bearer of traces which would become totally inaccessible, were the body to be discarded. These traces are the actual manifestations of Kroker’s body rhetorics and the “presence through traces” concept of the cyberpunk framework. “You cannot construct a pattern of any kind about someone who is “not a person”, who “doesn’t drink” and for whom “there’s no place…to sit” [Gibson, Idoru 147]


Commodified technology, as I have shown is an integral part of Gibson’s characters. They are dependent on technology which is near top priority in their life. Their bodies as a means of a [re]presentation is dissolved amongst the imperatives of the fashion industry, advanced capitalism and panic memes. Bodies in Gibson are metaphors for their own culture, held together by memories and memes of the mind, bodies are cyborg symbionts.

Under symbiosis I mean the intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship. The implication of the machine as an organism on its own is not a mistake. Technology is inside characters, be it small sacs of neurotoxin in arteries, shade implants or nail blades and technology is what they aspire for, even Case’s orgasm is defined in analogy with cyberspace, “flaring blue in a timeless space, a vastness like the matrix, where the faces were shredded and blown away down hurricane corridors” [Gibson, Neuromancer 45]. The process of entering cyberspace, “jacking in” bearing sexual, even Oedipal connotations, the “pornographic” behavior of Case towards his equipment clarify the point often touched upon that the notion of cyberspace is female and the event/process of hacking [ICEbreaking] is analogous to an intercourse as it is also mentioned in Count Zero in a discourse between Bobby and Beauvoir:

’Think of Jackie as a deck, Bobby, a cyberspace deck, a very pretty one with nice ankles […] Think of Danbala, who some people call the snake, as a program. Say as an icebreaker. Danbala slots into the Jackie deck. Jackie cuts ice. That’s all.’
‘Okay,’ Bobby said, getting the hang of it, ‘then what’s the matrix? If she’s a deck, and Danbala’s a program, what’s cyberspace?’
‘The world,’ Lucas said.” [114]

It is this explicit symbiosis which makes me strongly disagree with Haraway on the cyborg essentials. She says, “the cyborg point of view is always about communication, infection, gender, genre, species, intercourse, information, and semiology.” [Haraway, xiv] All keywords here are referents to human interaction in society and discourse, with the solitary exception of infection. If we substitute infection with reproduction, we have no difficulties identifying the human as such. Symbiote organisms in the Gibsonian universe in terms of their point of view are about desires fulfilled in speed, sex and data transmission, functionality, penetration and information. Haraway’s examples: Lovelock’s Gaia principle and a Mixotricha Paradoxa bacterium are examples rooted in ecofeminist thought, depicting biological unity instead of cyberpunk’s interface of the mind and the machine.

In Gibsonian terms it’s the addendum what counts, the implant, the boost, the surplus. Automatic Jack is determined by his detachable myoelectric arm, Molly gains her place and mystique in society by her wired skills and nailblades, hackers become meaningful if and only if they are hardwired to cyberspace. Bobby McQuine gets his boost from women, he “had this thing for girls, like they were his private tarot or something, the way he’d get himself moving” [Gibson, Burning Chrome 198]. Solitariness, singleness, purity is inferior in this universe.