Study Questions for Mirrorshades [1986] Short Stories

"The Gernsback Continuum" [1981] by William Gibson:

Ultimately, this story is about how the 1930s desire for a futuristic utopia sustained by technology and contained partially within streamlined modern design somehow is driven by the same desires that drove Hitler's Nazi Germany.  That is, one kind of belief in perfection contains, for Gibson, the seeds of the other--the belief in the perfect race.  As a result, Gibson views utopian desires with suspicion, suggesting that these desires might have a racist or fascist underside.  Consider the following issues while reading the story:

"Rock On" [1984] by Pat Cadigan:

Cadigan's critique seems to be grounded more in specific aspects of a developing commercial culture--especially the effects of commercial enterprises on the rock subculture--than in broader cultural desires like those addressed in Gibson's story.  Her combination of "sinner" and "synthesizer" to produce Gina as a "synner" clearly establishes this focus, as do the events of the story.  As you read "Rock On," consider the following issues:

Mozart in Mirrorshades" [1985] by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner:

Sterling and Shiner, like Cadigan, immerse us in a near future science fiction without explanation, requiring us to piece together the context as we read.  This, then, is classic sf, situating us in an alien environment and asking us to react and re-orient ourselves to the imagined world.  As I mentioned in class, theirs is an immediately post-Vietnam story enacting a cultural critique that turns the practices of colonial imperialism against the colonizers.  That is, the very cultures that historically have sustained themselves through exploitative imperialist actions in our reality are similarly exploited in "Mozart in Mirrorshades."  Consider the following issues as your read the story:

"Snake Eyes" [1986] by Tom Maddox:

Like the previous stories, this one drops us in the middle of things, expecting us to recover our balance as we move through the story accumulating details defining the specific situation and context.  Like "Mozart in Mirrorshades," "Snake Eyes" enacts a cultural critique grounded in the events of post-Vietnam America.  While the story does in fact engage the plight of a returning veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress and unable to adjust to life in the culture, however, it also raises larger economic and political themes involving multinational corporate power and technology developing consciousness.  In essence, it asks the question, "Who or what is in charge?"  Consider the following issues: