1st Edition

Cyberpunk Culture and Psychology Seeing through the Mirrorshades

By Anna McFarlane Copyright 2021
    180 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    180 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book traces developments in cyberpunk culture through a close engagement with the novels of the ‘godfather of cyberpunk’, William Gibson. Connecting his relational model of ‘gestalt’ psychology and imagery with that of the posthuman networked identities found in cyberpunk, the author draws out relations with key cultural moments of the last 40 years: postmodernism, posthumanism, 9/11, and the Anthropocene.

    By identifying cyberpunk ways of seeing with cyberpunk ways of being, the author shows how a visual style is crucial to cyberpunk on a philosophical level, as well as on an aesthetic level. Tracing a trajectory over Gibson’s work that brings him from an emphasis on the visual that elevates the human over posthuman entities to a perspective based on touch, a truly posthuman understanding of humans as networked with their environments, she argues for connections between the visual and the posthuman that have not been explored elsewhere, and that have implications for future work in posthumanism and the arts.

    Proposing an innovative model of reading through gestalt psychology, this book will be of key importance to scholars and students in the medical humanities, posthumanism, literary and cultural studies, dystopian and utopian studies, and psychology.

    Introduction: gestalt psychology and cyberpunk

    1. Autopoiesis in the Sprawl trilogy

    2. Chaos in the Bridge trilogy

    3. Perception in Pattern Recognition

    4. Psychoanalysis in Spook Country

    5. The parallax view in Zero History

    6. The haptic interface in The Peripheral

    7. Agency, and Gibson in the twenty-first century


    Anna McFarlane is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Glasgow with a project investigating images of traumatic pregnancy in fantastic literature. She is the co-editor of Adam Roberts: Critical Essays (2016), The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture (with Graham J. Murphy and Lars Schmeink, 2020), Fifty Key Figures in Cyberpunk Culture (with Graham J. Murphy and Lars Schmeink), and The Edinburgh Companion to Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities.

    William Gibson’s novels are phenomenological reports from the frontiers of global technoculture. In this study, Anna McFarlane demonstrates how the visuality of Gibson’s writing textures and shapes the subjectivities of both his characters and his readers. She situates her complex readings at the intersections of gestalt psychology, autopoiesis and chaos theory, psychoanalysis and posthumanism, and ecology to produce a work of ‘gestalt literary criticism.’ Gibson’s fiction is at once the focus of this very productive approach and a case study demonstrating its efficacy. In gestalt perception, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the same might be said of McFarlane’s study: this is one of the most insightful and convincing readings of Gibson’s fiction published to date, as well as an incisive examination of science fiction as ‘a literature of the interface.’

    Professor Veronica Hollinger, Science Fiction Studies

    Cyberpunk is a field deeply important to the current moment of our world and its technological advancement. Anna McFarlane’s Cyberpunk Culture and Psychology is a well-timed contribution to the understanding of how cyberpunk shapes our self-perception in technologized times from one of the most innovative scholars currently working in the UK.

    Dr Lars Schmeink, author of Biopunk Dystopias: Genetic Engineering, Society and Science Fiction