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The Souls of Cyberfolk

Posthumanism as Vernacular Theory

2005
Author:

Thomas Foster

The Souls of Cyberfolk

Considers the construction of race, gender, and sexuality in virtual reality

Thomas Foster traces the transformation of cyberpunk from a literary movement into a multimedia cultural phenomenon. Beginning with William Gibson's paradigmatic text Neuromancer and continuing through the works of Maureen McHugh, Melissa Scott, Neal Stephenson, Greg Egan, and Ken MacLeod, Foster measures cyberpunk's reach into social and philosophical movements, commercial art, comic books, film, and music video.

This book is a must-read for any scholar working on cybernarratives, whether they be text, film, comics, or till artworks.

Science Fiction Research Association Newsletter

In The Souls of Cyberfolk, Thomas Foster traces the transformation of cyberpunk from a literary movement into a multimedia cultural phenomenon. He examines how cyberpunk defined a framework for thinking about the cultural implications of new technologies—a framework flexible enough to incorporate issues of gender, queer sexualities, and ethnic and racial differences as well as developments in nationalist models of citizenship and global economic flows.

Beginning with William Gibson’s paradigmatic text Neuromancer and continuing through the works of Maureen McHugh, Melissa Scott, Neal Stephenson, Greg Egan, and Ken MacLeod, Foster measures cyberpunk’s reach into social and philosophical movements (the Extropy Institute), commercial art (Hajime Sorayama’s gynoids or sexy robot illustrations), comic books (Deathlok), film (Robocop), and music video (from Billy Idol’s Cyberpunk album).

The central challenge that cyberpunk poses for cultural critics, Foster argues, is to understand what happens when the technological denaturalization of physical embodiment becomes the norm.

The Souls of Cyberfolk

Thomas Foster is professor of English at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The Souls of Cyberfolk

This book is a must-read for any scholar working on cybernarratives, whether they be text, film, comics, or till artworks.

Science Fiction Research Association Newsletter

Thomas Foster’s The Souls of Cyberfolk, well versed in the scholarship that has preceded it, is a welcome and original contribution to the field. This important book outlines the current research on the posthuman and earlier work on embodiment, technology, and cyberpunk, and introduces race as an unduly neglected in posthuman scholarship. It makes clear that our discussions of the posthuman are only just beginning. Furthermore, the work has been updated and expanded, incorporating more recent scholarship. Even readers already familiar with Foster’s work will find new ideas and a more nuanced treatment of previous ones. The Souls of CyberFolk is an extremely good and important book. It is theoretically astute, cogently argued, and impressive in the range of theoretical and contextual sources that it brings to bear on its argument, beginning the discussion of race and cyberpunk/posthuman imagery, an important lacuna in existing scholarship. The Souls of Cyberfolk is an essential contribution to posthumanist scholarship and should be read by anyone interested in the field.

Science Fiction Studies

A bold and powerful book, extending our understanding of how imaginative writing can respond to the urgencies of the present and think of the possibilities of the future.

Modern Language Quarterly